Archives for posts with tag: April Bloomfield

Coombeshead Farm has been on my list for some time. My list, that is, of fab places that I have read or heard about and don’t want to forget. So when I get the opportunity to tick something off I can only hope they live up to all that anticipation….and Coombeshead certainly did that.

We were on a bit of a tour around the south west and arrived after a lengthy drive to what can only be described as my perfect place. Run by chef Tom Adams and his childhood sweetheart Lottie, this young couple have created an experience that is like stepping into your perfect home in the country. They couldn’t have done any more to make us feel welcome.

We started with a bit of a roam around the grounds and even for this early in the year there were plenty of beautiful spots reminding us that Spring is such a bright and optimistic season. Clearly we were very lucky with the weather but hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. And every room is done with unique style and charm. The library has an honesty bar which showcases some of the best independent brands from the UK and the lounge was prepared with home baked shortbread that was literally melt in the mouth.

Bedrooms are much the same. Understated and stylish. Home made soap, little vases with stems plucked from the garden and hand crafted bits and bobs adding up to a really homely comfy place to stay.

If that wasn’t enough, I remind you that this is the brainchild of Tom Adams, partnered with April Bloomfield who he worked with in New York. I don’t know what I expected from the co-founder of Pitt Cue company but I guess I was expecting someone a little arrogant and cheffy. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Tom Adams is a rare thing. A quiet, genuine, modest man who makes exceptional food and has a charm and elegance that belies his age. It is clear that he is very well respected in the industry and is pivotal to the changes in the way we eat food, but he is just so humble about what he has achieved.

Dinners at Coombeshead are a big reason to come. They take place firstly in the kitchen, where you are fed the most fabulous mouthfuls of snacks before the main event. I have never eaten Hogweed and nor do I think you have. They foraged it when they were looking for an alternative for a vegan who was staying – they are good like that accommodating all our one off needs. And deep fried it was simply nutty and delicious. It came in a little bowl to share alongside pig skin and apple, potato skins, whey and pine, and cured goose – you get the idea!

The main event takes place around the communal farmhouse table which houses all the guests plus locals who are welcomed to partake in the dinner. This Sunday, we were joined by the couple who grow their local asparagus and rhubarb (plonk in the middle of asparagus season) who incidentally are also the local vets. And Charlie, the pig farmer (and close friend of Tom’s) – pigs are a significant part of the Coombeshead offer – plus his Mum. Two chefs who were staying, who just happened to be the ex head chef of number one restaurant, L’Enclume and his mate who is chef proprieter of Bristol restaurant Bulrush. In between were a couple from the US.

Dinner was served with the same elegance that pervades the whole place. Each plate explained, every mouthful a joy to eat, plucking the best from the season and the countryside. Simple cooking but with twists that made all the difference. On every windowsill and in their special cellar are jars and jars of things fermenting and pickling, just doing their thing and when you marry those with the meal, it is perfection.

But I honestly think my favourite meal was breakfast the following day. There was no rush to leave and Tom just chatted away as he prepared our food. The table was already laden with healthy granolas, wonderful kombucha and of course a repertoire of jams, compotes, yogurts, honey. Then came hot food too nurtured to perfection by Tom’s hand, accompanied by the most incredible sourdough bread.

This comes courtesy of baker Ben who has recently moved down after a couple of years of discussing the project. His bakery is just being built and what a space it is too. He is another like minded young guy who is at the cutting edge of where bakery is going at the moment. Ben told us he was experimenting with the Kouign Amann as he wanted to explore the close relations between GB and Normandy and to find his new twist on this classic. I am sure when he unveils it, it will be mouthwatering, but that will have to wait for another visit.

And another visit I would like to arrange. Because I really couldn’t get enough of this place. It was with a very heavy heart that we made our way out. We popped in to see the Mangalitza pigs having their brunch on the way, almost getting bowled over by their weight and enthusiasm. But that’s what this is all about. You are just accepted as being part of the place for that moment you are there. And then you are gone. Til next time, Coombeshead Farm. I will be back!

 

I have to admit: ever since I watched April Bloomfield on Mind of a Chef take her inspiration, I have been ever so obsessed with the concept of the morning bun.

I wonder if it is because of all that European viennoiserie that these are not really something we have in the UK but when you see the experts at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco demonstrate their glorious beauties on the show, then I defy you not to think this is a great idea.

Like endearing April, I can’t help but fiddle with the concept thinking up fillings. It sort of reminds me of a traditional Jewish Rugelach but with better pastry. I used to watch my grandmother make those many years back and that combo of jam, nuts and fruit got me thinking too.

As I had friends over today for Sunday brunch I decided that I would give them a go. I tried a couple of different fillings using simple shop bought croissant dough and playing around with sizes. My easy silicon mould was a great size but I am sure a tin base would get a more effective crunchy base.

Admittedly the pastry itself was just a little bit disappointing, not helped by my lack of wash before baking, but the results were pretty good for a first attempt. For sweet, I went with a use of of the delicious marmalade that my gardener made me for Christmas as the base, topped with raisins and pecans. Part morning bun, part rugelach. For savoury, another use up. The end of last week’s pesto (I told you it had many uses) with extra pine kernels and cheese. I tried two different sizes. The marmalade proved a little too generous after cooking falling to the bottom and stopping that delicious crunchy base, but they were a good size.

Either way, if you are looking for an impressive but achingly simple way to impress for breakfast then just buy some croissant dough and go for it.