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...


  1. You don't go in for snappy titles for your posts do you?? :)
    I love the history - political and personal - in this post, but (being really pedantic) I must correct you on the Doomsday Book, which was commissioned by King William to see what he had conquered, and it was published in 1086!
    I'm originally a Cornishman, so I share your love of the West Country, and I went to school in Tiverton, Devon, which I didn't love, largely on account of the horrible food we were given.

    1. Hi Mark,

      You are absolutely correct and I’ve amended the post accordingly. I originally had a lot more of the early history but tried to condense it when I did the final version of the post and so things slipped a bit. Apologies indeed! Considering I once wrote an essay at University on the effects of the Doomsday Book on English Medieval Society during my first degree I stand head in hand...Mea culpa...

    2. Hey did you study History too? I read "Modern History" at St.John's College,Oxford, back in the 70's. One of my contemporaries was a certain Anthony Blair... I seem to remember that my tutor had a particular penchant for the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.

  2. Aw, what a lovely story and photos - isn't it strange to go past places you used to live as a young child? So much changes, and yet some things never change at all. For me it just seems weird that I'd never be able to go into these places again and look around!

    I had a similar "Father Christmas" experience... I was a messy kid and left stuff all over my floor. I was awoken one night to the sound of my father stepping on, and crushing, a cassette tape case which I'd left on the floor. I think he might have had bare feet at the time which probably explains the muffled cursing :D

    Fantastic looking grub - I'm loving the sound of the garlic scape hummus!

    1. Hi Charles,

      Many thanks for your kind comments. It is funny revisiting places you remember as a child. The big thing I noticed was my ‘perspective’ was so different as I remembered everything from a much lower angle. Walls and fences along roads and paths were so annoyingly tall then as a young child that I couldn’t see over-yet of course when I walked along them that day they didn’t seem quite so ‘giant-like’...

      Do give the hummus a go-it's really, really good!

  3. This was incredibly interesting and so far removed from anything we know here. We, of course, don't have thatched roof houses but I have always wanted to see one. I often wonder what it is like to live in a place where the history goes back so far. Something left from the 1800's is old here the 1700's are just plain ancient, lol.
    I also envy your educational system. We are taught the US is the best country in the world but we aren't fooled about our educational system and know it is sorely lacking.
    I still have never tried hummus (hey, I tried pesto!) but it looks like a dip to me. Seems like it would be good though. Now what is Tahini? Always learning...always...

    1. Hi Becky,

      So glad you enjoyed the post!! It’s such fun using blogging to share with others. I’m fascinated with your use of canning to preserve vegetables as that is something over here that we very rarely do now...

      Hummus is delicious and yes it is a type of dip. Traditionally made with chickpeas, tahini, garlic and olive oil and is very popular over here. It is widely available to buy-even our small local petrol (gas) station sells it! However it is incredibly easy and much cheaper to make your own but getting away from the traditional recipe is rather fun which is what this version is. Tahini is crushed sesames in their oil sold in jars. If you can’t get hold of any, I know some American friends of mine use peanut butter instead. You can make the consistency how you like it-some like it thicker where as I like it to be lightly looser. This one was perhaps a little too loose as I could have done with just a touch less orange juice. When you make it, it is important to allow the hummus to rest as the flavours need time to mix otherwise it can taste a little ‘harsh’. Good hummus should be very, very morish with you wanting to have just a little more...

      Finally if you like ‘old’ I must do a post sometime on the village I now live in as surviving parts of it are much older still ...We have lots of Roman remains including one of the best preserved ancient Roman amphitheatre in Britain.

  4. Lovely much history, and the village looks so cute...I quite like the thatched roof! Little villages like that just aren't seen here in Australia either! It's been years since I have been to the UK and I must make another visit one day! The hummus looks delicious, too :)

    1. Hi Ali,

      Lovely to get a comment from someone new! I’ve had a look at your blog-loved the cous cous dish and have ‘followed’...I’ve never been to Australia so would love to see more...

  5. I read this post with much delight... very entertaining... and what lovely houses and building you have in your village... Japanese houses are not build to last like those in your area... and hummus is definitely one of my favorite, favorite dishes... that recipe looks so delicious...

    1. Hi Lrong,

      Many thank indeed for your kind comments. I loved going back to a place from my childhood...

  6. What a shame your grandmother had the thatched roof removed. The houses with the thatched roofs are so much more interesting and cute and aesthetic whereas the tiles just make the building boring and mundane. I would put up with the vermin for the aesthetics! It sounds like you had a wonderful childhood. Love the Father Christmas story - how gorgeous of your father to let you know he was working for an over-worked Santa. I would have been disappointed to not see his sleigh and reindeer too - I'm still looking! xx

    1. Hi Charlie,

      Thank for stopping by. Thatch does look very pretty but there is also the financial side of the upkeep. Friends of mine had their roof re-thatched last year and it cost approx. £20,000. A whole roof needs to be done every 25 years and the ridge every 10-15 years. House insurance for both buildings and contents is also a lot, lot higher for thatched property too. So I guess I’ll just admire these lovely old buildings but I don’t think I’ll be rushing to buy one any time soon...

  7. I'm with your grandmother - thatch would be a pain. There's romantic and then there's practical and sometimes it has to be the later....especially when your living in it rather than photographing it. I am glad some people keep the thatch though - a living part of history and all that. I am growing hardneck garlic varieties for the first time this year - so I'm very much looking forward to playing with the scapes. Only 6 months to go......

    1. Hi Liz,

      Yes it was lovely to visit and see these thatched cottages. Don’t see many of them in this part of Wales-far too much rain I guess and probably not enough available straw or reed around when they were built.

      All the best with your hard neck garlic-I’ve just seen another couple of scapes emerging from mine so will be thinking up ideas of how next to use them!

  8. What an interesting post, but then yours always are. Now feel we must call in on Colyton next time we are passing that way. Zooming up the A35, I expect we miss loads of amazing places. It does rather seem a shame about that thatch. My grandmother's dream was to retire to a little thatched cottage and when Grandad retired, the family clubbed together and bought her dream house. About a year after they moved in, it was burnt down in a fire and deemed not suitable for re-thatching!

    You're hummus sounds delicious as does the bread and I really like the pale green colour. Garlic scapes have been our life saver at this time of year. We like to think of ourselves as self-sufficient in garlic, so of course are unable to buy any. At this time of year our old garlic is unusable and the new isn't quite ready, so scapes it is - brilliant!

    1. Hi Choclette,

      Yes do drop in on Colyton-it’s well worth a visit. I’m sure you could find lunch in one of the old pubs or even a clotted cream tea-a good old Devon one-rumour has it they are the best...

  9. Replies
    1. Hi Jay,

      Thanks for stopping by and so glad you found the post interesting!

  10. Hi Mark,

    Yes History and Art History were part of my first degree in Paris-loved it!

    So you were around when ‘a certain Anthony Blair’ was...any stories??

  11. It's so interesting and the cottage looks very exotic (I have never seen such buildings in any other part of Europe, so I suppose it's typically British, and since I have never been to British countryside...). Your asparagus humus sounds extraordinary. A very creative idea!

    1. Hi Sissi,

      Many thanks indeed for your kind comments. The hummus was very delicious but I must give credit for the inspiration to River Cottage as it was seeing and eating their vegetable hummus which made me want to have a go. Then it was just a case of what do I have to hand-wonderful British asparagus and home grown garlic scapes...

  12. Its such a beautiful place. I love the green meadows and the cows lazying around. The cottage looks so beautiful.

    Your asparagus hummus looks delicious!

    1. Hi Sri,

      You are so right-it is a lovely place! The lush green water meadows have a public footpath through them next to the river and I must have walked them hundreds of times as a child...

  13. How wonderful -- and fortunate -- that you are able to go back to the home of your youth and t see it so well cared for. I read your comment above and find it incredible to learn that it can cost approx. £20,000 to have a roof re-thatched. I had no idea!
    Your hummus sounds delicious and that loaf of bread looks perfect! What a great post!

    1. Hi John,

      Thank you so much for stopping by and saying how much you enjoyed the post-made my day today! Yes thatching is expensive and there are less and less professional thatchers around nowadays.
      I was pleased with the bread. The pumpkin gave it a nice yellowy/orange colour and the tarragon came through nicely. It was great with the hummus and also surprising for breakfast worked well with butter and Heather honey. BTW your post on making homemade Mozzarella cheese is fantastic!

  14. My but you are clever to create your asparagus hummus. I'm sure it is delicious, especially having it with some of your wonderful bread. The little village where you grew up is beautiful...just like a postcard for sure.

    1. Hi Karen,

      Not very clever I’m afraid-just trying to put things together to see if they work-some do, some don’t. This one, very thankfully did, and the result was so delicious I wanted to share it!

  15. I am with your grandmother, I would be scared stiff hearing mice and rats rustling above especially at night when I am in bed.
    Thanks for the history lesson. Hope you will write more.
    That hummus sounds delicious a creative way to incorporate asparagus and garlic scape 2 of my spring time favorites, thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Norma,

      Having stayed in bedrooms underneath thatched roofs I thoroughly concur with your sentiments!!

      There is also the real risk of fire especially if the house has open fires as the chimneys have to be closely monitored. Lastly there is a risk also when fireworks are being used in the neighbourhood-more and more commonly it seems-as one may fall still lit on the thatched roof...

  16. I love that green hummus, I think i would finish that up real quick! Lovely seeing the beautiful devon village! I'm quite jealous !

    1. Hi Shu Han,

      It is a very pretty village-well worth a visit. I must try and visit again sometime and explore some more...

  17. What a lovely post and such childhood memories - it look a gret place to live and with a lot of history attached. Your dish looks pretty yum and gorgeous bread. Clever old you.

    1. Hi Elaine,

      So glad you enjoyed the post. I did enjoy visiting again and it is great through blogging I can keep such a record.

      There will be more soon!!

  18. That looks fantastic. - I will certainly make this dip

    1. Hi Sally,

      Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!!


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