Now's the perfect time to eat some moor food
Next week ten days of fun events begin in Exmoor, as part of the moor's annual food festival. There's everything from seafood evenings in Lynmouth to cider and cheese tastings at Dunster Castle.
It's a great chance to explore the varied cuisine of this wild and beautiful area. So what better time to discover a great cookery school, run by heartfelt foodies, on an authentic 300-year-old Exmoor farm? Even better, Ian and Karen Jarmarkier of Streamcombe Farm Cookery School have dreamed up some great recipes for us to try, to mark this celebration of the food of Exmoor.
Their Exmoor menu runs like this: goat's cheese salad with wild sorrel, followed by roast partridge with elderberries. Then for a dessert, Ian's teamed figs from his neighbour's tree with local Yeo Valley yoghurt, transformed into a frozen spoonful of heaven with the clever addition of cardamom, honey and lemon.
"This way with partridge works brilliantly," says Ian, as he arranges a tiny breast and leg of partridge on toast, to roast as a sort of very superior gentleman's club-style dish. "I love Exmoor partridge. It is moister and more juicy than many game meats. This is the perfect dinner party main course or a great supper in its own right."
NEW FROM SYMPLY - a wet dog food in a tray freshly steamed with real meat and veg you can see minimum of 68% meat content up to 72% in the adult trays.
Terms: Come and try tray at introductory price of £1
Contact: 01271 440626
Valid until: Friday, January 31 2014
Ian and Karen, both in their thirties, met at school in Lyme Regis ("in a Physics A level class, to be precise," says Karen). Then, for many years, they lived in Hampshire, where they had their two children, Josef, 14 and Isaac, 12.
Ian, a food scientist, worked for Sainsbury's, in charge of 100 chefs in the supermarket's development kitchen. "But after seven years, it was time for a change," he says.
"I'd had enough of commuting to London every day. Both Karen and I found ourselves pining for the Westcountry and wanting our children to grow up down here."
So the couple decided to open a business back home the South West. "We started with just the B and B, three years ago," explains Karen, "Then, because Ian is such a keen cook, it makes sense to offer cookery lessons too."
It certainly does. Ian's a self-taught chef with an eye for the unusual and a great line in foraging. All of which makes him a prime candidate to get involved with this year's Exmoor Food Festival. He will be giving several masterclasses as part of the festivities. "I'll be giving demos on game cookery and how to get the best out of local lamb," he says.
Ian's father came to the South West as a refugee from Poland in the Second World War and his family has lived here ever since. So how does it feel to be back in the region? "Just right," says Ian with a broad grin. "The people are great, our kids are loving having so much space. We so enjoy shopping at the farm shops and being part of the community here."
Many visitors stay in the three beautiful bed and breakfast rooms Ian and Karen have created in one of their farm's old barns. The classes themselves take place in a stunning 250-year-old stone threshing barn just on the other side of the farmyard.
"It's perfect for cookery classes, the barn's so atmospheric," says Ian.
Indeed it is, with a stream running alongside it, deer-filled woodlands out of the window and Karen's beloved guinea fowl roaming freely in the pretty paddock outside. If you're keen to cook the Exmoor way, do check out Ian's forthcoming classes and here is a taster of his Exmoor menu to try for yourself.