Recipes, Spicy

Hot Sauce – recipe

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Ripening Scotch Bonnets

I ran out of Frank’s Hot Sauce recently. This made me rather sad but as I had a pretty healthy stock of firey and delicious condiments at my disposal (including the superb ‘Holy F**k’ offering from The Rib Man) I reasoned that I was fine for a goodly while. However, there were more and more occasions when the sort of sauce I craved was of the Frank’s variety and quite frankly (see what I did there?) nothing else would do. And my tabasco was also running low. Obviously I could have popped out and simply bought some more of my required delight but I wondered if it was possible to recreate something similar at home with the last of my crop of chillies. A quick scan of the internet revealed a goodly number of so-called ‘copycat’ recipes and so I decided to go for it and used a combination of two or three. However I didn’t have the 18 cayenne chillies specified so I used a heady mix of (annoying mild) Scotch Bonnets, cayennes, jalapenos, and a dried habanero just for larks. The results were pretty awesome I have to say – hot, pleasingly zingy, addictive – and the recipe itself was actually pretty simple so it will be easy to restock when I need to. I didn’t bother taking the seeds out but if you want the exact consistency of the legendary Frank’s then you can deseed the chillies first or pass the mixture through a sieve after cooking. If you have an extractor fan in your kitchen then this will be most beneficial.

Ingredients

  • 18 cayenne chillies (or a mixture of whatever hot, red beasties you like), stalks off and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 350ml cider/white wine vinegar

Method

  • Mix the vinegar, salt, garlic powder, sugar together in a saucepan then add your chillies and garlic.
  • Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and let it blip and bubble away for 20 minutes or so. This is where the extractor fan really is your friend.
  • Transfer the mixture to a blender/food processor and blitz into a paste. BE CAREFUL!!! The mixture is not only viciously hot it is also sinus-rippingly aromatic.
  • Once you have blended to your preferred consistency (and sieved if you like), return to the pan and simmer for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Transfer to a sterilised bottle and let cool. It will be awesome straightaway but I urge you to let it sit and mingle for at least 24 hours before using. Once you have started using your sauce, store it in the fridge to keep it happy. Happy saucing!
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Meaty, Recipes

Pulled Pork – recipe

Pulled pork bun

Pulled Pork bun of joy

It’s hard imagine a pub/festival/café/market menu without pulled pork appearing somewhere. Whether served on its own, drowning in (often sadly generic) BBQ sauce, piled on a burger, folded into a pasty (yes really), or chucked onto a pizza, the true wonder of this stalwart of American BBQ has become a sadly abused dish that deserves a bit of attention and re-vitalisation. I am in no way trying to re-invent this truly wondrous piece of cooking, merely trying to show how bringing it back to basics can elevate it to its deserved place atop the meaty heights of glory. And the best thing is that you can do this recipe at home in your oven (although arguably it would be even better if you did it in a smoker) with minimum fuss. It really is a case of having faith in the low and slow school of cooking and just leaving it alone until it is done – that can be anything from 8-18 hours depending on oven temperature and how big the piece of pork is. I would highly recommend getting a meat thermometer for this and, if you can, get one with a remote probe that you can leave in the oven and thus preventing the need to keep getting the pork out to check. This recipe is pretty much as laid out by the excellent Felicity Cloake and all I’ve done is lowered the temperature slightly and tweaked the rub.

I would highly advocate using bone-in shoulder of pork for this with the rind still on. The bone will add flavour and the rind and fat will help keep the meat lubricated as it cooks and slowly breaks down into melting, tender piggy joy. Once shredded the pork also needs to sit for a while (preferably overnight) in the fridge with the juices so make sure you plan ahead for the time. This version of the recipe will easily feed 20 people – if you are using a smaller piece of shoulder then simply reduce the rub quantities and cooking time (a 2kg piece should be done after 6-8 hours) and keep an eye on that internal temperature….

Ingredients

  • 1 whole shoulder of pork, bone-in and with rind still on – weighing about 6.5kg
  • 6 tbsp fine sea salt
  • 6 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp smoked paprika or ground chiplotle
  • 2 tbsp ground black pepper
  • Soft white rolls, BBQ sauce, coleslaw – to serve
  • Preheat your oven to 220c/Gas Mark 7.
  • Score the rind with a sharp blade (or get your butcher to do it for you) so the rub can wiggle its way through – a criss-cross or just lines, it’s up to you.
  • Mix together the salt, sugar, paprika, and black pepper and rub about half of it on to the pork. Really work it in and cover the whole shoulder with it.
  • Put the pork in a roasting tin (you will need a big one) and place in the oven, letting it sizzle and crackle for 30-40 mins.
  • Take the pork out and turn the oven down to 110c/Gas Mark ¼, stick in your remote thermometer (if you have one) and cover the vast slab of pig with a tent of foil to keep the moisture in. Don’t wrap it tightly as you want the humid air to circulate a bit. Put the pork back in your low oven and leave well alone for anything from 12 to 18 hours. The pork is ready for pulling when the internal temp is between 85 and 89 centigrade – be patient! The wait is worth it. If you haven’t got a remote thermometer, check the pork after 8 or so hours and keep cooking as needed – try to keep taking it out of the oven to check the temperature down to a minimum as it will only slow things down.
  • When your thermometer reaches the longed for temperature (your kitchen and probably entire house will probably be full of porky aroma), take the pork out, remove the tent of foil and then turn the oven back up to 200c/Gas Mark 6.
  • Drain off the juices (there will be a lot) into a jug or bowl and set aside. Put the meat back in for 10 mins or so to firm it slightly then remove and leave to rest, covered again with a tent of foil, for half an hour. It should practically escaping from the bone by this time.
  • Using a couple of sturdy forks, shred the pork into ribbons and chunks, skin and all. The bones should slide out clean but give them a scrape if reluctant meat is clinging to them. Once you have shredded the meat, mix in the rest of the rub and then return the juices to the meat and stir it all together. It will smell epic.
  • Leave to cool then cover and place in the fridge to mingle and mix – overnight if you can.
  • When you are ready to eat, remove from the fridge and reheat in a moderate oven. If you are serving this as part of a buffet or party, you can always leave the pork in a slow cooker to keep warm.
  • Grab a bun and slice it in half, put a goodly dollop of your favourite coleslaw on the bottom, pile a huge mound of sticky, glorious pork on top, squirt on some quality sauce, and put the top on. Eat instantly and expect to be liberally covered juice and sauce. Then sneakily reach for another bun and repeat. You know it makes sense!
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After 18 hours it should look a bit like this…

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Meaty, Recipes

Roast rib of beef – recipe

DSC_2232-01.jpegA friend recently told me that she loved eating beef but she’d never cooked it. I asked her why and she really didn’t know – by all accounts she is an experienced and accomplished cook so this did seem rather odd. I showed her a picture of a rib of beef I’d cooked for my birthday and she asked how long I cooked it for, looking slightly surprised at the short cooking time and saying she wasn’t sure if she’d be brave enough to tackle something like roast beef as surely it was quite complicated.

There are lots of people who think a large roast is a complicated thing but really, it’s all down to planning and organisation and, more often than not, it’s all the accompanying dishes that cause the headaches. Unless you’ve got a fantastically complex meal in mind, roast meats (and beef in particular) are pretty easy to get right and a simple but delicious hunk of meat is always going to please.

Obviously if you are vegetarian or vegan you will massively disagree with me but there it is.

For me, the quality of meat is a defining factor and, put simply, the higher quality meat then the better the finished dish. I insist on free range, high welfare meat as not only to do I think this is morally the only choice, but there is no comparison when it comes to quality of flavour. Buy the best you can afford – it will be worth it, trust me.

As for timing, I always follow the blast-then-low method (which I learned from, the ever-dependable Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) – where the oven is preheated to its highest setting and the meat gets a good 20mins or so to start the cooking process. The temperature is then reduced for the rest of the cooking time and the results are always spot on. You can adjust how long the lower temperature cooking is depending on how you like your meat cooked – I insist on rare for beef and lamb but I will give you times for medium too. Well-done is simply unacceptable in my opinion and doesn’t bear thinking about.

Also, the resting time is vital – if you try and carve meat straight from the oven you will not get the best results. Meat needs to relax after cooking, to let the juices sink back in – in short, to rest is best! Also if you’ve slightly under-done it, your roast will continue to cook slightly as it rests which can be a big help. I rest meat for a minimum of 30 minutes but longer is fine – just don’t cover the joint too tightly with foil or there is a risk the residual heat may overdo your carefully timed roast.

I always have beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, greens, gravy and hot horseradish sauce but you can have whatever you prefer. But if you are one of those strange people who has cauliflower cheese with a roast dinner I’d rather not know about it.

Weirdos.

This quantity will feed 6-8 depending on how greedy you are.

Ingredients

  • 1.8-2kg rib of beef (or any other roasting joint)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  • An hour or so before cooking, get you meat out of the fridge and allow it to come up to room temperature
  • Pre-heat your oven to its highest setting
  • Slosh a glue of olive oil over the meat, season generously with salt and pepper, and rub it all over, making sure the whole piece is covered with the oil and seasoning
  • Place your meat on a rack in a roasting tray (you can put sliced onions and veg to aid your gravy underneath if you like) and put it in the middle of your screaming hot oven
  • After 20-25 minutes, open the oven door to lower the temperature and reduce your oven to Gas Mark 3/160c then cook for 10 minutes per 500g for very rare, or 12-15 minutes per 500g for medium
  • Once the cooking time is up, remove from the oven and put the beef on a warm plate and cover loosely with foil (don’t wrap it tight or it’ll over-cook) for at least 30 minutes
  • Use the juices and whatever is in the tray to make gravy
  • Carve, eat, rejoice
  • Just don’t have cauliflower cheese with it….
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Bready, Cakey, Recipes

Cinnamon Buns – recipe

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Hi all!

Sorry for the extended absence – what a mad few months!!!

Never mind! I’m here now and have a recipe that will bring joy to many.

Maybe all.

Who can say?

This wonderful recipe is perfect for anytime that sweet, sticky, spicy buns are required and is pretty straightforward. It is adapted from a couple of versions I’ve tried and really delivers. I would advise using a food mixer if you have one as the dough is STICKY!!!!

Get bunning!

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 600g strong white flour, plus extra to dust1 packet fast active dried yeast
  • 100g caster sugar (or vanilla sugar if you like)
  • 1tsp salt
  • 275ml milk
  • 1 medium egg
  • 5 or 6 cardamom pods (optional)
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease

For the filling:

  • 40g softened unsalted butter
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g sultanas
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 2-4 tbsp water (or lemon juice if you like)

Method

  • Put the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough hook (or just a large bowl if you are being bold and kneading by hand!)
  • Gently heat the milk with the cardamom pods (you can lightly crush them if you want) and leave to infuse for a few minutes then remove. While the milk is still warm, whisk in the egg and melted butter.
  • Add to the flour bowl in one go and turn the mixer on to low speed.Knead the dough for 5 minutes until elastic and smooth then dust a surface with flour, scrape out the sticky dough and knead by hand for a minute or so.
  • Shape into a round and transfer to a large greased bowl (if you are super organised you can used the scraped out mixing bowl), cover with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size (anything from 1-2 hours)
  • Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment.
  • Lightly dust a work surface and plonk your risen dough on to it. Knock back the air gently then roll out dough to a rectangle roughly 23cm x 38cm with the long edge in front of you.
  • Spread the softened butter over the rectangle (right to the edges), and liberally scatter over the sugar, cinnamon,and sultanas – it is best to mix all three together in a bowl first.
  • Brush the long edge furthest away from you with water and carefully roll the dough in to a tight sausage, pressing lightly to seal it on the watered edge. Stuff may fall out. Don’t worry – just tuck it back in.
  • Preheat oven to Gas Mark 5 (190c).
  • Divide the dough into 12 slices (about 2.5cm wide) and arrange them on the baking sheet, spaced slightly apart to allow for growth. Cover loosely with greased clingfilm and leave to rise again in a warm place for about half an hour.
  • Remove clingfilm and bake buns for 20-25 minutes until golden, risen, and wonderful. If they still look pale, give them another few minutes.
  • While the buns are baking and filling your kitchen with wondrous smells, sift  the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in the water/lemon juice until it is smooth and spoonable. If you want a thinner icing just add more liquid.
  • As soon as the buns come out of the oven, smother them with the icing while they are warm and leave to cool.
  • They are awesome cold but ludicrously good served warm….

 

 

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Bready, Recipes

Cider, Cheese and Onion Sharing Loaf – recipe

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A more-ish, irresistible loaf 

I love bread. I love making it, I love eating it. I also love cider. And cheese. And onions. So the next logical step was clearly to combine all three into a heady mix of cidery cheesey oniony bready joy. So I did. And what joy it is! Perfect for plonking in the middle of the table for lunch and letting everyone pile in and rip it to pieces. Or just scoffing yourself curled up on the sofa. Your choice really.

This is effectively like a savoury batch of Chelsea Buns – swirls of bread with the filling splurging out all over the place – and it’s pretty simple to do, if not a tad messy at times. The cider adds a wonderful flavour to the loaf and really compliments the cheese and onion filling wonderfully. If you like you can do the second prove in the fridge overnight to really let the bread develop a full flavour but it’s not essential. However if you do this, I’d advise proving the finished loaf on a sheet of non-stick baking parchment as it will stick fast otherwise…

Makes one loaf

Ingredients

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 300ml dry cider
  • 7g sachet dried fast-action yeast
  • 10g salt
  • 1 dessert spoon caster sugar 
  • 1 dessert spoon olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, halved and finely sliced
  • 200g grated strong cheddar (you may not need all of it)
  • A few sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Olive oil (for frying)

Method

  • Place the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl and pour in the cider – it will fizz and foam as you mix it in – and add the dessert spoon of olive oil. Combine into a rough dough then turn out onto a lightly oiled surface and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. It will be sticky but don’t worry – it’s worth it.
  • Shape into a round and place in a well oiled bowl (coating the top of the dough with a bit more olive oil) and cover with cling film or a damp tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm, draught-free place for an hour or so or until doubled in size.
  • While the dough is rising, place a large frying pan over a medium-low heat and add a lug of olive oil (and a knob of butter if you like). When the oil is hot, add your sliced onions and soften gently for a few minutes then add the chopped rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook on a low heat for a good 10-15 minutes to really soften and sweeten the onions – stirring often to prevent them catching. When they are done, remove and leave to cool.
  • Once your dough has risen, tip out onto a work surface and flatten into a large rectangle – about 35cm by 20cm but it doesn’t have to be precise. The dough should be thin enough to roll up with all the filling and it may help to tack the long edge closest to you on to the work surface to help get a tighter roll.
  • Spread the cooled onion mixture evenly over the dough followed by the grated cheese – make sure you keep some back for sprinkling over the top of the finished loaf – then roll the whole lot up tightly.
  • Cut into 12-16 slices (this will depend on how long your rectangle is) and arrange each slice on a well-floured baking tray (or use non-stick baking parchment), spacing each one a centimetre or so apart. You want them to prove and bake into each other so a bit of space is important. If you are worried about everything unravelling just give each segment a squeeze and tuck – it doesn’t matter if it looks untidy!
  • Cover with either a clean tea towel or some oiled cling film and leave to prove for about 30-45 minutes (or overnight in the fridge).
  • Pre-heat your oven to 190c/Gas Mark 5.
  • Once your loaf has proved, uncover and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top then pop in the oven and bake for 25 minutes until risen and golden brown. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack before diving in and devouring.

NOTE : If you are proving overnight in the fridge, allow the bread to come back up to room temperature before baking

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Bready, Recipes

Focaccia – recipe

Apologies for my absence of late – the end of last year passed in a haze of ale, roast dinners, and fine wine and thus blogging sadly took a back seat. Sorry about that Mr Blog.

But I’m here now and I’ve got a super-awesome recipe for any bread-lovers out there who fancy a bit of a challenge…

Are you ready?

Of course you are.

FOCACCIA!!!!

Focaccia is, when done properly, a true wonder of a bread and something that can make a real impact when presented, warm and fragrant, on any table. A soft, irregular crumb with a glossy olive oil top, speckled with flecks of rosemary and flaky salt, a bread that is deeply savoury and wonderfully more-ish. And not actually that difficult to make provided you are prepared to deal with a VERY sticky dough and give it the time it needs to rise and prove and develop. In many of the recipes I looked at when first attempting this bread, I noticed that most call for a slightly wetter (say 65% hydration – so 650ml per 1kg flour) dough than a normal loaf and go for a straightforward first prove of about 1 hour then shaping and proving again before baking. I’m sure this produces a perfectly fine bread but I was curious to know whether there a longer prove might improve both the texture and flavour (as is usually the case) so I contacted an excellent baker/Twitter chum to get his opinion. Aidan Chapman is a true master baker and has provided me with hints, tips, and advice for some years now and ALL of his advice has proved both invaluable and also delicious. He suggested not only an overnight prove in a cool place (I used a shed in the end as the box was too big for the fridge) but also a very wet (80% hydration) dough. He also said to fold the dough four times over four hours before leaving to prove – a technique that helps trap in more air and also give the gluten an extra stretch which results in a soft and wonderful textured loaf (I do it with sourdough and it makes a HUGE difference).

So all of this I did and the results were, well, pretty spectacular. I’m not going to lie, the super wet dough was a tad tricky to handle and if you want to make this recipe I would highly advise using a food mixer with dough hook rather than attempting to knead by hand. Unless you like sticking to everything in the kitchen and universe as you work in which case go for it. The dough remains pretty sticky even after the first prove so be careful when you cover it again for the last rise – use plastic bags with plenty of volume and oil the insides if you can. And of course, if you are too intimidated by the 80% hydration, by all means reduce it but you will be missing out. I promise.

So…

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After the long prove – look at all the bubbles!

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

  • 1kg strong white bread flour
  • 10g fast action yeast
  • 20g fine sea salt
  • 800ml water
  • 100ml olive oil
  • Finely chopped rosemary
  • Flaky salt
  • Olive oil for drizzling

Method

  • Place the flour, salt, yeast, and water in the bowl of a food-mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix on a slow speed to combine.
  • When the mixture has come together, add the 100ml olive oil and set to knead on a slow speed for about ten minutes until it is smooth and silky.
  • Scrape the dough into a well-oiled plastic container or bowl and cover with cling-film, leaving to rise for an hour.
  • After an hour, use a dough scraper to fold the dough over itself, trapping in the air and stretching out the gluten – this will give you the uneven, light crumb you want. Repeat this 3 times – each time you will notice the dough becoming lighter with a myriad of strands and stretches.
  • Leave to prove overnight in the fridge or in a very cool place.
  • The next day, let the dough return to room temperature and oil two baking trays – about 26x36cm. Make sure your trays are well oiled as the dough will still be very sticky.
  • Divide the dough into two and, with oiled hands, roughly shape into rectangles then stretch and squash it into the baking trays, trying to really push it into the corners. Pre-heat your oven to Gas Mark 10/250c.
  • Cover and leave to rise for another half hour or so. When the bread looks puffed up and ready to go, dot the surface with your fingers to create indentations to catch and hold the oil you’ll be drizzling over them. Mmm, drizzle.
  • Drizzle the oil generously but don’t drown your bread, scatter over the chopped rosemary and flaky salt, then bake for 10mins.
  • Turn the oven down to Gas Mark 6/200c and cook for another 10mins or until lightly golden.
  • Remove from the oven and cool slightly (about 10mins) on wire racks – focaccia is at its best when served warm.
  • Scoff and rejoice!

 

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Ramblings..., Reviews

Helen Browning at The Royal Oak, Bishopstone – review 

It is tempting, when you find a gem of a pub lunch, to keep it yourself and sneakily return again and again merely to satisfy your own gastronomic desires and revel in the fact that no-one else knows about your secret. However, it is equally tempting to shout loudly and rejoice, to share your discovery with the world and tell anyone who’ll listen that they simply must try it. They must. Simple.

The Royal Oak had been on my radar for some time and I’d marked it out as a place to investigate as I’d read many great things and thought it sounded just like my sort of place. The little village of Bishopstone nestles beneath the flanking escarpment of the Ridgeway on the Oxfordshire/Wiltshire borders and is just the kind of place that one would hope, nay expect, a fine pub with an excellent kitchen. The sort of place for balmy summer barbecues, autumnal pints, and warming winter suppers. And, with The Royal Oak, the locals are blessed and lucky enough to have such a pub.

Helen Browning has a well earned reputation for excellence with regards to organic farming and animal husbandry and her farm is based in the village with pigs and sheep roaming the nearby fields. In fact, you can even book a farm tour and see the happy animals for yourself, although some diners may prefer to eat before they meet the meat. Some years ago, she took over the pub in Bishopstone and quickly established it as one of the places to eat in the area. And with organic meat and veg supplied on its doorstep, a network of excellent local and national suppliers, and an excellent selection of beers, ciders, and wine, it is no wonder that it quickly became a hit with rural gastromomes and discerning scoffers.

Annoyingly for me, it always seemed a little far from we usually stay for a gentle evening meal after a day walking the countryside, so for some time it seemed ever so slightly out of reach. I could have driven of course but then ale wouldn’t have an option. Or wine. And that wouldn’t do at all. However, while organising a pre-wedding trip for a friend, I discovered that they do offer a free land-rover ride home for up to ten people so I booked a table and made the necessary arrangements.

We arrived and were greeted like old friends, beer at the ready and some plates of homemade sausage to nibble at while the table was prepared.The Royal Oak is a Victorian building with a very snug interior and tables rambling around a generously sized bar. The menu is straightforward and tempting with an array of pig-based dishes as well as excellent sounding vegetarian and fish options. We ate a vast amount, drank a vat of wine and beer, and tumbled into the rickety land-rover for a bracing drive back to where we were staying.

It was only the next day I realised that while we were eating, the laughs and merriment had given way to silent, appreciate devouring of some of the best food any of us had had from a country pub. And I can safely say that, having returned several times since, The Royal Oak is up there as being my favourite pub to eat in in the country. No joke.

Roast pork belly

The sticky, tender spare ribs (available as a starter or main course) hint at oriental flavours and would satisfy even the hardiest BBQ fan. Their burger is fat and juicy and can be customised with extra cheese, pickles, egg, and bacon and is served with chips that rustle for your attention. A main of pork belly with root mash, roast potatoes, and cabbage consists of two hugely generous slabs of rolled pork, cooked slowly to produce tender, juicy meat that flakes apart as you cut through it. A rich, herby gravy and vast fluffy Yorkshire pudding complete this mighty take on a pork roast and a bargain at £15. Also highly recommended is the pig cheek ragu – outrageously tasty meat in a hefty sauce which fills all the corners and comforts the soul.

Puddings (all £7) are simple and wonderful – apple crumble, organic ice cream, sticky toffee pudding were all jostling for attention on a recent visit. The sticky toffee in particular is a thing of true beauty with a decadent toffee sauce soaking through a rich, spicy sponge and topped with a scoop of organic ice cream. The stuff that dreams are made of and tasty ones at that.

Glorious sticky toffee pudding

All the staff, and especially the landlord, are friendly and jolly – happy to chat or recommend anything that is enquired about, be it how the pig racing went or whether we should listen to the blackboard and try the organic ale on offer (we did, it was amazing).

They (rightly) get busy at weekends and it is worth booking ahead if you’re making a special trip. There was a relaxed and pleasing sense of mild irreverence that immediately appealed and this is part of what makes the place so good – no pretensions, no snobbery, just passion and pride. And that is something lacking in many eateries in the world right now. So if you want to eat in a genuinely friendly environment which serves consistently excellent and lovingly prepared food, head to The Royal Oak and rejoice – we always do.

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