It was a glorious autumn day. We had managed to get a good haul of ingredients on our lovely high street for not very many pennies, the sun was shining and we’d had bacon sandwiches for breakfast to fortify us for the trek ahead. We were going to look for The Food Urchin.
Now, you may not know of The Food Urchin. He is an elusive creature, venturing out only to work and forage for food to feed his little family. The Food Urchin young are highly inquisitive and voracious eaters, and so need to be fed tasty food to keep them satisfied. To this end, you can often find the Food Urchin in farm shops, and at food fairs, where the best produce can be gathered, but you have to watch from a distance or the shy Urchin will take flight, bolting home with the quickness of a gazelle to take refuge in this lair or, as we know it, The Kitchen.
On rare occasions, the Food Urchin will develop a sociable streak, for instance when there is an overabundance of a kill. Then others from outside of the lair will be invited in to share. This is a time where barriers are down, and many get the chance to participate. To be invited in is a momentous occasion, and one which I will document for you here because, yes, I was one of the lucky few that got to glimpse the Food Urchin not once, but twice in his home habitat.
It was a cold night, but the lair was warm and welcoming. Empty at first, so we were a little wary just in case we spooked the Food Urchin and his attractive mate, known as the Mrs Food Urchin. We had brought offerings with us, to reassure the Urchins and this seemed to do the trick. We had no wish to spook these gentle creatures, and it seemed our gifts of cider and chutney were well received.
Here endeth the David Attenborough section because I don’t think I can work a pork roast and granita in there without serious effort, and I haven’t the brainspoons for that kind of cleverness today.
As ever, Danny and Holly proved the most gracious of hosts. I feel like I’m visiting friends I’ve known for years, rather than this being only the second time we’ve met. The tables were laid, the food was cooking and there, proud and resplendent with flour was Veronica’s Baby.
Veronica, Danny’s sourdough starter, had not had a good week and at one point her likely demise was lamented across the Twitterverse. However, she rallied at the last minute, rallied in a superb fashion, and there on the counter as result of her labours, was the final result.
The smell was fabulous, the eating of it even better. The darker loaf was made with a smoked malt flour and that brought with it a deep, nutty flavour and a tight crumb. The sourdough loaf was….well, just gorgeous. A dense, chewy crust and a most wonderful springy insides. Soft to eat, but with a bouncy texture. I now want the recipe, of course. And some of that smoked flour.
The darker one would be just the thing for a ham and chutney sandwich, the sourdough perfect just on its own with butter. I don’t quite know how we didn’t just fall into the bread basket and eat it all there and then.
Next came the starters. A beautiful, warm seasonal salad of Pheasant, Poached Pear, Pomegranates and Hazelnuts. I adored the dressing, which I think was an elderflower or elderberry one? Help me out, Danny mate.
Juicy pheasant, soft leaves, flavourful pear and crunchy hazelnuts. A triumph of tastes and textures. I ate all of mine and some of Tex’s too.
We ate more bread. We had a rest and talked to our lovely table companions. Then came….The Main Course. Cue dramatic music if you please.
Pork Chop Roast with Cox’s Apples, Crispy Sage and Cider Gravy, with Mashed Allotment Spuds and Steamed Greens.
It was So. Damned. Good. Perfect gravy, meltingly tender meat, extra crackling on the side – I could have eaten this twice and still asked for more. I loved the fried sage leaves, especially when mixed with the creamy mash. I think we all piled into it with great gusto.
I admit that I adore pork fat so I will have you know that I fought every temptation going not to nick the stuff off other peoples’ plates. I behaved. I really did.
Then a rest, and much more conversation, plus a fair bit of idle wondering what the other room was drinking because it was pretty raucous in there. We stayed safely where we are. They sounded scary.
A palate cleanser of Quince Granita came next and can I just say that this…this was a revelation. I have never eaten quince before, and this little glass of fluffy, perfumed ice crystals, slowly melting into pale pinky/tangerine juice may have made me an addict. It was so fresh, light and a very lovely, clean thing to eat.
We had a bit of a rest at this point, and talk turned to, well, it turned to all sorts of things to be honest. We did have very engaging dinner companions for the evening.
With the sorbet providing a break in the rich food proceedings, naturally the dessert that followed was actually made of richness.
Baked Blackberry and Sticky Stem Ginger Pudding with Golden Syrup and Cream.
There. That deserved a line all to itself didn’t it? And here it is.
I wanted to get a proper close up but I’m sorry, I was actually too busy eating this mound of amazingness. Soft, light sponge, with almost crystallised edges around the base – I’m assuming some golden syrup action there – with a gorgeously fruity, jammy hit of blackberry. Yes, I had cream and YES I had two helpings because it was that damned good.
We sat, sated, and contemplated our stomachs for a bit.
At this point, sadly, outside influences meant that Tex and I had to depart in a bit of a hurry but I have it on good authority that much talking was had and much wine was drunk. See The Food Urchin’s Twitter status update of “why o why o why o why?” from earlier today.
Once again, Food Urchin and Mrs Food Urchin gave us a great time. One day, I hope to be able to cook dinner for them too, but no sirree bob I am NOT doing a supper club. Not until I move the extra house’s worth of Stuff out of this house at least!
Many thanks to Danny and Holly. We enjoyed ourselves immensely.