This poor blog has been rather neglected of late, and for that I apologise but life does have a tendency to get in the way of, well, blogging. A holiday, then the wearying attempt to catch up with life again, takes its toll. Work, then home, then work, then home, then work again makes me a bit of a dull girl.
However, last weekend proved to be a weekend full of very good food, and so gave me something to share.
It started off with a trip to Ashlyn’s Farm Shop restaurant, out in the wilds of Essex.
They cook with what they grow, as far as they can, certainly with what is in season and local. It’s a farm shop with a restaurant attached – a light, airy, open space at the back with wooden tables, scrubbed flagstone floor and exposed beams. You can see out over the fields and watch chickens pecking about and pigs actually gambolling. Brilliant!
The kitchen is open so you can see what is going on, and sympathise with the poor girl chopping endless amounts of vegetables for the next day’s roast dinner.
Fresh pressed Cox’s apple juice, sharp and sweet all at once and a bottle of cloudy Sicilian lemonade led us onto the starter.
We chose the soup, as the weather was questionable and soup just felt right. We were very glad that we did. Leek and potato made with homegrown leeks and tatties far surpasses anything out of a tin. Creamy, but with a decent body to it and most definitely moreish. It didn’t need the toasted baguette and butter that came with it, but that didn’t stop us eating it! The soup was absolutely delicious and on anther day, maybe that would have done me but I had spied oxtail stew on the main menu, and pretty much set my heart on it.
I am ever so happy that I did. My heart was gladdened by the first mouthful - rich, and full of winey overtones. The photos simply cannot do it justice. I shut my eyes to savour every taste that I could.
The meat was falling apart, as is only right and proper for a stew, and the sauce…dark and glistening, absolutely to die for. The mash was by far the best that I have eaten in a long time. Buttery, not overly whipped so it had a goodly amount of substance, and seasoned perfectly. The vegetables were crisp and cooked to perfection, but I had eyes only for the stew and mash partnership. I did worry that the waitress wasn’t going to allow me dessert as I hadn’t eaten all my veg but my fears were unfounded.
I had no room for dessert.
Himself ordered the Ashlyn’s Burger for his main course. This comes not in a bun, which makes a very pleasant change as far as I am concerned, but with glossy, baked potato wedges, crispy salad and two relishes. The meat is the star. It may look just like any other burger, but it really isn’t. It’s just beef and seasoning – and that is all that is needed as the quality of the meat is just so good. There were audible “Nom nom mm nom” noises from the pair of us during the whole meal.
He had no room for dessert either which, given that dessert was home baked gooey brownies the size of bricks, proves just how filling the meal was!
The staff are wonderful, and extremely accommodating. You felt like you were having dinner at a friend’s house, so relaxed is the atmosphere. I did think that asking to take the chef home would have been a step too far. The meal was around £35 which was more than a bargain.
And just when you think you cannot entertain the idea of any more food, you step into the farm shop. The cheese counter calls, the vegetables still with earth on them cry out for you to buy them and cook with them, the meat counter speaks of roasts and casseroles and the cakes…well, yes. The cakes. We came home with some gorgeous cheese called Ashdown Foresters, local apples and an apricot and ginger cake that was looking lonely and needed a home.
Dinner was very, very much later that night and consisted of cheese and deliciously crisp apples.
This is definitely a place to go to again and again, and keep up with the seasons' changes. After all, I still have a brownie to try!
Ashlyns Organic Farm Shop, Epping Road, North Weald, Essex, CM16 6RZTelephone: 01992 525146