Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Category: Food Heroes (page 2 of 2)

Food Heroes – June

Yep folks it’s that time of the month again when I remember that I have this monthly post that I do and it’s almost the end of the month so really should do it. So here for your enjoyment are 3 more fab food companies to check out.

Shaken Oak Mustard

These guys produce mustard grown in fields less than a mile from where I grew up, when I was a child my parents bought it from the local shop which at the time was one of the few outlets. Now they have grown and are selling through a number of farm shops and the Co-Op chain throughout Oxfordshire and for those not in the area they have an online shop. These mustards are as different from Colmans as you can get, they are coarse grain, packed with flavour, herbs and also local beer! They make an excellent addition to gravy (particularly with sausages) or simply in a cheese sandwich.

Hobbs House Bakers

My first experience of bread from these wonderful bakers was in the form of a giant sandwich from their shop in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. This soon became a regular stop off point on the trips between home in Oxford and university in Bristol. They now supply a large number of farm shops and small stores throughout the South West, plus you can buy online. I also noticed that they are running bread making courses if you want to brush up on your home baking skills. I’m a big fan of their light rye sourdough, great for dipping in oil and vinegar. Also conveniently wheat free for those with an intolerance.

Goose Island brewery

My final company this week isn’t remotely local but they do brew a beer with the best name in the world. You see this beer is called Matilda! A friend spotted a bottle at a food market and bought it for me and you know what? It was tasty! (but would you have expected anything less?) I’m trying to source some more of it so if anyone happens to have seen some in this country I’d love to know.

The Fools Food Heroes – May

Yes, it’s almost the end of the month and I have again almost forgotten to do this months post. No shortage of food heroes to mention though, just a lack of organisation on my part.  So here in all their glory are my food heroes for May:

Wychwood Brewery

This brewery is based in my home town of Witney in Oxfordshire, although quite a well known brand now and available in lots of supermarkets they still brew on their original premises. A friend of mine lives in a house overlooking the yard and on brewing days the smell is just incredible. Hobgoblin is their flagship beer, a dark malty affair perfect for a winter’s evening in the pub. For the summer they have Wychcraft, a much lighter, fresher ‘Blonde beer’ that is great with a summer BBQ and one of the Lady of the Manor’s favourites. You also have to check out their website, a very impressive beast with lots of goblins and dark woods to explore, there is also a tool to find your local pub serving their beer.

DJ Haggett

This is a butchers in Silverton near Exeter, I first visited this place when my older brother lived in Exeter and now make a detour to visit whenever in the area. Quite honestly it is some of the best meat you can buy, but that isn’t why I visit. I go for the pork pies! They’re handmade on site and are 10 times better than those little Melton Mowbray things in the supermarket. Last time I went in there the butcher was telling me how they were freshly made so could be frozen etc, he offered to seal wrap the pie if that was my intention. He was slightly surprised when I informed him I was going to tuck into it immediately. No point delaying these things is there? Unfortunately they don’t have a website, but if you’re interested in visiting you can call 01392 860226 or just visit the village. It’s not a big place and the butchers is right in the middle.

The Lounges

A bit of a different animal this one being a cafe/bar rather than a food producer, but hey it’s my food category so I’ll make up the rules as I go along. This is a small group of cafe bar’s dotted around Bristol, mainly in small neighbourhoods away from the city centre. We lived in many different locations in Bristol over the years we were there and were fortunate to be near 4 of their locations at one point or another. The ethos of this company is to find premises that are a little bit different (an old bank for example) and deck them out with a hotch potch of tables and old church pews and chairs. They serve a simple menu of meals and some tapas style dishes along with one of the best cooked breakfasts in the west. The atmosphere in them on a Sunday morning is just perfect, lots of people in their with their children drinking coffee and eating cooked breakfasts. One of the main things we miss about living in Bristol and unfortunately quite rare to find such a collection of independent cafe’s these days. (it turns out after looking at their website that they have now expanded to other cities, so their may be one near you!)

The fools food heroes – March

For March’s installment of food heroes I have 3 more fine food companies for you, as ever these are companies that are a regular feature in our household and ones that you really do have to check out.

Box Steam Brewery

Tunnel Vision 9 Gallon Cask

You may notice a theme starting in these food posts – beer. The UK really does have some great small breweries and thankfully have become fashionable again. We really should celebrate them and there is nothing I enjoy more than discovering a new one. When we moved to Wiltshire last year we came across these guys based in the pretty village of Box, famous for its rather long tunnel. The beer is sold in a few of our favourite pubs that are conveniently placed on good dog walks. The Golden Bolt is a perfect light, summer beer with citrus flavours, while Funnel Blower is a much darker malty beer. The beer can be ordered from their website in bottles or casks.

The Real Olive Company

I have to be honest, this one isn’t a favourite of mine, but rather the lady of the manor. She LOVES olives and this company based in Bristol sell some of the best. They have a regular market stall in St. Nicholas market in Bristol and also attend some of the farmers markets. They also have a shop and a very nice restaurant that has a fabulous location right on the harbour in Bristol. They sell every type of Olive you could ever wish for along with other tapas style delicacies such as stuffed vine leaves. If you’re a real addict you can also order them wholesale….

Yeo Valley

Ok, I know these aren’t exactly a small, unknown company but I love them. They are in fact local to me and represent everything that a good food company should be. They produce fabulous tasting products, they care about how the food is produced and they try to give something back to the community. My favourite are the Greek Style yoghurt with honey, in fact I have one every day on muesli in the morning.  They also have a rather fab website so go check it out!

The Fools Food Heroes – February

So my new regular feature started in December has been so regular that I missed January! Oh well I’m sure no one noticed. So here is my February food heroes, 3 great companies who are firm favourites in this household. Please go and take a look and try something new, if you do try them I’d love to hear your feedback.

Godminster

The lady of the manor and I first tried cheddar from the lovely folk at Godminster when visiting the Soil Association Organic Food fair in Bristol. I often struggle to find a cheddar that isn’t so strong that it’s sour and tastes like vegetables, but also isn’t bland and lifeless. Their vintage cheddar fits the bill perfectly, it comes in beautiful purple wax and is aged for 12 months before being selected by Godminster. Plus if you have a cheese obsessed partner then they also do the cheese in a heart shape, perfect for the upcoming valentines day! Their website has lots more information about how the cheese’s are made if you’re interested and you can order online if there isn’t a stockist near you.

St. Peter’s Brewery

My brother introduced me to this beer, the wine merchants he worked for were one of the first places to stock it, although you can now find it in most supermarkets. I love the unusual shape of the bottles, nothing else is like this and the contents certainly match expectations. My personal favourite is the golden ale, a perfect light beer for a summer’s evening, especially when combined with barbequed pork steaks! The beer is brewed using British malt and hops and water drawn from chalk below the brewery in Suffolk. I buy mixed cases from Majestic Wine whenever I visit which is good way to get a variety to try and they often have deals on as a bonus.

The Bath Pig

Chorizo? From England? Surely not?! But yes, fabulous chorizo at that, love the spicy one, a few chunks gently fried and added to a tomato sauce and pasta is just yummy! The Bath Pig sell a few different flavours of chorizo, in both cured and semi cured depending on your preference and desired use. The chorizo is of course made with 100% British pork and the finest natural ingredients. I have seen it for a sale in farm shops and the like but check out their website for more info on stockists.

Fish fight – have you joined the revolution

I finally caught up (excuse the pun) with the Fish Fight programs at the weekend and my what a revelation. In case this has passed you by, this is the latest campaign by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall to address clear failings in how we are catching and eating sea fish. His programs had a very real impact on me and motivated me to put fingers to keyboard and write this post. I buy good quality, free range meat that comes from well looked after animals. So why shouldn’t I approach fish buying in the same way? I implore you to read on and sign up to Hugh’s campaign.

I’ve been conscious for a while now that buying certain species of fish (particularly cod) isn’t necessarily the ‘right’ thing to be doing. But this was based on research by scientists about the levels of fish stocks. What Hugh has done is shown that while the actions are correct the reasoning isn’t necessarily exactly right. It is clear that we need to take action before we ruin the sea’s for future generations.

From the comfort of your arm chair it’s very easy to see that there are issues in the world that someone needs to correct. But knowing how little old you can help instigate change is much harder, how many times have you sat at home watching children in need or comic relief and thought how terrible it is, but what difference is my few pounds going to make?

The big issue – discards at sea

This is where I think Hugh has been very clever. He’s focusing on one very important issue; discards at sea. Watching his three programs it was quite horrific seeing perfectly good fish thrown overboard dead because the fishermen didn’t have a quota to land them. The EU estimates that discard’s total between 40% and 60% of the total catch, that’s a lot of fish! The quota’s were clearly put there to address the issue of overfishing, so good intentions, but obviously they haven’t been effective. The quota’s aren’t reducing the amount of fish caught, they’re only reducing the amount of fish landed in ports. Hugh has recognised that we aren’t going to be able to change fishing techniques, but we can change the quota policy to achieve its objective.

The solutions

It was also quite startling how every person involved in the fishing industry from fisherman to port operator had the same opinion; change the quota system to a number of days fishing allowed and not number of fish to be caught. This would instantly eliminate discard and allow fishermen to operate a viable business.

To ensure a sustainable level of fish stocks a number of other solutions have been proposed by scientists and environmental groups. It isn’t a simple issue and will require the re-writing of the common fisheries policy by the EU. But I completely agree with Hugh that eliminating discards has to be top of the priority list.

What can we do?

Firstly please go and sign up to the campaign here. The more people who sign up the better, this will send a clear message to our politicians that this is an issue we care about and it needs addressing.

Secondly write to you MP and ask them to support the Fish Fight Early Day Motion which has been tabled by Zac Goldsmith, MP.

Finally, expand the fish you eat, try eating Coley or Pouting for example which are just like cod, but in a relative abundance in our seas. Ask your local fish and chip shop to stock other fish so that you can make a sustainable choice.

The fools food heroes – December

Drum roll please, I am pleased to announce the first ever regular topic on this ere blog! In a change to the usual wordy (ranty) posts that my blog seems to have evolved towards, I’m going to intersperse the heavy topics with something a little more light hearted.

A confession

As you may or may not know I LOVE FOOD, that’s right, I’m a foodie (perhaps even a food snob?). I don’t eat fast food, I spent my student years mainly at home so I could spend money on food and not beer and I buy all my meat from a butcher. I’ll preach to anyone that listens how good a free range chicken is or how much better a homemade cake is vs. one from a supermarket. I’m also pretty passionate about finding local, specialist producers who are making top quality and often unusual foods.

The new regular feature!

So I’d thought I’d start a regular (at least monthly) post to share a few of these producers in the hope of spreading the joy of eating the fabulous food that we make in this little country. There will inevitably be a South West England bias here as that’s where I live, but I make no apologies for that the region is pretty blessed. But I will endeavor to include at least some from other parts of the UK and if you know a producer who sells something amazing then let me know, always on the look out for recommendations. I may well stretch the definition of food to include pubs/restaurants at some point.

December’s selection

Until a year ago I lived in Bristol and had done for the previous 8 years, Bristol is a great city and has a rich food culture. The lady of the manor and I often frequented the Sunday farmers market at the tobacco factory where the first 2 companies always had a stall. Even since moving away from Bristol I still buy products from them and would definitely rate them ‘best in class’!

Pieminster pies

No doubt some of you will have heard of these lovely people, they make the BEST pies ever. Fact. The vast majority of the ingredients are sourced local to Bristol, they use a different kind of pastry for the top and the bottom to ensure the perfect pie and every pie is hand made. The pies even have great names; Moo Pie, PM Pie, Chicken of Aragon, mr porky pie. The fillings are chunky, full or flavour and have something for everyone.  They have outlets in Bristol of course, but also Oxford, Stoke on Trent and London, you can even get them on the Deli counter at Sainsbury’s. So if you get a chance check them out! Oh and they’re also on Twitter

Extract coffee

 My second recommendation and another market regular is Extract Coffee, they sell coffee sourced by themselves and roasted in small batches in Bristol. This means you get the freshest possible coffee; compare a bag from them to one from the supermarket and you will be amazed. The smell of fresh coffee fills the room and has a taste to match. You can order coffee mail order which is what I do now for little more than the cost in the supermarket and it arrives in a couple of days fresh from the roaster. My personal favourites are the pacific espresso and the after dinner blend. Many of the coffees carry fair trade or rain forest alliance certification also.

Walter Rose and Son

Finally I’d like to give a massive recommendation for my local butcher here in Trowbridge. Walter Rose and Son have shops in Trowbridge and Devizes, they sell not only meet but also fresh fish and have a deli counter. These days it’s often hard to find a good butcher, but these guys provide a great service and some excellent meat. It may not be all organic etc, but the quality is excellent. If I had to recommend one thing it would be their homemade sausages, particularly the venison and red currants. Yum! So if you ever in the area pop in and take a look.

I’d love to hear who your food heroes are, whose produce to you buy whenever you get chance?


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