Foodie Fundraising Feast by Lauren Heath

Recently the wonderfully charming Andy Cooper, Editor of Devon Life magazine, lost his darling Zena warrior princess to that awful disease Cancer. Obviously nothing can bring her back or heal the wound fully but as in life one must find the good within the bad.

So apart from deciding to run the Taunton half marathon in her honour to raise funds towards his chosen charities, Bowel Cancer UK and St Mary’s Hospice, he also enlisted the help of ex-River Cottage chef and fellow Devonian, Tim Maddams.

It was to be held the same evening of the half marathon in Andy’s local village hall, with 100 seats available. So Andy would have certainly earned a feed! Tim is no stranger to pop up dinners so apart from knowing the food would be great, we thought this seemed a wonderful idea to raise funds through a foodie feast, so Stephanie of Exploring Exeter and I decided this was a worthy ticket to purchase.

There were many wonderful raffle prizes to be won on the evening thanks to many incredible businesses in Devon and Cornwall who gave generously including afternoon tea for 12, jewellery, spa days and so on.

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The hall was filled with locals and business connections, tables of friends and some tables of ‘strangers’, as ours was, but conversation soon flowed. Many of us were armed with a bottle or two of something to celebrate Zena’s memory with Andy as well as his efforts.

It wasn’t just Tim Maddams in the kitchen in the end; Robin Rea of The Rusty Pig was also there to make up a dynamic foodie duo. Not content with exceeding his steps for the day, Andy had his waiter hat on for the evening and served the guests too.

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The menu consisted of:

Starter – root vegetable and wild garlic pottage, nettle and water mint pesto.

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Meat main – slow roasted mutton, smoke rooted loin, spring greens, barley, rooting juices

Vegetarian main – Saffron polenta, purple broccoli, romesco sauce

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Pudding – rhubarb upside down cake, honey and raw milk custard.

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It was just so incredibly delicious, local hearty fare. We had a great evening.

The main reason I am writing this is not to shout about my experience but now that I have your attention, if anyone out there with a few pounds to spare, please can you donate to this very worthy cause.

So don’t delay; visit the #TeamZena fundraising page now. Let’s help stop this awful disease in its tracks or at least help those currently suffering. He has already managed just shy of £6,000!

Well done to everyone involved in #TeamZena’s memory.

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Cooking on blood; Rusty Pig turns into test kitchen

The team at Rusty Pig in Ottery St Mary has been busy testing traditional English recipes to help a food writer with her research for an Oxford Food and Cookery Symposium.

Dr Jan Davison is presenting a paper looking at how offal was not always viewed as food for the poor, but was instead served up for the very wealthy, including the royal court.

“Although the principal ingredients in black pudding are seemingly modest, the expensive seasonings used as flavourings indicate it was held in high regard,” Jan explained.

She asked chef Robin Rea to make up the recipes as he is one of the few cooks in the country to still use fresh blood in his own black puddings.

Robin said: “I’ve always used fresh blood as an ingredient; I know some people recoil from the idea but blood is a natural animal product, and as always we only use animals that have been raised in the very best natural conditions, with high levels of welfare.”

As well as Robin, the black pudding ‘team’ included Rusty Pig’s Fran Lea who researched and put together the ingredients, and Steve Williams from Good Game in Topsham. They tested eight recipes using lamb, pig and cow’s blood. Amongst the stranger ingredients were rosewater and strawberry leaves.

“One recipe called for ambergris, which is an excretion from the intestines of a sperm whale, pretty rare – and it proved a little expensive at around £11,000,” explained Robin.

“Another required porpoise as the main ingredient – but we decided not to attempt that one!”

Recipes included one from the 18th century, ‘Blood –Puddings, The English Way’ that Jan found in a cookery book by Patrick Lamb, ‘Royal Cookery or, the complete court-cook’.

Jan, who has also written ‘English Sausages’, a book telling the history of English sausages from the Roman conquest to the present day, said: “It was great fun putting all the recipes to the test and seeing how they turned out.

“My research turns current thinking on its head; we have always thought of offal as the scraps of an animal carcass, and it was clearly a far more respected ingredient in earlier times,” added Jan.

As a result of the tests and a celebration of black pudding, Rusty Pig is holding a ‘Bourbon and Black’ evening on May 13. Guests will have the chance to try different types of Bourbon with the various black puddings – with no porpoise included. To find out more call 01404 815580

The Rusty Pig, Ottery St Mary

The Rusty Pig, Yonder Street, Ottery St. Mary EX11 1HD 01404 815580

Butchers: open Thursday to Friday 9.30am to 4.30pm Saturday 9.30am to 4pm.
Supper tables: Thursday, Friday and Saturday (Fixed Course only)
Breakfast: Friday and Saturday 10am to 2pm

EE RecommendsIn the last twenty years or so, East Devon has had somewhat of a food renaissance.  Near the Devon-Dorset border lies River Cottage HQ, at the other end will be Michael Caines new flagship hotel and restaurant at Lympstone.  In between are a whole raft of producers and restaurants that are producing something amazing on a daily basis.  Deer Park Hotel, Trill Farm, Axminster River Cottage Canteen, Otter Brewery, Castlewood Vineyard etc. are all giving East Devon that edge.

In this litany of hallowed foodiness, sits The Rusty Pig in Ottery St Mary; a vanguard of good food and seasonal simplicity amongst the fussiness of a la carte and tiny portions. Ingredients are made on site, local or foraged; plucked from trusted local producers and hedgerows to create a palette you’re unlikely to find in other restaurants.

We were invited along to witness one of their supper table nights which tend to happen on a Thursday and Friday night.  Diners are welcome to have a 10 inch hand made pizza, or they can go for the fixed price three course menu.  On Saturday nights, only the fixed course menu is available and it is bookings only!

The Rusty Pig sits on Yonder Street.  When I googled the directions, I said to myself ‘ah I know where that is…’ and didn’t think anything else of it until we entered Ottery St Mary – I drove up to where I thought The Rusty Pig should be.  Of course neither myself or Tori had mobile coverage so there was no GPS to save the day.  About 15 minutes of light swearing, driving around in circles and ‘I’m not going to ask anyone’ ensued until we just happened to come across it in Yonder Street.

It feels like a home.  There is no delineation between the kitchen and the dining area on the ground floor, there are no barriers between customers and the important people who run the business, and throughout the evening it felt like the layout of the kitchen matched the ethos.  There is a shower in the toilet, and lots tables and chairs throughout the upstairs.  Recently having just obtained their alcohol licence, The Rusty Pig has come-of-age and is now looking at new horizons.

Robin Rea is the owner/butcher/head chef/chief smoker.  Devonian by birth, he started cooking in Melbourne during his travels in Italain restaurants which gave him a real spark for cooking, this continued when he returned to the UK, working in numerous restaurants before taking up a position at River Cottage.  His mother owned a shop in Ottery St Mary and when she retired, Robin fulfilled a dream by opening a butchers; producing air-dried and smoked meats in various forms.

An affable friendly chap with an absolutely cracking sense of humour, he was more than happy to chat to us throughout the evening, and we learnt a whole lot about what goes on at The Rusty Pig.  Helping him out on the evening was ex-River Cottage chef Joe Draper.  I first met Joe at the inaugural start of Jonny Does Dinner that took place at Trill Farm a couple of years ago; it was great to be able to catch up with him after the meal.

On Thursday & Friday nights The Rusty Pig serves food in the evenings.  The Butcher-Kitchen area has some seating, but upstairs a hidden world of exposed floorboards, wooden furniture and pig/Ottery St Mary ephemera.  We took our seats, we ordered our drinks and took in our surroundings.

Tonight we would be having the three-course menu (£32 per head).  This fixed price menu was simple but effective, and it can change too depending on ingredients available.

We kicked the evening off with an Onion Soup, sprinkled with Rusty Pig made Black Pudding. I found out afterwards that technically it is an onion milk, but frankly it could be called Mike Onion and it would still be delicious; it was so smooth and the savory kick of the Black Pudding made for a balanced starter that had me rethinking my previous misgiving about Onions in soup form. The starter was accompanied with a Garlic & Fennel Flatbread which looked wonderful and tasted as good.

The main course was a colourful mixture of roasted vegetables, wild garlic gnocci, beetroot relish, Rusty Pig made Cotechinni garnished with a hard ‘mountain cheese’ as Robin described it afterwards.

The dish was a colourful firework of food that I nearly forgot to eat after snapping it from every conceivable angle.  The Gnocci was smooth and the garlic worked well with the beetroot relish, the roasted vegetables (including carrot and parsnip) were perfectly done and as a Cotechinni virgin, I am glad that I was.  It has a bite to it, and the slight chewiness of the Cotechinni contrasted in texture to the creamy smoothness of the Gnocci.

Our dessert was a traditional yet edgy conclusion to what had been a stonking meal.  A Rhubarb and Cardoman Panacotta with Almond crumble.  This played on the different textures and the variation between the sweetness of the crumble and the sourness of the Rhubarb.  I love dishes that go beyond smell, food that looks amazing and uses a different set of tastes beyond sweet and savory – this makes for a memorable plate of food.

Afterwards we got chatting to Robin and Joe. The evening was coming to an end, but the party of fourteen ladies upstairs was still in full swing.  Joe was putting the finishing touches to the next day’s dishes, an event and a fully booked evening meant that the Saturday was going to be a busy day for both Joe and Robin, rafting in help from another chef.

If I was  compiling a ‘foody tour’ of East Devon, The Rusty Pig would be on it.  There are few places in Devon that share the same ethos and passion as this Butcher-Restaurant.  I was already a fan of Robin and brilliant little butchers, but this visit confirmed for me that The Rusty Pig is one of the vanguards of the local-seasonal school of cuisine in East Devon.

There is also the ‘Rusty Pig at Home’ where Robin will come in to your home to cook a private meal in your house.  Fancy a bit of Rusty Pig magic at your wedding? When we first arrived, Robin was talking to a bride & groom for whom he would be cooking for on their big day.  For more information about these other services, best ring the number at the beginning of the post.

Dine amongst the wines: A unique one-off dining event! Tuesday 3rd November

Danish superstar chef Kasper Gaard is joining forces with Robin Rea from the award-winning Rusty Pig in Ottery St Mary to cook a one-off supper at Smiths Wines in Magdalen Road.

Kasper, who took part in the River Cottage series ‘3 Good Things’, is a feted restaurateur in Denmark, and runs the Ilse restaurant on the island of Samso, where he lives.

Iain Smith of Smiths Wines said: “It’s been a long-term ambition of mine to persuade Kasper to cook for the people of Exeter.

“He’s previously dazzled the folk of Ottery St Mary with his cooking, and I decided it was our turn next. I’ve known Robin for many years too, and I’m looking forward to seeing what these two exceptional chefs concoct between them. ”

Both chefs are committed to ethical dining with sustainable aims and the dinner will be based on seasonal local ingredients. On Samso, Kasper Gaard is an expert at foraging for ingredients to use in his cooking, whilst in Ottery St Mary, Robin Rea has strong ties with local suppliers for fish, game, beef, vegetables and salad. He also raises his own Oxford Sandy and Black pigs on a nearby smallholding.

Iain regularly hosts suppers for small numbers in the shop, which is equipped with a long dining table that nestles between the shelves of wine, and armchairs for customers to use in between browsing the shelves at Smiths Wines. He and his team have a comprehensive knowledge of wines and Iain will be choosing the varieties to complement the meal created by Kasper and Robin.

The supper is on Tuesday, November 3. With space limited to 20 diners, the four course set meal costs £80 including wine. To book, call Iain on 01392 426550.

Green Sauce presents Funghi Night at The Rusty Pig, Ottery St Mary – 24th October

The Rusty Pig in Ottery St Mary is the venue for Tim Maddams’ Green Sauce to set up shop for a Pop-up night.  Tim previously worked as Head Chef at River Cottage, and can still be found teaching, writing for national rags and promoting ethical foods.  The Funghi Night looks like its going to be a spectacular evening, using foraged mushrooms to create a carnival of culinary creativity!

If you wish to book a place on this special evening contact info@greensauce.co.uk or contact 01404 815580

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