Lavender love

lavender & lemon jelly

My husband can’t get his head around eating lavender, he says it’s like being 7 and eating his Grannies perfume. I think if I’d known he ate her perfume before I married him, I’d of thought twice. But, he hasn’t done it since we’ve been married as far as I know so I think it was just a phase..

He’s not alone in his distrust of the purple flower, I’ve met one or two people along my travels who turn down a tasting of my sorrel jelly because it has the L word in it – but if I can bribe them into trying it, they change their view. You see, lavender is one of the most delicious herbal flavourings, done right with subtle pinches, rather than clumsy handfuls they not only add delicate perfume to sweet and savoury treats, but balance the other flavours in a dish – salty, spicy, hot, cool, bitter, sour – they all love a waft of lavender love. We pair lavender with salty lovage, savoury, thyme and hyssop in Potager, with rose petals, cardamom and fennel in our Rose el Hanout and sour, tangy sorrel in our summer jelly.

Lavender is a taste of summer sun, and at this time of year we could all do with a ray of sunshine smothered on our comforting buttery hot toast…


Lavender & Lemon Jelly

This little recipe will make one medium sized jar of jelly, Just enough to keep you going until it’s time to make nettle & orange conserve (that’s for another day)

Take 2 lemon & bramley apple & chop them up. Pop them skin, core, pith and juices in a pan add a pinch of dried lavender flowers, cover with water, cover with a lid & simmer until the lemons & apple are soft. Strain the cooked liquid through a sieve (you can keep the pulp & use it in a steamed lemon pudding – do a google search, it’s good) Measure how much liquid you have, and weigh out the equivalent in sugar. Heat up the liquid, add the sugar and bring to a rolling boil. It’ll just take a few minutes to bring the jelly to a soft set.  Jar, cool and eat on a scone or with toast, or stir a spoonful into a gin & tonic. Drink whilst doused in lavender talc.

It’s wild in these hills…

At Forage we think there isn’t much better in life than eating food cooked with love, with good company and great music. So we thought we’d start ever so often putting on Wild Feasts. They’re not quite the average night out….Tables get moved, people help clear plates, service is slow BUT the food is fresh, the atmosphere is magic, and our guests feel like our friends. We’re not professional caterers but we do have lots and lots of squirrelled away treats we make through the year – the types of things that make menus a bit special & could make NOMA jealous..mulberry & sumac jam, rosehip & cardamom vinegar, pickled unripe gooseberries, wild cherry pit liqueur, dried meadowsweet & sorrel jelly,,,

The dust from our last wild night is just settling – it was quite a night and from a tiny village hall kitchen we fed 130 hungry people & then danced the starry night away to the incredible MABON. A very kind man called Richard Waite came along with his camera & snapped the night, and as pictures can say 1000 words, here are some of the highlights of a very wild night in the mountains…

Oh, by the way here is what we ate:


Trout soused in unripe gooseberry vinegar

Salmon poached in rosehip, chilli & apple juice

Rose petal preserve on ragstone cheese

Damson & chocolate sauce on wild boar salami

pickled wild garlic buds with haford cheese

wild hazelnut & rose el hanout dukkah


Roast haunch of vension & spiced venison meatballs with mulberry & sumac sauce

pumpkin, blackberry, elderberry, walnut & chestnut tart

wild bubble & squeak with nasturtium leaves, cleavers, bittercress & chickweed

kale wilted in cobnut oil with pickled unripe blackberries, pine & blackberry vinaigrette & wild hazelnuts


Wild black forest gateaux with meadowsweet, wild cherries, and wild cherry liqueur

Damson & Chocolate cream mess with toasted oats and meringue

elderflower champagne & gooseberry jelly

walnut, sloe gin & pine strudel with Shepherds sloe gin & damson ice cream

Cheese board with Wye Valley Ewes cheese, Neals Yard Ragstone, Stilton & Haford cheese (provided by Marches Deli in Abergavenny)

We drank some LOVELY wine, beer and cider from the wonderful Hay Deli,  and the feasters quaffed lots of Englands newest red, Sixteen Ridges Pinot Noir – the wine child of Simon Day, cider master at Once Upon a Tree, who is now taking the English wine scene by storm.

Thank you everyone who came, everyone who waited patiently for their food, everyone who moved tables, everyone who smiled, cleared their plates & danced. You were lovely, please come again!

        Adambar signdamson choc saucenickPotato cakesšJamiebryonyizdancing2

cherry cakecheese boarddancingeatingdancing3making canapesmelanierichardsally annetablestablecanapes on trayIolohappy cheese eatersbryony

Cleavers, the apple of my January eye…


The fields are brown, our boots are muddy, trees are bare and the sky is grey.  It’s the time of year when hibernation is a clever idea, but if you are made of sturdy stuff & able to pick with numb fingers, there are treasures to be found right now. Low growing shoots & winter greens that’ll add well earned flavours to winter stodge…Right now the weedy apple of my eye is a truly delicious herb that I’m sure you all know, it’s just you probably don’t love it in the way I do..yet. Let me introduce you to the very clever Cleaver…
You might know this herb (it’s not a weed I promise) as sticky weed or goosegrass, gardeners amongst you will probably of battled with it’s leggy stems in the middle of the summer, jumpers covered in its sticky burrs as a long lasting memory of your encounter.. You might not have a very positive view of this plant, but bear with me, it’s one you should get to know right about now…. Cleavers have been used for centuries in herbal medicine, they make an incredible tonic, are thought to help push toxins out of the body &  and are proven to support our lymphatic system – the glands which are all over our body & are key to healthy immune systems. Just as importantly maybe, they are natures very own brand of botox…try rinsing your face for a couple of weeks with Cleaver infused water & you’ll never buy an anti aging cream again….Cleavers have a unique taste, I describe them as being like new growth in spring – if you’ve ever stood outside on a spring morning & breathed in the smell in the air you’ll know the taste – it’s earthy, herby & full of life. And at this time of year we all could do with Cleavers in our diet, in the depths of the ‘run down’ fluey, broke after Christmas season the little weeds growing in our back gardens are natures free super food, and super they really are.
When you gather cleavers at this time of year, the stems are tender enough to eat – they are about 10cm long right now, easily identified with their slightly hairy appearance and whorls of sets of  narrow leaves that grow up the stems. If you were pulling up metres of Cleavers last year from your garden, go to where they were growing & you’ll probably find the young shoots waiting to be gathered..
This recipe is for a simple, delicious and nourishing salad & bound to win your heart…
Wilted carrot, Cleaver & Ras el Hanout Salad
cleaver carrott rose el hanout
You’ll need:
Gather a fat posy of cleavers, wash and dry them well.
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
tbsp ras el Hanout  (I make Rose el Hanout which you can buy online but any good Ras will be fine)
Light olive oil or hazelnut oil
Lemon juice or a good apple cider vinegar
heat a glug of oil in a wide pan, add the carrots and cleavers with a splash of water and the Ras el Hanout  and stir the vegetables for a few minutes until the cleavers start to wilt slightly and carrots sweeten.
Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice or splash of cider vinegar to give a subtle zing, season with a sprinkle of salt and leave to cool to room temperate.
Serve with flat breads, and curd cheese or chicken thighs with apricots & almonds – loverly.

new years honours list (well if the queen can have one..)

How did that happen?? it’s 2015. Time to lurch thick headed in to the year ahead. But before you forget all about the shenanigans of 2014 I think it’s time we all say thanks to those people who made 2014 what it was. You see, I think the queen is onto something with her new years honours, but as a good old republican I also think we should have a bit of the action.

So here goes, I’m going in. My ever so regal inaugural line up for honours is to a group of people who did something  remarkable in 2014, thrown in the corporate towel, painted signs, stocked shelves, employed people, supported little producers and become the finest shop keepers imaginable. In these days of ghost town high streets,  pubs turning into des-reses and supermarkets trying to convince us that blandest is Finest, there is a small army of noteworthy people who are hungry for a place to buy great food on their high street. Rather than moan about the metros & expresses springing up all over the shop(s) they have taken life changing leaps into opening new food shops, reopening closed ones, and taking over the curtilage of existing fine establishments. I know these people as they are kind enough to stock Forage produce  – they are running the type of food store that seeks out small producers who don’t necessarily sell via wholesalers – and believe me that adds an awful lots of work to the already relentless list of things they have to do, but that’s what makes them the kind of people that makes you smile when you go into their shop.

So, this little producer & indy shopper wants to say thank you to Derek from the Hay Deli, Tom from Marches in Abergavenny, Volker from Volker & Quinn in Balham, and Henry from Harp Lane Deli in Ludlow. 2014 changed their lives just a bit, they probably don’t have many waking moments not thinking about their shops, but we really, really do appreciate you & you all do it very well indeed. Consider yourselves Knighted. Tom th





hocus pocus, it’s hawberry ketchup


Look in any rural cookery compendium & you’ll doubtlessly come across a recipe for Hawberry Jelly, or if you’re lucky Hawberry Brandy. You might even have the same battered about book that we found our first Hawberry Ketchup recipe in. It was good, it had potential and when we added lots of fresh ginger and twist after twist of pepper, it became something else. We drizzle it on cheese on toast, burgers, sausages, scrambled eggs, ham and cheese; it makes the simplest of food capable of turning tastebuds into party animals.

Hawberrys are wild little red jewels that poke out from lichen clad ancient Hawthorn trees from late August onwards. Hawthorn trees grow everywhere, in the deepest countryside to city gardens. Legends say they are magical trees, they certainly are packed full of health benefits & just as importantly, delicious flavour. Hawberry Ketchup is so fruity that it makes the bottom of your jaw tingle. Not many foods can do that can they? But then, it is a bit magical..

scarred hands & syrupy sauces

10801557_686055461513590_383910437255703365_n 10291218_686054501513686_3101747260606364161_nMention rosehips to anyone over a certain age & the likely hood is that they scratched themselves on many a thorny stem gathering the vitamin C rich fruit as part of the Ministry of Foods efforts to keep Britain healthy during rationing. Mention rosehips to todays entrepreneurial children in the Golden Valley & they could well proudly show you the same scarred hands – for these children know where to find the sweetest, tiniest and plumpest hips, and once they’ve squirreled away their hauls to make jellies, chutneys and syrups, the excess fruits are sold to Forage (under our ‘picking for pocket money’ scheme) and here they are turned into our rather lovely Rosehip & Horseradish dipping sauce. The tang of Horseradish is a perfect allie for sweet rosehip syrup, enhanced all the more by sour, sour sumac from our friend Niña’s spreading giant of a tree. Our tangy version of rosehip syrup is utterly at home drizzled on beef, goats cheese, beetroot, mackerel, salmon & crayfish. So, thanks to the nimble (slightly scarred) fingers of todays young foragers, the rosehip picking baby boomers are once again supping on rosehip syrup… but this time on crème fraiche rather than off a spoon..

A ray of sunshine on a cold day

Wild rub rub Maysfield brewery stout & beef silverside

Wild rub rub Maysfield brewery stout & beef silverside

It’s freezing outside. Jack Frost has moved in and the meadows have glistened all day in a shimmer of ice crystals. But inside the house you’d be forgiven for thinking it is the height of summer – no, we’re not strutting around in Havaianas & shorts with the heating on full blast, it’s certainly not balmy in the house. Summer is however, definitely in the air. Meadowsweet pollen to be precise is in the air, and it is dusting its sweet scent on everything in the kitchen as if in an act of defiance to Jack & his frosting outside – if you’ve walked past a billowing Meadowsweet bloom on a warm summers day you’ll know the intoxicating smell I’m breathing in..vanilla, almond and warmth. The reason Meadowsweet pollen is wafting around like a whisp is because today I’m blending a new batch of Wild Herb Rub – Wild Herb Rub is our homage to the smell & flavour of drying hay – we race against harvesting tractors to gather a blend of red clover flowers, meadowsweet, wild marjoram & sorrel seeds, dry them in the summer sun (the children’s climbing frame makes an excellent drying rack) & blend them with other herbs until the smell of drying hay is just so.

Why do we do this? Well it’s pretty lovely gathering flowers in a meadow on a warm mid

t that’s not the reason. The reason is this; we think that meat is best flavoured with the very same flavours it has been eating – and well cared for, outdoor reared British meat will of grazed on the flavours and the herbs crammed into wild herb rub. It makes a simply cooked piece of meat taste even more like itself – and on these cold winter days, a slowly braised piece of silverside flavoured with a ray of sunshine gives everyone a warm glow inside.



Coedcanlas – sweet as honey

It’s lovely when people wax lyrical about my products, sometimes people tell me the reason they’ve come to a food festival is to stock up on Forage goodies – it makes a small producer like me feel that the long nights standing in front of a bubbling pan is worth while, so please keep the nice feedback coming. I, as it happens have a producer who I sing romantic ballards about & I find myself evangelising about this little food business as much as my own….the apples of my eye are very special artisan producers Nick & Annette Tonkin. If I tell you a little bit about them. I think you’ll see why my heart is in Coedcanlas…

Nick & Annette are bee keepers, queen bee breeders, marmalade makers, food importers and quite frankly they would appear high on my list as fantasy dinner party guests – as long as they bought a few jars with them. For years they’ve been keeping bees and supplying queen bees to hives all over the place, including to other bee keepers who sometimes happen to make exceptional food in their home countries…Nick & Annette have started importing small amounts of these delicious finds & making these one off, beautiful products available to us lucky people. Sicilian grassy herby olive oil, lemon blossom honey and toasted almonds, Canadian maple syrup reduced over oak fires, and of course their own very special honey. They proudly run their business to complement their lives, and their love for what they do oozes from every jar & I’d love you to have one of those jars in your cupboard.

I’ll get my goat…

 Goat meat is eaten by 70% of the worlds population, yet in Britain until now it has been somewhat kept as a niche meat  but alongside its gamey counterparts, goat is experiencing a long awaited revival. One of our favourite ways to cook goat is slowly infusing it with North African promise…spices, almonds, apricots and fennel turn the gruffest of billies into a comfort blanket of a meal….

Rub a leg of young goat meat with a mixture of 2 tsp of  rose el hanout (you can use other Ras el Hanouts, just look for ones with an anise flavour), olive oil and a pinch of salt & leave to marinade for a couple of hours. Place the meat on top of thick slices of fennel bulb in a casserole, add a wine glass of water and cover with a lid. Cook in a low oven (110 – 120c) for 3 hours, remove from the oven (deeply inhaling the amazing smells – a sign of things to come!) add a handful of ground almonds and dried apricots to the liquor, cover again and return to the oven for another couple of hours. Serve with a good bread to mop up the juices and a salad or green beans.

Like the sound of eating goat? You’ll love the sound of Cabrito Goat Company, they supply goat meat to the food industry, rearing young billy kids on a farm in Somerset, they buy unwanted male kids from goat milk farms across the UK – these billies would otherwise be killed soon after birth. Instead they have a delicious time grazing in meadowland before they are slaughtered. We like them a lot.






Frugality at Christmas? Very fishy.

We’ve had a very welcome visitor this Christmas, sat in our fridge in an unassuming brown paper bag is a side of freshly smoked salmon. It’s going fast there’s only a bit left & I keep thinking about it. My goodness me, it’s a magical thing & I think it’s only fair to tell you about it…

You need to understand that I don’t usually  do things like buy a whole side of smoked salmon. I am the kind of shopper who picks up the things I like, cradles them on a slow journey around the isles of a shop & then puts them back on their shelves before I buy my sensible bag of oats, leaving behind the indulgences I really wanted but my puritanical sensibilities prevents me from enjoying. A side of salmon? Such frippery.
But then I had a stall at the Dewsall Court Christmas Food Fair. To be fair, Dewsall Court is the kind of place that would lossen up Cromwell & it was dressed up in its winter finery. I was already at a loss.

I was stopped in my tracks by a table laid out with 2 glowing pieces of fish. Oh my goodness me. I have never ever had smoked salmon like it. I tried a piece, lost any frugal values and snapped up the last side. And I have been please with myself ever since. We’ve had it with chicory and crème fraiche, little gems and cucumbers, rye crackers and pickled gooseberries, with slithers of rosehips & horseradish, seeped it in soy & sesame,  and wrapped it around pickled wild garlic buds BUT best of all I have been eating mouthfuls of it with nothing on it – in its smokey birthday suit.
Why was it so good? Well I don’t know. I know it wasn’t oily & tasted of proper wood smoke and of seaweed – and of course of very fresh, delicious salmon, the kind of fish that would make the grizzliest of bears give thanks for. It just was amazing and I was going to recommend that you go,  find yourself the smoker himself, shake his hand and buy some of his fish. But then I found out that the man that smokes the fish also runs a very special hotel in Newport in Pembrokeshire, so here we go – my Christmas gift is in my fridge, but my Christmas gift to you is to give you this name. Llys Meddyg. Burn it into your memory, go eat with them, stay with them, buy from them, if their hotel is like their fish, it’ll be smoking…