Living where Somerset meets both Dorset and Wiltshire means that I am spoilt for choice with local food producers, farmer’s markets and – of course – Frome’s own utterly fabulous monthly Independent Market. I love knowing exactly where my food comes from, and try to buy as much as I can from local, organic producers, so an invitation to visit Dorset, to spend a whole weekend in this enormous cottage, sampling that county’s finest fayre with twelve fellow food bloggers was one I jumped at.
I packed my car, scooped up Kate from Veggie Desserts, Sus from Rough Measures and Helen from Fuss Free Flavours, donned my sunglasses and headed for Blandford Forum.
Ranmoor Cottage was very welcoming, nestled into the gentle Dorset countryside with glorious views on all sides. A sunken trampoline meant I could bounce nice and high and wave madly at the alpacas next door! (Here’s a photo taken of me by Tin and Thyme which shows what happens to my hair when I bounce on a trampoline!) I have a Big Birthday coming up next year and I am very tempted to hire Ranmoor for my lot – loads of space, gorgeous rooms, badminton, trampolines, a swimming pool – we’d be in heaven!
I reckon my daughter and I could descend dramatically down these stairs in fancy frocks, don’t you?
Once we had all settled into our rooms, explored the kitchen and had a good nosy in the fridges to see what might be on offer (a fridge FULL of local wine, beer and cider – I’m saying no more) it was time to get down to work. Black Cow Vodka was a revelation – inspired by his love of vodka, and by nomadic Siberian tribes who have been making the stuff out of mare’s milk for generations, Jason Barber is producing an incredibly creamy, smooth vodka using the milk from his grass fed dairy herd on the West Dorset coast. The milk is separated into curds and whey, the whey is fermented into beer and then distilled, triple filtered and finished before being bottled. It goes down particularly well, neat, with the fine mature cheese which Black Cow makes from the curds produced when the milk is separated – how fabulous is that?!
Dinner followed our cheese and vodka sampling and what a treat is was to have it prepared for us by Dorset Fine Dining who rustled up a three course meal and served it to us with a flourish. I started with feta and mint pastillas followed by Moroccan chick pea and aubergine tagine with giant cous cous and vegetables which included the most delicious braised red cabbage I have eaten in my life! I somehow managed to squeeze in my dessert – how could I not when my chocolate eclair was filled with a mocha custard, drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with decadent and indulgent gold leaf?! We washed this deliciousness down with a few bottles of Furleigh Estate Wine made from Dorset grown grapes. It was lovely to sit and natter for a while in Ranmoor’s spacious sitting room – I far prefer to chat with fellow bloggers this way than at busy conferences or organised events, we learn so much from each other and it’s fab to have face to face time with people who have become firm friends online.
The next morning I woke to find Dorset shrouded in a beautiful Spring fog, muffling sound and hiding the surrounding countryside. I wandered into the garden with my camera, breathed in the clean air and took a moment to just enjoy the silence before joining everyone else for breakfast hampers of pastries, local honey, butter and jam all washed down with a cup of whatever you fancied – I was very taken with The Gilded Teapot’s Earl Grey Supreme which was deeply aromatic and deliciously smooth but I also sampled some richly flavoured Reads Coffee, just for balance you understand.
Outside the mist had lifted to reveal a sunny early Spring day so, with our tummies once more nice and full, we headed off to have a look around Goldhill Organic Farm – regular readers can imagine how much I enjoyed this with my love of the polytunnel and all things growy! There is nothing which excites me more on a March morning than to see all the promise of summer bursting through the ground and a well stocked farm shop.
I can’t think of many places I’d rather be than walking alongside raised beds of garlic, in the shadow of an iron age longbarrow, listening to someone who is as passionate about growing veg as I am! I was very excited to hear (over a delicious lunch of chilli, Goldhill veg and homemade flatbreads) that Goldhill are expanding their box scheme to include Juicing Boxes from April and Soup Boxes later in the year – I, for one, am keen to try them out! Dorset Apple Cake served with clotted cream at Goldhill’s on site cafe, Tea and Sympathy, completed our tour and we drove back through stunning scenery to Ranmoor.
We hadn’t eaten for at least an hour so I was relieved to see that the long dining table had been beautifully set for Afternoon Tea by Bethellbridge Bakery! I managed to find room for some tiny sandwiches, a slice of cake and a scone, of course I did!
There was some debate about the right way to say scone (to rhyme with gone, naturally) and whether to add cream or jam first – this is the right way, just in case you were wondering 😉
Whilst we were sipping tea from vintage china, and trying to find a gap for a little more cake, we played some very enjoyable games and quizzes which revealed I know very little about Afternoon Tea beyond the fact that I thoroughly enjoy it and would like to see it reinstated as a compulsory English Thing. I need to put this right and I’m planning to have a few more so I can find out all about them.
After all this indulgence I needed to move about a bit so a game of badminton with friends followed by a bit of a lie down on my own was definitely in order before our evening meal! I took a stroll as the sun set – this really is a very lovely part of the world.
The alpacas certainly seemed to be happy, bathed in the evening light!
Once the sun was over the yard-arm we cracked open the Conker Spirit (a fine Dorset Dry Gin) before tucking into Dorset Pies washed down with Dorset Nectar Cider and Cerne Abbas Brewery beers. The day finished with a choice of flavours from Purbeck Ice Cream (already a firm favourite in our house) where I was delighted to try their new offering, Dorset Marmalade, which tasted amazing and would go very well with my marmalade muffins!
Making my way home along the winding roads I made a pact with myself to visit Dorset more often. I whizz through it weekly throughout the summer to jump on board my boat and sail along the Jurassic Coast but I really need to explore its highways and byways if this sample of local producers is anything to go by!
My family pounced on my bag of goodies as soon as I got back – Honeybuns Gluten Free baked goods didn’t last long (these were FABULOUS, if you’re looking for gluten free cakes do look them up), Chocolate Arthouse‘s creations were stunning to look at and tasty to eat while Thomas J Fudge’s Jalapeño wafers really do pack a spicy punch, delicious with Black Cow Cheese and olives from Olives Et Al. That Dorset Tea is a lovely way to start a day while a bath with Purbeck Soap and a beeswax candle from Gold and Black Candles is a pretty good way to end one! I think the apron from Funky Pigeon will look mighty fine on board this summer and the print of Durdle Door by Kevin Williamson is tempting me back to the sea and keeping me sane in my office until I can get there again!
Disclosure: This wonderful Visit Dorset Food Blogger Weekend in Ranmoor Cottage was organised by holidaycottages.co.uk I was not required to write a blog post and all words and opinions are my own. The first image in my post is courtesy of holidaycottages.co.uk, the pool was not open in March when we visited but all other facilities were available to us. All other images are my own. I must thank holidaycottages.co.uk for such a carefully thought out weekend – it was wonderful to feel looked after and pampered with plenty of time allowed for just chilling with friends. It was also blooming’ marvellous not to be the only vegetarian, there were 5 of us, it was FAB!