It's been lovely to have some cold crisp days after the soggy, wet new year. It really puts a spring in the step to have those stunning blue skys above and the low evening sun sparkling through the leafless trees. And there are even some sure fire signs of spring amongst the frost – not only snowdrops peeking through the tufty green grass, but even a surprising garrison of daffodils
One thing I love to see on sunnier days are the birds next-prospecting. We have to look out for them too. I have already spotted a wren showing a great deal of interest in a discarded pile of hazel poles - last year's climbing bean sticks. I’m going to move it right away before she gets too keen on the idea of making a nest in it!
Our nanny goat, Bay, has been enjoying a holiday - or we might even say honeymoon - with our friend’s billy goat, Jackson. I think we can safely say, based on the adoring look he is giving her in the picture below, that they got on well. She’s back here now, and hopefully sometime around early May we will once again hear the patter of tiny hooves! I’m just hoping it isn’t triplets this time! Not only because it puts a pretty big strain on Mum (and this is Bay’s first year of kidding) but also, selfishly, because I’m hoping to take some of her milk for some cheese-making experiments. I can take a little per day - half a litre or so - if she has twins. And I can help myself rather more generously if she just has a singleton. As long as I can get 3 litres or so by the end of the week I can make some lovely fresh curd at the end of the week.
There are some brand new animal arrivals at River Cottage HQ too, including our much-anticipated new flock of sheep. They are last years’ lambs which we will be raising as “hoggets” for the summer and autumn, as well as selecting the best ewes to go to the ram at the end of the year. Alongside our chickens and pigs, these new residents will be the stars of our brand-new smallholding courses – taught by our brilliant Farm Manager, Jim. Designed with rookie smallholders in mind, our one-day course is a brilliant introduction to the skills, equipment and knowledge required to get started with small scale livestock keeping.
Of course I’ve been busy indoors as well as out, especially in the kitchen. I’ve been cooking lots of comforting classics during these colder days, including some spicy winter soups to add some warmth – have a crack at this simple spicy noodle soup recipe from my latest book River Cottage Good Comfort.
As I look towards the year ahead, I’m particularly excited to be hosting and teaching a wide range of River Cottage feasts and courses - more than I ever have before! One of my favourites has to be the River Cottage Four Day Course – a fully immersive cooking experience, hosted in our award-winning Cookery School. With dates starting in March, it’s an unbeatable four-day culinary adventure covering fish, meat, vegetables and bread. If you’re up for joining us, then I’ll look forward to teaching you in person on the Veg Day.
We’ve got so much going on, and I hope this will be the year when you decide to come and visit River Cottage – or indeed revisit, if we’ve had the pleasure of your company before. I promise you that time spent here with us will leave you with a warm glow, and inspire your own adventures in the kitchen and garden too.
With warmest wishes for the month ahead and the spring beyond,
Would you like to Join Hugh on one of his courses or dining events?
The River Cottage Four Day Cookery Course:
One of Hugh's favourite courses - learn from the River Cottage chefs and Hugh himself on the River Cottage Four Day Cookery Course!
The ultimate River Cottage experience. A four-day cookery course covering fish, meat, vegetables and bread. Dates have just been released and start from 27th March - so be sure to lock in your place!
A Seasonal Feast with Hugh:
Or why not enjoy a Seasonal Feast with Hugh - this very special seasonal event has limited dates throughout the year. Hosted personally by Hugh and centered around a fantastic seasonal meal planned by Hugh and the team, it is served in the beautiful River Cottage barn.
A Taste of River Cottage with Hugh:
Spend an exciting afternoon with Hugh and the team, cooking and eating in the glorious surroundings on A Taste of River Cottage with Hugh.
Explore our full course list here.
And check out our dining events calendar here.