The British have not, historically, been famous for their food. At least not in a good way. And even as London has long been a major culinary destination, British food itself has never been the main draw. But recently, that has begun to change, as other areas of the United Kingdom come into their gastronomic own.
One such region is the Cotswolds, a 300-square-mile bucolic area of hills ("wolds") that are home to more than 200 small towns and villages. Tucked among the working farms in this rural region is the childhood home of Princes Harry and William, as well as the country retreats of many celebrities, including Kate Moss, Hugh Grant, and Kate Winslet.
It's also home to Rob Rees, known as "The Cotswold Chef." The former head chef and owner of a Michelin-rated restaurant, Rees is well known in the UK as a proponent of local and regional British food. Now, he's partnered with von Essen hotels to offer the "Cotswold Food Tour" to guests visiting the region. Participants are invited to spend a day on the "inside track" of the Cotswolds food scene. Chef Rees will meet participants at their hotel on the morning of the tour with a Champagne picnic breakfast of local-bakery pastries and local sparkling wine, and then take them on a tour of (depending on the season) local farm shops and farmers' markets. Chef Rees acts as guide and personal shopper, showing participants how he selects his ingredients and introducing them to local suppliers. Depending on the group's interests, he can arrange wine tastings or cheese-making courses. Chef Rees then concludes the day with a hands-on cooking demonstration in which participants can learn to make Rees' recipes using the local foods they learned about during the excursion.
A Jolly Good Time
Cost: Starts at $400 per person ($600 per couple)
Maximum group size: 6
Includes: Full-day tour, Champagne breakfast basket, light lunch, and cooking demonstration.
For more information: visit www.robrees.com
White Onion and Cheddar Cheese Soup
Portions: Four to Six
1/4 stick (25g) Netherend Farm Butter
7 large (700g) Abbey Farm White Onions - sliced
1 sprig of thyme
1 pinch of nutmeg
1 bay leaf
2 medium potatoeswashed, peeled, and cubed
1 1/2 cups (175g) Double Gloucester Cheese, grated
3 cups (570ml) vegetable stock
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1/2 cup (75ml) Cotswold Dairy whipping cream
Melt the butter in a thick- bottomed pan, then add the onions, thyme, nutmeg, bay leaf, and potato and sweat for approximately three minutes.
Cover with the stock and bring to a boil.
Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potato is tender.
Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before liquidizing until smooth. Strain through a sieve into a clean saucepan and return to heat.
Add the Double Gloucester Cheese in three lots, stirring well after each addition. Add the whipping cream and season with pepper then serve with warm fresh bread.
Originally published April 01, 2008
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