Archives for posts with tag: Stroud market

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I’ve always loved beautiful gardens and find myself feeling very happy when I have even the tiniest patch to call my own. Years ago I simply had a few troughs planted out on my first floor flat balcony and that progressed to a small but truly spiritual space at the back of my London pad. Now I am indulging in the most wonderful huge garden which is bringing me loads of joy.

The interesting thing is why there is always such a connection between gardening and cheffing. I know that it makes absolute sense that the people who cook your food like to connect with growing your food but I am not convinced it has always been as integrated as it is these days.

Restaurants like Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and The Star Inn have integrated their gardens and restaurants for years now and I wonder if that is part of the reason they have so many accolades. Others have followed in their droves including the Pig Hotel with their kitchen garden linked to the hotel and many other gastropub owners who have a desire to link the growing garden to the kitchen menu. There is no doubt that the flavours and interest of the menu are enhanced by being able to pluck something straight from under the window outside.

Even in the inner city of London or New York there are chefs finding space to create their own garden and grow their own produce. In London, the rooftop plot at Pied a Terre boasts over 200 plants and the River Cafe continues to propagate their produce from the garden they created back in 1987.

Bello, Book and Candle rooftop garden

Bello, Book and Candle rooftop garden

In New York, Bell Book & Candle have a rooftop aeroponic garden growing their greens and some fruit and and the likes of Rosemary’s, Roberta’s, The LCL and ABC kitchen also follow suit. They are all getting great reviews for finding the shortest route from field to fork with their own roof to table gardens.

There is also a big fashion to having bee hives in inner cities as well. Fortnums have their own hives on their roof which in turn produces their own honey and there is a company called Urban Bees who will help city dwellers set up their own bees and then there’s Hire a Hive which was a business proposition featured on Dragon’s Den which is now going strong.

Food shopping for dinner at Babylonstoren

Food shopping for dinner at Babylonstoren

I find myself pondering what to put in mine and love the idea that you can grow great things to eat that are also wonderful to look at. My gardener in London had some great suggestions. Artichokes are like some sort of prehistoric beast taking over from the earth and cavalo nero is not only imposing and curvaceious but yummy too. Red chard was just lovely adding colour as well as food options and of course peas growing up tripods give height as well as interest.

The two most inspiring examples I have seen on my travels in terms of a growing kitchen shop is Babylonstoren in the winelands of Cape Town and in Rosendals Tradgard in Stockholm.

Rosendals Tradgard in Stockholm

Rosendals Tradgard in Stockholm

I guess it is this connection with the earth and all things that grow from it that inspires us to create good food. I was listening to the latest interview with Dan Barber who is the master of all things from the ground and has now written his next book all about it. He set up Blue Hill at Stone Barns and really has changed the way we could cultivate produce for the better. His work not only with the soil, but also the rotation of planting, is changing the quality of the raw product and by working on different varieties as well, he is discovering some amazing things about veg that you can listen to in that interview. It was inspiring to eat at a restaurant where the first 12 courses were to be eaten with our fingers and 11 of the 24 savoury courses were vegetarian. It was about picking up the most wonderful version of a carrot and eating it straight from the field it was picked in. What more could a chef do to improve on nature?

The fashion to connect more with the grower and produce is reflected in the continued strength of farmers markets across the world. Watching the film Chef last week had Jon Favreau’s character at the LA markets that I so enjoyed and this weekend I was back at the award winning market in Stroud. Once again there was an abundance of seasonal fruit & veg to inspire your cooking. There is no point going there with a list as it is the product that creates the recipes and menus. I was also taken to Jolly Nice which is a lovely concept parked on the side of the street with a great organic stall as well as home baked goods and a funky airstream trailer serving hot food. Who knew that a roadside venue could be so great but here in the Cotswold countryside it really is charming.

Freshly plucked tayberries

Freshly plucked tayberries

We have had the most indulgent weekend cooking with beautiful perfumed tayberries plucked from a friend’s garden, yellow courgettes adding colour to our Sunday afternoon ham hock salad and a delicious goats cheese from the lovely Renee at Windrush Valley Goat Dairy which was a centrepiece to our Saturday lunch browser board.

Windrush Valley Goat Dairy at Stroud market

Windrush Valley Goat Dairy at Stroud market

Just adding some fabulous herbs from the garden to our salad and a frond of fennel in our water made everything seem so much more beautiful not only to look at but to eat. I think by connecting back to the earth you stimulate even more of your senses because your hands have grown it too and there seems to be a heightened smell and taste just because it is so fresh and vibrant.

Ham hock, bean, yellow courgette and lovage salad with honey mustard dressing

Ham hock, bean, yellow courgette and lovage salad with honey mustard dressing

I am going back to my raised beds, plucking the wild strawberries from the mouths of the birds and planning the next phase of planting for my delight and delectation.

I have just had the most wonderful weekend with my friends in their country cottage in the Gloucestershire.

It is at times like this that I really appreciate the country lifestyle, particularly when I share it with two people who are so into their food in the same way I am, except that they are proper professionals. Mr and Mr Melrose and Morgan do such a great job in their shops and I always love to hear about what they are working on and who they are connecting with as it is always spot on. They have such an understated style and yet do food so incredibly, properly and well.

Laverstoke Park Farm organic, biodynamic blackcurrants and gooseberries

Laverstoke Park Farm organic, biodynamic blackcurrants and gooseberries

Saturday breakfast set the tone with the most perfectly cooked boiled farm egg, yummy coffee and a warm raisin, apricot, bran muffin fresh from their shop. Sunday we paced ourselves with buffalo milk yogurt, blackcurrant compote made from Laverstoke Park Farm organic blackcurrants and Melrose and Morgan sour cherry granola which is just the best.

This cottage of theirs is perfect, set in the outskirts of Sapperton in rolling countryside with their own garden and in the catchment of some great pubs and markets. They have kept it simple and homely with mismatched crockery from the local antique shop plus lots of little touches to make it theirs, centred around the most beautiful big wooden kitchen table which is the heart of the whole place.

Some of our market produce

Some of our market produce on the wonderful wooden kitchen table

On Saturday we went to Stroud market which is apparently one of the biggest, most popular farmer’s markets in the country and winner of the best farmer’s market award from FARMA for the second year this year. It is so well supported locally and you can see why when you shop the stalls. We created our weekend menu as we wandered around picking and choosing our way to the best offerings. I brought some bits with me from the farm which added to the market fayre resulted in a larder full of goodies… the perfect thing for a trio who love to cook, cheered on by a glorious sunny day to create yummy things and potter around.

Dappled garden sunlight on our frittata lunch

Dappled garden sunlight on our frittata lunch

Throughout the day, we split our roles really well with Mr. M in the garden in charge of pruning, planting and bringing in all the best the garden had to offer such as fresh herbs, beans and leaves. Other Mr. M was most definitely head chef running a slick kitchen and creating lovely tasty treats. He knocked up this simple lunch frittata and quinoa, broad bean and feta salad plus a banana and chocolate cake baked in time for tea. I took on my favourite role of head chopper and prep chef under Mr. M’s tutelage which is always fun. There was no room for dinner so we popped to the local Butchers Arms pub and put the world to rights as we snacked our way through a couple of their well made starters.

Sunday was a bit of a fresh, rainy day but we pushed on with a proper country stroll to build up an appetite for the buffalo forerib I brought from the farm. The neighbourhood woodlands were like something out of the Lord of the Rings film with huge old trees, pretty moss encrusted stone walls and the odd deer lurching through the shrubbery. An hours stroll was just right and then we were fully ensconced in the kitchen creating the most perfect Sunday lunch.

Sunday lunch in style

Sunday lunch in style

Mr. M’s beets were boiled, roasted in balsamic vinegar and complemented with garden fresh fennel fronds, pan fried greens and a dash of great quality oil. We had a radish and bean salad plus a salmoriglio or Summer thyme sauce made fresh with garden herbs. Central to the table was that wonderful forerib cooked perfectly to 55 degrees by Mr. M and rested whilst his baby Yorkshire puddings puffed up to bursting in the hot oven. Accompanied by a bottle of English red wine from Kenton vineyard in Devon we had the most perfect celebration of everything we did over the weekend.

I feel like I have had the best holiday and guess I now need to get back to the real world. I can only hope that my impending move to the country will facilitate a similar lifestyle and then all will be good with the world.