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The fun side of foraging

Posted on 25th May 2017

Recent news has brought to light the sheer amount of food waste in both homes and retail, leading to a market U-turn in attitudes towards left-overs. From Asda’s wonky vegetable boxes to the increase in left over recipes, we are moving away from mass production and looking to become more self-sufficient with our food.

blackberries ripening

There has been a similar increased interest in foraging. While many people remember scouting hedgerows for blackberries for grandma’s apple pie, few people have done more than that since. Restaurants have been busy jumping on the bandwagon of wildly grown goods and appealing to those who want to reduce the air miles as well as the food waste. Native is such a restaurant based in London that aims to allow their customers to appreciate nature. Native is uncompromising on their ethos and looks to inspire others to similar goals.

“Native looks to provide its guests with an original dining experience that encapsulates the country’s best wild food that is native to the UK through a combination of innovative cooking and country thrift. Our food looks to unite the country’s best foraged foods and game in a laid back, full flavour adventure through the British seasons.”

While you may want to direct your new-found enthusiasm to your nearest scrap of woodland, foraging requires knowledge and an inherent respect for natural spaces. While enjoying a Wiltshire cottage holiday, what better way to ease yourself closer to your foraging future than with a beginner’s course into the edible aspects of nature? The Wild Side of Life has different courses throughout the year and based in Wiltshire to initiate you into the lifestyle.

Whether it is a few wild flowers added to a salad or a meal of morels, we can all add a little more of nature’s bounty into our diets, and foraging for the ingredients can be as much fun as eating them.

 Image Credit: Living in Monrovia

A little bit of Lardy Cake

Posted on 28th April 2017

There are many unique recipes to each county, whether that is Sticky Toffee Pudding from the Lake District or Bakewell tarts from Derbyshire. Wiltshire is famed for a more calorific – and very delicious – cake that is tied to the county’s history and economy.

Traditional Lardy Cakes

Though many counties lay claim to the origin of the Lardy Cake, Wiltshire’s history of pig farming, its biggest town named to this effect (Swindon) all points towards the Lardy cake beginning in the county. The lard necessary for the Lardy Cake is a natural by-product of pig farming and its high energy content means this sweet bread would have been popular at harvest time to see the field workers through their strenuous days. However, initially the luxury items included in this bread (such as sugar and dried fruits) would have ensured that Lardy Cakes would have been celebration cakes and eaten only on special occasions.

Though many old recipes have fallen to the wayside as the modern palate evolves, the Lardy Cake remains a well-liked choice of patisserie and still appears at the summer garden parties in Buckingham Palace as well as in many local bakeries. As with any recipe, that of the Lardy Cake has been personalised, and while the original may have consisted of little more than lard, dough and sugar, nowadays each bakery adds a pinch or two of something to their own family recipes.

Whether you can’t wait to stay in your Wiltshire holiday cottage or are looking for a cultural bun to whet your traditional appetites, the Lardy cake is perfect for any setting, so why not take a look at this recipe from Alison at Dragons and Fairy Dust.

When considering making Lardy cake, Alison recommends “not to be scared, the recipe is really easy to make but it does take time. Set aside the time for it to rise properly and don’t rush it. The finished product is worth the wait.”

Check out Alison’s recipe here or enjoy a slice of historic Wiltshire at Marshall’s Bakery, which is famed for its Lardy cakes and has shops in Royal Wootton Bassett and Pewsey.

Image Credit: Clint Budd (Flickr)

Devizes celebrates birthday with its own beer

Posted on 14th April 2017

What better way to celebrate a pub’s birthday than creating a beer in its honour? Fiona and Geoff Talbot, the Landlord and Landlady of The White Bear in Devizes have just done that to celebrate Devizes’ oldest public house. Talbot’s Tipple, the chosen title for the new brew, is a name steeped in meaning considering it is not only the surname of the landlords but also was once the name of the pub.

The White Bear Interior

The pub is integral to the historical market town, and Devizes, nestled in the heart of the county, is the perfect place to visit whilst on a Wiltshire cottage holiday. The first recorded landlord of the public house on the corner of Monday Market Street dates back to 1567 and the town is looking forward to celebrating in style on the weekend of the 30th April. The festivities are set to not only unveil the newest beer in their collection, but also plan to include other local delights including Morris dancers, Shire horses and many people in historic dress, with a free glass of the celebratory beer to those who arrive in costume. 

Though the Wadworth Brewery is not quite as old as the pub in question, the brewers have experienced their own share of history since their conception in 1875. Being in the same family for four generations gives an element of legacy that other breweries lack. In fact, today the brewery owns over 200 pubs beyond The White Bear. The continued use of shire horses to deliver their produce to local buyers retains both quaintness and nostalgia that will be celebrated alongside The White Bear.

If you are visiting Devizes on this special celebratory weekend at the end of April, you will be able to celebrate with the rest of the town. However, should you happen to be in the area afterwards, you can still enjoy the Talbot’s Tipple or take a tour of the Wadworth Brewery instead to appreciate the local history. 

Image Credit: The White Bear  

Start off your summer with local ice cream

Posted on 01st April 2017

While Italy may be the undisputed home of ice cream, you may be able to scoop some of your own high-end and home-grown frozen joy while staying in a Wiltshire holiday cottage. The local dairy farm of Lacock is part of the Selkley Vale Herd which stretches across Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire and is renowned for producing milk for Cadburys.  Ice Cream Cone against sunset

The long-founded belief that dairy farms of this area produce the sweetest milk will soon be put to the test in their newest endeavour. It is thought that the unique soil and grass of the area contributes to the pure taste of the produce and this is what makes the ice cream so special.

Jane Lear, Tony Doel and Graeme McFaull are the three friends responsible for this enterprise and are excited for what the summer will bring, but they will concentrate on their pure brand ethos. According to Mrs Lear: “We put as little in terms of additives in and we like to think we are at the top end.” The Lacock Dairy Farm has been farmed by four generations of the Doel family and the latest successor is pleased to see it branching out.

When ice cream first made its way to the England it was the privilege of royalty and the very wealthy, while it was only the latter half of the 19th century that saw ice cream available to the wider public. Since then however, it has gained nothing but popularity and become one of the traditions of the British summer.

Though Lacock Ice cream will be a far cry from Mr Whippy, it has had a positive reception thus far from the neighbouring business that are stocking it. With nine flavours to start the summer it is sure to be the perfect way to taste the heart of Wiltshire’s Dairy Community.

Image Credit: Unsplash

The Flying Monk Brewery’s honest approach to ale

Posted on 15th February 2017

The Flying Monk is a local tale of Malmesbury after a brother Elmer, a monk at the local abbey was determined to emulate Icarus back in 1010. With his set of homemade wings, Elmer threw himself from the abbey tower and managed to glide a little before he was reunited with gravity in a somewhat painful manner. Though he survived the fall, his legs were broken, however Elmer was not deterred. He decided to try the flight again with the addition of a tail, but was swiftly halted when the Abbott put a stop to the second flight and Elmer’s aviation dreams.

Malmesbury Abbey

Though this may seem a tale of folly, it has been adopted by a local brewery along with a sardonic take on Elmer’s determined attitude in setting up their own micro-brewery. The Flying Monk Brewery was founded in 2013, with its first beer, aptly named Elmer, launched in 2014. Since then, three more beers have joined the line-up and the awards have been rolling in.

Kevin, the brewery’s managing director, has a refreshing attitude when it comes to marketing The Flying Monk products. In a recent interview, he commented: “Craft and artisan are the big words. What they actually mean by it is that it’s handmade. We’ve not changed what we’re doing in the industry, we’ve just changed how we label it. It’s not automated like the big commercial breweries. Everywhere you go it’s always the same four ingredients, nobody does it any differently. No-one is reinventing anything.”

This departure from the marketing buzz words sets The Flying Monk Brewery apart as much as the unusual name and tale it stems from. But it seems to be working in their favour, as their Birdman beer was awarded first place at Swindon’s CAMRA Beer Festival and Elmer was presented with the Highly Commended gong in the beer category of Taste of the West Awards last year.

Another first has graced their brewery as they roll out the world’s first black cider (according to The Flying Monk Brewery). Named Skorpion Black, it is set to create quite a stir. The Flying Monk Brewery is open to tours and tastings, so if you find yourself on a Wiltshire cottage holiday, be sure to spend a day enjoying everything this unique Micro-brewery has to offer.

Image Credit: Adrian Pingstone (Wikimedia Commons)