Tag Archives: cooking with game

A weekend in Ripon

A Christmas present from the mother in law found us in Ripon for the weekend. Often overshadowed by the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales and the better appointed cities of Harrogate and York, Ripon is not always viewed as a premier Yorkshire destination (well not by me anyway). However, as I was soon to discover, it has lots to offer. Based around a traditional Yorkshire market square, Ripon has a very compact city centre with an imposing but grand cathedral, antique and charity shops and a good number of cosy pubs. It felt a bit of a ghost town when we were there and we heard mention from locals about their fears of the failing high street. This is a real shame as Ripon is less than hour’s drive from Leeds and has all the countryside of the dales on its doorstep, so it really is worth the (short) trip out.

Where we stayed

The aforementioned Christmas present that brought us to Ripon in the first place was a voucher to stay in the impressive Old Deanery. Directly opposite the cathedral this is an ancient building dating back to the 1700s and built on the site of a former monastery. The place is full of character and charm, with wonky floors and ornate staircases. It was restored in the noughties and is now run by a group of very friendly and convivial owners. It has ten bedrooms. We opted to go in the attic as I love being in the eaves. This did not disappoint – lots of beams and good views of the cathedral. The room was lovely and big with a huge bathroom to match. A roof terrace was available just outside our bathroom window, but we didn’t use it as it wasn’t the nicest of days! Breakfast the next day was very impressive. My traditional Yorkshire breakfast was full of good quality bacon, sausages and black pudding, and I loved the granola, yoghurt and berries that preceded it.

The Old Deanery, Ripon

The Old Deanery, Ripon

Where we ate

Marco

The Old Deanery had a decent sounding menu, but we wanted to explore slightly further afield. Having researched on tripadvisor I had stumbled across Samphire Bistro – an independently run restaurant that’s been open about 18 months and serves local British grub. There was a fantastic atmosphere as soon as we arrived, we were made to feel very welcome and looked after by the friendly front of house. The restaurant was small but decorated with cosy lights and pictures of favourite chefs, like Marco Pierre White and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall – perhaps showcasing the foodie passion. The menu declared that ‘everything is sourced within a 25 mile radius’ but with Scottish venison on offer and a ton of fish I think this might be a teeny tiny fib!

Crispy Mussels

Crispy Mussels

I started with crispy mussels as I was intrigued by how on earth they would be crispy. What this in fact meant was mussels breaded and deep fried and then served back in the shell. For me this slightly took away some of the flavour of the mussel, however it was a fun and more substantial way of eating them. They came with a crispy salad complete with the samphire namesake, which was a nice touch. My main was the venison steak. This was served simply – medium rare, onion rings, chips, mushroom, tomato. I was a bit worried about the lack of sauce but I needn’t have. The meat is the best I have eaten in a long time. Perfectly seasoned, rich with iron and meltingly juicy. For drinks I had a Yorkshire Blackout – a porter full of vanilla and chocolate notes. This was strangely refreshing and comforting at the same time. We didn’t have room for desserts, although they looked good, the signature dish appeared to be a berry brulee with chocolate shards. Once we’d finished eating we were told to sit back and relax and enjoy our table for the rest of the night.

Venison

What we did

Our first day in Ripon was very stormy so we had a quick mooch around the shops followed by reading the papers in the pubs. Shops of note include Drinks Well, a specialist booze shop with an excellent range of Yorkshire ales and spirits. I picked up a little bottle of the Mason’s Yorkshire gin. Made with Harrogate spa water, I found it very aromatic.

Gin

Pubwise, the newly renovated Royal Oak is a very decent pub with a good few ales on and a strong bar menu. I had a pulled pork sandwich with homemade vegetable and barley soup which was just what I needed on a stormy day. I’d also recommend the Water Rat, which is down by the river and canal basin. This pub was quite hard to find at first (don’t confuse it with the less quaint ‘Navigation’ as we did!). It’s full of quirky charm, has a riverside view and lots of nooks and crannies to hide yourself in whilst nursing a pint of the many ales on offer.

Next morning, to walk off all that beer and food, we went on a bracing walk. Starting at the cathedral we went through the graveyard, up the river and over fields to Studley Royal and Fountains Abbey before heading back to Ripon again. It was about six miles, not too hilly, not too muddy (given the wet weather we’ve been having) and gave us fabulous views of the cathedral.

So, I hope this has given you a taste of what a little place like Ripon has on offer. Sometimes it’s good to take a further look at the underdog!

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Scran and Scallie

I have a bit of an obsession with Edinburgh. It’s my top city break destination in the UK, above even London. The mixt of elegant and majestic architecture paired with breath taking natural scenery, chilled out scots and a vibrant food and drink scene make it my undoubted second home. I like to pop up on the East Coast mainline a few times a year. Since the discovery of Gardeners Cottage last year I’ve been looking for a new venue to take the mantle of best new eatery in the Burgh. This comes in the shape of the Scran and Scallie, a pub with restaurant, which is the newest addition to the Stockbridge foodie scene.

Table setting

Table setting

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King of the Castle

We ended our foodie expedition of Scotland with a splurge meal at Edinburgh’s Castle Terrace, a modern British restaurant influenced by classic French techniques and driven by a passion for seasonal Scottish ingredients. I’d previously had a fantastic meal at Leith’s The Kitchin, which is the sister restaurant of Castle Terrace, plus I had heard good things from fellow food blogger My Monkfish. Chef patron Dominic Jack is a close friend of Tom Kitchin’s having met him whilst cheffing in Edinburgh when they were both teenagers. Kichin’s influence throughout the restaurant is obvious from the dark and luxurious decor, professional and attentive staff to the ethos of ‘nature to plate’ food.

My Monkfish had put in a good word for us ahead of our visit and so on arrival we were mysteriously ushered down to the kitchen to meet chef Dominic. Set up in a corner of the warm but quiet kitchen was a ‘chef’s table’ where we were seated and given complimentary champagne, canapes and menus to peruse, whilst watching the chefs go about their business. It was fascinating to see the inner workings of such a prestigious restaurant. It was controlled, thoughtful and precise. Everybody was working studiously and effectively under the watchful eye of Dominic. The atmosphere was so peaceful and serene that you could have heard a pin drop. It was almost a bit embarrassing being sat there as we felt like complete intruders! We joked with the waiting staff about how it wouldn’t normally be so ordered, but I genuinely was impressed by how unchaotic and tranquil it all was.

Canapes at the Chef’s table!

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Gardeners Delight!

To round off my gastro-tour of Scotland I had an obligatory trip to Edinburgh, which readers of the blog will know is one of my favourite cities to visit. Having made friends with fellow food blogger My Monkfish at last year’s My Home Supperclub I was keen for her to recommend to me some eateries for us to check out when we hit the Burgh.

Her first tip off was the brand spanking new Gardeners Cottage, which opened earlier this summer. Housed in (you guessed it) an ex-gardeners cottage within the Royal Terrace gardens on London road, it was a hop skip and a jump from where we staying in the Georgian New Town. Plus it had had a fairly decent review from the Guardian’s Jay Rayner the week before so we were happy to pop down for a feed. It’s run by Scottish chef friends Edward and Dale who have chefed in a number of famous Edinburgh eateries that include the Atrium, the Kitchin; as well working for Mark Hix in London.

The Gardener’s Cottage

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Veg heaven at Riverford Homefarm Restaurant

During my recent weekend in Devon, when I wasn’t butchering various animals as part of my game cookery course (which you can read about here) I also went to stuff my face at the fantastic Riverford Homefarm Restaurant near Taunton. Riverford are the Devon based organic veg box people, who over the years have grown into a massive network of regional farmers and growers that get good quality organic produce all over the UK. I had no idea that they had any restaurants, until I’d started to hear good things filtering through from various foodie friends. Continue reading

Game on – day two

Missed part one? Well read it here then!

So after a whole day of stuffing rich food into ourselves and a night of jolly drinking we awoke early on the Sunday, bleary-eyed, to prepare ourselves for yet more butchery! Luckily I’d seen sense to stick to local yummy ciders the night before, but my gaming partner had been at the red wine and agreed she was not 100%. A crisp walk up to the cookery school soon sorted us both out.

Our Sunday session seemed far more calm and collected, maybe we had just settled in with the resonance of the kitchen, I don’t know? We started doing our mise-en-place (prep) for our dinner later in the day, so it was quite similar to a supperclub day in fact. This included heating up cream, laced with lavender, ready for a wobbly pannacotta and chopping up tiny bits of veg for our anticipated consomme.

The rabbits we prepared the day before were handed back out again. They had been marinating overnight in a concoction of five spice, garlic and thyme. They smelled amazing and their fate was a giant pan full of melted duck fat. These were to be cooked, confit style, in a low oven for 5 hours and would be turned into rillets for us to take home. Continue reading

Game for a laugh – day one

I do love a bit of rich, meaty game, and when we served venison at our Delia’s Christmas supperclub last year it was probably one of the tastiest things I’d eaten in an age. Plus when we did a beef version, it just wasn’t quite the same.
Anyway, game is an ingredient that I guess I don’t use often enough. Living in the city it’s not always the thing that’s widely available in the market, so it’s not an ingredient I feel amazingly confident about. I’d done a brilliant course at Ashburton Cookery School last year that taught me some great knife skills that I still use now, and I wanted to take it to the next level.
Being in Devon the cookery school is hardly local to Leeds. But I have friends in Devon and they’d bought me some vouchers for the school for my 30th birthday so it seemed a good idea to pop down and learn about game!

Red legged partridges ready for plucking!

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