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Back home…and something is missing

September 2, 2014

As I unpack my suitcases from my annual trip to the UK you’ll be expecting my kitchen counter to be laden with West Country cheeses. Sob, sob, alas and alack (you can see I’ve been home too long), this was always my intention but my bags would not expand enough to accommodate them – so I’m cheese-less. I nipped round to Jones the Grocer and bought a large wedge of Quickes cave-aged Cheddar. Not as interesting as my favourite unpasteurised Cheddars from Keens, Montgomery and Westcombe in Somerset but it helped sustain me as I commenced the grand unpacking and counting of spoils.

Oh my goodness, did I bring that many books? I sincerely hope that KP isn’t reading this. Some I bought, some I acquired, but all will earn a place on my shelves. “Are you still reading that book?” KP enquired with amazement on the afternoon I bought the Nathan Outlaw fish book and we sat in my Mum’s conservatory for a couple of hours.

There’s a tale to tell behind everything in my kitchen this September:

Gin was firmly on my ‘to do in UK’ list. The renaissance of small artisan distillers and an experimentation of flavours and distilling methods has really taken hold over the last few years. Even before I happened upon a Sunday afternoon gin tasting in Cheltenham (more about that to follow soon) I found this intriguing bottle in Nailsworth (top left, left); actually younger teen spotted it when I was doing a bit of impromptu wine tasting at Raffles Fine Wines. “You like gin Mum” she enthused and so this was the first thing to be earmarked for excess baggage. It’s from a very small producer called Psychopomp which makes a really limited number of bottles a year. The Sacred Spirits Company claims that all their gin is made by someone called Ian. A very juniper-heavy London dry gin which goes really well with tonic and a slice of lime (stocked by Le Clos – see below).

If the guy on the South Devon Chilli Farm counter had a secret video camera I think he would win all the prizes on ‘You’ve been framed”.  Our entire family has a high tolerance to heat but right after I dipped a cracker into this chilli sauce at the Plymouth Flavour Fest I ran over to the neighbouring cider stall and begged him for a swig of his sweetest brew. For a full hour afterwards my tongue, throat and even the roof of my mouth was tingly-numb. Made from Bhut Jolokia and Habanero chillies this leaves the Scorchio, which I brought back last year, in the dust. Not actually sure why we bought some – to offer people as a dare?. The Jail Ale Mustard made by Hogs Bottom, near Lifton was bought from the lovely, new farm shop in Lydford (which sells great pasties).  While I can get the Swiss Vegetable cubes at Organic Foods and Cafe, I bought this lovely big tub at Kilworthy Kapers in Tavistock; it’s the only powdered stock allowed in my kitchen.

Some serious bread intentions here – the scraper is considered essential by Richard Bertinet in his book ‘Crust‘ so I picked up a couple from Manna From Devon. I’ll be picking Celia’s brains about using the banneton. Fingers crossed for some gorgeous looking loaves. Ever since watching Linda Barker make ‘dog biscuits’ on an episode of Come Dine with Me I’ve been searching for this shape of cutter. I couldn’t resist one of the British Isles but goodness knows what I’ll do with it (especially if Scotland votes for Independence!)- both bought at Kitchener in Cheltenham.  Good to see that food mags are back on track with real cooking instead of assembling ingredients. Both these issues are packed with ideas (sad to leave those hedgerows of blackberries behind).

Gifford’s Circus was as marvellous as ever. Veggie teen and I traveled to Oxford to see ‘The Thunders’ this year and, as usual, my face ached on leaving, mainly down to Tweedy the clown. The souvenir mug is by Emma Bridgewater and the spotty pottery jug from ‘Made in Stroud‘ to add to my collection (it’s in my genes – my Mum has a thing about jugs too).

Who brings home a box of old china rifled from their Mum’s garage? A food blogger who swore not to get any more props, that’s who. Also couldn’t resist this little wooden box of handwritten recipes dating from the 1940’s.

KP’s on a mission to grow tomatoes as good as my Mum’s so she gave him a packet of ‘foolproof’ seeds. She bought this set on grapefruit spoons in a sale in the 1960s and they are still in the box unused. Great excuse to do a brunch at home soon.

And all those books…. well I love Felicity Cloake’s ‘How to cook the perfect‘ series and her ‘Perfect Host’ has some really good ideas. And then I found the James Ramsden ‘Do Ahead Dinners’ in Waterstones and, dare I say it, might be even better. The Xanthe Clay book should be on everyone’s shelves (another thing I relieved my Mother of) and Nathan Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen was bought when fired up from doing the fish course (the Mitch Tonks book is also on my wish list). Viticulture (growing vines for wine) has to be some of the most intensive farming in the world. Some producers have turned organic, some biodynamic and some use such minimal intervention when wine making that the term ‘natural’ has been applied to them. It’s a vague term and fascinating subject which Isabelle Legeron (aka That Crazy French Woman) investigates succinctly and personally. Anyone interested in farming without chemicals should get this. I can’t remember why I bought the other wine book but it’s a good read!

These bubbles are taking on the French (no joke). KP and I had a glorious day out to the Camel Valley Vineyard (hope to write up soon). July was so warm and sunny in England that Pimms was in great demand. I finally found the Sipsmith version which I can’t wait to try.  How nice to be welcomed at the airport with some bottles of nice wine. I ordered ahead from Le Clos (by email but you can visit the shop on your way out of Dubai airport) and was met just before passport control.

Another thing is missing…

The sound of elder teen’s voice in the house as she’s stayed in England prior to her move to Edinburgh for University. I’ll be joining her as a mobile cash dispenser to get her settled next weekend and I’m feeling decidedly odd about it all. The silver lining? Cheese in my next suitcase.

For the past few summers I’ve been taking a themed picture each day with Fat Mum Slim‘s #FMSphotoaday challenge. It seems to distill a special moment every day and I love looking back on them. If you’re interested you can find July here and August here (and all my FMS photo a day posts here). Let me know what you think.

What’s in your kitchen this month? Celia’s drinking Moscow Mules in hers (among other things). You can peep into a whole load of other kitchens from the links there too.

70 Comments leave one →
  1. daver001 permalink
    September 2, 2014 8:05 am

    Great haul, Sally! Planning much the same with my London-Devon-Paris trip… For things like the Tonks books, do try eBay.co,.uk – some of his are on there now at under three pounds each!

    • September 2, 2014 8:20 am

      That’s a really good tip Dave. I didn’t think of ebay for cook books. Actually a bit dangerous :)

  2. nancy@jamjnr permalink
    September 2, 2014 8:36 am

    We did the Camel Trail bike ride with our nieces and nephews a few weeks back but didn’t stop at the winery – had a glass of the cava though in the cafe down the road and it was outstanding so looking forward to your post.
    I’m terrible when I go home with overloading my suitcase – it’s not til I’m packing that I realise ‘that doesn’t weigh much’ and ‘I can’t live without that I don’t care how much it weighs’ actually adds up pretty quickly. Which is why books get sneaked in as carry on luggage:)
    Superb haul Sally! You’ll have to bring some whiskey back from Scotland to ease the heartache….

  3. A Little Bit More Green permalink
    September 2, 2014 9:26 am

    wow that is quite the haul!

  4. September 2, 2014 9:50 am

    lovely post. Unpacking and looking at & savoring what all one managed to fit in that limited baggage allowance makes coming back home sweeter, isn’t it? Oh and I too picked several books on food & mommy’s old china :)

  5. September 2, 2014 10:07 am

    I’ve just finished unpacking myself back in Abu Dhabi after 8 weeks in the UK and it’s amazing what you accumulate to bring back, those goodies from home. Like you I really enjoy the fmsphotoaday challenge. Great post 😃

  6. September 2, 2014 10:23 am

    Bringing things home is an important part of a holiday – and I couldn’t have left that beautiful china in a garage either!

  7. September 2, 2014 10:25 am

    I’m glad to see that you’re a fan of Marigold stock..that’ s always on my list. And I see BBC Good Food which is full of my son, Sam Stowell’s, pictures:)

  8. September 2, 2014 10:53 am

    You must have the most amazing cookbook library! You should post a pic someday of all of them together. My husband CRINGES when he sees me packing books. I tell him he should just avoid looking inside the bags. :) I think my favorite of the goodies you brought back must be those precious little cups and recipe box – really neat!

  9. September 2, 2014 11:00 am

    What a deliciousness of happy memories in your kitchen this month. It always surprises me when people rave about their UK food related buys when you think how dire our reputation for food is/was. Your chilli experience reminded me of the day we were selling gin next door to a chutney and pickles stand – any lull in the day was soon enlivened by the stallholder not telling annoying dippers (as opposed to customers) that the jar on the end was really, really hot. The downside was that we had to grab customers before they went to that stall or they couldn’t taste the gin.

  10. September 2, 2014 11:16 am

    What a relief that the cheese is not far away Sally. We food bloggers really are single minded/obsessive bunch when it comes to “souveniers.” Micro distilleries in Australia are making excellent gin, vodka and whisky too, distinctly delicious…

  11. September 2, 2014 11:50 am

    Sally, so many incredible treasures you brought back with you. I would love to enjoy one of those gins with you while reading through those old recipe cards – fabulous! We could always crack the bottle of bubbly while I show you pictures of my ever growing jug collection! Just last week I stopped myself from buying one – that’s never happened before!
    Have a wonderful week. :-) Mandy xo

  12. September 2, 2014 1:41 pm

    I love those doggie biscuit cutters! The ones that I make for Molly and just square shape. I must find some of those! You’ll love your bread form too. I’ve been using mine and love it. Be sure to use rye flour to ‘season’ it.

    • September 2, 2014 2:51 pm

      Actually I was thinking of serving them to humans…. :)
      Good tip on the banneton – I will make sure I do that – thanks

  13. September 2, 2014 1:41 pm

    Are you me? Your haul looks almost identical to mine (books and magazines included) when I come back from London. I always leave lots of room for Cheddar and Marmite. The Marigold bouillon is a staple here too. Nobody can ever believe that I bring back Cheddar to France (coals to Newcastle) but there’s nothing to beat it melted on toast when you need comfort food. :-)

    • September 2, 2014 2:46 pm

      We can get most things in Dubai (including Marmite) but there’s always something isn’t there? Good to know we’re on the same wavelength :)

  14. September 2, 2014 1:48 pm

    Wow, so many lovely things! I want the jug, mugs, cups, cookie cutters and books… ;-)

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    • September 2, 2014 2:46 pm

      Gosh when you put it like that Rosa… it sounds a lot!

  15. September 2, 2014 2:39 pm

    What a lovely collection of kitchen-y things! Love that 1940’s box of recipes! I’d love a good old gander through those!

    • September 2, 2014 2:45 pm

      I don’t mind if the recipes aren’t any good actually – it’s a little bit of personal history.

  16. September 2, 2014 3:51 pm

    Well no wonder you ran out of room in your case with all those wonderful items. I’m really envious of that Banneton and your china looks fab too:-)

  17. September 2, 2014 4:15 pm

    Holy cow, woman, how much luggage did you have?!? Or did you discard worn clothes as you went?? ;o) That’s an impressive haul! I coudl not live without my Marigold bouillon powder…

    • September 12, 2014 9:37 pm

      This is just In My Kitchen…. you should see what came back for the In My Wardrobe bit!

  18. September 2, 2014 6:32 pm

    That spotty jug is just gorgeous! If only I had a reason to use a jug like that more often…!

  19. September 2, 2014 8:41 pm

    Yes I was really impressed by James Ramsden’s book. Borrowed it from the library a while back and it definitely stood out from the pack that month. He had some really original and delicious sounding recipes. I’ll have to seek out Xanthe and Felicity’s books as I have neither. Ottolenghi’s new one is out in a couple of weeks – will be interesting to see what new wonders he has up his culinary sleeve ;o)

    • September 12, 2014 9:30 pm

      I just missed the publication date for Plenty More with my latest trip so hope it will be available promptly in the UAE.

  20. glamorous glutton permalink
    September 3, 2014 1:05 am

    I love seeing what you bring back from your summer trips. The going off to uni is hard, but so wonderful when they come back for the holidays. GG

    • September 12, 2014 9:29 pm

      Yes – Autumn is such a busy time the hols (i.e. Christmas) will be here in no time.

  21. September 3, 2014 1:46 am

    I adore that little spotted jug. Waves of jug envy coming your way!

    • September 12, 2014 9:28 pm

      Just can’t resist a blue jug… not sure why!

  22. September 3, 2014 2:35 am

    what a haul – and great to pick up extra props from parents (we do the same!) . Some great books there for me to check out.

  23. September 3, 2014 2:05 pm

    I am presuming unnecessary items like clothing stayed behind! Well at least I know what to get you when I visit ;) But a great selection of items and I will have a closer look to your book collection. Looking forward to seeing you soon!

  24. September 3, 2014 3:35 pm

    we made pies over the summer that needed juniper, I very nearly messaged you to see if you could source some in the UK

    • September 12, 2014 9:25 pm

      I think I had some in the cupboard in Dubai that you could have had too. Do message next time. Hope the pies were good.

  25. September 3, 2014 11:20 pm

    It is great Pimms weather here too! Just had some over the holiday weekend. How did you ever get that much stuff back home from your trip?! It all looks so wonderful.

    • September 12, 2014 9:24 pm

      Ahem… it’s called buying an extra bag (but don’t breathe a word to KP).

      • September 12, 2014 10:17 pm

        If only airlines weren’t so strict with luggage anymore! I remember the days when I could take so much more, and all for free!

  26. andreamynard permalink
    September 4, 2014 1:03 am

    Fab collection of goodies Sally. So many of my favourite things in there too – Kitchener in Cheltenham, Camel Valley gorgeous sparkling wine & that brilliant mix of fun, style & eccentricity, Giffords Circus. We’re going for the very last weekend near Stroud for my birthday (I love Nailsworth too!) and can’t wait. Lovely round-up.

    • September 12, 2014 9:24 pm

      Enjoy Giffords – I envy you going to that extra show… my Mum is thinking about going to it too. I just know you’ll love it.

  27. September 4, 2014 7:00 am

    What a fabulous collection of goodies and I love reading the names of all the places everything comes from too! How great to be able to have all those recipe cards, full of memories with each recipe no doubt?

  28. September 4, 2014 12:03 pm

    Good grief – you’re a demon suitcase-packer. I hope all the spoils will help you cope with your daughter’s departure to university. She’ll have a wonderful time, but I feel a huge amount of solidarity for you!

    • September 12, 2014 9:06 pm

      It’s a weird transitional phase of our lives isn’t it. Not easy – bittersweet.

  29. September 4, 2014 11:50 pm

    Have to agree on Xanthe’s book, it definitely should be on everyone’s shelf! so your daughter will be in Edinburgh and you in Dubai? wow you are all brave, and clearly very clever x

    • September 12, 2014 9:05 pm

      Very proud of her Deena. I have one chick still in the nest :)

  30. Elizabeth permalink
    September 6, 2014 2:33 am

    Wow what a fantastic month it is for you! Oh and you can never have too many books!!! I’m looking forward to hearing about all your cheeses in future posts! Thanks for sharing! Liz x

    • September 12, 2014 9:03 pm

      Thanks Liz – I found out today that the term for a cheese love is a turophile (as opposed to a turophobe who is afraid of cheese!)

      • Elizabeth permalink
        September 13, 2014 10:00 am

        LOL that is fantastic :-)

  31. September 6, 2014 4:24 am

    Moving to Edinburgh? If they get independence you’ll need to show your passport! Lots on offer this month Sally. Doesn’t everyone have some cutlery from their parents, still in the box, unused? I know I do! I’m not sure why but I had never noticed that your jaunts to the UK often focus on Devon. We have spent some time there on and off as Mr Tiffin’s family are from Plymouth. I smiled when I saw Tavistock name checked. So exotic!

  32. September 6, 2014 5:55 am

    G’day What a fun peek into your kitchen this month also too!
    Love the benneton and is on my list to find one too!
    Can one ever have too many cookbook? LOVE your scarily hot sauce…made me smile today!
    Cheers! Joanne

    • September 12, 2014 8:59 pm

      Thanks Joanne – smile or grimace…as that heat kicks in!

  33. September 6, 2014 11:46 am

    Glad to see you returned with a bit of Camel Valley – the BEST bubbles ever. Such a treat. I have recently acquired a dough scraper and concur that is a bread game changer. Finally, you remind me that I’ve been meaning to go to Gifford’s Circus, which happens to be showing this week in Cirencester.

    • September 12, 2014 8:57 pm

      There’s a special extra few shows in Stroud too – I’d love to see it again… it’s a really special event. I’ve never eaten at Circus Sauce either – would love to know if you do.

  34. September 9, 2014 1:02 am

    Lovely nosey post for us to enjoy. I wouldn’t be without my giant tub of Marigold Boullion. And I love my Banneton although I am no bread maker tbh. i have never dared go excess luggage but I guess when needs must and all that. I hope you enjoy all of your loot and that Keith turns a blind eye (he will obviously benefit, so what’s the fuss anyway?). Thinking of you and your past weekend duties too. It’s hard, isn’t it?

    • September 12, 2014 8:55 pm

      I was too busy to think about it until right at the end – then it was really emotional. We just have to keep busy.

  35. September 9, 2014 11:39 pm

    Sally, it is impossible not to adore someone who begins a post with “Gin was firmly on my ‘to do in UK’ list”. :D So much treasure in your kitchen! But you’re right, how strange that there’s no cheese! Bhut jalokias are deadly – I believe they were originally grown for use as elephant repellant spray – and over in the US they’re known as ghost chillies. Can’t believe that stall holder had the sauce out for tasting like that! The secret to bannetons is to flour them REALLY well with fine semolina or rye flour – don’t use white flour as it will stick like crazy. Love the jugs and I couldn’t have passed up that old box of recipes either. Your big girl is moving to Edinburgh? When I read that, I had a little twinge in my chest for you.. xxx

    • September 12, 2014 8:54 pm

      Whoops – when you put it like that it sounds a bit irresponsible! Thanks for the tip about the bannetons. Cheese now safely IN my kitchen – brought back as a consolation from Edinburgh. Thank heavens for social channels, Skype etc – that’s all I can say.

  36. September 11, 2014 9:18 pm

    I had bookmarked this post… was just waiting for some relaxing *reading* time… I love your box of old china rifled and the wooden box of handwritten recipes. That too from your mum’s garage?

    Reading about your girl… already feeling heavy. Love to you and wishing her a great future ahead. Have to catch up – been too long:)

    • September 12, 2014 8:52 pm

      You wouldn’t believe what my Mum has hoarded away – although she’s in uncharacteristic decluttering mode so I have to get in quick!

  37. Lauren Hairston permalink
    September 13, 2014 12:10 am

    I bought a ton of cookbooks back from England, as well! No secondhand bookshop in Cornwall was safe. ;-)

    Best of luck to your daughter! Going to university was one of the best things I ever did, despite the separation anxiety.

  38. September 13, 2014 1:18 pm

    We pack the same things for overseas delectation Sally and I am also a HUGE lover of all things West Country and cheesy, even though I live in France! I also bring POTS and POTS of Marigold Swiss Bouillon back with me, its my mainstay stock, and always the low salt version too.

  39. September 15, 2014 7:07 pm

    I did wonder what you would bring back as I saw your insta feed day after day!! So much fabulous stuff – of course you couldn’t leave behind the box of china or recipe cards or the adorable spoons!! Books – my weakness – I don’t feel that I am familiar with any of those so will have to look them up. Plenty More is on Amazon (at half price) – can you not order it now and have it waiting for you when you get back? And also, look up Essentials UK stock powders – I’ve always been a Marigold girl but these powders have converted me. The vegetable is better and the veal is out of this world! I reviewed them on my blog with a link if you have time to take a look – well worth ordering for when you get back. Love the banneton and the tomato seeds too – I foresee lots of lovely bread things to come!! Thanks for a fab look in your kitchen this month!!

  40. September 22, 2014 7:14 am

    i love all the stuff in your kitchen. i love chilli but i think that hot one would do me in. i love cookbooks (well all books) too and have many and yet i keep buying them! my shelves are groaning…

  41. September 24, 2014 10:22 pm

    What fabulous bounty in your bags – it must have been so exciting unpacking all that, even if you knew what was in there! So pleased with all your West Country produce, we are very lucky down this way…..

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