Spring is springing and the bountiful forage season is almost upon us in earnest. Tempting and tasty new shoots are erupting everywhere and an absolute favourite is the oniony goodness that is 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. If you walk or cycle in those areas you’ll also be treated to the wonderful garlicy and oniony perfume of Wild garlic.
Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) also known as Ramsons and bear garlic, has long been prized by country cooks and foragers and it’s a must have 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 allow the bulbs to make even stronger 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 – caution, 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.
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?
WyeDean Deli Confidential recipe
Wild garlic soup;
Knob of butter
Two medium spuds roughly cut up
Small chopped onion
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. Add the stock 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 the cream until just before serving.
As an update to our blog of 18th August about the, then upcoming, Food and Beer Pairing event hosted by Harts Barn Cookery School and Hillside Brewery we caught up with Paul Williamson and Yvette Farrell to see how it all went.
Paul; the evening was a great success, with lovely feedback from our 40 visitors. The atmosphere was great too, very lively with great food and beer, with a fun interactive pub quiz based on beer throughout the evening. Derek Orford, Master Brewer & Beer Sommelier, kept everyone entertained and informed with his wisdom and deep knowledge discussing the beer and food pairing. The food of course, (menu and food created by the talented Yvette Farrell) was a complete hit! Check out the menu in our previous blog post Food & Drink Pairing
Unashamed plug time
Paul says; Hillside is an exciting brewery running green sustainable brewing methods with a wide range of beer & craft ales. It’s a family owned and run company, based in the Forest of Dean on a stunning 40 acre farm. We opened in May 2014 and have since received over 16 awards. We offer Brewery tours & tasting, team building days including additional fun activities, cookery classes and more! We also have an onsite shop selling our beers, merchandise, and local produce such as wine and chutneys and even beer ice cream! We are the perfect location for the perfect day out! We pride ourselves in producing high quality ales in small batches of the finest ingredients using traditional methods which have been developed and mastered over a lifetime. We want to change people’s perception of beer and what can be achieved. We are dedicated to sustainable brewing and we want to share our passion for great beer with you. Yvette;Harts Barn Cookery School launched in 2011 and have gone from strength to strength. We believe in the ‘socialisation’ of food, bringing people together whether they are learning a new skill in the kitchen to sitting down and enjoying the fruits of their labours. Most of all though, we believe in the food, the freshness, the quality, the flavours, the localism and above all, great ingredients cooked simply to produce the finest plate from the Forest & Wye.
Upcoming Events for food and beer lovers.
Check out both websites for full events listings this autumn and winter.
Have a beer and warm your cockles by the fire – Hillside bonfire night on Friday 6th
November, Christmas Market 5th and 6th December and a Christmas carol service on Friday 18th December.
Harts Barn have published their Supper Club schedule with “Indian and the 80’s” on 30th October, “Asian Flavours” on 27th November, Traditional Christmas Supper – several dates and a homage to the apple at their Wassail on 15th January 2016.
Ever in search of great traditional preserves and chutneys (albeit with a modern twist) we were invited on a lovely tour of Little Stantway Farm small holding by owners Sue and Neil Mantle the other day.
Especially now in autumn – nature’s bounty can be overwhelming. Preserving was a way, in the days before freezers, to tap into the plentiful annual supply as well as to make lots of great tasting sweet and savoury accompaniments to food through the lean months.
This used to be a routine part of life in every residence from grand country houses to the most humble home. But it’s not old fashioned it is still very a modern skills to maintain. Just think for a moment how much supermarket shelf, and your own larder, space is given over to jams, pickles and chutneys.
Intent on keeping this tradition alive (nearly said preserving!) is Sue and Neil Mantle at Little Stantway Farm just outside Westbury. The couple moved to the Forest & Wye 13 years ago from Hertfordshire to their farmhouse home in desperate need of t.l.c. Most of the farms land and barns had already been split up and sold off separately. However, the couple had the house and five acres left and promptly set about returning the plot to work as a viable small holding and a family home.
Neil showed us an aerial photograph of Little Stantway farm from the 60’s. In the photograph the surrounding outbuildings are still obviously in use and associated to the pre-renovation farmhouse. Two other things are also obvious in the image; all of the gardens closest to the house are given over to a cottage veg garden and, in the top right, a plum orchard, heavy in leaf, and at full production density.
Just a few short years later and the image had been re-taken from a similar angle and altitude. This time an open field occupies the space of the orchard and the house garden are derelict and abandoned. All that remains in the orchard field on our walkabout are a two Blaisdon plums and an old but healthy Perry pear tree, all three now merely ghostly echoes of the serried ranks of the old orchard and a farming history temporarily lost. The pears don’t look like Blakeney’s, if anything they are a little more pear shaped with the look of a russet apple – any suggestions aficionados?
It’s true that Sue and Neil started the travels toward being small holder in true TV property show tradition by moving to the country and getting a few chickens. But they have embraced the life much more fully than that. Sheep were acquired and moved in as lawn mowers to help keep the bits of pasture Neil and Sue had cleared, clear while they worked on the rest of it. A few more chickens and it’s all too late – hey presto – you’re a smallholder proper. They also have a very small herd of Dexter cattle, noted for the placid nature, small size and easy handling. A couple of the cows have calved this year and their offspring lie idly beside mum watching our walkabout with bemusement. So in the nature of small holding their stock is slowly increasing.
As soon as they arrived at Little Stantway Sue made a start on her own personal preserving passion. Inspired by her own grandmother “who was a great preserver” Sue took all of the available produce as it came into season from their own small veg patch and made the most of it in her modest farmhouse kitchen. Foraging the farm hedgerows provided blackberries and wild damsons. The Blaisdon plums and Greengages from the garden together with anything Neil can produce from the veg plot is all fair game for Sue to jam, pickle chutney and preserve.
Sues traditional approach and the use of quality produce makes for a fantastic product which initially only spread as far as friends, family and neighbours. Her appreciative neighbours reciprocated and took to leaving the odd bucket of fruit and forage on the farm doorstep in return!
This is a passionate hobby on a rollercoaster ride to becoming a thriving business in true cottage industry tradition. It wasn’t long before a few local shops started to take interest in the fruit of Sue’s labours and Little Stantway Farm produce was born. Sue says her production is small and so she can afford to pot up her wonderful sieved raspberry jam, Blaisdon spiced plum jam and heritage jam made with the purple Belle de Louvains fruit as well as her great tasting and savoury chutney in jars of all sizes from the smallest single potion pots to the more standard 1 pound jars. This offers a lot of flexibility for anyone else wanting to use Little Stantway as a supplier for B&B’s, hampers, wedding favours and pub lunches etc.
One of the greatest things about writing this magazine is when you pose the standard question of “what is in your product range….” And someone answers…”depends what’s available”. All seasonal, all traditional, all natural and all done by Sue whilst looking out of the kitchen window onto the garden – probably just as her grandmother would have done.
We put Sue’s produce to the test.
Little Stantway Farm greengage jam – lovely and smooth with a great little bit of fresh acidity on the back of the palate. A very subtle taste which would be great on toast or with creamy and blue cheeses or savoury.
Little Stantway Farm tomato and chilli chutney – great “hot greenhouse fresh” lively tomato flavour to start and then wait a second or two for the warmth of the chilli to come through in the second wave of flavour. Very nice indeed!
If you’d like to taste Little Stantway Farm produce they are stocked at; Baileys Stores in Newnham, Westbury Post Office, Farm & Country Agricultural, Newnham, The Peepshow Gallery, Mitcheldean and Hubble Bubble Café on Westgate Street in Gloucester.
We spoke to Rae at Hubble Bubble about Little Stantway Farm; “At the Hubble Bubble Cafe we go to great effort to try to source great local produce wherever possible. We also believe in low food miles, using free range/ organic and wild meats, as well as keeping our menu in line with the seasonal produce available throughout the year. We decided to stock Sue’s jams and chutneys because of their great taste but also because of her simply traditional techniques. We love the idea of a woman in her kitchen with seasonal produce and a big pot!
We have had nothing but compliments about Sue’s jams – especially when they are on top of one of our scones!”
Ben and Steph Culpin over at Apple County Cider have been working really hard to consolidate the Whitehouse Farm brand of traditionally made cider. And their latest addition to the range is a beautiful single variety Perry. The award winner cider maker, Ben Culpin, is on a mission to put Monmouthshire back on the cider making map as one of the top apple counties. And he’s not doing too badly already! Ben and Steph have previously scooped the “silverware” at the Welsh Cider and Perry Championships. And now their Vilberie dry cider beat off 10,000 entries to be named as one of Britain’s Top 50 Foods in the Great Taste 2015 awards. Apple County success in these awards, run as a blind tasting by some of the food industry’s most sensitive palates puts them in with a chance of winning the Great Taste Golden Fork award to be announced on 7th September.
We’ll be running an in depth feature on Apple County later in the year but for now, Ben and Steph welcome visitors to the farm in the picturesque village of Skenfrith situated in the beautiful county of Monmouthshire. Or you can buy cider from them online. Just visit the website for more details.
If we’re really honest we weren’t too sure at all why we hadn’t already tried Apple County Cider. Heard of them of course, based in the beautiful wilds of Monmouthshire, but somehow hadn’t gotten around to a sampling their cider – must address our shortcomings! Continue Reading This Article
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What are you having for Christmas dinner? Well, it’s good to know that so many people have bought products from local producers. In fact, with the quality of our local butchers and farms, you’d be hard pressed to find anything comparable for the same prices in a supermarket! Continue Reading This Article
Are you busily stocking up with goodies in time for the festive period? many of us take this for granted during the festive period. However, a growing number of people can’t even afford basic essential such as pasta, rice and milk – and this happening now in the UK! Continue Reading This Article