Monday, March 21, 2011
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is someone I hope our American readers have heard of and if you haven't, get to your library or bookstore and please open up some of his books and get reading. I've learned so much from Hugh and I am consistently impressed with the passion and intelligence he brings to food, farming, cooking and educating the public about these three things. He's labeled a celebrity chef in Great Britain and I personally think that label almost does him a disservice, somehow discrediting the good work that he does in the arena of food activism, policy and awareness. I'll touch on this more in a future post to come that is all about mackerel but today's post is about the delicious, amazing food at River Cottage.
Just over a week ago I had the good fortune of sitting down to a Friday Night Dinner at River Cottage HQ on Park Farm in Axminster, Devon, England. This was truly a destination meal as my boyfriend and I made a considerable effort and went a good deal out of our way to get there. Happily for us, it was worth it. Not only was the food inventive, impeccably sourced and delicious, but the experience was unique and memorable from our arrival by tractor to canapés in a yurt to meeting strangers that we were sat next to at one of two long communal tables. The flavors and conversations and sights and smells were worth the price of admission and I of course took detailed notes about what we ate and drank to be able to share the experience with you.
Kingston Black Apple Brandy
Chorizo and egg salad (egg mayonnaise) on toast
Carrot and cumin hummus on flatbread
Mushroom stuffed with spinach, feta and topped with chestnuts
Potted pollack on toast
Stinger Organic Ale brewed with hand-picked Dorset nettles
Cottechino sausage with cubes of pig skin inside the casing, which when cooked (simmered in stock) made the sausage gelatinous and sticky. Served with al dente puy lentils, celeriac puree and salsa verde. DELICIOUS!
Stinging nettle soup with a smoky fish stock made from cold-smoked pollock. Served with a poached egg and jersey yogurt and a slice of sourdough bread.
Slow and fast cooked beef from a Ruby cow. The slow element consisted of braised flank steak, shredded then combined with beef fat and sauteed onions and formed into a cake. The fast cooked beef was a couple of slices of roast beef, served pink. Roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary were served as well as roasted carrots, creamed leeks and cauliflower.
Vanilla yogurt pannecotta with poached rhubarb and fragile, crumbly shortbread.
Cider brandy truffles made with Julian Temperley's Somerset Cider
Are you drooling yet? The meal was inspiring. I've already replicated the carrot and cumin hummus and flatbreads at home from memory and I'm keeping a close eye on my rhubarb plants, desperate to poach their stalks once they get a little bit bigger. Also the pairing of homemade chorizo and egg salad (egg mayonnaise) must be remembered and attempted in the future! Before the meal was over I wanted to apply for a job - any job - at River Cottage. It was the kind of place that oozed the energy and purpose that you just want to be a part of. I desperately wish I could have seen the place during the day and therefore a return trip is in order!
Carrot & Cumin Hummus inspired by River Cottage
1 can of drained and rinsed chickpeas
An equal amount of raw carrots, cleaned and peeled.
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and trimmed
1 tablespoon cumin
chopped parsley, chives and scallions to garnish
Steam the carrots and the 3 garlic cloves together then add them to your food processor or blender with a can of chickpeas, a tablespoon of cumin, LOTS of olive oil, salt and a squeeze of lemon. Blitz this all together, adjust seasoning to taste and garnish with chopped herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.
To make 6 flatbreads:
Mix 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour with salt and enough warm water to make a dry dough and knead for a minute. Separate into six balls of dough and let sit for 20 minutes. Roll these out to 1/4 of an inch thin, using just enough extra flour to keep them from sticking to the rolling pin or the counter. Then get a dry cast iron pan or griddle very hot and cook the flatbreads for 3 minutes or so on each side so they puff up and get brown spots.
Carrot and cumin hummus on flatbreads make an excellent lunch for 3 people, served with a side salad.