Cafe Supper Success!

If you were ever in any doubt about the quality and range of home-grown produce in and around Ledbury then last night’s Café Supper at the Market House Café would have changed all that!  With glasses of Sixteen Ridges wine (locally made from Worcestershire grapes) in our hands, Norman Stanier from Dragon Orchard and Once Upon a Tree told us all about the wine and their exciting new venture.  We then ate our way through a delicious menu of local food (see below).  The only problem being whether to choose the Artisan Bread & Butter Pudding or the Herefordshire Apple Dumpling, but my neighbour and I sorted that by swapping halfway through – a tactic followed by a few others, I believe!

A big thank you to Heather and Alan Tookey and all their staff at the Market House Café for hosting our inaugural supper.  Not only did the café look superb but everything ran like clockwork and there was a real buzz about the place.  Like all good parties, it’s success was shown by the fact that it was quite hard to persuade people to leave at the end of the evening – we were all having too good a time!

And, of course, an equally big thanks to chef John Devine for not only cooking such a scrumptious meal but being prepared to talk to us about it too.  I know several of us diners wanted to know just how you made potatoes quite so tasty, which he readily explained, although I am not sure I have the skill to make them quite so melt in the mouth…  He explained why he had chosen that particular cut of beef, those particular vegetables and how he had cooked it all – plus how he made the thin, crisp and utterly delicious pastry around the apple dumplings.

We hope this will be just the start, and that other cafes will want to host similar evenings.  Your feedback on the evening would be much appreciated.  Contact any of the Food Group with your thoughts and ideas, or scroll down to “Leave a reply” and add your comments – and any photographs –  to this post.  We look forward to hearing from you.


Market House Café & Deli

1 The Homend, Ledbury HR8 1BN

Friday November 14th 2014

Slow Cooked Herefordshire Beef

served with a rich Wye Valley Ale Sauce

Roasted Root Vegetables

Buttered Cavolo Nero

Sliced Potatoes, baked with cream & cheese

~ : ~

Artisan Bread & Butter Pudding

with our homemade whisky orange marmalade

served with Herefordshire clotted cream


Herefordshire Apple Dumpling

with a cider syrup & double cream

~ : ~

Tea or Coffee

 £20.00 per person

 List of our Suppliers

Herefordshire beef – D T Wallers, Ledbury

Apples & Cider – Once Upon A Tree & Dragon Orchard

Dairy – Cream & Milk – Bartonsham Farm, Hereford

Vegetables & Potatoes – Carey Organics, How Caple

Eggs – Chacely Vicarage Farm, Glos

Butter – Netherend Farm

Mineral Water – Holywell Malvern Spring Water

Coffee – Hunters Coffee, Worcester

Ale – Wye Valley Brewery

Cheese – Taynton Farm, Glos

Bread – Peter Cook, Hop Pocket

The Future of Local Food – a talk by Christine Hope & Russ Carrington for the Ledbury Food Group

A big subject, but one that we can all influence according to Christine Hope, the enthusiastic and knowledgeable entrepreneur behind Hopes of Longtown, the village shop with big ambitions on the edge of the Black Mountains.  Christine, like the members of the Ledbury Food Group, is passionate about our local produce and sees the diversity of delicious food in the area as a real asset when we consider the prosperity of our region.

But how do we make sure that everyone understands what threatens our rural economy and how important our farms, orchards and local companies are?  Christine & Russ’s way was to hold a “transition dinner”.  Inviting a mix of guests, all with an interest in the future of local farming, they wined and dined them with delicious local fare, directed the conversation towards the issues they felt needed airing (there were rules, number one being that only positive talk was allowed!).  But this wasn’t just a talking shop.  At the end of the evening, everyone was invited to make a pledge to do something that would have a positive effect – however small – on the future of local food.

Invited to make a similar pledge at the meeting held on Monday evening in the Burgage Hall in Ledbury and open to all, the audience thought hard about what they could do to spread the word, or encourage others to shop locally, or support local producers.  One brave member decided she would hold our own transition dinner – so watch this space!

The talk was lively and entertaining, but also full of interesting ideas and a depth of knowledge that impressed us all.  There were plenty of questions asked, including one about what would attract and keep young people into local food production.  Given the energy and enthusiasm from the two young speakers, that would not seem to be such a problem.  With the help of social media they are getting their message out, and finding a responsive audience – the future of local food may just be looking up.

An apple a day…

Did you know that, according to the CPRE, you could eat a different English apple variety every day for six years without trying the same one twice? Let’s see, 6 times 365… I make that 2190, ignoring the odd leap year!

If you would like to find out more about the incredible varieties of apples we grow in this country, have a look at the National Fruit Collection’s website at  They list all the known varieties from A.D.W. Atkins to Zomer Delicious, complete with photographs where possible and detailed descriptions.  Check how many you have eaten, or identify the mystery tree in your garden!

I wonder how many we grow in and around Ledbury – does anyone have any idea?

Thanks to Rachel Hicks for alerting me to today’s useful fact!


Stop Press – Christmas shopping!

This year I am doing quite well on the old Christmas present front – which actually means I have bought things for the easy people in my life (daughters/sisters), have got some ideas for the less easy (mother-in-law) and am racking my brains for the tricky ones like sons & brothers-in-law!

But a quick foray into Ledbury today provided at least some of the answers in the shape of interesting books.  So, if you are stuck for a gift, how about:

World’s Best Cider: Taste, Tradition & Terroir, from Somerset to Seattle by Pete Brown and Bill Bradshaw

An entertainingly written guide to the very best cider in the world, beautifully illustrated with lots of photographs, including one of Once Upon a Tree’s Simon Day (with dog) and Tom from Oliver’s Cider & Perry.  And if you go to the Three Counties Cider Shop in Ledbury you might just get a signed copy!

Made in Herefordshire by Jo Hilditch, Patrick Barrett and Simon Wild

A collection of delicious and inspiring recipes from local food producers all using our lovely Herefordshire produce.  In her foreword, Jo says: “the spirit of cooperation, friendliness and open-minded adventure that our locals possess has made this book a joy to put together” and it shows, a real celebration of what Herefordshire has to offer.

And finally a book which, while not strictly “local” shares the values and ethos of the Ledbury Food Group, so I have included it here.

The Ethicurean Cookbook is as much a joy as eating at the eponymous restaurant at Wrington near Bristol, visit their website and see what I mean:  Subtitled Recipes, foods and spirituous liquors, from our bounteous walled garden in the several seasons of the year, the book sets out their unequivocal credentials: “British seasonality, ethical sourcing of ingredients and attention to the local environment are the foundations of our business”.  What is such a delight is that their food is as delicious as their principles are admirable!

What have you found in the way of ‘local’ gifts?

A final word.  You could buy all of these books from Amazon.  But for not very much more you could have the pleasure of going into a local shop, discussing your purchase with enthusiastic and knowledgeable people, knowing that you are supporting the local economy.  Which are you going to do?

Ludlow Food Festival

photo 1-5Before you say anything, I know that Ludlow is 32.9 miles from Ledbury and therefore, if we are being strict about such things, out of our orbit.  But the Ludlow Food Festival is such a celebration of local food, and such a great event, that I felt I had to share some of it with you!  And of course, there are some producers from nearer home who exhibit there regularly, look at the photos and you may find some familiar faces…

Since its beginnings in 1994 the Festival has grown magnificently, with a second Spring event photo 5-3starting six years ago.  When we went there on Saturday the main event in the castle was packed, with everyone enjoying sampling what was on offer (well, not everyone, see right)  But what was also clear is that the whole town embraces this event, with shops, restaurants & cafes taking part and even non-food shops having food-themed displays in their windows.  There were queues at all the butchers’ stands around the town, with people standing in line to taste their sausages and get a stamp – the famous sausage trail!  There are workshops, demonstrations and talks, children’s cookery sessions, a secret dinner party and a secret restaurant which takes you on a walk to see the food that you are then going to eat – must remember to book next year!

So what new food did I discover?  The Ludlow Nut Company have some very moreish nuts & fruits and their luxury muesli is equally tasty. They now sell tempting cake mixes  – easy, quick & delicious. If you fancy a change from the usual crisps Scott Farms near Evesham won Best New Product at the Festival with their latest venture; sweet potato chips. Scarlet Angel (I liked their “decadence with a conscience” strap line!) were offering sauces with a wonderful bite; Lime, Ginger and Coriander was my favourite and I am looking forward to their Beetroot & Ginger Chutney too.

photo 5It was interesting to see just how many farms have diversified from their traditional produce – a sign of the times – offering a wide range of charcuterie, from salami to bresaola.  The ones I tasted, from Wenlock Edge Farm, would not have been out of place in an Italian delicatessen – tasty, moist and showing both the quality of our local meat and the skill & imagination of farmers in these parts! Sadly I could not fight my way through the crowd thronging their stand to taste the pork, plum & ginger sausages – right up my street!  Some farms have really diversified.  A glorious array of scrumptious-looking cakes turned out to be the latest venture of Hodghurst Farm at Church Stretton – more about them next blog as they have a rather particular angle, as do Cradley-based Mulberry Tree Pies…

And finally, it was lovely to see people queueing up to taste Once Upon A Tree’s delicious drinks.  The fact that it was quite hard to get a photo of the stand shows how popular they are! The same was true of Oliver’s Cider & Perry from Ocle Pychard and Wright’s Culinary Delights (see my earlier blog).  I’m sure the same would have been true of well-established favourites Just Rachel Quality Desserts, Gregg’s Pit Cider & Perry and Whyle House Lamb who were at the Festival on Sunday.  If anyone went to Ludlow on the Friday or Sunday, I would love to hear their thoughts, impressions and, best of all, discoveries!

photo 3-4photo 5-2photo 2-2photo 3-3photo 4-2

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