Redcurrants, Blackcurrants, Tomatoes and Charcoal!

Suddenly the fruit bushes were full of jewel-like redcurrants glowing like rubies in the bright sunshine!  And I mean full, it has been a bumper harvest which has meant jam-making on days when it was really too hot to be near a stove.jam  Some stored in the freezer for summer pudding to be eaten long after the memory of this wonderful hot weather has faded, some made into a spiced redcurrant jelly to go with lamb or pigeon breast (a friend was musing on just how good the pigeons who had eaten all her redcurrants would taste if only she could capture them!)  There will be more to make into a sweet redcurrant and raspberry jam, and some we have simply eaten, spooning it on to yoghurt for breakfast, or sneaking spoonfuls from the bowl in the fridge.  But the blackcurrants that don’t go into summer pudding or get poured over ice cream just have to be made into a traditional jam, thick, with a soft set and not too sweet.  I could eat it by the spoonful….

tomsTomatoes too are finally starting to ripen, much later than last year because of the cold spring.  Picking a handful of small plum tomatoes, a new variety to us called Lucciola, I couldn’t resist popping one in my mouth.  Sweet, with a deep flavour and delicious, the skin not tough because they have ripened quickly.  Perfect with home-grown basil, again aromatic and tasty because of the warm weather, some locally bought, if not manufactured, mozzarella (from Ceci Paolo, it’s worth it!) and olive oil smuggled home in our suitcases last year from Paxos.  That will be perfect for tonight’s supper, along with a green salad of lettuce and our own broad beans, and some freshly pulled radishes, nicely hot and crunchy. Bliss! pradish

If you are barbecuing during this hot spell – we have had to let the Aga go out as the dog was complaining he couldn’t sleep in the heat, so are using the ancient table-top barbecue we bought years ago for any roasting – then do consider this home grown charcoal.  charcoalIs it just my imagination or is it not only easier to use, lighting quickly and smoking less,  and gives a better heat, but also makes things taste better?  Probably, but hey!  We might as well cook our wonderful Herefordshire meat and vegetables over local charcoal while we wait for the scientific analysis of my claims.

Enjoy the summer, and all that it provides.

Wrights Culinary Delights

Farmers Mixed Meadow HerbThe Wright family just can’t stop having ideas!  It was son David who had the initial idea for their business, Wrights Culinary Delights, sparked by an interest in food and his travels to places like Morocco and Brittany.  Here he found markets with piles of jewel-like spices, and interesting mixtures of herbs and spices to rub on to meat, or flavour sauces.  Weary of life in front of a computer, David decided to take the plunge last November and, aided and abetted by his parents, Ian and Kate, he started selling their spices and salts at local markets.

What lured me into buying some of their products was the taste of the dip they were offering at the Malvern Farmers Market (tip for food sellers, greedy people like me cannot resist tasting your produce!) I tasted their Mexican Fiesta Dip, a nicely spicy combination mixed with natural yoghurt or cottage cheese – easy and delicious.  Then I noticed that they had a variety of salts, including sea salt with seaweed, something I had been looking for.  But on the way I saw a lime sea salt which smelt absolutely divine, perfect for fish, I thought, and an interesting one labelled “Bonfire”.  This turned out to be a smoked salt with charcoal added, similar to the Hawaiian black lava salt that you see in expensive delis.  These are ‘finishing salts’ that aim to add an extra taste dimension to your food. But what really grabbed my attention was a wild garlic salt that they have just started marketing, unlike many herb products it smelt fresh and vibrant – the next best thing to wild garlic itself!Fresh Herb Sea Salt

The ingredients for all of these are sourced from around the world, but the family do buy their fresh herbs from a grower in Pershore, and dry them themselves – which probably accounts for their freshness and vibrancy.  They also buy whole spices, not ground ones, and grind these as they use them – so none of that dustiness that you so often get with spices that have been hanging around for ages.  Ian Wright has also created his own smokery in the garden so that they can smoke their own ingredients to just how they want them.  Apparently the smoked black peppercorns are the perfect addition to fresh asparagus and butter!

But the ideas keep coming.  When I visited them at  their ‘spicery’ in Colwall I saw yet more new products, including a oak smoked salt that looked like demerara sugar and had a sweet, almost molasses aroma – watch out for that one!  Inspired by trips to the USA the Wrights have developed some rubs which would complement the great meat we have around here: Smoked Hereford Apple and Worcester Spicy Cherry.  And, hot off the press, they are now thinking about some barbecue chips with spices such as cinnamon or star anise in them that, when you cook over them, impart a subtle flavour to whatever you are cooking. Perfect for when summer finally arrives.

David of Wrights Culinary Delights
David of Wrights Culinary Delights

David is currently selling the products at a variety of farmers markets, see the list below, but you can also buy them at Handleys in Ledbury. Selling like this means they get to talk directly with their customers, allowing them to get a handle on which products people are coming back for and making it easier to judge their next step.They have recently started speaking to local chefs, so expect to see their products on restaurant & café tables or menus soon!   Stepping up production and deciding on packaging and branding could be the next move, but they are not in a hurry, preferring to allow the business to grow organically and not to over-reach itself.  Whatever their next step is, it seems that this family team will never run out of ideas and that many of them are likely to be delicious!

See Wrights Culinary Delights at:

June 9 Teme Valley Market, Knightwick
14 – 16 Three Counties Show, Malvern
15 Malvern Farmers Market
29 – 30 Shobdon Food Festival, Shobdon Airfield
July 6 Hereford Farmers Market
6 – 8 Cardiff International Food Fair, Cardiff Bay
14 Teme Valley Market, Knightwick
20 Malvern Farmers Market
19 – 21 Gloucester Quays Food Festival
27 -28 Taste of Worcestershire

Ledbury Food Group at the Ox Roast Weekend 1st & 2nd June

Ledbury market
Ledbury market

We will be there at the Ox Roast weekend on both Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd June.

On the Community Day – Saturday 1st June – we will be at the Market House from 10.00 am to 2.00 pm. Do come along and have a chat.

On the Ox Roast Day – Sunday 2nd June – we have a great series of speakers lined up at the Feathers Hotel. Just drop in – there is no charge. Donations will be invited to Ledbury Ox Roast, with all proceeds to support the work of St Michael’s Hospice. Our speakers will be:

Talks Programme

11.30 Why Cattle Still Matter – Will Edwards. Herefordshire farmer Will Edwards is a founder member of the newly formed Pasture-Fed Livestock Association.  Will is going to talk about why grazing cattle on pasture is great for the cattle, the ecosystem and the health of the consumer.
13.15 Animal, Vegetable or Mineral? – Bill Sewell. Bill Sewell creates and runs cafés, including Café@AllSaints in Hereford.  His well-known recipe books mean that he is perhaps thought of first and foremost as a vegetarian.  Bill will tell the story of the journey that he and his cafés have made from pure vegetarianism to incorporating meat.
14.30 A Slap of the Hand – Bill Laws. ‘In those days a slap of the hand and the deal was done’.  It’s more than 20 years since author Bill Laws founded Herefordshire Lore, and this voluntary group has been busy ever since collecting and publishing people’s memories.  Bill will be sharing stories about the people and the animals that passed through Hereford Cattle Market, including the world-famous pedigree bull sales.
15.45 All in a Day’s Walk – Jess Allen. Jess Allen lives in a yurt at Caplor Farm near Fownhope. Last year, in the long dark wet and increasingly muddy days of December, she decided that she would eat only what she could source within walking distance of her home. She will tell us about how she uses walking and moving and talking in rural landscapes to address issues of environmental, social or political concern, and the new word ‘Tracktivism’ that she has coined to describe her work.

Many thanks to all of our speakers and to The Feathers Hotel for use of their room.

We also have a two page article coming out in June’s Ledbury Focus magazine – which will be distributed at the end of May. Do check it out.

New Shoots at Roots!

072  Changes are afoot at Roots, the cafe and farm shop on the Hereford Road just outside Ledbury. Their kitchen has recently been moved and modernised, but more importantly so has their menu! Some old favourites have stayed, but alongside the jacket potatoes and sandwiches are some interesting seasonal soups and specials. I particularly liked the sound of beetroot & orange soup, although cauliflower & gorgonzola served with a pickled pear relish also got the taste buds going. Both are served with their own Orchard Loaf – a light wholemeal made from locally ground organic flour with just a splash of their own apple juice……. Starting to feel hungry?!

Linzy Outtrim, the manager there, says that the new menu was definitely a team effort. Linzy came into the business three years ago “to water the plants” and just sort of stayed. Like others in the team she got interested and involved, learning new skills along the way. It is obvious talking to her and the others that all the staff there are passionate about fresh, local, seasonal produce and can’t help but get involved in all aspects of the business. They love the challenge of dealing with the occasional glut of fruit or vegetables that come from the organic farm over in Rushwick, keeping the buying in of non-seasonal produce to a minimum. Recognising that for a lot of food outlets the vegetarian option is often an afterthought, Roots has made a deliberate effort to turn that around. While they do offer meat (the menu I saw included a sausage & bean hotpot) vegetables are the stars. And with a choice of cauliflower & chickpea curry, roasted vegetables, homemade hummus and a delicious looking vegetarian quiche and selection of salads on offer, who is arguing?

081So, with wonderful bread made by Tony Wetherall, cake classics such as coffee & walnut, lemon drizzle and Victoria sponge, good coffee and tea, local juices and much more, there really is something for everyone. Customers are currently being invited to make suggestions for the children’s menu that is being developed. The team are just brimming with new ideas. A craft group on a Tuesday morning invites people to bring along any project they are working on, have a cup of coffee and enjoy the company while you are being creative. More special events along the lines of the ‘make an Easter bunny finger puppet’ held in March are also planned. Cooking demonstrations – already happening over at Rushwick – are being devised; starting perhaps with some ‘how to’ basic cooking techniques. I liked the sound of their ‘Foodie Nights’ too – three or four course meals with a theme, such as the Apple Evening held last autumn with apples in every course.

And I haven’t even mentioned the shop! A good selection of local produce; fresh fruit and veg, chickens from Rushwick, Just Rachel’s ice cream – I could go on and on! Such a lot happening, and all served with such enthusiasm and passion for what they are doing. Don’t take my word for it, go along and see for yourselves, you will not be disappointed.

The Mayor’s Christmas Hamper

Mayor Phil Bettington asked the Ledbury Food Group to create a couple of Christmas hampers using local food and drink for St Michaels Hospice and to raise money for the Christmas Lights. I shopped up and down Ledbury high street on behalf of the Ledbury Food Group looking for the sort of goodies I would like to receive as Christmas presents. The Three Counties Cider shop sells hampers so you can make up your own – and choose cider and juice at the same time.

I found mulberry jam and blackcurrant leaf (yes leaf) cordial from Handley Organics. They are made from Caroline Handley’s own fruit bushes. The cordial tastes of blackcurrant but is lighter and slightly herby. Kaye at Four Oaks makes chilli jam and chutneys and Wallers Butchers sell Three Counties Gourmet mustard. I bought pickled onions from Jenkins the Greengrocers and honey from Gladwyn James. At Llandinabo Butchers most produce is local, they have lots of game at the moment and their eggs and pork pies are excellent, but perhaps not for a hamper. The Cider shop supplied some of Frank’s fabulous biscuits as well as pear juice.

Of course we have our own chocolatier at Celebrations and I chose chocolate covered mandarins with a Chrismassy taste. Gurneys Butchers has lots of fine local meats and Spar sells local drinks, cakes and vegetables. Hay Wines have an excellent range of local beers, ciders and wines and gave us some Dorothy’s Christmas Ale as a festive addition to the hamper. Ceci Paulo deli is of course continental, but their bread and several cheeses are local. They provided Tyrrells crisps for us.

So think about shopping in Ledbury and making up hampers for food loving friends.

Christmas is coming ‘someone’s’ geese are getting fat…..

Before the popularity of the turkey goose was the Christmas celebration bird of choice. Easy to rear for anyone who had a piece of land or easily purchased from the many butchers that abounded on our high streets. That’s before freezers made their appearance – both commercial and domestic! Now it’s out on our butchers’ shelves again, albeit sparsely. More of a ‘niche’ buy. Probably because people are wary of cooking it and for a one off piece of meat it doesn’t have the versatility of the turkey when it comes to post Christmas dining……

So this is the brief tale of a local farming family who have a history of rearing – alongside the main farming activities – and supplying our local butchers with the Christmas goose – and what that entails….. It all starts around the end of May. At one time the eggs were hatched on the farm but now it is more practical to buy the goslings at around four days old from a supplier. They purchase around one hundred in number. To begin with they are kept under lamps and artificial light and fed on poultry crumb for four weeks. During this time there is a natural wastage of around 10% – survival of the fittest! Once ‘in feather’ they can be released on to the fields and for seven months they are free to roam. Protection is all important. Predators abound. A watchful eye is kept and the birds come in every night…. At the beginning of December the birds are brought into the sheds, corn fed, and on the 20th they are ready for dispatching. Until recently that was a hands on affair but to make life easier a professional gang is now hired to perform the task as well as the plucking.

An interesting note was that now ‘wet’ plucking makes feather removal ‘cleaner’ but when ‘hand done’ the down from the goose could be retrieved and sold for eiderdowns and pillows. A lucrative by product. My friend made me laugh when she said she was educated on those proceeds! Now her ‘by product’ is goose fat. The fat inside the bird once removed, she renders down and ‘jars’. A local friend makes the labels… Our local butchers market it and we get the benefit of making great roast potatoes…!

So the 20th has arrived and this labour intensive season is coming to an end for another year. The geese are individually dressed and made table ready. Giblets included – so important for that meaty gravy…! All that is left to do is the delivery of the birds to butchers – around Ledbury and Bromyard. I say ‘all’ ‘cos it’s an early morning call for the driver…..

So that’s it folks. My first blog ever and, hopefully, if you enjoyed it, not my last. So go on. Order that goose from Wallers or Gurneys – I’ve ordered mine! A merry Christmas and a happy New Year to one and all.

PS As a footnote from my source – always remember to slice the cooked goose thinly. And another great tip – the unused and usually discarded ‘feathered wing’ from the bird is great for sweeping down the back of the aga or getting in those cobwebby corners!…..she’ll have some to spare…. !

Welcome to the blog! (and start your Christmas shopping)

Would I like to start a blog about local food?  It would mean going round to local food growers, producers and suppliers, sampling their wares, talking to them and writing about it…

I had heard of the Ledbury Food Group, taken part in the original survey and been interested in what was happening now, so I was intrigued. And they weren’t to know just how interested in food I am, so I tried not to sound too keen – or greedy.  But actually I was going “yippee”, and so far everyone I have mentioned the blog to has asked to come along!

That is the thing about this part of the country.  People are genuinely enthusiastic about local produce – and with good reason.  Moving here five years ago I was delighted to discover how delicious the local meat, poultry and game was, to find that the fruit & veg I was buying came from down the road, and to realize just how many local cider and perry producers were within a stone’s throw of my house. As well as delivering delicious produce that reaches a wide audience, and being businesses that hold their own in a very competitive market, providing jobs for local people, these producers are rooted in the landscape and history of the area – and I think you can taste that in what they offer.  Read the interview with Once Upon A Tree producer Ann Stanier to feel that sense of place.

So, where do I start?  Watch this space for news about people starting new foodie ventures, for profiles of old favourites and for anything of interest to do with food that is going on within a 30 mile radius of Ledbury.  I hope I can expand your knowledge of what is out there, and make you think about some of the issues around local food.

Contact me ( if there are places you have come across that you think everyone should know about, or even ones that you have just heard about and would like to know more – I can’t wait to get going!

Finally, although I disapprove of getting organised for Christmas too early, it has dawned upon me that it is looming, and I came across this yesterday, hot off the press (Tilley’s, of course!  See about this long-established Ledbury business on )  So here is an idea for the perfect present for local food-lovers (easy to post too)  Tinsmiths’ 2013 Letterpress Calendar offers an ingredient for each month and invites you to look at their blog for maybe a recipe or an activity to do with it.  January’s is water, and promises a walk to fetch water from the Malvern Hills, but I’m looking forward to blackcurrants in July, oh and bangers in November – intriguing! See it under Accessories (Books and Stationery) on their website: