This week… bread and circus

Another odd week in an age of odd times. In addition to the gods’ conspiracy to thwart travel writers with lockdowns, complicated travel guidelines and such-like, now there’s the fuel delivery shortage. After trying around eight stations (I lost count, and almost the will to live, after four) I queued for an hour to fill up. Having expected a wait of a couple of hours I thought that was reasonable (how mad can things get?).

I’m currently reading Manda Scott’s WWII thriller A Treachery of Spies. Dealing with wartime fuel shortages solutions included transport by horse and cart, and fuel made from animal manure. And a bike seemed to be the transport du jour for spies from The Circus (John le Carré;s name for MI6), with a wireless transmitter balancing on the handlebars (well, that’s how it seems in war films). If you love these complex and fascinating stories, as I do, I recommend Scott’s book as well as another recent read, Winter Of The World by master storyteller Ken Follett.

In the twenty-first century we’re all pinning our hopes on electric cars but I can’t help the cynical thought that somewhere along the line this will prove to be the Emperor’s Clothes.

Anyway, on with my week’s recap. Do you feel that your calendar is a blank slate at the moment? I’ve been making the most of the bright autumn days and any opportunities that come my way. If you have a great product and would like to work with me please get in touch via the contact page and we can have a chat.

World Food Day 2021

Next Saturday 16th October is World Food Day and part of the UN calendar. One of the straplines is ‘the future of food is in our hands’ and indeed it is. I’m not getting into the political issues here but food is primal and our responsibility, not some remote big food industry conglomerate.

Focusing on food – whether shopping, maybe foraging or a cookery class – helps to reconnect us with where and how it is grown or produced, what’s in it and how to prepare it for great eating. Food connects us to our heritage and, apart from the importance of retaining those traditional skills and knowledge, food can be immensely comforting whether cooking or sharing a meal. Food connects every one of us on the planet so pay attention to what you’re eating.

I’ve been trying new mayonnaise varieties from Hunter & Gather*. Made with 100% olive oil the new recipes include Olive and Lemon, Classic and, my current favourite, Horseradish which was perfect with smoked mackerel, a few juicy tomatoes and a glass of Italian red wine for supper. Their web site features some interesting recipes, whether you’re a keto eater or not. I made a roughly similar dish to their Low Carb Beef Stroganoff incorporating mayonnaise and it was a winner. Olive Oil Mayonnaise is sugar and chemical preservative-free. Price £4.49, 240g (glass not plastic) jar. Choose meat from an ethical butcher who practices regenerative farming. I also use the Hunter & Gather collagen powder in my daily bulletproof coffee.

Baked fig ball

This one is similar to Spanish Pan de Higo, or fig cake, except that here the figs are baked. A Calabrian speciality, traditionally the mature figs are picked and dried before being slowly cooked in their own juices to preserve them. Shaped into balls they are then wrapped in fig leaves. I can imagine these little balls as part of a banquetting table in Roman times. The flavour is rather like black treacle although not too sweet. A pecorino cheese is recommended but I had a tangy organic feta cheese in the fridge and they were delicious together. For a dessert option, I would pair with seasonal mandarins and a few fresh walnuts or almonds but not something like ice cream, as the figs are very rich on their own. For Christmas a Fino Sherry to accompany would work well as would either pecorino, parmesan or ricotto cheese, and also a Spanish manchego. Baked Fig Ball, £5.85.

Cookery class. L to R: paying attention; getting some exercise in proving bread dough on the work surface.

Having saved up my petrol ration for a trip into rural Hampshire I joined a course at the Honesty Cookery School for a feature. More on that later. In the meantime, I’m sharing an unflattering image of my derrière and another of me battering my bread dough on the worktop, which ‘proved’ (pun intended) very satisfying.

A cup of very good coffee at Harris & Hole.

I guess most of coffee-lovers have a favourite coffee shop. This changes for me depending on where I am. This week I was in Chichester and stopped by Harris & Hole where they serve speciality coffee, in season. You’ll know by now that I’m a keen supporter of single estate coffee (oil, wine, honey…) and Harris & Hole have their own roastery in London, one for the list to visit. The interior is stylish without being overly ‘designed’ and branded. Staff are friendly and the baristas produce a great cup of coffee. Cakes and pastries are very good, especially the toasted sandwiches.

That’s all for now. This week I’ll be reviewing a pub with rooms, discovering a farm shop I haven’t previously visited and trying out some new recipes. What have you been cooking up lately? Share in the comments or on Instagram @hashtagtravelin.

Gifted items*. While I sometimes receive gifted items I only recommend those products that I genuinely like and aim to give an honest review.

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