Oh let's stock up on toilet rolls, ibuprofen, hand sanitiser and pasta shall we? Mrs Madumbi, my favourite sister-in-law (yes I can have a favourite) would no doubt have amadumbe's and mulberry gin in her Zimbabwean pantry. I'm having Lindt Lindor chocolates and Cavalier rum in mine. The UK is not going to run out of food so COVID-19 panic buyers, stop punching each other in the toilet roll isle and consider giving a couple of your stockpiled cans to your local food bank. Right now, in what was once the breadbasket of Africa, is a country with an annual inflation rate of over 300%, where the staples of mealie meal and cooking oil are becoming unaffordable by most. No chance of panic buying or stockpiling in Zimbabwe, in fact alarmingly the country is facing a hunger crisis. A subject which I know has made my Zim based family discuss their apocalypse pantry seriously. If we faced an overwhelming cataclysm here in the UK then my survival pantry would have to include all of the following. Brown and white rice (brown to sustain although white rice stores for much longer), noodles (quick to cook and use less water), pulses and dried beans (to cook or sprout, high in protein), cornmeal and Masa harina (flour made with finely ground maize, already dried and cooked it reconstitutes quickly), canned meat such as Spam (calorific, fatty and high in protein, requires no cooking), canned veg (sweetcorn is high in calories and tinned tomatoes high in Vitamin C), stock cubes and dried herbs (for flavour and seasoning), honey (eternal shelf life and great healing properties too), dried fruits (protein, fibre, Vitamin C and one of your five a day), nuts and seeds (nut butters store well and can be eaten out of the jar), cocoa powder (improves brain function), ghee (basically butter, but sold in tins; has a long shelf life), milk powder to add to tea and coffee (required to keep sanity), and a whole Parmesan cheese to nibble on.
All packed up and ready to leave for the airport and the flight cancellation crash lands into the inbox. So instead of staring miserably at the packed suitcases Mr SuffolkFoodie and I decided that a full English breakfast (£7.25 each) was the answer. Luckily the very well run cafe at Hillcrest Nursery is open on a Sunday and serves breakfast from 9am. Half English is also available.
My worst nightmare on Valentine's Day is a meal out in a restaurant, crammed full of tables for two, with couples who have nothing to say to each other. So instead, if I'm in the mood, I'll cook something for Mr SuffolkFoodie from my repetoire of heart shaped meals.
- couer a la creme, a delicous cream cheese dessert (recipe on the blog)
- jammy heart biscuits (recipe on the blog)
- apple cobbler, with heart shaped cobbles, before it goes in the oven
- delicious hot baked apple cobbler, how to melt your Valentine's heart
- Butterflied rib eye steak for the carnivore
- tarted up couer a la creme, yes it can look like this
I'm pretending to be packing as I'm moving house, but lost interest after box number 8 of tat that I've hauled from charity shops and I'm now returning. So instead I'm telling you about Suffolk's latest cookery school, Mrs Portly's Kitchen. Mrs Portly is the alter ego of food writer and recipe developer Linda Duffin. Linda is an expert cook and has teamed up with some of Suffolk's finest producers who will be joining Linda in teaching the cookery classes. A fabulous Tudor house setting awaits you and the chance to explore the kitchen gardens and orchard to glean produce for the classes. If it's too far to travel in one day then you can stay the night! Be quick and sign up for the next class on January 17th - Game, where Linda is joined by field to fork expert Steve Tricker from Truly Traceable. Learn about game prep and butchery, cook dishes to take home and ... drum roll ... there's the legendary Truly Traceable game pies for lunch.
From my foodie friends and family this year I received - A Cheesemonger's History of the British Isles by Ned Palmer. A selection of English cheese.. A bottle of Mancino Vermouth and a Nut Mug in a pear tree. All wonderful. Thank you!
- 'an informative romp through centuries of British cheesemaking'
- Wensum White - a Brie style Norfolk produced Goats cheese
- Who'se the nut then? Brought back from Abu Dhabi by my Alice
- A bittersweet and floral vermouth containing 37 botanicals. Delicious licquorice and angelica notes work perfectly with a slice of orange.
We went for a pizza which was delicious, but the Espresso Martini's at The LP in Bury St Edmunds are magnificient.
What a fun evening! Sculling and sailing through the creeks and marshes at Wells next the Sea, on a traditonal flat bottomed mussel boat, with our skipper Dom entertaining us with stories of the sea and a half time picnic of local cheeses, quiche, salads, bread and freshly brewed coffee. (We took our own wine). Henry from The Coastal Exploration Company has thought of everything when organising the trips and even for you landlubbers out there the three or four hour sail, on the tide, is just the most magical way to spend a summers evening.
All was revealed last week when I was invited to a 'Secret Garden' barbecue at Bildeston Crown and discovered the beautiful walled garden, tucked away at the back of the inn. You can book it exclusively for yourself and up to sixteen people for an al fresco meal. It has access through a gate from the car park or via the new very cosy lounge and Champagne bar (more about that another time). It's cook your own on the inset grills which run down the centre of the table, allowing you to barbecue delicious meats and vegetables yourself without having to move. Chef and owner Chris Lee is on hand to make sure no one goes hungry or burns anything they shouldn't. Ice buckets fill the gaps where there's no grill ensuring that the wine is as perfectly chilled as the guests. With delightful service from Hayley and the young, professional team at Bildeston Crown we enjoyed glasses of refreshing chilled rose and were delivered superb side salads, hot side dishes, dips and sauces to accompany the Red Poll steaks, homemade beef burgers, chicken kebabs and marinated pork. We cooked our meat on the grills, slowly grazing away well into the afternoon. If you fancy your own al fresco feast speak to Chris or Hayley who will tailor a menu for you. Prices start at £30 a head and I'll put my money on the cute little courtyard working well in the winter months too. Braziers, patio heaters, hot grills, vin chaud, raclette, Pierre-chaude and fondue ...just an idea.
- the inset grills, fired up and ready
- it was easy to reach the grills from our comfy chairs
- we cooked our own beef burgers
- just some of the hot side dishes
- drum roll .. as the food starts to arrive ... what will we be cooking?
- delicious side dishes kept on coming, including the Bildeston classic lobster Caesar salad
- thick cut Red Poll steaks were beautifully tender
- vegetable kebabs were delicious too
- chilled rose wine, ready and waiting
It was so tempting to have a lick of the plate and the juices left in the bottom of the bowl, once I had polished off the Isle of Wight tomato salad at The Northgate last week. The delicious hibiscus and sherry vinaigrette dressed tomatoes, topped with light, whipped cobnut cream and nasturtium pesto reminded me of a Spanish Gazpacho. And sitting outside on the lavender edged terrace, on what must be Bury's only central, outdoor, dining space added to the relaxed and laid back dining experience at this striking Victorian townhouse. I was invited to try the new menu and to tour the newly refurbed restaurant, cocktail bar and lounge ... all are quite stunning. There's a private dining room seating 14 (complete with giant framed cockatoos looking on). A brilliant and boldly decorated cocktail bar and a Chef's table where you can dine and watch the brigade at work. Head Chef Greig Young uses the best produce he can find, with the Taste of East Anglia menu (£45 a head) offering a selection of seasonal small plates, inspired by the local area and it's producers. And no I didn't only eat a salad, I ate bread made with Pakenham Mill flour, then a crisp and light Norfolk Dapple gougere, next came hand cut beef tartare with pickled mustard, broad beans and red endive, followed by a spiced East Anglian bhaji using local potatoes, and the finale of the savoury plates; fillet of plaice in a seaweed crust with a crisp lobster 'scampi' on a light hollandaise, lifted by slices of pickled cucumber. Greig chose to serve a whipped dark Tosier chocolate, creme de cacao ice cream on a saucy kombucha, caramel espresso as a pre-dessert and then for the main dessert - like I really needed two, roast white chocolate with hibiscus (think Caramac, but better) with roasted red fruit, raspberries and milk ice cream. As well as the superb food at The Northgate staff are also delightful, providing a professional, discreet yet friendly service under the expert guidance of Manager Michael Box.
- the homemade bread
- Norfolk Dapple gougeres
- Isle of Wight tomatoes, juicy with the hibiscus vinaigrette and you'd never believe that with the cobnut cream this is a vegan dish
- Hand cut beef tartare, pickled mustard, broad beans
- Bhajis made with local spud, crips and moreish, vegan too
- A huge lobster 'scampi' aloft the plaice fillet with pickled cucumber hollandaise
- Whipped Tosier chocolate with the slightly sour Kombucha espresso caramel and creme de cacao ice cream
- Caramac! Big shards on milk ice cream and roasted red fruits
- Affordable and interesting lunch menu, perfect for al fresco dining
- The cocktails are excellent too
- Smile! Head Chef Greig Young and Manager Michael Box