Sunday, 22 April 2012

Dorset: Smallholding food, produce and old time fishing port

Last weekend, I visited Dorset for the first time which is a county in South West England.  Known for it's smallholding farming and agriculture and local produces, and the locale and inspiration for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's back to basics River Cottage , with it's many TV programmes, lifestyle and cook book spin-offs.

It is a perfect county to explore, if you love and respect food; for its free range, rare breed and organic, small farming practices.  It will make you rethink your taste buds which have been trained on supermarket and mass production ingredients. And I am already planning my next visit!

I began in Musbury, staying on a smallholding run by a couple who had left London, much like Hugh, to grow and rear their own food, produce with integrity, and consume local and seasonal produce.
We were recommended to dine at The Wheelwright Inn , Colyford.
Starting with the locally brewed beer and cider.
Their wine glass chandelier.
Deep fried whitebait fished on the Dorset coast with tartar sauce
 Slow cooked pork with crackling stick, mash and roasted Dorset orchard apple.
Calf's liver with mash
 The next morning we headed to the coastal town of Lyme Regis, where the small fishing port is known as the Cobb.  Lyme Regis is the setting for John Fowles' period novel The French Lieutenant's Woman  The skies were brewing with dark and stormy clouds that morning.

This wonderful fishmongers on the Cobb way, had the morning's catch and we ate freshly cooked crab meat that had already been picked and laid on small scallop shells.  It smelt only of the sea and had jazz playing in the background, and in keeping with an old fishing village feel with black and white family portraits on the walls.
 The day's prices for catch on chalk boards.
The skies darkened and coastal rain began to fall in sheets, and so we retreated to the Good Food Store for Dorset Steak Pastie, Riverford herb salad, homemade chutney and Burt's crisps.  With a warm cup of tea, which felt like the best cuppa ever, in that moment.
We wondered around lovely Lyme Regis, but the weather was too stormy to hike the Jurrasic coast, and having promised ourselves to stop in for afternoon Scones and Dorset clotted cream (and this time, homemade rhubarab jam) we were once again eating.
We took the Dorset - Devon coastal bus and arrived at a small seaside fishing village called Beer.
 I have always had a thing for small traditional ports and fishing boats, so I loved this little village.
Down in Devon, down in Devon,
There's a village by the sea,

It's a little piece of heaven

And the angels call it Beer!
These are images of the fishermen's quarters.
 And debris left by the fishermen in their boats.
 And fishing nets and lobster cages on the cobble beach.
I rarely eat seafood in London and so the highlight was dinner at Hix's Oyster and Fish House Lyme Regis.  Mark Hix is a celebrated chef, restauranteur and food writer. 
 Herb Baked Manx Queenies with hedgerow garlic and Bath pig chorizo.
This starter was the best dish of the night; delectable and more-ish! Cuttlefish croquettes with caper mayonnaise.  The croquettes bled dark with the cuttlefish's ink in which it was cooked. We also had a starter of Dartmouth scallops with Peter Gott's Black pudding and sea beet.
 Grilled whole Devon Lobster with sea greens.
Bideford Bay Silver Mullet with Isle of Barra cockles and sea aster.
We finished with truffles and no dessert.
 The next morning we waited in Axminster for our train to London, and had breakfast at the River Cottage canteen.

We are most definitely returning!

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