Cobnut brandy to wet the baby's head

We are a bunch of friends, food bloggers and one of them is becoming a mom at christmas time. Much like our Food Revolution Potluck in the summer, we decided to do a Virtual baby shower for Emiko, our dear friend who moved all the way to Australia last year. We all see each as often as we can, even if we do live in different countries and continents, this virtual baby potluck was plotted in the bedroom of an Umbrian casale on one of our foodie get togethers last month. After those first talks before going to sleep, the plotting started via email, getting all excited imagining her pretty face when she finds out we've been planning this surprise. 

Our friendship lasts through our never ending conversation on twitter, facebook, instagram and very long emails... yet far away, we are always close...
Emiko's blog was the first food blog I started to follow back in 2011 and the first food blogger I ever talked with when I first got on the mighty twitter.
She is one of the kindest people I know and I wish her and her husband Marco all the happiness in the world with their gorgeous little daughter end of december.

I bring to Emiko's baby potluck a home made cobnut or hazelnut brandy for Marco, the dad to be.
It is tradition in Britain for the fathers to 'wet the babies head' when their child is born. As much as it is often an excuse to get drunk, it is also part of a drinking culture that has been around for centuries. To 'wet' or to 'whet' the babies head refers to baptism, however in pagan Britain a newborn baby would most likely be celebrated with a drink… or two, or three.

Brilliantly British - Cawston Press

I discovered Cawston Press at this years Food Blogger Connect. Three days long we were spoiled with their sparkling and still apple juice. I'm picky about my apple juice to be honest, I don't like it too sweet and Cawston Press delivered a perfectly balanced flavour. The apple juice has a pleasant clean taste and the blends like Apple & Elderflower don't overpower the apple flavour. Cawston Press have been pressing apples for juice since 1986 and every carton of Cawston Press has 10 whole apples pressed into it! What I also love is the whole brands design! This one caught my graphic designers eye at once! My favourite of them all? Apple & Rhubarb ... so British.

Cobnut and apple tart

I'm very happy to announce, I've been asked to write for Great British Chefs
Here I am, a Belgian girl writing about Britain and British food and I am really proud that they have taken me under the Great British Chefs' wing.

I didn't have to think twice when I was asked to write about something for a mostly British audience, recently I've been quite obsessed with Kentish cobnuts and I have many more recipes up my sleeve.

When I think of my beloved Kent, apples, cobnuts, cherries and hops are the four things that define this county for me. They have moulded the landscape with their orchards and plats and have influenced the kitchens and culture.

I discovered Kentish cobnuts on a late summers day when they are sold fresh in their green husks. The kernels are then juicy and resemble a chestnut flavour, yet more delicate. When autumn arrives the cobnuts are ripened, the husks, then turned brown, are removed and they look more like the hazelnut we generally know. Now they are dried and referred to as Golden Cobnuts. The flavour of the nut has developed while ripening, and has gone from fresh and juicy to an intense nutty flavour. When stored dry they keep till christmas. The Kentish cobnut is larger and more ovoid shaped than a hazelnut and also has a different and slightly more intense flavour.

Cobnuts generally grow in Kent, where the variety the 'Kentish Cob' was planted in the 19th century by a Mr Lambert of Goudhurst.
They have however been around since Tudor times and were but revived by the Victorians who considered them to be a delicacy. There are more varieties of cobnuts but as Kent has historically been the main county producing cobnuts, the term Kentish cob is often used generally for every variety of cobnut grown in Britain.
Cobnut orchards are known as 'plats' and the nuts are harvested by hand by workmen called 'nutters'. In the old days cobnuts were also sometimes picked by hop pickers coming down from London as cobnuts and hops both ripen at the same time. The disappearance of the Hop pickers roughly corresponds with the decline of the cobnut plats.

I had my mind set on Sloe Gin

I had sloes on my mind the last two times we drove up to Kent...
On both occasions I went home without them…
My eyes were on honesty boxes by the road, people selling produce from their garden at car boot sales and little blue-ish dots in the trees we drove passed.
The location of sloe trees is a well guarded secret of those who have discovered them on foraging trips. This makes them even more mysterious to me, I just had to have some sloes. I heard stories saying the native British sloe is so very rare it only grows from ancient trees. They look like black olives, and like olives best not eaten straight from the tree. Sloes are very tart and mostly used to make jams to accompany cheese and for making sloe gin…

The sloe or 'Prunus Spinosa' is a berry from the blackthorn. Sloes or blackthorns were planted around the countryside in the 16th and 17th century as hedges around the fields to keep the cattle in. The word 'sloe' comes from the Old English slāh, in Old High German slēha and in Middle Dutch sleuuwe.  
Traditionally when making sloe gin, the berries must be gathered after the first frost and one must prick each berry with a thorn taken from the blackthorn bush. Sloe gin is made by infusing gin with the berries. Sugar is required to ensure the juices are extracted from the fruit. Some swear by freezing the berries before use.

Jo's Hotpot - British family recipes

I think she didn't realize how much she filled my heart with joy when she handed me a jar of pickled red cabbage to go with a Lancashire hotpot she cooked for me to take home. Insecure about what I was going to think of her dish, she provided me with the instructions for heating the hotpot at home.
Joanne, a bridal gown designer originally from Lancashire, moved to Birmingham a few years ago to open her fabulous bridal studio in the old Custard factory. She cooks this hotpot a lot for her family and I was lucky enough to have a taste myself.

The Lancashire hotpot is the most famous dish to come from the county of Lancashire. Traditionally it is made from mutton, topped with sliced potatoes. It's a quick and simple dish to prepare with long slow cooking, the tale goes that the women who worked at the cotton mills prepared this dish in the morning and placed the Hotpot in the oven to simmer. Hours later when the family returned home, they would have a warming dish to enjoy. This is an economical dish, making the most out of cheap cuts of meat. Nowadays lamb is mostly used but in the old days cheap cuts of mutton were used as they have a strong flavour and therefore little would go a long way.

Jo's Hotpot is made with a pastry lid instead of being topped with sliced potatoes on top. The pastry gives some extra texture to the dish that I quite like!
I'm sure this dish will be a favourite in our house like it is at Jo's. Thanks so much for sharing Jo, you are amazing!

This is the first of hopefully many recipes sent to me by readers, friends of readers, mums and aunties for my British family recipe challenge. Do you have a family recipe for Huffkins, puffkins, pudding or any other traditional recipe?
Something you mum made a bit differently because her mum told her to?

Submit your recipe and I will cook the dish and post it here on the blog!

Do let me know where you got the recipe from, it could be your grandmother or even your grandmother's grandmother! And tell me the story behind the dish if you like!
Can't wait to read all about it!

More in info here  >
You can send you recipe to:   Cheers x

Jo's Hotpot 

Send in your British family recipe and I'll cook it!

Florence White called out to her readers in the 1930's to send her their traditional family recipes. 
The contributions of those people turned into a beautiful book called 'Good things in England'. It is also the book you'll always find on my bedside table.

Challenge me!
Do you have a family recipe for Huffkins, puffkins, pudding or any other traditional recipe?
Something you mum made a bit differently because her mum told her to?
Submit your recipe and I will cook the dish and post it here on the blog!
Do let me know where you got the recipe from, it could be your grandmother or even your grandmother's grandmother! And tell me the story behind the dish if you like!
Can't wait to read all about it!

Submit here

or send me an email at


x Regula

Harvest soup for Samhain

The Celts called it Samhain which celebrated the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. It literally means 'summer's end' and is the primary festival marking the end and the beginning of the year.
Along with Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh it makes up the four Gaelic seasonal festivals.
Samhain was the evening when the veil between our world and 'Netherworld' was believed to be at their thinnest. It's the feast of the dead, like Beltane is the feast of the living.
Bonfires played a big part in the festivities -much like with Beltane- people would jump over the fires or walk between them as a cleansing ritual. 
Costumes and masks -usually animal heads and hides- were worn, as an attempt to cast of or taunt the evil spirits, this was referred to as 'guising'. 
It was also the time for farmers to choose which animals would need to be slaughtered to get through the winter. This custom is still observed now by many who raise livestock as the animals will no longer graze outside.
Food offerings were also made at Samhain, people would leave vegetables outside of their door to please the evil spirits and fairies. Later in time the food offerings changed into lanterns made of hollowed turnips - much resembling the carved pumpkins we know today.

The earliest record we have of Samhain in the Celtic world comes from the Coligny Calendar, a Celtic lunisolar calendar engraved on bronze tablets believed to be dating back to the first century AD. It was written in Gaulish, a Celtic language very close related to the Brythonic being Cornish, Welsh, Breton, Cumbric and maybe even Pictish.
Celtic mythology is originally a spoken tradition, the irony is that the traditions and tales were eventually written down by Christian monks in the Middle Ages who then Christianized them to suit there needs and believes. After all the best way to strip the people of their believes is to simply adopt them to later on adapt them...