Sunday, 24 June 2012

Colyton Church And My Grandmother’s Magic Lemon Pudding...

As promised, I’m returning to the lovely place of Colyton in Devon, in the South West Of England where I spent some of my childhood years.

For this post I would like to invite you to step inside this lovely old church of Saint Andrews, which is in the centre of Colyton. Not only in the centre of the village but also featured centrally in my childhood. My grandparent’s cottage sat adjacent to the church path and my grandfather was Head Church Warden for a number of years.

I thought readers might like to see a little more inside this historic old church...

The original church was probably Saxon in origin dating from around 700 AD of which a large old stone Saxon Cross still remains.  A more substantial church was built in Norman times from about 1166 and much of this is seen today together with some of the updates in the subsequent centuries.

An informative plaque inside the church lists the vicars dating back to 1237 that have served at Colyton Church throughout the centuries.

For me it was the vicar, Arthur Warne whom I remember most. A lovely chap, very jolly and happy and who made children especially welcome at the various village fetes...

My brother was baptised at the old stone baptismal font dating from 1880 by Arthur himself. A memorable occasion as my brother announced to the congregation in a very loud voice that Arthur ‘was a naughty man’ as ‘he put 'warty' on my face!’ 

Something that my poor brother had to live down for many, many, years after...

My Great Grandmother used to complain that the font was too modern whilst I always thought of it as ancient. Of course, it is only with the hindsight of years, that I realise now that she was older than the font...

Inside the church is the fabulous Great West Window which is one of the largest of any parish churches. Originally the glass would have been plain when first placed in the 14th Century. The plain glass was replaced in the 19Century by the stained glass.

The huge brass chandeliers were bought in 1796 each baring 36 candles and cost £82-a fortune in their day...

The church is very large for a rural parish church in part due to generous donations from local wealthy wool merchants in the Middle Age and later from the important families that lived nearby.

There are two chapels-one is The Lady Chapel which was once the private chapel of the Yonge family who came to Colyton in the reign of Elizabeth I.

The other is The Pole Chapel which has always been my favourite. I think it was the wonderful monuments which fascinated me as a child and still do.

The Pole family were an important local family whose family members featured widely both at the royal court and in politics. Many members were also influential in funding exploration to The New World-some even moving out there to live.

One of my favourite monuments is the colourful canopied tomb of Sir John and his wife.

Sir John Pole (1588-1658)

This life sized figure dressed in full armour, lies back to back with his wife. As a young child, I could never resist reaching out and touching it though I was always worried he would ‘wake up’ and move!

There are also two other older monuments to female members of the Pole or De la Pole family as they are also known as.

One is of Katherine Pole.

Katherine (ne Popham) died 1588 and was the daughter of The Lord Chief Justice of England, Sir John Popham., himself famous for presiding over the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots whom he subsequently sentenced to death.

Katherine married Sir William Pole (1515-1587). Her son was also called Sir William Pole 1561-1635 and he first married Mary Perham who then became Mary Pole. After her death, he married a widow, Jane How.

The second monument is of Mary Pole who died in 1605, daughter-in-law to the above Katherine.

Shown here with her children.

Amongst her children, was Elizabeth, who founded Taunton, Massachusetts in 1637.She was the first woman to have founded a town in the Americas. Another of Katherine’s children was William another influential early settler who moved to Dorchester, USA and died in 1674.

Katherine’ eldest son was Sir John- he of my favourite monument shown first.

He lies back to back with his, Elizabeth who was also his step sister as she was the daughter of his father’s second wife, Jane How.

There are many more interesting links between them and other local families and early settlements in the USA and the Caribbean. 

One such is Sir Thomas Gates, Governor of Virginia, who was born in nearby Colyford. He was famously shipwrecked on the island of Bermuda and it is speculated that Shakespeare’s play The Tempest was based on this as Sir Thomas and William Shakespeare knew each other very well. 

Bringing things up to more modern times, it is said that the De La Pole family in one of its branches, feature in the family ancestors of Prince William and Prince Harry through their mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

Moving on now to food!

Whilst my grandfather enjoyed being involved with the church and naturally attended the Sunday service in his role of Head Church Warden, my grandmother preferred to stay at home and rarely attended. She, when asked, said she needed to remain at home to cook the Sunday lunch...

Seen below is an old family photo probably taken about 1904 with my grandmother as a very young child seated on the ground at the front on the far left. My great grandmother is seated behind looking down at her and my great, great grandmother is behind her, dressed in black.

One of my favourite puddings to be had on a Sunday, was my grandmother’s Magic Lemon Pudding. So called because she simply threw all the ingredients in together and then ‘magically’ once cooked it turned into a wonderfully light sponge with a delicious lemon sauce hiding underneath. 

When I was older my grandmother told me she had named it thus to encourage it to be eaten-not that I needed any persuading!

Meanwhile my grandfather had confided in me that he had been the one responsible for naming it as he thought it was a ‘miracle’ that my grandmother had produced something so good out of the ramshackle way she cooked...

Below is the recipe although I’ve guessed at the quantities as my grandmother never actually wrote it down but passed it verbally on to my mother who in turn passed it on to me. Eggs and lemons can vary so much in size so you may have to play around a bit with the recipe to find what works best for you.

Magic Lemon Pudding

3 large juicy lemons-grated zest and juice
4 medium eggs, separated
100g butter slightly softened
175g of sugar (caster or granulated)
50g plain flour
100ml milk
Icing sugar-for dusting at the end

Preheat your oven to 180C. 

The pudding is going to be cooked using the Bain-marie method so make sure you have a large deep pudding dish that can sit in an even larger container so that water can come up half to two thirds up the side. I would suggest testing this out before you add the pudding mixture so you can judge if it will work then place the larger pan with the water in the oven to heat up. The alternative is to add boiling water to the larger pan once the mixture is in the smaller bowl but this can be a little fiddly.

Place the larger bowl with the water in it into the oven to warm up and grease the smaller pudding bowl.

To make the lemon pudding, cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.

Beat in the egg yolks but not the whites-place the whites in a separate large clean bowl.

Add the milk, lemon zest and juice. Don’t panic as the mixture looks curdled-this is normal!

Fold in the flour.

In the other bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.

Add about a quarter of the whisked egg whites to the lemon mixture to ‘slacken’ it then gently fold in the remainder keeping the mixture light and airy.

Pour the mixture into the greased pudding basin and gently place the filled basin in the middle of the larger water filled container in the oven.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Don’t worry if there are cracks in the crust. 

Once cooked, remove from the oven and dust generously with sieved icing sugar.

Serve immediately perhaps with some nice Devon Clotted Cream if you are feeling indulgent. 

The pudding should have a lovely light sponge on the top with a delicious lemon sauce rather like lemon curd underneath.

Do enjoy-it is really rather magical!

Friday, 15 June 2012

A Meander Through The Picturesque Devon Village Of Colyton And A Recipe For A Delicious Roasted Asparagus and Garlic Scapes Hummus...

Now what you may be asking, do these two things have in common?

Well, a few weeks ago I was fortunate to spend some time down in this lovely part of the West Country of England when I attended The Veg Cookery Course at the River Cottage HQ founded by one of my food heroes, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. 

HQ is based in the market town of Axminster and the very much smaller place of Colyton is just about six miles away.

Officially it is also ‘a town’ but it still looks and feels very much like an old country village.

It is a wonderfully historic and very pretty little place with quaint little streets and old thatched cottages-typical picture-postcard Devon...

Seen above, Colyton Cottage built in 1610.

Oh- and I spent some of my childhood living and growing up here so it has a very special place in my heart!

Seen below is our old cottage on the left-originally thatched-however my grandparents decided-or rather my grandmother did-that the thatched roof only encouraged mice and rats and she disliked the sound of them rustling around above her so did away with the thatch.

My bedroom was the one on the top left.

Lovely uneven original wooded floors and an old oak bedroom door with a lead latch string fastening. Large pebble stones from the nearby beach at Seaton would prop the doors open.

 I remember one Christmas Eve waking up when my father tripped over the stone holding my door open as he carried in my Christmas presents and stocking to hang at the end of my bed. At aged six, I was just a little peeved and annoyed when the noise awoke me as he desperately tried to explain that he was simply carrying them in for Father Christmas who was rather busy. I didn’t doubt his story, but was simply cross I had missed seeing Santa with his reindeer and sledge!

Back to the history of Colyton.

The first mention of Colyton was around 700AD and later on in the eleventh century in the Doomsday Book when it was still refered to as 'Culitone'. It quickly grew from a humble Saxon hamlet to a larger settlement due to the success of the local agriculture. 

Many of the surviving cottages were built in the sixteenth century in what was then still a small but very wealthy village.

Things came to a political head in 1549 when Henry VIII confiscated much of the land around Colyton but rather than accept this from their king, the local merchants and farmers marched to London and successfully negotiated the return of the lands to their own control.

Colyton continued their royal rebellious reputation when in 1685 many of the inhabitants at the time joined the unsuccessful Monmouth Rebellion and were then named ‘the most rebellious town in Devon’. 

A central feature of Colyton is the beautiful St Andrews Church.

The 15th century tower is an imposing sight. We lived right next door, so to speak, and my grandfather was Head Church Warden for a number of years.

This is the path around the church which overlooked our cottage and where I memorably first learnt to ride my bicycle without stabilizers!! 

Our cottage is situated just behind the thatched cottage in the centre. 

The wonderful picturesque old church has a wealth of memories and I will dip into this on another post...

Oh, and the link again between Colyton and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s  River Cottage enterprise?

He and his family now live at a farm in Colyton...

Linking back to food...

Through blogging, I have recently learnt about the delights of using the scapes from garlic in cooking. 

As they occur at the same seasonal time as our wonderful British asparagus season, I was keen to use both in a recipe.

Roasted  Asparagus And Garlic Scapes Hummus

This extremely delicious vegetable hummus is loosely based and adapted by myself from the recipe we were given for Carrot Hummus when I visited the River Cottage HQ and attended The Veg Course. As you can clearly see though, there is not a carrot in sight!

2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
6 TBSP Extra Virgin British Rapeseed Oil
1 tsp honey
300g Asparagus
3 Garlic Scapes
Juice and grated rind of half a lemon
Juice and grated rind of 1 orange
3 TBSP Tahini
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Wash and trim the asparagus and place in a roasting tray with a little oil and roast in a hot oven-200C for 20/25 minutes until tender and slightly browned.

Meanwhile toast the cumin and coriander-you could use whole spice and then grind them-for a couple of minutes until fragrant and aromatic.

Chop the whole garlic scapes and add to a large bowl together with the honey, tahini, salt and pepper, toasted cumin and coriander and zest and juice of the orange and lemon.

Stir well and add the roasted asparagus when cooked.  Pulse and gently blitz in a blended until the desired consistency is achieved. Add a little of the oil if needed.

Season again with salt and pepper if desired.

Place in the fridge and leave for a good couple of hours or preferably overnight to allow the flavours to perfectly mix and combine.
Serve, generously slathered on hot buttered toast or flat bread.

I served mine with my own oven baked Roasted Pumpkin and French Tarragon Bread.

I do earnestly urge you all to try this wonderful hummus.

I will return to the West Country shortly...

Until then, eat well and heartedly...

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Start Of The Great British Summer...

It started so well a couple of weeks ago. We had day after day of hot, sunny weather...

In the garden, the plants responded with gusto. Lush green foliage grew and then came the flowers giving a wonderful display. These photos are mainly of the flower bed that divides the wild steeply sloped area which dips in to the wood and the more civilized and cultivated part of my garden.

These Lupins and Giant Alliums are like sentries manning the battlements...

The wild area is just that. I try to keep it manageable by keeping the brambles at bay as unchecked they edge their way in to the main part of the garden very quickly. Generally though, I let the wild flowers grow there.

I’ll take my camera down there at some point if anybody would like to see more.

Back to my ‘border guards’...

The Giant Alliums have done well this year. I love the way their pom-pom heads make bold statements in the border.

Some almost exploding like a firework...

Also lurking in the border are my Walking Onions...

These curious, almost alien looking plants produce a bulblet which gradually becomes heavier and heavier pulling the stem downward allowing the bulblet to root and make new plants away from the parent plant and thus the onion appears to have walked...

Not only do they look good but you can also eat them-a winner in my book!

And talking of food...

Asparagus, Ricotta And Tarragon Quiche

For me the arrival of early Summer cannot be complete until the first British asparagus has arrived. 

Unfortunately I don’t have any home grown Asparagus but I did use home grown Chives and French Tarragon so points there. And extra points for using eggs given to me by a good friend from her rescued ex battery hens.

This very easy and quick quiche is brilliant as a large flan or as cute little individual ones...And guess what! With this amount it make one large and two small ones which freeze well so you can have the best of both worlds!


230 g frozen short crust pastry sheet
250g fresh British Asparagus
1 very generous bunch of French Tarragon-finely chopped
250g fresh ricotta
1 bunch of fresh chives-finely chopped
Freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste
3 eggs-beaten


Defrost the pastry and line a greased 23cm loose bottomed flan tin plus two individual tins. When lining the cases with the pastry, allow the edges to fold over the sides. Prick lightly with a fork and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes to help stop it shrinking when cooked.

Wash the asparagus and slice in to diamonds. Bring a pan of lightly salted water to the boil and drop the asparagus in and boil for 5 minutes then drain and pat dry with some kitchen paper.

Meanwhile lightly beat the eggs and gently fold in the ricotta and finely chopped tarragon, chives, salt and pepper.

Once the pastry has rested, line with greaseproof paper and weigh down with baking beans.

Place in a hot oven 200C and cook for 10 minutes. Remove baking beans and paper and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Add the cooked asparagus to the egg and ricotta mixture and gently spoon in to the flan cases.

Cook for 35 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool. Slice and serve at room temperature.

The quiche was delicious and eaten outside on a warm sunny evening whilst contemplating the garden.

Unfortunately, in true British fashion, the hot weather was not to last...instead for the last week we have had rain...and lots of rain at that. The poor plants who had grown up so tall have been flattened by the high winds and lashing rain. Today has been spent trying to rectify the damage. Those sunny days are but a distant memory...Let us hope that the start of the British Summer is not also the end of it...

We can only hope...

Friday, 1 June 2012

Veg At The River Cottage Cookery School...

I have long been an admirer of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall with his passionate approach to food and thought-provoking television programmes. As I don’t eat meat I was particularly delighted when his latest series (shown last year on British television) focused on meatless recipes and featured some marvellous dishes to encourage people to eat more veg in both traditional and new innovative recipes and place it, quite rightly, centre stage in a meal. 

So when I heard that there was now a one day cookery course centring on that series, I was keen to go and was extremely fortunate to then get the opportunity! 

The details about this particular cookery course and the other courses offered, can be found on the River Cottage website

I signed up, and then one week later they had the devastating fire which gutted the lovely old barn that housed the cookery school.  But, in true Brit fashion, within days had set up a temporary abode. We now had a cookery school set in a tent-but what a tent!

River Cottage HQ is now based at Park Farm situated just outside of the town of Axminster. And no, Hugh and his family do not actually live there themselves...

On the day we arrived it was overcast and tipping down with rain but the still the view from the car park across the Devon hills was rather magnificent.

A tractor pulling a covered trailer was our transportation down the hill from the car park to the farm itself. It lurched and zigzagged down a steep path giving us a good, though somewhat, rain drenched view of the farm and the fire-gutted old barn. I did attempt to take some photos but unsurprisingly they were a little on the blurred side! 

Once there, we were able to dry out and have a good look around the accommodation that housed the new temporary cookery school. I have to say I have rarely seen such a better kitted out tent!! The front half is the dining area complete with bar in the corner and bunting and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling...

At the rear is the cookery area with room for 20 participants plus the chef.

At the side and away from our general view were the prep, washing up and storage areas etc. 

The whole space was light and airy and a pleasure to work in.

 Whilst we awaited some latecomers, we were served tea/coffee and freshly baked cinnamon griddle scones.

 As they knew some of the participants were vegan or glutton free they had even made special ones for them.

 I was most impressed that during the day whenever ingredients arrived for us then substituted ingredients were provided without being asked, for those with extra dietary requirements. As the course host Steve explained-as long as they have advance notice they will cater for dietary needs and had clearly thought about adapting recipes beforehand and providing, without any fuss, alternative ingredients.

And so on to the cooking!

There were twenty of us on the course and our host explained that the day would centre on the basics of cooking with vegetables and would go at the pace of the slowest. 

This was probably lovely for those that needed the extra help but it did mean that for those of us who were competent cooks-if I dare put myself in this group-we understandably had less attention from the tutors...

For recipes from the Veg Series please see

We started off with making a basic vegetable stock complete with our carefully wrapped little bouquet garnis.

Note to future ensure dangling and easily burnable string is not hanging over the side close to flames from the hob...

At the same time we made some Dahl and Flat Bread. The Dahl was very simply made with red lentils and the flat bread was made with Hugh’s Basic Bread recipe which we then rolled out into thin circles dotted with spices and dry fried in a frying pan until they quickly puffed up.

We ate this as a tasty halfway snack.

I would make these simple flat breads again-beautiful texture-crusty on the outside and soft in the middle. The Dahl was nice but personally I found Hugh’s recipe a little on the bland side and I prefer my own versions which are spicier and, I think for me, more flavoursome. 

However, a few people on the course had never eaten Dahl before so for them it was spicy enough so I guess everyone has their own personal preference...

On to the next dish. Using some of the stock we prepared earlier we made a Summer Garden Soup.

Again nice, but not exactly rocket science to make. 

If it had been up to me I would have de-podded the broad beans and then added them just before the end.

 I also allowed my wild streak free rain and added a generous sprig of fennel that I had picked earlier from our walk around the vegetable garden.

Our main course was a Nettle Risotto using spelt rather than the traditional risotto rice. 

Unfortunately there was a little confusion as some of us were told we were using barley and some spelt so I’m still not sure what we used! 

Again we used the previously made stock. Using an alternative to rice meant more cooking time was required-unfortunately it took far longer than the tutor anticipated which delayed our finish time a little.

 When we did finally sit down and taste it I do have to say I was rather disappointed with the end result. Whilst I like risotto to have a little bite, this was altogether rather too chewy. 

Others, I have to say, enjoyed the risotto and enthused about how healthy it was.

The nettles added a slight green element but again needed more to give more taste. Plus, I feel, a grating of cheese on top of the final dish would have added greatly.

Our final dish was pudding! We made a Rhubarb and Ginger Steamed Pudding. Rhubarb was caramelised with ginger, butter and sugar.

We then made a sponge mixture which was poured into individual bowls in which the rhubarb mixture had been first placed and then covered with greaseproof paper and placed in a bain-marie in the oven. 

Mine promptly tried to escape with the sponge mixture pouring out of the top like an erupting volcano-and no- I didn’t take a photo of that!

 However despite my pessimism, when the puddings were cooked, released from their greaseproof paper coverings and basins and then inverted on to a bowl the end result was absolutely delicious!

 The rhubarb had a lovely caramelised flavour with a generous hit of ginger and the sponge was meltingly airy and soft. With some added cream it was sublimely delicious and definitely one to make again...and again...

I’m afraid my photo does not do it justice.

Just a few words about the fantastic River Cottage Team that looked after us for the day. 

We were ‘meeted and greeted’ by our genial and very hospitable host Steve.

 We had Robin in the morning as our chef tutor and Tim Maddams (pictured in the first photo) joined us for the afternoon session. Tim, in particular, is a real character. He is one of the Head Chefs and frequently appears on Hugh’s television programmes. Very approachable and helpful despite suffering from lack of sleep following the birth a few days earlier of his new baby daughter, Flora.

 I did though, have to stifle my giggles, when he started to talk about the ‘journey’ a carrot makes from plot to plate, meeting other vegetables and intermingles with them-why does everything nowadays have to make a ‘journey’?? 

 We also had an informative outside tour of the vegetables by head gardener Chris and I was particularly intrigued by the use of short lengths of guttering to grow micro herbs in! We saw the poor burned out barn which had housed the old cookery school and met the chickens and very friendly pigs which I fear will feature later on in the year in one of the more meat orientated cookery courses. 

As the day drew to an end we raised the question to Tim our afternoon tutor that we had not made the vegetable hummus which had been mentioned that we would be making by Robin in the morning session. I had also been personally looking forward to this after having had the rather yummy and delicious Tri of Hummus at the restaurant the day before. Tim, it appeared, had not been told this and therefore had not planned to teach us this dish.

 Realising our disappointment he quickly disappeared ‘out back’ to the prep area and not long after, the hard working crew who had looked after us so well all day, including doing all our washing up, managed to quickly rustle up the ingredients to make our Carrot Hummus. 

So with a little tahini, honey, garlic and of course, carrot we made this wonderful hummus. 

Really, really lovely and another definite one to make again with carrot and other vegetables. 

I might even be really brave and make it with my ‘bĂȘte noir’- beetroot...

Finally we could take off our aprons and prepare to sit down and eat in our rather ‘posh’ tent!

To conclude, attending The River Cottage Cookery Course was very enjoyable indeed.

 The weather may have been rather wet and miserable outside but inside the staff and team were extremely welcoming and enthusiastic. 

Given the fairly recent destruction of the cookery school earlier this year, the temporary accommodation under canvas is truly wonderful.

 The cooking space and the new hob and ovens are great and the dining area is rustic and relaxing and with a great view-and probably even better when it is sunny!

 In terms of difficulty, the cooking itelf is very easy.

 Personally I would have preferred much more of a culinary challenge and would have liked to have cooked more of the recipes from the ‘Veg Every Day’ recipe book.

However on the plus side each participant at the end of the day was given a free copy of that book which has a scrawl in the front which I take to be Hugh’s signature!

 The cook book is truly fantastic and has many recipes which I have already started to use with great success so one to highly recommend. 

I drove back home to Wales very happy and contented!