Friday, 21 August 2009

Who needs Abel & Cole?

I was going to blog about this a couple of weeks ago, but decided it was a bit too smug. But then I got over it. *

This little crate of loveliness is from my sister's allotment. We've had various 'deliveries' over the last few weeks, including : onions, both red & white, shallots, potatoes, runner beans, french beans, beetroots, a few carrots, broccoli and LOTS of courgettes. Oh and of course not forgetting the wonderful raspberries which I made in to raspberry ripple ice cream. Her produce is quite simply amazing and we are very lucky.

Together with our own 25 tomato plants cropping like an Essex chav shells out babies, we have been blessed. It has been a little challenging shall I say in using all of our bounty and creating something new and exciting. But knowing how hard my sister has worked on her allotment to produce this wonderful veg, we have endeavoured not to waste a single bean. I would be lying though, if I didn't tell you that there was a faint whimper from the other side of the dining table, when I brought in the 'Sunday roast courgette'. I jest, there's been plenty of carnivorous accompaniments. Mike is more likely to eat a vegetarian than become one.

With regard to our tomatoes, I know that 25 tomato plants sounds a lot, it is a lot but as they crop, those we can't eat while they're still fresh, I just roast, then use a wonderful contraption called a mouli, which sieves all the skins and pips out. It's then reduced down until it's a bit thicker and you have lovely fresh passata, which goes into the freezer to use during the rest of the year.

Anyway, here's a small selection of how we've used our veg.

Char grilled courgettes & pepper with feta & herbs

The start of a spanish omelette

Roasted tomato & bean stew

Tom & basil bruschetta

Courgette fritters

Roasted toms, courgette & bacon pasta sauce

Courgette pickle & chutney

*I should point out that this is by no means a dig at those who did accept the Abel & Cole produce (and I mean that). I also had their offer, but turned them down.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Pub nirvana (almost)

If you could design your ideal pub, what would it be like? Maybe it would be set in a picturesque village, surrounded by green fields, with a river running next to it? Perhaps it would have a selection of real ales? Would it serve delicious food, the majority of which had been reared, caught and grown by themselves? Maybe their own smoke house? Wine and fizz supplied by their own vineyard? Well, believe it or not, such a place does exist.

The Anchor pub situated in the pretty village of Nayland, Suffolk is all these things and a little bit more. Just half a mile from the Essex border, Nayland is quaint and picturesque - think 'Lovejoy'. The pub aims to be as self sufficient as possible, having their own heritage farm. They grow the majority of their own veg in the kitchen garden which is next to the pub and keep longhorn cattle, lambs, pigs, game, trout and venison on their estate. They even work the land with Suffolk punches (which unfortunately are now an endangered breed of horse) These wonderful gentle giants are brought over to the pub twice a week - luckily we saw one working the day we were there. His name was Bruno and he had feet like saucepans.

Starting with a drink at the bar, Mike was impressed with the range of real ales and I was equally impressed by a glass of their own sauvignon blanc for £3.00. We then settled ourselves and perused the menu. I haven't mentioned yet that the kitchen is run by By Carl Shillingford (formerly of The Waterside and Pierre Gagnaire in Paris , both 3 star Michelin restaurants) Just gets better doesn't it?

The menu, as you would expect was very seasonal and quite honestly I had a difficult time choosing as there were several things I wanted to try. Well, as I wasn't wearing my 'comfort fit' crimplene slacks that day I chose just one dish from the grill menu, as did Mike. Scallops with chive and tarragon butter for me, and large black pork chops with smoked tomato compote for him. The dishes both came with 2 choices of side dishes, I chose 'thin cut' chips and a dressed salad and Mike chose 'fat cut' chips and grilled baby courgette and aubergine.

I asked the waiter if I could have my salad dressing on the side. "No problem madam". Well, clearly it was because the salad arrived dressed, well not so much dressed, but drowned. The poor leaves were covered in olive oil - my plate was swimming in the stuff. The scallops could have been warmer too and the chips cooked a bit longer. It was extremely difficult to catch someone's eye to point out the error, so when they eventually brought me a replacement salad I had eaten too many of the scallops and chips to need it. I was really stupid and should have got them to take the complete meal back, but I didn't and then regretted it, so my fault there. On the plus side Mike's meal was fine. The pork chop was big and tasted really porky and the chips were lovely. Again the veg was on the oily side, but tasty.

Although the food was a little disappointing the pub was comfortable, and in a lovely setting. There was a good selection of beers and wine and the staff were friendly. The prices, I think in particular were quite reasonable. Our food, plus 2 pints of beer, 1 glass of wine, a diet coke and a coffee was £34. I think it deserves another try and dressed in my 'eating trousers' I will return.