Friday Night at River Cottage HQ

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Last night saw Simon and I, somewhat unconventionally, perched on straw bales in a log-burner heated yurt, and drinking apple cider brandy while well-fed cats wound their way round our ankles. Having been a long-term fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s TV shows, enthusiasm for ethical eating, and recipe books it felt rather surreal to be nibbling on delicate but full-flavoured canapΓ©s (yeah ok, I spilt some topping down myself) while our host for the evening welcomed us to the River Cottage Friday night dining experience. We’d been generously given River Cottage vouchers for our birthday / wedding anniversary celebration back in 2012 by a group of very lovely friends in our village but hadn’t quite managed the oomph to actually book such a promise-filled night out until recently. It was definitely worth the wait…

After a nose round the grounds to see the kitchen gardens, cookery school and farmhouse we were seated at one of two long tables and encouraged to socialise with our fellow diners (for the record – a mother and daughter from New Zealand on one side of us and honey-mooners from Australia to the other!). The head chef talked us through the courses to follow and then the food began to arrive and, my goodness, it just did not stop! Warm split-pea humous with pulled lamb and flatbread; a delicate green leaf salad with roasted beetroot, tender cubes of beef, wafer-thin rye toast and a blow-your-head-off horseradish dressing; a velvety pollack soup with celeriac and cockles, and melt-in-your-mouth sourdough bread on the side; thick slabs of roast pork served with cubes of buttery-sweet roast pumpkin, both fresh and fermented cabbage, silky-smooth parsnip and apple purΓ©e, caramelised desert-apple slices and the pre-
requisite crispy crackling; a dense orange and almond cake topped with heavenly creme-fraiche ice-cream and marinaded blood oranges; and finally, finally – a rich and smooth coffee served up with lemon curd topped shortbread and ginger truffles.

And nothing disappointed. Every course (featuring produce either grown / reared on the farm or locally sourced) had a superb balance of flavours and textures. As the menu is only decided on the day, depending on what’s available, the entire spread tasted supremely fresh and inspired. My only criticism was that there was just too much! Having to leave half of my pork, manage only a taste of the cake and, desperately, actually have to refuse that creamy looking truffle felt absolutely criminal.

But, as we bumped up the steep hill back to the car park in a tractor pulled trailer, with a small bottle of the afore-mentioned cider brandy tucked safely away for another day we felt very treated. A very special evening with very special food from very special friends!

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