Tag Archives: local food

Amazing asparagus


I had never tasted asparagus so tender and young before. Out of this world.

Asparagus in the UK has a short season from May to mid-June.

Well, it used to.  The season now starts  in April in the UK. When a fellow food blogger bought hers last week, I was surprised – that’s climate change for you.

In supermarket-land, they appear all year long, spears the regulation length, lined up in rows in small plastic boxes. They look pretty – and are pretty tasteless.

The supermarkets now race to get seasonal British-born asparagus on their shelves.

Waitrose failed the test yesterday according to my mum, the queen of real food lovers. Shocked by its offering of Peruvian asparagus, my 80+ mum made a special trip to Marks & Spencers for the British kind. (Reader, thus is my provenance).

It’s not that I am jingo-istic, set against Johnnie-foreigner.

Nooooo, hardly. a) I believe in a world without borders b) I am of foreign-blood myself.

My love of seasonal stems from common sense. Eating food grown as near to where I live tastes fresher. Looking at the bigger picture, my spears’  journey-to-market is less polluting too.

My asparagus came 10 minutes away by foot thanks to the local organic grower setting up stall in the self-build eco-houses at St. Werburgh’s every Thursday afternoon until 6.30pm.

Mike is going to check the name of the grower for us next week. We hope to find out more how it was grown, as growing it organically is supposed to be hard.

He barely steamed the young spears then latticed them over fried brown rice, chilli and mushrooms (above).

We love brown rice but let’s face it, that’s hardly local.

So, Little Englander or bigger picture and more taste? Why do you like local food?

Stop press: Wrington Greens sell their fresh organic veg every Thursday 4.30-6.30pm at the Self-Build homes at Ashley Vale, St. Werburgh’s – please buy if you like to be wowed…


St Werburgh’s City Farm Café, Bristol

Paul Burton, chef, at St Werburgh\'s city farm cafe

Lucky me. To get to this Observer ethical award-winning café from my home, all I have do is walk ten minutes through the allotments.

Here is chef, Paul Burton, holding my lunch – the aioli is homemade, with fennel from the next-door city farm and smoked mackerel from Cornwall. Paul used to work at Café Maitreya (another Bristol award-winning eaterie) and now he is a business partner in St Werburgh’s city farm café.

Note its hippy-trippy Hobbit-like décor, courtesy of artisan builders, Bristol Gnomes.

I wish I had a photo of the café’s owner, Leona Williamson, because she too has an ethereal quality – but like all fairies, she has power too.

When cooking in the Local Food Hero competition, she came up with a new concoction, with one hour to spare.

She made goat and beetroot sausage with a three-root mash (celeriac, potato and Jerusalem artichoke), and wowed the judges, Jay Rayner, Xanthe Clay and Gary Rhodes. The goat came from the city farm.

So impressed was Jay that he put her forward for the Observer‘s ethical awards.

It was Leona’s idea to use the animals on the city farm for food.

I totally approve.

Far better to be a conscious meat-eater that respects the animals than not give a thought to how they fared when alive.

These darling creatures currently living on the city farm may well end up in one of Leona’s famous goat stews. Reader, is this OK with you?

Bristol\'s St Werburgh\'s city farm goats

Fish from Widemouth Bay

Fish soup with fish from Widemouth Bay

On Sunday I crossed counties from Devon to Cornwall. My mission: to buy fish. On a Sunday.

As I drove westward, on my right was the grey/green Atlantic ocean. But I knew its proximity did not guarantee I could buy fish landed from its waters.

We have lost the art of buying fresh fish caught locally. Most fish nowadays is sold in supermarkets. Much comes from far away and has probably been frozen.

This is the tragedy of (so-called) developed countries. The only thing which has developed is mass industrialisation. Thus fishmongers are in danger of becoming an extinct species, swallowed up in the jaws of the supermarket.

But not in Widemouth Bay. Perched above its windswept beach is Beach House Wet Fish , probably one of the best wet fish shops around. And it’s open on a Sunday (until 5.30pm).

The lovely fish lady was apologetic the local boats were not out yet this year. So, my fish came from Looe, a bit further down the coast.

All the fish and shellfish in the bowl (pic above) was bought at Widemouth Bay: the scallops, the mussels, the little red mullets perched atop (which I roasted quickly in a hot oven and added with the fried scallops right at the end of the mussels cooking in the water flavoured with a fillet of ling, fried onion and fennel, and fresh parsley and tarragon).

Here is more detail on an earlier fish soup.

The black and white bits in the above pic are actually pasta, farfalle zebra, coloured with black squid juice (the packet has not been opened for a year but this soup was the right occasion).

I am only sorry I had to drive to get there and back (one hour and a half in total) because I consider cars to be cold mean death machines that are bad for the planet as well as my soul.

Sausage and soup

Bowl of beetroot-red soup beside half-eaten sausage

Lunchtime in Corn Street. Unusual sight. It was Wednesday, Bristol’s farmers’ market day and – was I dreaming? – the street was empty. Where were my familiar local real food stalls?

Turned out a gale threatened and officials had sent the street traders to shelter in Saint Nicholas’ market. I found spelt loaves in its medieval stone portico, wet fish under its Victorian glass roof.

Time for lunch at the (covered) Rolls Royce cafe, smack-bang in the middle of Saint Nick’s daily bustle.

So I ordered smooth parsnip and beetroot soup, inventively seasoned with horseradish and ginger and respectably seasonal. It was so good I thought it was home-made (now that’s an accolade). The soup in fact hails from the Yorkshire Provender (soon to offer organic ones).

The Rolls Royce café is so community-minded, it lets you eat food you have bought elsewhere in this food kaleidoscope of a market.

I never eat pork, right, for atavistic reasons. But for some unaccountable reason, I let myself be persuaded by “Try the maple and pork, you won’t regret it,” from the man who left his office job to set up on his own selling organic, local and incredibly tasty sausages.

Did I regret eating the pork? No. Its sweet taste and yielding softness left little room for guilt, and combined with the seasonal soup, seemed delectable.

However, I confess: I didn’t want to tell you.