The Return of This Little Piggy

15 January 2012 § 9 Comments

I feel obliged to start 2012 with the sincerest of apologies: The festive Little Piggy Christmas tree decoration that marked my last post of 2011 should have been superseded weeks ago, but after our annual pilgrimage back to Blighty*, it has been hard getting back into the swing of things.

So, sorry…

Cute coffee truck on London's South Bank

It was the same while back in Britain: I saw plenty of things to write about but simply didn’t have enough time to get anything typed up. For instance, I saw this truck in London and safe to say, it summed up the improvements in British food pretty well—by which I mean at least the coffee is improving—but I was so busy with family and friends that it failed to make the journey from Notebooksville to Publishland. Sad really, as I also love that this picture represents our family’s three favorite food groups: coffee, sausages and ice cream. I’ll let you guess which one is my favorite, which is King Marv’s and which is The Ladies™…

So, having been both festive and busy, we returned across the Atlantic dog-tired but happy. It was wonderful seeing family and friends, all washed down with a lot of good food and wine. Naturally, we returned with Vitamin D deficiencies having seen just 30 minutes of sunshine in over two weeks, but that brief glimpse of sunlight was welcome as it brought with it a rainbow that wrapped itself around the stunning Yorkshire Dales.

Rainbow over the Cookery School at Swinton Park, North Yorkshire

Through the otherwise low skies and general gloom, we got our rays of sunshine from watching The Ladies™ run riot with their cousins and second cousins. It was a beautiful sight, as was watching them play with their 103-year-old great-grand-mother.

The historic Victorian pier at Penarth, South Wales

So, travelogue over, I’d like to offer a couple of thoughts on the much maligned British food. Honestly?  I could wax lyrical about the local food movement that is really taking off in the UK—it gets better and more prominent each time we return. The venison we had New Year’s Eve was both local and free-range, coming from Llantrithyd Deer Park an amazing find just 8 miles from my parents home. It was melt-in-the-mouth-licious.

True to form, I could not resist a few food photos, I just can’t help myself. We dined out splendidly in Yorkshire and South Wales and some of the evidence is below.

If ever you are in old York (i.e. not the New one) try J. Bakers Bistro Moderne, worth going for the children’s menu alone. Why can’t more places understand that children eat more than chicken nuggets and mac’n’cheese? These guys did a great job catering for four petites gourmandes while their parents wined and dined in spectacular fashion.

Pork belly at J. Bakers Bistro Moderne

Line caught fish from Whitby with gnocci also at J Bakers

We also dined splendidly at favorites old and new, making a welcome return to Samuel’s at Swinton Park, North Yorkshire and a delightful début at Neale’s at Holm House in Penarth, South Wales. At Swinton, we piled into the local fare that made up the seven course tasting menu (with wine pairing, of course) and at Holm House, we split the locally farmed filet steak and the sole served with laverbread risotto before rounding off with a plate of stellar Welsh cheeses.

A big shout-out is also due to The Crathorne Arms in North Yorkshire for offering up a surprisingly good local menu.

So, with Christmas memories fading fast, leaving only a fat credit card bill in their place, I’m going back to my kitchen weary but happy, and with a renewed sense of purpose to provide healthy and economical dishes to share here on This Little Piggy Went to the Farmers’ Market. Bring on 2012!

Blwyddyn newydd dda! **

* – Affectionate English slang for Britain

** – Welsh for Happy New Year!

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