Three lovely things happened to me today. The first happened early this morning as I walked my daughter up the street to nursery. Just before turning the corner, something crunched under my feet. Usually I wouldn't have bothered to look, but a strange force was pulling my head down for a quick peek. And there, smashed to smithereens on the cold damp pavement, was my favourite free product in the whole world - a cob nut.
Now I may have mentioned this before, but when I moved from my old house in Leeds, the one thing that I knew I would miss the most was my cob nut tree that I happened to have in the front garden. Every year I would let battle commence with the squirrels in a strange scrap of nature for a few bags of nuts, me on one branch and a few angry grey squirrels on the other. I often lost. But I did seriously miss that tree. So imagine my happiness to discover a beautiful nut stuffed tree at the top of my otherwise unremarkable terraced street here in sunny East Boldon.
I danced a happy jig on the way back with my pockets stuffed and then made my way up to Alnwick in Northumberland to do a few cookery demonstrations at the farmer's market. Here, in one small square, are some of the most fascinating people selling sublime products with real passion and belief. So when a supplier brings me some of her pear and black pepper bread to try, the very bread she was making with her own hands that very morning, the already present smile on my face just got bigger. Pear and black pepper bread, what a combination!
They say that all of the best things happen in 3's. And as I was packing away, a gentleman from Alnwick started telling me about his own home made blackcurrant vinegar and then produced me a bottle from his pocket. I had to taste it there and then and I can tell you, it was sensational. Sweet and savoury, thick and moreish, it had my head instantly filled full of all kinds of food combinations.
If every day was like this for me, I would never remove the smile from my face and people would avoid me in the street. Food for free, quality food at that, is a rare thing. So no recipe this week. Just a little story of luck and a picture of the bread, cobnuts and blackcurrant vinegar with a couple of slices of creamy melting Coquetdale cheese. It made for a quick and extremely satisfying tea. The best things in life are free.