‘What, you’re saying you choose to cook, when you’re on holiday? Are you mad?’ Well, yeah possibly, but certainly not for that reason. Indeed, when exploring destinations both far flung and on home turf, we think there’s no better way to get familiar with the land, the terroir and the people of a place than by heading to a local market and checking out the produce, and then hopefully turning it into a delicious meal back at base. Sound like your kind of thing, too? With the help of Independent Cottages, who offer some wonderful cottages to rent in Devon, we bring you these, our 5 IDEAL self-catering tips for your holiday home.
ASSESS THE KITCHEN ON ARRIVAL
A bad workperson always blames their tools, right? But when those tools are blunt, basic or simply non-existent, then you might actually have a valid reason for that sub-standard meal. It’s prudent – imperative, even – to check the cupboards and stock on arrival to assess the tools you have to work with for your holiday. Holiday homes may not have the specific grill pan you need for your steak, or pan large enough for all that roast veg you’re plotting, and as a consequence, meal planning should react to that. So, perhaps no pan and tray juggling with five dishes on the go at once. Instead, luxuriate in the strength of local produce (more of that later) for best results.
APPRAISE THE LARDER
Don’t be caught short in terms of basic larder items either. You don’t want to be pulling your beautifully home cooked meal together and plating up, only to find the rented accommodation has no salt and pepper. Make no assumptions of what cooking essentials the kind owners or previous guests may have left behind. Instead, before your first big shopping trip, do a quick inventory of what oils, vinegars, seasonings and spices are in stock before your first trip to the shops.
BRING YOUR KITCHEN UTENSILS
It might be wise to second guess the inevitable and bring a couple of your own kitchen items with you. In our experience, though generally pretty well equipped for the budding homecook, holiday rental homes don’t always have the sharpest knives, so make the first move and bring either your favourite kitchen knife or a knife sharpener with you. He who dares wins, and all that. It might also be wise to bring a cafetiere or teapot (depending on your drink of choice, of course) as holiday homes sometimes only boast a Nespresso machine in their armoury.
LET LOCAL PRODUCE WRITE YOUR MENU
Now the fun part. Getting out there, exploring local markets, ogling esoteric ingredients and taking inspiration from the land, interacting with local, artisan producers…we just love it. There really is no better way to understand a place than by exploring the produce of the region, so at the first opportunity, ideally without a dish already in mind, get out there and see what looks good.
If you’re at a seaside town defined by its fishing community, head for the harbour and see what looks fresh and perky. Should you be in a region famed for its charcuterie or cheese, seek out a local deli. Head to the main market occupied by the people of the town and ask around about what vegetables are in season…your menu writes itself accordingly. And the good thing about relying on local produce? You’re giving back to the region, and to the farmers, fishermen, butchers and growers who give it its identity.
CATCH & PICK YOUR OWN FOOD
Now we’re really getting stuck in. Consider going even more native by organising a fishing or foraging trip (check the legality first, always) and catch and pick your supper. Many seaside towns offer boat trips and excursions to do just that, allowing you to spend the day rubbing shoulders with local experts and having something delicious to take home at the end.
Alternatively, you could organise a hike somewhere rural and see what wild herbs and fruits are growing to give your cooking back at the holiday home real character. In our minds, there could be no better way to get up close and personal with a place. Just make sure you’re well informed about what grows locally, or have a guide with you, to avoid any nasty surprises.