Last weekend it was off to the edge of Dartmoor with some girlfriends, to a little white house with primrose yellow windows and a red tin roof, tucked between green water meadows at the end of a steep-sided river valley…no, this is not a children’s story. My maternal grandparents bought this as a holiday cottage in the 1970’s, and the minimum has been done since to improve it - much to the benefit of its character (the second loo is outside and looks exclusively onto the river).
And joy of joys, what treasures awaited us in the garden! There were apple trees laden with rosy fruits which had not yet surrendered to the insects, jewel-fleshed figs growing on the front of the house, even raspberry bushes at the foot of the mossy garden wall, not to mention the blackberries peeping from every hedgerow – perfect porridge toppers. A rise at dawn on Saturday was trout-less (we hooked a lot of trees), but Caz and I kept away the chill with mugs of tea, marvelling at the dew-drenched surroundings glittering in glorious golden sunlight - gone by lunchtime. Was it worth it? You bet, especially if you ask the trout, they are probably still laughing. We’ll be back…
There were some unforgettable Devon capers too. Ok, so maybe they aren’t exactly from Devon, but I bought them in Newton Abbot if that counts… These being a rather decadent item to buy in for a two-day stay (though an essential BSG store-cupboard staple,) I had to make sure these piquant buds were put to good use. Flavour-wise, they pack a punch way above their tiny weight. Any excuse for a salsa verde and I jump, so we had this with barbequed chicken thighs. I chopped the aforementioned capers, handfuls of flat leafed parsley and mint, added lemon juice, an addict’s dollop of Dijon mustard plus some coarse sea salt to make up for the fact that I’d forgotten to buy anchovies. Drenched in a convincing slug of green olive oil, we were ready to go. This goes with pretty much anything, especially as so many combinations of leafy herbs will do. I am so mad about this tangy hit, just give me a spoon and I’m off.
Whilst we’re on the subject – and only half a jar down - our small green friends are also the magic ingredient in a homemade burger. Into minced beef went a generous handful, chopped, with a finely diced red onion, mustard, one beaten egg, cumin, Worcestershire sauce, and a couple of cracks of salt and pepper, shortly followed by two hands, the best mixing tools for burgers. Pure and unadulterated, homemade burgers are a hug of a food in themselves, but a torn-off piece of mozzarella packed into the middle of the patty melts as the burger cooks for an oozy extra. The next question is: ketchup, mustard, mayo, salsa verde..?
With them we crunched on corn on the cob, sweet and starchy, boiled first and then lightly charred over the coals, getting it all over our chins and stuck between our teeth, thank goodness for kitchen roll! Then for the last act, a masterpiece of a crumble, using fruit from the garden and hedgerow (plus a few bugs for interest) and topped with porridge oats and raisins carefully picked from the Dorset cereals packet. Such sustainable enterprise, truly worthy of the likes of Mr. Fearnley Whittingstall, the fruit was even washed in the river! Hot pink, hot hot pud, Becca!