Friday, 16 September 2011

Feast of Dorset - this weekend!

This weekend, I will be cooking at one of the best food festivals in the country, Feast of Dorset.

A secret garden in the heart of my home town, Wimborne in Dorset, is a home to a celebration of the very best of regional food and drink for the weekend.
Top chefs and food writers including Mat Follas, Rose Prince, Anna del Conte, Lesley Waters and of course, moi, will be showing you how to make some great recipes we love. There will also be debates and many excellent food stalls on show.
Writing for the Telegraph recently, Rose Prince described Feast of Dorset as:  “Everything that is truly great about West Country food can be found at Feast of Dorset, one of my favourite festivals”
For more information on what’s on, take a look at this link:
I will be cooking some delicious gluten and wheat free desserts, using the best local, seasonal fruits. Please do come along and say hi. I’m on at 12pm on Sunday 18th September. I’ll fill you all in on how it goes next week. See you there!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Meeting David Lebovitz...

So, one slightly rainy evening last week, I finished off work for the day and headed up to Mayfair for an early hair cut and blow dry. This was just a quick pit stop - with several public appearances on the cards over the coming weeks, I was keen to try and make myself look a little bit more presentable in anticipation. What normally takes about an hour and a quarter ended up taking twice as long. It was torture. I was so excited to get to David Lebovitz's cookery demonstration, I did seriously contemplate making my excuses and dashing away with wet hair. But I'm not sure that would have made the right impression. I wanted to meet him and tell him how inspiring I think he is.

I'm a huge fan of David Lebovitz's cooking and writing. I too used to live in Paris, so there's an extra connection. I adore his recipes, his approach, and the fact that his recipes can be so easily adapted. I was so excited he was here, in London.

Finally, around 8:20, I finally got away. My hair looked great, but I was worried. The demonstration was on from 7 till 9pm. So, off I ran in my heels to Marylebone High Street. I arrived at Divertimenti out of breath and ran into the shop, "where is he?! is he still here?!" No, he wasn't. He had left 5 minutes earlier. I was so disappointed. I was consoled by the delightful Adrienne Katz, who sent me home with some of the sweet treats which David had made. Take a look:

There was a ginger cake made with fresh ginger. Light, buttery and intensely gingery. Then coconut macaroons dipped in dark chocolate, and finally salted caramel peanuts. I took a wrong turn whilst heading home. I ended up walking up to Regent's Park which is in totally the wrong direction for me. It was late and I was starving. I thought I'd save the cakes to share with my sister.  Needless to say, I gave in. Just a couple of nuts to tide me over on my journey home. Famous last words! They were unbelievable. It's lucky there were enough left to photograph. The sweet and salty combination of flavours is seriously addictive.

So, David, I was so disappointed to have missed you. Hopefully there will be another opportunity soon. But those cakes have certainly left a lasting impression.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Random Bakes of Kindness

I'm an avid follower of Vanessa Kimbell's blog. Last month, Vanessa started a campaign, called Random Bakes of Kindness:

I thought it was a lovely idea and decided I'd love to participate

As you may well imagine, running Go Free means that I am surrounded by cakes nearly every day of my life! So, I decided to do something a bit different. Being the country girl I am, I have a very soft spot for foraging. I take so much pleasure from finding and cooking beautiful fruits, flowers and leaves growing wild. Yes, I did spend half my summer holiday on what came to be known as an elderflower "drive by". I discovered our holiday cottage had some beautiful rose bushes growing in the garden, and with the elderflower in season, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to make some elderflower and rose syrup. I think we must have visited every chemists shop in Cumbria trying to track down the citric acid. We drove miles scouring the hedgerows to try and get enough elderflower. I ended up making 8 litres of the stuff and driving it back to London in used mineral water bottles to decant when I returned.

High Ground Cottage: our beautiful Lakeland retreat above, and High Ground Cottage's garden below

Over the August bank holiday, we spent the weekend in Oxfordshire. As we cycled around the beautiful countryside, as we often do, we managed to stumble across an impressive haul of fruit. Rhubarb, victoria plums and wait for it....damsons! I had poor Tony climbing through the nettles to reach the plums, and we both managed to collect an impressive haul of damsons - five kilos! Unfortunately, we had a seven mile cycle back to the house, up hill, with the backpack full to bursting with fruit. It was a challenge, but I was so pleased with my haul, I powered through. We ended up spending most of bank holiday monday making jam, using the pressure cooker pan amongst others to accommodate the vast quantities of soft fruit. All in all, we made over 60 jars of jam. 

So what, have I done with all this jam? I've actually given it all away. To friends, family and colleagues, as a little treat. Everyone has been so thrilled to have received their little gift - my way of saying how great I think they are. So, as I type, I am back in London. With one lonely jar of jam left. I'll have to make it last!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

My diary for September

Just a quick post to let you know where you can see me over the coming weeks.

Feast of Dorset

I will be cooking on Sunday 18th September alongside Mat Follas and one of my food heroines, Rose Prince. Please do come along if you are in Dorset that weekend. It's a wonderful festival in my hometown of Wimborne, in Dorset.

Food Innovation and Development Network Free From Conference

I will be speaking on Thursday 22nd September in the afternoon at this exciting conference, to be held at Daventry. I am thrilled to be speaking alongside Michelle Berriedale-Johnson of the FreeFrom Food Awards and and Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, Founder of Genius Gluten Free amongst others.

Tetbury Food Festival

I am delighted to be cooking alongside the wonderful Xanthe Clay of the Telegraph and Tom Herbert of the fabulous Hobbs House Bakery on Sunday 24th September at the Tetbury Food Festival. As you may know, I spend much of my free time up in the Cotswolds, which may become our adopted home, so I very much look forward to cooking some delicious dishes using he best of local produce.

I'll fill you in with October and November dates nearer the time. I'll be cooking in Dorset and speaking in Bimingham according to the diary as it stands!

Ice Cream Heaven at Winstone's

I recently had the great pleasure of visiting Winstone’s Ice Cream whilst up in the Cotswolds for the weekend. Perched on the top of the idyllic Rodborough Common in Gloucestershire, Winstone’s Ice Cream has occupies a glorious spot. Long horn cattle roam this land, owned by the National Trust, whose organic milk is used to produce Winstone’s wonderful ice cream.
Meet Ben Vear, fourth  generation ice cream maker, food writer and something of a prominent figure in the Cotswold food world.

Ben and his brother now play a pivotal role in running the business, alongside his parents and grandparents, who have passed the business down through the family, generation by generation. What I love about this company is its heritage. Winstone’s celebrates its 86th birthday this summer. The site, on which all 1.5 million litres of ice cream they now make every year, still stands in the same spot where the company started all these years ago. First of all by serving ice creams to the golfers on the Common in need of refreshment on the eighth hole, and which has grown and grown to how things stand today. A highly successful and popular company, well-respected in the Cotswolds and beyond.

As I visit, the car park rapidly fills up and scores of cars park along the lanes. People visiting from miles around to enjoy and ice cream whilst admiring the views across to Stroud and beyond.
Why am I writing so much about the location when this post should be focussing on food? Because Winstone’s ice cream and its spectacular site in Gloucestershire are intrinsically linked. The fruit for the ice cream is picked locally, some on the Common itself, and the rest from a 10 mile radius, as does the milk and cream used. This is one of the many things I really love about this company. Localism is a key part of Ben’s philosophy.

Tony and I paid a trip to meet Ben on a  Saturday. Our first port of call, naturally, was to try the ice cream. The gluten free options were immediately pointed out to us, leaving a wide choice of flavours to enjoy. I look forward to our next visit, as they regularly introduce new and original flavours to their range, whilst retaining their classics. Winstone’s also produce an excellent range of sorbets for people avoiding dairy and vegans, including a wonderful champagne and elderflower sorbet. I particularly enjoyed the strawberry and lemon meringue flavours. The long horn cattle’s milk is much creamier than standard milk, making a rich and exceptionally creamy ice cream.
Once we finished our ice creams, Ben showed us around the site where we saw where the ice cream is still made by hand. Ben’s grandparents’ house is on site. What is more, Ben has an exciting book in the pipeline. The recipes in the book are a modern take on those created and distributed by Ben's great-grandfather Albert, many of which date back to the late 1800's. I for one am extremely excited about this, and will be writing about it as soon as I can get my hands on a copy. 
Do follow me on Twitter @gofreecakes as I visit more exceptional foodies #foodiesilove over the coming weeks.
Find out more about Winstone’s here: and more on Ben here:
N.B. All photos are courtesy of TammyLynn Photography, Gloucestershire.