Thursday, 23 June 2016

Rare Breed Pork a Interview with BBC Radio Devon

Donna Berry, who co-owns the pub with rooms, which is famous for its food, with her husband and fellow chef Paul, explained: “Buying meat from these more unusual breeds who have had happy lives living near us in the heart of Devon is not only better for the diner, as they produce much tastier meat, but it’s also good for the producer as it makes it viable for them to keep these breeds going.

“Our ethos has always been to provide good food, sourced locally wherever possible, while supporting other businesses in the community too. We’re hoping that by giving our customers more information on the provenance of the meat they are eating it will help them understand the importance of animal husbandry a bit better and also promote our wonderful suppliers who do such a fabulous job protecting rare breeds. It’s all about awareness really.

“You can’t get any fresher or tastier produce than stuff reared nearby and also because we know our suppliers well, we know their animals are treated with respect and have happy and good lives.”

The Oxford Sandy and Blacks breed has reached crisis point at least twice in the past when numbers dropped so low that extinction was a real possibility.

Pig breeders Donald and Mary Shere from Oakridge Farm near Bampton specialise in Oxford Sandy and Blacks and supply us here at The Swan.

Donald said: “In 2013, when we moved to Oakridge Farm, the first thing we wanted to do was keep some rare breed pigs. We chose Oxford Sandy and Blacks because they are amongst the oldest British Surviving Rare Breeds and produce superb pork with an amazing flavour of its very own.

“Initially, we sold to family and friends but once they’d tasted it, they wanted more. The word soon got out about this superb pork with an amazing flavour and so we started selling from the farm gate, then supplying pubs, restaurants, local butchers and just recently, ‘The Butchery’ in London.

“We’ve developed a breeding programme to meet an ever increasing demand and our Pedigree Breeding Herd, registered with the British Pig Association, continues to expand. 

“It’s wonderful to think that our little farm is making a big difference in the conservation of this beautiful pig. Thanks to customers, who, like Paul and Donna and the team at The Swan, appreciate quality, we are able to continue in confidence and keep producing ‘proper tasty pork’ for all to enjoy.”

Saturday, 6 February 2016

The Chimes of new year Gone ....

With the chimes of New Years Eve and congo-ing in the street a seemingly long distant memory, I cast my mind back to what has happened this month, at first I thought we had just been amazingly busy and not a lot had happened. But once I started writing some notes down I realise it has been a quite an incredible month, with a lot of firsts thrown in.

Just after the New Year we did a “never before” and closed for food for 5 days, everyone needed a well earned break, recharge the batteries and enjoy a bit of well deserved family or own time.

Paul and I took the opportunity to return to Barcelona for a few days break and further investigate some of the sights we saw back in the summer with the boys, there is so much more to see, we have only tipped the top of the iceberg, so with sight seeing, eating and drinking on our to do list, I think we did very well, with a café, restaurant or bar every few steps and amazing architecture all over, we were in heaven, we tried some of the most stunning food and well to put it politely the most strange! Some of the ideas have now been adapted to suit our menu.

The return to work was a little bit strange for us all, we were all a little lost, but soon got back into the swing of things as the stream of customers gave us no chance to think about it, but just get on, always best to be chucked in at the deep end. So a lazy January we have not had, relentless is a better word.

Whilst we still had a moment of reprieve, as we thought, we did another first, although we had always talked about it… THE STAFF NIGHT OUT with a journey out of the county, but not to far, we spent an evening at Woods in Dulverton, well the food and service was second to none, we were well and truly looked after, not so sure about the impromptu speeches, secret Santa’s and charades though? Family Swan had a great night, with a few sore heads the next day and whole repertoire to talk about for the coming weeks.

Last week we had an inspection from one of the Visit England Awards inspectors, strangely enough we had only been talking about a possible visit that lunchtime, and with a possible entry of 3 to 4 from each county I wondered how many we might possibly be up against, do you know how many counties there are in England? No neither apparently did we, but thanks to Google we find out 48!! So whilst speaking to the inspector over breakfast and assuming that he had been eating out for months, I asked how many places that he had to visit, the answer was 5, well now we feel doubly honoured, final judging takes place next week, with the awards being hosted in the north west in early March, fingers crossed XX

The 28th of this month sees us at The Castle in Taunton, for the launch of The Exmoor Food Festival, Olivier-Clavelshay Barn (former Woods) Starters.. Mark – Masons Arms – fish course… Liam Finnegan – The Castle Taunton- main course …The Swan – dessert, with the students from The Combe, West Somerset College looking after the canapés and extras. This leads on to numerous venues in and around Exmoor offering 2 courses for £10 and 3 for £15 on selected dates through out February, so I suggest you Google Exmoor Food Festival 2016 and eat and drink your way around Exmoor for a bargain.

What an amazing Bampton Fair we had, with so many faces from the past popping in to say hello and some new characters on the scene, who previously had not experienced this once yearly extravaganza, the rain clouds moving off into the distance we had a gratefully dry day, which makes all the difference, people are not rammed into the pubs and cafes, making for a much more relaxed atmosphere, no ones drinks or food getting knocked over, with lots of bargains and queasy fair rides, everyone I spoke to had a really good day, with new stories to tell for next year.

The After The Fair folk festival seemed to have attracted more followers than ever and you were hard pushed to get in the door some nights, not just here but all over the town, I hope that everyone enjoyed this musical interlude.

Talking of music I was watching an old TOTP the other night, which lead onto another music show, and wow did they have some legends on, but what struck me was what Grandmaster Flash said to Pharrell Williams  “when you love what you do, it will take care of you for the rest of your life” well maybe they are both lucky, but I recon you definitely have to love what you do in the catering trade, the long hours, the heat of the kitchen, the pressure of service and always preparing for the unexpected, why else?

With Paul’s first proper outing to Sandy Park for The Devon Life Food and Drinks awards, we were both pleased to just be there and although we didn’t win this year, to be a finalist and lose out to The Jack In The Green is nothing to feel disappointed about, to be honest we’re still reeling from wining last year. The following Monday saw us in Padstow for The Trenchermans Guide awards, with an amazing menu, created by last years wining chefs and matching wines, with a lot of friends and familiar faces (I saved my best dress for this one) we were in for a really good night, topped off by the fact that we were named best pub, we were just totally overwhelmed to be in such prestigious company, thank you to all that voted, that see us as such, hopefully we wont let you down.

With Paul still taking it easy and recovering slowly, possibly not to return until the New Year Team Swan glides gracefully along, whilst behind the scenes we are paddling furiously, with some phenomenally busy days and some exciting bookings soon, who knows what its going to be like when we get going with all the Christmas parties?? Fun fun fun

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Rocky Times

 Who knew when I was finishing off last months column what a rocky few weeks lay ahead, its almost as though I could use the first paragraph of last months column to express my views of the wonderful people of Bampton and surrounding areas again too.

Whilst some of you might know, Paul and I had headed of to Cornwall for a few days break, a bit of brain storming for new menu ideas and plans for the winter and generally a bit of ‘us time’, within 2 days Paul was staying in Truro hospital with suspected pneumonia and being tested for all sorts of other things, I returned to the Swan on the Thursday to do an interview for the Devon Life Awards, yes Paul got out of that one again!!

I returned to Cornwall on Friday in the hope that Paul might be coming home, only to find him on a ward with no signs of improvement, I returned home to check on team Swan and finish of my column. Saturday I returned to find that Paul been moved to intensive care and was in an induced coma, with machines beeping, flashing and generally keeping him alive.
With a quick phone call to his parents, who were just ready to board a plane for Turkey, we all returned to The Swan.  The following week turned into the longest of my life, with nothing that I could do for Paul I threw myself back into the kitchen, by Thursday Paul was stable and improving very slowly and I suddenly lost Tom one of our other chefs who too was hospitalized with another case of suspected pneumonia, with offers of help and overwhelming support from family, friends, customers and others in the trade, we got through.

After a week of being in a coma the hospital started to bring Paul back around, by Monday I was back in Truro and speaking with Paul who had just had a slice of toast, his first food in over a week, on the Tuesday he was back home, albeit very weak and unsteady, tired and a little confused, nearly 2 weeks on he is making a steady return to the Paul we all know, but it’s going to take sometime for normal service to resume.
Meanwhile the Swan continues, as always with our passion for good food and drink and of course a warm welcome.

Thursday 5th sees our first award ceremony at Sandy Park for Devon Life food and drink Awards, closely followed by a trip to Padstow on Monday 9th to Rick Steins for The Trenchermans Guide Awards, with The Tourism awards in Plymouth towards the end of the month, so there are plenty of things for Paul to get himself well for.

Obviously with everything going on all the changes that we had been planning have taken a bit of a back seat, we have managed to change a few dishes, the Lamb dish has had a make over, comprising of a lamb shoulder shepherds pie, lamb cutlet and winter vegetables, a pumpkin ale cake and toffee apple sorbet has made an appearance for Halloween(Pauls last crazy idea) and one of our winter warmers is back, Sticky ginger pudding with a ginger caramel sauce, which I thought I’d share with you



             175g (6oz) plain flour
             1tsp ground ginger
             1/2tsp baking powder
             1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
             2 large eggs, beaten
             75g (3oz) unsalted butter, softened
             100g (4oz) dark brown sugar
             1tbsp black treacle
             240g (9oz) stem ginger, drained but syrup reserved, chopped finely in a food processor and half reserved for the sauce
For the sauce:
             100g (4oz) soft brown sugar
             75g (3oz) unsalted butter
             3tbsp reserved ginger syrup from the jar
             4tbsp Ginger wine (Stones or Crabbies)
             200ml (1/3pt) double cream
             Preheat oven to 180 C, 160 C fan, 350 F, gas 4
1.Sift the flour, ginger, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl.
 2.Add the eggs, butter, sugar, treacle and half the stem ginger, and mix well with an electric hand whisk until thoroughly mixed. Divide the mixture between 6 prepared moulds, we cook ours in a tray and divide in to squares when cooled.
3.Place on to a baking tray and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until well-risen, golden brown and firm to the touch.( These puddings can be frozen )
4.Meanwhile, to make the sauce, simply place the remaining stem ginger and all the other sauce ingredients in a saucepan. Place over a medium heat; bring to the boil, stirring occasionally until smooth.
5.When the puddings are cooked, remove from the oven. Allow to cool for five minutes before turning out, they seem to come out easier then.
 6 Either serve sauce over the puddings or in a jug, add your favorite, custard, ice cream or a large dollop of clotted cream or all????!!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

An inspector calls and great fun in a barn .

Another month flown by, which we started with a meandering trip out to Clavelshay Barn Restaurant for a Somerset Chefs Club dinner. The venue is on the out skirts of Taunton and we went down roads that we didn’t know existed, maybe we shouldn’t have driven down some!! But what stunning scenery and abundant wild life we passed on our way, The Barn was equally impressive, an awful lot of work, care and love have gone into this fine old building. We spent the evening with a great mix of people, a few of the guys from The Beach Hotel were there, and its amazing to watch and listen to their take on the wonderful food presented to us during the evening, some overly enthusiastic and some quite shy, but all with a genuine love of the trade, so we will still be able to eat out in years to come. Olivier and his team supplied a mouth watering menu of , crab, belly pork, gurnard, lamb and a truly yummy strawberry and lemon dessert, I’m not elaborating to much on the dishes because hopefully you will travel out to taste these treats for yourselves, well worth the drive.

That was our treat for the month over; we then steeled ourselves for the crazily busy month ahead and we were not wrong, the room and table booking were crazy, with no let up. We’ve met some amazing and lovely people and hope that we served them well and that they enjoyed there time at The Swan.

One gentleman that did enjoy his time with us was the AA inspector, he did a dine and stay with us, so after breakfast he revealed his identity to Paul, they then proceeded to discuss the findings of his inspection, busily unaware of what was going on, I continued prepping in the kitchen, whilst in the bar a little later getting some ale for my rarebit Paul called me over to introduce me and tell me the brilliant news that we had gained another rosette and the room rating had gone from 4 stars to 4 star gold, Paul didn’t come down to earth for about a week, whereas it look me about a week for it all to sink in, so well done Team Swan, 2 AA rosettes and 4 star gold rating for rooms, a brilliant accolade for Bampton and Mid Devon.

Strange that on the night the inspector ate we also had a previous winner of Masterchef dining as well, good spotting from our eagle eyed staff, he was amazed that he had been recognised as it was a few years back, thank goodness he enjoyed his food too.

Only a few days later we were approached to appear on 4 In A Bed, this was not the first time we had been asked, but once again we declined, neither Paul or myself are overly fussed about having our photos taken, so viewing ourselves on TV sounds like our worst nightmare, the thought of being so closely scrutinized is really not something we feel we have to put ourselves through, normal days can be quite challenging enough.

With Steve the manager away for the quiz evening, which normally is his forte, I had to step up to the mark. To say looking at a room full of expectant people is scary, probably an understatement the evening went well. This month was in support of the Riverside Hall a building run by and for the people of Bampton.

One evening whilst waiting on tables I got talking to 2 lovely couples, one of the ladies had used my Panna Cotta recipe, so later on whilst clearing the desert plates I was asked about the Pistachio  and Olive Oil cake, when I told them I had also made that, hubby piped up that he wanted to marry me, my reply was I'm afraid I'm already taken but I will put the recipe in my next column…… so here it is.

NEWS JUST IN we have just heard that we have made the finals of the Devon Life Gastro pub of the year 2015 we are so excited, thanks to everyone that voted for us, award ceremony in November

Pistachio and olive oil cake
3         large eggs
200g-castor sugar
100g butter, melted and cooled
125ml olive oil
1/2         lemon juiced and zest
1/2         orange juiced and zest
50g         fine polenta
50g         plain flour
1-teaspoon baking powder
200g ground pistachio nuts

1.  Preheat the oven to 150°C.
2.  Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.
3.Put the eggs and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on a high speed for a few minutes, until light and frothy. 4.In another bowl, mix the melted butter, olive oil, and orange and lemon juices together.
5.Fold this into the egg mixture.
6.Sift the polenta; flour and baking powder together then fold in the ground pistachios.
7.Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture, taking care not to overwork the cake batter.
8.Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 35–40 minutes until a cake skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

We served a chocolate sorbet with this cake, warm or cold it will take almost anything, cream, fruit or even a jam

Lastly can we trouble you to vote for us in The Trencherman's Awards 2016. this is a truly high award to receive as it represents the best in The South West. so we thank you for ttaking the time to vote for us  

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Busy Month, chefs, cider and TV

Is Bampton really mid Devon? With Somerset only a few miles up the road, it does feel like we are really on the edge, so in saying that it meant that we got an invite (sneaky) to attend Somerset Chefs Club first ever dinner at The Beach Hotel Minehead. The hotel has been taken over by the YMCA and is run as a training school in all forms of the hospitality industry, well not everyone is cut out for schools or college. The young people are taught and supervised at all time by a group of fully qualified professionals, some attend college on day release or are assessed on the job, so they can gain suitable levels at NVQ to move forward with there chosen career, one of the young chefs was leaving the following week to start a new job in Scotland at a Michelin starred hotel. What a great bunch of people they were, they were so enthusiastic and proud of their achievements, from the minute we entered to the moment we left we were given 5star treatment, we could have been at the Ritz. The staff showcased their food and front of house skills and a wonderful night was had by all. So if you are wandering along Minehead seafront and fancy something to eat, bare The Beach Hotel in mind a great cause and well worth a visit.

June is always a busy month for us, with Fathers day, the start of wedding season and the Iron Man competition at Wimbleball Lake increasing the number of people wishing to eat, added to this we lucky to be chosen to cook for The Cannonball Chefs, this caused much excitement on Facebook and Twitter. The country is split into 4 areas and a team of 4 has 48 hours to eat at 24 restaurants ending at the 25th one in Birmingham where all the teams meet up. It might all sound very glamorous but the guys that visited us looked absolutely broken by it all, there’s a heck of a lot of miles traveling around the southwest area to visit all of these foodie places, I know they had a great time and ate some amazing dishes, but I’m sure they slept for a couple of days when it was all over.

We branched out last week and had a pop up bar at Tiverton's Electric Nights food festival, selling some amazing local cider, we had a great night, met some wonderful people and of course sampled some awesome and filling food, all with bands playing in the background. So if I were you, I would look out for the next Electric Night food festival and go along, take the kids and the dogs all are welcome. I'm sure you'll have a real fun night.

Back to Plymouth for a Devon chefs club dinner, the Greedy Goose was once again the venue, this time Ben was assisted by Mike Palmer (who runs the chefs club) head chef at The Two Bridges Hotel in Princetown, who teamed up with the guys from Tigermilk a cocktail bar, so not only did we have great food we had matching cocktails. (At least I've eaten two good meals this month)

The end of the month saw features in Devon life magazine, catering the crew from Come Dine With Me (no they didn’t tell me any gossip) and a day with David Griffin award-winning food photographer taking pictures of our food, so all in all a hectic but fun end to the month.

Soft fruit is obviously bountiful this year and suddenly we find ourselves inundated with gifts from customers. Unfortunately these fruits don't last too long and there are only so many you can freeze. We have made some great purees for decoration and we will be making jams and chutneys but I have found a great looking cake recipe so you can use up any of your excess fruit. Enjoy

Summer Fruit Drizzle Cake

         2 large eggs
         2 tsp vanilla extract
         175g fruits, stoned and diced weight
         140g granulated sugar
         1-2 tbsp citrus juice - lemon, lime or orange
         175g very soft butter, plus extra for greasing
         175g golden caster sugar
                  250g self-raising flour

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease a 900g/2lb loaf tin and line the base and ends with a long strip of baking parchment. Put the butter, sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla extract into a large bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer for 5 mins until pale and creamy – the mixture will be very thick.
Spread one-third of the cake mix into the tin, then scatter over 50g of the fruit. Carefully dot and spread another third of the cake mix on top, and scatter with another 50g fruit. Finally dot the rest of the cake mix over and gently spread with the back of a spoon. Bake for 1 hr, until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Poke the cake all over with a skewer. Put remaining 75g fruit into a bowl with the granulated sugar. Stir in 1 tbsp of the citrus juice first with a fork, mashing a little of the fruit as you go. If it’s a bit dry, add a splash more juice and spoon over the cake. Leave in the tin until the cake is cool and the topping is set and crisp.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Mixing with the Stars

With another bank holiday and lovely weather bringing in the customers, Paul hardly had time to draw breath before his jaunt over to Kentisbury Grange. An evening presented by the Trencherman’s guide, showcasing Devon's finest produce and chefs. It was an amazing opportunity for Paul cooking with the stars of the catering world Michael Caines MBE with 2 Michelin stars, Mark Dodson of The Masons Arms 1 star for over 10 years and chef Thomas Hines; Michaels head chef @The Coach House by Michael Caines auspicious company indeed. He had amazing evening and said how welcoming, obviously professional and calm everyone was, the food apparently was stunning as was Kentisbury Grange itself. Can't wait to try for myself.

Bampton hosted its first ever Spring Fest (Which replaces the August bank holiday Bampton open day)at the end of May. The day luckily saw glorious weather which obviously helped, there were a variety of stalls selling some great gifts and home-made items, there were horse and hounds, vintage cars, dog shows for all and of course Bampton's famous parachuting teddy bears The list actually was quite endless. Whether it was the date change or because the weather was kind to Bampton it most certainly was a success and if this is built upon over the years Bampton Spring Fest will certainly become a date in everyone's diary, so to those who worked so tirelessly organizing the event they should be very proud of their achievements.

Something that is already proving to be a great success is the Tiverton Electric Nights Street Food festival, so with luck The Swan will have its own pop-up bar there next time on 4th July, so look out for us.

Another month and another Devon Chefs Club dinner, this took place at The Treby Arms near Plymouth (Sparkwell) our hosts were Anton and Clare Piotrowski, Masterchef winner and also a holder of a Michelin star. He certainly pulled out all stops and definitely had all of the chefs talking, taking pictures and having a truly great night. The pub itself was immaculate, beautifully decorated, with a sense of fun and the food stunning; it’s most definitely worthy of all that he has achieved. So for that special occasion it's really somewhere to put on your hit list and I believe there is accommodation not too far away.

Monday will see us heading off to Minehead, for the very first Exmoor and Somerset chefs club dinner at the Beach Hotel which looks really interesting, we are staying over so I'll be able to give you a B&B report as well as the food next time.

With summer hopefully on the way and with a few days that the barbecue might have been fired up it's well worth thinking about making your own burgers, they are simple, reasonably inexpensive and a lot tastier than the frozen variety (obviously you don’t just have to barbeque) .We make our own here at The Swan and they are a sure fire winner. I'll give you a basic recipe and then you can be creative, just make sure you cook them through thoroughly.
We add chilli and mustard too ours and sometimes we use lamb mince and coriander.. You can use any minced meat and add your own flavorings, it's great fun and it will give your barbecue the edge, either mould in a large screw top lid (like a coffee jar) or mould by hand, good luck and enjoy the sunshine


      1 small onion
      500g good-quality beef mince
      1 egg
Just hand mix all ingredients together.
This should make 4 good-sized burgers

Add garlic, parsley, mint, chives or even curry spices, what about a chicken curry burger? There are no limits to your imagination its really down to your taste buds.

Top with any sort of cheese, mozzarella, cheddar or even a tasty blue. Once pressed, if don’t use them all, wrap in cling film and freeze until the next time, you can make a whole range.

Use all or any of the following to serve: sliced tomato, beetroot, horseradish sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup, handful iceberg lettuce, rocket, watercress.