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Lunch with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall @ the River Cottage Canteen

This week I was lucky enough to celebrate my essay submission in true style when I was invited (along with a plus-one) to ‘Lunch with Hugh’ at the River Cottage Canteen on Whiteladies Road. The event was held to launch Hugh’s new book, “Love Your Leftovers” and our three-course lunch showcased a range of dishes from the book and from the Canteen menu.

Ushered to our seats by our lovely waitress, we enjoyed a glass of elderflower bubbly (which was absolutely dreamy) and were soon greeted by the welcome arrival of our first sharing platter. Starters included crispy fish skeletons (much nicer than they sound, I promise!), lamb and onion bahjis, homemade cheese straws and my personal favourite, a delicious roast hummus served with root peeling crisps.

Once everyone’s hunger had been sated a little, Hugh took to the floor to tell us about the new book. The recipes, he explained, are inspired by the thrifty cooking of his mother, and are aimed at helping to make the most of leftover food that would usually end up in the bin. It celebrates classic leftover dishes such as shepherd’s pie and chicken noodle soup, but also pushes the limits to create innovative new dishes such as the crispy fish skeletons we had just tried and other surprising concoctions like potato peel soup.

Main courses came from the menu at the River Cottage Canteen. We were treated to pork belly accompanied by creamed corn, Swiss chard and hazelnuts, a medley of spiced roast butternut squash with spelt, pear, Somerset feta and watercress salad, and grilled mackerel served with pink fir apple potatoes and pickled plums. The flavour combinations were interesting and unusual, my particular favourite being the mackerel, which was cooked to perfection and complemented perfectly by the sweetness of the plums.

Dessert came in the form of a lemon, blackberry and yoghurt pudding cake, another recipe taken from Hugh’s new book. The dish was a kind of bread and butter pudding, beautifully moist and topped with natural yoghurt, blackberries and crystallised lemon. Our only complaint was that we couldn’t have seconds!

Three courses and two glasses of bubbly later, we headed downstairs to have a chat with the man himself. Hugh was really relaxed and friendly, and after he had finished telling us about his camping trip to Northern Ireland in 1986, we finally got around to discussing his new book. We agreed that making the most of leftovers is even more important for those on a student budget and Hugh particularly recommended one of his favourite and more unusual recipes from the book, the Spaghetti Bolognese omelette.  A great way of making a brand new meal out of any pasta leftovers (Hugh also recommended trying pesto pasta or macaroni cheese) the recipe really is as simple as it sounds – just heat up your leftovers in a pan, and add beaten egg mixed with some butter and seasoning.

All in all, the atmosphere, service and food were all top notch, and it was lovely to meet a celebrity chef who was so friendly and down-to-earth. I would really recommend a trip to the River Cottage Canteen for anyone who has never been, and keep your eyes peeled, because we’ve just been let in on an exclusive new student deal, which will be posted on our website very soon!

Jess is a final year English student at Bristol. Coming from Belfast, one of her favourite sources of amusement are the constant attempts (by friends and strangers alike) to master the elusive Northern Irish accent. She also loves spending time exploring Bristol with friends and sampling the city's culinary and cultural offerings.
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