Hogweed – In our Forage Series

common hogweed, forage, herb, David Broadbent Photography, edible, delicious, tasty, wild food,
Forage for common hogweeds

Herbs in general are pretty underrated aren’t they and wild herbs seem to get an even wider berth afforded to them. This doesn’t make any sense at all does it? Today’s average supermarket punter is quite happy to buy cut salads in a bag, with a shelf life of a couple of days, rather than a lettuce head that last 4 times as long. We buy, in vast quantities, carrots, ready peeled and chopped into little batons for us – all of this at a vastly higher price than err, a carrot!

Why? We suffer don’t we from “busy life syndrome”. We are sooo busy that we often waste 20 minutes a day trying to convince and impress others about just how very busy we are. Don’t bother, just do 20 minutes extra work and your to do list will be a bit shorter at the end of the day.

common hogweed, forage, herb, David Broadbent Photography, edible, delicious, tasty, wild food,
Hogweed leaf shape

But, when in comes to picking something out of our own gardens, for free! Well, that is challenging. So much of what we see in our garden is not only edible and free, it’s also delicious! You would think that we would feeding our kids shovel loads of Common hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) if only the presence of hog in the name alone….

Like so many forage species, the rule is pick them young and so look out for Hogweed in the late spring and summer. Pick the emerging leaves (still folded) at the base of the plant. The leaf and flower buds are usable too, just pick them and open the bud case and take out the contents.  The magic happens when you fry it in butter until just a little crispy and then season with lots of salt and pepper. Even the seeds can be dried and used in sauces and chutney’s very much like you would use coriander seeds.

common hogweed, forage, herb, David Broadbent Photography, edible, delicious, tasty, wild food,

We rave about new season Asparagus and yet here is something, like Samphire, that is even better with a very similar taste.

The one other plant that you’ll need to know about if looking for Common hogweed for food is it’s relative – the Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum). In flower it’ll be taller than you are with flower heads as big as serving platters. It’s poisonous and an irritant particularly if you get the latex from a broken stem on your skin. None of which stopped the good old Victorians from introducing it to our sceptred isles as a decorative garden border plant. If you have it in your garden you will know that already by the queues of “Garden Police” at your front door shouting “that plant is illegal” at you.

common hogweed, forage, herb, David Broadbent Photography, edible, delicious, tasty, wild food,

As always in forage, if you are not 100% sure of what you have then heed the advice of comedian Sarah Millican advice and feed it to your least favourite bairn first! Only joking.

Grzyb is Polish for mushroom!


Poland is 1053 miles from Tibberton with a 17 and a quarter hour journey time plus the time it takes to roll on and roll off a cross channel ferry.  Not that we at WyeDean Deli Confidential have ever driven from Tibberton to Poland or from anywhere else in the UK for that matter. But the mushrooms in your fridge probably have!

David Broadbent Photography, copyrighted, mushroom grower, farming, agriculture,
Chestnut mushrooms

Why, because Poland achieved world domination in the supply of mushrooms. They wrested the accolade from Ireland who in turned had deprived the Netherlands of this prestigious first place. And so, you can see that the force of globalisation is strong in the world of wholesale fungus.

But why this cut throat worldwide scramble for a dominating market share in mushrooms? One of the reasons is that mushrooms have for a long time been the crop with the highest margin and return for growers. Added to that, relatively quick growth time to be mature for market for their first crop, they provide a second and often third flush from the same mycelium impregnated compost blocks in which they are grown. And, they can be grown all year around – perfect then in most every respect for big corporations.

David Broadbent Photography, copyrighted, mushroom grower, farming, agriculture,
Dutch tray method of growing.mushroom growers.

For fungis like us, we recently had the privilege of spending a short time with Dennis Nutting, who together with his son Simon, are the last of Gloucestershire’s mushroom growers. In this industry, which has no middle ground, you operate either a small and niche business or you grow on an industrial scale into multi acre warehouses measured in football pitches. This is an industry for whom the cash driven relentless sector by sector globalisation is poignantly illustrated.

David Broadbent Photography, copyrighted, mushroom grower, farming, agriculture,
Mushrooms emerge on long trays once the mycelium impregnated blocks have been topped with sterile wet compost.

In the UK there where once 500 growers. There are now not enough to keep a trade association alive and that has folded too. For the UK at least, it’s an industry in decline and we are staring into the abyss of having no UK based mushroom growers at all.

Dennis and Simon’s farm in Tibberton illustrates this well with insulated mushroom tunnels lying empty. The two lifelong farmers are now very much in the niche fungus market for the time being at least. They specialise in Chestnut mushrooms which if left to mature become large open cap Portobellos. All of the mushrooms are grown on long trays at three or four different levels. The mushrooms don’t need light to mature so what lights there are serve only the pickers which again in this case is now just Simon.

David Broadbent Photography, copyrighted, mushroom grower, farming, agriculture,
Look at that beauty!

But fungi breathe like us, the need oxygen and an atmosphere at specific humidity and temperature levels. So warmed fresh air has to be pumped into the tunnel in winter and sometimes cooled in summer. When it comes to picking for market, mushrooms have, so far, managed to outwit the industrial robots replacing proper jobs across the globe. When you pick them from the substrate you need to do so gently and with a slight twist rather than a pluck. Pickers also have to decide which ones to pick. Size is obvious but if, like Dennis and Simon, you also want to grow Portobellos then thinning out is needed and that takes a cognisant human.

David Broadbent Photography, copyrighted, mushroom grower, farming, agriculture,
The intricate pattern of the mushroom gills

In fact, one of the hardest things to source in the mushroom growing business, even for the industrially sized operations, is labour. In a bitter twist of irony, even Polish growers so long the net exporter of labour to the mushroom growing world is struggling and now employs a significant number of Bulgarian and Romanian pickers.

David Broadbent Photography, copyrighted, mushroom grower, farming, agriculture,
Dennis Nutting hand picking mushrooms.

This is something Dennis and Simon have struggled with in the past and brings to life those political arguments about how we need immigrant labour for some industries and the impact Brexit may have on us.

David Broadbent Photography, copyrighted, mushroom grower, farming, agriculture,
The basal bulb is removed before going to market.

So now knowing that the vast proportion of the mushrooms you buy in the shops and supermarkets come from Poland, spare a thought for Dennis and Simon who grow the most exquisite brown capped Chestnut and Portobello mushrooms anywhere in the world. They do it with love and passion and they do a day or so before market. They are the last bastion of one aspect of local food production in Gloucestershire whilst incidentally saving 1000 food miles per harvest.

David Broadbent Photography, copyrighted, mushroom grower, farming, agriculture,
These Portobello mushrooms tasted fantastic!

Hook up with Simon himself at the fabulous Stroud Farmers market or buy their produce from the stalls at Gloucester and Bristol Farmer’s Markets. With a typical rash of farming conservatism, their produce doesn’t even carry a brand name. But if someone tells you these Chestnut and Portobello caps are locally grown – you can thank Dennis and Simon!

David Broadbent Photography, copyrighted, mushroom grower, farming, agriculture,

For wholesale enquiries melkirtfarm@gmail.com

Mint & Mustard opens in Chepstow


Last night I went to a wake and a christening. All at the same time and at the same place.

Sadly, after many years, the Mughal Spice Indian restaurant in Chepstow is no more. The wholesome food and bonhomie of the brothers is a thing of the past. However, in its place is born an additional iteration to the very successful Mint & Mustard. The south-west based Indian food explosion has finally cracked the holy grail of the “Indian”, to offer distinctive, regional, genuine menu’s with a dash of great service and in cool surroundings. Although the new Chepstow outlet is pretty much just a lick of paint and a refresh for the old Mughal upstairs rooms at the moment, they have great ideas for the downstairs lounge. Anyone who has been to their other restaurants, particularly Penarth, will know that the decor style of this quickly expanding group is definitely upmarket and trendy with nods to all of the interior design trends and tricks of the new wave of uber-cool bars and restaurants.

Classy decoration in the upstairs dining room
Classy decoration in the upstairs dining room

As most now know, many of our beloved “Indians” have in the past been run by Bangladeshi folk. Nothing wrong in that, but since the days of the Raj, Asian food has been adapted and adopted by the British palate as only we seem to do with any world cuisine. Partly because of this restaurant menus became the anonymous high streets of the restaurant business. Homologous lists of dishes you could get from anywhere – with often differing resemblances to the stated contents.

Mint & Mustard is changing that. The reason for their success so far is simple? Of course the great levels of service are important but it’s the food. Genuine south Indian, predominantly Keralan, dishes all served up with lashings of style and presentation. Finally! An Indian restaurant that gets it all right.

Evoke Pictures Bristol Food Photographers

Kerala, known as the “Land of Spices” because of its history as a spice trading centre to the world, sits on the Arabian Sea on the tropical Malabar Coast. No wonder then that fish is one of the staple elements of the Keralan diet. But it’s also famous for its meat and vegan dishes (Hindus in the Brahmin community are vegan). Coconuts abound in Kerala and, in all its forms, it’s a significant feature of the local cuisine.

Evoke Pictures Bristol Food Photographers

Our starters of Scallop Thengapal served in their shells with an unctuous soft lemon and coconut milk sauce and the theatrical Keralan tiger prawns, deep fried in chilli and turmeric paste – delightful. A selection of mains followed which included expertly spiced chicken Kori Gassi, King Prawn Peera, chicken Dhaba Murgh with chilli, garlic and ginger and a Master Chef Mixed Grill Platter with an assortment of meat and fish tikka dishes. Accompanying sides of dals – Olan (butternut squash and cow peas) and of course Tarka dal.

Evoke Pictures Bristol Food Photographers

Tarka dal is such a domestic staple of Asian cuisine from Nepal to the southern tip of the continent that it’s a litmus for the quality of any Asian restaurant. If a restaurant can’t get this right, the thing they have been cooking at home and eating for years, then it doesn’t bode well. If the tarka dal is good, you can have confidence that everything is going to be just fine.   M&M’s tarka dal is great. Just the right amount of sauce, spice and texture in the lentils – a real treat.

Add to that a full house and lots of early evening atmos – and that’ll be another winner for Mint & Mustard!


Tudor Farmhouse Hotel

Hari and Colin Fell at the Tudor Farmhouse have been a little bit busy lately. As well as investing heavily as proprietors in all aspects of their fine hotel and restaurant dream to get it to their own high standards, they also work very hard running the very beautiful and very successful 20 bedroom Clearwell hotel (which – by the way – is ideally situated to explore the best of the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley). Amazing then that they have the energy for regular physical exercise lifting all that silverware at recent awards – Taste of the West Champions “Best South West Restaurant 2015” and Hotel of the Year 2015 from Sawday’s. Impressive!

Hari Fell owner at the Tudor Farmhouse hotel
Hari Fell owner at the Tudor Farmhouse hotel

We caught up with Hari over a very nice midweek lunch. Hari is a very efficient and hard-working co-owner and keeps the place ticking like a clock, but she is also very friendly, charming and attentive and her staff looked after our table of two very well. Lunch – was a real winner and very tasty too.

I saw the smoked Haddock, leek and oyster soup in the list of three starters and to be honest I had already decided on the first course before I read the other two. A very similar thing happened across the table and so – “that’ll be two soups please”. For the second course we ordered one Stone bass, also known as Wreckfish in the UK, with attendant vegetables and one roasted cauliflower steak with pickled shallots and mash.

Smoked Haddock, in my opinion, always has the potential to make for a fabulous soup, if you can get the accompanying balancing ingredients spot on. Think of Cullen Skink a Scottish speciality of smoked Haddock, cream and potatoes a tour de force when done properly (Yorkshireman Brian Turner makes the finest I’ve ever tasted) but if it’s just off perfect, well, you have got trouble.

Head chef Rob Cox has the Tudor Farmhouse haddock, leek and oyster just right. A few nice pieces of haddock to give that great smoky flavour and aroma, with a few diced potatoes and some very fine julienne of fried leek with a golden yellow egg yolk in the bottom of the plate. The soup is well seasoned and served from a small jug at the table. As it pours the creamy light green soup fills the bowl to create an island paradise of the rest of the ingredients. Break the yolk and mix a little in each spoonful to complete the rich creamy and luxurious taste of the whole dish. Very nice indeed.

Tudor Farmhouse Hotel
Tudor Farmhouse Hotel

Stone bass looks like the big brother of the more familiar sea bass. The local name of Wreckfish comes from it’s chosen habitat in deep water shipwreck sites and it’s most often caught by trawlermen in UK waters as it’s generally too deep for sea anglers. The meat is white and firm and because the species is a little larger, makes for a substantial fillet with a meatier texture than its more familiar relative.  Tudor Farmhouse serve it perched on lovely dark green “black” cabbage which makes a wonderful contrast with cumin scented carrots and carrot and swede puree. Lovely crispy skin side up, it looked fab on the plate. How did it taste – well nothing went back!

Tudor Farmhouse Hotel
Stone bass

Vegetarian food can so often be side lined in a carnivore’s mind-set and overlooked on a menu. This in my estimation is a great mistake. Although a lifelong carnivore, I love main course vegetable dishes (that happen to be suitable for vegetarian customers in my own mind-set) when they are done well with the same attention to detail you expect from the rest of the menu. Cuisines from around the world don’t seem to have such a problem with this. Think of the great Chinese and Asian vegetable dishes and things like the Vegetable Thali, a medley of several different vegetable dishes, served in good Indian restaurants.

The butter roasted cauliflower steak was great! A thick slice of cauliflower cut from the heart of the head and down through the main stalk to hold it all together before being oven roasted with butter was just perfect. The stem was tender with just the right amount of bite and the florets were soft and delicious. The roasted butter gave a delicate nutty flavour and there was a touch of piquancy from the topping of pickled shallot. A spoonful of very creamy mash and I think, Rob Cox, you can call that a great success. I would certainly order that again!

Tudor Farmhouse Hotel
Tudor Farmhouse Hotel

Chosen dessert was a very attractive vanilla mouse with apple, rosemary and sweet rosemary oil with nasturtium leaves and a little granola for crunchy texture – again very, very tasty and it looked fab on the plate.

So well done Tudor Farmhouse our superb lunch was served in very homely surroundings in the smartly furnished warm honey stone and original timber front dining room you would expect from a good class country hotel. The cooking was inventive and skilful with great flavours in exactly the right balance. The two course lunch was £22 and my lunch partner couldn’t resist the dessert for just £3 extra!

Tudor Farmhouse Hotel
Tudor Farmhouse Hotel

Honours well and truly deserved Hari & Colin.

Visit the Tudor Farmhouse Hotel website to read Colin and Hari’s blog and sign up for the newsletter to get all the latest news, events and offers.

+44 (0)1594 833046 email – info@tudorfarmhousehotel.co.uk


Beer and Food Pairing


Two of the most enjoyable meals I have ever had have been tasting menus where the accompanying drinks were skilfully and expertly selected specifically for me course by course.

Start with a great and characterful menu of interesting ingredients and then pair your chosen tipple to the specific flavours, acidity, sweetness and aromas of the food – Genius! Many of you may have had similar experiences but it doesn’t just have to be about wine. Lots of great, and sometimes surprising, combinations work and appeal to the palate enhancing the flavours of the food and the accompanying drink. The skill is in the pairing. Occasionally this happens by accident (see our Ice wine and pizza article) but it’s much more successfully achieved by experts! Those clever local food people at Harts Barn and ace beer brewers at Hillside have teamed up to prove it to you in a fab event coming in September.

Too often in this country what we eat and drink is often dictated by our perceptions that something is more acceptable or more sophisticated than something else. We want to be seen by others to have good taste and to understand the finer things. For a long time this meant wine, and specifically French wine and the majority of British people, feeling they lacked sufficient knowledge on the subject, used price as an indicator of quality and sophistication. Then a few Australian’s smashed in the door at “Le Bistro” and proved the complete nonsense of that with big bold flavours in deep gorgeous reds that wouldn’t break the bank. Take another example and look back fifteen years to the lowly reputation of the Spanish classic – Rioja, and then take a look at the supermarket prices of today.

The point is times change and things move on. And this is what is happening in the beer and cider marketplace. The dominance of the big factories, like a medieval castle before gunpowder, can’t be easily or quickly overturned but it can be undermined, chipped away at and laid siege too. In the UK and across Europe, notably in Italy, people are making great craft beer again in ever growing numbers. Our new perceptions are that craft beer it is cool, tasty and sophisticated. Trendy young men and women in designer suits in shiny, busy London bars choose craft beer from around the UK as their wind-down Friday drink of choice whilst chatting about – well who knows what. There’s not a beard or a pullover in site! Although in fairness full beards are very much in fashion so we’ll withdraw that.

The timing is perfect for beer to come out of the shadows in the UK and step toward the front of stage where it belongs. In the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley we are ahead of that curve, we’re in the vanguard and the reason shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone – we have great natural ingredients and we use them simply but superbly in keeping with our unashamedly rural and no nonsense approach, ‘erm, a bit like Provence in fact if you are feeling the need for a sophisticated interlude from yesteryear!


And so, in the spirit of all of this Yvette Farrell from Harts Barn will be on the hobs and larder whilst the ever likeable Derek, master beer sommelier from Hillside, has been drawing beer from the impressive May Hill cellar to bring you an evening of fun and learning where the food is paired to the beer – just as it should be.



Pinnacle (Pale Ale) – Stinking Bishop & pear canapés with May Hill Orchard Chutney

HCL (Craft Lager) – Wye salmon ceviche served on a lettuce cup

Over The Hill (Dark Mild) – Pulled Venison marinated in Over the Hill ale, bramble sirop with thyme & juniper

Legend of Hillside (English IPA) – Wild boar garam masala bites with forest herb flatbread

Jolly Jester (Belgian tripel) – Sticky toffee pudding & Jolly Jester Beer ice cream

Legless Cow (Best Bitter) – Local cheese board with beer crackers


Pinnacle (Pale Ale) – Stinking Bishop & pear canapés with May Hill Orchard Chutney

HCL (Craft Lager) – Sweet smoked paprika homemade ricotta cups

Over The Hill (Dark Mild) – Roasted tomato pesto with marinated Portobello mushroom

Legend of Hillside (English IPA) – Paneer, chickpea & spinach garam masala bites with forest herb flatbread

Jolly Jester (Belgian tripel) – Sticky toffee pudding & Jolly Jester beer ice cream

Legless Cow – Local cheese board with beer crackers


Friday 25th September 2015 7pm to 10pm at Hillside Brewery, Holly Bush Farm, Ross Road, Longhope GL17 0NG

Go to https://www.facebook.com/hillsidebrewery?fref=ts for details and booking via Eventbrite

Ragman’s Lane Market Garden

Ben Hanslip, Ragman's Lane Market Garden, David Broadbent Photography, copyright, grow, salads, producer, Danny Fisher


Are you happy in your work? And by that we mean really, really happy? We know four people who are. We met them for the first time on a glorious Forest of Dean day on a small parcel of land rented to them by Matt Dunwell of Ragman’s Farm. These four young entrepreneurs Ben Hanslip, Danny Fisher, Natalie Baker and Jon Goodman have grasped the opportunity to fulfil a shared dream, to grow a delicious and nutritious range of herbs, salads, cut flowers, veggies and fruit. They have grasped the opportunity with all of the vigour that passionate and enthusiastic young people are capable of and they are happy! They are growing produce of the finest quality, in an organic and sustainable way in one of the most beautiful part of the south west – what’s not to like? Together they are called Ragman’s Lane Market Garden.

Ben Hanslip, Ragman's Lane Market Garden, David Broadbent Photography, copyright, grow, salads, producer,
Ben Hanslip

These young tenant market gardeners share the modest farmhouse on the plot, work (very hard) in the fields, eat from the plot and sell the very best of their produce locally to make a modest living. All still have to take work outside of the market garden at the moment, but they all hope that as sales improve they will be able, finally, to work that little patch of land full-time. It could all be a romantic documentary on a bygone rural idyll, but it’s not – it’s today. And this partnership of four young people with a dream is making it all come true for a new generation. Due in part to soaring land prices the average age of UK farmers is 59. The “Fab Four” are working hard to put a dent in that scary statistic.

Ben Hanslip, Ragman's Lane Market Garden, David Broadbent Photography, copyright, grow, salads, producer,  Jon Goodman
Jon Goodman

The genesis of all of the tasty green shoots is a great story, of serendipity, recognising opportunities and seeing the possibilities, in its own right. Jon and Ben studied together at SOAS University – The School of African and Oriental Studies http://www.soas.ac.uk/. Further inspiration came from the four WOOF-ing together (the exchange system for worldwide opportunities on organic farms as well as volunteering on community market gardens).

Ben Hanslip, Ragman's Lane Market Garden, David Broadbent Photography, copyright, grow, salads, producer,
Fresh picked salad and edible flowers

Jon spent two years as a Soil Association Apprentice and Danny has some previous experience of handling working horses – the prospect of seeing a Suffolk Punch at work in Lydbrook is just a tantalising dream though, unfortunately. Jon met Freya Davies of Ragman’s Farm when he visited their Permaculture Open Day at the well-known and award winning juicing orchard. There he saw (buried in the wild greenery) several poly tunnels in a sea of rampant undergrowth. Freya had mentioned in passing that Ragman’s were on the look-out for any takers to bring the land back into production and here they all are!

Ben Hanslip, Ragman's Lane Market Garden, David Broadbent Photography, copyright, grow, salads, producer,
How it all began for the “Fab Four”

So, on the thinnest of shoestring budgets, but with the whole hearted support of Matt Dunwell and full use of whatever was already on the land in terms of infrastructure and equipment – they began. The plot comes with the use of a two wheeled tractor to ease the burden which, wouldn’t look out of place in the finca’s of the Spanish countryside, but which is exceptionally efficient for small scale market gardens like these. There is also a very practical and also very beautiful irrigation pond to provide water for the crops and habitat for the wildlife. The resident mallards and geese help to keep the slug population suppressed whilst the cute black and white cat heads up the pest control department.

Ben Hanslip, Ragman's Lane Market Garden, David Broadbent Photography, copyright, grow, salads, producer,
Gravity pond used for irrigation

The value of this support to a brand new business such as this can’t be underestimated. To have had to invest in that equipment and infrastructure at start-up would have been a death toll to the very germ of the “fab four’s” dream. That support, from an existing successful business, acted as an incubator for the new complimentary adventure and we think is a message lots of local businesses should think a little bit more about.

Ben Hanslip, Ragman's Lane Market Garden, David Broadbent Photography, copyright, grow, salads, producer,

Spade met ground in February last year with frantic work by all four to turn an overgrown corner of a larger landholding into something where they could start to plant and grow both their crops and their fledgling business. Jon told us, “The ethos is to provide some job security for ourselves; to do work on something that you believe; to be able to feed yourself and do it in a way that’s sustainable, organic and FUN!”

Ben Hanslip, Ragman's Lane Market Garden, David Broadbent Photography, copyright, grow, salads, producer,

Walking around the market garden is an absolute pleasure. Although, if you ever do see the approach road to the farm, you’ll understand why visitors are dissuaded at the moment! The four tend their “cut and come again” salads to reduce waste and extend the life of the crop without reducing taste. Wild and cut flowers punctuate the market garden with vibrant colours and large Comfrey patches provide the raw material for organic, farm made, plant feeds. Natalie handles the flower department with an eye to supplying florists and designers with wild and cottage garden flowers to add an unusual twist to bouquets. This pollinator’s paradise place is just a-buzz with the sound of insects and birds – It’s how agriculture used to look in that respect.

Ben Hanslip, Ragman's Lane Market Garden, David Broadbent Photography, copyright, grow, salads, producer,

You can buy Ragman’s Market Garden produce, all picked fresh on the day, via the Dean Forest Food Hub. Popular and informal Walford foodie pub, The Mill Race buys from the fab four and Hayley Coombs of the Mill Race told us “We are committed to using local quality produce and the majority of the ingredients we use come from within 30 miles of the Mill Race.  Ragman’s Lane supply us with amazing vegetables and is less than 3 miles away – you can’t get more local than that!”

Ben Hanslip, Ragman's Lane Market Garden, David Broadbent Photography, copyright, grow, salads, producer,
Cut and come again salads

If you are a local chef who demands freshness and quality produce and you like local suppliers – this one is for you. Why not talk to the “Fab Four” or better still visit. If you do we’d love to cover the story and Ragman’s partnership with you.



Sumptuous Vegetarian Kitchen’s Call to Action for Local Suppliers

vegetarian, veggie, catering,

Bristol-based cook Jo-Anne Lovemore of Green Tomato Kitchen creates abundant and delicious vegetarian buffet spreads for events and celebrations throughout the South-West and South Wales including the Wye Valley.

Curiosity about food and being interested in cooking has been with me for as long as I can remember. My mother enlisted my ‘help’ in the kitchen as soon as I could stand on tiptoes on a chair and wield a wooden spoon, and as children, my brother and I were allocated a corner of our garden veg patch each year to grow whatever flowers and edibles took our fancy. If I recall correctly, my pet rabbit was the primary beneficiary of the modest yield from my carrot crop, uprooted too early, thanks to my impatience.

Green Tomato Kitchen

During my teenage years, I (mis)spent many an hour glued to TV cookery shows, which at the time were enjoying a meteoric rise in popularity. I am sure this began as a diversionary tactic from schoolwork, but soon evolved into a genuine curiosity and a desire to experiment with newly discovered ingredients and culinary techniques. I would furiously scribble down recipes while Ainsley Harriott and co rattled through them at breakneck speed on the TV screen (this was before the days of the internet!)

Aside from a string of summer and weekend jobs working in kitchens while I was a student, my career path to date has taken me far away from the culinary world, although I continued to enjoy cooking for friends and experimenting with recipes. But it was only in my 30s when I began to question how I might get more fulfillment from my work and lifestyle that I decided to follow my heart into the kitchen. Since turning vegetarian at the age of 20 my interest and awareness has grown around what and how we choose to eat impacts our health.


Food is an integral part of any event – a tangible expression of care from host to guest. So with my recently launched catering business, Green Tomato Kitchen, my aim is to create delicious, original, varied and healthy menus that guests will remember for the right reasons. When designing menus, I work closely with my clients to really understand their needs and preferences. All of the food that I prepare is vegetarian, and I love to introduce people to the abundant variety of flavours and textures found within good vegetarian cooking.

Combining the freshest ingredients to create colourful salads, mouthwatering dips, hearty bakes, savoury pastries and quiches, and gluten-free goodies is my thing. I have a soft spot for baking cakes and desserts, and no buffet spread would be complete without a tempting sweet selection to round off the meal!

Green Tomato Kitchen
Dill, feta and black olive pogača – small savoury Turkish pastries

Working from my home kitchen in the heart of Bristol, I’ll happily cater for clients with special dietary needs, or produce menus that are fully vegan, or lower in fat or sugar, for example. The central location in the south-west makes me ideally situated for one of the main strands of my business, supplying office lunches and celebratory feasts to business and private clients in the city. However, I’m not tied to the urban environment, being equally happy to offer the same high service to businesses or house parties and celebrations in  the Wye Valley.

At the moment I’m looking for a good, preferably organic, dairy supplier in the region and would be very happy to hear from any Wye Valley-based dairy farms producing delicious cheeses, butter, yoghurt and other dairy delights. Please do get in touch with any suggestions. To find out more about what Green Tomato Kitchen could offer you, visit www.greentomatokitchen.co.uk. I look forward to cooking for you!

Green Tomato Kitchen

Ed says……

We first met Jo-Anne at a business event in Bristol and we were immediately impressed with her passion for what she does. We asked her to tell us her story, particularly since she is always on the lookout for the very best vegetarian produce suppliers. So come on, if you think you can supply Green Tomato Kitchen, lets get a little bit of the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley into those sumptuous GTK buffets!! All pix M Lovemore.



Wild Garlic Bonanza

wild garlic

Driving around the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley you can’t fail to notice the dramatic display of frost white flowers coating every verge, bank and glade in our deciduous woodland and river banks at the moment. If you walk or cycle in those areas you’ll also be treated to the wonderful garlicy and oniony perform of Wild garlic.

wild garlic
Wild garlic

Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) also known as Ramsons and bear garlic, has long been prized by county cooks and foragers and it’s a must crop for the kitchen as well as lifting the spirits and heralding spring proper. All of the plant is usable as a herb and has been used like its cultivated relative for donkey’s years. Collecting and using this great abundance couldn’t be easier. The leaves, flowers and bulbs are all edible but we prefer to use the leaves and flowers and use the bulbs for strong plants for next year! Pick them fresh and young and use them straight away for maximum flavour and colour. If you are unsure on identification just crush a leaf between your fingers and if it smells of garlic, onion or chives to you – it’ll be wild garlic. If you are still unsure after that – the better part of valour etc. should prevail.

The leaves have a soft delicate garlic flavour when young and fresh, great in moderation for salads. The flowers too can be used in salads but they have a hotter, fiery flavour than the leaves to add a real kick and warmer flavour. A perennial favourite is wild garlic soup. So easy to make but so tasty and vibrant in colour, everyone should have a go. This versatile soup is great hot with great crusty bread, with cream or pesto added and even works cold as chilled soup for summer days.

Yvette Farrell – Harts Barn Cookery School


Top Forest & Wye cook and foraging queen, Yvette Farrell of Harts Barn Cookery School, also makes a killer wild garlic pesto where our native herb replaces the basil. An absolute treat stirred in to the soup or a little simple pasta dish. Ever resourceful, Yvette also uses wild garlic to add a soft perfumed flavour to home-made gnocchi by mixing in a little finely chopped leaf before cooking and then gently frying in butter to finish. So with so many options – why not give it a go?

Wild garlic soup Wild garlic soup Wild garlic soup

Wild garlic soup;

  • Knob of butter
  • Two medium spuds roughly cut up
  • Small chopped onion
  • Stock
  • 4 big handfuls of garlic
  • Option double cream

Heat the butter and add the potatoes and onions. Season, cover and soften on a low heat until soft. Add the sock and boil, throw in the garlic for a couple of minutes and then blitz in a blender (add some small fresh leaves now for additional colour). Return to the heat and warm, check seasoning and serve. It will keep well in the fridge for a few days but don’t add cream.





A new annual food and drink event for the Forest & Wye? We hope so.

Well the dust has well and truly settled on the inaugural Wye Valley & Forest of Dean Tourism Association’s new food and drink event Local Produce, See, Taste, Buy.  The event, originally conceived to match producers with potential clients from within the tourism associations’ extensive and diverse membership, was quickly turned over to a public event to coincide with English and Welsh Tourism Weeks respectively. Sited in the spacious “The Venue” function room on the CSMA site at Whitemead Park, exhibitors and visitors were protected against the worst the Forest spring weather might throw at anyone. In the event it turned out to be a beautiful Forest of Dean spring morning.

As the exhibitors built their stands before public opening at 10am the sights and sounds, and most of all, smells of our fabulous local producers started to build and fill in the background hubbub.

Great names in beer Hillside Brewery www.hillsidebrewery.com and cider, Severn Cider www.severncider.com were there in strength with Paul Williamson owner and head honcho from the Hillside Brewery with a broad selection of the great beers crafted up on the hill. Also showing, and tasting for the first time, their new Anzac beer brewed especially for the Gloucester Beer Festival. Nick Bull was in charge over at Severn Cider where, even though we were working hard, we had to have a small sample of their killer Severn Cider Perry.

Severn Cider, perry,                 3K5C1907          3K5C2145                 3K5C2154

Alongside these headline names in the now thriving local craft drinks industry, was the very tasty Apple County Cider with their “deciderly” good Dabinett and Vilberie dry and medium brands – very easy to imagine drinking those two beauties on a warm sunny evening! We also had Ty Gwyn cider, VQ Country Wines sporting their new swanky designer labels with the same great quality fruit wines still inside and Wye Valley Brewery. Parva Farm Vineyard were there too, showing a good selection of their Welsh wine from the terroir of Tintern  – some great news for Judith and Colin lately in that Marks & Spencer have taken their award winning Bacchus white wine into stock. We couldn’t resist a tasting stop at the amply stocked Chase Distillery stand either – hic!


Adding to the ambience were the great aromas of James’ Gourmet Coffee brewing constantly in the background, Rayeesa’s Kitchen homemade curry sauce bases simmering away in the tasting pot and fabulous charcuterie cooking on the hot plate from the guys over at Native Breeds. Smarts Gloucestershire Cheeses seem to be essential to any successful food and drink event and no matter how many times you’ve tasted their Gloucester’s before, resistance is futile! Celia’s Pantry was on hand to dispense Caribbean inspired tangy chutney flavours to go with it all.

For dessert there were two great ice cream makers were there Kelsmor Dairy and Hillbrooks Luxury Ice Cream with their own distinctive flavours – all of course available for tasting. The Chocolate Bar had a dazzling array of beautiful handmade chocolates to tempt the palate for that sumptuous finish.


The timing of the event is driven by the original concept to put producers and tourism association and other local buyers together before the busy Easter season and we think that that makes a lot of sense. A little later mind you and Whitemead would have been thronging with visitors to increase the footfall for the traders and give visitors a fantastic showcase of the produce and the ability to stock up the holiday larders both for their stay and to take home.


The Venue is a great place for this event although perversely Whitemead don’t actually signpost the halls location at the site entrances which makes things difficult for new conference visitors. The public parking there is also very restrictive (the design and concept of the site envisaged all of the visitor cars being spread out over the whole site outside respective holiday lodges, caravans or tents).  We spoke to Mike Carter (centre manager) who had already identified this issue as a growth limiting factor for this and other conference events. He’s on the case he assures us.

Does this new event conflict with the hugely popular Forest Showcase event in the autumn fields of the Speech House Hotel  www.thespeechhouse.co.uk (Peter Hands and his chef from the hotel were there and actively looking for new local suppliers – featured image)? Not according to John Theophilus of the Tourism Association. “We developed this idea primarily as a trade show for producers to meet buyers from the local economy and tourism sector – and we think that it has worked extremely well! We are delighted so many members of the public came along too as it helps to spread the word about the great work being done in our tourism sector. This incidentally adds a great deal to the local economy. It’s events such as this that make you realise how widespread the influence of a thriving tourism economy can be to the whole local economy”.


Overall we loved the concept and thought that, for a first year launch event, it was a real bonus to the local food and drink network. We would definitely have liked to have seen even more buy-in from local businesses – every tourism association member and every pub in the area were sent invitations and we think all of them should have attended!

We know only too well that profit margins for local businesses are always tight and the drive for economy in purchasing is a constant pressure on small business. Small artisan producers make up for this lack of “scale costs” with bags of flavour, localism, innovation and skill. This added value is demonstrated nowhere better than in the tourism sector because those values produce a cash sales equivalent and really register with visitors who want to buy local great produce.

If you run a business selling food and drink, why not follow the lead of the Tourism Association and look for one new local supplier today? Let us know how you get on, we’d love to tell your local collaboration story.


All aboard the Parsnipship for the tastiest local vegan & veggie food!

The Parsnipship stall at Taurus Crafts.

This vegetarian food company located in Ogmore Vale, Bridgend has been selling its pioneering vegetarian and vegan produce at food fairs, farmers markets and other local events since 2007. Back then, owner Ben, started selling five varieties of vegetarian crumbles, pates and pies at The Riverside Market in Cardiff. Today they have enthusiastic and very satisfied customers who can’t get enough of their fresh vegan and vegetarian produce! Continue Reading This Article