Fantastic Forest Flatbreads at Harts Barn!

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Yvette Farrell, owner of Harts Barn Cookery School, has created her own iconic Forest of Dean signature dish – the ‘Forest Flatbread’. This artisan treat has the potential to become a definitive local food. So, what is it? Well, the flatbreads come in a range of flavours, and Yvette has used high quality local ingredients so they’re darned delicious!

The snowl…

The Forest Flatbreads have been inspired by traditional Forest of Dean miners’ food – the snowl. The miners took hollowed out loaves of bread down the mines which were stuffed full of lunch, rather like a Cornish pasty. Yvette loves history and wanted to create a local dish that had authenticity and historical ties to the area. However, selling hollowed out loaves of bread stuffed full of meat and veg isn’t really practical for all kinds of reasons (chiefly the bread going soggy), so Yvette took the idea and ran with flatbreads as a nod to this traditional Forest of Dean fare. (You can read more about snowls in Winifred Foley’s autobiographical work, A Child in the Forest)

The lowdown on Forest Flatbreads…

The Forest Flatbreads are a bit like naan bread. They are simple, but delicious, and stuffed with exciting fillings – so, they’re rather similar to keema or Peshwari naans.

Yvette’s love of fresh and local ingredients has fed into her recipes and she’s created four varieties so far. However, we could only give an unbiased and comprehensive review by trying all four of them for ourselves. I personally sampled each flavour and even gave some to family members for a second and third opinion.

Low gluten flour

Now, I’m not a particularly ‘bready’ person. Wheat tends to make me extremely tired and irritable. Unfortunately, many delicious things contain wheat. Frankly, life’s too short to avoid it all the time, or to always choose the gluten free option. Anyway, there aren’t any gluten free flatbreads (although you never know what Yvette might be planning – so watch this space).

I was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t get that nasty ‘wheaty’ feeling after eating the flatbreads. This feedback was passed on to Yvette who confirmed that she does, in fact, use low-gluten flour. So, that’s great to know if you don’t get on well with wheat or gluten – which many of us don’t.

The Harts Barn Cookery School logo.
Harts Barn Cookery School – Home to Yvette’s Forest Flatbreads!

The actual bread part

Given the fact that the bread only contains plain flour, yeast, salt water, it’s absolutely amazing and has a wonderful texture. This is what bread is meant to taste like, without preservatives and other hidden nasties!

The whole family agreed that they would make a great alternative to a sandwich in a packed lunch and that at £3.00 for two, they are good value for money, being of a high quality as well as being an extremely tasty snack. In fact, they wouldn’t be out of place in Waitrose (and they may possibly be gracing its shelves)! Given the choice between one of Yvette’s Forest Flatbreads and a shop bought pre-packed sarnie, it’s a no brainer. Pre-packed sarnies can sometimes fall under the category of ‘dirty food’ and can also be disappointing, with skimpy filling, dubious mayonnaise and sweaty cheese.

It’s also worth mentioning that you can put the flatbreads in the toaster (you can even freeze them and then defrost them in this way), almost like a posh, artisan pop tart! I had a bite of each when they were cold and then popped mine in the toaster. Warming or heating foods often brings out the flavours and textures – think of cheese left out of the fridge so it hits room temperature, or reheating a chilli to bring out a deeper, spicier flavour.

Heritage Pork & Cider

Ingredients: Flatbread dough (plain flour, yeast, salt water) heritage pork mince, apple, cider, sage, mixed herbs, salt & pepper, seasoned butter (butter, salt, pepper, garlic, mixed herbs).

I could taste the cider in this and the minced pork was very tasty. It was delicious toasted and made me think of an upmarket and lighter version of a pork and apple roll.

This wasn’t my favourite, but it was perfectly palatable. In all honesty, I don’t get very excited about pork, but if you do, you’re bound to love it. However, it’s not just any old pork; it’s pork from heritage breeds, and comes from local pigs that have been reared with high animal welfare standards.

Wild Boar & Red Wine

Ingredients: Flatbread dough (plain flour, yeast, salt water) wild boar mince, onion, garlic, red currant jelly (sugar, redcurrants), red wine, bay, thyme, salt & pepper, seasoned butter (butter, salt, pepper, garlic, mixed herbs).

This was a big hit and we all agreed that we loved the “herbiness”. Wild boar is such a rich and gamey meat, which makes it a natural companion for strong, deep flavours such as red wine. You can taste the bay leaves and thyme, which perfectly compliment the boar and red wine.

Now, I am crazy about game, so this got an instant thumbs up from me, and it also went down extremely well with the family.

Wild boar really deserves to be higher on our list of local foods and I think we should really turn the swine into an attraction for people who live outside of the area. How about a wild boar and game festival?

Double Gloucester & Chutney

Ingredients: Flatbread dough (plain flour, yeast, salt water), Double Gloucester cheese, Orchard Chutney (apples, pears, onions, garlic, raisins, cider vinegar, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, salt, dark brown sugar).

This was my personal favourite and the family loved it too. It’s definitely one to pop in the toaster! This melts the cheese which, in turn, gives the bread a lovely fatty quality.

This really is local food at its best. You have the Double Gloucester cheese and the Orchard Chutney, which brings to mind our local orchards that line the banks of the Severn.

You can really taste the chutney – which is absolutely gorgeous. It’s not your run of the mill stuff. It’s extra special and bursting with flavour, thanks to the cider vinegar, garlic, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric.

Cheese and chutney is a classic combination that we’re all familiar with. In fact, it’s such a classic that it can sometimes pale into insignificance next to more exotic combinations. Nevertheless, this variety of flatbread is far from ordinary!

Venison & Bramble

Ingredients: Flatbread dough (plain flour, yeast, salt water), venison mince, onion, garlic, bramble sirop, red wine, vinegar, thyme, mace, ground juniper, salt & pepper, seasoned butter (butter, salt, pepper, garlic, mixed herbs).

Venison and bramble are definitely flavours of the forest. I go wild for venison and I love blackberries. So, I thoroughly enjoyed these flatbreads (as did the family). The juniper and red wine added some extra savoury ‘oomph’ to the mix. However, if I was to level one criticism at this variety, it would be that I’d like to taste a little more of the bramble sirop coming through. However, the sweet and savoury thing isn’t to everyone’s taste.

Vegan Forest Flatbread coming soon…

Vegetarians can enjoy the scrumptious Double Gloucester & chutney flavour flatbread, but if you’re vegan and wondering “What about me?” – fear not! Yvette is working on a vegan masterpiece, and if it’s anything like the rest, we won’t be disappointed!

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