Review: River Cottage Veg Cookery Course

I started the day at 9.30am with a very bumpy ride down the hill from the car park to the farm HQ in a tractor and trailer. Apparently there had been a very boozy wedding at the farm recently and it was easy to see the appeal of the location as the grey morning mist lifted to reveal amazing views.  Once we all arrived, slightly bashed about from the tractor, we were welcomed with tea, coffee, River Cottage presse and a mini breakfast of scrambled eggs on sourdough toast with seasonal samphire.  This breakfast was the perfect showcase of how delicious simple ingredients can be when they are at their best.

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The kitchen we were to spend the day in was in a modern, clean barn space set out with ovens, equipment and work spaces for two people to share.  Through a door towards the front of the kitchen, we could see glimpses of the ‘real’ kitchen preparing for lunch service at the River Cottage canteen.  The technical side of using and sharpening knives was tackled first, using some very fancy knife rolls containing a variety of knives that we had free reign over using.  There was no ‘use this knife for this task’ or demands of any kind, we were simply instructed to use whatever felt right.

IMG_9325Stock making was first on the menu, simple chopping skills were taught and we were left to our own decisions on particular flavourings for our stocks.  Mine had a particularly fennel-heavy flavour, I used fennel seeds, whole allspice, star anise and juniper berries.  I had never made such a heavily flavoured stock before, and I was really surprised at how little time the stock took to cook and take on flavour too.

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While our stocks were simmering, we were lead around the kitchen garden, farm and polytunnels.  I had some serious garden envy here, the grounds are small but with lots packed in, including a polytunnel filled with 15 different varieties of tomato.  We used the produce in the kitchen garden for a summer garden soup later in the day, having picked peas, broad beans and kale during our walk.  We also picked and tried a large selection of fresh herbs, it was really amazing to have everything we needed to create something delicious right on our doorstep!

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Back in the kitchen it was time to start making the main dishes of the day.  We made a delicious carrot hummus, which I have made at least three times since, a muergez spiced cauliflower and borlotti bean, shallot and mustard salad. All washed down with fresh presse and homemade tortillas, this mezze of delicious things was the best part of the day for me.  We were mostly left to our own devices, with instruction to go with our instincts and mix up the recipes a little if we would like.  Speaking of recipes, there was no open recipe book on our benches, only watching demonstrations to guide us.  I really enjoyed this aspect, we were of course sent the recipe packs for the course at a later date, but we were able to learn from watching the chef rather than struggling through a complex recipe.

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We all sat down for lunch together to devour our hard work before starting work on our summer garden soups.  We used vegetables fresh from the ground that morning, and all were delicious.  Using our stocks as a base, we added charlotte potatoes, carrots, broad beans, peas, mange tout, kale and little gem lettuces all cooked until just tender.  However, I felt the course could have been around 30 minuets longer as the soup making part felt rushed, and we didn’t have time to sit down together to eat what we had made.

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IMG_9340While the soup was simmering, we made a start on our beetroot tarte tatin.  Initially a little confused about whether this was a sweet or savoury dish, we quickly rolled out some ready made ruff puff pastry, after a demonstration on how to make it.  Again, a little more time would have been nice so we could make the pastry ourselves.  However, the beetroot we used were so fresh and beautiful, I credit the great taste of this tart to those beets.

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We simmered the beets in a pan with some apple balsamic vinegar and then let them caramelise underneath the pastry before turning them out (fairly successfully) onto the plate.

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I really enjoyed the course overall, despite the slightly rushed ending, and I learnt lots of new skills that I have used with will continue to use.  I would recommend this course to anyone with an already formed love of veg and cooking with some practical skills already under your belt looking for a fun way to experience a cookery class.

Food Guide: Glastonbury 2016

Anyone who is lucky enough to go to Glastonbury Festival knows that the huge variety of eclectic food stalls are second only to the festival’s musical offerings.  Once again I was one of the lucky few hundred thousand able to sample some of the amazing festival food as well as some incredible acts (almost mere accompaniment to the food for me…) that rounded off another wonderful year.  Amongst the soup of mud I found some new gems that I will be visiting again next year, as well as my old favourites from years gone by.  My picks from last year’s festival still stand, although I only revisited Peckish Peacock, Organic Veggie Burgers, Manic Organic and Pizza to the People.  It always amazes me how much delicious food is available for only £3-8 per portion at Glastonbury, as well as more gourmet options being available for those looking for a bit of a different festival experience.   I’m looking forward to seeing how the face of festival food changes with the introduction of spaces such as The Rocket Lounge where you can dine on Michelin starred food and accompanying cocktails and champagne.  Here’s to another year of tasty Glastonbury fare, you can read about my last year’s favourites here and I hope you enjoy this year’s collection of delicious dishes.


Lynda’s Loaf


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I came to Lynda’s Loaf in 2013 for their amazing focaccia and this year did not disappoint.  We went for the cheese and pesto bread and the balsamic and caramelised red onion.  Both were indulgently delicious, served fresh from the oven and exactly what we needed on that muddy morning.  These breads are a Glastonbury staple and I love the Greenpeace field as a foodie destination so this one is an all round winner for me.

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We washed down our focaccia with some elderflower and blackberry and plum presse from Nurse’s Cottage, another revisit but delicious as always and super refreshing.

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Banging Beans


After the sad departure of the Tapas Breakfast stall, who no longer operate at Glastonbury, we were very much on the quest for a substitute delicious breakfast.  Banging Beans is situated not too far from the Bread and Roses and offers up a delicious portable breakfast- homemade baked bean wraps.  I had the cheesetastic bean option, you can even add extra cheese to this one!  I don’t think anything will quite replace the Tapas Breakfast, but Banging Beans was a firm favourite with almost everyone in our group this year.

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Manic Organic


Manic Organic is another Glastonbury Staple.  This stall based near Greenpeace always produces amazing vegetarian and vegan food for a good price- never fails to disappoint hungry festival goers.  This year I had the bruschetta and coconut and potato curry.  Manic Organic are always wonderfully generous with portion sizes, so if you’re after a hefty meal that tastes amazing then this is the place for you.

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The Parsnipship


I think that The Parsnipship could become one of my Glastonbury favourites alongside the likes of the Peckish Peacock and Lynda’s Loaf.  It offers up delicious vegetarian and vegan options, including a veggie breakfast that we tried and found extremely tasty, as well as a wonderful glamorgan crumble with cous cous salad and horseradish creme fraiche.  I forgot to take a picture of the glamorgan crumble because we were just enjoying it too much, the mark of a good meal I’m sure!  The Parsnipship is at the top of the Park, perfect for taking up to the Glastonbury sign or devouring whilst watching the Park Stage from afar.

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The Green Brownie


If you’re anything like me, sometimes you just crave something good and sweet with a cup of tea for a pick me up mid festival.  Although this may sound incredibly twee, The Green Brownies offers up a really good selection of brownies with £1.50 tea that satisfy any sugary cravings.  I had the chocolate chip brownie, which was delicious, if a little dry, and I wish I’d had a sweet enough tooth to try some of the other flavours too!

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Rocket Lounge


This one is a little different from my usual festival food choice.  On offer in the Rocket Lounge is fine dining on proper tables and chairs with accompanying live jazzy music.  One of the pricier options at the festival, this is definitely a treat and I would thoroughly recommend.  The veggie options were delicious, goats cheese stuffed courgette flower with peach, caramelised onion tart with beetroot salad, crispy artichokes with peas, broad beans and creamy polenta, and an extremely decadent chocolate hazelnut dessert.  Apologies for the appauling pictures here-  ambient lighting to make a tent seem more glamorous didn’t do much for my photographic skills!

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Another great year of food and music, here are a few of my favourite areas to eat where I can usually find all manner of delicious things to eat and drink:

The Park stage area

Greenpeace

West Holts stage area

William’s Green stage area

I would love to know any of your favourites from this year’s festival, so please don’t hesitate to comment with your suggestions!

Food Spot: Honey and Co

I’ve been so excited to go to Honey and Co since I got the recipe book for Christmas and today I finally got to visit.  When we arrived I was surprised by how small the space was and how many people they had managed to squeeze in!  Despite being a weekday, the restaurant was busy and we had to wait a few minutes for a table, which gave us time to watch all the dishes being served and therefore become extremely hungry.  I really loved the atmosphere of the place, busy and bustling with an authentic feel of a middle eastern restaurant.  We were seated by a really lovely waitress and we had already decided on the sharing mezze so we could get a taste of everything.  There was a such a great selection including houmous, butternut squash and cinnamon falafel with tahini and burnt molasses sauce, olives and lightly pickled red peppers, a few different breads with olive oil, winter tomato salad and a gorgeous quince, ricotta and hazelnut salad.  The stand out dishes in the mezze for me were the falafel and tomato salad, completely delicious and moreish- I would definitely order the falafel starter when I visit again.  I also ordered some homemade orange blossom iced tea, the floral taste took me aback at first, but as the tea flavour settles in the drink becomes really delicious.

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For the main dish, I ordered giant cous cous with tomato, feta, lemon and oregano.  I was so full from the mezze that I didn’t finish the cous cous, luckily I was able to take some home for lunch the next day!  The cous cous was cooked to perfection, the tomatoes were delicious and the feta was so tasty.  It just goes to show the difference that great ingredients can make.  I absolutely loved this dish and the portion size was great.  I particularly loved the feta and oregano, such a surprise from what I assumed would be a really simple main.  IMG_8163

Unfortunately we didn’t have any room for dessert, I will definitely be making a return visit to sample some of the sweet things from the menu as well as the cakes on the counter and various teas and coffees.  I was not disappointed and will be returning again soon!

http://honeyandco.co.uk/

Food Spot: Vanilla Black Kennington

I pass this little place, barely a month old, almost daily on my bus route to and from lectures and I’ve wanted to make a visit for a while now.  Vanilla Black, no connection with the famous vegetarian restaurant, is set on Windmill row, a set of a few gorgeous multi coloured shops, cafes and restaurants.  I love the surroundings in this area, the tall townhouses provide an interesting backdrop to your lunch!

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I love the decoration in this place, wall to wall shelves stacked full of second hand books and vintage penguin classics hanging in the windows.  The whole cafe looks so warm and inviting so I’m not surprised that as the darkness of (now!) 4pm rolled in plenty of people started dropping in for tea, coffee and cakes.

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I arrived for quite a late lunch so the cafe was quiet and calm.  The bar area where coffee, cakes and food is served was set out beautifully, however because we arrived past the usual lunch rush the selection of sandwiches and stuffed croisssants was quite small.  My friend and I decided to split both the goat’s cheese and roasted vegetable sandwich and a cheddar and tomato stuffed croissant for a proper taste of the veggie options.

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I’ve never really had a proper stuffed croissant before, and this one was delicious! The cheese was smoky and not too overpowering against the butteryness of the pastry and sweet tomatoes.  This was my personal favourite out of the two, delish.  The bread that surrounded the tasty veg and cheese in the sandwich was definitely the star,  I love artisan bread, well actually most bread, at the best of times and this one was particularly yummy.  I’m not usually a huge fan of goat’s cheese but I really enjoyed the sandwich regardless.  All this was washed down with beautifully presented jasmine tea, elderflower drink and some really lovely coffee served in attractive glass cups.

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If you’re in the area I would definitely recommend giving this place a visit, I can imagine it would be great for getting some uni work done in a nicer environment than a stuffy library (better coffee too!)

Food Spot: The Honey Pot

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I’m visiting family in Penzance, Cornwall at the moment and this little cafe sits just around the corner from the town center so we thought we’d give it a go! Small towns nowadays are so often filled with a barrage of Pret, Cafe Nero and Wetherspoon chains that the few little independent shops and cafes that Penzance has is quite refreshing . The cafe was relatively busy, but not uncomfortably so and we were able to sit straight away.

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The menu is really veggie friendly, with plenty of choice for meat eaters too. I went for the homity pie, a favourite of mine! The standard menu also included plenty of sandwiches and salads. The drinks menu also includes a variety of cordials and syrups for both still and sparkling water, I had the peach tea syrup and it was delicious!

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The homity pie portion was huge! It came with a lightly dressed salad and red onion marmalade, both equally yummy! The pie was light, not rich, but also really filling and tasty with a few hints of dill. What I really wanted was to try everything on the menu, but funds and stomach space would not permit!

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There are also a selection of traditional cornish cream teas and lots of yummy looking cakes, which I unfortunately did not get to try! However we did take home a slice of the lemon and lime cheesecake, which I’ve been told was delicious! All of the cheesecakes are suitable for vegetarians and two of the selection are also gluten free, very handy if you’re intolerant. There are also 7 delicious gluten free ordinary cakes to choose from!

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If you’re in Penzance this holiday I would recommend giving this place a try, I will definitely be revisiting!

http://thehoneypotpz.co.uk/

Food Guide: Copenhagen

11427166_10207218412446958_8771803247643118612_nI recently went on an amazing five day trip to the beautiful city of Copenhagen. I had a great time in one of the most relaxed, safe and interesting cities I’ve been to in Europe. Copenhagen is often coined the cool kid on the block when it comes to all things scandi, and my experience of the city certainly didn’t contradict this label. The residents are stylish and beautiful and the atmosphere is wonderfully laid back in a way that only increases the city’s attractiveness.  As always, I scouted out far too many places that I wanted to eat during our trip, and set off with high hopes but no intention of visiting them all.  Much to my disappointment one of the missed venues was Ida Davidson’s restaurant, serving traditional smorrebrod (open sandwiches) inspired by celebrities and set out on a meter long menu. My instinct says that this place is perhaps better preserved as an urban myth rather than actually experienced!

Flottenhimer


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We came across this place after a long day of exploring the city, the cosy interior seemed inviting to our tired feet and the menu boasts a good selection of vegetarian options. We were seated straight away and served handmade lemonade and Tuborg, danish brewed beer.

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I ordered the spinach and feta quesadilla and after a slight mix up with a chicken version, it tasted delicious. The sides were also surprisingly good, I particularly enjoyed the crunchy salad, as usually these elements aren’t given much thought. Overall, really good gastro-pub style food in a cosy yet elegant setting.

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This being our first meal out in Copenhagen, we hadn’t quite figured out the paying/tip situation that can make for awkward dining out. The receipts generally seem to include a sort of ambiguous ‘tax’ that is around 20%. We quickly discovered that money isn’t exactly counted and what appears to be random amounts of change is returned to you after paying the bill. So I would recommend not to worry too much about tips and VAT and just put in what appears to be the right money and hope for the best! All in the name of trial and error. Of course for the more stingy or simply in case of bad service, you can omit the tax charge, as we discovered at our next restaurant.


Cock’s and Cows


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Our next place on the menu (ha ha) was Cock’s and Cows. The website for this restaurant looks really inviting, so I made this place a must-eat from the moment we touched down. When we arrived there was a queue of customers waiting to be seated, a slight put off. However we were taken down to the bar for a drink, Tuborg of course, and seated within 20 minutes. The restaurant was busy, almost to an uneasy vibe, but the food that followed was well worth it.

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I went for the Tree Hugger burger, made from courgette, in a sesame bun. We shared a selection of curly and salted fries on the side also, when they finally arrived (service was very busy) they were absolutely delicious. Hands down one of the best burgers I’ve had. The fries were also generously portioned and really tasty. Definitely one of my favourite meals the city had to offer. The bill took quite some time to come, service letting the place down slightly, but we ended up not having to pay the tax/service charge as the waiter gave us this back despite us paying, so there were no real problems with our experience.


Mother


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Mother is situated in Copenhagen’s old meatpacking district, which looks a little uninspiring but it helps to imagine it as Copenhagen’s Shoreditch. The area is busy with restaurant goers and I would have loved to eat out there more, as there were several great looking places including Tommi’s Burger Joint (which I believe has a restaurant in London) and BioMio. We again had to wait for a table for about 20 minutes, but as always helped ourselves to some Tuborg during the wait.

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The pizza that followed the wait was amazing. I have never had such good pizza, a beautiful sourdough base, rich tomato sauce and plenty of mozzarella cheese! Really delicious, I would recommend thoroughly. Perfect sizes, and wonderful when it’s a rainy evening and you’re tired from wandering around this amazing city. The staff were really friendly and efficient, can’t really fault this place, I can only say it would have been better in the sunshine!

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Papiroen


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Papiroen or paper island is set on an island accessible from bridges near the bottom end of Nyhavn. Although quite a long way out from the city center, this place is worth it in my opinion. A cross between a food hall, street market and vintage clothes shop, Papiroen is one of the most interesting foodie destinations in Copenhagen. Take time to explore the whole place, there’s a lot on offer! From surf and turf burgers to juice to cheesecake, fish and chips and Korean BBQ.

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The fish and chips chosen by Anni looked really lovely, decorated with fresh vegetables and dill. I tried some of the chips and dill sauce, both were really delicious and not too badly priced either. I went for the Columbian vegetarian food stall, as did Tammy, for their mushroom veggie burger and tradition red bean stew with rice, fried plantains, guacamole, salsa and a fried egg. My meal was really tasty, I enjoyed all elements and was especially surprised by the crispness of plantains. However I would have enjoyed slightly more salsa on the side!

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I would recommend this place, however I would have loved to come multiple times during the trip to try more of the food, so maybe if you do visit, perhaps a trip at the start and one at the end is the best way to experience papiroen!


Eating in


My main tip for eating in would be to visit Irma! Supermarket prices in the city are quite high, so expect some considerable variation between each shop. Our favourite during our stay was Irma, it had the biggest range of ingredients and a wonderful selection of bread (definitely a must try) and I would have loved to buy more ingredients there to cook with over a longer period of time. The best way, we discovered, to save money on lunches was to buy some of Irma’s delicious bread and have with cheese (there is a large selection), crisps (lays of course!) and whatever else takes your fancy. These components last a few days and make for perfect picnic lunches. This is a really great way to make Copenhagen more affordable!

I had an amazing time in this city, I will be returning one day, but it’s farewell for now to Copenhagen!

Food Spot: KERB does Alchemy – Southbank Centre

IMG_5461On a quest to use my bank holiday weekend wisely, I decided to give the much praised Southbank centre market a try.  The eastern inspired food market is set out by hungerford bridge next to Royal Festival Hall, only a few minutes walk from my halls so I don’t quite know why I never thought to visit before.  Luckily I managed to catch it on it’s penultimate day, where new Pakistani food stalls were added to the existing Indian cuisine. The smells coming from the market are incredible, you really want to try everything there! The variety of food ranges from dosa to kebab, samosas, pakoras and curry, all looking and smelling amazing.

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After a long walk around the market, deliberating and trying to choose (trust me, you’ll do the same) I decided to join the lengthy queue for Horn OK Please to grab a Moong Dal Dosa with chickpeas, homemade chutneys and sev ( crispy chickpea noodles). The ladies running the stall were lovely and friendly, I paid £5 for the meal and it was completely worth it, excellent value.

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The dosa crepes were made infront of the queue and looked delicious. It’s safe to say they tasted pretty good too! I loved the chickpea side with chutneys, honestly some of the best street food I’ve tasted. Really amazing, I just wish I could have tried more of the dishes available on all the stalls!

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The dosa had a really lovely savoury, salty taste so my friend Dasha and I decided to give Teala’s iced tea a try. The tea was so refreshing, I opted for the ‘southern classic’, lemon and black tea, and Dasha the ‘jasberry’. Both were amazing, the jasberry was fruity whereas the southern classic was, as the name would suggest, more like a classic iced tea.

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I would fully recommend after spicy food or perfect on a hot day, I could drink it all day! Thoroughly worth the trip, can’t wait for the next market from these guys!