Picking organic veg at The Community Farm in the morning, then cooking it up into veggie delights with chef Tim Maddams of River Cottage fame in the afternoon? Yes please! What an inspiring day I spent at the lovely new(ish) Vale House Kitchen “Country Skills & Cookery School” on the outskirts of Bath.
Owners Bod & Annie offer the warmest of welcomes to their stunning home, where they have transformed an outbuilding into a state-of-the-art kitchen which hosts all sorts of ‘country skills’ courses including breadmaking, foraging, chutneys, jams, jellies and preserves, and even a ‘make your own wedding cake’ weekend.
Their ‘Field to Fork Vegetarian Cookery Day’ started quite literally in a field, at The Community Farm where under the expert guidance of Darren, (by far the trendiest farmer I’ve ever met), we picked fresh asparagus, cucumbers, chard, new potatoes, strawberries, spring onions and lettuce.
Back in the kitchen, Tim had prepared some of these little beauties – slow-cooked courgette with LOTS of garlic, on sourdough toast, topped with a local cheese I’ve forgotten the name of. Served with some elderflower, mint and flowering thyme iced tea..
On with the cooking – first, we wood-roasted some asparagus (it took about 3 minutes, amazing!), and made a fiery ‘dakka’ to serve with it. Having never heard of dakka this was quite a revelation, I’ll be making more – such a simple but different way to serve asparagus, (or breads, or anything you can ‘dip’ for that matter!).
Next, a fresh and fiery new potato and chard curry. Sounds pretty average, but with almost all the ingredients being picked/dug less than 2 hours previously I promise this was really delicious, and a surprisingly good dish to serve on a very hot day.
Then came the real highlight of the day – these little bhajis are just the most incredible thing I’ve eaten all year. No, really. So simple – they were made of a total jumble of fresh veg, (I think these were pepper, chard, mushroom, lettuce(!) and spring onion), a kick of spices and plenty of lemon juice in a beer and gram flour batter. Really, really good.
Next we made flatbreads. From scratch, with spelt flour, in about 4 minutes flat, (pardon the pun). I’m never buying those plastic-sealed six-month-shelf-life floppy things ever again!
After pausing for lunch, (with a glass of wine, sitting out by the pool in the blazing sunshine – we could have stayed here all afternoon), we headed back to the kitchen to make some dessert.
These tiny elderflower fritters were again a very simple treatment of a super-fresh and seasonal ingredient. Served up with macerated strawberries which we had picked hours earlier, a delicious end to an inspiring day.
The Field to Fork: Seasonal Vegetarian Cookery course will be running again later in the year – keep an eye on the website for dates. I can’t recommend it highly enough.