Our annual trip to the UK to visit my in-laws this year was one that felt long overdue. Last November D’s father sadly passed this plane to join my Dad, and almost immediately after, we had news of the dreaded C in the family. Almost a year on, we can triumphantly say that B successfully kicked the big C in the teeth, and everyone is well, and happy.
Family reunions are always cherished. Living away from both sets of parents makes them that much more joyful. Even with technology where we can keep in touch on what’s going on in our every day lives, nothing beats that first big bear hug and the wonderful conversations over seemingly endless cups of tea and meals that follow.
This year we were greeted in the UK by icy winds, but clear brilliant blue skies. Out in the village in Essex where we stayed the sky seemed so vast, dotted with Simpson’s-like fluffy clouds.
It’s also the harvest moon which meant we had some incredible sightings of a huge globe full moon, fat and low in the evening sky.
And the food…ah, the food.
We stayed at the Bell Inn. A lovely b&b where the historic pub was voted one of the top 10 pubs in the UK in the good pub guide 2019.
With locally sourced produce, cooked to perfection and beautifully presented, the dishes are always a winner.
A selection of dishes from Frog’s seven course degustation menu
The next day was a trip to London to eat at Adam Handling’s Frog restaurant. D and I had eaten at “the Frog” in Shoreditch a few years back, and absolutely loved it (especially his betroot betroot betroot) so we were keen to check out his Covent Garden establishment. It didn’t disappoint. The seven course degustation menu surprised and delighted with perfectly balanced dishes full of flavour and texture. Favourites were the brandade (a salt cod and olive emulsion) tortellini with pickled leeks and frozen cod roe – a fishy riot in your mouth, and the surprising coconut ice-cream with chocolate soil and garden pea dessert. Thats certainly one way to eat your greens! Oh. And chicken skin butter (crispy chicken skin is mixed with butter and served with crispy chicken skin and chicken jus on top). So moreish.
Roast beef at Le Benaix
Pea and mint arancini
Le Benaix Bar & Brasserie was a late Sunday roast the next day. We were challenged with their menu but landed on starter of a pea and mint arancini. It was the perfect light starter to the main course which was enormous – roast beef. Medium rare roast beef slices – tender and juicy with crispy duck fat potatoes and Yorkshire pudding with gravy in the middle.
Last day was sunny and bright and a non-stop Bbq at my BIL’s place. If I recall correctly (I was so amazed at his expert BBQ skills I forgot to take photos) there was bone marrow beef burgers, venison and caramelised onion sausages, lamb loin, pork ribs, herb-fed organise free-range chicken (where we could really taste the herbs in the chicken) and a bone-in rib eye of beef which we couldn’t even eat we were so full. All that amazing meat and for me the winner was a complete surprise and absolute treat – home made spotted dick with syrup and proper custard (thank you L! ♥️). Spotted dick was a dish that we saw on the Great British Bake-off when it was a suet pudding challenge. Quite traditional (it was first attested in 1849), it’s a steamed suet pudding with dried currants, raisins and sultanas. I was fascinated at the stories told as we happily spooned big mouthfuls of the pudding, of different family variations. What a treat to end our UK visit on top of the daily English breakfasts lovingly cooked by my MIL and her husband for D and I. All in a bright sunny kitchen looking across at the allotment.
The courtyard at the Bell Innu