Horsemeat and slurry in your ready meal! Buy local


We set up a pre-festival photo shoot for Moretonhampstead Festival of Food, Drink and the Arts, this week and managed to get on the front page of the regional paper. We wanted to stress the continuity of good local food being sold in Moretonhampstead, which was a Drovers town with 32 alehouses and a vibrant annual fair, so we persuaded the organisers to dress up to create some atmospheric pictures at the local hotel, The White Hart.


Three newspaper photographers came to the launch, one of them being Matt Austin – have a look at his site and make sure you scroll down to see  his beautiful ‘old master’ pictures

Matt Austin Images  –

Su Carrol, of the Western Morning News wrote an excellent article (below) which summed up exactly how we all feel, in these days when British people discover that the food trail of their ready meals leads to dubious horrors  (click food trail to see the map of how far and long the meat was moved around! And God knows what else is shoved in along the way, I believe rats are plentiful) Actually, I’ve eaten rat and it’s not bad when barbecued.

Moving on, here are Su’s words

Western Morning News Article by Su Carroll

The Dartmoor town of Moretonhampstead gets together once a year to stage a food festival which celebrates the local producers and farmers, as well as the businesses in this vibrant community.

Although last year’s event attracted a modest 6,000 visitors, a launch for this year’s festival underlines why this kind of shop window for local producers is vital.Food festivals like ours in Moretonhampstead encourage shoppers to buy local, to source meat bought directly from the farmer and producer,” said Alastair Wimberley, who farms welfare-friendly Red Ruby beef a mile from the town and is one of the festival’s organisers.

“Meat products such as pies, pates and sausages are made responsibly from meat bought from a reliable local source where its origins are known.

“As a farmer and a butcher I am horrified by the behaviour of processed food producers in purchasing horse meat as a beef substitute and the distance it had travelled.”

Mr Wimberley also criticised supermarkets for encouraging the sale of ready-made meals, hoping that consumers would now turn away from that kind of product.

One of four main organisers of the festival, which is aided by over 60 volunteers, Mr Wimberley said the event was important in helping to educate the public about the provenance of food and the value of quality.

“Our food producers tend to be ethically responsible people on a mission to make the best product they can,” he said.

“With our cooking demos we hope to inspire people to go home with local produce and cook themselves a delicious healthy meal.”

This year’s food festival, on Saturday, March 9, will reflect the area’s food heritage.

Drovers would herd thousands of Ruby Reds and other cattle to moorland grazing in summer – known as the “red tide”.

At the height of this trade, there were 32 ale houses in Moretonhampstead and the local serving ladies who kept them in check were renowned for their Amazonian attributes, according to local legend.

The food festival will have cookery demonstrations, a market, bread-baking workshops, a cookery trail, kitchen jumble and a local artists trail. There’s also a festival drover’s pie, made with Alastair Wimberley’s beef and ale from Hunter’s Brewery in Ipplepen, lovingly cooked by Matthew King, head chef at Moretonhampstead’s White Hart Hotel.



Pancake Day Hurray

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It’s pancake day tomorrow so I made a few this evening as we are up at dawn. I enjoy all kinds of pancakes from blinis to fat American style slabs with lashings of maple syrup and crispy bacon, but for pancake day I like traditional crepes with lemon and sugar. As we get up early I made some tonight, spread them with hummus and stuffed them with left-over roast chicken and fresh tomato salsa for the kids. Then added a squeeze of fresh lime juice.  It worked for us. I must do this more often.Image 7

I’ve tried many mixes over the years but this one achieves what I like, a rich pancake that remains pliable and paper thin. The trick is to melt the butter before hand and brush it onto the pan with a pastry brush before frying each pancake.  Keep the sugar in the recipe whether you make savoury or sweet fillings. The smaller the pancake the better, in my opinion, so I use a mini-frying pan about 10 cm across and this mix makes 10, so a larger pan would make 6.

butter 30g melted for brushing the pan

plain flour 100g

caster sugar 1 level tbsp

egg 1 large

egg yolk 1

milk 350ml

Melt the butter in a little pan or pot in the oven. Blend all the ingredients, except the butter and off you go! When cooked either stuff with savoury fillings or, by far the best way, serve with lemon juice and crunchy sugar.Image 9

Moretonhampstead Food Festival 9th March 2013


I’ve been going to this festival since it began, five years ago, and there is something absolutely vibrant and inclusive about it.  The whole thing is run by the people of the town, for charity, and it shows – there’s always loads going on, they cater for all ages and there’s plenty of free entertainment, art and music, with the added bonus of excellent food.  I’m proud to be promoting it this year, so here is some more about it.  See you there.   Moretonhampstead Festival of Food, Drink and the Arts is on Saturday 9th March (Free entry 9.30-4.30 ).


Moretonhampstead is a small moorland town of character, in Dartmoor National Park, Devon, which dates back over 1000 years to Saxon times. Moreton, (as the locals call it) is known for its friendliness and sense of community.

For the last four years the town has run an increasingly successful and popular event celebrating the best of local foods, drink and local arts. It has a growing reputation for the strength of its organisation and the friendliness of volunteers who run the festival as a non-profit making venture, everyone giving their time for free – a community run festival for the wider community. Any surplus cash is given to a local charity. The whole town turns out to welcome visitors to this highly enjoyable event – 7,000 last year.

Highlights this year include:

History, pie and ale

In the thirteenth century, King John granted Moreton a charter to hold regular markets and a great fair once a year. They are carrying on this tradition with our increasingly successful food festival.  The town boasted 32 pubs in which drovers drank fully after profitable sales of their animals. Truly a cattle town, drovers roads (still in existence) brought hundreds of cattle onto the moor, coming from as far away as London to graze the rich uplands.  When the cattle were being moved onto or off the moor it was described as the ‘Red Tide’ because most of the cattle were of a red colour and there were so many of them in the droves.

To celebrate Moreton’s long connection with cattle The White Hart Hotel TheWhiteHartMoreton1.4mbare making a special Drovers Pie made with local beef and Hunters Beer, their chef, Matthew King, will be doing a demonstration of how to make it and the hotel will serve it too.

Historian, Paul Cleave, will be giving a lively talk on the history of Moretonhampstead as part of the festival. Paul is specialist in the history of food and tourism in Devon having completed a PHD on the subject at Exeter University.  He has gripping stories to tell. Amongst other things Morteton was a tourist town catering to travellers journeying from East to West, London to Plymouth with a long history. In an 1859 travel guide, the women of Moretonhampstead  “were noted for their Amazonian qualities!”

Kitchen Jumble Sale

They are encouraging visitors to contribute their unwanted kitchen items with all proceeds going to ‘Farms For City Children’ a local charity set up by Michael Morpurgo that gives city children a chance to experience country life – working with animals, cooking and outdoor fun.  All unwanted kitchenalia in addition to a cookbook swap.

Bread Workshops

Kids will make a little loaf to bake and take home.

Kids will make a little loaf to bake and take home.

Children will be taught to make dough and bake their own perfect little loaves to take home. Adult Master Classes will also be running with Roger Birt of Red Dog Bakery throughout the day. Booking essential. Sharon Davies, successful owner of Midfields Granola is so keen to get children cooking she has opened up her catering kitchen unit for the festival.  Book your workshop on our website or contact Sharon on 01647 440462 or email

Made on Dartmoor Short’ Film Competition

Sponsored by Bovey Castle, the Made on Dartmoor film competition is new to the 2013 festival, promising to highlight the talent and creativity of local filmmakers, whose focus will draw heavily on the iconic rural backdrop of the moor. Potential film makers are being invited to write, shoot and edit a video of no more than 90 seconds that features food related people, animals or products, all of which either work, are grown or produced within the confines of the Dartmoor National Park. The winning entry will be forwarded to Regional TV, all food & drink producers and tourist organisations in Devon with a request air it at their convenience and there are £200.00 worth of prizes up for grabs! Entries in by 4th March.

ArtGreenhill arts2_340kb

Green Hill Arts centre will be hosting the Local Open Art Show, which will run from Wednesday 13 February 2013 to Saturday 9 March 2013. There will be an Arts Trail, a great way for those interested in art to explore this lovely little Dartmoor town, and a chance to visit local artists in their studios and houses. The local Blacksmith, Greg Abel, will be demonstrating throughout the day.

'With Nell and I" providing entertainment

‘With Nell and I” providing entertainment

Music in the Church From 10.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. hear live music in the Church performed by local musicians including ‘Nell and I’; The Crooked Roots, a folk trio; Exeter’s Global Harmony; and Moretonhampstead’s Female Community Choir, The Moorhens.Ph.JoshCoulston_FineCountryLifestyle stand4450

There will be over 100 stalls, cooking demonstrations will be taking across the festival, and there’ll be lots of activities for children from face-painting to dedicated entertainment. The festival will be opened by Michelin starred chef, Michael Caines, a long-term friend and supporter of the event.

Sharon Davies of Midfileds Granola with Michelin starred Chef, Michael Caines, at last year's festival.

Sharon Davies of Midfileds Granola with Michelin starred Chef, Michael Caines, at last year’s festival.

For more info – and look up the facebook page.

Lao Green Papaya Salad – Som Tam – dtam mak huhng – tam maak hoong

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I’m moving – follow my new Lao Food site

Papaya salad in Laos and is always made with paa-dek. It is also a dish of huge popularity in Thailand, particularly in the Northeast, where it has many incarnations, according to the preference of the chef. It can be made with fish sauce instead of paa-dek or shrimp paste and sometimes with added ingredients such as dried prawns, crab, tamarind, chopped green beans and often, sugar. In Laos, I found it tended to be made simply, with unripe green papaya, lime, paa-dek (see directions at the end of the recipe) and no sugar, but it is a recipe that is constantly evolving. In Vientiane, a sour fruit, Mak Kaw (hog plum, a small orange fruit sometimes available in Asian stores) was a popular addition. The dish should be juicy and taste hot, sour, salty, sweet and garlicy with a hint of the piscine. It is very refreshing with a Lao Beer.

Living in the middle of the Dartmoor wilderness, green papayas are hard to find, these were a little on the pink side but hard and sour enough for this dish. Hog fruit? Impossible to find sadly.

Green Papaya Salad

2-6 birdseye chillies

2-4 small cloves of garlic, peeled

a pinch of salt

1 green papaya, skinned and shredded into matchstick thin strips

8 small cherry tomatoes cut into quarters

1 mak kaw fruit (Hog fruit, small round pips orangy flesh) very optional

3 tablespoons of paa-dek water or 1-3 tablespoosn tbspn or so of fish sauce

1 lime – juice of

10 salted peanuts, crushed (optional)

1/2 lime, cut into 8ths, leave the rind on.

Image 6Take a green unripe papaya and peel it with a vegetable peeler. To do this, place a dishcloth in one hand so the fruit does not slip and place the papaya on top of it in your palm. With the other hand use a cleaver or heavy chopping knife to chop at the flesh leaving many roughly parallel cuts.

Image 7 Then cut under the slices from the chopped surface and you will end up with fine shreds. Alternatively, you can use a mandoline or buy a special shredding tool at oriental stores, as I have here.

Now take a pestle and mortar. Add the chilli, garlic and a pinch of salt and pound roughly (about 20 pounds) so the chilli is still in quite large pieces, not a paste.

Then add the papaya and pound gently using a spoon to turn the ingredients in on themselves.

Image 14Add the lime juice and paa-dek (instructions below) or fish sauce. Pound gently, a little more and then add the tomato and the Mak Kaw fruit. The tomato should just be bruised. Pound again and serve with lime wedges. You can add more lime or fish sauce to taste. I like to add a topping of salted peanuts too.

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Look up the English turnip version I was shown by my friend Soun in London in my book – Ant Egg Soup The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos – now out of print but available from me if you wish to buy a signed copy.

The famous Paa-Dek of Laos

Paa-dek is a condiment of fish chunks mixed with brine, rice dust and rice husks. These ingredients are fermented in large pottery jars for up to a year to produce a salty fishy sauce with a pungent aroma. This may sound a little off putting (remember, Westerners eat fermented mouldy milk in the form of cheese!) but the taste is very similar to preserved anchovy fillets. The mixture may be used straight; or the fish chunks are washed of their rice husks and used alone; or the liquid is used without the fish chunks. I often observed people pouring a ladle into a wok with another ladle of water, then watched them hard boil it for a minute, sieve the result and use the flavoured water. Here I have done the same, using a mini frying pan.

Heat the pan until it is hot.

Image 9Add the Paa-Dek lumps, heat for 20 seconds

Image 5Add ½ cup water, it will boil immediately, cook for about a minute (add a little more water if it looks too dry).

Image 13Seive into a bowl. Here I used a tea strainer and the result made about 2 tablespoons of Paa-dek water for my salad.Image 11

Mmm, yummy paa-dek!

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Easy Chocolate Fondant Puddings

DSC_0178This recipe was given to me by our friend Simon who is a young chef at the Dartmoor Kitchen catering company. He makes the best oozy chocolate fondants we know.  Fondants need very little cooking time so don’t walk away.  Use best quality dark chocolate,  it is sweetened and enriched by the sugar and butter and you’ll love the result   You will need some small foil pots or ceramic ramekins to make them. Kids love making these!


1                                  whole egg

1                                  egg yolk

60g                              caster sugar

50g                              butter, cubed

50g                              dark chocolate, grated

50G                             PLAIN flour

1 tablespoon                softened butter

1 tablespoon                cocoa powder

DSC_0153Ingredients – Serves 4

  1. Pre heat the oven to 170 C
  2. GREASE the ramekins with softened butter using some paper towel, butter wrapping or your fingers, then dust with cocoa powder. LEAVE IN FRIDGE FOR 30 MINS. This will give the little pudding a good crust and help it to slip out easily after cooking.
  3. WHISK the eggs, egg yolk and sugar together in a large bowl until well combined.
  4. Sieve the plain flour into another bowl and set aside
  5. Take a HEATPROOF BOWL and add the butter to the grated chocolate and follow the instructions in the skill tip section below


Take a small saucepan and a HEATPROOF BOWL that fits in the saucepan without touching the bottom. Fill the saucepan with 3cm of water and place the bowl on top of the saucepan.

GRATE the chocolate into small pieces or better still, grate it with a cheese grater (you can use a food processor to do this) and place it in the heatproof bowl.

Place the saucepan on a low heat and bring to simmering point (this is when the bubbles just start to appear on the edges). Watch this carefully as it does not take long. Stir the chocolate gently until it has melted taking care not to get water in the chocolate or it will curdle and split. 

Why does warm chocolate split and curdle?

A small amount of liquid (like a flavour essence or a splash of water) added into molten chocolate will stiffen and curdle the mixture.  Why? Like glue, water in small amounts wets the sugar and cocoa particles just enough to make patches of syrup which separate from the liquid cocoa butter.  If you add a lot of liquid it dissolves the sugar into syrup all at once so it doesn’t split.


  1. When the chocolate and butter have MELTED together remove from the heat and, using an oven glove, take the bowl out of the saucepan.
  2. MIX in the chocolate into the eggs, with a wooden spoon. Then add the SIFTED flour and mix that in too.
  3. Fill the ramekins HALF WAY UPDSC_0168
  4. Place the ramekins on a baking tray in the hot oven for 5 MINUTES.
  5. SET TIMER for 5 Minutes. CHECK they should look solid on top if the top looks wet put back in the oven for two minutes.DSC_0170
  6. Remove when done, tap them out of the moulds and eat warm with the gooey centre oozing out.

When in Devon, serve with lashings of clotted cream.