Category Archives: Food

Three Meat-Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

As the head chef in our house, it falls to me to put dinner on the table most nights. I’m a vegetarian, but the boys aren’t and I like to have a balance of meals through the week which suit us all. Maybe three nights a week they get something meaty and the rest of the time they will happily tuck into something we can all eat. I’m always on the lookout for meat-free Monday ideas to keep things interesting for us all.

This week we’ve been trying out some of the vegetarian meals from Goodlife Foods and in the process discovered some great Meat-Free Monday ideas.

Meat Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

We loved this wholemeal pita stuffed with lovely crunchy salad and chickpea falafel with a side of slaw. These Moroccan style chickpea falafel from Goodlife are packed with spices and are just 39 calories each; making them perfect for a light meal. I always think falafel are really versatile, my freezer is rarely without a packet.

Meat Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

Another favourite from the range was this Mushroom and Spinach Kiev. The Kiev is packed with mushrooms and spinach which hides an oozing creamy garlic and cheese sauce, and is coated in a crunchy seeded breadcrumbs. Although it’s not a stunner on the plate, it is absolutely delicious and just garlicky and cheesy enough. Served with some of our favourite veg – sweet potato mash, French beans and chantenay carrots, this was a cracking meal we could feel virtuous about. Each Kiev is 290 calories, so this was a good meal we didn’t need to feel bad about.

Meat Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

My own personal favourite was the French Bean and Spinach sausages. They are so flavoursome, even my pork sausage loving boy tucked into them and demanded seconds. The sausages are filled with French beans, petit pois, fresh spinach, a pinch of nutmeg and a mild crumbly Wensleydale cheese. 

They are incredibly versatile. I served them with buttery mashed potato, French beans, garden peas and veggie gravy. They’d be fantastic in a wrap or sandwich, or thrown in with some creamy pesto pasta and they’re only 86 calories per sausage. They have lots of other sausage flavours too, I need to track down their beetroot and feta for a start!

Three Meat Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

Goodlife Foods have been creating vegetarian sausages, vegan burgers, vegetable based kievs and falafels in the UK for over 25 years. They work with framers across the UK to sow, grow and harvest the best vegetables at their peak, so they know that their veg is fresh and tasty.

Whether you’re having a Meat-Free Monday, feeling flexitarian or you’re committed to a full-time vegetarian diet, Goodlife have a really interesting and tasty selection of frozen foods to help you mix things up and create great family meals.

Three Meat-Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

I’ve been buying Goodlife products whenever I’ve seen them for years. You can find them in the freezer section in Booths, Waitrose, Ocado and Iceland, amongst other places. I’ve tended to keep them just for me; but now I’ve seen my boys tuck into them with gusto, I guess I’m buying them for the whole family now. It’s lovely to see such dedicated carnivores tucking into a very obviously veggie sausage and asking for more!

You can find out more about Goodlife Foods including finding your local stockist and their full range on their website.

Note: I was sent these products for review purposes, all images and opinions are my own.

Review: The Super Lunch Menu at Jamie’s Italian Manchester

This week I’ve noticed a hint of spring in the air. The evenings are much lighter, the trees are starting to get blousy with blossom and everything just feels a bit hopeful. With a spring in my step, I met my friend Bob for lunch at Jamie’s Italian Manchester. He’s moved away, so we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like, so we were ready for a proper catch up.

Review: The Super Lunch Menu at Jamie’s Italian Manchester

We arrived at Jamie’s Italian Manchester, a huge grade II listed building on King Street in the city centre. Inside it’s imposing and grand, with dark wood and marble everywhere. It’s a beauty.

We were shown to our table and we checked out the Super Lunch menu. Since I was last in the menu has had an update to keep pace with the changing seasons. The super lunch menu is a hearty mixture of winter warmers and vibrant spring flavours. It’s keenly priced at £12.95 for two courses, or three courses for £14.95. It is available 12-6pm from Monday-Friday.

To start I plumped for the Tomato Bruschetta made with slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, buffalo ricotta, basil and extra virgin olive oil. I’m a sucker for ricotta, so this was a deliciously light start to the meal. My only tiny quibble was that the tomatoes still had some fresh from the fridge chill to them, I’d prefer them closer to room temperature, but that’s me being very fussy.

Review: The Super Lunch Menu at Jamie’s Italian Manchester

Bob opted for the Fritto Misto, crispy fried sustainable fish & squid tossed in fennel-spiced flour with garlic and lemon aioli. This was a hit, the aioli was perfectly garlicky and the delicate fish well cooked. There wasn’t quite enough squid for his liking, but the plentiful helping of chunky fish made up for that. This is a dish he would order again.

Moving on to the mains, there were only two veggie options and only one I was able to eat, so that’s what I had, the Classic Super Food Salad, a combination of avocado, roasted beetroot, mixed pulses & grains, sprouting broccoli, pomegranate and spicy seeds with harissa dressing & cottage cheese. To say it was delicious is an understatement, every fork full was bursting with flavour, I couldn’t fault it and despite my initial hesitation over ordering this, I would do again in a heartbeat.

Review: The Super Lunch Menu at Jamie’s Italian Manchester

Bob plumped for the Italian Steak and Fries, marinated skirt steak, flash grilled & served with garlic butter, aged Parmesan, slaw and fries. This had a £3 supplement. The skirt steak was heavily topped with garlic butter with one side seared on the grill, Bob thought it was a good steak, though not the best he’d had. However, the skinny fries were perfect, crispy without being overcooked and a good portion size. I snaffled a few and they were good.

I was stuffed after my salad, but we were determined to do the new menu justice, so pudding was ordered. Choosing the light option, I ordered the Blood Orange Sorbet, which was topped with fresh mint and lime zest. It’s not listed as suitable for vegetarians on the Super Lunch Menu, but I checked and it definitely is. The sorbet was so good, it was just about perfect and the flavours in the citrusy sorbet were enhanced by the mint and lime, and it was only 72 calories too.

Review: The Super Lunch Menu at Jamie’s Italian Manchester

Bob still had some room, so he ordered the Epic Chocolate Brownie with chocolate sauce, salted caramel ice cream and caramelised popcorn. It looked spectacular, he kindly let me try a corner. I’m not usually a fan of brownies, but it had a lovely crispy top and it was a very, very good brownie. I loved the ice cream, but the popcorn was the winner for me. It was a fine end to our lunch.

We had both had a cocktail, soft drinks, a three course lunch and coffee and our lunch time treat came in at a few pence over £56. We both felt it was really good value for what we’d had. I’ve had lunch at Jamie’s Italian Manchester with friends a few times now, and never been disappointed and always impressed with the value and service. 

Review: The Super Lunch Menu at Jamie’s Italian Manchester

You can find out more about Jamie’s Italian Manchester and the Super Lunch Menu on the website.

We were invited guests of Jamie’s Italian Manchester. All images and opinions are our own.

Giveaway & Review: Real Handful Snacks

Being the mother of a boy I sometimes struggle to fill his hollow legs. He’s hungry, always hungry, but he runs around like a dervish so he burns it off in double quick time. I’ve learnt to always keep a snack on my person for when he gets hungry. He likes dried fruit, so when I was asked to try Real Handful snacks I knew we would enjoy putting them to the test.

Review: Real Handful Snacks

Real Handful are little 40g packets of dried fruit with nuts and little bits of chocolate mixed in. They feel like a bit of a naughty treat, but are quite healthy and are just the right size to keep a small boy going until teatime. Each of the 40g packets of Real Handful contains around 160-200 calories per packet and are full of good things such as fibre, protein and good fats, as well as being one of your five (or is it ten) a day!

Review: Real Handful Snacks

There are six kinds Real Handful snacks available – 

  • Blood Orange & Dark Chocolate – blood orange flavoured sultanas, orange flavoured cranberries, dark chocolate and peanuts.
  • G0-Go-Goji Berries – a blend of nuts, raisins and seeds with goji berries and dark chocolate.
  • Blueberry Blitz – blueberries, blueberry flavoured raisins, jumbo flame raisins and whole cashews.
  • Strawberries & Cream – strawberry flavoured raisins, strawberries, cranberries, white chocolate and cashews.
  • Mixed Berry Crush – blueberry flavoured yoghurt covered raisins, strawberry, cranberries and whole almonds.
  • Mochacchino – a rich blend of coffee sultanas, cranberries, whole cashew nuts, dark chocolate coffee beans and coffee flavour chocolate drops.

We couldn’t get enough of these Real handful snacks, admittedly my son kindly donated the nuts to me and his dad, but the dried fruit and chocolate were a real hit. I loved the Mochacchino flavour, with its chocolate covered coffee beans. I really enjoyed the mix of fruit and nuts with a smattering of chocolate, these would be great with a mid-afternoon brew to keep me going until teatime, they really are quite filling.

Review: Real Handful Snacks

These are the perfect size to slip into your bag if you’re going out and about, or to keep in your desk drawer for when hunger strikes and are great if you’re wanting to snack a little healthier. 

You can buy Real Handful from Holland & Barrett, Ocado, Booths and Boots. Prices start from £1.29. Visit their website for more information.

Review: Real Handful Snacks

WIN a case of real handful snacks

To be in with a chance to win a case (containing ten packs of your favourite flavour) of Real Handful Snacks, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will receive a case (containing ten packs of your favourite flavour) of Real Handful Snacks.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 20th March 2017.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details will be passed onto an agency to post the prize out to the winner, and is therefore beyond my control. I cannot be held responsible for prizes being lost in the post although I will endeavour to liaise with the agency.
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13. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

I was sent these Real Handful snacks for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

One of the best parts of a night or two away in a hotel is the breakfast. At home I rarely eat breakfast and if I do it’s usually just toast or cereal. A hotel breakfast is a real treat, and like most people I like a big breakfast to set me up for a day of shopping, sightseeing or adventure. This week we were invited to the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club to try out their award-winning breakfast.

In November 2016 the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club was voted as having the best breakfast in the North West by Trivago. We were invited down to put their breakfast to the test. It was a great excuse for a proper family breakfast to see us right for a wintery walk later that day.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

Breakfast is served at the Grill in the Park from 6:30am -11am on weekdays, or 7am – 11am on weekends. Hotel residents can add for £10 upon check in for breakfast. For those not staying overnight, breakfast is available at £16 for the buffet and £12 for continental.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club includes a selection of continental meats, cheeses and smoked salmon; fresh fruit and yogurts; muffins and pastries; cereals, toast and hot cooked breakfasts with a choice of freshly cooked eggs, local sausages, bacon and all the trimmings. They also have a chef on hand to whip up a fresh omelette for you and freshly made waffles, more of which later.

The Grill in the Park is a comfortable but stylish setting for breakfast, and on Saturday morning it was busy with families and couples having breakfast with plans to visit the nearly Trafford Centre, or Legoland, or like us got for a long walk in the country. 

Breakfast is self service, though a friendly waitress offered us tea and coffee and the small boy had a hot chocolate. The service was efficient, with waitresses clearing plates away and generally being very helpful. I chatted to the chef whilst he cooked my omelette and he and the waiting staff were great to chat to if you needed some advice about things to do locally.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

Breakfast began with a selection of juices and fruit. Hubs went for a very lovely looking porridge with jam and bananas.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

The small boy loves fruit, so he had a big bowl of his favorites with some yoghurt. They also had a good selection of cheeses, meats and smoked salmon; as well as bread, muffins and pastries for those wanting a continental breakfast.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

I’d heard that the omelettes were excellent. They’re one of my favourite things, so I had to give them a try. There were about 8 different fillings to choose from, but I opted for cheese and tomato – all freshly cooked in front of me. When I got back to the table there was such omelette envy, we had to go back and get another for the boy.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

My husband opted for the more traditional fry up. He particularly enjoyed the sausages and the poached egg. I had a slice of fried bread with baked beans – a rare treat. It was so delicious I was sad to finish it. The small boy, true to form opted for a side of sausages to go with his omelette. He said they were the best sausages ever!

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

A special mention must go to the freshly cooked waffles. I love waffles but I rarely eat them. I’m so glad I insisted we share a waffle and maple syrup (for breakfast dessert). It was the lightest, airiest waffle I’ve ever eaten. It was a joy. If you go to the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club for breakfast, you must try the omelettes and the waffles.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

We’d eaten and eaten well. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, we all felt that the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club had nailed it. It was very, very good, with lots of choice and everything was well made and well cooked. 

I can see why the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club won best breakfast in the North West. If I was staying in the hotel I wouldn’t hesitate to book myself in for breakfast, but it is the kind of place we’d pop in to fuel up for the day if we were passing on our way to another adventure. Delicious.

For more information about breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club, visit their website.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

We were invited guests of the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club and our breakfast was complimentary. All images and opinions are our own.

My Four Favourite Foodie Experiences of 2016

When I look back over 2016 there are very low points and very high points. Inevitably for a greedy person like me, many of my highlights involve exceptionally good plates of food, very good gin and some very special bottles of wine. I’ve picked out four of my favourite foodie experiences of 2016 for no other reason than to remember them makes me smile.

This year I turned 40 and as a very special birthday present my husband booked us into The Midland Hotel in Manchester. He treated me to an exquisite meal at The French. The French is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a couple of years and our amazing 9 course taster menu did not disappoint.

Foodie Experiences - The French The Midland Hotel Manchester

One of my favourite courses was the “salad” which was a beautiful (in every sense) plate of potato, ramson caper, black garlic & chestnut. The meal, the night, the weekend, it was all perfect. We’re looking forward to winning the lottery and going again some day.

In November a giddy gang of food bloggers descended on River Cottage HQ for a River Cottage style evening of fine dining. It was fresh, seasonal, local, beautifully cooked and expertly presented. River Cottage is by far (by far, even including the other amazing places I’ve dined this year) my favourite place to eat. If you can go, you really should.

Foodie Experiences: Dining at River Cottage HQ

Every plate was a delight, the prettiest was my starter of ravioli with celeriac purée, wild mushrooms and sage. This was a deceptively filling dish, perfectly autumnal and as pretty as a picture.

The next day we couldn’t resist swinging by the River Cottage Canteen in Axminster for a spot of lunch before heading home. We were not disappointed. I ordered a couple of small plates – a casual lunch of soup and a simple but incredibly memorable plate of roast celeriac, cauliflower and pickled ewes cheese with salsa verde.

River Cottage Canteen

Every mouthful was perfectly balanced. I can’t believe I only paid £6 for something which somewhere swisher would charge four times that at least. Amazing food at incredibly accessible prices – a rare thing indeed.

Back home in Manchester, I’ve eaten in a hundred different restaurants. Whenever I’m in town in need of a quick bite I almost always end up in the same place eating the same thing. It’s a favourite haunt of my North West blogger chums, it’s Wagamama.

Wagamama Spinningfields

Every time I visit I order a steaming bowl of yasai itame. It’s a big fragrant bowl of rice noodles in a spicy green coconut and lemongrass soup with tofu and vegetables, stir-fried beansprouts, red and spring onions, bok choi, peppers, mushrooms and chillies, garnished with coriander and lime.

It’s fresh, hearty, delicious and it feels healthy. I usually team it with one of their fresh juices so by the time I leave I’ve had about 800 of my five a day. It’s probably lucky I live a 45 minute bus journey away or I’d turn into a bowl of yasai itame.

I’ve spent a little bit of time scrolling through my Instagram feed and looking at some of the amazing dishes I’ve eaten this year. I’ve eaten in some really wonderful and memorable places, but these are probably four of my favourite plates, all for different reasons. All have stuck with me and have my mouth watering again just thinking about them.

Where I’ll eat and what I’ll eat in 2017 is yet to be seen, but in terms of good food, 2016 will be a hard one to beat. What were your most memorable dishes of 2016?

My Four Favourite Foodie Experiences of 2016

Three fast Christmas recipes with Sage

Last year my best friend Bob shared his recipe for Mincemeat Vol au Vents and this really simple recipe was a bit of a hit. This year he’s been experimenting with herbs (no, not like that) and he’s come up with some interesting and fast Christmas recipes with sage. I’ll leave you in his capable hands…

We all like to serve up a festive crowd-pleaser at Christmas, from mulled wine to the increasingly infamous mincemeat vol au vent, but there’s a tendency for Christmas recipes to be dominated by sweet and spicy ingredients.

These three fast Christmas recipes will take one of the favourite festive flavours – sage – and take it out of stuffing and into a selection of other Christmassy creations that are equally satisfying.

You can make these quick Christmas creations using freshly chopped sage if you have it to hand, but dried sage from a jar will still give the effect – just leave it a little longer for the dried sage to soften and release its flavour before you use the finished sauce or dressing.

Sage Slaw

This one is incredibly quick and easy, and a great alternative to leftover stuffing for cold sandwiches – it even works well heaped on to sandwiches or burgers with hot fillings, for a contrast of temperatures when you take a bite.

All you need is a tub of normal coleslaw, and a good quantity of chopped fresh or dried sage, and combine the two. Give it a good stir to get the sage evenly mixed into the coleslaw, and leave it for the flavour to come out. You can adjust the amount of sage depending on personal taste, but the more you use, the more of an impact it makes, and the more of a fresh, herby aftertaste you get when you’ve finished your snack. A good starting point is to use enough sage so that it is visible in the mix, but not enough that your coleslaw is noticeably turning green.

Dried sage in particular shouldn’t affect the shelf life of your coleslaw, so this is one you can make in advance and have ready for those Christmas snacks, and sage slaw works great on everything from ham and pork to chicken and the inevitable leftover turkey.

Sageonnaise

Using the same principle, but just using mayonnaise instead of coleslaw, combine finely chopped sage into mayo for a hint of that distinctive stuffing flavour.

Again you can use this as a dressing for sandwiches if you don’t want the texture effect of coleslaw, but it’s also a great addition to festive buffet tables or late-night snacks.

Put out a small dish of sage mayo and a big bowl of roast potatoes and other veg – even if it’s all just leftovers from dinner – and you and your guests will be dipping into the sageonnaise all night long.

Squeaky Sage

Last but not least of my fast Christmas recipes, throw a handful of sage into your bubble and squeak just before serving, again to give it that iconic stuffing flavour in amongst all the chopped and mashed vegetables.

Fresh sage should go in right at the last minute as you don’t really want to cook the herbs, but dried sage can probably go in a little earlier as including it in the last few minutes of cooking will help to soften it and bring out more of the flavour.

Serve your bubble and squeak as a side on Christmas meals, or for breakfast with buttered bread and plenty of brown sauce, where the sage will help it to hold its own as a festive breakfast treat.

Sage in Everything!

These three fast Christmas recipes were born out of a simple question: Where can I use more sage at Christmas?

It’s one of the truly iconic flavours of the holidays, and of Sunday roasts all year round, and I wanted to get more of that taste into my daily diet.

The lingering fresh herb flavour of a sage-infused sandwich or snack was an unexpected bonus that proved to be very palate-cleansing, and the enjoyment factor is through the roof.

Like last year’s mincemeat vol au vents recipe, this is the kind of idea you can serve up to guests and have them asking, Why didn’t I think of that?

Three fast Christmas recipes with Sage

Foodie Round Up: Vegetarian Christmas Dinner Ideas

I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 13 and one of the questions I’m asked the most is what do you have for your vegetarian Christmas dinner? The easy answer is, pretty much the same as everyone else, but without the turkey and with veggie gravy. We always do 800 different kinds of vegetables anyway, so I’ve never felt left out, and as the lone veggie at the table I never felt like it was worth the bother. 

In 2001 my lovely sister in law came along. She was a veggie and when the percentage of vegetarians around the table had increased, we thought it was worth making a bit more of a culinary effort on Christmas Day. Over the years we’ve experimented with various vegetarian alternatives, but hand on heart my favourite has turned out to be the nut roast. I know it’s a terrible cliché, but I just love it.

I’ve picked out six delicious vegetarian Christmas dinner options (or maybe just for Sunday lunch), so if you’re catering for vegetarians this Christmas, there’s no need for them to feel left out.

galette

Go for my goats cheese and caramelised onion galette, it’s incredibly simple but utterly delicious. It’s a real family favourite. You could add a seasonal twist by swapping out the onions for stuffing and adding a dollop of cranberry sauce!

My good friend and fellow vegetarian, Jen from My Mummy’s Pennies has shared her recipe for Festive Stuffed Mushrooms. These hearty shrooms are filled with festive flavours, they’d be easy to put together on Christmas Eve and pop in the oven on the day. Easy peasy. 

vegetarian Christmas dinner

Christmas isn’t Christmas without something chock full of chestnuts gracing the table, this Leek, Artichoke, Mushroom and Chestnut Pie from Inside the Wendy House certainly fits the bill. I imagine this would also be great cold on Boxing Day with some bubble and squeak. 

vegetarian Christmas dinner

I love the look of this Vegetarian Beef Wellington from Jenny at The Brick Castle. It looks hearty enough to satisfy any rogue carnivores around the table, but quick and easy enough to be thrown together in a busy Christmas kitchen.

If you’ve got a vegan coming for Christmas, Inside the Wendy House has come up with this delicious sounding Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Nut Roast Pie. It looks super-simple but really. Wendy says it’s good served cold too – I bet it is!

vegetarian Christmas dinner

If you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy a good stuffing at Christmas. I tend to favour fresh stuffings on Christmas Day, they just taste a bit more luxurious than the dried packets of stuffing. For a really simple vegetarian Christmas dinner option, Mr Crumb have a range of fresh microwavable gourmet stuffings to choose from. I think the apple and apricot is cracking and would be excellent in one of Jen’s stuffed mushrooms with some softly melting goats cheese on the top. 

vegetarian Christmas dinner

I think there are lots of great ideas in this round up of vegetarian Christmas dinner ideas – I think most of them could easily be adapted to be vegan too. I do love a nut roast on Christmas Day, but if you don’t, there are plenty of other options available to you. 

What will you be serving up on Christmas Day?

Six Sensational Vegetarian Christmas Dinner Ideas

Lunch at the River Cottage Canteen, Axminster

River Cottage HQ on the Devon-Dorset border is a fantastic place to visit and dine. I went there recently with some friends (you can read about that here), but it is a bit of an occasion venue and not so much for every day. But we couldn’t pass up the chance to pop to the River Cottage Canteen in Axminster for a spot of lunch while we were down Devonshire way and experience a more casual River Cottage dining experience. 

River Cottage Canteen

The River Cottage Canteen in Axminster is a large cafe and deli. When we arrived on a drizzly Wednesday lunchtime it was pretty quiet, but it did get much busier whilst we were there. The canteen itself is closely aligned to the principles of River Cottage and everything on the menu is farmed, foraged, caught or grown locally.

We sat by the window in a cosy corner, we ordered drinks whilst we checked out the menu. The menu is written from scratch each day. The chefs come up with new dishes depending on what is available and what is good at that time of the year. The menu is split into small plates (around the £6 mark) and large plates (priced around £15). We opted for two small plates each and a portion of chips to share between us.

River Cottage Canteen

Whilst our lunch was being prepared we had a good look around the canteen and deli. There is good sized deli counter with a decent selection of local cheese and homemade pies and pasties. While we were there lots of locals came in for a sandwich or pie to take away for their lunch.

There was also a good selection of jam, chutney and other jarred goods, as well as biscuits and other goodies. By the open kitchen there was a display of River Cottage gift boxes, hampers and other products which would make great Christmas presents, they were well priced too and I thought they were good value.

River Cottage Canteen

We took the opportunity to chat to the River Cottage Canteen chefs who were very lovely and seemed remarkably unfazed by having three giddy food bloggers interrupting their day.

River Cottage Canteen

I opted for butternut squash soup with canteen bread (£5.50). I almost always order soup these days if I know it’s going to be fresh and not from a tin. This was a big hearty bowl of thick soup, perfectly seasoned and served with a big slice of good bread. I couldn’t fault it. I know it’s “just” soup and lots of people would think it a boring thing to choose, but for lunch on a cold November day, it was exactly the right choice to make.

River Cottage Canteen

My second small plate was roast celeriac, cauliflower and pickled ewes cheese with salsa verde (£6). The night before I’d had an incredible celeriac dish at River Cottage HQ, so I ordered this with a head full of high expectations. It may look like a casually thrown together plate of vegetables, but the celeriac was beautifully tender, roasted so the sweet celeriac was shown off to the fullest. The pickled ewes cheese was a new one for me, I was expecting a more vinegary, pickled onion taste, but what I got was a cheese with a hit of astringency which balanced the sweet celeriac. A seemingly simple dish which was so well put together it sang on the plate.

River Cottage Canteen

The chips? I’d like to say I managed to get some nice photos of the chips, but they were thoroughly snaffled before I got my camera out. My only regret was not ordering two portions. The chips were crispy on the outside and fluffy potatoey potato on the inside. Often chips just taste of the fat they were fried in, or of nothing much really. The River Cottage Canteen chips were how chips should be.

River Cottage Canteen

My bill came to a little under £20 for a two course lunch, drinks and a portion of chips. Because I’d had lunch at the River Cottage Canteen I got 10% off at the deli counter, so I did buy quite a lot of lovely things to bring home.

I loved the River Cottage Canteen. I know that it’s the kind of place we will pop into for lunch next time we’re in Devon. It’s casual dining with River Cottage flair, doing its bit to show off fantastic local produce. If you’re down that way, it is well worth a visit. I am so glad we stopped off to try it out for ourselves.

River Cottage Canteen & Deli, Trinity Square, Axminster, Devon, EX13 5AN 

Foodie Experiences: Dining at River Cottage HQ

I’ve been a huge fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall since the first series of River Cottage in 1997. I’ve fully bought into his snout-to-tail grow-your-own ethos and I love his enthusiasm for good food, be it farmed, foraged or from the high street. This month I had the good fortune to make my third pilgrimage to River Cottage HQ, near Axminster on the Devon-Dorset border.

The River Cottage dining experiences are not a budget affair, though they do represent good value for money, especially if you’re a bit of a foodie.

My first visit to River Cottage HQ was in 2008, it was a gloriously boozy meal, where strangers became friends, bonding over their shared love of Hugh and everything he stands for. It was a wonderful summers evening, we toured the garden, snaffled a few pea pods straight from the plant, ate canapés in the yurt and had the best meal I’ve ever eaten. Ever. 

This November I visited River Cottage HQ with my friends Claire (Good Egg Foodie) and Rachel (Vintage Folly), we were there to experience a River Cottage HQ Dining Event for ourselves. 

Foodie Experiences: Dining at River Cottage HQ

As a River Cottage veteran (I must be now, surely?) I knew the drill. I knew the tractor would meet us at the top and bump us down the hill to the farm, I knew we’d need sensible shoes and that glamming up too much might result in muddy sequins by the end of the night. I knew the drinks would be local and well chosen, I knew the food would have been grown, born or raised on the farm, and if not foraged or farmed nearby. I knew it would be excellent, and it was.

However, we messed up and arrived late. The gathering darkness brought with it a storm and we missed the tractor. We had to make our way down the muddy hillside track on foot; but we were warmly greeted, given a hot cuppa and a little canapé to nibble on. Once we’d thawed out we explored River Cottage HQ as much as we could in the dark and the wet. Thankfully I have two warm summer visits worth of memories, but the roaring fire in the cottage was enough to brighten the darkest and coldest winter night.

Foodie Experiences: Dining at River Cottage HQ

Before long we were summoned for dinner, I’m a vegetarian so I enjoyed a slightly different menu to my friends, but I wager it was just as good as theirs. The canapés were plentiful, imaginative and delicious. We began with whipped goats cheese with thin slithers of beetroot in cider vinegar with fennel fronds, little cheese on toast bites with piccalilli; blue cheese, mushroom and leek croquettes with date and green tomato dip and several slices of excellent treacle and seed bread.

Another canapé, and for my money one of the highlights of my meal, was the merguez spiced romanesco cauliflower with silky smooth cauliflower purée. An unassuming dish which packed in so much flavour, it was a real joy.

Foodie Experiences: Dining at River Cottage HQ

My first course (though after all those canapés, it felt like my fourth course already) was ravioli with celeriac purée, wild mushrooms and sage. This was a deceptively filling plate, perfectly autumnal and as pretty as a picture. There was perhaps a touch too much oil for my liking, but it didn’t detract from the dish.

Foodie Experiences: Dining at River Cottage HQ

My veggie main course was a crispy parsnip and potato rosti with a poached egg, carrot purée and a chunk of charred savoy cabbage. Every single aspect of this course was perfectly cooked and delicious, but I did feel it needed something to pull it together into a dish, rather than the sum of its parts. My poached egg was a double-yolker though, so I can’t complain really.

Foodie Experiences: Dining at River Cottage HQ

At my last meal at River Cottage HQ I had been utterly wowed by the pudding, so I had high hopes and I’m pleased to say they weren’t dashed. Dessert was a celebration of all things apple – an apple crisp, apple purée, a chunky apple crumble with a topping made from treacle and rye flour; but the showstopper on the plate was the honeycomb (or Hokey-Pokey if you’re Cornish) crème brûlée. That crème brûlée will live a long, long time in my memory. It was perfect and the honeycomb topping lent a deliciously different note to the crunchy topping.

Foodie Experiences: Dining at River Cottage HQ

Dinner was followed by coffee and petits fours; the hurried purchasing of a couple of Christmas gifts from the shop and a bumpy tractor ride up the hill to the car park. 

It was as close to a perfect foodie evening as you can imagine. The meal was virtually faultless, so good I want to book in again next year with my husband. For River Cottage fans and devotees, lovers of good food, or people who are just Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall curious, a dining experience at River Cottage HQ is a very special way to spend an evening and would make for a rather excellent Christmas present.

For more information about a River Cottage HQ Dining Experience, visit their website.

 

We were invited guests of River Cottage HQ and Foodies100, all images and opinions are our own.

Review: LiveLean Best of British Meat Hamper

As a keen cook and eater of food I care about what my family put on their dinner plates. This year we’ve been trying to eat a bit healthier, eat fewer carbs and a little bit more protein. My husband has taken up what we call “muddy races”, you know the kind of thing (which fills sane thinking people with horror), run 10 miles and conquer a million military style obstacles. He’s all about the protein and kettlebells, but at the same time he’s a greedy boy who won’t be without his big dinners. LiveLean sent us their 82-Piece Best of British Super Lean Meat Hamper to try out, but were my protein loving carnivores happy?

LiveLean Meat Hamper

LiveLean are a British company supplying mostly British farmed and butchered produce. The LiveLean Best of British Meat Hamper is a huge hamper (it’s currently £59.95 which I think is a huge bargain) and contains the following 82 pieces of meat –

  • Premium Chicken Fillets 5kg (approx 24)
  • Two aged Rump Steaks 6oz
  • Two packs of Best UK Lean Steak Mince 400g
  • Two Beef minute steaks 6oz
  • Two packs of Super Lean Steak Burgers (8 burgers)
  • 24 Lean Steak Meatballs  
  • UK Chicken Burgers 2 burgers, 4oz each
  • 8 Lean Pork Sausages (made with 74% pork)
  • Lean Back Bacon 10 rashers / 400g

The hamper comes in a big box, wrapped in a big silver cold bag and with lots of frozen packs inside to keep the meat cool while it’s on its way to you. The meat all arrived in perfect condition and looked really appetising. I unpacked it and put most of it away in the freezer (tip, separate the 5kg of chicken breasts into smaller amounts which you’d typically use, so for example, portions of four breasts).

LiveLean

It’s probably wise to clear some space in your freezer before you take delivery, as there is a lot of meat to put away, easily enough for our family for a month or so. We put what we knew we’d use over the next couple of days in the fridge and froze the rest.

That night the small boy had sausages for his tea and his dad had one of the rump steaks. The sausages were great, they contain 74% pork and hardly any fat came off them while I was cooking them. The boys said they were really flavoursome. I cooked the steak in a hot griddle pan and served it with a big salad – he said it was one of the best steaks he’d eaten.

I’ve been away for a few days and with the two packets of steak mince I made a huge shepherds pie to tide them over while I was away – again there was very little fat, so little that I didn’t have to bother draining the mince after I’d browned it. 

It all seems like really good quality meat, and what the boys have eaten so far they’ve loved! LiveLean have a whole range of meat hampers of different sizes and with different kinds of meat in them. The quality is excellent, I really couldn’t fault it and I think a little under £60 is a very good price to pay.

If like a bargain, I do have a discount code to use if you’re buying the 82 piece Best of British hamper – just enter HPD5 at the checkout.

LiveLean
To check out the LiveLean Best of British Meat Hamper for yourself, visit their website and don’t forget that exclusive discount code!