You might be able to tell, from my rather large stack of cookery books, that I am a bit of a fan of River Cottage!
My husband and I have always watched Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s television programmes- it’s not only the lovely and inspiring recipes- but the comfort factor of the farmhouse and the rolling Devon countryside. When we first became hooked we were living in London, and it felt like a little glimpse of home for me, having grown up in Devon.
We have also recently bought Gil Meller’s new book Gather which really is an ode to Devon and the amazing produce it has to offer (in fact you can see some rather lovely videos by clicking here of some of his amazing recipes and some beautiful Devon shots by my good friend Will at Foxwell Films).
These days River Cottage splits neatly into two- River Cottage HQ, found on the Devon and Dorset border, is home to everything they do and is the base for their Cookery and Chefs School, unique dining experiences and memorable events. Then there are four Canteens, award-winning restaurants and delis based in the South West where they combine their philosophy with the finest producers in Axminster, Bristol, Plymouth and Winchester.
So you can probably understand my excitement at being selected to attend a Christmas Feast at the ACTUAL River Cottage! This was organised by Foodies100 in conjuction with River Cottage and involved around 50 food bloggers from around the country gathering together for the experience.
Luckily for me, I only live an hour away, and picking up the lovely Hayley who blogs at Sparkles and Stretchmarks and the equally lovely Amy who blogs at The Devonshire Woman (sorry we forgot to ring to say we were on the way Amy!) we had a fab and funny road trip up to River Cottage HQ. On arrival, there’s a kind of bus shelter but it’s super cosy with a log burner in there (if you pop over to Tara’s Busy Kitchen you can see a pic of me getting it going with a bit more wood!). I loved meeting some other Devon bloggers- (Lauren from Eating Exeter, Stephanie from Exploring Exeter, Clare from Flip Flops or Wellies Tara from Tara’s Busy Kitchen and Ali from Mum in a Nutshell) It’s then a bumpy ten minute tractor ride down to the farmhouse!
We had a little chance to wander around and have a good old chinwag with the other bloggers and it was lovely to bump into some familiar faces such as Mel from Le Coin de Mel who I met at the MAD blog awards in September and also Vicki who blogs at The Free From Fairy who gave a great talk about blogging that I attended a few months ago. We then had a look around the buildings and in the yurt (another blazing fire!).
Next up we had an absolutely brilliant talk from one of the chefs, Andy, about how to brine your own meat to make a Christmas ham, how to gin baste a turkey (I promise I will do it with a chicken very soon and share the recipe!) and how to cure your own beef or vension- I was absolutely inspired and plan to do all of those things before Christmas (2017) as it does involve lots of air drying meat and my fridge is a bit too poky to accommodate it (the dream is to have one of these Sub-Zero fridge freezers and then I would be curing and brining away as fast as I could!). If you can’t wait until I’ve finally got around to trying it, the fabulous Nathalie at The Intolerant Gourmand has written out the recipes here!
After some socialising and networking time we were sat down to commence the feast! I was sat with a group of girls that I hadn’t met before, but had such a fun time chatting to them all! (Louise from A Strong Coffee, Nicky from Kitchen Sanctuary and Nathalie from The Intolerant Gourmand) One of the chefs, Sam, gave us a little talk about how the team compose their menus- it’s all about what’s come from the kitchen garden, the nearby farms or the sea on that day- they take the freshest and most seasonal produce and make up the menus based on what they have- such a fabulous approach and it must be amazing to be a chef there and have such creative licence! This was our menu:
Romanesco puree with braised rabbit (So delicious- the rabbit was a bit like crispy duck)
Celeriac ravioli with wild mushrooms and leaves (beautiful, delicate flavours and melt in the mouth pasta!)
River Cottage cider brined ham, carrot puree, fried savoy cabbage and braised beans (Oh that ham was soooo rich and sticky and the smoky beans alongside it were just perfect)
Honeycomb crème brûlée with apple puree and apple crisps (I cannot begin to describe how amazing that pudding was- I could see almost every person at the table wanted to lick out the cup to make sure they got every scrap, and the apple accompaniments were beautiful!)
It was such a treat to have such a beautiful meal- my husband and I used to go to lots of nice restaurants in London, pre-children, but we very rarely have the opportunity these days, and so we haven’t really managed to explore the culinary delights of the Devon restaurant scene yet (apart from a mouldy burger bun at a pub near us the weekend before last!), so it was just lovely to be able to enjoy this meal, and I want to say a huge thank-you to the whole River Cottage team (including the chefs and the waiting staff who were so friendly and approachable), and also to Foodies100 for inviting me.
You can find out more about all the amazing things River Cottage has to offer (events, cookery courses, gift vouchers, dinisg experiences, weddings…) by visiting their website here
Apologies for all the name-dropping (well, blog-dropping!) but just a little shout out to some of the other lovely bloggers that I enjoyed talking to- Eb from Easy Peasy Foodie, Jane from Hodge Podge Days and Rachel from Vintage Folly.
I was invited to attend the River Cottage Christmas Feast free of charge, in exchange for a blog post, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.