The Blog

Welcome to our award winning blog


Here you can find a collection of our thoughts, reports and ramblings together with some fun things we find along the way. We try to update the blog at least once a week and more often during busy periods so make sure you check back regularly..

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Apr 13 2017 10:00AM

Britain's network of cycle paths provides the perfect opportunity to discover free food and get fit at the same time.

April is a great time to take advantage or the improving weather by getting on your bike. One of our favourite springtime activities is a bicycle path forage (borage?*).

Whether you live in the town or country, bodies such as Sustrans (the charity which organises the National Cycle Network and campaigns for sustainable transport throughout the UK) do an amazing job of opening and maintaining car-free routes for bike enthusiasts and providing us with free access to them.

Along these cycle paths, (and, in fact, all of the towpaths and footpaths which criss-cross the country), we have, unwittingly, created the perfect foraging trail. Either side of the tracks for decades, or even hundreds of years, we have disturbed the natural order of things in a number of ways; by breaking the ground, trampling plants, removing larger trees and discarding fruit stones and cores. The result is a unique environment where the truly wild and the feral co-exist.

Along every path you're likely to see apple trees, wild roses, hawthorns, blackberry bushes, wild garlic, chervil and dandelions, all of which will, at different times during the year, provide free and accessible seasonal food just yards from the paths. As you cycle, take note of the various foraging opportunities that you spot so that you can return to them later in the year.

The multitude of opportunities you'll find along a cycle path proves that you don't need to be in the 'real' countryside to have a fun day out foraging for food. Even if you haven't been on a bike since you needed stabilizers, get out there and discover the National Cycle Network.

(*Actually, this could catch on. Borage, or starflower, is a culinary herb which isn't commonly used these days but was a favourite in medieval times. It tastes a little like cucumber.)

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Apr 11 2017 08:00AM

At this time of year we start to see some real growth in the garden. Unfortunately for the aesthetic horticulturalist, that often means weeds rather than seedlings.

In April you really need to stay on top of things in the garden if you want to avoid undesirable interlopers. The lack of frosts and plenty of rain means its boom time for garden weeds.

But there is an upside if, like us, you find it difficult to keep things tidy in the garden. As well as being much better for wildlife, you'll occasionally get a crop that you didn't intend to grow. One in particular comes into season in early spring, and if you can bear to leave a small patch of them growing in your garden, they'll provide you with your first green (and free) meal of the year.

We are, of course, talking about stinging nettles. The first young shoots will have started to grow in mid-February so by now you should have a decent, harvestable crop.

You'll need a plastic bag and a good pair of gloves. To get flavoursome and delicate leaves, only pick the first few centimetres of the plant tips. As with most freshly picked, green leaves, nettles will keep for a few days in the fridge.

There is a definite spinachy tang to nettle leaves and they can be used in most recipes as a substitute (although you should probably avoid using them in salad.) In terms of accompaniments, you'll find that nettles have an affinity for nutmeg and most recipes will be perked up by a fresh grating. You can also make a simple, refreshing nettle tea from half a dozen fresh leaves left to infuse in boiling water for a few minutes.

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Apr 27 2016 10:00AM

If you’re looking for some early summer educational fun, you won’t do much better than 5 June and Open Farm Sunday.

So often on this blog we rant about how the link between field and fork has been severed. Well, here’s a chance to repair some of the damage. Some 250 farms across the UK have signed up and will be opening their gates to the great British public to meet the animals, learn about growing crops and see some impressive heavy machinery in action. It really is a great opportunity for families to learn more about the countryside and get a bit closer to the source of our food.

The OFS website has a search facility that will help you find an open farm near you. Check it out and, whether you’re an old hand or wanting to inspire the next generation of farmers, there will almost certainly be something of interest going on near you.

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Apr 7 2016 08:00AM

Britain is home to nearly half of the world population of bluebells so we're really privileged to be able to see them carpet our woodland floors every spring. They're just starting to emerge so now is the time to think about visiting a bluebell wood.

Both the National Trust and the Wildlife Trusts have excellent directories of publically-accessible bluebell woods so you can search for one near you (it's worth calling the trust to check that they are in full bloom before you travel any distance) and plan a long circular walk. Make sure you take a camera to capture this fleeting natural spectacular.

National Trust Bluebell Woods

Wildlife Trusts Bluebells

Woodland Trust

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Feb 29 2016 03:28PM

Don't forget this Sunday is Mothers' Day.

Technically the day is nothing to do with mothers but Mothering Sunday - the middle (fourth) Sunday of Lent. Historically it was the date when servants, especially young girls, would be released for the day to visit their family and attend their "mother church", where they were baptised (as opposed to their “daughter church” nearest to where they live).

On the journey home, children would have picked spring flowers to take to the church or to present to their mothers and over time, the celebration became widely known simply as “Mothers Day”.

Before then, don't forget it's St. David's Day tomorrow (1st March). If you buy some daffodils to embrace your Welsh roots, they might even last long enough to give to your dear old ma on Sunday.

(If you thought, even for a moment, that sounded likea good idea, you need to take a long, hard look at yourself.)

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Feb 24 2016 11:21AM

Last weekend we found ourselves at the Abinger Cookery School in the stunning Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This converted, previoulsy disused pub caters (literally) for all tastes in its two fully fitted teaching kitchens, putting on courses from children’s classes to Seafood Secrets and five day events for young chalet chefs taking on a ski season.

Our chosen course was the last Game Cookery event of the year. We were guided step-by-step through four tasty winged game dishes by skilled young chef Jake Pinn (who has just taken up the role of Head Chef).

Our dishes included pan fried pigeon breast with cauliflower puree, steamed pheasant wrapped in leek with butternut squash and a duck massaman curry. We ate as we went along, pausing for a short lunch of the pheasant, ending the day around 4.30pm feeling both well fed and well educated.

Now, before you draft that email of complaint telling us we've sold out to The Man, this isn’t meant simply to be a plug for the Abinger (pretty sure they’re doing ok without our help) but a more general recommendation of cookery courses. We like to think of ourselves as fairly competent in the kitchen but unless you’re cooking at Michelin star level every weekend (and we most definitely are not) there’s always something you can learn. Alongside the new recipes, we took away loooads of tasty cooking titbits that we’d never considered or been taught before.

For example, as a rule of thumb you should rest any meat for half the time you cooked it to ensure maximum moisture and tenderness (yes, even that joint you roasted for 2 hours should rest for the nest part of an hour); taking the wishbone out of the front of a bird before calving off the breasts gives you a much neater and thicker breast of meat (we’d never bothered before but it’s well worth it) and blanching vegetables (in this case our leeks) in very salty (think sea water) water lowers the boiling point of the liquid and so helps keeps more of the vegetables' natural green colouring.

The point is, however good you think you are, spending a day in the company of a real expert - who works with food for a living - will always teach you something. With Mothers’ Day coming up (6 March) why not buy yourself and your dear old ma a cookery course voucher? She’ll love you for it and you’ll come away with so much more than a couple of new recipes.

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Aug 7 2015 10:38AM

Growing apricots in the UK has long been seen as something of a challenge for gardeners. The little yellow, stoned fruit is a native of hotter parts of the world, notably southern Europe and Asia, meaning our damp, cool growing conditions aren't an ideal match.

But apricots are a valuable crop, much enjoyed in the UK and so in recent years British growers have been working hard to develop new varieties more suited to our milder climes. With near perfect growing conditions (a mild spring followed by a warm and wet summer), it seems to have worked. More than 200 tonnes of fruit have been grown in southern England this year (compared to just 30 in 2014) meaning there's a good chance of finding home-grown apricots in your local supermarket this month.

And just before we sign off for the weekend, here’s an interesting fact for you - the Italian liqueur Amaretto is widely thought to be flavoured with almonds. In fact, it is extract of apricot kernels (which is commonly used as a substitute for almond flavour).

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, May 21 2015 03:49PM

This weekend there are two fantastic festivals of cheese to look forward to.

First, as you probably know, is Eurovision (BBC1, 8pm Sunday night). Future generations of social anthropologists will no doubt analyse our attitude towards Eurovision in order to explain our love/hate relationship with our continental cousins. But, whilst we might scoff a bratwurst or two (and enjoy seeing Nigel Farage's worst nightmares come true in camp technicolour glory) we couldn't really claim it has anything to do with food.

But the second event (and probably the smaller of the two) is Coopers Hill cheese rolling in Gloucestershire.

This event dates back to the 1800s but has officially been banned for many years now. Since 2009 the Gloucestershire authorities have tried to put people off attending by saying that that it is dangerous and unmanaged.

It's true that the event is essentially spontaneous and no formal health and safety or first aid is on hand. Nevertheless some 15,000 people are expected to attend - you've got to be proud of living in a country where our idea of civil disobedience is to throw a nine pound round of dairy product down a moderately steep (1 in 3) incline.

Given its questionable legal status, we would advise you definitely not to go to Coopers Hill at noon sharp on Bank Holiday Monday and definitely not to check out the cheese rolling website for further details. Furthermore, the hashtag #cheeserolling should most definitely be avoided.

Since this is mainly a food blog, we'd better talk a little about the cheese. There are two types of Gloucester cheese - Single and the Double (the latter being used in the cheese rolling). Although no one is completely certain about the origin of the "double" part of the name, it's likely to be either because double skimming of the Gloucester cattle’s milk was needed to make this creamier cheese or because cream from the morning milk was originally added to the evening milk (also with added creaminess in mind). Single Gloucester used to be made from the partially skimmed milk left over and so was smaller, crumblier and less creamy.

Disclaimer: broken limbs really do hurt so if you do decide to go to the cheese rolling, take care. When it comes to medical skills the Well Seasoned team are "enthusiastic amateurs" at best so it's really not worth calling us if anything goes wrong.

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Apr 29 2015 09:48PM

In our last-but-one blog post we talked about an ingredient that has one of the shortest availability periods of any food (asparagus, which is around for just 8 weeks). Well, today we can go one better - an ingredient with a season of just 21 days.

The season for wild gulls eggs kicked off this week and will run until mid-May - three weeks - until the birds begin sitting on their nests. A tiny army of just 25 government-licensed collectors will be permitted to raid the cliffs of our coastline, taking a single egg from each nest of black headed gulls.

Before you scramble out of the front door in a mad rush, there are a few reasons why you might not be too concerned if you miss this particular foodie season:

First, despite their beautiful appearance, gulls eggs don't actually taste that different. Whilst aficianodos will tell you that they are creamier and gamier that hens eggs, the truth is that unless you have pretty refined taste buds, you won't have an epiphany when you crack open the speckled shell of a gull's egg. As one retailer said to us this week "They're birds eggs and they taste like birds eggs."

Secondly, from an ethical perspective, despite the fairly responsible approach to the numbers to collected, some conservationists (including the RSPB) have expressed concerns over the possible impact of the collection on the gull population, which has been in decline.

Finally, they are wallet-scarringly expensive. A single egg will set you back around £7.50 (up to a tenner in London's trendiest food quarters). So they are unlikely to be your choice for a quick omelette, especially if you've got guests round. This is perhaps why every year a good proportion of the eggs collected are eaten not at home but in the poshest restaurants and at special Gulls Egg Dinners held in London's swankiest gentlemen's clubs. (It's also why this blog is accompanied by a picture of some very tasty and averagely-priced hens eggs.)

All of that said, living seasonally is about enjoying those moments each year, however short, when we get to cook with ingredients before they disappear again. And as foodies, we'd have to admit there is something special about tasting something that so much work goes into harvesting and that is so fleetingly available. So, if you happen to be thinking of burning some money this week, then you might just save a couple of notes from the fire and have a hearty breakfast first; it's a treat that you won't see in the shops for the other 49 weeks of the year.

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Apr 17 2015 08:00AM

If one vegetable sums up British seasonality for us, it has to be asparagus. With a season lasting just eight weeks (traditionally from St. George's Day to Midsummer's Day), we spend most of the year waiting for these special green spears to appear, there's then a huge glut (when pretty much every restaurant country-wide will serve them up) and then, as quickly as they arrived, they'll all be gone.

Although not technically native to the UK, growers have produced great quality asparagus here for centuries; the Vale of Evesham in Worcestershire produces much of the UK's crop (indeed it's the largest producing area in Europe) and hosts the annual British Asparagus Festival which kicks off on the 23rd and runs for the six week period with asparagus-themed events, tastings and auctions of the very first bunches.

As with many of our Spring vegetables this year, the warm winter means asparagus has arrived a few weeks early so those first bunches made their way onto the shelves this week (and we can expect an increasing supply until we reach peak-asparagus toward the end of May.)

In terms of cooking, the key is usually speed - any more than a few minutes, however you're cooking them, is likely to render them limp and lifeless. They should be firm and full of flavour. (Our favourite way is very simply to brush with oil, griddle them for 3-4 minutes in a hot pan and then serve with Parmesan shavings and a squeeze of lemon juice). And in terms of buying them, make sure they are firm and as fresh as possible - the minute that your asparagus is cut, the sweet sugars will start to turn to tasteless starch so, if at all possible, buy yours from a farmers market or local producer who can tell you how long it has been out of the ground.

Wherever you buy yours, and however you're planning to cook it, you'd better hurry. This particular seasonal clock is definitely ticking...

RSS Feed

Web feed