Corfu feasting – Seasonal mediterranean cooking

A foody holiday in the Mediterranean.

At the end of October, despite already having had a little holiday, visiting friends in the UK, the opportunity to go to Corfu for a week came up and I couldn’t resist! So, after catering for an arts fair in Plymouth, then a lovely 50th birthday party in Ermington, we jetted off to “the second largest of the Ionian islands” …which, …”including its small satellite islands, forms the northwestern-most part of Greece”(Wikipedia). Two holidays seems excessive, but after a full on summer of Devon wedding catering, local events and business lunch catering, I decided I deserved it!

My friend and I spent a glorious week reading, resting and of course eating! I love Greek food – I love the fish and seafood, grilled meats, gorgeous bread and of course the oil! and honey and the simplicity of how good all the locally grown produce is. It was the end of the tourist season, so very quiet with many places closing for the winter, but we still managed to have some really special meals.

One of the many meals I enjoyed was huge prawns in a rich tomato and ouzo sauce! As a lover of cooking with booze :) This was a hit with me. We also ate a lot of salad – bulbous seasonal tomatoes with crisp lettuce, really soft and salty olives, wild herbs and cucumbers topped with seafood and dressed lightly with local olive oil and vinegar. Or deep fried squid and grilled souvlaki, my friend ate mousaka and feta cheese parcels, deep fried and crunchy. The cheapest meal we ate I think was my favourite – gyros – grilled lamb with salad in a fat flat bread with chips and humous – oh my gosh!! Divine and very filling!

On my last day, which I spent alone as my friend flew home the day before, I drove around and found myself in Lefkimmi. Much of it was closed but I found a cafe open with seats in the sun by the river. I asked for the menu but the crooked old man just took my hand and showed me to the kitchen where a bow-legged old lady was cooking and she instructed me to choose from the pots she showed me – in the oven there were rice stuffed peppers, baked chicken in rich olive, onion and tomato sauce, beef in gravy – a traditional Greek stew called stifado, on the hob there was an amazing couldron of octopus pieces in a light tomato broth with what looked like pieces of potato. As it was my last day and I hadn’t yet tried stuffed peppers or stifado I had them. It was very tasty, though the stew was blander than I had hoped.

On returning to Totnes, I felt inspired and have used some of the recipes we tried in my catering – I love making spanakopita, using local organic kale as well as spinach, Somerset feta and Sharpham rustic cheese – it’s not totally authentic, but as Devon caterers we like to be influenced and inspired by our travels while still using the best of local Devon ingredients. This summer I look forward to making stuffed tomatoes and peppers and maybe some souvlaki from Sladesdown‘s lovely free-range chicken and maybe a goat stifado! Watch this space for recipes and ideas.

fried squidBeautiful blue skyprawns in ouzo tomato saucelamb souvlakigyrosolive saladchicken souvlakifried squid

 

Supplier of the Season – Autumn

It’s a little bit late, but in November I went to Nicola (who also produces the Naked Farmers Calendar!) at Painsford Manor Farm, near Ashprington to write about our Supplier of the Season for Autumn. This beautiful large Devon farm is postcard perfect – with waddling ducks and geese in the yard, the friendliest sheep dog welcome and gorgeous brick farm house and buildings to finish the picture. Nicola grows veg and apples and has goat as well as sheep and supplies people with heritage ducks for breeding.

In Autumn she supplied us with apples we used to make chutney with and at the Christmas market we made goat tagine with her delicious fresh, free-range meat which tasted delicious and had one customer coming back the following week (disappointed not to have goat but nearly as happy with the beef stew we had that week) for more. It seems that goat has lost fashion a little in England – which is a shame – a very meaty, slightly less rich flavour to lamb, a leaner and gamier meat which lends itself well to slow cooking and compliments strong flavours. It’s popular in India Morocco and Greece. We made tagine which is always a hit but I really love goat with capers, lemon, garlic and anchovies like they eat it in Greece…. yummmm!

It’s great to have another local farm, not organic but operating under similar principles, local to Totnes and with tasty, ethically sourced meat to provide us with seasonal and delicious ingredients for our outside catering menu’s. I hope someone orders more goat this summer!

Beautiful view Gorgeous variety of chicken Showing me the way Antique garden furniture

Gourmet UK road trip

Gourmet UK road trip; Travelling the UK tasting amazing local food.

In October last year I took just over a week’s holiday, after a very busy summer of Devon weddings, family celebrations, business and corporate lunches and events, community gatherings and food festivals. I decided I would like to visit some friends who live in cities I’ve never been to.

I started the trip early on a Monday morning and stopped at Gloucester services not long after the sun rose. What a little paradise it is! To find a service station where good catering, ethically sourced coffee, locally made food and gifts can be found is totally alien and delightful! Normally, stopping at motorway services is the only time I will buy coffee from a chainstore because that’s all that’s often available. I had an amazing organic coffee and bought some lovely West Country artisan ale to take to my friends and read the story of the business and felt heart-warmed – if all businesses were run with this ethos (to source locally, support small businesses and provide delicious and quality produce to their customers), the world would be a better place.

Onwards I continued to have a short amble in Stratford-Upon-Avon. It was beautiful to see this little town I last visited 15 years previously. The autumnal leaves were in golden and red glory and the river was beautiful to wonder beside. But, my friend and his canal boat awaited me so I went on to Leamington Spa. We took the boat through several lochs and to a lovely canal-side pub for some local ale and salty crisps. When we got back to the boat we roasted an organic, free-range rolled stuffed pork (bought from Gloucester services) with seasonal veg sides, homemade gravy with some more artisanal beer.

The next day I drove on to Birmingham, where I’d graduated from UCE in 2001 to meet uni friends and see how much the city has changed. On the first evening we went to Bodega in the centre of town and had the most delicious food – homemade fried wheat nachos with a gorgeous salsa, amazing rum cocktails followed by soft flour tacos filled with pork chimichuri. My friends had chilli and rice and large nachos – we loved it all – really impressed with the quality and creativity of the meal and it’s so fantastic to eat delicious and authentic Mexican food. After that, we went to The Victoria and had a dirty orange martini – great way to end the evening!

The next day, my friend Jay and I wondered round the Bull Ring and the centre – I was suitably awed with how much Birmingham has changed and pleased to see a vibrant independent business community. We stopped for lunch in Martineau Place at Pat Blacks Talk of the Town – out of horrible polystyrene containers we ate absolutely delicious jerk chicken, rice and beans – spicy but not too much, followed by mango juice for the fully West Indian experience!

That evening we went to Blue Ginger in Kings Heath and I ordered a seafood laksa after Jay and I shared sweet potato wrapped in rice paper and deep fried with a spicy dip and a gado gado salad. I felt pleased with myself – I was making my road trip to see friends, a culinary exploration of British and immigrant cuisine and it was delicious!!

Before leaving Birmingham, to continue my gourmet road trip, I met an old school friend in The Kitchen Garden Cafe – a really great, inspirational cafe with indoor plants, wood walls, local food and a really lovely atmosphere. From Birmingham I went to Liverpool because I’d never been there. I loved the city – wandering by the quayside, winding my way through the large, arty city, with big fancy shops (which I avoided but admired architecturally) and the new and old structures juxtaposed together forming beautiful shapes on the horizon. Exhausted in the early evening, I headed to Crosby and ate at The Albina. This was special. My friend had recommended the place to me and specifically told me to have a gin pickled egg which I was very unconvinced by. I told the waiter (who turned out to be the owner) but he was so sure I would like it, he brought it to me free of charge. Now, I hate pickled eggs. I really think they’re the worst food thing ever! But this was really tasty. Delicate, floral and fragrant with soft yolk and a delicious peppercorn sprinkle. This boded well. With it I had Beavertown Neckoil IPA then Scouse Lamb – a delicious and quite light, but rich stew with al dente carrots, vinegary onion marmalade which cut through the rich lamb and the most insanely tasty chips, twice cooked in beef fat!! With this, I had Hawkshead Great White beer from the Lake District. It was a wheat beer, again something I wouldn’t normally like, but again the owner convinced me to try. By now I was full and very happy but the owner insisted I have a dessert – when I told them I was dairy intolerant they compiled a special seasonal fruit crumble with honeycomb topping – very sweet and incredibly tasty!

Before I left, I noticed a quote I really liked; “Has anyone ever added a single hour to the length of his life by worrying about it” – I liked that!

As I don’t know anyone in Liverpool, I camped by the sea a few minutes drive out of Crosby. I woke to a beach dotted with sculptures of men – ‘Another Place’ by Antony Gormley. It was one of the most moving mornings I have ever experienced. The haunting men in different states of rust and decay, some covered in barnacles others less so.. They were identical and I found the scene absolutely breathtaking. Some info regarding Antony Gormley’s art here.

Next I arrived in Manchester and made a hungry bee-line for the food market at Picadilly Gardens where I enjoyed a spicy Indian kofte wrap.  I then wondered around the Northern Quarter and found myself wondering round second hand shops, quirky art boutiques and studenty graffitted bars and cafes. I loved it! It looked a little like Melbourne, Australia where I lived for two years before I moved to Devon. I found Nexus Art Cafe and stopped for a coffee – “Nexus Art Cafe is a creative community space in the heart of the city centre striving to build community based on an ethos of inclusion, respect and hospitality.”

After a brief stop in Barnsley to see another old uni friend, I arrived in Leeds to see a friend from Cambridge. The next day another friend joined us and we went for lunch at the Hepworth Deli in Thornton Arcade – amazing little place with great home-made cakes, pastries, salads, sandwiches served with local beers and soft drinks. James had lamb shoulder slow cooked with Moroccan spices with tztatziki and chickpeas, I had free-range ham hock terrine with homemade picadilly pickle. We shared sweet potato chips and Bad Seed Brewery IPA – it was all fantastic! I’d like to always be on a gourmet road trip! To end the trip, we had a late night curry in city curry house with Indian beer followed by a few more drinks in some cool bars. This Totnes girl had a great time in some really fantastic British cities. I think I’ll have to do some more exploring some time soon!

TEDtalk Totnes catering

In October 2015 The Kitchen Table catered the very first TEDtalk Totnes. We were so excited to have been invited to be a part of this fantastic event – some amazing speakers came to Dartington and in collaboration with the very best producers and suppliers in Totnes and the South Hams, we made a sumptuous lunch for guests, speakers and performers on the day.

With fruit, veg, dairy and some larder ingredients from Riverford, bread from Seeds2Bakery, mayo and eggs from Laydilay and delicious mushrooms from GroCycle we made soups, salads and cake. Tea and coffee came from Plymouth Tea and Owens Coffee and soft drinks from Luscombe’s so everyone attending was well fed and watered.

The theme ‘In our Hands’ is an interesting one – for a small town in South Devon, Totnes has a history of great entrepreneurial endeavour, small businesses thrive here and the legacy of the Elmhirsts at Dartington continues. Transition Town Totnes has put us on the map as a community focused on planning for the changes peak oil will present and there is a multitude of amazing projects and schemes that bring business, community and ecological awareness together. From eco-affordable housing, to edible public growing spaces, local grain growing to community owned breweries, we are a melting pot of great ideas, community development and cohesion, innovation and success. The Kitchen Table has benefited greatly from this culture of mutual support – we source all our key ingredients from within 30 miles of Totnes and have some really wonderful suppliers providing us with delicious, seasonal, local and often organic produce.

The TEDtalk Totnes programme was packed and the speaker list was really incredible! Emily Stewart – Travel Writer, Samjhana Moon – Photographic Artist, Benjamin Mee – Author of We Bought Zoo, owner of Dartmoor Zoo, Claire and Rupert Callender – Ceremonial Undertakers, Rob Hopkins – Director of Totnes Community Development Society, Ryan Doyle – Chair of Local Heroes, Hugo Tagholm – Cheif Exec of Surfers Against Sewage, Kath Maguire – Public Engagement Champion, Padraic Flood – Science Communicator and FlameLab Winner 2014, Jon and Matt Price – Proud2Be Founders, Adam Saynor and Eric Jong – Urban Mushroom Farmers, Casper Walsh – Author, Journalist and founder of Write to Freedom. There was also Matt Harvey, Jackie Juno, Kuki and The Bard and Billy Bottle and Martine performing! I’d hope to hear some of the speakers as well as serving the food and drink to the 100+ guests but it didn’t have time. However, they can be found here if you want to have a watch? http://www.tedxtotnes.com/talks-2015/

Volunteers helping to serve at TEDTalk Totnes

Beautiful morning view on arriving to Dartington

In the Barn at Dartington – waiting for a TEDtalk speaker

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Volunteers serving fresh seasonal salad