Spanish Floods

ALL CHANGE: catastrophic floods in Spain over the winter months are likely to result in a shortage on some of our much loved vegetables.

With almost 80% of our winter veg coming from Spain, and with almost two thirds of some crops being destroyed, it looks like we may have to be a bit more creative with what culinary delights we rustle up in the kitchen.

Expect to see a shortage in salad leaves, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli and courgettes to name but a few. Similarly, expect to see a reduction in fresh herb availability.

The helpful chaps at Total Produce have given some pointers on what veg alternatives you can trial;

  • Brassicas: All kales, including cavolo nero and purple sprouting broccoli, romanesco
  • Roots: celeriac, beetroots, artichokes
  • Cabbage: hispi, sweetheart

The Total Produce January Market Report 2017

With alternatives available, perhaps we should see the shortage as a challenge to try new things?

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Eat Seasonal: Autumn 

The trees are changing colour with beautiful hues if auburn and orange taking over, and as the leaves start to fall off the trees, there’s no denying it – Autumn is finally here. 

This part of the year always brings along mixed emotions for me, partly of sadness that the summer is now over, and partly of excitement for the cold, dark nights sat infront of an open fire or the evenings spent catching up with friends over a hearty stew or casserole. Cliche they both may be, but for me they represent Autumn at its best. 

For food lovers everywhere this time of the year has plenty to offer, with the selection of seasonal produce being vast and enticing. At a time when hibernation seems like the only way to go, why not spend some of those chilly evenings experimenting with the seasonal produce that our country has to offer?

Seasonal produce

A few of my favourites for Autumn are; 

Vegetables: Beetroot, Broccoli, Butternut Squash, Celeriac, Chicory, Kale, Khlorabi, Leeks, Runner Beans, Salisfy, Shallots and Sweetcorn 

Fruit: Apples, Elderberries, Figs, Pears, Quince

Meat: Game such as Goose, Guinea Fowl, Hare, Partridge, Pheasant  and Pigeon

Not only does seasonal produce tend to be cheaper as it is in abundance, but also contains mainerals and nutrients that your body needs for the specific season – need I say any more! 

Happy Real Bread Week 2016!

We’re right in the middle of ‘Real Bread Week’, the annual celebration of supporting your local, independent Real Bread Bakery – and dare I say it, having a go at making your own.

Bristol is a hive of activity at the moment, and we’re lucky to have so many independent bakeries with so much on offer. What’s equally great to see, is the support that local restaurants and individuals give to them.

Here’s a few of my favourites – which I’m hoping you’ve already tried, but if you haven’t – now’s the time;

Marks Bread Bakery

Founded by Mark and Maria Newman in November 2009

Based on North Street, Marks Bread has been at the heart of Bedminster’s regeneration since it opened in 2009. Marks Bread supply over 26 local restaurants and shops, with most of their deliveries being done by bicycle.

Marks Bread offer a speciality bread daily, with today’s being a New York Rye – and tomorrow’s being an Olive and Thyme bread. Simply delicious.

Not one to be limited to just bread, they also offer croissants and pain au chocolats, if you get there in time, they’re a wonderful start to your Saturday morning. Make sure you also try their homemade donuts – filled with a different homemade jam every week.

Marks Bread have an adjoining café which as well as being a great hub of activity daily offers events such as their pop-up pizza night (the next one being on 26th May) and Mark’s Afternoon Tea (the next one being on 5th June).

If you haven’t tried Marks Bread yet, where have you been living! But seriously, get yourself down there – you won’t regret it.

http://www.marksbread.co.uk/

East Bristol Bakery

With a slogan of ‘We Believe in Real Bread’, East Bristol Bakery certainly don’t disappoint.

Founded by Alex back in 2012. Located on the vibrant and buzzy St Marks Road, this bakery sees queues of people on a Saturday morning patiently waiting to get their morning loaf.

Much like Marks Bread, East Bristol Bakery has the much valued support of local independent restaurants that eagerly incorporate the bread into their menu.

The bakery also offers a delicious selection of cakes to tempt you further – make sure you try their chocolate rye cookies – they are d-i-vine.

http://eastbristolbakery.co.uk/

Harts Bakery

Tucked into a Victorian railway arch at Temple Meads station, this isn’t necessarily a bakery that you would stumble across by chance. But that hasn’t stopped its popularity soaring.

It took me a few years to discover this little gem, having heard murmurs and whispers from various people. When I did chose to venture over, I couldn’t stop myself from buying three slices of cake and two loaves of bread.

Opened by Laura in 2012, this bakery has gone from strength to strength, providing vast amounts of local business people with their morning coffee and croissant, as well as having a great little café where people can sit back and watch the bakers in action.

With so many cakes on offer, I couldn’t even begin to suggest which one you go for – if in doubt, get three or four – dare I say it, you won’t regret it!

My favourite to date – the chocolate honeycomb brownie.

http://www.hartsbakery.co.uk/

The Stock Exchange Bakery

One of the newest additions to Bristol, the Stock Exchange Bakery is based in Bristol’s old Stock Exchange building on St Nicholas Street.

The Stock Exchange Bakery originally started at the Whiteladies Road Farmers Market, and after two years – moved into this historic building.

The Stock Exchange Bakery offers great a fantastic selection of breakfast and lunch options, as well as smoothies and juices.

An absolute must is their rainbow bagels – a definite novelty!

http://www.thestockexchangebakery.com

Baked

I’ve heard a lot of great things about this bakery, but unfortunately I haven’t quite made it down there yet.

Based in Totterdown, this bakery is run by Ashley Symons, who has previously rustled up a storm in The Albion and The Pump House – I have no doubt that this little gem needs to be tested – and quickly!

http://www.bakedbristol.co.uk/baked/4587528695

Pullins Bakers

Having published this post yesterday, I happened to stumble across Pullins stall this morning on my way to work by St Nicks Market.

Based in Somerset, Pullins have two shops – one in Clevedon and one in Yatton. Too far to go? Panic not – they are at Corn Street Farmers Market every Wednesday – and slightly further up the road on Wine Street every Friday.

I’m tucking into one of their Olive Sticks whilst writing this – and it is beautiful! A cheesy crispy breadstick, stuffed with whole fresh olives – a great addition to the lunchtime salad!

http://www.pullinsbakers.co.uk/

Shipton Mill

Panic not – this isn’t a bakery that you’ve somehow overlooked – but seeming as it’s Real Bread Week, it definitely deserves a mention.

Shipton Mill located near Tetbury is an organic flour mill that supplies many of our much loved independent bakeries with the finest flour your good money can buy!

Believe it or not, this mill has been producing flour since the time of the Doomsday Book – and just keeps going from strength to strength.

As well as offering all of the usual types of flour you would expect, Shipton Mill also makes Rye Flour, Spelt Flour, Pastry Flour and many more.

Thankfully you don’t need to go all the way to Tetbury to pick up a bag, as many shops across Bristol stock it. However – if you do have a few hours to kill, then I would suggest going and having a look around – it’s quite remarkable!

http://www.thestockexchangebakery.com/home.html

So, there’s no excuses now – get your apron on, and get baking! X

 

The Community Farm

Image 1The Community Farm is based in the Chew Valley. They are a not-for-profit, social enterprise aiming to help change food culture and the way in which food is grown.

When they are unable to provide produce from their fields, they try to source as locally as possible and through a network of organic growers.

The Community Farm’s website offers about eight boxes for fruit and/or vegetables. I decided to go for their small ‘family provider’ box with the website describing it as ‘a tasty assortment of vegetables and fruit for the smaller family. 6 to 8 varieties of vegetables and 3 to 4 types of fruit’.

The afternoon before delivery day I got a telephone call to let me know that their boxes get delivered from 4am. A great idea – that they aim to deliver early to avoid traffic and thus reduce carbon emissions. Well, a great idea for anyone other than the driver!!

As expected, the box came at about 5am. Thankfully they left it outside the door. In the box, I received;

  1. Celeriac
  2. 2 Red Peppers
  3. Butternut Squash
  4. Broccoli
  5. Sweet Potato
  6. White Onions
  7. Kale
  8. White Potato
  9. Blood Red Oranges
  10. Apples
  11. Bananas

The box also came with a very cute booklet about vegetables of the month, and news from the farm. The only slight comment that I would make her – was that the vegetables of the month didn’t correlate to the vegetables in my box – but I’ve saved them for future boxes!

All of the fruit and vegetables were delicious, except for the apples which I didn’t eat as they weren’t very fresh. But that hasn’t put me off!

Leigh Court Farm

 Having traipsed across the internet trying to find locally sourced fruit and vegetable boxes, I came across Leigh Court’s weekly organic vegetable box scheme. Leigh Court offer fruit and vegetable boxes as well as a mixture of both. They also offer various ‘extras’ such as eggs and cheese. I opted for their mixed fruit and vegetable box at a very reasonable £15. I opted or collecting the box from my local community centre, and having initially forgotten to pick it up, I dashed across Bedminster to get it. The contents of the box was as follows;

  1. Leeks
  2. CarrotsIMG_3904
  3. Cauliflower
  4. Turnip
  5. Cabbage
  6. Red Onions
  7. Apples
  8. Blood Red Oranges
  9. Bananas

The blood red oranges were possibly the best I have ever tasted, so sweet and juicy!

Abel & Cole

 IMG_3997

So, I ordered Abel & Cole’s ‘Keen Cooks Fruit &Veg Box’ as well as their ‘Salad Box’. In fact, that’s a lie, I pushed the boat out and also ordered their meat and fish boxes – all in the name of ‘research’! In Abel & Cole’s ‘Marvellous Meat Box’ I became the lucky owner of some diced lamb, braising steak and pork loin. In the fish box there was haddock, fish pie mix and some smoked salmon.

The fruit & veg boxes were however a bit of a disappointment. I ended up with duplicates in both boxes, resulting in copious amounts of beetroot, lettuce and peppers. To be fair to Abel and Cole, when I emailed them, they responded promptly to refund me for the duplicate vegetables, and to explain in more detail that I could alter my fruit and veg choices on their website if I needed to.

Verdict: As long as you’re proactive about checking what’s in the boxes each week, then a good option. Their fish and meat boxes are fantastic.

Since writing this, I realized that I didn’t take any photographs of my boxes(!). So, I ordered another one – to see if the experience was better, and also so I could put a photograph up on here. Happily this box was much better!

Again I ordered the ‘Keen Cooks Fruit & Veg Box’ which included; spinach, tomatoes, a green pepper, mushrooms, artichokes, oranges, pears and strawberries. All of which I often buy – except for the artichoke! I could have swapped it for another vegetable, as I have no idea what to do with it – but I’ve decided to give it a go!

Local Produce

I’ve been researching different companies offering local, organic produce in and around Bristol.

I’d read Megan Kimble’s ‘Unprocessed; my city-dwelling year of reclaiming real food’ book. In it, she had talked about community supported agriculture (CSA). She talked about CSAs in the USA only but CSAs is also present across the UK. The idea seems fantastic; individuals invest in the farming of the land both with time and/or money, and in return receiving weekly/monthly produce.

I’ve researched schemes in Bristol, and have come across the following;

  1. Sims Hill

On first glance at their website, Sims Hill is located at Frenchay. They offer shares of the enterprise in return for fresh seasonal veg on a weekly basis. The shares offered consist of either full or half shared as well as membership for people who want to help out.

  1. The Community Farm

On first glance at their website, The Community Farm is ‘a community-owned social enterprise, growing and selling organic food through a box delivery service’. Their farm is out in Chew Magna.

With my own garden requiring attention before I commit to helping others, and wanting to see exactly what is out there before committing to one scheme/concept, I’ve been trying various local and national fruit & veg boxes.

Find out about my experiences to date, here.