Last week I headed to the Dorset/Devon border for a special event. I had been invited to a winter feast at River Cottage HQ. To say I was excited was an understatement.
I travelled down on my own, which was actually quite nice given the recent craziness of work. When I got to the River Cottage “bus shelter” I got chatting with other bloggers whilst we awaited our carriage down to the cottage itself. Yes this was a tractor! When we got to the cottage we were greeted with steaming hot cups of tea (much needed now the weather had turned). As well as drop scones with apple, yogurt and honey. A warming treat.
The day started with a whistle stop course of how to prepare meat for our own winter feasts this Christmas. As well as some background on River Cottage itself. All food is either locally sourced or grown at the cottage. They have gardeners who attend to their veggies as well as foragers too. They pride themselves on being completely ethical, waste free and organic. A fascinating place, all made famous by Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall.
Head chef Andy Tyrrell went over how to brine pork, chicken and turkey in an attempt to get more flavoursome dinners on our tables this year. We also learnt about curing venison, something I’d love to try. Mr W is a huge fan of venison so I’d love to do this. We also got to try samples of what we could produce, given it takes so long we couldn’t have tried the stuff we had brined.
Once our cooking demo was over we had a chance to chat with other bloggers. I had a good chat with new faces and some I had met before. I also enjoyed more tea, it had been a long day travelling for me! After our opportunity to network we settled down and awaited our dinner. We were treated to some apple brandy (delicious) and wonderful canapés whilst we were told about dinner.
Our canapés were plentiful! Local pork (brined prior to cooking) and bechemel cheese croquettes with date and tomato ketchup. Locally caught mussels with apple and red onion Suffolk cider vinegar. Garlic bruschetta with whipped goats cheese and cured beetroot and carrot cider vinegar. (The whipped goats cheese was just something else!) And lastly, crispy rabbit (braised, pulled then fried) with romanesco purée. The rabbit was intense but not overly and the purée was a fantastic balance here.
After this, I opted for a local Pilsner to accompany my dinner, from Chesil brewery. I’d discovered them on my holiday in Dorset earlier in the year. Then our starters were served. A wonderful homemade pasta, filled with celeriac from garden, foraged mushrooms and sage from the garden.
Our main was pork, which was brined then slow cooked. The meat was picked, mixed with mustard and herbs, then rolled, and lastly glazed with honey and mustard. I can’t really describe this apart from wanting more. It was intense, but sweet. A wonderful winter meal. The pork was accompanied with carrot purée, savoy cabbage and homemade baked beans.
Lastly, I’m amazed we all had room for it, the dessert! A creme brûlée mixed with honey comb, accompanied with apple crisp, apple crumble and a soft apple purée. It was a sweet dessert but the apple cut through the creaminess of the brûlée. Most of us were trying to lick our little ramikins clean!! At this point I braved the weather (and tractor back up- on a full stomach!!) and headed back to my wonderful B&B.
Edit- For those who want a veggie insight into River Cottage, check out Jane’s Post on the event.
If you want to see River Cottage for yourself, they offer many cookery courses, foodie feasts and you can even get married there! They also have 4 River Cottage Canteens, so you can try the food out for yourself without getting your hands dirty!
Are you a River Cottage fan? Have you visited? Or got one of the cookery books?Let me know in the comments,
P.S. Thanks to Foodies100 and River Cottage for inviting me on this trip. All opinions are my own.
P.P.S. River Cottage HQ is located at Trinity Hill Rd, Axminster, EX13 8TB.