Category Archives: food & drink

We’re incredibly lucky to have independent retailers in Ilfracombe, who sell real food – not processed cardboard. I also enjoy growing fruit and vegetables, and cooking mainly traditional English food.

Relaxation in the kitchen

Catavelli with Italian Meat SauceI enjoy cooking and find it helps me relax a lot. I’ve been so busy this year that I haven’t spent much time cooking some of the more time-consuming meals I like to prepare.

I was determined to unwind this weekend and decided to try out a new recipe. I dug out a cookery book my Mum bought me just before I moved out of my parents’ home. Yes, it’s an antique. She was determined I wouldn’t move back and appropriated my bedroom immediately for her sewing and art materials.

Anyway, I flicked open the pages and found Catavelli, a type of pasta, with Italian Meat Sauce. Now this is a Good Housekeeping cookery book from 1988 and, while most of the recipes turn out fine and have become standards, I wonder just how Italian the recipe is.

I’ve never made pasta before, although do make pizza dough and bread, so thought I would give it a go.

ZabaglioneI made the dough for the Catavelli and then rolled it out into thin ‘ropes’. These were then sliced up and pressed with a finger to curl the sides. Yes, I did have clean hands. Meanwhile I made the meat sauce with beef, onion, garlic, tomatoes and herbs.

It all came together better than I expected and Mrs Z enjoyed it too. Next time I will make the ‘ropes’ thinner so the pieces of pasta are smaller.

Afterwards I whipped up zabaglione with egg yolks, sugar and Marsala. We don’t have this often as it is so rich, but we really enjoy it and followed it with coffee and a liqueur.

Following a long walk, cooking, eating, red wine, Cognac and coffee, I was completely relaxed after an enjoyable day and a tasty meal. It’s reminded me how much I enjoy cooking and the thrill of trying new recipes. I am going to do this more often.

Do you find relaxation through cookery?

Posted in food & drink.

What precisely are we eating?

Is the recent news about burgers sold by national supermarket and fast food chains containing horse meat really a surprise? Perhaps the horse meat is a surprise, but I’m not surprised that the actual content does not always match the description on the label. The vast scale of industrialised food makes it very difficult to validate labelling and monitor quality, especially when many of these retailers put price above all else.

Before moving to Devon, we lost an excellent butcher when supermarkets cornered the local market. Inevitably, we started buying meat from supermarkets, but even then we saw joints of beef unwrapped from boxes and shrink-wrapping, sometimes butchered in another country.

For our Sunday morning breakfast today, we ate bacon purchased from Mike Turton’s Butchers in Ilfracombe High Street, which was supplied by the Cornish Farmhouse Bacon Company in Holsworthy, which breeds and rears its pigs, and processes them to the final stage on the same farm, including curing, smoking, cooking and pre packing. It was delicious and we know where it came from.

Apart from the superb quality of meat we eat, one of the main benefits of shopping at a local butcher is being able to know what we are eating. We see burgers and sausages being made in the shop. We see meat minced from a joint and cuts butchered from a carcass in front of us.

It’s a long while since I’ve been wholly confident of mass market food labelling. I’m going to be even more wary of it now.

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A superb steak at The Lamb, Ilfracombe

The Lamb has recently reopened as a steak house restaurant, so as it is just a couple of minutes’ walk away in Ilfracombe High Street, Mrs Z and I thought we would pop along for a meal. On the evening we visited, the restaurant was full (always a good sign) so we opted to sit downstairs in the bar with a G&T and a pint of Old Appledore.

Along with the main menu, there was a wide range of specials with a number of fresh fish dishes. If I hadn’t set my mind on a steak, I would have been hard pressed to choose.

Mrs Z selected mackerel with salad and potato salad as a starter and I opted for mushrooms in garlic and brandy, served with a hunk of bread and salad. Both dishes were delicious and well presented: I sneaked a taste of the mackerel and made a note to order it next time.


For our main courses we chose Lamb Wellington and ribeye steak. Mrs Z’s lamb was wrapped in pastry and served with mashed potato and vegetables and looked very appetising, while my medium rare steak was succulent, tender and served with onions rings, tomato, chips and salad. It was so good that I tucked in before remembering to take a photo.


Mrs Z was tempted by creme brûlée for dessert, which she said was delicious, and we both finished with coffees.

The atmosphere at the Lamb was very welcoming and the service from Tom, who is also landlord of the Wellington, and his staff was attentive while enabling us to enjoy a relaxed evening out.

We both enjoyed superb meals and want to go back to the Lamb soon and sample more dishes from the menu. The Lamb is a very welcome addition to Ilfracombe’s selection of fine restaurants.

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No spread, please

I hate the concept of spread.

It sounds industrial, unappetising and harmful, like something you’d use to repair a pot-holed road, smear on a rash or apply to a vegetable plot.

I eat butter and accept no alternatives. Admittedly, not a lot of butter, but I’d rather have the real thing or nothing.

Over the past 10 years or so, we’ve reduced the amount of butter we eat considerably. I love butter on hot crumpets, melted into toast or mashed into fluffy potatoes, but realise that the rest of my body probably doesn’t appreciate it as much as my taste buds.

This morning I calculated how much butter I eat a week: 2 oz (50g). This just happens to be the weekly adult ration in the Second World War. Rations also included 4 0z (100g) of margarine and 4 oz (100g) of cooking fat per week. We don’t use the former and use far less of the latter.

In the war, recalled Marguerite Patten, who worked at the Food Advice Division of the Ministry of Food, people tended to be very healthy, even if menus were somewhat monotonous. Apparently, infant mortality declined and the average age of death from natural causes increased. Dr Alan Borg of the Imperial War Museum suggested that the introduction of more protein and vitamins and the reduction of meat, fats, eggs and sugar played a part in this.

I definitely don’t want to go back to rationing, especially one egg a week or having to use powdered egg, but I like the concept of a simple, healthy diet. I also feel it’s important to be able to enjoy food, even if it’s not eating treats all the time. That’s why I eat and enjoy butter, but not all the time.

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Sunday morning croissants . . .

. . . worth getting up at 7am to prepare from the dough made last night . . .

. . . served with butter and home-made jam.

Now they are nowhere to be seen!

Posted via email from robertz

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