Back home…and something is missing
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.