Rhubarb & Gooseberry Jam

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home made gooseberry and rhubarb jam

It’s been something of a pleasure this summer to start hauling in bumper bundles from the garden, especially when it seemed with the late frosts and recently ridiculous dry spell in the UK that a lot of my fruit and veg is either very behind or given up the ghost entirely.
Not so with the back corner near the shed where I tend to my rhubarb and gooseberry patch. I say ‘tend to’, they don’t need an awful lot of attention and have given me about 5kg of harvest between them since early June. There is something wonderful about being able to nip out into the garden and have fresh produce to take straight into the kitchen, and we are yet to get tired of various tarts, compote and cake variations but even with my best efforts I’ve found myself running out of time to keep up with the growth out there. I would say there is only so much stewed rhubarb I can breakfast on but that’s nonsense because I love it, however the gooseberries are starting to over-ripen now it is well and truly the end of their season.
So after my Killer Gooseberry Chutney experiment, I took off the remaining berries and combined with some more rhubarb for a jam stash.
I have hinnonmaki red gooseberries and plain old unforced rhubarb- which looks a bit like celery but tastes just as good as the pink forced stuff.
Jam or chutney is mildly labour intensive stuff, but it is probably the safest bet to make use of a bumper crop for long term enjoyment and minimal storage issues. I maintain that homegrown fruit makes this jam so much tastier as it is completely fresh and untreated, however there is nothing to stop you from using store bought produce however this is going to cost you significantly more than a couple of posh jars of ready made jam. More advantages to growing your own is having at the bottom of your patch about forty quid’s worth of rhubarb at current Waitrose rates.¬† Adding the rhubarb in this jam has also given me the chance to engage in that great home grower’s tradition of palming off your excess produce on your mates when you run out of time and space to keep it all, so beware real life buddies the tiny jars are on their way out to you!

Boomboom Rhubarb & Gooseberry Jam

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Makes just under 2kg of jam

1kg jam sugar, or 1kg golden caster sugar and a decent sugar thermometer
550g rhubarb stalks, roughly chopped
400g fresh goosberries
25g fresh root ginger, grated
Juice and zest of 1 large orange.

You’ll need clean jars and lids and a heavy based saucepan, check out my jamming tips at the end of this post here.

To begin, wash and rinse your jars well and place them in a cold oven before setting the oven to 100 degrees. If you are using caster sugar, stick a saucer or small plate in the freezer.
Take a seat infront of the telly to top and tail your gooseberries, yes, yes I know it takes ages. Sorry about that.
Once that faff is over with rinse your gooseberries and add to your pan along with all other ingredients. The rhubarb will break down entirely during the cooking to give a lovely thick texture to your jam and as a bonus you don’t need to fuss about chopping it too finely because of this.
Stir it all together and set to a high temperature to reach a rolling boil.
If you are using a jam sugar which already includes pectin keep this on to boil for 10 minutes before transferring to the hot jars and sealing.
If you are using normal sugar keep on the boil until you reach 105 degrees on your sugar thermometer. If you don’t mind a runny jam risk, jar this up now or to be doubly sure test the set by dobbing half a teaspoon of the jam on to your now frozen saucer. Leave it for 30 seconds or so to cool then press the dollop gently with your finger- if it has formed a slightly wrinkly surface then you have reached setting and it is good to go.

This jam will keep for months kept air tight in a dark cupboard, then once opened in the fridge for a couple of weeks. I personally like mine on toast but I have it on good authority that this does very well stirred into a bowl of rice pudding. Enjoy!

 

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Killer Gooseberry Chutney

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Hot gooseberry chutney mix ready to go

A year or so ago I tried my luck with a couple of Hinnonmaki Red Gooseberry plants to fill in a space recently vacated by a big ugly Red Robin 70s kitsch shrubbery horror. I got about three cups of small berries from them last year, which went into a Christmas gin infusion that was generally received as OK but no patch on a Wilkin & Sons fruity gin.
That little name drop brings me to one of the reasons I thought I’d invest in some gooseberry plants in the first place- Wilkin & Son’s Hot Gooseberry Chutney, which makes a soft French cheese sandwich worth giving up your place in heaven for yet seems scantily available unless you can get to the Tiptree factory every week- and if I did that I’d be fatter and poorer than I am now.

So this year, despite the horrors of all that late snow and later frosts, I was both surprised and thrilled to have a seriously bumper gooseberry haul, currently running at 2kg and counting of fat blood-red fruits. Attempting my own hot, sweet chutney for the autumn cheeseboards was my first port of cookery. I knew I’d never replicate the W&S version perfectly, not least because that is made with green gooseberries, so instead did a quick bit of googling on what flavours are best to combine with these tart little balls of delight. I found quite a few Asian recipes pairing the sharpness of gooseberries with fatty meats like duck or even mackerel which inspired the mix I have thrown together below. I’m soooo pleased with outcome- a hot, sweet jelly which is screaming out to be thrown at a load of creamy cheese or cold turkey leg. I confess I have dipped into one jar today only 2 weeks after making it and it’s good to go already, however the bulk of the jars are staying in a cupboard to hopefully make it to Christmas.

And why is it killer? Because it took me almost a whole playing of Hot Fuss to top and tail the bloody gooseberries………..

Boomboom Killer Gooseberry Chutney

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Hinnonmaki red gooseberries from my garden

makes about 750ml chutney

Roughly 5 cups/ 750g of fresh gooseberries
2 cups of caster sugar
1/2 cup jam sugar*
350ml cider vinegar
2 star anise
1 large red chilli
1 white onion
Jars, lids, heavy bottomed pan, good oven gloves!

*you can use all caster sugar if you don’t have jam sugar, this just helps the set.

Start off by scrubbing and rinsing a few jars and their lids with hot soapy water. Dry the lids and keep them somewhere clean. Put the jars on a baking tray and into a COLD oven. Set the oven to 100 degrees C.

Wash your gooseberries well and set to the fascinating task of cutting off the stalk and flower ends. This will take ages (roughly a whole album) but it worth the time as those little bits will not cook out into the chutney and will leave the impression of slightly fruity grit upon tasting. Not good.

Finely chop the onion and chilli (keep the seeds in) and combine with all other ingredients in a heavy bottomed pan. Stir well and put on on a high heat until boiling. Keep on a rolling boil for about ten minutes (if not using jam sugar, you need to get past 105 on your sugar thermometer) then transfer into the hot jars and seal. Store in a dark, cool place for at least two weeks before integrating into the best cheese sandwich you ever had ūüôā

A note on jarring- you might read a lot about hot water baths, temperature checks, botulism and the like when trying to make your own preserves at home. A lot of that advice seems like overkill to this blogger. I’ve made literally thousands of jars of various things in the last ten years and never used a water bath for it. You heat the jars in the oven both to sterilise them and to prevent the heat from the chutney shocking the glass of the jars into breaking but heat also works to seal them. It’s pretty simple physics: if you use a glass jar with a properly sealing metal lid (or kilner style glass lid) when your jam is still hot then it will seal itself by cooling. Hot air expands- so that little gap of air at the top of your jar is going to effectively get smaller as it cools. If your jar is air tight, this creates a wee bit of pressure which holds the lid in place and excludes fresh oxygen getting in where it might create growing conditions for moulds or bacteria. You know what else inhibits mould and bacteria growth? Acid and sugar. You have those things here too. Don’t sweat the water bath, just keep your jars sealed then refrigerate once opened.
I use a good wadded teatowel to handle the hot jars, which takes some practice and the kind of determination that may only be encouraged by the odd scorched fingertip! Just whip them out of the oven and don’t overfill your ladle when transferring in the chutney/jam as spillage is both wasteful and a sticky bitch to clear up. Remember your teatowel/oven gloves when you put the lids on and if possible give the jar a quick wipe down with a very damp cloth while still warm as any spills will be easier to clean up at this time.
Lastly, leave those jars the hell alone for a good few hours, they stay hot for ages and you will learn all kinds of new swears if you manage to jar up your jam without any burny incidents only to scald yourself half an hour later whilst trying to clean up.

 

Very Warm Chickpea Salad

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warm chickpea salad

Ah, summertime, when life is nought but Will Smith jams and over dressed lettuces. A pesto drizzled heap of rocket is all well and good but a girl (or a boy, crikey) cannot live on feathery greens alone. A girl/boy/fraggle doesn’t always want to cook loads in the hotter days either and this is when some kind of chunky salad comes into play. I’m a lover of the warm salad, as it feels like more of a meal sometimes than a cold bowl of crunchy stuff and let’s face it hot and cold is a great contrast in a dish. Slightly warming, rather than totally cooking, some vegetables can really change the flavour to them too, as this does with the last minute warm through of the celery.¬† You can refrigerate obviously but this salad is great to serve at room temperature as either a hearty vegan meal or a tasty side to your bbq or cold cuts or whatever.¬† The ‘very warm’ comes from the green chilli.

Yes, it’s Monday, it’s a vegan one, I finally got a legit #meatfreemonday to blog!

Boomboom Very Warm Chickpea Salad

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Serves 2 as a main meal or 4/5 as a side

1 can cooked chickpeas
1 green chilli
1 red onion
1 clove garlic
250g chestnut mushrooms
250g button mushrooms
5 vine ripened tomatoes
1 stick celery
Rapeseed oil

The dressing: 1Tbspn extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tbspn cider vinegar, 1 Tbspn pomegranate molasses, squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

You need a heavy bottomed non-stick frying pan for this. Start by rinsing your chickpeas and setting them aside in a large mixing bowl.
Cut the onion and chilli very finely- I discard half the seeds but hot heads may wish to keep them! Remove them altogether if you don’t like it spicy.¬† Fry the onion and chilli in no more than 1 Tbspn of rapseed oil, moving well until the onions begin go translucent. Add the crushed garlic now and cook for another minute, try not to let the garlic catch/brown.

Add chilli-onion mix to your chickpeas now, scraping as much of the oil out of the pan too so that it is more or less dry before returning to the heat. It’s a mild faff but you now need to dry fry your sliced mushrooms in small batches, keeping plenty of space in the pan so that any moisture can cook off quickly and they don’t start to poach. You want to cook them until they just starting to crisp on the edges- keep the slices quite chunky when you are prepping so you have a nice contrast of the crisp edges and the more meaty middle.

As your batches of shrooms are done add them to the chickpeas and onions etc. Chop the celery now and add to the dry pan, turning the head down and moving the celery constantly for about 90 seconds. You literally just want to warm it through to soften slightly and bring out the flavour, don’t be tempted to cook it through or brown it at all. Add these now, then add your chopped vine tomatoes. Whizz the dressing ingredients together, dress and season and you’re ready to go. I think this is best served straight away but it will keep in the fridge for several days too (it’s good for packed lunches!).

 

All Inclusive Salad

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An easy Summer Friday night salad

Most people remember their first proper couples holiday pretty fondly. Some return there every summer, anniversaries, honeymoons, the lot just to relive those heady sunscreen-scented days of early romance and short haul flights. Let’s be honest it’s hard not to have The Feelings when you’re off work and away from the inlaws in a climate that makes ice cream for breakfast and day drinking fizzy pink wine acceptable.

My first such journey with the Mr was to a self-awarded three star establishment in lully Lanzarote. It was an all inclusive, not-too-far-from-the-beach family friendly¬† establishment and it cost us less than eight hundred quid including flights, which should tell you just how high the quality of those all inclusive food and drinks were. That’s in total, by the way, not per head. So, it wasn’t the Ritz, but they had a pool and self serve Estrella so it was enough for this budget-challenged girl at the time.¬† I can’t see either of us putting a return trip high on the agenda but we have fond memories of that little Spanish escape let me tell you, and one of the things we talk about most was the funny little buffet line up every day. Wafer thin bacon and overdone eggs for breakfast. Endless chips and hotdogs. Mysteriously gelatinous Dessert Cakes and my personal favourite, The Lunch Salad- which came out every day with the hot dogs and chips and was basically whatever veg had been out the night before with some extra lettuce and a crapton of mayo. If there were spuds in it, it was Russian salad. When there was a load of tinned pineapple on the go, it was a Hawaiian salad. You get the idea. This might sound a bit skanky to you, but if it does you’re the kind of Brit who gets on my nerves a bit on holiday by moaning about the lack of Dom Perignon and truffled mac n cheese on an 18-euros-a-day all-in menu. Oddly enough, Linda, this hotel off the African coast doesn’t stock up on sliced white from the big Sainsbury’s in Croydon so no, this isn’t like the bread at home either. I hate people. But I like eating, and as neither of us are fussy by nature the Mr and I got stuck into all the local delights on offer and by the end of the week were looking forwards to our Random-Nationality Salad and chips at lunchtime. It hit the spot, and was a mild stroke of waste-avoiding genius for whoever had to create three meals a day for a bunch of sunburned Brits Abroad that were paying next to nothing for it. We could all learn a lesson or two from the head of that kitchen, I reckon. And it seems like I did, because when I was faced with making dinner last night after a long hot day of people being dicks in the workplace, I didn’t have it in me to do much other than cut up everything in the fridge and chuck a load of (sort of) Russian dressing over the top. It was a pretty good dinner for me, and a winner for the Mr who declared after cleaning his plate that it was ‘Really good, bit like a Lanzarote lunch.’. I’m about to finish it up for my own North Essex lunch now actually which has prompted me to share it because, much like those chefs on the Costa Teguise, I have managed to bodge up a winner of a salad with very little care or attention and that deserves a bit of a celebration. It’s pretty substantial as salads go and will hold up as a meal in itself but also great as a BBQ side.

Boom-Boom All Inclusive Salad

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Serves 3 as a main or 6-8 as a side

2 little gem lettuces
2 carrots
1/4 white cabbage
1/2 cucumber
5 spring onions
150g cooked turkey or ham
100g cheese of your choice
4 gherkins
*literally any other veg you have to hand, including cooked potatoes, sweetcorn, peppers, pickled onions, anything, everything.

for the dressing: 5 tablespoons light mayo, 3 tablespoons Co-Op South Carolina Sauce, 2 tablespoons good quality ketchup, 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, a good shake of tobasco, salt and pepper

Start by washing your veg, shred the cabbage and lettuce and either grate or roughly chop the carrots. Cut the cucumber, gherkins and springonions quite finely and cube the turkey/ham and cheese to bitesized chunks. I used a cheap Austrian-smoked-style cheese (in the sausage shape, you know the one) but cheddar, cheshire or even a brie type cheese would also work.

Mix it all up and then chill until needed. When the time comes blitz the dressing ingredients together then dress and serve immediately.

Variations- literally millions. You can add any cooked veg to this- broad beans and sweetcorn would be good as would cooked carrots or spuds as long as they haven’t been cooked to mushy hell of course. Chuck in some boiled eggs if you are vegetarian instead of the turkey. The South Carolina sauce isn’t available to everywhere but does make for perfecting this dressing but if you must sub it, use a yellow American style mustard with a pinch of chilli or horseradish for a bit of heat.

 

 

Grow Your Own! Pulling Up Daisies

If you are one of those mere mortals trying to have a full time job and a life whilst also being the primary care giver to a garden space, chances are you’re either a wee bit stressed right now. That or you have given up all forms of social activity not involving deadheading or nematode waterings until November.
I am the first kind, my garden is giving me stress y’all.
What with the schizoid weather everything that was hardy enough to survive the odd near-zero evenings is going utterly mental in the interluding periods of mass sunshine. My good stuff is dead. All the evil is thriving like a weight watchers salesman in pre-bikini season. The beds are a mess and I really,¬†really don’t know if I should swap my blue grass planting for the hebe or keep the hebe in a pot and try to tame the hibiscus down instead? And what are we going to save the last planting trough for? Radishes or lettuce? The radishes got eaten last year. The lettuces get eaten every year.

Fuck my life.

OK so it’s not that bad, but¬† it is a rude awakening from the ultra slow/cold start to the year where I had nothing to do but lament my lack of pot fleecing skills. It’s all kicking off, and having a couple of pleasing invites on the cards for next weekend means that I have up until the end of this happy Bank Holiday Monday to get everything out there ship shape and bug free for the next couple of weeks.

Yesterday was tieing up the spent tulips (of which I have way too many) and wrenching out a couple of miles of sticky weed, which left today aside for pretty things like my new Senetti and getting the butternut babies into their outdoor bed. And deciding about that bloody hebe, perhaps. It should have been fine, I should be out their with my feet up in all the well tended splendour with my first gin of the day by now.

I have pulled up roughly a million of these perennial dairy shoot offs today. They have a root structure of pure evil.

I am not out there in any kind of splendour. Because, daisies. For once, my sweary rant of garden issues is not about Oxalis babies or Moby Dick The Phantom Crapper. You see, I have a nice slightly shady patch at the back of the garden. Last year it gave us my sentient and malevolent pumpkins. 2018 has it down for a butternut squash nursery. I don’t weed this patch in the winter, there’s no point as crap grows on there faster than I can keep up with it and if there is crap growing in there the cats don’t tend to add their own actual crap on top of it. So I resign myself to a solid weeding session in the spring and leave it to help out the bugs and butterflies until then. Today was ‘Then’ when the mass weeding was due, which should have taken half an hour and been restricted mostly to dandelions and forget-me-nots and other easily tugged culprits.¬† Oh no, what is his new green invader? I know not, but fear not, I shall pull it all out with my trusty garden fork. My trusty garden fork which got stuck in the root mass of this be-leafed menace and failed to come out again even with my full weight on the bloody thing. If you don’t know me, I can assure you that my full weight is not an insignificant amount. An hour and a half and three litres of middle-aged-pain sweat later, I have more kilos of daisy roots than I can carry in one trip to my compost bin.
Bastards.
For clarity, I don’t mean teeny tiny pretty daisies like you get in the lawn. I mean Leucanthamum, a tall and sturdy perennial flowering aster which will die back over the winter in order to not draw attention to the fact that it is burrowing under your paving with a super strong root network that Groot’s evil twin would be proud of
It. Is. Everywhere.
Or more, it was everywhere. It is now in the compost bin whilst I am in the throws of a good anti-inflammatory hit and trying to remember the last time my legs hurt this much. It was either the walking marathon or my first weighted squats class. Urgh. On the plus side, I remembered at all times not to try and lift/heave with my back and I now have a legit reason to do nothing but drink, elevate and ice for the remains of the bank holiday. The lesson is to always have gin handy. The other lesson, is that what happened in your garden last year won’t necessarily repeat itself. The other other lesson is that plants are bastards, and you can never let your guard down around them, even the pretty ones. Especially the pretty ones.

And now for the early May round up:

Beans: All dead but one stalk, which is potted. Those in the ground never really recovered from the late frosts. RIP buddies.

My monster rhubarb, soon to be dismembered for pie and gin making.

Rhubarb: Going nuts. NUTS. Now big enough to harvest but not ripe enough. Likely to now take over as my weeding has removed the dominant force for evil that was those bloody daisies.

Tomatoes: These are a first for me, started off to zero fanfare in the conservatory last month. I managed four sensible seedlings from attempting about twenty, which is both disappointing and practical. I have three in the 80s old lady staple that is a grow bag and one in a pot to be transplanted to the patch when it’s a bit stronger. I have started some more seedlings to try some latecomers too and planted a bunch of marigolds nearby to test that natural pest-repellent theory.

Gooseberries: Doing well after a growth spurt, showing very small buds.

Raspberries: Received from Susie-Soo last year, growing very well in a pot by the house and showing signs of flowering.

Pear trees: All happy, blossoming and good.

Basil and Coriander: Going great guns having started out in the conservatory, now on the patio in a tub.

Rosemary: Currently in flower, doing well as always.

Rainbow Beets: A seedy gift from the Mothership, currently very small spouts that started in the conservatory and went out in a pot this weekend.

Garlic: Looks fine……..who can tell?

Lettuce: Showing no signs of anything.

Chard: Still going from last year, was very tasty fried up with some mushrooms this morning.

Carrots: Now I was going to give the carrots a miss this year, but I have space now from all those dead beans so I have sown some Nantes 5 and Heritage Purple variety straight into the ground today. A little bit late perhaps, but I usually harvest them too early so maybe this will stop me from premature pulling.

Finally, daisies out and butternut squash babies in. 

Butternuts: Planted today into the aforementioned weed patch of doom with a bit of fish, blood and bone and a very good watering. I have also sown fifteen nasturtium seeds to border them in the hope that they give the slugs a tastier option.

So that’s it for today, if my legs regain any flexibility before sundown I will be out to spritz all the green stuff with my bee friendly nibbler repellent of soapy water. Yes, really. I’m still on that whole enviro-gardener thing despite The Daisy Incident and discovering a four foot thistle trying to bodyslam my lavenders yesterday.

 

Like I said, plants are bastards.

Sweet Roast Onion Soup

An easy, rich and comforting onion soup.

Living in the joys of a modern cohabitation relationship, it’s not that often I need to come up with a decent meal for one. By decent meal, I don’t mean a weekday breakfast or a cheeky sandwich, but an actual meal that I want to pay attention to without it ruining my day. But once in a while He isn’t here and I fancy a decent dinner to accompany my quality time with Detective Steve Holder my thoughts. When I’m not trying to destroy my weight loss goals, I like to run up this soup which is easy to make though not technically that quick due to the roasting time needed. I usually have all the required ingredients either in my cupboard or in my garden too so I don’t even have to interupt my Netflix time with a shops trip. It’s a rich, sweet and not even slightly naughty dinner that you could easily scale up for friends if you feel like sharing.

BoomBoom Sweet Roast Onion Soup

Serves One
3 red onions
1 small head of garlic
1 courgette
5 button mushrooms
Sprig of fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
Fresh sage
Black pepper
1 heaped tablespoon of sour cream
Pinch of ground nutmeg

Peel the onions and cut the top off the garlic head, drizzle with rapeseed oil, and roast at 180 along with the rosemary for 40 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Roughly chop the courgette and fry in a little more rapeseed oil with lots of fresh black pepper. When softened, add the bay leaf, a few shredded sage leaves and the cooked onions (roughly chopped) and squeeze out the garlic from the head too. Give it a stir for a moment then add the nutmeg- literally just a pinch! Nowhere near even a 1/4 of a tablespoon, just a tiny amount.

Cover with boiled water and simmer with a lid on for ten minutes. As this is only a single serve recipe I get heavy with the herbs and pepper rather than use stock, but if you are scaling up then you can use vegetable stock. If you have a bottle open then by all means throw in a generous splash of red or white wine at this point.

While the soup is cooking finely slice the mushrooms and fry in a hot pan with some very finely chopped rosemary and sea salt until the edges start to crisp.

Allow the soup to cool slightly before blitzing with the sour cream then stir in the mushrooms. Season to taste and serve with a side of hot buttered toast to be enjoyed in your PJ’s with your phone on silent and your favourite TV boyfriend!

Variations- swap the sour cream for fat free Greek yoghurt if needs be or omit all together. If you don’t have the fresh herbs just add dried at the beginning¬†of the soup with the courgette.¬†

The Breakfast Club- Cobbles Kitchen

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Where: Ogmore By The Sea, Bridgend
What: Traditional and trendy fare, heavy on local produce
How much? £10 a head for breakfast
Overall:  Top notch, top marks, top everything

Contact: 01656 646361 https://www.cobbleskitchen.co.uk/

Being regular budget travelers, The Mr and I are neither adverse nor strangers to a Cheap Hotel Chain Of Choice buffet of overdone sausages and suspicious egg like substances. It was something of a happy accident on our last mystery tour of darkest Wales to be directed to Cobbles in Bridgend to kick off a day of local sightseeing in a suitably fried and over fed fashion.

 

You will find Cobbles just off the B4524 in Ogmore By Sea (surely a runner for Best Place Name Ever???). It’s a cute and suitably rustic collection of stone buildings around a central courtyard with both dining rooms and a separate deli room. This place is basically a shabby chic upscaler’s dream- think slightly wonky floors and mis matched chairs, enameled tin tableware and ridiculously kitsch tables fashioned from old manual sewing machines. It is worth mentioning now that the wheels on these still work, which might irritate some but is a wonderful distraction and comfort if you have in your party a restless leg sufferer or man-sized child who is fascinated by any kind of mechanical object in creation. It kept him quiet while the girls caught up, anyway.

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The courtyard at Cobbles, available for private hire.

So it’s twee and warm and massively on trend if you like your modern comforts to look like they’re from the turn of the century, but what about the food? The published ethos from Cobbles is to showcase an area rich in gorgeous produce by offering a true taste of Wales, using as much local produce as possible. You can expect the standard menu offering of a full breakfast (with veggie and vegan options), oats or pancakes, plus daily specials and various decorated eggs benedict. If you make it for the hallowed brunch period after 11 you can add your hipster choices of avo toast and their take on shakshuka.¬† We were early birds catching our touristy worms, so it was the standard Brecwast menu for us, two Full Welsh and one vegetarian. I often vouch for a veggie breakfast these days, what with all the nitrates in the bacon I keep getting warned about and quite frankly, a higher chance of cheese inclusion. As one could expect in this location this involved a couple of glorious Glamorgan sausages, eggs, mushrooms and beans with a leek hash brown. They aren’t fibbing on their menu when they promise you ‘doorstep’ toast either, to quote our holiday host Angharad ‘I’d come here every day just for the toast’. Think proper, thick cut bread that you could bed down for the night in. Perfect. The carnivorous version was also well received with special mention again for the sausages. You can add Welsh foodie phenomenon laverbread to your plate too if you wish, but I chose not to, for reasons explained here.

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Full Breakfast at Cobbles, is there such a thing as toast porn?

 

Service is pleasantly relaxed, by which I actually mean relaxed and not slow or sloppy, and a visit to their Deli afterwards is a must- as well as standard tourist traps like welshcakes you can pick up some hearty bakery items and local beers here. The macarons are stunning.

This might feel like something of a flat review- Blogger Eats Good Breakfast Then Buys Cake. To be honest I don’t feel much of a need to find more ways to describe a basically perfect fry up in a really nice room. It is no surprise to me to see Cobbles receiving a Best Restaurant accolade in the Food Awards for Wales, and if you make it over there I don’t think it will surprise you either. What strikes me as worth shouting about Cobbles, like so many other smaller run eateries and businesses in general, is that this is not normal. All too often we accept mediocre and mass produced food on too big plates dished up by a knackered minimum wage slave who’s only purpose is to get you cashed out as quickly as possible with some extra loyalty card points. Eating out is becoming an increasingly bullshitty experience with the big boys. We go to the budget buffet bar and we accept the over done sausages and suspicious egg like substances because, well, they have a lot of customers don’t they so we can put up with it and it’s not really ok to complain when it’s so cheap…..
So don’t complain. Go somewhere else. Look for a smaller place with a logo you don’t recognise and start thinking about value rather than cost. A full buffet run comes in about the nine quid region on average, with bad coffee and the aforementioned egg suspicions. A full breakfast with a hot drink at Cobbles is just less than this. A gut busting plate of breakfast goods at my local indie Fork & Wine is about the same too. No, you don’t get endless pastries and week old cereal from a weird standing perspex pot thing or tiny single use tubs of marmite for your toast here. You don’t have to stand at that weird rotating fire risk toaster thing either. And no, you don’t get endless visits to top up on your hot plate but you know what, you don’t need that. You really don’t! Eight quid is a good price for a filling, fresh breakfast and a decent coffee. So is a tenner. Does a fiver really make up for the digestive results of an over cooked plate of dry meat and (horrors) breakfast gravy?
I’m not indiscriminately against big chains. Some of them are alright and I’ve said complimentary things about a few. All of them provide employment and choice and easy fix dinners when you don’t really want to splash out or think too much. But they should not be the norm. Places like Cobbles should be where we chose to spend our money- on quality food with a traceable supply chain and immediate benefit to our community and farmers.¬† And if those bigger chains start losing out on your disposable income, they might just examine the crap they are turning out and reconsider their ways. Of course this is easy to say when you live in a rural area where indie eateries abound and the closest all-you-can-stand buffet is a half hour drive away. But they exist in towns too, in your town and others so even if you can’t stand to seek out new a new and off the map avocado toast on an average Wednesday, then do a bit more research for your holiday.¬† You’re on holiday afterall, you can get away with all kinds of deviant behavior you wouldn’t dream of at home. Check out Tripadvisor or local foodie award listings. Find your own Angharad to take you for toast before just booking in for your Premierlodge 9am seating. And if you’re doing this in the Cardiff region, start off with Cobbles.