Plump Hill Farm – Crofting for the 21st Century.

 

Meet Debs and Stuart. Together they are realising their personal dream on a small patch of land at Huntley. Endless couples parade in line on seemingly equally endless property shows where the single most common motivation is to move to the county and keep some chickens. Most of these aspirations doubtless fail. But having spent a few short hours with this couple – it’s obvious that this partnership won’t be among the casualties.

Crofting is an old tradition perhaps best associated with the Highland and Islands of Scotland. Essentially a couple or a family work on small parcels of land both to supplement their meagre rations and to produce cash crops for sale in the local area, or at least they did before all the rich landowners and landed gentry threw them off the land to make way for sheep.

Here in the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley life must have been fairly similar for some. The echoes of small parcels can still be seen in the way that modest houses in the Forest & Valley sometimes also come with a little bit of ground. So, meet these modern-day crofters. Holding down day jobs and working on the land, their land.

Plump Hill Farm couple Debs and Stuart are though taking crofting to a whole new level. Faced with endless ambition but a limited budget from their day jobs they didn’t buy a farm. They bought farmland. Land going for sale in agricultural lots as an old farm was broken up and its sprawling buildings repurposed for the 21st century. They’ve just bought another parcel adjacent to their existing lot and so its seems that the well-rehearsed business plan is right on track.

We spent a great morning walking the patch with Debs and Richard Kaye head chef at the award winning Kilcot Inn. Richard was Deb and Stuarts first customer and has been with them since. We chatted to Debs while Richard checked out the loins and conformation of the ever-growing young pedigree pure bred Old Spots. Debs had to feed her cade lamb (hand reared after being rejected by mum) which was eagerly awaiting its breakfast. “We’d put a jacket on her because of the cold and she (mum) rejected it”, “always learning – we won’t do that again”. And there is so much to learn. Sensibly, they invested in themselves and bolstered their passion and enthusiasm with some top-quality training at the hands of Tim Stephens the Farm Manager and trainer at Humble by Nature. A real success story for Tim and Humble by Nature as they gave Debs and Stuart the spring board and confidence to pursue their dream.

And Richard is just the kind of customer that Debs and Stuart are looking for. Outlets for their whole animal produce who care as much as they do about the quality of the meat they are producing. Ideally customers who will take straight from the farm together with all the provenance and good animal welfare you can shake a stick at. Word is spreading too. Only that day Debs had to, sadly, decline the M5 services request for supply because they simply couldn’t produce the quantity required. That’s not a missed opportunity though for Debs. She clearly has her focus on growing the business to a sustainable size and then consolidating at that capacity.

Animal welfare comes first here at Plump Hill Farm. Yes, the animals are being bred for food but that is no reason why they shouldn’t have a great life and great care while they are part of the farm.

Richard Kaye shares this ethos for all of his ingredients for his lovely country restaurant. “A great dish starts with great raw materials,” he said. “I’ve spent years sourcing local suppliers who rear animals with excellent animal welfare.  Happy animals taste better. Slaughtered properly and in as a calm way as possible is really important to the final quality and important to me.” “It is also imperative that we support local business – keeping the money in the area can really help the economic situation for everybody.  I have the flexibility to take animals from Debs whenever they are available- and she doesn’t charge me a delivery charge!”

We have exercised the viewpoint that Britain has largely lost the connection with where it’s food comes from numerous times in these pages. Why is it important? If you are a meat eater, it’s just a fact that those animals will have to be slaughtered to meet your demand. If you lose sight of this fact and insulate yourself behind the unsustainable polystyrene punnets and red lighting of the supermarkets, you, yes – you personally contribute to what happens next. If no one cares how our food is reared you, yes you, open the door to poor animal welfare. In the shadows, people will exploit the fact that you don’t care and they will stop caring too – in the pursuit of profit. Pretty soon you’ll be buying two chickens for a fiver without a second thought for how they can be sold so cheaply.

And right there you have the transition on this escape to the country life. This is where half-hearted dreams falter, when the dream turns into the daily reality of hard work, dedication and sometimes disappointments when you bear the immense responsibility of keeping animals. The caravan in the polytunnel tells it all. It became home for a few weeks during lambing. This couple new to farming and always learning were “absolutely worn out” physically and emotionally during the process and to have somewhere to crash on site was a life saver.

The flock of fine woolly Shropshire’s all looked pretty happy and healthy grazing in the early morning Gloucestershire sunshine. And amongst the animals and covered in muck, Debs looked very happy too.

Links

Plump Hill Farm https://www.facebook.com/PlumpHillFarm/  http://plumphillfarm.co.uk/

Kilcot Inn http://www.kilcotinn.com

Humble by Nature https://www.humblebynature.com/event-category/smallholding-animal-husbandry/

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

The Preservation Society Wins Again!

 

   Wow! The DeanWye has yet another producer, The Preservation Society, in the hall of fame that is the UK’s Great Taste Awards. The Preservation Society scooped a 2-star Great Taste award for the 2017 competition. Judges tasted Angharad Underwood’s Plum & Cuban Rum Jelly made with local swap/cropped plums & apples and declared it DELISH!  The judges comments included “On the palate the jelly melts beautifully, the plums come through well and then a warmth of rum follows on. This feels very honest and as if made ‘of the countryside”. Too true mate!!

Angharad, thrilled to be awarded another accolade, said “We are delighted with our 8th Great Taste award, we make all of our jars of deliciousness by hand and love using local seasonal ingredients, our Plum & Cuban Rum is made with plums from Mrs Corrick (Angharad’s Mum’s neighbour) and swap/cropped local apples so it’s a very personal little jar. Great Taste really does make a huge difference for a micro business like ours”.

Great Taste 2017 will reach its exciting finale on Monday 4 September, when the world of fine food gathers at the Intercontinental Park Lane Hotel, London to find out the Golden Fork winners for each region at an Awards Dinner, with the final applause reserved for the Great Taste Supreme Champion 2017.

Angharad produces multi award winning chutneys, sirops & preserves all packed with flavour and made with love. Don’t just take our word for it, check the 2017 features in Country Living and Vogue. The Preservation Society work with great local producers for the DeanWye and produce an ever growing range.

You should try some. Eh, start with the Plum and Rum!

For more information on this and the other fab products in the range: angharad@thepreservationsociety.co.uk 01291 626516 or 07970 413574

 

Jesus and the afternoon tea

David Broadbent Photography, copyright image,

 

Recently Jesus treated us to a fabulous Champagne cream tea at the equally fabulous Tudor Farmhouse Hotel in Clearwell – and we loved it!

And the winner is….

I don’t think that I would ever describe myself as” religious” in the conventional sense. Current estimates, depending on your chosen reference source, put the world religions figure well north of 4000. How lucky then were we to have choose the right one! Similarly, I’m suspicious of the organisations behind religions. They are after all large organisations and like all others are often in conflict between protecting their faith and their organisation.

But I am intrigued by faith. Intrigued by the way in which all cultures (sometimes isolated ones) develop a faith. This suggests that there is something deep within the human spirit that needs to “believe” and I don’t think any part of the debate deals with that aspect. You feel the spirituality sometimes in expansive landscapes (high in the mountains of Nepal springs immediately to mind), in spectacles of the natural world or the light on a perfect day outdoors.

David Broadbent Photography, copyright image,
St Briavels parish church, St Mary the Virgin, Gloucestershire.

I’m also an enormous fan of parish churches. Take St Mary the Virgin at St Briavels for example. As a place of worship, it’s a beautiful parish church with a fantastic history. It (or its predecessor structures) has been a significant anchor in village life for as long as the settlement has existed. We held a blessing for our marriage there, our friends all came and it was a fabulous day. Each time I go into the church, I feel the peace and tranquility of it and I am calmed. It’s just a lovely place to be regardless of one’s own beliefs.

David Broadbent Photography, copyright image,
Homemade scones

Supporting this village icon is a lovely group of local people who volunteer toward the upkeep of the church including the fabric of the building and they do such a great job. Finally, we get to the point of this story and their summer fund raiser at the home of a very active member in the “Friends” of St Briavels church and, crucially, their raffle. Cut to a beautiful DeanWye summer afternoon, a lovely historic farmhouse garden with an impressive view of the Wye Valley, some Kingstone beer on tap and a hog roast – marvelous! Be honest, can you think of a better way to spend a summer Sunday afternoon?

David Broadbent Photography, copyright image,
Tasty bites

Now, I never win anything. Raffles, wagers, the horses or everyone’s Plan B for a better life – the lottery, are never going to get me out of trouble! And so, it was with some astonishment that I scooped second prize in the “Friends” raffle. The bottle had already gone – as it does – and there on the table was a stylish matte brown envelope with the words “Gift voucher – afternoon tea for two with Champagne.” Ker-ching! I won something – it is truly a miracle!

David Broadbent Photography, copyright image, afternoon tea,
We went for a jam, cream, jam stack
Bubbles

Voucher in hand, we turned up to a friendly welcome at the Tudor Farmhouse reception and were shown into the Tudor Room and seated to receive tea. Two pots, one of Darjeeling and one of fragrantly spiced Karma. We elected to start with a cool glass of champers each and then the tiered wondrousness appeared! Three layers be-decked with confectionery. Atop the spire, coffee macron, pungent chocolate cake and a tart cream pot with forest berry coulis on top, at the gallery level, fresh homemade scones still warm from the oven and deliciously light and crumbly. A thing so unlike the commercially available scones some of which tend to have the density of a small iron-cored moon. Cream or jam first? Oh, let’s not get into all that again. And, down in the engine room on the bottom tier, very cute sandwiches of ham with mustard, smoked salmon and creamy cheddar. A super indulgent way to pass a couple of hours and all of it delightful!

Thank you, Jesus, and everyone else involved.

Mint & Mustard – A small corner of Kerala in the Wye Valley

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
Grand opening of Mint & Mustards Indian Street Kitchen in Chepstow. July 2017

We have it all in this article, a VIP gala opening, great Indian food based on traditional Keralan cuisine, a new and exciting restaurant in the heart of Chepstow and the Wye Valley, oh, and a little bit of an exclusive….

http://www.mintandmustard.com/locations/chepstow/
Traditional Keralan drummers

Well, street food has finally landed in the Wye Valley and for one beautiful July evening a very small corner of Chepstow town was transformed into a small section of the Chalai Bazaar (a famous market area in the Indian state of Kerala).

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
First dosa hits the pan.

For the grand opening of the Mint & Mustard Indian Street Kitchen now firmly, and stylishly, located on the ground floor of this small part of the Keralan state. The throng of invited guests, from far and wide, filled the street-side patio to capacity. Excited chatter about the already well established fine dining restaurant on the upper floor (see our previous blog http://www.wyedeandeliconfidential.co.uk/blog/mint-mustard-opens-in-chepstow/) being the currency of the conversation together with excitement about what this new addition to this very popular and ever growing restaurant will bring.

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
Tandoor chef in full swing

As you might expect from a Grand Opening, the staff were on top form, with the management present in the form of the very friendly Mint & Mustard owners Ajit Kandoran and Latheesh Kottilil and their Operations Director of Chai Street (the Cardiff based Street Kitchen restaurant), Ankur Baria all on hand and really very charming.

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
Roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd

But, although the crowd were enjoying the social side of their invitation to this fab event, the overheard conversations said it all. All of the chatter was about the smells now emanating from the Tandoori, Chat and Dosa stands set up around the restaurant wall inside the patio to represent a Keralan roadside – all eyes were fixed on the activity here. The tandoor blasted heat at anyone who got too close. When the tandoor chef moistened the Seekh kebab and lowered it in you could hear the crowd salivate. Chicken and a glorious paneer tikka followed and the whole marinated fish went in two by two. And like any good roadside food, much of Chepstow’s evening traffic slowed to see what all the fuss was about.

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
Great service

If you were in any doubt that this was about the food, you only had to observe Executive Chef Santhosh Nair for a few moments. His steely overseers’ glare saw everything, and we mean everything that his chefs were doing in preparation for our street inspired feast. His bonhomie was reserved specifically for invited guests and it was great to see an accomplished exec chef communicate with his staff by extra sensory perception alone.

Heated by the earth’s core.

As we walked into the VIP reception a Chaat stand dispensed tangy snacks consisting of crispy dough balls, onion, chickpeas, fresh coriander and yoghurt dressing. These stands (thought to have started in Uttar Pradesh) are now widespread across Indian, Pakistan and Nepal and serve these tasty pick-me-up snacks to workers and weary travellers. A Dosa stand dispensed wafer thin dosa (water and flour pancakes) with a masala sauce and next to that, the tandoor stand with blazing oven driven into the bowels of the earth and those wonderful tikka snacks on long skewers.

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
Fish and Paneer tikka

A stylish bijou room at the back now decorated in muted subtle tones housed the buffet serving the Master Chef’s lamb special and chicken biryani with the full nine yards of accompaniments for tonight. In operation this will also be a private function room for hire. Boy, we could just see it laid out as a private dining room for a couple of dozen people. The management would also like us to mention that the room (with IT if required) is also available for business hire for meetings etc. We’ve eaten a lot of business buffet food, but we’ll wager here and now, whatever you want that the Mint & Mustard food will top it all.

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
Beautiful fish, paneer and meat selection.

And there you have it. All fairly predictable for a Mint & Mustard event – top class service, a great and innovative idea delivered with aplomb and (most importantly) the best Indian food for miles!

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
Street food and Chaat

The idea of Mint & Mustard was borne from a dinner conversation of two hard working doctors, Ajit Kandoran and Latheesh Kottilil, would you believe. Sitting in an Indian restaurant close by their hospital dreaming of the food they used to eat back home in Kerala. Wondering why they couldn’t find it all in the UK led to, just a year later, opening the very first Mint & Mustard in Cardiff. We often talk of passion as the magic ingredient in food and drink and surely it can’t get more passionate than that!

Grand opening of Mint & Mustards INdian Street Kitchen in Chepstow. July 2017

Our exclusive? Keralan Cookery courses coming to Chepstow! The very charming and engaging Latheesh Kottilil told us that it was definitely on the cards for Chepstow’s development.  In the crowd we chatted to Dave and Lisa from Newport who had already been on the course in Cardiff. Ten minutes later they stopped telling us how good it was and how fantastic the chefs were and  only then because the food was served!

 

Links

facebook.com/mintandmustard/

Twitter @mintandmustard

www.mintandmustard.com

Monmouthshire Food Festival – Picture Special

Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017

A great local food festival which is set only to grow in popularity!

Ever since our last article (read that here) we’ve been really looking forward to this. We checked out the festival on the second day, Sunday, and had a fab time. The sun shone and everything was in place for a great foodie day out in the Welsh sunshine. For the moment, at least, the festival is completely contained with the Caldicot Castle walls which mean that there is a “big reveal” for everyone who crosses the drawbridge. Emerge from the shadows of the barbican through the second gatehouse into the Castle proper and the whole nine yards of food and drink goodness is there for all to see.

So, relax and take a look at the image special from the day and if it’s whetted your appetite then don’t forget that the autumn date is already set  for this fab dog friendly event on  14th and 15th October – Don’t miss it.

Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017
Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017
Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017
Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017
Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017
Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017
Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017
Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017
Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017
Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017
Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017
Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017
Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017
Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017
Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017

Adrian Walker Accredited Master Butcher and the only one in Wales! Was on great form to entertain the crowd with a demonstration on preparing a Cote du boeuf. Because chef Tim McDougall had broken his ankle and couldn’t attend (get well soon Tim) Adrian crashed on and cooked it – a bit hit with the crowd in the Chef’s Theatre!

Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017
Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle May 2017

The only thing to worry about is that fantastic event will become too popular for the castle courtyard alone…….

Monmouthshire Food Festival…Don’t miss it.

 

Food Festivals are, quite rightly, big and very good news. Especially in this fabulous area in which we live, stuffed full as it is with great produce, makers and eateries. So don’t miss The Monmouthshire Food Festival on 20th to 21st May 2017 at Caldicot Castle. Monmouthshire has some outstanding producers and makers (many of which have featured in this magazine) and so The Monmouthshire Food Festival is definitely an unmissable food event. There’s a full programme of demonstrations, talks, tastings and lots of food and drink to try and buy.

The Chef’s Theatre features many of the finest chefs from across Monmouthshire. They will showcase the finest food the county has to offer in dishes that show both flair and imagination, a positive treat for the taste buds.

Chris Harrod

The county of Monmouthshire is the food capital of Wales. It is home to the finest producers and award winning hotels and restaurants boasting two Michelin starred restaurants and many holders of AA rosettes. The Whitebrook holds a Michelin star and four AA Rosettes and many other awards. Chris Harrod, who is Chef/Patron, will be cooking in the Chef’s Theatre on Saturday 20th May at 1:30 pm. For food enthusiasts this is a demonstration which is not to be missed.

Tim McDougall

Cooking in the Chef’s Theatre on Sunday 21st May at 1:30 pm is Tim McDougall, Head Chef at the Llansantffraed Court Country House Hotel, holder of 2AA Rosettes followed at 2:30 pm by Mark Turton, Chef/Patron of the 2 AA Rosettes #7 Church Street in Monmouth

Mark Turton

The Look and Learn Theatre features master classes, tutored tastings and demonstrations on a wide range of food and drinks. Meet the people who really know about the food on offer, the producers. Join in with a masterclass led by Duncan Fox from Haven Distillery – a cottage distillery which produces premier London Gin with some interesting botanicals. Duncan  will tell you everything you will ever need to know about gin!

Adrian Walker

Also in the Look and Learn Theatre will be a butchery and BBQ demonstration from Adrian Walker, Accredited Master Butcher of Golden Valley Meat and Game in the village of Grosmont in Monmouthshire. He is one of just fourteen Master Butchers in the UK and the only one in Wales and the Three Counties of Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. At the centre of the festival is the Producers Market. This features artisan producers, many of whom hail from the Marches, the border area of England and Wales. Award winning cider makers Ty Gwyn, fine artisan chocolate maker Black Mountain Gold and hand crafted ales from Castles Brewery located just one mile from Caldicot Castle’s drawbridge.

Ty Gwyn cider

Bring the kids too. The Children’s Quarter will have lots of activities for your young foodies to enjoy with one or two surprises! Try a workshop on quick, simple and healthy after school snacks.

This year the supported charity Guides Dogs for the Blind. Staff and dogs from the charity will be on hand and is offering visitors a chance to get up close to a guide dog or puppy and find out more about their vital work. For a little bit of fun volunteers from Guide Dogs will host “Jam and Juice”. Sighted kids can put on a blindfold to make jam sandwiches and juice drinks to experience what it must be like to have eyesight issues. And of course, there may be the odd cuddly guide dog to pet!!

Browse the Producers Market which will have stalls with many different products to try and buy. Come and taste beer brewed just a mile from the festival or take home locally made preserves made from foraged fruit.

Real ale

The festival will be celebrating World Day of Bees on 20th May with presentations from our local Gwent Beekeepers together with a display hive of bees (all quite safe) and information of the work being done by Monmouth based Bees for Development who work across many countries in Africa to alleviate poverty and retain biodiversity. We will also be welcoming the team from local dairy, Mead Farm, who will be bringing along a mechanical cow to show where milk comes from.

Samosa Co

So don’t miss this event. A food event packed with great tasting food, top tips and help with “how to” sessions it’s going to be fab! All set in the glorious surroundings of Caldicot Castle and grounds.

How about a family picnic in the glorious Caldicot Castle Country Park with delicious food and drink from the food festival? So why not take an empty picnic basket with you and buy your picnic at the show, find yourself a great spot in the castel grounds and dine like Lords and Ladies?

Henry Ashby with Chef Chris Harrod

Links

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/Monmouthshire-Food-Festival-654281511286346/

Web https://monmouthshirefoodfestival.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Drive and Eat Ice Cream   

Forest and Wye, ice cream, St Briavels, Gloucestershire, David Broadbent Photography, WyeDean Deli Confidential, food, artisan,

 

There is a new ice cream dream team in town. Charlotte and Marcus Adam of Forest & Wye ice cream company based in St Briavels mean business and they have the premium product to back up their ambitions.

Charlotte was, back in the day, a qualified librarian. Turns out that those librarians trained and qualified in the dark arts of book classification and stealthy movement in audibly neutral halls of knowledge and entertainment are, all of the time, hatching plots of a utopian nature. Well, they are if they are Charlotte Adams. She is one half of the new premium artisanal husband  and wife ice cream dream team, behind the new Forest & Wye ice cream company.

As an enthusiastic amateur ice cream maker (and hearty consumer) the chance to visit the new Forest & Wye creamery, in the lovely village of St Briavels, was just too good an opportunity to pass up. Anyone who has ever made ice cream or gelato will know that the taste blows away any large brand offering no matter how fancy the box or slick the marketing. And that is kind of the problem. My own small versions, in varying degrees of delicious success, are doing well if they last in the freezer for more than a couple of days! But try and scale that process up for sale as a product and things begin to get tricky.

Forest and Wye, ice cream, St Briavels, Gloucestershire, David Broadbent Photography, WyeDean Deli Confidential, food, artisan,
Forest and Wye homemade ice cream.

Enter then Charlotte and Marcus Adams. Well versed in this small scale purist production of, amongst other flavours – alcohol flavoured ices, for personal use only (honestly officer) who then decide to become “clean” ice cream makers, wherever possible shunning processed ingredients to deliver what is says on the tin. The clean food movement has somehow got lumbered with endorsements by “celebrities” (this apparently now passes for gainful employment) you may or may not have heard of. In addition it bears the weight of the most damaging of food marketing monikers – “trendy”.  Clean Food has never meant anything other than just natural ingredients. The ethos of this embryonic company is seasonal, local, fresh, as clean as it can be. So, the logic goes, Rhubarb Crumble ice cream (and loads of other yummy non-alcoholic flavours) has only ice cream (milk, cream and eggs) and rhubarb crumble in it – easy. Anyone can pronounce all the ingredients.

But it turns out that there are many reasons to adulterate a product and one of them is to get over problems of upscaling manufacture. Want blackcurrant ice cream? Add a big shot of commercial blackcurrant syrup for instant and easy flavour enhancement. But what if you want to get really radical and just get all the flavour from real blackcurrants? I know, it’s a crazy idea isn’t it?

Forest and Wye, ice cream, St Briavels, Gloucestershire, David Broadbent Photography, WyeDean Deli Confidential, food, artisan,
Forest and Wye.

The impetus for turning passionate hobby into a cottage industry business was supercharged by friends who tasted Charlotte’s’ home-made alcoholic ice cream. Right after they’d asked for a second helping they implored her to make a business of it and presumably therefore to ensure a continuity of supply. Let’s remember the ethos, when Forest & Wye make alcoholic ice cream, like their supreme “Baileys and Kahlua” – Baileys “flavour” just doesn’t cut it. It has to have, erm Baileys and Kahlua in it. Not as easy as you might think given the well-known anti-freeze properties of alcohol. Why stop there? Let’s go with their Vanilla and Cognac or Coffee and Whiskey and – our absolute fave Amaretto – wait for it smooth creamy taste followed by the Amaretto taste which builds toward the end – Wow! All of this raises the tantalising notion of adults only ice cream parties all purchased from licensed premises – that’s right they have real booze in them and you need a licence to sell them!

Having spent the past 15 years living in St Briavels and raising their family of 3 kids, the two thought that now was the right time to launch their dream business. It’s not been easy though, having decided to go for it, their ideas of clean ice cream with only the freshest of whole ingredients therein proved to be a challenge. Everyone they met, they bought training or equipment from, in fact everyone told them you need to make commercial ice cream with emulsifiers, stabilisers and bla, bla, bla. There was a dark and heart breaking time for Charlotte when, already having trashed several full scale batches, she thought that it might be true and that they might have to consider the worst case scenario and go with the advice. But a golden coloured revelation came to them on a quiet St Briavels night. A natural golden, sticky solution. Known of for centuries, and incidentally something that has a shelf life measured in a atomic half-lives, – honey. Together with a little natural bean flour, hey presto! They had cracked it.

ice cream, amaretto,
A very rare pre-production model complete with typo’s. Sadly now gone!

This is the first hurdle for most passions turned into businesses – where and how will you supersize your enthusiastic experimentation. With their eldest child now fourteen and the youngest pushing seven – playtime is over kids! The kids were evicted from their playroom and its transmogrification into modern creamery separated from the rest of domestic life began. Our exclusive peak into the creamery tells the story of the couples’ commitment. Fully kitted out with the latest brand new ice cream/gelato making equipment – no one could accuse them of “not going for it”, it’s organised, well laid out and tidy with a five star rating.

Telme,
Forest & Wye homemade ice cream.

Starting a new businesses can be scary. Lots of money going out and a really frightening period when no money comes in – self-employment  is not for the faint hearted. But for people who know what they want and know that they want to achieve it’s the only way. What you need now are customers! Deborah Flint, founder of The Pantry village shop (now in new hands, the shop previously featured in this magazine) and big supporter of quality local producers was the first to help out. She commissioned a blind tasting competition with other brands and Forest & Wye. Topping the taste test was a breeze and they were stocked! A local brewery used Forest & Wye products at one of its events but Charlotte and Marcus are looking for more outlets. For the time being, their footprint is limited to a 30 mile radius of the Gloucestershire border but that is bound to change as tasting pioneers spread the word.

Forest and Wye, ice cream, St Briavels, Gloucestershire, David Broadbent Photography, WyeDean Deli Confidential, food, artisan,
Forest and Wye creamery.

The packaging, like the ice cream, is simple, brilliant and wholesome. A plain brown fully recyclable pot with a stylish card label and you can feel good about your carbon footprint while you tuck in too. So here they are with a great creamery set-up and all the vision, passion and knowledge that you can shake a stick at. They have a fantastic premium product packed with goodness from as close to the creamery as they can possibly manage.

Over to you outlets…….

Links

Web                      www.forestandwye.co.uk

Facebook            www.facebook.com/forestandwye

Twitter                 https://twitter.com/ForestWye

The Pantry         www.facebook.com/thepantrystbriavels/

 

The Monmouthshire Food Festival 2017

 

Food Festivals are great fun and, quite rightly, big and very good news. Especially in this fabulous area in which we live, stuffed full as it is with great produce, makers and eateries. So don’t miss The Monmouthshire Food Festival on 20th to 21st May 2017 at Caldicot Castle. Monmouthshire has some outstanding producers and makers (many of which have featured in this magazine) and so The Monmouthshire Food Festival is definitely an unmissable food event. There’s a full programme of demonstrations, talks, tastings and lots of food and drink to try and buy.

The Chef’s Theatre always features many of the finest chefs from across Monmouthshire. They will showcase the finest food the county has to offer in dishes that show both flair and imagination, a positive treat for the taste buds. The Look and Learn Theatre features master classes, tutored tastings and demonstrations on a wide range of food and drinks. Meet the people who really know about the food on offer, the producers.

Bring the kids too. The Children’s Quarter will have lots of activities for our young foodies to enjoy with one or two surprises! Browse the Producers Market which will have stalls with many different products to try and buy. Come and taste beer brewed just a mile from the festival or take home locally made preserves made from foraged fruit.

 

This year the supported charity Guides Dogs for the Blind. Staff and dogs from the charity will be on hand offering visitors a chance to get up close to a guide dog or puppy and find out more about their vital work – and of course help out with a small donation. So don’t miss this event. A food event packed with great tasting food, top tips and help with “how to” sessions it’s going to be fab! All set in the glorious surroundings of Caldicot Castle and grounds.

How about a family picnic in the glorious Caldicot Castle Country Park with delicious food and drink from the food festival? So why not take an empty picnic basket with you and buy your picnic at the show, find yourself a great spot in the castel grounds and dine like Lords and Ladies?  

 

Abergavenny Bakery Goodies

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, David Broadbent Photography, bakery, bread, baking, artisan, Cross Street,

We talk sourdough and all things bakery with the innovative bakery team at The Angel Bakery in Abergavenny. Unbelievably good!

Exactly one week ago I was sitting in the middle of the A40 roundabout in my stricken Landrover, holding up the juggernauts of the morning rush hour on the A40 roundabout just outside Abergavenny. Sitting helplessly waiting for a recovery vehicle when I should have been talking sourdough with the staff at The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny.

No panic though, my meeting With Jo at The Angel Hotel to see their new bakery has been temporarily put on hold and I’m thinking that today could have gone better – good coffee, the smell of fresh bread and pastries enchanting my sense of smell. Sadly, that will now have to wait for another day. So with time on my hands until the breakdown gets here it occurred to me just how well some of our local DeanWye towns and villages are doing. We’ve written before (The Pantry) about the effect that home working may be having on our previously “dormitory” villages and towns. In fact, a little like Brexit, our towns and villages seem to be bucking the UK trend of the last 30 years against all the predictions of the naysayers.

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, David Broadbent Photography, bakery, bread, baking, artisan, Cross Street,
The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny.

Abergavenny is a case in point. Vibrant, lively and with a significant proportion of independent shops (new rates assessments permitting)  as well as well-known high street brands – the town is faring better than some of its neighbours.  The Angel Hotel on the towns Cross Street is a particular beacon of this new found hope for our high streets. Stylish and trendy with well trained staff to ensure attention to detail and a top quality service, the hotel is working hard to offer visitors a quality experience in this great Welsh market town. All in all there are good reasons for confidence to be up! And so in this optimistic mood, The Angel has furthered its already impressive and ambitious plans and gone and opened a bakery across the street!

And now one week to the day since my breakdown (car), I’m standing in the bakery early morning amidst all of the buzzing, but focussed activity of the 5 staff. Baguettes and sourdoughs are already out, croissant (breakfast with an espresso) and pain au chocolat are on the counter together with, a very sexy looking, rhubarb Danish. In the clean spacious bakery engine room behind the tall plate glass which fronts onto the narrow street, dough is emerging after its 36 hour incubation to fulfil its destiny and be turned into flavourful, bread and buns with taste and great texture. My baguette (eaten at lunchtime back in the office) was crisp and strong with beautiful real bread flavour. A long bake made for a nice crispy crust, perhaps not one for the denture wearers, and the result of having had a decent amount of time to prove properly was a light open texture inside. These little cavities now swallowed more mayonnaise than is probably good for me, lashed to my cheese and tomato filling – wow, fantastic.

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, David Broadbent Photography, bakery, bread, baking, artisan, Cross Street,
The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny.

In the old days of the Tour de France cyclists used to slice a baguette and hollow out the centre so that it could hold even more nutritious carb fillings for the long cycle ahead. At the Angel Bakery that light airy centre is fantastic so you’ll want to keep it in and just stuff everything else in as best you can.

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, David Broadbent Photography, bakery, bread, baking, artisan, Cross Street,
Sophie. The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny.

The bakery opened officially on 23rd December and so now, a couple of months in, and the principal bakers Sophie and Polly, have the place running like a sewing machine. It’s well equipped with the latest bakery apparatus but the work is still all about traditional hand crafting. The two ladies met whilst working at the well-known London artisan bakery, The Little Bread Pedlar. This Bermondsey based bakery tucked into several railway arches has developed an enviable reputation and you can see the DNA of the Pedlar here in the work of the two ladies at the heart of The Angel bakery. Traditional methods and proper proving, deep bakes that are all about flavour, texture and crumb all done with style and innovation.

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, David Broadbent Photography, bakery, bread, baking, artisan, Cross Street,
Rhubarb Danish. The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny.

The results are all good. And the sourdoughs are amazingly so. A good bake really brings out their natural nutty flavour and again the texture is fab, nice crusty outside and soft, firm inside with an open texture to capture a good spreading of butter or mayo. Sourdoughs are great family loaves. They taste great, obviously, but they also keep well and make the most amazing toasted soldiers for soft boiled eggs. We also tried the fig and walnut sourdough – triumph! Nutty sourdough flavour again combined with crunchy walnuts pieces and figgy goodness throughout with every now and again a little motherlode pocket of sweet hit of fig. Really, really tasty.

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, David Broadbent Photography, bakery, bread, baking, artisan, Cross Street,
Fabulous Sourdough. The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny.

The steampunk coffee machine with its enormous lever handles makes great stealth espresso using home roasted coffee without uttering a sound, unless the steam jet is activated. There are a few seats in the modest customer area which, really nicely, has a view into the bakery too, so you can see the magic unfold.

The Angel Bakery with Sophie and Polly at the helm will go from strength to strength. They have a great base to work from and the quality of what’s on offer is impressive. Even if you don’t live in Abergavenny, it’s worth going to the bakery for the croissants alone!

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, David Broadbent Photography, bakery, bread, baking, artisan, Cross Street,
C’est Magnifique. The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny.

Web: http://www.angelabergavenny.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lovetheangel/?hc_ref=SEARCH

Twitter: @LovetheAngel https://twitter.com/lovetheangel?lang=en-gb