Beetroot soup

I love beetroots, especially roasted or in soup. In fact roast beetroot soup is just brilliant, super tasty and very easy to make. I just had some for lunch so I thought I’d share my recipe.

What you need (makes enough for 6 as a light lunch):

1kg of uncooked beetroots

2 large floury potatoes

2 medium onions (chopped)

1 litre of stock (I used the simmering liquid from a gammon a cooked the day before)

rapeseed or sunflower oil

What you do:

1. Wear rubber gloves or you’ll end up with beetroot stained hands!

2. Top, tail and peel the beetroots and cut into quarters (make sure they are roughly even sized so cut larger beets into eighths).

3. Put beetroot pieces in a bowl, pour over about two tablespoons of oil and toss the beets to get them evenly coated.

4. Roast the beets for about an hour in the oven at R6/200C, turning once or twice. Its nice id the corners catch a bit but not too much. They are ready when you can slide a knife in easily.

5. Gently cooked the onions in a tablespoon of oil for about 10 minutes so they are golden and soft.

6. Meanwhile boil the peeled potatoes until soft but not falling apart.

7. Add the cooked beets and potatoes to the onions, pour on the stock. Taste for seasoning. My stock was well seasoned so it didn’t need any more at this stage.

8. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Leave to cool slightly.

9. Blend to a relatively smooth soup using your preferred method/gadget. Pour back in the pan and warm through.

To Serve:

Good things to sere with this are:

– crusty bread and butter or tangy goats cheese

– dollop of creme fraiche/greek yoghurt/cream to swirl in



Mutton dressed as lamb, why not go the whole hogget

It’s late spring (well it was when I wrote and it was published, we’ve now just edged into summer) and a time many of us associate with lamb, in fact, it’s common to think of lamb as a traditional dish for Easter. A moment to pause and think about this should make us wonder why? Easter can be as early as 22 March and as late as 25 April; and we mostly all know that spring is when lambs are born so how are these lambs old enough to be ready to eat by Easter? Well they aren’t. The lamb that is marketed early was born in autumn and there are some breeds where this is the norm (primarily Dorset breeds such as Down, Horn or Poll). But not that many so unless you are sure of your source you might be paying a premium price for lamb that has been ‘encouraged’ to lamb in the autumn and then had an indoor life fed on concentrated feeds such as soya pellets. Not perhaps as natural as you might hope. Like almost anything in food it pays to know the provenance of what you are buying including when things are truly in season and what might have been involved to bring them to you essentially ‘out of season’. So the majority of British lamb is not yet ready for the table but will start to be when we get near the end of June and into July, at its best by September when it will really pays to explore different breeds that have been grazing outdoors on their local flora for a good 5-6 months; then you’ll be able to taste the effects of grazing on salt marshes or moorland, highland or lowland.

Salt marsh sheep

But what to do until then, after all it feels like it should be time to have some lamby dishes whether British inspired or from further a field. Well you can seek out some lamb from breeds that do naturally lamb in the autumn, as the meat will be top notch right now. You could simply wait and bide your time. You could buy New Zealand lamb; no don’t do that! Although excellent from good producers on its home soil it’s almost impossible to know in the UK whether you are buying good, indifferent or poor quality. Or you could try British reared hogget or mutton instead. Technically a hogget is a sheep between 1 and 3 and mutton is 3+ years old.

Ah mutton yes. I know I’ve immediately conjured pictures of old good-for-nothing stringy over cooked meat, Mrs Beeton and over boiled vegetables! Of course this is not the case mutton is as delicious as lamb, just different. As Hugh Fearley-Whittingstall points out (in his seminal The River Cottage Meat Book, highly recommended for all matters meaty) “mutton is to lamb, as beef is to veal”, both have a place but one is fuller in flavour the other more delicate. It seems that somewhere along the way we have lost this notion of mutton as delicious and now we even use lamb to make hot-pots, or ragouts. There has been a shifting in attitude since 2004 when Hugh first wrote his book with the likes of Farmer Sharp championing mutton with chefs and the public alike. But essentially mutton is still seen as the speciality and lamb the ‘regular’ option. This makes no real sense, many recipes that call for lamb use robust flavours that will simply drown the delicate flavour of even the best quality lamb, and the lack of sufficient fat means that lamb actually won’t respond well to some of the cooking methods. Best then to save the lamb for a special treat, cooked simply at its prime from July to September and instead invest in some mutton for your summer inspired dishes.

Good mutton doesn’t have to be cooked until its gray either (or indeed ever) a joint of hogget or ‘young’ mutton (3-4 years old) will work well roasted or barbecued but still left pink, it has a good balance of sweet fat to meat meaning it will be more succulent than pretty much any lamb would be right now. So for the next month (and most of the rest of the year) while we wait for lamb to really be in its prime why not try a cut of mutton?

Waiting to be butterflied

Boned, butterflied leg or shoulder of mutton

½ – 1 leg or shoulder of mutton

½ bottle of red wine (right now its English wine week so you might want to track down an English red)

4 large sprigs of fresh rosemary

6 black peppercorns

1 – 2 tbsp oil (I use extra virgin rapeseed)

peel of an orange or lemon (only the outer surface not the pith, easiest done with a sharp potato peeler)

  1. If your butcher hasn’t already then bone the leg or shoulder and open it out to create one large flat piece of meat. Place the meat skin side down and slash the meat side in a criss-cross pattern to a depth of about 1cm at about 4cm intervals.
  2. Pout the wine in a dish big enough to fit the meat in flat, add the peppercorns, rosemary sprigs and orange peel. Lay the meet in the dish meaty side down and leave to marinate for at least a couple of hours.
  3. When ready to cook heat a barbecue or cast iron grill pan until hot. Remove the meat from the marinade and pat off any excess. Leave the peppercorns, rosemary and peel in the wine for now.
  4. Place the meat on the barbecue or griddle skin side down to start and turn regularly to cook from both sides until it’s done to your liking. This can take anything from about 25-45 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat and how pink you want it to be.
  5. While it’s cooking reduce the wine on a fast boil (remove the other ingredients) to concentrate the flavours add a tablespoon or two of oil near the end and stir vigorously to help the mix emulsify and create a glossy slightly thicker sauce.
  6. Slice the meat into pieces about ½ cm wide and serve with the sauce, a green salad or steamed vegetables and a big bowl of buttered new potatoes.

You can find out more about mutton and places to buy at

This article was first published in Francoise Murat & Associates newsletter.

On blogging, writing, twittering…

Even after a year on Twitter I still find the connections you make amazing and surreal at the same time. I guess its true of any kind of networking that if you put effort in and talk to people then you’ll have some great opportunities present themselves. I’ve meet a whole lot of fascinating people, some I’ve only talked to on Twitter so far but plenty I’ve met in the ‘real’ world as well. So I’ll be carrying on tweeting (and other online networking) and hoping to meet more.

One opportunity that came up recently was the chance to write articles somewhere other than here on my blog. I was thrilled. I don’t think I really thought about why I started my blog in January 2009, I just did. Well that’s not quite true a very good friend and (ex)colleague said over lunch:

‘If you say one more time that you want to do something with your love of food and don’t do anything about it I’ll dump you as a mate.’

I kind of hope he wouldn’t have dumped me but it did spur me into action, well at least to writing the blog and then other things unfolded from there. I have to say that writing for others wasn’t particularly on my list of places it might take me, so it was nice to have someone think my writing was what they needed for their newsletter that goes to 6000 people every two weeks. I’m sharing the writing with Helen from A Forkful of Spaghetti, we’ll be trying to alternate each newsletter so that the readers get a different outlook. We’ll be talking about what’s in season and trying to highlight the best of local British produce, things very dear to my heart when it comes to food.

So without further ado I’d like to say a big big shout for Francoise Murat for asking me to contribute to her company’s newsletters. Its very nice to see my writing sitting alongside articles about garden and interior design, two things I love but rarely touch on here, after all this is all about the food.

I’ll post each piece on the blog close to when it goes out but if you like gardens and interiors then you should at the very least take a look at Francoise’s website and follow her on Twitter.



Prosecco prosecco prosecco

Matching food to wine or wine to food? Well normally I decide what I want to eat and then I think about what wine might go with it. I’m no expert at all, I stick mostly to ‘standard’ rules and also to wines I like. Occasionally I’ll go a bit off-piste, or someone will introduce me to something different, then I’ll revise my rules a bit. But its always the food first and the wine second.

In the last few weeks there’s been chance to turn this on its head. Try the wine and then wonder what to eat with it. Maybe if you have an extensive cellar this is a game you can play regularly….

“Darling I’ve found another bottle of that Puligny-Montrachet 1978 stuff, do you think it would be best with ……”.

These weren’t quite those kind of chances. Instead they were regular priced wines looking for new partners. First there was the Casillero cook off, great fun, great recipes and finding out that a wine I probably wouldn’t have looked at (I often avoid big brand names) was actually eminently drinkable. And now Niamh over at Eat Like a Girl is luring us with the possibility of prizes to try our hands at matching prosecco to food. Specifically Bisol Jeio prosecco and a chance to eat at the chefs table at Trinity.

Prosecco isn’t something I know much about and tempted by the possibility of a free tasting to help inspire food choices I popped over to Niamh’s (almost an institution) stall at Covent Garden on Thursday to see the lie of the land. I had a chat with Niamh about doing the stalls (hard work, great fun) and sipped the prosecco. Pears, peaches, off dry – but what to make to go with it. In my books prosecco, like most sparkling wine, makes a lovely aperitif but its maybe not quite so easy to have with food.

A little bit of googling and reading and a few thought came to mind…..pears…well they go well in salads with blue cheese and often walnuts. Pears and peaches…sometimes served with air-dried hams. A sweetish fruit and salty theme was emerging. I’d also got a hankering for something autumnal, earthy…

On the day I decided to experiment my husband turned out to be having beer in Bath, that’s the town in Avon and glass after glass of hoppy malty brown liquid, rather than any other beer/bath combination that might spring to mind. This meant that I had been abandoned/left to my own devices/was delighting in the perfect moment to do exactly as I wanted* (please delete as applicable). This was fortuitous, mostly he’s not a fan of sparkling wines, of blue cheese, or sweet/tart combinations and that’s right where I was heading.

Off to purloin ingredients from the local, erm, (super)market to combine with some goodies I already had in the fridge. I was aiming for English meets Italian. Italian wine, English inspired dish. This is where I ended up:

Goodshoeday’s autumnal sort of salad (for 2 people as a light meal or starter)


6 small beetroots
½ small squash
2tsp salsa di mostarda (I actually used some of the sweet pickle juices from my pickled cherry plums)
extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil (I like Hill Farm – and no they haven’t sent me any for free)
Blacksticks Blue cheese
Smoked cured ham (I used Richard Woodhall Black Combe Ham)
¼ savoy cabbage

Roast the beets in their skins for 1*1 ½ hours at R6/200C covered in foil. Top and tail, peeland cut into quarters (remember to wear rubber gloves), and keep war

Peel and core the squash and cut into small chunks. Roast in rapeseed oil for 40 minutes at R6/200C.

Shred the cabbage fairly coarsely and steam for 3-4 minutes so it retains some crunch.

Toss the beetroot and squash in the salsa di mostarda and some rapeseed oil.

Arrange 3 slices of ham on each plate with a gap in the centre. Pile the steamed cabbage in the middle then add beetroot and squash, add slivers of cheese and serve.

It was delicious though I have no idea whether it goes with prosecco of any type let alone the Bisol Jeio – the supermarket was clean out of prosecco all the other bloggers must have got their first.

Feeling flowery in veggie heaven

Last week I took part in Dan of Food Urchin’s dinner blogging challenge (called ‘Where’s my pork chop?’). Basically I cooked him some dinner and in return I got, well these:


There’s loads of potatoes, beans and courgettes hiding under the kale


I’m going to be blogging what I cooked for Dan in a separate post so check back for that in the next few days. Here I want to tell you some of what I’ve done with the veg so far.

Dan had been down to his allotment bright and early on the day of the swap and picked me a selection of goodies in their prime. In the bag were charlotte potatoes, curly kale, green (French) beans, courgettes and COURGETTE FLOWERS ?. I’d been hoping for some of the latter as I’ve only tried them once before and they aren’t that easy to buy. We’ve tried to grow our own courgettes this year but we aren’t having much success so far (the first lot of seeds didn’t germinate) so I was particularly delighted with the flowers.

Of course as everything had been picked only a few hours before I took the picture above the veg were absolutely bouncing with freshness. I was pretty pleased with my haul and it really demonstrated how lovely and fresh veg can be when their distance from the ground to the kitchen is short. I now have allotment envy.

So what I have I done with the veg so far?

Well as recommended by Dan I did some of the kale with oil and chilli. I actually steamed it first then gave it a quick sauté in rapeseed oil and chilli flakes. It was really good, the kale still had a little bit of crunch to it and the chilli complemented the slight bitterness that is inherent in brassicas like kale. I’ll definitely try it like this again and venture out into varying the spice choice as well.



The potatoes are just brilliant. One of my gripes about potatoes is that its not that easy to get ones that taste of anything much but when you do WOW instead of thinking potatoes taste kind of bland and nothingy you realise they have an earthy sweetness all of their own. Dan’s potatoes hit the mark on this – I assume its because they were straight from the ground. So far we’ve had them simply boiled and also crushed and cooked with some onion. Yum.

The beans and the courgettes we’ve steamed and tossed in a little oil or butter – again when things are this fresh they can shine on their own. And the flowers?             



Well searching in cookbooks, on the internet and tweeting all seemed to point to stuffing the flowers, dipping in a tempura batter and deep-frying. Hmmmmm. I’ve never deep-fried anything; I don’t own a deep fat fryer, I too vividly recall close calls with chips pans in the 1970s (and that safety advert they used to run) to suddenly think that deep-frying them is the way to go. I also don’t want to experiment with a new technique on my precious courgette flowers – imagine if it goes wrong…..after a bit more thinking and searching I decide to just have them fresh and perky as they are in a salad but I do go with the flavours that many of the deep fried recipes suggest i.e. fresh soft cheese and herbs.                  

I simply tore the flowers and tossed them with the rest of the salad (rocket, basil, lollo rosso, tomato, cucumber) before adding some of my favourite Buxlow Wonmil cheese and drizzling with a little oil. The flowers aren’t particularly strong in flavour but they add a both a different colour and texture to the salad. They are curiously soft yet slightly crunchy at the same time and a good addition.     I guess if I get more flowers I might dare to experiment with deep-frying but for now I’m happy I stuck to adding my flowers to a salad. (Dan – more flowers please….)!     


An unexpected glut of cherry plums

Of what? Of cherry plums. What are they then?

The simple answer is they are plums that look like cherries and the trees can be found planted in many a street and garden mostly across the southern half of the country.

But you want to know more than that don’t you? Well then if you are sitting comfortably I shall begin.

© Danielle Harlow –

We’ve lived in our house for nearly 12 years and when we arrived the garden was a bit ramshackle. It had been nice at one point I’m sure but the previous owner was rather old (he had lived his whole life in the house) and it had been left to get overgrown. Both garden and house were in need of a LOT of work. It was a great chance to start from scratch and not have to live with someone else’s idea of the ‘perfect’ terraced house. So we set to work. It took the best part of 8 years for the house to be completely finished and a bit like the Forth Bridge it’s now time to start decorating all over again (no walls to re-plaster though this time).

But I digress.

We have also made plenty of changes to the garden. Sadly the greenhouse hidden at the end was too rotten to save and the pond a little too large to look after. So they went. There were plants that were past their prime or couldn’t survive the severe trim they needed and others we didn’t know what to do with (or didn’t like – pampas grass anyone!). One of these was a quite young looking tree that didn’t show much promise; it was bolting for the light through the trees in our neighbours’ garden. The initial decision was that it would probably have to go. But we didn’t get round to it and then it was February and the tree came into blossom way before anything else giving a wonderful feeling of the approaching spring and providing some brightness in a wintery garden.    


The tree in blossom earlier this year


So it stayed. And each year the blossom has been wonderful, sometimes as early as January but never later than the end of February. The blossom is white and because it comes so early I started to assume maybe it was some kind of almond tree.Then we started to get fruit, not many at first and often hard and green with a small stone. It didn’t really look like an almond and I never got very far in trying to find out what it was.  


Plums on the tree in mid June

Then this year I became determined to find out what it was. I was spurred on by my day of wild food foraging but it wasn’t until I got a copy of The Forager Handbook (thanks @RachieGraham) that I was finally able to work out what it was. Some cross checking on the internet to confirm and just as the fruits started to be ready I knew at last that it is a cherry plum and that it is edible. And this year there seemed to be quite a lot of fruit.


Just some of the haul

So I started to collect the fruit, and I carried on collecting them, and on and on and on and on and on. And over about 3 days I collected about 15kg (I lost count somewhere I think). And then I needed to process them because eating 15kg of fruit straight off was not going to be a good idea. A couple of tweets later and I had recipes for pickled plums (thanks to @Weezos) and plum chutney (thanks to @TheAmpleCook) and some possible giveaways that in the end couldn’t be managed. Naturally I already had in mind some of my almost legendary fruit vodka so I got to work. Oh my and what work it was.    


Bucolic England (Flatford Mill, 2007. copyright Jonathan Taylor (Flickr user Northstander)

When I was a ‘corporate slave’ I harboured dreams of having a little chutney and preserves business, because when you sit at a desk most of the day building spreadsheet models, writing reports and trying to keep 150 very nice solicitors in check your mind roams off into bucolic styled dreams of country England and domestic pursuits such as baking bread and making chutneys. Every now and then I would rustle up a batch of some kind of chutney and dish it out to delighted friends and family – it all seemed such fun. Well let me tell you its not so much fun if you have to do it day in day out. And I say that after only 2 ½ days of plum processing! I reckon that each kilo of plums equated to about 180 actual plums.    

Just some of the 2700 plums I stoned

So I’ve stoned 2,700 plums BY HAND. I’m surprised I haven’t developed RSI. And the thing is I reckon I only got about ¼ of the total possible harvest…why? Well the tree is against our fence so half of the branches are over next-door’s garden so there’s 50% I didn’t get and then I was only collecting those that fell and were in good condition and weren’t under a prickly shrub. I took a peak under one of the shrubs and there were loads more under there so I reckon I lost another 25% that way (of the total not of the remainder – see what all those years with spreadsheets did to me). So I guess the tree had roughly 60kg of fruit on – not bad for what used to be a gangly upstart that we nearly got rid of. 

Now I have pickled plums, plum chutney, plum vodka, plum compote, bottled plums (in sweet syrup) and I’m still collecting about 500g a day……more vodka with them I think as that’s the easiest to make.    



Here’s the final haul


So if you’ve got a plum or damson tree watch out because I think it’s going to be a bumper summer. And if you’ve not well then don’t go too mad at the fruit farm 2½ days of fruit processing is more than enough for anyone.

Here’s some ways to deal with your own fruit glut. I’d also recommend The River Cottage Preserves Handbook for good ideas.     

My Legendary Fruit Vodka

I don’t use fixed measure for this but ratios.

Select your fruit of choice and weigh it. They tip it in a large glass jar (e.g. a preserving jar with a clip lid).
Add between half to the same weight of sugar (I usually used granulated) depending on how tart the fruit is and how sweet you want the result to be.
Then pour over about 1 ¼ -1 ½ times the volume of vodka as you had weight of fruit; so if you had a 750ml bottle of vodka you’d be looking to find between 500-600g of fruit.
Add any extras you think you’d like, a shaving of lemon peel is good with damsons or sloes.
Stir it all round to get as much as the sugar to dissolve as possible.
Close the jar and leave for a minimum of 6 weeks.
Check regularly and shake to help the sugar dissolve. After the first 6 weeks test the flavour and either leave to extract more flavour or strain and bottle.
Leave the bottle to mature for a further few months minimum. It gets better with age if you can resist for long enough.


  • If you haven’t got a large glass jar but have a glut of fruit you need to use up quickly then put everything a big non-reactive pan, cover and then track down a jar – it’ll be fine for the first few weeks in a pan.
  • You can use gin instead of vodka but remember gin already contains its own aromatics so you’ll get a different flavour. Sloes and damsons work particularly well with gin.
  • If the fruit is quite hard then you need to break the skin to allow the flavours to mix – I do this by putting the fruit in a large freezer bag and bashing it a bit with the rolling pin. If you’ve stoned the fruit (or its a soft fruit) then there’s no need to do this.
  • You might want to strain through muslin or even a coffee filter before bottling if you want a really clear result. If you don’t mind sediment there’s no need to bother.
  • Be wise whom you share the vodka with; once people have tried some they’ll always be angling for another bottle.


Plum Pickle (adapted from a series of Tweets by Weezos)

1kg plums
1ltr wine vinegar
500g sugar
100g salt
spices of your choice

Salting the plums

Stone the plums and place them in bowl sprinkling salt over each layer as you go. Leave for 12-24 hours.
Sterilise glass jars in an oven for 10 minutes at R2/150C and leave to cool.
Bring the vinegar, sugar and spices to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to cool.
Rinse the salt from the plums and pack in jars. Cover with pickling vinegar.
Seal and allow to mature for a minimum of two weeks (longer is better) in a cool place.
Good with terrines and game dishes.     

Spiced Plum Chutney (thanks to TheAmpleCook)



Nearly ready for the jars


This recipe is from Delia Smith.

3lb plums
1lb apples
3 onions
3 cloves garlic
2 heaped tsp ginger
1lb seedless raisins
1lb soft dark sugar
1lb Demerara sugar
1 pint vinegar (recipe says malt I used cider)
2 tbsp salt
2 cinnamon sticks
1oz allspice berries
1 dsp whole cloves
large non-reactive pan
6 jars

Note: you can adapt the spices to a mix of your favourites but you need roughly the same quantity, for example I had a smoked chilli in mine, and coriander because I like them.

Put the spices in a muslin square and tie it tightly with string.
Stone the plums, finely chop the apples (cored but leave on the skins), finely chop the onions and put them all in a large pan.
Crush the garlic and add it, the raisins, ginger, sugars and vinegar to the pan. Sprinkle in the salt and stir well.
Suspend the whole spices in their ‘bag’ into the pan and tie to the handle for easy removal later.
Bring to the boil and then simmer pour about 3 hours until the vinegar has almost disappeared and you have a thick, soft chutney. Remember to stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
Sterilise the jars and fill whilst both they and the chutney are still warm.
Leave to mature in a cool place for a minimum of 3 months.




A walk on the wild side

“Here, turn right here, this has got to be it”.


We swerve round the corner and bounce along the driveway. “Nice pond, but where’s the big house?” There’s plenty of rolling parkland and a cluster of outbuildings but no grand house to be seen.

There’s also a tall affable looking chap wearing wellies and a big chunky jumper so we slow up and roll down the window. “Here for the food foraging?” he says, “follow the track round between these buildings and you’ll see a group of parked cars and over to the right people on the lawn, that’s were you need to be.” So we drive on as instructed and sure enough there’s about 15 cars and a bunch of people standing about having coffee. I get out and amble over and my husband drives off to a day of peace and quiet.

At last, I’m at Food Safari’s first foraging event at Henham Park in the depths of rural Suffolk.

I get a coffee and Polly (half of the duo that makes up Food Safari) passes me some still warm flapjack (yum! this is a good way to start) then introduces me to the rest of the group – none of whom I’ve met before but some of whom I’ve been chatting to via twitter (yes that’s you @Farctum and @EssexGourmet). Once everyone is here Tim (the tall affable chap in wellies, he’s the other half of Food Safari) tells us the format of the day. We’re going to be foraging for wild foods here on the estate and then also down by the river Blyth (also on estate land) then we’ll be off to The Anchor at Walberswick for a lunch show-casing some of the wild foods.

Tim hands over to Jacky (aka WildFoodie) who’s our foraging expert today. She explains that we are on private land so sadly we can’t entertain any thoughts of popping back sometime to bag some more goodies; well I guess not unless we can get to be new best friends with Hektor who manages the estate, I imagine he’s probably got enough friends already though. Jacky also explains that the weather in Suffolk has been so dry recently that we probably aren’t going to find enough stuff in really good condition for us to take bagfuls home. We are going to have to be content to watch and learn, that’s the nature of foraging, it’s a real luck of the draw thing. Jacky had a scout about yesterday so she’s got lots of examples to show us and she’s been able to collect enough goodies for our meal later.

Then we move on to our first spot, I’m expecting we’re going to have to walk a good distance across the park perhaps into a wooded area, but no, there’s plenty to see only steps away from where we are. Take a look – what can you see that’s edible?

Hmmm looks like a bunch of weeds in a badly tended garden if you ask me…..but hold one we are going to find at least FOUR, yes that’s four, edible goodies in this patch.

Okay so clearly I’m in nappies on the foraging front compared to the likes of Jacky – I can’t see a thing I’d fancy eating. But with Jacky’s expert guidance we learn about ground ivy, cleavers (aka sticky willy – hmmm), nettles, ground elder, burdock and elderflower – blimey that’s six – and I don’t think Jacky was even trying hard….she tells use how to identify each of them through look, feel and even sound and also which bits to pick and even how to pick (clever scissor movement with your fingers for nettle tops). We taste as we go when things are okay to eat raw. Mostly everything we test has a fresh but quite bitter taste but there are differences between them.

Next its time to move on to the river. But before that a few of us think a comfort stop might be good so Polly takes us over to the stable block, which has been converted into a rather lovely looking B&B, and we get to use the facilities there. I also get a quick lesson in the intricacies and long running feuds of the Rous family and learn that the final version of the big grand house was knocked down (some say a fortuitous fire…) in 1953, so that’s why we couldn’t see it. There are plans afoot for a new house to be built.

Anyway down to the river – I would say bank but here the estuary is really wide and flat so it’s more like a gentle slope. The estuary systems in Suffolk and Norfolk are havens for all sorts of things and in particular marsh samphire

If you look really hard you can see the samphire at the front of this picture

I’ve had this before, bought from local farm shops and I love it. We are a little early in the season but we can see the samphire starting to sprout like some kind of mini primeval forest. We get to test the samphire and its wonderfully juicy with a salty tang –I’m looking forward to it being available in the farm shop soon and hoping we get some at lunch. We also find sea purslane which looks a bit like a succulent version of sage although it tastes nothing like sage. Again it’s juicy and salty.

Sea Purslane

And finally we head off to The Anchor pub at Walberswick with our appetites suitable whetted. But before we get to tuck into lunch we take a quick look at the pub’s allotment where Jacky tells us about poppy leaves (nice and sweet and almost pea like in flavour), hops shoots, dead nettles and chickweed (plus other assorted things you might just throw away but can actually eat!).

At last it really is time for food. We wander over to the beautifully refurbished stable block and are served with glasses of refreshing elderflower scented beer from Lowestoft whilst nibbling on fresh asparagus, tempura hop shoots and absolutely wonderful chickpea and samphire mini pancakes. These are so divine we are nearly knocking each other out of the way to get our hands on them; I’m definitely going to be trying to recreate them at home.



Mark then guides us into the stable block itself where a huge long table awaits us and a further three courses of food with matched beers. Mark is an absolute mine of information about the beers and clearly likes to surprise his guests with things such as a Gueuze he describes as having aromas of sweaty horse saddle and horse piss – great! Hektor and I try to tell him that we are not especially familiar with either of these but to no avail. Food wise every thing was delicious but dishes and flavours that particularly stood out were the chicken of the woods in the risotto, 

The chicken of the woods is the pinky/orange bits

a very meaty mushroom that might make some vegetarians shudder, the semi pickled carrots in the salad, the elderflower panacotta

and finally my favourite local cheese, Buxlow Wonmil. It makes a change to have lovely food paired with beers rather than wines and is something I might try myself. Of the beers I think my favourite was the Frambozen although the Gueuze was much nicer than Mark’s description would lead you to expect; its kind of nicely tangy and refreshing, a bit like liquid sourdough.   

Its time for everyone to head their separate ways, full of new knowledge, exceptional food and plenty of beers. I have a glass of Benedictine for the road (fortunately my husband is collecting me) and we waddle off clutching our information packs, happy foragers that we now are. 

You can find out more about Food Safari’s days out in Suffolk on their website, arrange gift vouchers for loved ones or simply book a treat for yourself. I’m hoping to try another one of their days soon.

To view the menu and other information about The Anchor at Walberswick click here. Go on treat yourself to some great food and beer.