The first Cambridgeshire Cook Book published in 2015 by Meze Publishing was a huge success and I wrote all about the launch of this great publication here. Now three years later, with the food and drink scene in the Cambridge region evolving at a rapid pace, it was only fitting to come back for more with The Cambridgeshire Cook Book: Second Helpings. A celebration of the amazing food and drink on our doorstep, the book features over 50 beloved recipes put together by some of the finest independent restaurants, cafés, delicatessens, pubs, farm shops, producers and suppliers of the region. The cook book is beautifully photographed, the recipes sound delicious and each contributor’s story is nicely conveyed.
The Cambridge Cook Book: Second Helpings is a collection of stories and recipes from a cross-section of independent businesses of all types and sizes. Some of my favourites are in the book but there are also places I discovered for the first time, particularly those further afield.
I saw some familiar faces and met new people at the cook book’s official launch held on 17 July at The Shack, a covered outdoor space at The Gog. It was good to meet some of the people at Meze Publishing who were instrumental in producing the book. Publishing manager Anna Tebble compiled the contributors and food journalist Katie Fisher authored their individual stories.
White Cottage Bakery is located in Mark and Helen Underwood’s home, a charming white cottage in the picturesque village of Kingston, Cambridgeshire. Some of the most amazing bread has come out of that little bakery in Helen’s kitchen. I discovered Helen’s homemade bread last year at my local farm shops and I’ve been a White Cottage Bakery stalker ever since. Getting my hands on a fresh loaf is like winning the lottery! That’s because you can’t just pop into the bakery whenever you feel like it. The bakery isn’t open to the public. You need to follow White Cottage Bakery on social media (Facebook, Twitter or Instagram) to see what Helen will deliver to select farm shops in Cambridgeshire. Helen bakes the amount of bread she can handle; no mass production there! Even so, it’s a testament to Helen’s passion and dedication to baking that she can produce as much as she does.
Helen also runs a series of workshops, which are aimed at groups of 4 to 6 people. I had the privilege of attending one of White Cottage Bakery’s full-day courses: the French Breadmaking Workshop, held in Helen’s lovely farmhouse kitchen.
All of the workshops are taught by Helen, an accomplished (and self-taught!) professional baker with decades of experience. The setting is friendly and cosy, as I was in a home and not a purpose-built cookery school. We were a group of 4 people and we were all made to feel very at home. We were led to the gorgeous dining room for a welcome breakfast featuring tea, coffee, jams and the bakery’s own bread. I especially loved the hazelnut and sour cherry loaf.
Helen ran through the workshop with the group. We would be learning to make a lot of French breads… pain de campagne, baguette, bâtard, pain d’épi, fougasse and pain de mie. C’est magnifique! We received our own folders with the day’s recipes as well as blank sheets and a pencil for making notes.
As tempted as I was to stay in the dining room and admire all of the lovely artwork and curiosities (there’s even a stuffed badger!), it was time to begin the workshop. With my energy replenished with cups of tea and fabulous bread, I was more than ready and put on my White Cottage Bakery apron.
On 14 May 2016, Cambridge Eat Up! (exclamation mark intended) held its first ever Pot Luck Lunch, a fringe event for Eat Cambridge. The lovely and talented Karen Harvey had the foresight to create the Cambridge Eat Up! group on Facebook (you can read about its origins in her blog post here) and it has grown organically since then. It’s become a great virtual “meeting point” for food enthusiasts of all types (not just bloggers) to share good foodie news and plan get-togethers.
Photo by Karen Harvey
Photo by Lisa Durbin
So when Eat Cambridge organiser Heidi White thought the group would be ideal for a fringe event, Karen and I jumped at the chance to create something. In the spirit of Cambridge Eat Up!, we wanted to hold an event that reflected foodies coming together, sharing and supporting each other. The result was a Pot Luck Lunch where everyone would bring a dish and we would gather around a table in an informal setting to enjoy each other’s company and good food/drink. We planned this back in December and the next thing we knew, the application was submitted, the entry fee paid (courtesy of Paulo at P A Safety Management Limited) and my home was confirmed as the location. Everyone jumped at the chance to be included and the places filled up very quickly, as soon as the Eat Cambridge programme was released. I even increased the numbers from 15 to 20 but there was still a long waiting list. However, this indicated that the pot luck format appealed to a great number of people, so the group is discussing hosting more of them.
Burwash Manor in Barton, Cambridge was the place for lovers of food and drink over Valentine’s weekend, 13 and 14 February 2016. Love Food, the annual fabulous festival of food, was hosted by Burwash Food Hall, which includes The Larder and Leech & Sons Master Butchers. It was a great way to showcase local independent producers, some of which were already firm favourites, but I also discovered new ones too. It was good to meet the people behind the products they are so dedicated to making. These independent producers really put their heart and soul into their food or drink products and it shows. The proof is in the taste!
I celebrated all weekend and enjoyed tastings and demonstrations by The Larder’s suppliers. They were held in The Secret Garden marquee, a lovely space with lots of room to explore the various stalls.