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Pitch Up, Eat Local – Book Review

From cider drinking in Suffolk's apple orchards to roasting haggis on the shores of Loch Lommond, we delve into the camper's guide of what to eat and where to eat it.

It’s ironic that travel writer Ali Ray’s campervan is called Custard, given that in her new 380-page book it’s among the only foods that don’t make it onto the pages. If she’d gone for ‘Mustard’ for example it would have fitted perfectly with the Steak with Brandy and Mustard recipe on page 35, or she could have alluded to the yolkish hue of her pop top with a name like ‘Eggbert’ to herald her Pancakes, Salmon and Scrambled Eggs delight.

As the title suggests, though, Pitch Up, Eat Local is more than just a cookbook and whatever the name of Ray’s campervan, the pages it helped produce make for a wonderful publication. Part camping guidebook, part farmshop catalogue and part cookbook, Pitch Up, Eat Local is a coffee table wedge that’s quick to inspire your next culinary camping adventure. The book offers a bright and colourful look into the various regions of the UK and brings each to life with fantastic photography and pastel illustrations that run throughout the pages.

The bumper mix of recipes, campsites and local farm shops does bring a slightly unusual blend of different focuses to the book (and perhaps a little confusion) but, when you don’t fancy browsing by region, the index in the last few pages breaks it all down into a list of recipes and a list of locations; so if you know what you’re looking for then a thumb through this section is an easy way to split your cheddar cheese from your Cheddar Gorge.

Taking inspiration from her work as The Camping and Caravanning Club’s ‘Eat Local’ columnist, Ray has spent five years on the road in her little yellow camper exploring the fish sheds and farmers' markets across the UK. From taking in some of the counties' best scenery, to in depth reviews of her recommended campsites, the book provides a wealth of inspiration for discovering the best of Britain. While whipping up top food from top local producers is what Ray knows and loves, it’s clear the passion extends far beyond clotting Cornish cream and smoking Scottish haddock. “Local food visually impacts an area’s landscape and defines its history”, she says, “from fish smoking sheds on the northeast coast to huge ‘cheese stones’ in Lancashire fields” – and it's this foodie culture Ray explores in the odd pages dotted throughout the book. The origins of the Sandringham Estate's apple orchards and the stinky history of Stilton cheese all get their mention, with tips on where to buy the goods themselves.

In all, Pitch Up, Eat Local lets local food tell the story of the UK's most beautiful areas, bringing together the best aspects of a proper camping holiday. It heralds the great outdoors and the great farmers and fisherman that allow us to enjoy it, all accompanied with recipes that look so delicious you can almost smell them through the pages.

Pitch Up, Eat Local by Ali Ray is out now (AA Publishing; £16.99) and was produced in collaboration with The Camping and Caravanning Club.