I’ve tried blackberry leaf tea twice now. Adele in Nozedar in The Hedgerow Handbook suggests that this is best made with fresh young leaves gathered in spring, so I took home some of the tender new growth I saw on my Downs walk yesterday and brewed them up that afternoon. And today I cycled to the wooded area near Kings Weston House to sit outside with a book and a sandwich. I’d brought a flask of hot mint tea with me, which I’d brewed from some mint leaves I’m growing at home, but it wasn’t very strong. So I thought why not add some blackberry leaves from my immediate surroundings. The tea has a pleasant ‘green’ taste and is said to have a soothing effect on a sore throat. You can also dry the leaves to make tea and I’ve read that you can ferment them as well, which causes them to exude a floral scent. I’m intrigued and want to try this!
4 May 2015
3 May 2015
I went out on the Downs today – where I was in full sun one moment and under sprinklings of rain the next - and gathered a selection of wild edibles. I assembled these into a mini salad which I plan to add this evening to some locally grown leaves from The Severn Project. I’ll add a scattering of sunflower seeds and walnuts and a vinaigrette dressing, mmm! Here is the list of wild salad makings I collected: daisy leaves and petals, dandelion leaves and petals, violet leaves and flowers, very young plantain leaves, blackberry buds, yarrow leaves.
2 May 2015
I recently went on an inspiring urban foraging walk in the heart of Bristol. Despite considering myself a bit of a seasoned forager, marking each spring with bundles of wild garlic, the summer with the perfume of elderflowers and the autumn with the juicy tang of blackberries, I discovered that there is a lot more wild food all around us in the city than we might expect! This has set me off on a bit of a wild food kick and I thought it might be a fun challenge to see how many different foraged foods I can make use of in the kitchen during the Food Connections Festival. Last night I started off in a very, very local way by adding a few dandelion leaves from the garden to my fish stew. They added a delicious bitter bite that went really well with the fish (pollock) and other flavours in the stew (potatoes, garlic, onion, carrot, a handful of chopped spring greens and a splash of creamy milk). I used organic veg and washed everything down with a bottle of locally produced ale!
1 May 2015
I want to see how much wild food, foraged from right here in the city, I can make use of during the Food Connections Festival in Bristol, 1-9 May 2015.
8 May 2014
Then into Monday and, although not an official part of the Bristol food connections, however Redland May Fair offered yet more opportunity to try out lovely produce from talented local producers with @mullioncove making another appearance and @veedoublemoo providing a delicious and well needed ice cream sundae. The allergy meant none of Mullion Coves pasties for me but then, I'd have had to have been quick if I could eat them as they were so popular they sold out before the fair had even officially opened!! Double order next year please! After 12 hours on the Green home but happy after a stunning Bristol weekend which has convinced me that this is the city I want to call home!
7 May 2014
This is not food that I have eaten. This is food that I could have eaten if I had not been trying to pay in Bristol Pounds. Tuesday was the low point of my Bristol Pound challenge in terms of trying to find a place around Whiteladies Road where I could buy lunch in Bristol Pounds. The first cafe we wanted to go to doesn't take them. That was OK, we weren't sure that they did, and we knew of another place a bit further that did take them, and served great food. So we were off...Unfortunately their kitchen was being redone, so no hot food to be had there. OK, to the burger joint that we believed took them from our hazy memory of looking at the directory. No luck there either as people looked at each other in confusion as to what we were talking about. OK, one more place that we know took them before that has good fresh food. Ooops! They had just changed hands and were renegotiating their txt2pay account! By now with stomachs rumbling we went back to the first cafe in defeat. Conclusion? We need more cafes in Clifton and Redland to take the Bristol Pound! Why not go out armed with the Directory you ask? Because even if we had we would have been disappointed by change of owners and closed kitchens! But we are still eating good meals at home powered by Better Food, Wild Oats, Sims Hill Shared Harvest and Stream Farm. Yes, this was my first real failure in terms of my challenge. Let's see what happens tomorrow...
7 May 2014
So... day 2. Someone on twitter last night said that day 1 was "proof that MPs are bonkers". No, most of them are entirely normal in what they eat. Tonight is "Pie Night" in the Members' Dining Room (where I never dine) and in the more prosaic Terrace cafeteria the options today are chicken korma, roast leg of lamb, vegetarian shepherd's pie and something called a "fishfinger wrapstar". (OK, I concede - that one does sound a bit bonkers.) We have a proud tradition to maintain in east Bristol though. Tony Benn, who represented the area for thirty years was vegetarian and teetotal, as was Stafford Cripps, MP from 1931-1950. Jean Corston, my immediate predecessor, was pescetarian. I have no idea about the Tory who was around from 1983-92, but I suspect he let the side down. I don't know what Sir Stafford would have been eating back in 1931, but I doubt if it would have borne much resemblance to today's bento box. We have roasted tofu with almond and sesame seeds; tomato and avocado with lemon juice; and quinoa with garlic butter beans, kale, and very thinly sliced peppers. I don't actually like quinoa much, but I persevere with it because it's very high in protein. Triple helping of protein today, with the tofu and butter beans too. Not doing so well on the veg front, given the small quantities - maybe adds up to a couple of servings? - but I bought a pound of new season cherries at the market stall on the way into work, so that helps.
6 May 2014
I have done zero revision today and instead of feeling exceptionally guilty I actually feel great! I had two lectures so had no time to think about making an extravagant breakfast this morning, so porridge again but I added an extra twist by putting walnuts on top. It was great because this added to the creaminess of the porridge but also gave me an early morning protein boost. With lectures from 11-1 done I was about to head home until I remembered I had to pick up a report on Owl Pellets that I had completed last term. I think this is where today’s drive for revision died! I miraculously managed a first and after having a celebratory high-five with a course mate (so cool), I walked home with a spring in my step. I had another portion of my spaghetti bolognese for lunch and there is still yet another portion to go in the fridge! Instead of returning to my room and reading more exciting things about how plants have adapted to life on land, I spent the entire afternoon watching catchup TV on my laptop! Felt very cheeky. And the revision front didn’t improve after this… By 6 o’clock I had to go to my weekly Zumba class and revision time was disappearing fast! But with the combination of moves like ‘jazz hands’ and ‘milking the disco cow’ I had forgotten all about the need to learn more about plants and the only thing now on my mind was supper. This came in the form of roasted and pan fried chicken leg with roasted peppers, swede, onion and potato with some steamed broccoli on the side. Amazingly tasty! Chicken on the bone is so flavoursome. Think it also has something to do with buying it from the butchers – another reason to support our local food shops.
6 May 2014
So the may bank holiday is finally over and what a weekend of food and fun filled Bristol brilliance it was! Started Saturday morning with a walk down to the ARK food market on college green which at 10.30 was calm and serene and gave me a great chance to talk to some of the amazing producers in the marquee, as well as to line up what I planned to buy on my way back up the hill! Then it was onto SS Great Britain and the market there organised by the ever lovely Sophie from @mullioncove. Any then back across the harbour (thanks handsome man in the ferry!) to the Food Connections marquees around the harbour and the BBC tents too. What a lovely collection of food goodness and what food envy I had at the street food stalls in Millennium square. Having a food allergy sucks most of the time but REALLY sucks when you see all this amazing food just waiting to be tried but can't do the trying! :-( So instead, into @Bristol to listen to one of the lectures organised by @Bristolconnections. 'Starting a food business' was a great hour of listening to local foodie wonders talk about how and why they started their businesses. Each one seemed to involve luck, inspiration, serendipity and a hell of a lot of hard work! The panel included Laura from @hartsbakery, Elly from the Pear Cafe, Nathan of The Milk thistle, Hyde & Co and the new (and booked on Sat til some time in June) The Ox restaurant, as well as a chap from Bagel Boy (supporting his appropriately corporate t-shirt) and the lovely (and ever young) Jenny Chapman as well as a PR chap and a lawyer. All led by the delightful and flowery languages Tim Haywood. A full audience listened intently to each story and asked some good questions as they strive to start their own dream in the food world. Back up through College Green (much busier by now and with the wafting smells of some stunning pizza - garlic allergy now a real pain) to head home. But the day was not done.
4 May 2014
Ok, it's getting down to the nitty-gritty now, and the word "challenge" is beginning to come into its own. What is really becoming clear to me with doing something like this is that advance planning is a MUST! (can I regretfully say that there was very little of that on my part?) Between forgetting to top up my Bristol Pound account before the Festival started and making assumptions about how many Food Connections stallholders that offer hot food actually take the things (answer, hardly any!) lunch was a bit of a creative scramble yesterday. Fortunately No. 1 Harbourside came to the rescue. After a short tour of all of the delights on offer at the Producer's and Street Food Markets on Saturday (and there were many, get down and check it out tomorrow if you haven't already), it was wonderful to sit down to a tasty sandwich at No. 1 Harbourside, who accepted my Bristol Pounds with an open and hearty smile. I then raced off to Hamilton House to participate in the University of Bristol's Soil, Seeds, and Social Change workshop: Local Food, Pollyanna or Panacea, also part of the amazing Food Connections Festival. Imagine my surprise when I suddenly remembered that lunch was on offer there courtesy of the Bristol Hospitality Network (check out their wonderful work with asylum seekers), featuring fresh seasonal veg supplied by Bristol's own urban Community-supported Agriculture project, Sims Hill Shared Harvest! (full disclosure, yes I am on the Board.) While feeling slightly guilty about partaking of this amazingly delicious meal of Indian-inspired cuisine after having just eaten, I felt I could not turn down a couple of modest portions, and it was certainly worth it. The presentations and discussion that followed were very interesting and thought-provoking as well. Thanks to Mark Jackson's team at the University of Bristol for organising. After all that, it was home to help cook up a tasty Stream Farm trout, served with mash and salad straight from our Sims Hill Shared Harvest veg share (pictured above). (I think that I might have mentioned previously that both of these worthy organisations take Bristol Pounds?) It was another delicious meal with ingredients sourced from the fertile Bristol city region foodshed. Thanks to the Bristol Pound Farmlink scheme, out-of-town producers such as Stream Farm can take payment for their products in Bristol Pounds and help enrich our local food economy. I am now hoping that more of the local butchers that Bristol is lucky to possess in such abundance, will soon be taking Bristol Pounds as well!