Chatsworth country fair 2015

Deep within the Derbyshire Dales sits a house of great stature and architectural beauty. It sits yards from the banks of the river Derwent that runs through the grounds and is situated within one thousand acres of sloping grassland that acts as home to hundreds of deer and sheep, completing the backdrop of quintessential British countryside that lends itself so well to this historic building. The house in question is considered as a real jewel in the crown of tourism in the East midlands and has been voted as the UK’s favourite country house several times in its history. It is of course Chatsworth house that I speak of and it stands as a totem of country life in the UK in the most beautiful of settings and has done for literally hundreds of years.

What better place to hold an annual country fair that showcases local produce, country sports, clothing and a celebration of rural British family values than the grounds of Chatsworth? Being my second year attending I can think of no better place to organise such a festival of British country life. My fiance and her family have been attending the show for over 30 years and I have now been absorbed into the tradition, almost like a little bank holiday designated just for us at the tail end of the summer that we use to wave farewell to the warm weather and summery produce and welcome the Autumnal turning of the leaves and the bountiful harvest to come, it really is something special to us. For example the little things like leaving extremely early to try and catch the hot air balloons rising into the air (weather permitting) in the morning and eating breakfast outside the car while waiting for the gates to open in the nipping early September breeze, just becomes part and parcel of a lovely little family tradition that has been almost ever present for my new extended family and many more families that have made this show their annual haunt.

The gates open to the public at around 8:30AM and you will find yourself wandering around as some vendors are still setting up their stalls so it can take a while to get your bearings in terms of what you want to see and what is going on if like me, you refuse to use the program for fear of it taking up valuable swag space… Although I feel it is possibly a touch of the same part of my psyche that doesn’t allow me to use instruction manuals that come with flat packed furniture. There were two main horseshoe shaped food courts this year in addition to a large food orientated tent that was located around a hundred yards away. Like any food festival or show this little outdoor food village housed many different options to please any palete including the usual offerings of cheese, meats, beer, spirits, chocolate and cakes.

Foody pics of the litter

Firstly a pair of vendors stood out for me and to be honest they are the guys that always stand out for me at these kind of events and they were The Cheshire cheese company and Supreme sausages. Cheshire cheese company seem to make an effort to have a presence at most food festivals and shows of late and offer an incredible array of cheeses from the strong mature Black Bob to the superb yet bizarre sticky toffee cheese that I tried at one of the BBC good food shows. They always do well out of me at these sorts of things however I restrained myself from purchasing any as I will be seeing them at the food show in November so I figured it would be best to wait and stock up closer to Christmas, although their range is as diverse as ever and their quality still unquestionably great. Thanks for the samples!

Supreme sausages make my favourite sausage. I am not even remotely hesitant in writing such a bold statement as their Toulouse is literally the best I have ever had and I have eaten a lot of sausages in my time! They make a great range of sausages that include wild boar and apple, pork with venison and mushroom, pork with honey and mushroom (recommended) and the good old Cumberland to name a few. They have around 20 years experience in sausage making and it certainly shows in their stellar produce, some of which did come home with me in the form of a few packs of Toulouse and some of the wild boar and apple. These two food festival veterans aside there were more sights for the culinarily inclined to see at the show but listing them all would take forever to be honest, so I will give you two of my favourite new discoveries that I feel really deserve a light shining on what they are doing.

Super cakes and blooming breads

Upon exploring the inner food tent I discovered more vendors selling cheese, fudge, ciders and a few other stalls selling gadgets and utensils. One that really caught my eye was a stand near the middle of the outer side of the tent pretty much submerged in pastries and cake, and that is genuinely not an understatement as the picture below shows. They were selling brownies as thick as a dictionary and tear and share breads that you could serve an actual meal on. I think they were called something like ‘The Foccacia company’ but do not hold me to that, they made some really incredible stuff so I am disappointed in myself that I didn’t make a proper note of it. Whoever they were they deserve all the plaudits in the world for their extraordinary creations, including the halloumi wrap which was rammed with the salty Greek goodness and was absolutely superb for the £5 we paid.

Never ending baked goods

Never ending baked goods

Hops and a half wheel

My final stall of note was the Staffordshire brewery who was actually my last stall of the entire day before returning the the car for our dinner. They produce some great beers that range from their ‘Gold beer’ that runs at 3.8% ABV and answers the current high demand for golden/light ales to the severe looking Black grouse that’s peaks at 4.5% ABV and will satisfy the stout lovers among us. Funnily enough though they have combined two of my favourite things in their business plan… beer and cheese! they produce cheese under a sister company called ‘Staffordshire cheese Co’ so the chap that was running the stall offered us three 500ml bottles of beer and a wedge of the remaining cheese to take home with us. Frankly it would have been rude not to take him up on his most kind offer of beer and cheese for such a generous price, especially when my Fiance was insisting on paying. Double win.

I went for the award winning Gold beer, Double sunset amber ale and the Black grouse stout complimented with a wedge of their Cheddleton cheese that was blended with whole and split mustard seeds. A great offer with some great produce that I could take away with me and enjoy at home, good job Staffordshire beer/ cheese! The gold beer offers an unsurprisingly golden colour with a light citrus fruit, hoppy palate, citrus notes in the scent and a nice lingering bitterness with a reasonable ABV that completes the experience and rounds off a very honest, good local beer. The cheese I haven’t actually tried yet but the taster they had available on their stall was the self titled ‘Staffordshire cheese’, very much like a good debut album it made an impression that invoked a need for more. The creamy taste and crumbly texture means it is certainly destined to be a vital part of many a Christmas cheese board as this cheese is a strong contender for best discovery of my day at Chatsworth.

And the balloons start to fly…

Feeling rather pleased with the days exploration and the discoveries that we made while traversing the rows of stalls, we spoke about the other things we had seen during the day on the way back to the car. So much had happened outside of the ‘food village’ that it was hard to keep track of really, so much so that it would take forever to write about every little detail of the show therefore I have limited this to the consumable highlights. To properly get a feel for the show I encourage you to make an effort to visit in 2016 and see for yourself, load the family into the car with a picnic and your wellies and have yourself a fantastic great day out. Everything was happening throughout the day from falconry displays, aircraft displays, craft stalls, celebrity book signings, shooting competitions, the opportunity to ride a Harley Davidson on a rolling road (which I totally took advantage of) and of course the great food and drink on offer all culminated in us agreeing that Chatsworth 2015 was a roaring success. To make things even better we closed out the day sitting as a family as the light started to slowly dissolve into evening, enjoying a homemade chicken cacciatore while we watched the hot air balloons rise above the tree line and over into the Derbyshire countryside, a great and fitting end to a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Thank you Chatsworth, we will see you next year.

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Ultimate baked pasta

Hi all, today I find myself in the peculiar position of sitting in a Mcdonald’s eating breakfast (Only some porridge and a tea) waiting for my ride to work and taking advantage of their free WIFI facility. Peculiar only due to the fact that I am present in one of their ‘restaurant’s’ as I usually find their take on food as totally abhorrent and something I would never partake in, however I feel I’m safe with tea and porridge. Possibly. Cue the e-mails about their porridge oats being genetically manufactured in Scotland by mad scientists dressed as clowns.

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I am finding it hard to find slots in my time to physically sit down and write blog posts at present as I commute long distances for work but this is a good example of how I’m trying to fit it all in, between lifts and shifts. one could say I have an undying commitment to the cause, although this may possibly be a minor over-dramatization to the alternative of ‘fitting it in when I can’, so at present I would say a post every few weeks is a realistic target.

As some of my older posts have shown I am really keen on Italian food, I have always found its ability to combine artistry with simplicity incredibly attractive. Whether your an outright novice or an experienced veteran in the kitchen its a type of cooking that offers something for everybody. This dish present you with a relatively simple method but offers a show stopping flavour and combination of textures that elevate it beyond the typical ‘Pasta bakes’ of Homepride and Dolmio fame. The ingredients can be as cheap or as expensive as you can make them and you can finish the entire dish in around an hour, definitely one to please a few house guests at the weekend.

What you’ll need:

300g short tube pasta (Macaroni, ziti etc)
200g lamb mince
1 heaped Tbspn dried oregano
100g sliced salami
100g sliced pepperoni
Handful of red Leicester cheese
Large handful of fresh spinach
1 ball of mozzarella cheese
3 large fresh eggs
olive oil
salt
pepper

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons of red pesto
1 tin chopped Tomatoes
1 Tbspn mascarpone
handful of basil leaves
Salt
Pepper

Method:

1: In a bowl, add the lamb mince and the oregano with a little salt and pepper to taste. Combine well and roll into small meatballs. Around 1.5 inches in diameter.

2:Add pasta to a pan of boiling water and cook to packet instructions. Approximately 20 minutes in salted, boiling water.

3: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil to a frying pan and on a medium heat, lightly fry the meatballs until browned. This will take roughly 3 minutes. You don’t want to fully cook them yet. Remove from the pan to rest, leaving the fat in the pan. (We need it shortly)

4: In a blender blitz the tomatoes with the basil leaves. Add it to the frying pan on a medium heat with the reserved lamb fat. Add the pesto and the mascarpone, stirring well until well combined then leave to simmer for 5 minutes.

5: By now the pasta should be cooked, drain the pasta while reserving a little of the cooking water. Reintroduce the pasta to the pan with the reserved water and add the sauce and spinach. Mix thoroughly.

6: Preheat oven at 180 degrees or equivalent temperature. Beat the eggs together well in a cup or bowl.

7: In a medium to large lasagne dish, add a few tablespoons of the sauce to the bottom and create a layer of the pepperoni and salami in nice tidy rows. Add a big spoon of the pasta and spread evenly. Repeat until the dish is full, ending with a layer of pasta. This usually covers around 3-4 layers dependant on how big your dish is!

8: Add the meatballs to the top of the pasta and push in so they are half submerged in the pasta. Tear the mozzarella and scatter around the meatballs, then sprinkle on your red Leicester.

9: Take the beaten eggs and pour over the whole dish nice and evenly, it should seep through all the gaps and go down the sides of the pasta. Gives a few prods with a fork so it totally penetrates the pasta, it will bind together into a perfect harmony of cheesy, pasta goodness. Now add it to the oven and bake for around 30-40 minutes.

10: Remove from the oven and check the eggs are cooked through with a skewer or a knife, it should come out without any raw egg on. If still not cooked cook for further 3-5 minutes and check regularly.

11: Indulge it with your family and friends. Your onto a winner. Guarantee you’ll make it more than once. Best thing is it’s adaptable so make it your own, go to town add what you want and experiment.

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