A Guest Blog Post from Gemma Ashley
For those that don’t know me, I love food. Especially the stuff that’s not so good for you. Having said that nothing fills me with more happiness than finding a clean, healthy meal that tastes delicious and doesn’t leave you feeling so unsatisfied that you end up consuming an entire packet of chocolate digestives afterwards!
Naturally then, when I recently had an Australian friend visit, our tour of the beautiful Cotswolds involved more than our fair share of food. This was my opportunity to show my Aussie friend that, despite the rumours, we English can now do very good food. Gone are the days of cheap and cheerful sausage and chips down at your local pub, it’s now easy to find top-notch, reasonably priced food often using quality, locally sourced produce too.
And it’s not just English fare on the menu either. My friend and I found a fabulous Greek meze restaurant, Jars Meze, on Northumberland Place in Bath. Only opened 10 days prior to our visit, the food was absolutely divine – melt in the mouth beef cheeks, lightly dusted and tender calamari, fresh and creamy tzatziki with pitta bread that was out of this world. Heaven.
Our tour also took in some quintessentially Cotswold spots including Bibury and the delightfully chocolate box, Arlington Row. It was here that we stopped off at The Swan for lunch. Often a venue for weddings it’s also a beautiful place to enjoy a relaxed lunch. Now, you may call me crazy at this next statement. This was my first experience of a fish finger sandwich! And it didn’t disappoint. Succulent fish, with rocket and tomato sauce squeezed between 3 layers of soft bread. The vegetable crisps and coleslaw that came with it didn’t get a look in. If you’re really looking for a treat the Champagne afternoon teas here are worth the visit alone and are very generous in size too.
Despite being local to the area and having heard how great it is, I’d never been to Stroud farmer’s market until showing my friend around the area. Having experienced the nightlife of Gloucester the night before (that’s a different story!) we were in need of sustenance before exploring the market. Dinner at Six on Union Street provided us with the perfect breakfast. Food here is homemade and sourced from quality seasonal ingredients which are often locally produced. The coffee is good too. The market itself is small and busy with a wide range of goods available. The street food looks and smells divine and there are often appearances from Hobbs House Bakery and Hetty’s Tea Party (her brownies are amazing).
A personal favourite of mine is Jack’s in Cirencester. Cirencester has a lot more to offer than it did when I was growing up here. There’s now plenty of boutique shops, coffee shops, restaurants, bars and more recently a 5* hotel in the form of the King’s Head. Jack’s is situated on the Cirencester Park end of Black Jack Street. With its cute interior, farmhouse table displaying the day’s cakes, bunting and cushions, it’s a popular spot despite being a little more tucked away. The cakes are all homemade and very generous in portion sizes – if you’re not up for the challenge of finishing a slice of the coffee and walnut cake in one go be sure to ask for a takeaway box!
Needless to say my friend went off on the rest of her travels with a very full stomach, but also I’m pleased to say, with the appreciation of how beautiful our Cotswold countryside truly is.
Green Eggs and Ham
This is a really hearty yet healthy option for those rare lazy weekends. Perfect for an alfresco brunch with a pot of coffee.
Ingredients (Serves 1):
Slice of sourdough
4/5 cherry tomatoes
Half a ripe avocado
Teaspoon of pesto
Teaspoon Greek yogurt
3 rashers of Pancetta
Tablespoon of coconut oil
Heat a frying pan and add the rashers of Pancetta cooking until brown and crisp. Remove from the pan and add half the coconut oil followed by the cherry tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are softened and starting to brown.
Meanwhile destone and slice the avocado and toast the sourdough. Heat the remaining coconut oil in a pan on a low heat. Whisk the eggs and add to the pan stirring occasionally. When the eggs are almost ready stir in the Greek yogurt and pesto.
Pop everything onto a plate and serve with juice, coffee or tea!
This is one of my own recipes inspired by a delicious salad I had in a restaurant in Hove. It works equally well as a cold or warm salad and despite the word ‘salad’ it’s actually really filling and comforting whilst still being healthy and nutritious – win, win!
Ingredients (serves 2):
1-2 tsp Harissa paste (depending on how spicy you like it)
2 chicken breasts
80g pomegranate seeds
100g cous cous
Large handful of rocket
Large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
For the dressing:
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp plain yoghurt (use low fat to keep this extra healthy)
1 1/2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Drizzle the sweet potato in olive oil and place in a pre-heated oven (200 degrees fan) for approximately 30 minutes or until tender. Spread the Harissa paste onto the chicken breasts and wrap in foil. Place in the oven for approximately 15 minutes (depending on size of the chicken).
Meanwhile, cook the cous cous according to the packet instructions. To make the dressing, whisk the lemon juice, yoghurt, honey, cumin, cinnamon and ginger in a bowl until combined. Slowly whisk in oil so that the dressing becomes smooth and emulsified. Any leftover dressing will keep in the fridge for 2 days.
Once the sweet potato is cooked, combine with the cous cous, rocket, pomegranate and dressing. Slice the chicken breast and place on top of the cous cous mix.
Eton Mess with a twist
Nothing says British summertime more than strawberries and cream. This one is so simple and easy to make that it can satisfy that craving for something sweet after dinner and if you are happy to share you can even get the kids involved in making it. For just adults, add a dash of Pimms to the cream for a little bit of naughtiness.
Ingredients (serves 2):
150ml double cream
2 x shop bought meringue nests
Strawberries, blackberries and raspberries
2 teaspoons Elderflower cordial
Dash of Pimms (optional)
Mint springs and grated dark chocolate for decoration
Puree half the strawberries and the blackberries in a blender. Chop the remaining strawberries in half. Whip the double cream until stiff peaks form, then fold in the strawberry and blackberry puree (reserve a small amount for decoration) and the crushed meringue. Fold in the Elderflower cordial and Pimms, if using.
Begin by layering chopped strawberries and raspberries into a ramekin and top with the cream mixture. Repeat for another layer. Add a drizzle of the puree, top with cream, mint springs and a grating of dark chocolate.
Gemma Ashley is a lover of food, fitness and travel with a passion for baking. She has recently set up The Little Cotswold Kitchen creating bespoke cupcakes for all occasions. You can find out more by visiting her Facebook page or Instagram account.