In 1999 Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall decided to quit the bustle of London and take on the life of a smallholder at River Cottage, a former gamekeeper's cottage in Dorset. The aim: self-sufficiency; to grow his own vegetables and raise his own animals for food. Over the years several series have been produced covering his experiences and watching his rural empire grow.
Hugh has been waxing lyrical about the goodness of home grown grub for years and as summer starts in 2009, he's convinced the tide is starting to turn. "Britain's definitely been bitten by the grow your own bug," grins Hugh. While Hugh's a die hard fan of many a veg patch pleasure, there's one garden goodie that excites him more than most. "If I was only allowed to grow one vegetable to get me through the summer, it would be these guys: peas." For Hugh, peas symbolise the start of summer so he heads to the kitchen with Tim the chef to rustle up tasty pea recipes. That's if there's any left after Hugh's finished scoffing straight from the bowl. Tim's cooking a chilled pea soup served as a shooter with shells and shoots used for good measure. Hugh opts for a pea and pork combo with plain boiled, buttered peas with fried chorizo. "All we've been saying is give peas a chance," grins Hugh.Watch Now:Amazon
Hugh wants to run a 'Leftovers Night' at the River Cottage Canteen. Together with chef Tim Maddams they make canapes from leftover fish, gnocchi from roast potatoes and puddings from breadcrumbs.Watch Now:Amazon
Hugh is particularly keen on the River Cottage garden, so when he discovers slugs have been gauging on his soft cabbages he plans some drastic action. Can Hugh turn slugs into a culinary hit?Watch Now:Amazon
River Cottage is celebrating the strawberry this summer with a massive 500-person strawberry fete. In preparation, Hugh and the River Cottage gardeners plant strawberries in every available space.Watch Now:Amazon
With Christmas around the corner, Hugh has a plan. Instead of giving shop-bought boxes of chocolate goodies this Christmas, he decides to make his own, conjuring up a tray of lip-smacking chocolate brownies that take ten minutes to prepare and two minutes to wrap. Hugh's slaughtered steer has now been hanging for a month. Butcher Ray Smith and Hugh set to work extracting cuts for a party Hugh is throwing: the pair can't resist making beefy canapés of biltong and pastrami. Hugh's valiant attempts to get wild rabbits back on to the British menu continues as he targets the notoriously awkward teenage demographic. Armed with deep fried rabbit legs, a mayonnaise dip and hot rabbit buns he heads to an Exeter nightclub. Hugh also hunts for the blewitt mushroom and tries to catch herring for the first time. Meanwhile, out of the River Cottage garden Hugh harvests a winter salad, to which he adds roasted Jerusalem artichoke, goat's cheese and hazelnuts for a light but mouth-watering lunch.Watch Now:Amazon
To celebrate a bumper year at River Cottage, Hugh has some of his food heroes round for a fabulous four course dinner including rare mushrooms, ten bird spit roast and the ultimate sponge…Watch Now:Amazon
Hugh's commitment to a summer without flesh takes a hit when he joins a fishing trip and has to pass up the fresh mackerel sushi. So he visits Sachiko in Birmingham, where a Japanese chef introduces him to the vegetarian ways of Buddhist monks, and cooking techniques entirely dedicated to wowing the palate out of any yearning for meat or fish. Back on track, Hugh plunges back into traditional English summertime and prepares a full cricket tea without a pork pie in sight.
After a summer of eating veg, Hugh is ready to celebrate Christmas with a renewed sense of the value of meat - but also the wonders of seasonal vegetables. This year all the meat comes from the most extensively-living, free-ranging animals of them all - wild game - and more specifically those that are viewed by many people as pests.The River Cottage chefs sharpen their knives in pursuit of wild boar, muntjack deer and greylag geese. Head gardener Mark Diacono and Hugh seek to make the most of their veg patch, even in the depths of winter, unearthing some Christmas favourites, as well as some heritage varieties from off the beaten path. Forager John Wright teams up with Pam 'the Jam' Corbin to make some luxury stocking fillers. And the Canteen hosts a `12 Tasters of Christmas' night, packed with ideas to create an array of canapes and little bites, perfect for that festive drinks party.Watch Now:Amazon
Hugh goes to London to meet professional chef David and family and to become inspired by the array of flavours that vegetables offer, from a Thai salad to a nut, cumin and orange salad. And Hugh sets out to see if bacon-loving workmen can be tempted by a meat-free midday meal.
Hugh cooks up a storm for a (mostly vegetarian) wild swimming team. From the ultimate power-packing pesto, pasta and potato salad to a big hearty stew, Hugh's found his new role - club cook.
Hugh discovers new cooking techniques from Sachiko Saeki and her husband Pak Keung Wan, which inspire him to turn his runner beans in to Japanese pickles and tempting tempura dishes.
Hugh's summer of vegetarianism presents him with a challenge: should he serve meat at the annual River Cottage BBQ? He sticks to his guns and dishes up a spelt, potato and carrot salad.
To make the most of his summer as a vegetarian, Hugh turns to his love of foraging to provide some interestingly different edible options, from searching the rock pools for dulse seaweed to shimmying up a monkey puzzle tree for a never-before-tried taste of their nuts - which ultimately end up being perfect in a risotto.
Inspired by his summer of vegetarianism, Hugh has set himself the mission to spread the word that meat-free meals can be for everyone. But the carnivorous customers at the Fox and Hound pub are proud of their meat-filled main courses... What will the locals think when Hugh puts on a veg-only night? Will his spicy pakoras and mushroom stews be enough to win them over, or will he be left with egg on his face?
With the River Cottage team already making the most of all types of cheese to flavour their veg dishes - from Hugh's Easy Peasy Cheesy pasta to cheese and broad bean brochettes and cheese fritattas - Canteen Head Chef Tim faces a cook-off competition to persuade the rest of his staff to get on the meat-free bandwagon.
It's the River Cottage team's turn to provide the tea for their annual cricket match against their local rivals. But Hugh has banished the pork pies, ham sandwiches and luncheon meat, requiring some creative, and high-scoring, efforts in the kitchen to win over the opposition. Hugh, Tim and Gill get together for some collaborative sandwich-making and experiment with post-match veggie cocktails.
This could be Hugh's biggest challenge yet; convincing kids to eat their greens! Hugh's secret tips include wood-fired pizzas and garlic butter, and he even has something up his sleeve for getting people to eat the ultimate 'love it or hate it' veg; Christmas sprouts.
Will the celebration go to plan when guests discover that instead of the traditional spit-roast, Hugh is serving a complete wedding breakfast with no meat?
Hugh finds out if a veggie lunch can keep the garden team as full and satisfied as they usually are with their bacon sandwiches, and James makes the ultimate cheese and pumpkin pastie.
Hugh believes the way to make organic free range meat fit your budget, is to eat and enjoy cheap cuts rather than cheap meat.
This year, River Cottage celebrates a family Christmas with everyone getting involved to make this dinner their very best yet. Hugh challenges his chefs Gill and Tim to help transform the fortunes of the much maligned Brussels sprout by coming up with new recipes and brings out potatoes, onions and parsnips from the autumn stores to make the perfect trimmings.Watch Now:Amazon
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall sets out to prove that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. He visits a school to demonstrate how to make pancakes and drop scones, and heads to Bristol's main train station to show commuters how to start the day in style. A special canteen event also showcases a reinvention of the full English breakfast, featuring mushroom soup with brown sauce and bacon rind, and builder's tea granita.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall turns his attention to treats, with recipes for Genoese sponge cake and lemon curd muffins, game pies, cheesy tarts and real ginger beer. As well as revamping afternoon tea for the Bridport Tea Dance, there is a visit to a pub that features a pudding league, and Hugh's son Oscar is inspired to create a vanilla and elderflower panna cotta.Watch Now:Amazon
Veg hero Jagdish Ghelani helps Hugh bring an extra dimension to his culinary curry efforts, introducing him to veg pakoras and dosas, and even the ultimate curry in a hurry.