The Equinox brings with it the return of longer days, seemingly all of a sudden. The clocks go forward and the evening is extended, so much so that we are now able to take the dog out for his evening walk after work. This treat lasts only six months for me between the Equinox.
The boats start to return to Blakeney Quay around Easter. In fact it marks quite a few things. My birthday being this time of year we usually have a rather elaborate tea with more cake than sense. Easter brings with it Mothering Sunday and daffodil walks. The world is bursting into bloom and bud. Blakeney Quay awakens and the tourists return for the first “busy” days of the season. (It feels busy compared to February but I suppose we are never as busy as the south coast, even in August)
The gorse is in full bloom and just to be on the Heath above Kelling or Salthouse is to walk through a cloud of coconut fragrance. Cuckoos have arrived on the marsh, and we found frog spawn in the garden. In the hedges primrose blooms and wild garlic unfurls.
This leads to many a tasty Spring treat. This year we have made wild garlic aioli, mayonnaise, and focaccia. (Try this recipe!) we were also advised to substitute the wild garlic in for leeks in potato soup by chef friend Jackson Campbell. For Easter we had 7 Hour Lamb which was amazingly tender.
In the garden the magnolias are in bloom and we all pray there are no frosts to spoil their glory. Itss fragility may make it all the sweeter. Winter jasmine adds to the yellow overtones of the floral season along with the daffs and primrose. In addition to the ipheion bulbs, our first tulips start to colour. It’s the start of a month or two of drama in the tulip beds.
Finally April brings with it some truly warm days, so long as you stay out of the wind. We often have our first picnics and BBQ’s on the beach and in the garden. The dunes at Burnham Overy Staithe provide good shelter, or under the cliffs at Weybourne.
As part of our ‘Winter Recaps’ we can’t wait to gush about our invitation to a fabulous tasting event by Oyster Catcher Catering. I am not food blogger (though we do seem to talk about food, and local food, a lot on here) so I will let the starters speak for themselves!
They are as delicious as they are beautiful.
Wherever possible they provide food and ingredients from the Norfolk area. And of course living in some of the best arable farmland in the UK, great ingredients combined with Chef Jackson Campbell’s imagination and skill leads to an amazing meal. While it is pretty, this is real food. Healthy, filling, local.
Enough of me, here’s some more…
So many courses! But we had to have it all! On display at the event was a selection of things offered in their Welcome Packs. (which we may have also tried.) What a great idea! When you spend all day trying to get out of the Big Smoke, and arrive late and hungry, what better thing to have waiting for you than delicious local food? I can distinctly remember when we moved to Blakeney and by the time we unloaded the van the only thing being served at the local pub was dessert and a cheese board. If only….
Yesterday saw a gloriously sunny day for the monthly Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market in North Creake. Now, we have been to Creake Abbey before, and aside from the English Heritage Abbey ruins, there is a fabulous cluster of shops and cafes; but more on that later.
As far as local produce is concerned we have been spoiled for choice since moving up here. It is a bastion of artisans and the market was well curated. We could have walked away with a lot more than we did. Good sense had to kick in at some point, but not before we made a number of choice selections.
First stall we came to was our first purchase and that is a good start! WOW muffins, or Without Wheat Muffins, were offering free samples and were so good we bought a box of 9 ‘muffinettes’ despite having no food intolerances between us. We brought them down to visit some friends today and they were praised highly.
Jamoroc Spices were our next hit. Run by a husband and wife team from Jamaica and Morocco this stall featured a full range of spices (complete with fab little containers), sauces and dips. We went all out and got a mild and hot sauce for ourselves and another as a gift.
Next came another of my favourites. We have come across the Marsh Pig range before, which is stocked at our local, The Blakeney Delicatessen. But there is such a wide range of flavours and I can’t seem to resist the free samples. I always end up buying some.
The last highlight of our day was the English Spirit Distillery. Despite having only just passed noon the free samples were flowing. This little distillery based in Dullingham, Cambs (a few streets away from our last home no less!) has turned out something special. We walked away with The Old Salt Rum, blown away by its banana and caramel notes. This was used later that evening in some very rich hot chocolate and couldn’t have been nicer.
A couple of venison burgers, and a shoulder of lamb later we decided we had to leave the premises. It was a lovely day and in lovely settings. I’m sure the sun helped a bit too but highly enjoyable and very recommended. The market is the first Saturday of each month barring January. Check it out.
The tropics of Norfolk, it seems, are a hot bed of chilli growing. It might be hard to believe on a day like today when the Arctic wind is howling in from the North East, but we’ve come across two chilli sauce producers in the area, both of whom grow and make locally.
The first, Norfolk Heatwave, we saw on the BBC’s Countryfile episode about the area. We’ve tried all 3 varieties: the Certain Death Ultra Hot, Caribbean Hot Pepper and Green Jalapeno Hot Chilli. They’re all delicious in their way, but my personal favourite is the Green Jalapeno.
It is especially good added to a little paprika and garlic infused mayonnaise, used a dipping sauce for smoked prawns (a combination created by a chef friend when he came to stay recently).
Despite the fearsome branding, none of them are dangerously hot. The spice is intense, but unlike more processed chilli sauces, you get the flavour without the choking, hiccough inducing burn!