Rayeesa’s Pop Up Indian Kitchen at Handley Organics

On Wednesday 11 March the first pop up cookery course was held at Handley Organics. Rayeesa of Rayeesa’s Indian Kitchen in Mordiford gave 3 hours of instruction on cooking Indian veggie food using Handley Organic’s own organic veggies.

Rayeesa Cooking Onions
Rayeesa Cooking Onions

We cooked – and ate – chipatis, Meeti Dahl (lentils), rice, aloo mehti (potato with fenugreek leaf), mixed vegetable curry, and aubergine and tomato chutney. There were lots of tips along the way: the right way to cook onions, how to store spices for maximum freshness (in the freezer), not to fear ghee but use it sparingly for flavour (butter is no longer regarded as unhealthy and in any case ghee is the most healthy form of butter fat). We tried our hand with a dahl mathani – a masher that looks a bit like a wooden mallet with a long handle – and a chipati rolling pin.

Rayeesa Demonstrating Chapati Cooking
Rayeesa Demonstrating Chapati Cooking

We started at 6.30 p.m. and three hours later a very flavoursome and spicy meal was ready. A little hot for some? Caroline Handley was available throughout and nipped downstairs returning with yoghurt and coconut milk from her shop to compliment the meal.

Aloo Mehti
Aloo Mehti
Meeti Dahl
Meeti Dahl

There will be more pop up cookery evenings at Handleys. Rayeesa will be back and other chefs will be invited. Keep an eye on Handley’s facebook page or ask in the shop for details.

If you have not yet ventured upstairs in the mini emporium that Handley Organics has become, it is worth pointing out that the shop carries the largest range of spices in Ledbury. Purchased in bulk from an organic wholesaler, the prices are reasonable and Caroline says their turnover is very high so the spices are always fresh. Organic ghee is also available in the shop.

At the end of the evening Rayeesa’s Indian sauces – made from all fresh ingredients and sold frozen – were available to buy.

Mixed Veg Curry and Aubergine and Tomato Chutney
Mixed Veg Curry and Aubergine and Tomato Chutney

Get ready for the Big Breakfast …

Farmhouse Breakfast Week returns to Ledbury with the Ledbury Big Breakfast 2014 on Friday 31st January and Saturday 1st February featuring a feast of locally sourced breakfast food in and around Ledbury.

Big Break - Eggs Benedict at Cafe Sez
Eggs Benedict at Cafe Sez (now moved to Chez Pascal) – Big Breakfast 2013

Last year’s event, the first ever, proved really popular. The toughest part was choosing: a hearty full Herefordshire breakfast, scrambled eggs, Eggs Benedict, breakfast muffins, muesli, yoghurt and compote, frittata, scotch eggs, wild boar sausage, or just good old bacon and eggs?

This year we have even more venues and more choice lined up. The full list, with menus, will be published here shortly.

All kinds of breakfast and brunch will be available from the lightest breakfast to the heaviest in our cafes and pubs, including special menu items for the event featuring local produce. Our butchers will offer their home produced bacon, sausages and eggs, and our local delicatessens will have special menu items. You can eat in, take out, take away or take home.

We hope you will join us for breakfast in and around Ledbury on Friday 31st January and Saturday 1st February and bring family, friends, neighbours and colleagues too.

Muse Cafe Muesli, Compote and Yoghurt
Muse Cafe Muesli, Compote and Yoghurt – Big Breakfast 2013

Interview with the producer: Ann Stanier of Once Upon a Tree

Update on 12/12/2016: Ann & Norman have now retired from the business but Dragon Orchard continues to grow orchard fruits and supply Once Upon a Tree.

Update on 28/11/2012: Once Upon a Tree are the winners in the Drinks category of the BBC4 Food and Farming Awards. Congratulations to Ann & Norman, Simon & Hannah!

The Ledbury Food Group sets out to discover more about the people that produce our rich, abundant local food and drink. I talked to Ann Stanier of award winning Ledbury cider and apple juice producer Once Upon a Tree at Dragon Orchard about the development of this successful business.

What is the background to your business?

Dragon Orchard has been owned by my husband Norman’s family for 80 years. It is a small fruit farm of 22 acres and supplied fruit to traditional local wholesalers, markets and food and cider processors. Norman and I returned to live in Herefordshire 20 years ago, after careers elsewhere, to learn fruit farming and take on the family business. It was a time of change. Traditional markets were disappearing and we soon realised that the farm would not be sufficient to keep us.

What did you do faced with such difficulties?

We realised that our best asset was the orchard itself, and we put great emphasis on maintaining its traditional character in our husbandry and our planting. We explored organic options, but decided that our orchard would benefit best from the minimum intervention regime that had always been practiced.

Our first development was our Cropsharers’ scheme. We saw this as a way to re-establish traditional links between producers and consumers. For an annual subscription, Cropsharers receive a generous share of the produce of our orchard. They also enjoy four weekend visits to the orchard at different seasons for orchard walks, visits to local producers and craft workers, communal meals, and seasonal events such as wassailing.

Then, when we needed to replant part of the orchard, we launched a “sponsor a tree” scheme. We found out later that we were early adopters of Community Supported Agriculture.

How has your business developed more recently?

Six years ago, wine maker Simon Day who grew up at the local Three Choirs Vineyard, was back in the area with the idea of applying wine making techniques to traditional cider production, and looking for orchard fruit in Putley. He was attracted to our traditional style orchard and fruit varieties and approached us with a proposal to make cider with our own cider apples. Once Upon a Tree cider production was born.

In the first year of production we won three first prizes for our cider and at Christmas that year we opened the Once Upon a Tree farm shop at the orchard. We now also make perry using locally grown perry pears and our shop is open from March to Christmas annually selling fruit juices, cider and perry, biscuits and cakes, farm-produced preserves, gifts, hampers and local crafts.

What makes your cider special?

It is ‘wine-style’ cider – the apple varieties are kept separate during fermentation and are blended later to obtain a consistency of flavour from one year to the next in our popular blends such as Putley Gold and Marcle Ridge. We do also produce single variety ciders, e.g. Dabinett and even an oaked cider made with Michelin apples.

We make dessert style cider and perry. The fruit juice is concentrated by freezing it at local ice cream producer Just Rachel’s, and then allowing the frozen juice to defrost just enough for the concentrated fruit syrup to melt, retaining two thirds of the volume in the ice as water. The concentrated juice is then fermented to produce dessert style cider which has 8% alcohol and perry which has 12% alcohol.

What does the future hold?

Well we have just opened our second shop, which we have called Three Counties Cider, in Ledbury High Street selling cider and perry from other producers in the area as well as our own, along with local foodie delights and hampers. And this year we are finalists in the drinks category of Radio 4’s Food and Farming awards and are eagerly awaiting the results at the BBC’s Good Food Show at the Birmingham NEC on 28th November. On top of all that, Simon has been investing in our production facilities and we hope to have some new products in the future.

When I visited, apples were being crushed at the orchard press. The bagged up pomace – the solid remains – gets recycled to local pig farmers at Noggin Farm and Alumhurst Farm. Alongside I was surprised to see debris from recent grape juice extraction. In the barn were some plastic wine storage tanks. They had been recently acquired from Three Choirs Vineyard 5 miles away who have converted to use only stainless steel. Next to those were some smaller stainless steel tanks. These came from another local vineyard, Coddington, whose owners have recently retired and sold up.

Whatever happens next at Once Upon a Tree it is sure to be exciting.


Ann Stanier
Dragon Orchard,
Tel No: 01531 670071

Web site: Once Upon a Tree


The Hotel Inspector gives Ledbury the thumbs up

Alex Polizzi, TV’s Hotel Inspector, enjoyed glamping in Herefordshire and was delighted by her visit to Ledbury:

‘There are lovely walks in the area, but as almost always, the lure of a town proved greater, and I had the excuse of needing to buy the ingredients for a stew. We bought beef at the award-winning Llandinabo Farm Shop in Ledbury, had a quick lunch at the Cameron & Swan café and delicatessen, invested in a bottle of Champagne at Hay Wines, bought a few early Christmas presents at Tinsmiths … ‘

The full story is here:

Confessions of a convert to camping