If you follow us on twitter (DO IT! How many times do I have to tell you?! @hungryswans) you’ll know that we went on a Swan family outing to River Cottage Food Fair this weekend! We bought Mummy Swan tickets for Mother’s Day (it was a bit of a; ‘this is a present for you but also mostly for us, and I suppose our Dear Father should come too rather than be left at home like Cinderella’ kind of present, but nevermind). Daughter points for the next decade = sorted!
Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall (or HFW, as we call him, because he’s our mate and doesn’t mind. Actually Mum calls him The Blessed Hugh… anyway) is a bit of a hero in our house. We spent our teenage years watching River Cottage on TV and whenever I’m homesick I source out episodes online and watch them for hours. As former veggies (I know, right) I, personally, was converted back to meat eating by Hugh’s outlook on animal welfare and we both think that it’s hugely important to know where your food comes from before you eat it.
Anyway, we trained it down to Axminster on Friday afternoon and stayed in THE CUTEST B&B, conveniently located in the middle of nowhere (rather than the arse end of nowhere, that wouldn’t be so convenient). If you’re one of those people who thinks they live in ‘the middle of nowhere’ ask yourself this: ‘Do you wake up with a horse and 30 chickens outside your window?’ If the answer is no, then I’m afraid you are mistaken.
Anyway, on Friday we drove to Lyme Regis for dinner (that’s a separate post for another day) and, after a bit too much wine, snuggled down ready for the next day.
It was a lovely warm day on Saturday so we decided to walk to River Cottage (building up an appetite and all that). Father promised us that it was only ‘about 3 miles’ which is FINE, but what he neglected to mention was that at least 2 of those miles were VERTICAL. There are some serious hills in this part of the country. Of course, that meant that the views were absolutely gorgeous and we were stopping every couple of yards to take photos and decide whether or not we should abandon London’s sprawling metropolis and retire to the beautiful Devon countryside.
When we reached River Cottage, we got the tractor (you read that correctly) down to the farm. Jen and I were probably more excited than all the kids put together about seeing River Cottage and weren’t embarrassed to show it!
Once off the tractor we were greeted by this handsome fellow…
Cutest Alpaca ever! It’s like someone crossed a Llama with a labradoodle. I’ll call him Henry, he definitely looks like a Henry.
Then went to watch the pig racing (YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY TOO)
Not so much ‘racing’, but it was bloody hilarious and the pigs were very cute.
There were free samples of food and drink everywhere – most of it locally produced – so we could have easily filled up and gotten pissed very quickly but, as we know, the Swan way is pace yourself and share when it comes to these food festivals.
We started with cider (my loveeeeer – that’s what they say in ye olde Devon my dear)
You know when you have fruit cider and it’s sickly and sweet and makes you want to vomit? Well, this blush was wonderful. Just the right amount of fruitiness. Actual fruitiness, not just a heff load of sugar. Yum! We could have glugged this all day, but with all the organic wine and local fizz around we couldn’t possibly limit ourselves!
Castlewood’s vineyard is just a mile away from River Cottage and their sparking wine really is something spectacular. We tried the Rose, the Vintage and the non-Vintage. We all had differing opinions (personally my fave was the non-Vintage – it was so drinkable and on the dry side, so thumbs up from me!)
Might have come away with a bottle…
By this time we were feeling raaaaather squiffy and decided we’d better eat something before the entire day went to pot. So we headed for some seafood. We heart seafood. We also want to give a HUGE shout out to the guys at the Lyme Bay Fish Shack (@lymefishshack) who were SO accommodating and put up with us circling their samples of crab meat like vultures, asking them a hundred questions about how to ‘pick’ a crab (and doing a demo and everything!) and generally making a nuisance of ourselves.
To say that Jennie is a bit of a crab fan is a bit of an understatement. A bit like saying that Australia is ‘a bit big’ or that Michael Gove is ‘a bit of a prat’… Anyway, after subtly (not) stealing samples we decided to get a pot of theee creamiest, most delicious crab meat EVER! I personally find brown crab a bit rich but whilst we were at RC I discovered spider crab, which has a much more delicate flavour so, if you’ve tried crab and it’s too icky for you, try spider crab, it might just tickle your tastebuds.
^ how to butcher a crab, in one hundred fiddly steps!
Also at the Fish Shack (and Mum, I am SO sorry-ish but this is just too hilarious) they sold the largest oysters I have ever seen, for £1.25 a throw. I love oysters like fat kids love cake (or like Jen loves crab) and managed to bully Mum into trying her first ever oyster! They didn’t come with any of the fancy stuff – no tabasco, or even lemon juice – the quite clear message here was that these beauties deserved to be tasted as nature intended.
She wasn’t impressed…
To me, they were fresh and delicious and even Jennie said they were ‘the best oysters she’s even eaten’ however, to Mother, it was like ‘eating snot’. Oh well, at least she gave it a go. Well done, Mum!
For second course (or about 9th course if you count the free tasters…) we had a pulled pork bun from What the Dickens. I’d never heard of these guys before, and as they can be found in London I’m reprimanding myself SEVERELY for this as the pulled pork bun was probably the best I’ve ever tasted! Sticky, sweet-yet-mustardy-and-slightly-spicy pork, apple sauce and a generous portion of ‘take your fillings off’ crackling. Phwoooooooar. This went down so quickly we didn’t even have a chance to take a photo (minus blogging points, sorry) but trust me, it was beautiful and you need to get down to Kings X on a Friday (or wherever else they happen to be) and get your chops round one. You will thank me for this tip. If you can get some decent cider (my loverrr) to go with it, all the better.
For pudding we decided to share a couple of sticky buns. We had apple & walnut and also custard & almond – sticky, moist and delicious, all washed down with some fabulous cocktails.
I went for ‘Respect Your Elders’ and Jennie had ‘Devon Donkey’ – these are definitely something I’ll be recreating this summer – perfect BBQ cocktails if you ask me!
We spent the rest of the afternoon sunbathing, swigging cider, watching a Falconry display (random yet brilliant) MEETING HFW AND GETTING HIM TO SIGN A BOOK, MEETING JOHN WRIGHT AND LEARNING NOTHING ABOUT FORAGING (soz) and buying copious quantities of English cheese and charcuterie.
^ he’s sitting down, not really, really short
^ never letting this out of the house…
I could go on and on AND ON AND ON about the amazing day we had at RC and all the wonderful food we tried and interesting people we spoke to, but this is already the longest post we’ve ever put on the blog (I think) so I’ll leave it there.