I am sure that by now if you follow any other British food bloggers then you have already come across several posts about the Foodies100 River Cottage blog camp, and I am (as ever) a bit late to the party in writing up my account of the day... Better late than never however and I finally got round to it so here is my experience of #BlogCampRiverCottage!
I am going to assume that most of you have heard of River Cottage from the famous cookery programmes; what you may not be aware of however is that you can actually visit River Cottage farm! They have an amazing cookery school where they run a wide range of interesting looking courses, you can learn about anything from meat curing and smoking to gluten-free baking or mushroom foraging. If doing the cooking yourself isn't your kind of thing then they also run a range of dining events or you can even host your wedding or Christmas party there.
I was lucky enough to spend a day at River Cottage along with 50 other food bloggers to experience a sample of the kind of things they have to offer. This was my first blogging event so I was a little nervous as I didn't know anyone; I needn't have worried however as it turns out that food bloggers are a really friendly bunch and there were several that I recognised from reading their blogs. We started off the day with a bumpy tractor ride down to the farm where we congregated in a firelit yurt to find out what was happening for the day; then it was time for tea and nibbles while we all mingled, chatted and got to know each other a little better.
We were then split into three groups and whisked off to start our first activity for the day. My group began with a tour of the farm and gardens where we learned about crop rotation, growing plants from seedlings, how the kitchens use seasonal produce, how they splice pears onto quince trees so they don't grow too tall, sampled some interesting herbs and met the chickens and pigs (a couple of which were unfortunately destined for slaughter later on that day...). It was a gloriously sunny, warm day and although I now live in a city, I am a country girl at heart so it was lovely to be out in the peace, quiet and fresh air of the countryside for a while.
Next up was the part of the day I was most looking forward to, a cookery session in the amazing cookery school. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of this bit as i thought it was best to put my camera away so I didn't get food all over it, and it was a good thing I did as I managed to spray myself and the workbench with buttermilk! We started out with a bit of blackberry foraging then it was on to making butter. We whipped double cream until it separated, squeezed out the buttermilk then popped the resulting ball of butter into the fridge to set. The leftover buttermilk was used to make some of the most delicious soda bread I have ever eaten, made with spelt flour, oats, the foraged blackberries, apple, cheese, thyme, sage and fennel. While the bread baked we flavoured our butter with herbs and edible flowers picked from the garden, I opted for rosemary, thyme and garlic flowers.
Next up it was time for lunch which I was very thankful for! the smell of all that delicious bread baking had made me ravenous! I was seated with the other vegetarians, our lunch consisted of a gorgeous spelt ravioli stuffed with leeks and cheese, with a ragu of fresh vegetables and pesto, it was served with some delicious sweetcorn and freshly baked bread. The dessert was an incredible flavour combination of fennel meringue with honey-roasted damsons and coffee ice cream with orange-infused salted caramel. It was all made with vegetables from the gardens and locally sourced ingredients and had all been freshly prepared that morning by the hard working team of chefs (who you could just pop into the kitchen to say hello to and watch work). If that meal was anything to go by then I thoroughly recommend attending one of their dining events because it was AMAZING!
After lunch it was time for the last session of the day, a food photography styling session with Lucy Heath from Capture By Lucy. Lucy was incredibly helpful and friendly and shared some great tips for taking better food photos including using some rather interesting tools such as lego and tampons! An hour really wasn't long enough as she was a wealth of information and was happy to answer everyone's (many) questions, but unfortunately we ran out of time. After that there was just time for a bit more coffee and networking before heading back to the tractor with our bread and butter to go home.
All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable day and it was lovely to actually meet some of my fellow bloggers. If you are interested in attending any of their cookery or dining experiences I highly recommend it, the atmosphere was fantastic, very welcoming and peaceful and all of the staff really know their stuff. I want to thank River Cottage and Foodies100 for organising such a lovely day for us all and I really hope to go back at some point (I want to try the cheese making course!)