ArchiveMay 29, 2022

Trip of UK

After my gushing article last week about the wildflower lanes and dandelion filled permanent pastures of West Wales and the Cotswolds, there’s more to come….

There’s so much catching up to do with students and friends after two plus years of anxiety and dread.  We had a sort of plan but as we wandered from one special place to the next, our Instagram photos gave a clue as to our whereabouts and suddenly our phones began to ping with messages and suggestions from old friends and Ballymaloe Cookery School graduates. 

‘Don’t miss’….
‘Come and see us’…

‘Can’t believe you are having lunch in my favourite local pub’…. 

That was the beautiful Victoria Inn in Eastleach overlooking the 12th Century church and a magnificent bird cherry tree in full bloom, delicious and simple food (@victoriainneastleach on Instagram).

Another student who did a 12-Week Certificate Course in September 1998 popped in for breakfast while we were staying at Thyme in Southrop in the Cotswolds and another from 1989 joined us for a coffee catch up… then on we went to Bristol. 

Put Little French Restaurant in Westbury Park on your list too (@littlefrench_bristol on Instagram).  We had a delicious catch-up lunch there with another of our grandchildren who is loving doing Performance Arts in the University of Bristol and her cousin.  Again lots of little plates of seasonal food.  I particularly enjoyed a little monkfish kebab with rouille and a sprinkling of chives.  I also remember scallops with sauternes butter sauce and the tiny Pyrenees lamb cutlets.  Also loved the toasted marcona almonds with rosemary…a simple twist on a tasty pre-dinner nibble.

And then on down to Coombeshead Farm in Lewannick on the Devon/Cornish border, the main focus of our visit to the UK.  In 2019, we managed to book a 2-night stay and loved everything about this little farmhouse hotel in the midst of a 66-acre regenerative farm and gardens.  There are extensive no-dig vegetable beds, kitchen food waste is made into compost and almost 100 rare breed hens roam through the woodland. They rear a few Mangalitza pigs – an old-world Hungarian breed with thick curly hair that produces the sweetest, most succulent pork I’ve EVER tasted.  Its name means ‘hog with a lot of lard’, rightly prized for its flavourful marbled meat and abundance of wickedly decadent healthy, nourishing fat – no hormones, antibiotics, growth promoters…

Tom Adams and his team of young cooks, chefs, bakers and gardeners are passionate about what they do.  During the pandemic, they pivoted and created Coombeshead Provisions from the farm and gardens, also a Pop-Up Shop and courtyard café with a hugely impressive natural wine and local beer selection as well as sausages, rillettes, hogs’ pudding, piccalilli and a variety of cured meats and relishes from the pigs and garden produce.  The Coombeshead sourdough is made right there in the bakery in the farmyard and sent hundreds of miles to devotees in London every day.  The rich yellow butter is hand churned from local clotted cream made in the traditional way by Barbara Anne Lane from the cream of her little herd of one Guernsey and four Jersey cows.  One of the highlights of the entire trip was learning how to make clotted cream in the time-honoured way from this beautiful woman now in her late 70’s – more of which anon…

The food was delicious, we looked forward to every meal.  On one day, we drove down to the enchanting little fishing village of Fowey and had lunch at North Street Kitchen (@nskfowey on Instagram) – a sister restaurant of Fitzroy’s ( , part of the Jolene Group of gems and definitely worth adding to your list.  Plate after plate of super tasty, seasonal food.

After lunch, we went to Ethy House Gardens, open for just one day a year.  We drooled over the rare rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas and walked through a sea of wild bluebells in the woodlands.  There were Cornish cream teas, and even more thrilling was the Pelynt Male Voice Choir (not one of the handsome chaps under 75) belting out Cornish songs.    Everyone jumped to their feet and stood proud as the boys in their impeccable blue blazers and red monogrammed ties sang a rousing rendition of the Cornish anthem, Trelawny.  There was hardly a dry eye in the courtyard on that beautiful afternoon.

Here are recipes for some of the many delicious dishes I enjoyed..

Smoked Haddock Rarebit from North Street Kitchen in Fowey

Thank you Ethan Friskney-Bryer for sharing this North Street Kitchen special and it even contains some Guinness – certainly worth making a detour for.

Makes enough for 4-6 pieces of toast

200g (7oz) naturally smoked haddock

full fat milk (enough to cover the haddock)

25g (1oz) butter

25g (1oz) plain flour

1 teaspoon mustard powder or English mustard

2-3 dashes Tabasco sauce

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) Guinness

450g (1lb) aged Cheddar, grated

4-6 pieces of day-old bread to toast

To Serve

Worcestershire sauce

Place the haddock in a small saucepan and submerge in milk.  Cook on a low heat until the fish is fully cooked through.  Allow to cool and then remove the fish from the pan, reserving the milk. 

Melt the butter in a fresh sauce pan and stir in the flour until fully combined and smooth, allow it to colour slightly in the pan whilst stirring.

Still on a gentle heat, add the mustard or mustard powder, the tabasco sauce, then the Guinness along with 75ml (3fl oz) of the smoked haddock milk, stirring constantly.  Once smooth, stir in the grated cheese.  As soon as the cheese has melted, transfer the mix to a bowl and flake through the cooked smoked haddock.

Allow the mix to cool before generously covering the pieces of toast (ensure the mix is spread all the way to the edge of the toast to prevent the bread from burning).  Return the toast to the hot grill until the mix has turned golden brown on top and bubbles slightly.

Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and serve immediately.

Fried Monkfish with Carrot Salad and Mustard Mayonnaise from North Street Kitchen in Fowey

These are just two of the tasty seasonal plates on the blackbird menu at North Street Kitchen where Ethan doesn’t just ‘talk the talk’ about local, seasonal ingredients.

Serves 4 as a light lunch or starter

400-500g (14-18oz) monkfish fillet

2 free-range eggs

splash of milk

100g (3 1/2oz) panko breadcrumbs

For the Carrot Salad

3 carrots

white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon chives, finely chopped

1 teaspoon tarragon, finely chopped

For the Mayonnaise

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon English mustard

pinch of salt

250ml (9fl oz) rapeseed oil

1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard

First peel the carrots and shred them.  We use a julienne blade on a mandolin, but you could also grate them.  In a bowl, lightly salt the cut carrots and leave them for about half an hour at room temperature to soften.

Meanwhile, make the mayonnaise by whisking the egg yolks, white wine vinegar, Dijon and English mustard along with a pinch of fine salt, and slowly add the rapeseed oil until fully combined and glossy.  Finish by folding through the wholegrain mustard and salt/additional vinegar to taste.

Ensure the skin and membrane (along with the central bone) have been removed from the monkfish and dice into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes.  Dust the monkfish in flour, then the eggs whisked with a little milk, then the breadcrumbs.  Use one hand for the dry and one for the wet ingredients to ensure you don’t end up breadcrumbing yourself.  Transfer to a plate and sprinkle a few extra breadcrumbs on top to guarantee they are fully covered. 

Drain off any liquid from the carrots and toss with a few drops of white wine vinegar, the chives and tarragon and any additional seasoning as required.

Place the monkfish in a deep-fat fryer (or a pan no more than half full of rapeseed/vegetable oil) at 175°C/347˚F until dark golden brown on the outside.  Season with fine salt and pepper and serve immediately with a big dollop of the mustard mayo and the carrot salad.

Roast Scallops with Sauternes Beurre Blanc from Little French in Bristol

This delectable scallop dish was inspired by a starter at Little French in Bristol … Chef Freddie Bird served five Queen Scallops per person, a perfect little feast…. 

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course

8 large scallops on the rounded half shell

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Sauternes Beurre Blanc (see recipe)

To Serve

lemon wedges

chives, finely chopped

First make the Sauternes Beurre Blanc.

Preheat the oven to 250˚C/500˚F/Gas Mark 10.

If the scallops are live, open the shell, remove the fringe and everything else except the coral and muscle.  Wash well.  Put the scallops back into the rounded half shell.

Season each scallop with a little salt and freshly ground pepper.  Roast in a very hot oven until the scallops are barely cooked, 3-4 minutes approx.

Spoon a tablespoon of Sauternes Beurre Blanc over the top of each one. Sprinkle with very finely chopped chives. Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon juice and a wedge of lemon…

Sauternes Beurre Blanc

Makes about 250ml (8fl oz)

3 tablespoons Sauternes

3 tablespoons Moscatel or best white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots

pinch of ground white pepper

1 tablespoon cream

175g (6oz) unsalted butter, diced

salt, freshly ground pepper

freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the first four ingredients into a heavy stainless-steel saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and reduce down to about a tablespoon.  Add 1 generous tablespoon of cream and reduce again until the cream begins to thicken. Whisk in the chilled butter a couple of pieces at a time, keeping the sauce just warm enough to absorb the butter.  Season with salt, taste and add a little lemon juice if necessary.  Strain through a fine sieve.  Transfer to a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot but not boiling water. Keep warm until needed. Save the remainder to serve with a piece of fresh haddock or hake…

Sorrel and Apple Granita from Coombeshead Farm in Cornwall

This exquisitely refreshing granita may be served as a starter or a dessert.

130g (generous 4 1/2oz) sorrel

200g (7oz) stock syrup or elderflower cordial

600ml (1 pint) apple juice 

pinch of citric acid 

Blend all ingredients together hard to a smooth consistency. Pass through a chinois (or fine sieve into a freezable container, skim off any foam that remains at the top, and freeze. 

Serve on chilled plates and garnish with a leaf or two of fresh sorrel. 

Mousse au Chocolat from Little French in Bristol

At Little French, Freddy Bird serves a luscious quenelle of the chocolate mousse in a pool of Jersey cream – irresistible!

Makes 8

300g (10oz) dark chocolate (70%) (Valrhona)

pinch Maldon sea salt

10 eggs, separated

50g (2oz) caster sugar

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) whipped cream

Put the chocolate drops (or chopped chocolate) into a Pyrex bowl, add a pinch of Maldon sea salt.  Melt gently over a saucepan of hot but not simmering water (make sure the water doesn’t touch the base).

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar until quadrupled in volume.  Fold in the chocolate.  Whisk the egg whites until they reach soft peaks.  Fold into the base with the whipped cream.

Pour into individual glasses or ramekins.  Cover and chill overnight.

Serve with a jug of pouring cream. 

Roasted Marcona Almonds

The quality of almonds varies a lot.  Look out for Marcona almonds – they are grown in Spain and have a sweet, delicate flavour.   They are more rounded and plumper than the Californian almonds that are more widely available.

whole unpeeled almonds

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.

Put the almonds dry onto a dry baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes, until golden and crisp.  Toss in olive oil and sea salt and serve warm. Try not to eat the lot!


Roasted Marcona Almonds with Rosemary

Follow the master recipe, add  finely chopped fresh rosemary to taste to the marcona almonds and enjoy. 


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