Escape to River Cottage

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Escape to River Cottage
River Cottage DVD Cover.jpg
Escape to River Cottage DVD Cover
Format Cooking
Starring Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 6
Production
Running time 30 minutes (with commercials)
Broadcast
Original channel Channel 4
Original run 18 March 1999 – 22 April 1999
External links
Website

Escape to River Cottage was the first River Cottage television series in which celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall takes over a Dorset cottage and sets out to achieve a form of rural self-sufficiency.

Show summary[edit]

The River Cottage

Along the way, Hugh encountered many challenges largely caused by the weather, pests and his own inexperience.

Every week, Hugh meets up with different members of the Dorset community and gets a different kind of food (e.g., fish, pork) from each of them, usually free or bartered.

Local organic vegetable guru Michael Michaud, homecraft expert Barbara and experienced vegetable competitor Roy Gunning all make appearances as the series provides insight into country life.


List of episodes[edit]

Ep. Air Date Summary
1 18 March 1999 Hugh arrives at River Cottage, and immediately digs up the flower garden to make way for his vegetable plot. Next, he builds terraces with railway sleepers to maximize the amount of space he will have.

Hugh goes off to Peggy's pig farm and buys 2 pigs from her, then uses Peggy's trailer to transport them back to River Cottage into a shady copse near the cottage that he has prepared for them.

After that, he meets up with Gary, a diving and fishing expert who instructs Hugh on the use of a speargun. Hugh fails to catch anything, but Gary manages to catch 1 mullet and 2 bass, which they promptly cook and eat.

Hugh then visits Michael and Joy Michaud, who are organic gardeners. Michael goes back to River Cottage with Hugh to help him with his vegetable plot in return for a ham from one of Hugh's pigs in late autumn.

Next, Hugh arrives at the mansion belonging to Anthony and Serena Hitches, who have a severe pigeon problem. Every morning, more than 80 pigeons line up on the roof of their stables. Anthony then teaches Hugh how to cull the birds, and promises Hugh the meat of any bird he culls in exchange for his help. Hugh treats them to Pastilla, a North African treat using the meat of the pigeons he got.

2 25 March 1999 Hoping for a free fish dinner, Hugh joins a gamekeeper named John to help cull the pike population on the River Piddle. Hugh's artificial lure made from a rubber duck is ineffective, but John eventually catches a large pike. To convince John that pike can be a good eating fish, Hugh prepares jellied pike.

After River Cottage's first blackcurrant crop yields a mere seven berries, Hugh travels to a berry farm and works in exchange for fruit. Hugh joins a group of Eastern European students harvesting raspberries. He eats all the berries that are deemed overripe for supermarket shelves. Later, Hugh prepares a dessert of coffee-flavoured floating islands with blackcurrant syrup for the commune.

Hugh builds a chicken enclosure and buys six egg-laying hens from Frank, a local farmer. Hugh uses his first egg to prepare a single-serving soufflé, which he then eats while reclining in his hammock.

3 1 April 1999 At midnight, Hugh hunts down slugs that are eating his vegetables. The next day, he and Michael Michaud inspect the River Cottage garden and enjoy some carrots, fennel and courgette for lunch. Hugh decides to compete in the Beaminster Horticultural Society's Summer show, and meets with veteran competitor Roy Gunning and his wife Barbara to get some advice. Hugh prepares a vegetable chutney to enter in the show.

Next, Hugh goes diving for spider crabs and prepares linguine with crab for his diving companions.

At the vegetable show, Hugh's raspberry jam and Victoria sponge win first prize. He also presents a selection of six vegetables which wins third prize. Roy once again wins in the category of "longest bean" but narrowly misses winning the challenge cup.

4 8 April 1999 Hugh joins Jan Andrews, who manages the roe deer population. At sunrise, they stalk a buck, but don't manage to get a good shot at one. Hugh cooks a breakfast of mushrooms and the liver of a deer Jan had killed the previous day.

Hugh's cottage is infested by mice, so he enlists the help of vegan spiritualists who—using crystals and meditation—politely ask the mice to relocate to Hugh's shed. Later, Hugh invites the mouse-busters back for a lunch of vegetable risotto with hazelnuts from a tree he discovered on his property. Hugh claims that he hasn't seen a mouse they were banished.

Hugh takes a sentimental journey back to the Dorset shore, where he's reunited with Dennis Cheeseman, a man whom he met on holiday at nine years old. Just as he'd done as a child, Hugh helps Dennis harvest prawn pots. Then he prepares tempura-battered prawn with foraged sea lettuce.

5 15 April 1999 Hugh commissions a woven eel trap and baits it with a roadkill rabbit (after deciding the rabbit isn't quite in good enough condition to eat.) He then joins a group of cider enthusiasts as they collect windfall apples. Hugh shares a tortilla de patatas with the cider circle and engages in a drunken game of skittles.

After trapping and skinning two eels from his river, Hugh prepares eels in green herb sauce. Then, Hugh works as a beater on a pheasant shoot and takes home several birds as payment. He cooks a pheasant, pigeon, and rabbit terrine.

6 22 April 1999 It's fall, and Hugh has been at River Cottage for six months. It's time for Hugh to take his pigs to the abbatoir. Hugh enlists the help of Victor, an expert in curing Parma-style prosciutto. Hugh prepares a classic braun, a coarse pâté made from the pigs' heads. With Victor and butcher Ray, he starts the hams curing, stuffs a pig's stomach, and makes salami and sausages, the latter of which he smokes in the chimney.

Hugh decides to host a pork feast for his friends. But first, he learns how to catch razor fish, a type of clam, and prepares a clam dish with pork loin and sausage. He serves this and all the other pork dishes to his guests, which include Michael and Joy Michaud, Roy and Barbara Gunning, the Hitches, and all the others who helped him in the past months.

As the series draws to an end, Hugh prepares his garden for next spring and decides to stay in Dorset permanently.

Christmas special Christmas 1999 In Christmas at River Cottage, Hugh spends his first winter at River Cottage. The cider-marinated ham is ready, and Hugh goes in search of a fat goose to accompany it. To buy his goose, he sells homemade products at the local farmer's market. Hugh's marron glacé, brandy butter, and mince pies with actual lamb meat quickly sell at his farmer's market stall.

Hugh feeds Christmas carol singers visiting the Hitches' mansion with a fish cake of smoked cod. Later, Hugh prepares a stuffed goose neck, a confit, and a roasted goose breast. Then, Hugh searches the woods for a yule log with Star, a local hedgewitch.

Five members of the cider circle visit Hugh's cottage, and they feast on ham and stuffed goose neck. Hugh wins a year's supply of cider on a wager on a game a table skittles, a victory he attributes to the magical power of his yule log. Finally, as Hugh settles in to sleep, he leaves a mince pie by the fireside for you-know-who.

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