Thursday 1 October 2015

Devon: River Cottage Host A Bloggers Day Out

When food bloggers get together we chat, photograph like there is no tomorrow and eat!  A group of us had just this opportunity recently when Foodies100 and River Cottage HQ invited about 50 of us to spend the day in Devon at the home of River Cottage.

Mr R had some time off work so we got in the car on the Tuesday and drove to Devon to Axminster just about 7 minutes down the road from River Cottage and stayed in the beautiful B&B called Prestoller House (You can read my review and giveaway in a forthcoming post).  We booked two nights away because I had never been to this part of the country and in our free time I wanted to visit Lyme Regis, Dorset, which is also not far away from Axminster. My friends and fellow bloggers Nayna, Tina and Manjiri were staying just down the road and Mr R kindly offered to take them with us in the car to the event.

We met in a huge car park full of excited food bloggers whilst we waited for our ‘luxury’ transport down to the farm along a steep and rocky path. I was glad not to be walking down there even though we were bumping along and knocking into each other in the trailer part of the transport.

Upon arrival we had a welcome and over view of the day in a huge yurt with a lovely cast iron fire gently warming up the interior.  Coffee and a pastry followed along with the excitement of greeting fellow bloggers we hadn’t seen for a while and putting faces to names of blogs we followed but perhaps hadn’t met.

We divided into three groups and my group had the garden and farm tour first.  River Cottage grow as much of the food that the restaurant needs as seasonably possible along with supplying some eggs, pork, lamb and beef from their small stock of animals who are looked after in the most affectionate and authentic way possible.  If pigs can smile then these were certainly beaming up at us.  In fact the pigs sort of stole the show and appear in loads of photos.

The kitchen garden is cultivated in a strict rotation system allowing nature to provide the nutrients the plants need instead of using artificial means including a simple system of composting to make sure none of the nutrients go to waste.

The flowers framed the views everywhere you looked and quite a lot were edible making their way later on onto the butter we made.  Our guide for this session, Jim, was really knowledgeable and quick to answer all the questions we had for him.  River Cottage are a responsible and sustainable farm and waste nothing.  They are responsible for the education and improved welfare as well as sustainability of animals and fish.

Our second session was in the kitchens of the cookery school where we were told we would be making bread and butter! As bloggers we are constantly looking for the next foodie high and often forget about the simple things.  I hadn’t made butter since my children were young and had completely forgotten how simple and satisfying it was to make.

500ml of double cream was quickly whipped into a combination of butter and butter milk and just as deftly we squeezed the butter milk out as much as we could and popped the butter into the fridge.  A little later we plunged the butter into ice cold water and squeezed off some more of the butter milk, spread the butter out on a piece of greaseproof paper.
We proceeded to embellish it with edible flowers from the garden and a sprinkling of sea salt.  We rolled this up and stored in the fridge ready to take home.

Meanwhile the buttermilk that had come from our butter making was added to spelt flour, baking powder, chopped apples from their trees, a handful of blackberries we had picked, honey from their hives, grated cheddar cheese and some seasoning and quickly made into a simple, speedy, no rise soda bread!  The bread was quickly patted, sprinkled with some extra flour and cheddar cheese, scored into four sections and popped into the oven, to bake and then cool ready to take home to eat with our butter.

We sat down at long refectory style tables to eat a sumptuous meal prepared with fresh vegetables and meat from River Cottage which included a ravioli made from a 36 hour slow cooked beef on a bed of ratatouille of beans, tomatoes, topped with pesto and some fresh garden leaves.
Pudding was fennel infused meringue with coffee bean, vanilla and salted caramel ice cream with damsons.

Our final session of the afternoon was a food photography workshop led by Lucy Heath of Capture By Lucy with an initial chat about some of the photographers and cook book  illustrations she loved.  Then outside to photograph and talk about some of the vegetables and plates, cloths and other props Lucy had picked for us to use.

We set up our ‘stage’ and took photos of the same items from different angles looking for our favourite.  It was an interesting exercise to see how differently the same items could look with the light coming from different angles and the camera in different positions.

All of the 'tomato' photos were set up and not touched but the photos were taken from different angles.
And my favourite shot ....... Which one is your favourite?
The kitchens were available for us to pop into and have a look as was the kitchen the television programes are filmed in.  I did wonder if an alien had landed but on closer inspection it was a Big Green Egg!!

Exhausted we waited for our ‘luxury’ transport to take us back up the steep driveway to the car park and our transport to our B&B before Mr R drove me, Nayna, Tina and Manjiri out for a meal in Lyme Regis.

If you would like to make your own butter at home here is the recipe:-


200ml double cream
Pinch salt, optional

Whip the cream until you form butter, add salt if you wish to make salted butter.

Keep mixing using a spatula to squeeze excess butter milk from the butter.

You can wash the butter in iced water if you wish to prolong the life of the butter. Left unwashed, the butter will last up to five days in the fridge.

If you pat the butter out on grease proof paper you can decorate with edible flowers the roll up and put in the fridge.  When serving slice into thin slices and serve on a little plate.

Read Nayna's account here:

I was a guest of Foodies 100 and River Cottage and was not required to write a positive review.  As usual all opinions and photographs are my own.


  1. Fabulous day Heidi,and so lovely to spend it with you :)
    That ravioli was just sublime.
    Janie x

    1. It was great to see you too Jane. I really enjoyed the whole day.

  2. Lovely photos Heidi! What a great day it was!

    1. Glad you liked my photos, the place lends itself to great photography

  3. I am now reading this event from several different perspectives but all of the agree it was fantastic! So sorry to have missed it looks like it was amazing. Love those tomato shots!

  4. Gorgeous tomato shots. Looks like the perfect day and a very cosy location!

    Love your blog, following on GFC! Looking forward to seeing the next post! xx

  5. Seems like you guys had such a fab day. Sad I could not make it.

  6. It was indeed a very fun and enjoyable two days.I loved our visit there.

  7. Looks like it was lot of fun !!! Making butter from double cream is something v new. we used to churn butter from full fat yogurt at home ( read grandma's place in India ) with a rope tied over the carved wooden stick . Stroking them 50 times on either side and fresh butter is just ready.