A taste of autumn

Autumn 2015

The last few weeks have seen me rather busy, dear Reader, with one thing and another.  Flat tyres on a dark, foggy night (HUGE thanks to Megs, owner of gorgeous pub The Woolpack for rescuing damsels in distress), funerals and our usual countryside chaos all rolled into one.  Prudence, our bossy hen departed from the coop and the arrival of two new hens (Cora, a Rhode Rock, and Lady Agatha, a very flighty Cream Legbar) caused quite a stir with the three remaining hens.  I have to say, dear Reader, that hunting for escaped hens in my neighbours’ garden for 2 hours is something I had not expected when we decided to add to our flock.  All seems well now at least and after some considerable wing clipping, Lady Agatha is choosing to stay in the garden rather than masterminding the next breakout.  She had better start laying those green blue eggs soon!

autumn leaves

In all the mayhem, we have found time to kick up the leaves in the last throes of autumn though.  I even caught myself humming The Byrds’ Turn, Turn, Turn strolling along the bridleway with Monty.  Don’t worry, I was drowned out by Monty barking at a partridge, dear Reader.

We finally bid farewell to dear Cumberland, our porker, fostered for us at the marvellous Parsonage Farm and then trotted off to attempt a considerable amount of butchery and sausage making all in one day.  Far from squeamish, Poppy and Primrose really enjoyed making sausages and salami and John and Sarah Mills from Parsonage were on hand to make sure that all was done correctly!  A huge thanks to them!  Only my second attempt at butchery, I think that I did pretty well considering and we had a chest freezer full in no time.  I won’t go into how I ended driving a pig’s head (minus body) around half of Hampshire one Wednesday morning.  I promise it wasn’t anything sinister or some sort of Cameron spin-off gag, dear Reader.  Suffice to say, said pig’s head went to a good home and returned as a natural history specimen which Primrose insisted on taking into school for ‘show and tell’.  You can only imagine her teacher’s joy…….

With the bacon cured on a hook in our boot room/laundry room/general dumping ground and a ham for Boxing Day on the go too, we are well on the way to being prepared for all porky goodness for the ‘C’ word.  Certainly put me in mind of a scene from Badger’s sett in The Wind in the Willows.


With Christmas on the brain and fizz for the day firmly in my mind, I popped over to see the first pickings of this year’s Harvest for a new English sparkling wine which will soon be gracing our vintners, Raimes English Sparkling.


Looking for ways to diversify the family farm, Augusta Raimes and her husband Robert, turned over 2 large plots on the farm to the planting of the classic champagne combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier in 2011 and with a course at Plumpton College under her belt, Augusta began her winegrowing journey.  Talking to Augusta, her enthusiasm for winemaking is infectious.  As she turns over the harvested grapes all crated up for the next stage of the process, her excitement is palpable, not only for how much the vines have produced thus far but for how their wine is taking shape under the guidance of Hattingley Valley’s Emma Rice, who is already known for creating Hattingley’s internationally recognised and award-winning wines.

Augusta Raimes

From grape to glass is a fascinating process and at Raimes, it’s a real family affair too with everyone lending a hand to get the harvest in.  As lovers of a good drop, Jerry and I have long dreamed of making our own wine so it was a morning full of inspiration for me!  One day, dear Reader, one day.  In the meantime, I shall be very excited to taste Raimes English Sparkling when the time is nigh – definitely one to watch, dear Reader.  Lovely, local fizz – what could be better?!


Never a dull moment here at Margot HQ, last week saw a little stint on the radio too.  Monty was a marvellous addition to the recordings of 4 foodie segments for BBC Radio Solent’s The Good Life when the lovely Becs Parker came to record from the old cottage.  He even managed to sneak the black pudding off the kitchen worktop when I answered the door to the postman.  Ever the model of perfect spaniel behaviour, dear Reader…..  Still Confit duck leg with smoked lentils and balsamic roasted beetroot made it onto Sunday’s programme untouched by hound (you can listen again here).  Tune in for the next 3 Sundays to hear all sorts of treats….and some more of Monty no doubt….from Margot’s Kitchen!  I’ll leave you with a sneaky peak of something to warm the cockles after a windy walk.  Anyone for Venison Pie, dear Reader?

Venison pie2

A real roasting


With the days getting shorter and the mornings pitch black, I turn increasingly towards my little morning pick me up, dear  Reader.  A drop of hot, dark happiness to help ease me into the day.  When the school run frazzles me from top to toe, I am dripping wet from my dawn-chorused dog walk and I am buried under a mountain of work, it is my solace.  Coffee.  I can’t live without it.  Perhaps it’s because my dear Mamma hails from Brazil or the fact that I simply can’t function before 10am unless I’ve had my first cup of the dark stuff….whatever the reason, my mornings just wouldn’t be the same without it.

When we first moved from the Big Smoke where coffee houses were ten a penny, it was one of the things that I knew that I would miss the most.  I think that one of Primrose’s first outings was to meet NCT ladies and their babes over a mug of coffee, dear Reader!  Walking down the tow path and along to my favourite café, usually pushing a buggy or trying not to fall over a trike, it was part of my weekend/maternity leave/cheering myself up ritual.    That was until we moved to the wilds of rural Hampshire where the nearest café is a good 20 minutes away in the car.  Worried about my impending caffeine/coffee house withdrawal, Jerry gifted me a now much treasured possession……my little coffee machine.  None of the pod rubbish (sorry sorry sorry I really should apologise for my coffee machine fascism).  A proper grind your own beans, coffee damper, schwaaaaaah sounding number.  It remains the BEST present that Jerry has ever given me for  Christmas and other than the Everhot is the most used gadget in the kitchen.  So when Moonroast Coffee offered me a chance to learn more about what goes into my cup, I jumped straight into the car!  Coffee….on the doorstep….what could be better?!!


Moonroast Coffee may have humble digs (for now…) but it comes with a seriously impressive list of coffee credentials.  Working in the heart of the Candover valley in Hampshire, Francis and Judy Bradshaw are the 4th generation of the Bradshaw family to be involved in the tea and coffee industry with Francis’ father, Haydon Bradshaw, one of Britain’s top coffee tasters, offering a consultant’s overview of Moonroast’s coffee journey.  Setting up in the back garden, Fran and Judy saw an opportunity to create an artisan roastery making small batch, slow roasted coffee with beans sourced from the best smallholders in the world.


Juggling day jobs, Fran and Judy began roasting coffee beans at night with a roaster that was brought over neighbouring fields on a loader, installed in their large shed and Moonroast Coffee was born.  Very much a handcrafted business, Fran takes great care to create his own blends as well as crafting single origin coffees with their own roasting and flavour profile for retail as well as wholesale.  Believe me, dear Reader, this is so much more than your average cup of morning coffee!

Moonroast4The process is fascinating.  From green beans, a lighter shade of Puy lentil, to carefully monitored roasting in the roaster, all the way through to a ristretto or flat white!  The smell wafting through the shed was incredible as the beans were cooled to prevent any further roasting.  You could even hear the crackles coming from the roaster as the beans begin to take on their characteristic colour.

Ethiopian, Guatemalan, Sumatran…..I fear that my mornings may well now involve a good deal of indecision.  That and I am destined to become a coffee bore to anyone who will listen.  Fran gave me some fab tips too – always buy beans and grind them yourself.  Coffee beans stay fresher for marginally longer BUT check out the roasting date on the coffee label if there is one.  Coffee starts to lose its aromas and flavours the longer it is open to the elements.  Not a problem in this house as Jerry and I practically inhale the stuff daily.  Try different beans, single origins or blends.  Like vineyards and vines in the case of wine, beans grown on different soils (or as the winos like to say ‘terroir’) have a distinct and different flavour profile.  Blends, well they bring together different flavour characteristics of combined beans to bring together a distinctive taste too.  Citrus notes, floral ones, body, acidity – all these give the cup of coffee you like it’s own ‘je ne sais quoi’.  Diana Henry, award-winning food writer and all round fabulous foodie, explains the whole coffee code of conduct here, far more beautifully than I ever could.


There’s an art to the perfect cup of coffee that is more than the foamy fern, heart or swan on the top.  Weighing out the right amount of beans, even the amount of pressure applied with the coffee damper is key.  Too compact and the water struggles to pass through the coffee, too loose and too much flavour is washed away.  Extracting the flavours is what the whole process is all about.

Moonroast2With all this in mind, I shall make sure that I take FAR more time over that first cup of coffee. After all, it’s the deliciously aromatic, wonderfully energising rocket fuel that powers my day.  Somehow it makes me much more able to deal with Primrose’s daily requests for a pony at 6am, Poppy covering herself head to toe in mud on her way from front door to car BEFORE drop off at nursery, chasing Monty across the fields yelling “IDIOT” after him and the awful realisation that I shall never manage to look anything but the essence of being dragged through a hedge backwards as I emergency exit the children, ‘drive-by shooting style’ from the moving car and into the arms of their teachers at the school gates.  Coffee.  I dread to think what I would be WITHOUT YOU.

A huge thanks to Fran, Judy and Rachel from Moonroast Coffee for taking pity on me in my hour of caffeine, creating some of the most delicious flat whites I’ve ever tasted and for letting me in on your wonderful roasting secrets.    Anyone who doesn’t try your coffee is seriously missing out.

Autumn’s arrival

Crab applesAutumn makes me unspeakably happy.  Cable knit cardigans, getting the fires going in the house, TIGHTS, boots, capes and ponchos, russet coloured leaves, sinking into an armchair with a good book and large cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon, stopping with Primrose and Poppy to pick delicious bounty from the hedgerows, TIGHTS, my brown brogues, windfall apples, scarves, long walks in breezy sunshine where the light filters through the trees in the woodland just so, Jerry in warm woolly jumpers, jams and jellies and did I mention TIGHTS, dear Reader?!  Lovely thick opaque tights.  All those wonderful autumnal things and more, seem to make my heart sing.  Even my hair behaves better in the autumn and suddenly rosy cheeks and constantly messy windswept red hair blend into a landscape tinged with the colours of the liquor in the jam pan, rather than stick out like a sore thumb.


Autumn is almost the best time in the world to get into seasonal cookery.  Who needs more of an excuse to pop a stew into the bottom of the oven to slow cook or pick blackberries on a long walk?  Comfort food at its best.  With that in mind, I popped off to watch a new friend in action.  Everything about the lovely Cherie Denham from Flavour Passion screams foodie!  The first time I met her she rendered me speechless with scones lighter than air topped with lashings of her Blackberry jelly.  Winning me over with food is always a dead cert. for cementing a friendship.  She’s pretty good ‘craic’, as they say in her Irish homeland, too!

Trained at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, Cherie then became a teacher there, earning yet more culinary stripes with her own catering business and as a home economist consultant for none other than River Cottage’s Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall when River Cottage’s first cookbook hit the scene.  Now running a whole host of seasonal cookery demonstrations from her stunning countryside cottage, Cherie shows her guests how to create an array of dishes from original recipes that can be scaled up or down depending on the occasion and most importantly, shares her culinary hacks.  Easy canapés, crowd pleasing dishes, cosy autumn kitchen suppers, something a little more refined – this is cookery for those with busy lives who need tried and tested recipes that are a bit hit with everyone from the children to Saturday evening dinner party guests.  Jerry was in seventh heaven with the Slow Braised Spicy Chipotle Beef Cherie sent me home with………the whole plateful was snaffled in seconds.

Demonstrations seem to be THE thing when it comes to cooking these days and I can see the appeal.  This is the countryside’s Tupperware party for the 21st century, dear Reader but OH SO MUCH more glamourous and useful!  Rather like your best friend sharing all the secrets you’ve been dying for her to divulge for years.  All cooking abilities are welcome.  In fact, the guest list for Cherie’s demo was rather like a modern who’s who of Cluedo – was it the anaesthetist, the students off to university for their first year, the farmer’s wife, interior designer or godfather’s wife that nicked the last slice of Warm Lemony Treacle Tart….?  I wonder, dear  Reader.  Can’t blame them, it was seriously scrummy and I shall certainly be returning for more culinary inspiration when Cherie demos Christmas in November!


Inspired by my amazing morning and immensely delicious dishes, my kitchen now looks more like a production line than farmhouse haven!  Elderberries, crab apples, quinces, herbs from the garden for drying – we’ve got it all going on in Margot’s Kitchen at the moment, dear Reader! The cottage is groaning under the weight of all the apples that seem to arrive by the carrier bag full and are left on the doorstep by lovely villagers.  With jams and jellies a go go, I’ve taken to trying a few new numbers with the apples too as I can’t bear to see them go to waste.  Crab apple vodka, windfall apple butter, hedgerow compote, fruit leathers for the girls and my favourite so far, apple crisps.  I haven’t even got round to picking the sloes yet but I must, before they are snapped up by the birds.  First frost is just far too long away to leave a batch of sloe gin to chance!

crab apple jam

If like me, your house is turning into an orchard quicker than you can say cider, then this will help turn a few of those appley beauties into something everyone can enjoy.  Here, just for you my dear Reader, is my recipe for Apple Crisps.

apple crisps

Apple Crisps

1 or 2 apples, not cookers

sprinkling of cinnamon

greaseproof paper

Peel and core your apples, cutting out any maggoty bits if like me you’ve used a few windfalls.  Using a mandolin (the culinary version rather than musical), finely slice the apple so that you have rings or half rings depending on how many maggoty bits you’ve had to cut out.   You could do this with a knife but remember it does have to be paper thin slices.

Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and place apple slices on the paper.  You may have to line a couple of baking sheets depending on how many apples you have decided to use.  Sprinkle over the cinnamon.  NO SUGAR NEEDED.

Place in bottom of the Aga (in my case the ever faithful Everhot) or in a very low oven from anywhere from 2 hours or until you have achieved the level of crispness you would like.  Best to do this when you need to do some slow cooking as the oven will need to be on low (no more than 120 degrees Centigrade) for a while.  Keep checking the slices every now and again to make sure they are not burning.  You can choose to leave them until they are really crisp or simple dried out and still a bit chewy.  Lovely as an after school snack, crushed over yoghurt, stirred into vanilla ice cream – the choice is yours!

Happy autumn, dear Reader!  I’m off to buy some more tights……

Au revoir Summer

A long summer break has passed between us, dear Reader.  My first summer off in 3 years and I returned completely and utterly refreshed.  So much so that it has taken me a little while to settle back at the writing desk!  I hope you can forgive me for being distracted – France in mid 30 degree heat was just too lovely not to enjoy to the full.  Well, that and Jerry and I had to live without WIFI for a few weeks…we’re lucky we are still married!

First there were the views…

IMG_1168Then there was the house that Primrose wanted to buy and was rather miffed when Jerry told her that unless she asked the owners if they needed to hire her as a housekeeper, there was zero chance of her moving in and calling it home.


Followed by a great deal of cheese, several hundred trips to the market for ‘ooohing’ and ‘aaaahing’ and much buying of French comestibles.



Oh and of course, dinner in an altogether pre-sous chef form should one feel brave enough….


…all washed down with industrial quantities of  a little bit of wine.


Jerry and I even managed to glean some local wisdom.  Apparently, the best way to learn French proficiently is to take up a lover.  An interesting notion……but not sure we’d find two souls brave enough to take us on to test it out.  Especially after mutual meltdowns over the NO WIFI zone, rows over a hideously expensive phone bill for going over the data allowance AND the fact that I had yet again packed an entire suitcase full of books and nothing else.  In my defence dear Reader, I read them ALL.

Still the sun set on our blissful holiday (apologies for the smugness) and we all agreed that there is nothing better than French food, French wine and spending time just the four of us.


That was before I returned to name tapes with a few helpings of two small beings bashing each other over the head with Lego, a cottage which had suddenly morphed into a hobbit’s home and to crown the chaos, a broken boiler and no hot water.  Bonjour September……  Maybe I might just pop back to France and find myself a French lover after all, dear Reader?!


Meeting Lauren Child

So, dear Reader, this is a rather special post – Primrose and I got to meet one of our heroines of the bedtime story world this week and were rendered utterly starstruck.  For as long as Primrose has been able to hold a pencil, she has been desperate to write her own stories.  Amongst a mix of Enid Blyton, Frog and Toad and all the old fairy tales including an ancient Ladybird book of mine of The Goose Girl, Primrose’s love of quirky characters and twists on traditional tales has definitely been inspired by the author and illustrator, Lauren Child.  So imagine when I told Primrose that we were going to meet her “IN REAL LIFE”, to coin a Primrose phrase.


The National Trust’s Mottisfont in Hampshire are hosting a retrospective of Lauren’s work – The Art of Lauren Child: Adventures with Charlie and Lola and Friends running from 18 July – 6 September to mark the 15 year anniversary of the first Charlie and Lola book to be published, I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato.  Author and illustrator, Lauren Child MBE, has such an amazing back catalogue of children’s books which has been loved and devoured across the world and is probably best known for her delightful brother and sister creation, doting brother  Charlie and his picklish little sister (small and very funny), LolaLauren seems to have that uncanny knack for being able to slip into the shoes of children we’ve met, grown up with or perhaps even given birth to.  Perhaps it’s her talent for telling it like it is from a child’s perspective that has seen her works adored by children and adults alike.


With a selection of never before seen items including some of Lauren’s sketchbooks, the exhibition hosts 50 original art works from Lauren’s own personal collection and gives a wonderful insight into the process from sketchbook to published work.  This is a chance to get up close and personal with some of the objects that have served to inspire Lauren’s fabulous and well known stories, such as Lola’s pink milk glass, childhood pyjamas and the truly amazing and wonderfully detailed original sets which were created for Lauren’s retelling of The Princess and the Pea on which she collaborated with Polly Borland.

I think with Clarice (Bean) I wrote and then I drew and it was almost like creating a graphic novel.  Now I tend to write and then draw.  Often people think that everything is done on computer but it really isn’t,” Lauren shared.  “You find things in the photo album which you think might work – so I know exactly where these photos are from as I put together the collages.  They become more than just drawings.”


The exhibition also offers a chance for Charlie and Lola fans to catch a sneak preview of illustrations from Lauren’s latest book, entitled One Thing, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Charlie and Lola, which will be published this autumn.

Lauren on One Thing:I wanted to show sums in a really beautiful way – there’s something about the visual beauty of numbers. It’s a story about  Charlie and Lola’s mum telling them that they can have one thing and that bargaining thing that happens with children.  As soon as you say one thing, they immediately start negotiating.    It’s a game I play most days with my daughter.  I wanted to write about the fun of counting and that home truth.’

Alongside the exhibition, Lauren has helped the team at Mottisfont to create a fantastic creative play trail around the house and grounds – perfect for all ages and a chance to go on a real adventure with Charlie and Lola and their friends.  A great day out for the summer hols!  For details of the exhibition and adventure trail, take a look here.


Meeting the lady herself, Primrose got to ask all her questions.  What inspired you to write Charlie and Lola? How do you create the stories and illustrations?  We had a fab chat about Lola’s invisible friend Soren Lorensen, Lauren’s favourite character Clarice Bean and creating alter egos that you’d like to be and our huge amount of love for That Pesky Rat.  Perhaps the best bit of all was Primrose showing Lauren her own story which she had written and illustrated – A Bad Spell for the Little Fairy.  I shall be eternally grateful to Lauren for making Primrose’s YEAR and for taking the time to talk to her and read her story.  I honestly couldn’t think of a better literary role model and source of creative inspiration for my little writer – a memory that will be treasured forever.

This exhibition is a MUST SEE for anyone who has cherished and enjoyed reading Lauren Child’s books and there’s something for all the family to enjoy as well as going on your own adventures with Charlie and Lola and Friends at Mottisfont during the summer holidays.

So on that note, dear Reader, to mark the opening of The Art of Lauren Child: Adventures with Charlie and Lola and Friends at the National Trust’s Mottisfont this summer, the lovely people at National Trust London and South East have given me 5 FAMILY DAY PASSES to give away to lucky entrants.  All you have to do is to ‘like’ @MottisfontNT on Twitter (or their Facebook page if you’re not on Twitter) and then write a comment here on this post, telling me which Lauren Child book is your favourite and whyEntries will close at 5pm on THURSDAY 23RD JULY.  The National Trust LSE lot will help pick the winning answers so don’t forget to leave me an email address or Twitter handle in the comment box too so that I can contact you if you’ve won. 


Smelling of roses


Hurtling towards the end of term, the girls and I are certainly in need of a rest.  The last few days of endless shouting up the stairs for Poppy and Primrose to get a move on and I’m more than a bit frazzled before the clock has ticked towards 8 o’clock.  That and I’ve been working like a demon, tip tapping away on the keyboard at the kitchen table.  The summer holidays are stretching out before us and we can’t wait a single second longer, dear Reader!  Wonder if I’ll still be saying that in a week’s time when the girls have reduced themselves to dealing with squabbles by bashing each other over the head with Lego knights.  Anyhoo, dear Reader, for now it’s time to switch off from work, read a few books that have been gathering dust on the bookshelf and sip a few long gin and tonics in the sunshine.

In need of a serious caffeine fix to keep the matchsticks propping up the eyelids on the last school run of the year, I stopped for a much needed coffee and a little bit of local therapy of a rosy kind.  Heady scents all around were enough to have me feeling rather more zen and on the way to looking less Russell Brand and more coiffured Margot.  What could have performed that minor miracle I hear you ask, dear Reader?  A gorgeous new range of Rose products from Long Barn  whose lavender (as well as beautiful garden and homewares mecca and café) is already a huge Hampshire hit.  Candles, heavenly body butter, soap and a handbag sized tin of sumptuous lip balm…….thank you Long Barn for such a wonderful treat.  Now please bring out a bath oil too and then I shall spend all my evenings in the bath imagining I am in THAT scene from American Beauty!

Long Barn Rose

Returning home with two bedraggled school girls to our garden which resembles more of  a World War II war scene than rosy cottage garden at the moment, I had to do everything to stop the girls from pinching all my new found Long Barn luxuries.  About the only thing that has survived the landscaping is a gorgeous dog rose which has decided to shower us with blooms –  a true thing of beauty amongst a great deal of untidiness.  Thank goodness as it has been 3 weeks of garden upheaval and we’ve needed something to look at that isn’t brown mud and serious amounts of chalk!

Always one to try something different as you know dear Reader,  I decided to give a new recipe a whirl to celebrate all that is wonderful about the rose.  I’d say that this little number is perfect to savour once blooms have started to wilt ever so slightly on the stem.  From antidepressant, digestive stimulant, cleanser to Margot’s scented saviour, the rose really does have the magical medicinal touch.

Rose Cordial

1 litre scented rose petals, rinsed and dried to remove any unwanted insect life (10-12 large blooms)

1 litre water

juice of 1 ½ lemons

700g caster sugar

Rinse the rose petals, rinse and dry them before measuring them in a measuring jug.  Pop the petals in a pan and add the water.  Bring to a simmer, pressing the petals into the water gently.  Cook for no more than 5-10 minutes before removing from the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes or so.  Using a sieve, strain the liquid from the petals.  Make sure you stand the sieve over a bowl to do this as you’ll need to gently press the petals down to strain out any of the remaining liquid.  None of the liquid is wasted here!

Place the liquid into a clean pan and pop on the stove.  Add the juice of a lemon and then all of the sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon until all the sugar has dissolved.  Allow the liquid to come up to the boil and boil for a few minutes before pouring into sterile bottles.  You can sterilise the bottles by washing them thoroughly in hot soapy water and then placing them in a low oven to dry.  Do store the cordial in the fridge once you’ve bottled it.  The more red petals you have in the mixture, the darker the colour of the cordial.

It won’t last long I promise.  It makes a great syrup to drizzle on a fruit salad, add it to ice cream, mix it with fizzy water or use it as a base for a fruit or elderflower punch…….best of all though, pour a thimbleful into a champagne glass and top up with delicious fizz, be it champagne, Prosecco or lovely Hampshire bubbles for a lovely rose flavoured cocktail.  See, dear Reader, I told you it was restorative!

Rose cordial

Food Fest

photo 5

What a food fest at Margot and Jerry HQ this week.  From watercress to strawberries, Hampshire fizz to charcuterie and a bit of jam and gin thrown into the mix, I’ve seen it all.  Skipping off to the launch night of the Hampshire Food Festival at none other than one of Hampshire best loved foodie haunts, The Pig Hotel at Brockenhurst (is it me or do I seem to make a habit of finding a pig everywhere I go lately???), I had a wonderful time chatting to lots of wonderful producers.  Hattingley Valley fizz, Upham Brewery beer, Parsonage Farm charcuterie, Devese Farm Animals’ Goat pâté to name but a few as well as a new find for me, the most sumptuous lobster oil from Catch on the Isle of Wight.

We are so lucky in Hampshire to have such a wealth of foodie delights on the doorstep – thanks so much to Hampshire Fare for inviting a very greedy Margot along for the evening!  A considerable pity that I was driving as I would have tucked into the Hattingley fizz and Twisted Nose gin wholeheartedly…….all in the name of research I assure you, dear Reader.  It is a hard job but someone has to do it!  I can’t wait for all the other Hampshire Food Festival events!  As for The Pig Hotel, I shall certainly be convincing Jerry to whisk me away for an evening of gastronomic heaven in its picture perfect grounds.

photo 6

My advice, dear Reader – seek out your local farmers’ market wherever you are.  Everything is usually handmade, delicious, something out of the ordinary and best of all, it won’t have travelled too far to get to you!

From The Pig to watercress…..and the lovely people at @Love_Watercress and Pam Lloyd PR who sent me four marvellous bunches of watercress to create some kitchen magic with the vibrant, iron-rich green stuff.  Not wanting to go down the usual watercress salad and soup route, I set about trying something different.

The favourite?  My Watercress and Pea Mayonnaise – very easy, made in seconds and a perfect partner to some prawns and toasted baguette for lunch.

photo 1

Watercress and Pea Mayonnaise (makes enough for a small jar – use within a week to ten days)

1 large bunch of watercress

half a mug of peas (fresh or frozen)

4 large tablespoons of homemade mayonnaise (if you are going to use shop bought, then go for a really good quality one that is made with free range eggs and looks a bit more custardy in colour)

a good squeeze of lemon juice

a few strands of lemon zest

salt to taste – no need for black pepper as the watercress is peppery enough

Whizz all the ingredients up in a food processor et voila, your work is done!  Spoon liberally onto the baguette before adding fresh watercress.  Top with grilled prawns and sprinkle a little smoked paprika on top for some smoky spice.  It also goes rather well with smoked salmon, grilled chicken or used to top a piece of seared trout.  Something rather delicious, made with almost hardly effort at all!

Pity I can’t squeeze a little watercress bed into the garden!  Never more have vegetables been on the agenda at Margot and Jerry HQ as our own veg patch is burgeoning under a make-do-and-mend style polytunnel.  Having really got stuck in this year with growing our own, I’m surprised by how a little amount of space can bring forth such a huge amount.  We’ve got enough lettuce to feed the county!  My battle now commences with rabbits, squirrels, slugs, snails and pigeon.  Our very own Mrs MacGgregor next door takes tending her walled kitchen garden very seriously and I have on more than one occasion come home to find errant rabbits and pigeons left on the doorstep, ready for the pot!  They’d better take more care not to be caught next time.  I, on the other hand, am not sure I am ready to take my veg patch watch to Depth Con 4 levels just yet, dear Reader!

One significant problem according to Poppy and Primrose though…..we forgot to plant strawberries.  In fact, other than a thornless blackberry plant, an autumn raspberry cane and some dead on its feet rhubarb, we didn’t manage to get any soft fruits in this year.  However, with an amazing selection at a PYO very near us, we spent a blissful afternoon on Midsummer’s Day picking strawberries and talking jam.  Sometimes appeasing a 6 year old and a 3 year old is relatively easy!  I shall be cooking up a batch of homemade Strawberry and Lavender jam from the Margot’s Kitchen archives too – forgotten how much we all liked it until my little recipe made an appearance in The Telegraph this week.  Good grief – a proud Margot kitchen moment indeed!  Happy Eating, dear Reader!