Tag Archive: Featured

  • Farrington’s Northamptonshire rapeseed oil becomes world’s first food product certified as carbon and plastic neutral

    Farrington’s Mellow Yellow Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil – grown and produced in Hargrave near Wellingborough – has become the world’s first food product to be certified as both carbon and plastic neutral. The entire Farrington’s Mellow Yellow range of oils, salad dressings and mayonnaises are accredited.

    Farrington Oils managing director Duncan Farrington said: “This is not just a box-ticking exercise; the environment is at the heart of everything we do. We have always looked for ways to be more sustainable so it made sense to take the official steps. We will continue to improve and aim to be carbon negative – remove more carbon from the atmosphere than we produce – through sustainable farming practices where our soils lock in CO2, by planting even more trees and by creating better wildlife habitats.”

    Farrington Oils has been nurturing healthy soils, reducing waste and recording energy usage for more than 25 years, so becoming net-zero was the logical next step. Since 1987, it has planted over 8,000 trees on its farm and in 2018 installed solar panels that now generate over half of its total energy requirements.

    Andrew Bowen, CEO of One Carbon World, said: “As the first farm to take this step, Farrington Oils has made a ground-breaking commitment that will inspire other companies around the world to take action and become carbon neutral in 2020.”

    Partnering rePurpose Global, Farrington Oils funds the removal of the same amount of plastic waste from the environment as it uses in its packaging. “We are thrilled that Farrington Oils’ mission to protect our planet clicked with our work on the ground,” said Peter Wang Hjemdahl, co-founder of rePurpose Global. “We challenge every food and beverage brand to follow Farrington’s lead and take action before it is too late.”

    Through long-term soil health analysis, Duncan Farrington has tracked the carbon sequestered in his soil. In one field, Duncan has increased soil organic matter by 66% over the last 16 years. This suggests Farrington Oils is absorbing 3,780 tonnes of CO2 into its soils each year – the equivalent to offsetting flying one person around the globe 526 times.

    Duncan Farrington is calling for all companies, large and small, to change their habits to make a meaningful difference for our planet. “If a small company of 15 people in the sleepy Northamptonshire village of Hargrave can become a global leader in sustainability, I truly believe everyone can make a difference. By working together to change our habits, we can do this!”

  • Add your name to the NFU campaign to protect UK food standards

    This is a call to action. With everything that’s going on in the world, the subject of UK food & farming standards is being kept off the front pages.

    However, now is a critical time. What happens in the next few months has the potential to decide the UK’s food & farming landscape for years to come. It’s vital we don’t allow a lowering of food standards to slip through under the radar.

    If you agree, please sign this NFU petition to add your name to the campaign to protect our food standards. Please also write to your MP to exert a little extra pressure.

  • Advertorial: Award-winning Price & Fretwell pivots to deliver local meat to households

    Price & Fretwell of Tibshelf, Derbyshire, was on the brink of disaster for the first time in its 30-year history when the hospitality sector closed in late March 2020. With pubs & restaurants accounting for 98% of sales, Great Food Club’s Catering Butcher of the Year 2020 was rushing towards a cliff edge more precipitous than Giddy Edge near Matlock Bath – one of Derbyshire’s most hair-raising sheer drops.

    But they make them tough in Derbyshire! Led by father-and-son team Nathan & Darren Price, Price & Fretwell pivoted to focus on household deliveries. They effectively built a new business overnight.

    “We are now delivering to more than 300 houses weekly in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Rutland,” says Nathan.

    That number is growing fast. Click here to order and push it higher.

    The timing of lockdown was particularly tough on this East Midlands butcher. It’d been on a roll. Having won the Great Food Club accolade late last year for its “consistency, excellent products and superb customer service”, business was booming. Sales were at record levels (up 15% year on year) and Price & Fretwell was attracting new clients weekly, adding to a portfolio that already included The Olive Branch in Clipsham, Stapleford Park near Melton Mowbray, The Chubby Castor in Castor and Orbis in Oakham to name but a few.

    Today, the business is turning over 30% of what it did pre-lockdown, but the cliff edge has been avoided. Moreover, sales are growing.

    And that’s not surprising because the quality is high. Price & Fretwell’s speciality is dry-aged beef farmed in Leicestershire and South Yorkshire, but it also offers lamb from Burghley Park Estate in Stamford, lamb from the Belvoir Estate, and chicken from Church Hill Farm.

    An Olive Branch beef dish – the award-winning Rutland pub is one of Price & Fretwell’s regular customers

    To order a Price & Fretwell household meat delivery, call the office team on 01773 591 212 (Tuesday to Friday 7am to 5pm and Saturday 7am to 12pm). Or alternatively, order online here. The butcher offers free next-day delivery for orders placed before 9pm. Orders after 9pm are processed the next day and delivered the day after that.

    Nathan says: “We’re proud to have brought our service to families and households during lockdown. It’s especially rewarding to deliver to vulnerable and isolated people. Also, we are delivering to restaurants that have remained open for takeaway including The Palfrey in Derby (Derby Restaurant of the Year 2019), The Grey Goose at Gilmorton in Leicestershire, Barnacles Restaurant & Bar Bistro in Hinckley and The Beehive Inn at Combs in the High Peak.”

    “Another silver lining has been teaming up with other local producers such as Bull Baking Co, Woodthorpe Grange Farm, Pro Chef Terrines & Patés, Positive Kitchen and Parsnips & Pears.”

    Click here to order a delivery from Price & Fretwell.

  • Advertorial: The Fuel Tank at Belvoir Castle’s Engine Yard now offering takeaway

    If you’re pining for a restorative trip into the beautiful Vale of Belvoir, you’ll be pleased to know that The Fuel Tank café/restaurant at Belvoir Castle’s Engine Yard is now offering a takeaway service.

    The current takeaway menu

    The best way to enjoy it is through their pre-ordering system. First, call 01476 247059 to place your order.

    The Fuel Tank is strongly encouraging customers to pre-book their takeaway orders. However, a walk-in option is also available. Guests should follow the directions of the restaurant co-ordinator on arrival. The number of customers entering The Fuel Tank will be strictly limited, and payment will be contactless only.

    Please note that you can’t eat or drink on the premises. However, there are plenty of scenic spots nearby.

    For more information, click here.

  • The Veg Factor shifts its Michelin Star service to home deliveries

    The Veg Factor in Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire, began life in 2009, supplying fresh produce to East Midlands pubs and restaurants. Over the past decade, it’s built an enviable client list, delivering everything from Chinese artichokes to Jersey Royals to Michelin-starred restaurants such as John’s House in Mountsorrel and Hambleton Hall of Rutland, and to award-winners including The Olive Branch in Clipsham, The Wheatsheaf in Greetham, Hitchin’s Barn in Oakham, and the pubs belonging to Leicestershire’s Little Britain Pub Company.

    Hambleton Hall

    However, that all changed on March 20 when the government closed pubs and restaurants. “Overnight we lost 80% of our business,” says The Veg Factor’s sales & marketing director Carl Woolley. “Somehow, we had to rebuild the business, while continuing to fulfil our duty to supply care homes and schools.”

    The Wheatsheaf in Greetham

    The team immediately refocused to concentrate on consumer sales. “We launched a doorstep delivery service, supplying local homes with restaurant-quality produce,” says Carl.

    Every day for the past 11 years, The Veg Factor has visited London’s New Covent Garden Market to source the freshest, best-quality fruit, herbs and vegetables. And that habit is continuing despite the change of focus.

    New Covent Garden Fruit & Vegetable Market. Photo: Facebook.

    “We’ve always used Covent Garden,” says Carl. “It means we keep the quality and seasonality high. We are usually one of the East Midlands’ first suppliers to get ‘first-of-the-season produce’ such as asparagus and Jersey Royals, which means restaurants – and now households – can get them without delay. We also source from Rungis Market in Paris and from Milan, picking up delicacies such as Monk’s Beard, violet artichokes, Italian winter leaf like Castelfranco and puntarelle. However, of late this has become more difficult due to the crisis.”


    Furthermore, The Veg Factor sources from local producers “where the quality is right” – including Colston Basset Dairy, Manor Farm Yogurt, Hambleton Bakery and Vine Farm Dairy. “We are looking to work with other local producers and will pay a fair price,” says Carl.

    So, if you’re looking for a supply of Monk’s Beard or just some spuds – plus local milk, bread, pies and more – you can order and choose your delivery slot on The Veg Factor’s website. And if you live outside the delivery zone (enter your postcode on its website to check), a call-and-collect service is available. Call 01509 815815.

  • Have award-winning Redhill Farm produce delivered to your door

    Redhill Farm Free Range Pork of Lincolnshire, two-times Great Food Club Food Producer of the Year, is operating a weekly UK-wide delivery service via courier and local delivery service in person. The service was running pre-covid-19 but has taken on renewed importance during the lockdown. Its two shops – one on the farm near Gainsborough and the other in Lincoln’s Bailgate – are also open, and it is attending some farmers’ markets.

    Jane and Terry Tomlinson of Redhill Farm

    Benjamin, a Great Food Club member, emailed us to recommend Redhill Farm’s delivery service, highlighting the “wonderful, tasty lamb, sausages and pork pies”.

    The Lincolnshire farmers are also able to deliver fresh pork, dry-cure bacon and ham, haslet, ham hock black pudding and more.

    The award-winning producer is not only a former Great Food Club champion but also a BBC Good Food Top Three Best Sausage Maker and FT Top Five Best Bacon Curer. It supplies pork pies to Lord’s Cricket Ground and Wimbledon, too.

    Jane, Terry and the team deliver weekly – orders are despatched on a Thursday for next-day Friday delivery. To order, click here.

    Redhill Farm sausages
  • The Geese & Fountain morphs into a village shop, takeaway and virtual pub. But it’s not a PR stunt and all is not rosy…

    Because of their heartwarming, backs-to-the-wall response to coronavirus, there’s a danger we see pubs and other small food & drink businesses as charities, run for the good of the community. However, we should remember that they are businesses, fighting for their lives…

    The Geese & Fountain in Croxton Kerrial, Leicestershire, is working flat-out to serve the local community during lockdown. But like many pubs, it is engaged in an existential struggle.

    As this crisis evolves, there’s a danger we start to see pubs and other small food & drink businesses as charities. It’s an easy mistake to make when we hear about chefs cooking for the NHS and about pubs helping vulnerable locals. It feels like they’ve become part of the third sector, run by volunteers. It’s been an inspiring response.

    However, as we applaud, like and retweet, there’s a danger that we forget these small businesses are not running PR campaigns. This is no game. Helping the vulnerable is admirable but doesn’t pay the bills. Turning your pub into the village greengrocer makes a nice news story, but often the pub has no choice. Money must be made and bills have to be paid, despite the government assistance.

    Nick Holden, landlord at The Geese & Fountain, says: “The lockdown has been difficult and unsettling for pubs, but we’ve found ways to continue to serve our community. We have furloughed or stood down all our staff, but we intend to keep paying them if we possibly can. We want them to come back to their jobs when we re-open. We’re missing our staff badly, they are like a family, and it’s hard not to be able to see them, have a joke, and work together.”

    With the help of family and locals, The Geese & Fountain has started offering take-aways and deliveries – pizzas, fish & chips, burgers, curry, Sunday lunches and other classic pub food. It has opened a window at the front of the pub for collections, turning into a village store selling milk, bread, veg boxes, flour, meat and other essentials. “We might continue with this after lockdown,” says Nick, “because our village lost its shop at Christmas.”

    Furthermore, the pub is putting on virtual pub nights on Fridays, virtual pub quizzes, online darts, and is also running ‘The Great Croxton Cook-Off’ – “a kind of ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ event,” says Nick.

    But while The Geese & Fountain’s response to coronavirus has been joyful, morale-building and smile-inducing, the future remains unknowable and, from a business perspective, precarious.

    Nick says: “We’re worried about the future. We’ve been here nearly five years, and when we moved in, the pub had been empty for a while. We invested a lot of our own money – and borrowed from family and the bank – to repair the building and re-open. But now, just when we should be starting to show a profit and re-pay our debts, we’ve been forced to close.

    “We really want to weather this storm and re-open, but we don’t know what the future holds – even though we’re grateful for the government support we’ve received so far.

    “Our biggest cost – rent – is still the biggest threat to our survival. The property is owned by Wellington Pub Company, which is owned by Britain’s second-richest family, the Reuben Brothers, and at this point, Wellington says rent still needs to be paid. However, the stark reality is that there is no money to pay with. Until a solution to this stand-off can be found, the risks for pubs like ours remain high. Either landlords need to accept that rent will not be forthcoming, insurance companies need to pay out on business interruption policies that pubs took out in good faith, or the government needs to take action to bring all sides together to work out a way forward.”

    So, next time you hear about a pub transforming into a village shop or cooking for vulnerable villagers, don’t brush it off as a PR stunt. Despite the warm glow these initiatives temporarily produce, this is an extremely testing time for pubs like The Geese & Fountain, and for many other independent hospitality businesses.

    “We’re desperately worried,” says Nick. “We will need help even after we re-open, otherwise we face the prospect of surviving the lockdown only to go out of business when we re-open. Pubs are an essential part of British society, and in small villages like ours, they are the heart of the community. If pubs cannot re-open profitably after this, those hearts will stop beating. English village life will be changed forever.”

    For more information on The Geese & Fountain, visit its Facebook page.

  • A FREE Great Food Club Handbook 2020 for food-loving friends and family

    For a limited time, we’re giving you the chance to show food-loving friends and family how much you are missing them.

    Join Great Food Club from now until the end of May and you’ll receive a money-saving membership card and a copy of our 132-page 2020 Handbook. BUT… you can also choose ONE ADDRESS to which we’ll send another FREE Great Food Club Handbook. And you can include a lockdown message of support.

    Join and choose who to send your gift to here. Simply select ‘standard’ membership and then fill in the details. As you complete the form, you’ll be asked who you’d like to send a free copy to.

    If you’re ALREADY A PAYING GFC MEMBER, you can also choose one address to which we’ll send a free book and message.

    The Great Food Club Handbook 2020

    You’re bound to know someone who’d love a copy of our Great Food Club Handbook. It’s the perfect companion for anyone in the East Midlands who loves local food & drink. It contains a wealth of information on top-quality independent producers, farm shops, delis, pubs and restaurants, including more than 750 recommendations – so you can start to plan your post-lockdown eating plans.

    Below are a few sample pages.

    To join Great Food Club and send your gift book and message, click here.

  • The Hammer & Pincers hits nail on head with sell-out luxurious lockdown takeaways

    The Hammer & Pincers in Wymeswold, Leicestershire – Great Food Club’s Fine-Dining Restaurant of the Year 2019/20 – has responded to coronavirus with positivity and verve. So much so that on some days it is serving more customers than it did during busy times pre-lockdown.

    On Easter Sunday, for example, owner Danny Jimminson and his team provided contactless takeaway lunches to 150 people. And last weekend, they launched their six-course Saturday Night Grazing Menu in takeaway form – complete with flights of wine. They sold out again, cooking for 90.

    The Hammer & Pincers is our Fine-Dining Restaurant of the Year 2019/20

    “On both Easter Sunday and last weekend, we probably could have served more people,” said Danny. “But we’re still learning what we can do. The skills we’ve honed for our outside-catering business are coming in handy.”

    The Hammer & Pincers’ lockdown takeaways – and deliveries via the ‘Hammeroo’ Delivery Bike (Wymeswold village only) – are contactless. Customers book and pay online, then drive into the car park and say their name. A member of staff brings the bagged-up meal out to a table and retires to a safe distance, or pops it into the customer’s boot if they prefer.

    Furthermore, the restaurant is conducting daily deep-cleaning of its kitchens, providing anti-viral hand sanitisers for its team and checking the temperatures of all staff, twice daily.

    The ‘Hammeroo’ bike for village deliveries

    “At first, we offered pies and casseroles, but as we’ve found our feet we’ve been able to make more of the kinds of dishes people expect from the Hammer & Pincers,” says Danny. “As time goes on, more customers are wanting an extra-special treat during lockdown, so that’s what we’re offering.”

    “Quality presentation is tricky for takeaways,” says Danny, “but the flavour is all there”

    The Hammer & Pincers’ takeaway dishes include…

    Amberjack, Turbot & Lemongrass Spiced Fish Patties, Coconut & Coriander Curry Sauce, Carrot Salad.

    And: Dry-Aged Pork Chop (from Elms Farm, Costock), Pig’s Head & New Potato Croquette, Grilled Hispi Cabbage, Celeriac Puree, Granny Smith Apple.

    Wines about to be poured for the taster menu takeaway

    The Leicestershire restaurant has launched Takeaway Tapas and Takeaway Sunday Lunches, too, receiving a large response to both.

    The Hammer & Pincers’ takeaway Sunday lunch

    Danny has also responded to lockdown by digging some raised beds in the garden, and he’s planning to build a chicken run and add some beehives.

    Meanwhile, the team are planning how to operate when restaurants are finally allowed to reopen. “There are so many unknowns that it’s virtually impossible to plan properly,” said Danny. “But one thing we’ve talked about is putting up curtains or screens between tables. Whether that could work remains to be seen, but we’ll continue to innovate as best we can.”

    He concluded: “When we’re open again, I predict we’ll be looking at offering an even more engaging and luxurious dining experience. We think people will see dining out as more of a treat than they did pre-coronavirus, so we’ll be doing everything we can to exceed their expectations.”

    Book your Hammer & Pincers takeaway here.

    An example Hammer & Pincers takeaway menu
  • Everards responds to covid-19 and asks for extra government support for pubs

    Everards of Leicestershire, which owns more than 175 pubs in the East Midlands, has called for extra government support for the hospitality sector in the light of covid-19.

    Stephen Gould, managing director, said: “Government support so far is much valued and appreciated. Through the fine work of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and UK Hospitality, the government realised early that the hospitality industry would be severely impacted and responded well.”

    However, he continued: “I would expect the same logic to follow in terms of a new, refreshed package of government support for the hospitality sector, as inevitably it will be one of the last sectors to fully come out of lockdown measures.

    Everards founder William Everard

    “In particular, the government needs to act now to support those business owners operating pubs with a Rateable Value above £51,000 who are not receiving grants. This is time-critical. Working with the industry, the government needs to find a solution to this challenge without delay. Otherwise many businesses in this Rateable Value category will fail due to not having enough liquidity. 

    Everards’ managing director also hopes the government to extend its hospitality support package beyond lockdown. He said: “The extension of the coronavirus job retention scheme to the end of June has been very welcome. We hope to see further plans laid out to support sector jobs for the length of the pub closures but also once they are open again as increased social-distancing measures would continue to impact business owner’s income.”

    Stephen concluded: “The plan to come out of lockdown needs really careful thought. A rushed approach makes no sense for anyone and we support the BBPA’s call for a minimum of three, ideally four, weeks’ notice. If pubs are to be one of the last sectors to come out of lockdown then a new, refreshed package of government financial support for the pub industry needs to be created and communicated by the end of May. In turn, this will give companies, business owners and their communities confidence and belief in a bright future for pubs”. 

    Everards’ own covid-19 response

    Everards itself has responded to the Covid-19 challenge in three major ways.

    It has cancelled (not deferred) the rent payments of its business owners (Everards’ chosen term for its tenants) for both April and May. This will be reviewed again at the end of May.

    Everards has also cut directors’ salaries by an average of 30% and cancelled the full-year dividend payment to shareholders while furloughing 70% of employees on full pay (to be reviewed at the end of May).

    Furthermore, the Everards Family Foundation has donated £50,000 to Age UK Leicestershire & Rutland.

    Stephen Gould concluded: “We have three prime objectives in dealing with this issue. First, to protect and support the health, safety and welfare of employees, Everards’ business owners [tenants], their staff and communities. Second, to retain Everards’ talented business owners and attracting the finest business owners to join us. Third, to ensure that coming out of this pandemic, we as a business remain strong, fit, innovative and well prepared to compete.”

  • Leicestershire’s March House Farm Shop extends delivery area

    March House Farm Shop in Great Dalby, Leicestershire, was a finalist in our Farm Shop of the Year Award 2019/20. It’s a well-loved, friendly and top-quality family-run shop that sells meat raised on March House Farm’s land in Leicestershire. It also offers an excellent range of fruit, vegetables, cakes, BBQ boxes, Sunday lunch boxes, bread, preserves and much more. Provenance, quality and animal welfare are genuinely important here.

    The March House team have risen to the challenge of lockdown by quickly launching a slick online shop and delivery service. Their team of butchers, farmers, shop assistants and delivery drivers are working flat out to meet the new demands that have been placed on them. And they are more than up to the challenge.

    So much so, that they have now extended their delivery zone beyond the Melton Mowbray area to cover Stamford and surrounds, plus the Vale of Belvoir.

    To shop at March House Farm online and to book a delivery, or to click and collect, click here.

    The farm shop remains open with social distancing rules, so if you prefer to visit, you can do so.

  • Local food heroes of lockdown: Wigston Fields News & Deli

    Each morning during lockdown, Pratik and Bee Master – owners of Wigston Fields News & Deli – get up at 4am and go to Leicester Market. “If we get there early, we can choose the fruit and veg our customers want,” says Pratik. “Some – especially the older ones – are struggling with the change that coronavirus has brought about. If they get the food and drink they’re used to, it really helps them.”

    Hambleton Bakery bread, Vine Farm Dairy milk and local eggs – just a few of the locally produced items on sale at Wigston Fields News & Deli

    Pratik and Bee won our Food Hero of the Year Award 2019/20 for transforming their traditional suburban newsagents into a local food and drink hub, stocking products made by around 50 local producers. Their shop not only showcases and supports local producers; it is also the beating heart of the local community. So, it’s no surprise to see Wigston Fields News & Deli (which Bee and Pratik famously christened #notjustacornershop on social media) stepping up to the plate during this pandemic to serve those who rely on it.

    Pratik says: “We see ourselves as having two roles in this situation. First, to support our customers and community. Second, to commercially support our suppliers. We’re here to help and we’re working flat out, seven days a week.”

    After his daily visit to Leicester Market, by 6am Pratik is unlocking the shop door to get ready for the day ahead. However, at 7.30am, it’s back out onto the road to the wholesaler to stock up with essentials. Then it’s back to the shop again to open up, when a steady stream of socially distanced customers starts to arrive, and the phone begins to constantly ring.

    “We’re not only selling food, drink and essentials,” says Pratik, “we’re a place that people enjoy visiting – even if they have to queue up for a while and remain over 2m apart. We’ve always been about community and it’s important for some people’s mental wellbeing that they have a place they trust to visit and rely on.”

    Bee & Pratik Master

    After heading back to the wholesaler at 2.30pm yet again for more supplies, it’s time to plan the day’s food deliveries for vulnerable customers who are unable to leave their homes.

    When all jobs are done, all customers happy, it’s time to head home to get some sleep before that brutal pre-dawn alarm goes off yet again.

    “We’re here to stand up for people who can’t do it themselves,” says Pratik. “And we’re here to help our community.”

    Through their dedication, energy and community spirit, Pratik and Bee – who also regularly support Leicester South Foodbank – are ensuring that Wigston Fields News & Deli is a food & drink lifeline during coronavirus. Their shop truly is #notjustacornershop.

  • What you’re eating & drinking to get through the lockdown. Pt. 2 – smoked eel & spaghetti to ‘yuk/wow’ breakfasts

    We asked Great Food Club members to tell us what they’re eating & drinking to get through the lockdown. Here’s Part 2.

    “As I’m shielding, I’m making sure I waste nothing – fava beans in a vegetarian chilli, smoked eel with spaghetti, and a recipe from India helped me make a fabulous cauliflower stalk & leaf dish. Next, I’m going to tackle the tin of evaporated milk!” – Melinda.

    Here’s an update from Ami, co-founder of sourdough specialists, Bisbrooke Artisans: “I’ve started to put up my recipes on IGTV on Instagram (@bisbrooke_artisans) and they are also tagged #cookalongwithami. There’s been a positive response because people can follow the recipes using healthy, fresh ingredients and staples often found in our cupboards.”

    Ami continues: “We are also baking more sourdough for individuals and contemplating pizza boxes – where we provide half-baked sourdough bases with a tomato passata, freshly grated mozzarella and sprinkle of rocket salad as a garnish to finish off at home.

    “At the moment, we are delivering our bread to those in self-isolation in the Bisbrooke and Uppingham areas. Our bread is also selling well in Budgens Uppingham.”

    Bread by Ami & Lance of Bisbrooke Artisans

    “Here are a few things I have tried:
    Apple crumble cake 
    Indian spiced veg couscous (perfect for leftovers) 
    Salted caramel brownies 
    One-pot lasagne 
    Mushroom & chicken risotto 
    Homemade pesto pasta
    Pulled pork ramen 

    “Please take a look at my blog – @lozza_eats on Instagram – to see my culinary creations! I am starting a new journalism course and writing up my recipes. I’m also starting to look at local restaurants to review and support. I live in Northampton.” – Loren

    “We’re popping lockdown food ideas up on our ‘Mr Frost & The Hungry Sheep‘ Facebook page.” – Sarah

    Welbeck Farm Shop has definitely come up trumps. We emailed our order, then after phone confirmation and payment online, we drove ( not far) to their car park. Our order was brought out to the car – what fantastic service.” – Kathryn

    Some of the Welbeck Farm Shop team

    Lily and Honey Bakery off Gaol Street in Oakham offers home delivery twice a week. Their sourdough loaves and tins are excellent. Robert and Nicole who run the bakery are a delightful young couple who have established an excellent reputation and a large number of devotees. Their cakes are outstanding too. I think they will sit nicely in the Great Food Club alongside Hambleton Bakery, which is their near neighbour and equal in my family’s view.” – Tom

    Robert, co-founder of Lily & Honey Bakery in Oakham

    “We’re using Hello Fresh Box, Clive Lancaster Butchers in Bingham and SIDS Fruit & Veg in Bottesford. All three are excellent.” – Steph.

    Clive & Sam from Clive Lancaster Butchers in Bingham. Photo: Facebook.

    “My tip is to sit down and create a meal plan for the week ahead. We now have ‘Fish Friday’, ‘Take-Away Saturday’ and ‘Roast Lunch Sunday’! This has helped us to organise our shopping list so we only have to do one weekly shopping trip and also reduce waste. This sense of routine really gives us something to look forward to while we are in lockdown. We’re doing our best to support local producers and buy seasonal, local food where possible.” – Deborah.

    Elliotts Butchers in Kislingbury, Northamptonshire, and Joseph Morris Butchers in South Kilworth, Leicestershire, are playing important roles in providing locally sourced produce to the local community.” – Milly.

    “Here at Farrington’s Mellow Yellow, we’ve been using the peelings from our potatoes to create delicious crisps, reducing food waste and creating a tasty snack. You simply toss potato (or carrot, parsnip or sweet potato) peelings with a drizzle of Farrington’s Mellow Yellow Rapeseed Oil, salt and any other herbs or spices you fancy, pop in the oven at 200C for 10 minutes until golden and crispy, and there you go! A delicious, quick snack that you enjoy in the time it takes to boil the potatoes.” – Gina.

    Craft Gin Club and Demijohn Wine Vinegars are my favourites. Delivered and some and are great prices.” – Sue.

    “Here’s one addition to my lockdown breakfast routine that can be construed as a yuk/wow combo.

    Half mug of hot water
    Half a small lemon, squeezed
    Big dollop of runny honey
    Level teaspoon of turmeric powder
    One dissolvable aspirin (please check that this is safe for you)  

    Stir furiously, then top up with cold water so it is still warm. Hold your breath and down it as quickly as possible. On finishing, eat a banana to take away the yuk. The wow comes half an hour later, when you feel immeasurably good.” – Heather.

    Thanks for everyone’s responses. We’ll publish more soon. Please tell us what you’re eating & drinking to get through lockdown by emailing matt@greatfoodclub.co.uk. We’re giving away a free Great Food Club membership to every response we publish.

  • Round Corner Brewing rapidly builds 250 customers for milkman-style beer drops

    Like many food and drink businesses, Melton Mowbray’s Round Corner Brewing has had to show agility and determination to keep trading during the coronavirus crisis.

    The brewery, just over a year old, had relied on pubs and its own taproom for most sales. However, those two revenue streams disappeared overnight. So, it is temporarily focusing on beer delivery (and, more recently, collection from the taproom). Each week the team fill their ‘growlers’ (glass bottles that hold 3.2 pints of beer) and deliver to doorsteps around the region.

    On April 19, Round Corner passed 250 customers for its milkman-style beer drops – a fantastic achievement in such a short time.

    Co-founder Combie Cryan said: “It started with ten people in Stamford [Lincolnshire] on Friday, March 20, and 14 people in Melton Mowbray [Leicestershire] on Saturday, March 21. Friday 27th was when it really took off and it hasn’t stopped since.”

    “We’ve ordered many more growlers from Kansas in the US and are now focusing on new areas such as Grantham and Oakham. We’re also now running socially-distanced weekend collections from our taproom at Melton Mowbray Cattle Market.

    “More than just bare numbers, we are thrilled with the reordering rate and satisfaction levels.”

    Round Corner’s Dan McGee fills another growler

    He continued: “We’ve done all of this with a skeleton staff and we’ll have to continue that for the foreseeable as it’s the only way to make this sustainable. All we ever get is support and encouragement to keep going.”

    Round Corner’s delivery service currently covers Melton Mowbray and surrounds, plus Stamford and Oakham. However, the team are looking at new areas, so if you are interested but don’t live in those places, drop them a line. Friday is the main delivery day for all locations. For more details and to order your delivery, click here.

    The queueing area for Round Corner’s socially distanced beer collections from its taproom at Melton Mowbray Cattle Market
  • Hambleton Hall launches home-delivery service

    Michelin-starred hotel and restaurant Hambleton Hall near Oakham has launched a home-delivery service covering Melton Mowbray and the Vale of Belvoir, Rutland and Stamford. Wines and Champagnes from Hambleton’s famous wine cellar are also available for delivery (see below), along with bread from Hambleton Bakery, local milk from Vine Farm Dairy and local eggs from Windy Ridge Farm.

    If you live in the postcode areas – LE13, LE14, LE15, LE16 or PE9 – you can have ‘A Taste of Hambleton’ delivered to your doorstep.

    However, even if you live outside those postcodes, you can call and collect your order, with a collection service running from 11am to 12 noon from the main entrance, Monday to Friday.

    To order, call 01572 766904 before noon Monday to Friday for next-day delivery. Payment is by credit/debit card only.

    The minimum order is £30 and the first delivery date will be Tuesday, April 21.

    Hambleton Hall owner Tim Hart said: “Our garden is looking so beautiful I am mortified that we cannot share it with guests at the moment. We’re all much looking forward to resuming normal service!”

  • Positive Kitchen launches local online supermarket for Leicestershire deliveries

    Leicestershire-based food entrepreneurs Aatin and Helen Anadkat have launched an online supermarket delivering local food and essentials to Leicestershire & surrounds.

    Positive Kitchen Supermarket is working with local suppliers including Hambleton Bakery, The Leicestershire Handmade Cheese Co, St Martin’s Coffee and Evingtons Wine.

    Aatin said: “For us, it’s about helping the local economy and safeguarding local jobs and businesses, and getting food out to as much of Leicestershire as possible.”

    Positive Kitchen’s growing range currently includes store-cupboard essentials including flour, toilet roll, fresh fruit and veg, dairy and eggs, bread, snacks and treats and a range of frozen items.

    Aatin said: “The list will continue to grow and we will be adding cleaning essentials, drinks and fresh meat to the shop in the coming days.”

    Positive Kitchen will deliver to your door and is now signing up 1,000 delivery slots in Leicestershire. Register for your slot here.

  • What you’re eating & drinking to get through the lockdown. Pt. 1 – Menai oysters to Marmite hummus

    We asked Great Food Club members to tell us what they’re eating & drinking to get through the lockdown. You provided an interesting response. Here’s Part 1.

    “I am enjoying Menai oysters. I took delivery of eight dozen to spread the delivery charge and keep the price at under £10 per dozen. The first few I enjoyed au naturelle. Then I cooked some with a simple onion & tomato sauce (as my wife only likes cooked oysters). Next, I shucked a dozen & a half for my daughter. Then I gratineed some. I also froze some to cook later. Then back to au naturelle, washed down with a crisp white! I’ll most probably order another lot in a couple of weeks as delivery is prompt and it’s much cheaper than driving to Anglesey.” – Stuart

    “A market trader has an amazing fruit and veg stall in her garage on the road between Eastwell and Stathern in Leicestershire, very extensive. One person at a time, cash only, useful to know to make trips to the supermarket less frequent.” – Colette

    “Just made these… dinky lockdown scones.” – Rebekah. Here’s the recipe.

    “I want to mention Beardsley’s [Tea Room & Shop] here in Rearsby, Leicestershire. [Owner] Hollie has been amazing, keeping us locals supplied with bread, milk, eggs, her wonderful baking (raspberry brownies today), and some useful store-cupboard items including flour! She is happy to deliver to us oldies in the village if necessary, and it was such a treat to have her Mothers’ Day afternoon tea delivered. I’d like her to know how much we appreciate her and what a huge difference it is making in these challenging times. I’ve ordered hot cross buns for later in the week so that will be a treat.” – Kathy

    “Well, one of our biggest happy food experiences during this present situation has been ordering & eating roasting chickens from our good friends at Waterloo Cottage Farm, Great Oxendon (just south of Market Harborough). We’ve tried many chickens in our time but theirs are the best for texture, quality and flavour. Having roasted it in our chicken brick – a great invention that keeps all the flavour and juices in and cuts out having to clean the oven – we use any meat remaining after the first meal (there are just the two of us) in a curry, a paella or whatever we decide at the time. I also make stock with the carcass and giblets (yes, they supply good old fashioned giblets, hurrah), adding loads of veg and herbs. Hey presto, we have the best chicken and veg soup for the rest of the week.  If we don’t fancy eating all the meat that week, it can, of course, be frozen for another time.

    The Waterloo Cottage team

    “When I collected the chicken this time (they offer a click-and-collect most days, or if you want to order other provisions through the edibLE16 website, which is based at the farm, you can collect or have delivered on Fridays), I decided we needed a treat so, alongside the very large free-range eggs from a local supplier, Clipston Eggs, I ordered some Old English sausages.  I put these in a quick braised red cabbage casserole – delicious – full of meat and flavour. You can tell the pigs were well kept and happy. 

    “One of my biggest cravings during this time is for a latte made by the coffee barista supremo Michelle at the Café on Welland Park in Market Harborough.  I dream of those coffees, and Roy the chef’s tasty treats.  I hope they’re all managing to survive through these days, I miss them very much.” – Beth

    The Cafe at Welland Park, pre-lockdown

    “I can highly recommend the farm shop at The Cholmeley Arms in Burton-le-Coggles, Lincolnshire. Hubby and I walked there yesterday from Corby Glen (our daily exercise) and among other things, we picked up some beautiful pork belly, which we slow roasted with some veg for a lazy Sunday dinner. We also grabbed some sirloin steak for date night later in the week. This farm shop also has a good range of everyday essentials including veg, bread, milk and washing powder, etc.” – Heather

    The butchery counter at The Cholmeley Arms’ farm shop

    “We recently had sea bass fillet on spiced cannellini beans with fried diced sweet potatoes.” – Hillary

    “We shared a meal with our family at the weekend but 30 miles divided us. We all cooked simple scampi and chips and had a wonderful meal using FaceTime.” – John

    “The one positive I can take from this time is that we have had three sit-down meals a day with our two daughters, Arabella (4) and Beatrice (1) for the past few weeks. We have cooked and baked together. We have talked and laughed over delicious meals as a family.

    “My husband and I are key workers and still super busy… but for the next few weeks we can fortunately work from home. Spending time together as a family cooking lovely things and spending quality time together has been a joy in these uncertain times.

    “Not much money for takeaway at the moment but wanted to give a huge thank you to The Dog & Gun in Enderby, Leics, who have delivered us emergency wine 😉 … They also do a fabulous burger and Sunday roast for delivery!

    “We are out of quarantine from tomorrow and plan to utilise the local farm shops and butchers rather than the bigger supermarkets… it feels safer to me.” – Ellie

    Ellie’s lockdown photos – Arabella (4) and Beatrice (1)

    “We’re loving my creamy fish pie with smoked haddock, cod, salmon and king prawn…..plus a whole lemon’s worth of zest underneath the mash topping. Comfort food & very much needed!” – Jo

    “We are getting deliveries from Maxey’s Farm Shop in Kirklington, Notts, as well as ordering and collecting from Gonalston Farm Shop, also in Notts. And we’re using a lovely little independent wine shop in Southwell who deliver – Mr & Mrs Fine Wine. They give excellent service and wine but I don’t really want to share too much for obvious reasons!” – David & Sue.

    Mr & Mrs Fine Wine in Southwell

    “We’re using Stamford Garden Centre, which is open for food. And here’s my recipe for perfect Welsh Rarebit – so simple.

    Ingredients (no need for flour or butter)

    150g strong cheddar grated
    20g Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padana grated
    100g cream cheese
    1 tbsp double cream
    1 tsp Dijon mustard

    Mix ingredients and spread over slices of lightly toasted Hambleton Bakery granary bread. Pop under grill for 5/6 minutes until browned – voila! Serve with grilled tomatoes and wash down with your beer, wine, cider, apple juice of choice. Gorgeous.” – Paul

    “We are making a big thing of brunch to get us through the day. My favourite so far is toast spread with Marmite and cream cheese or humous topped with a poached egg and a sprinkling of Parmesan. To make it even better I lightly brown some chestnut mushrooms with a teaspoon of butter and some spray oil and serve them on the side. Really a taste sensation!” – Julia

    “I’m taking delivery of mystery cheese bags from The Cambridge Cheese Company. This one, my second, consisted of Artisan Manchego, Cambridge Blue, Kirkhams Lancashire and St Cera. I’m also having the occasional sundowner beer, having had a case delivered by Papworth Brewery.” – Philip, Great Food Club editor-at-large

    Thanks for everyone’s responses. We’ll publish more soon. Please tell us what you’re eating & drinking to get through lockdown by emailing matt@greatfoodclub.co.uk. We’re giving away a free Great Food Club membership to every response we publish.

  • Lockdown heroes: The Black Horse in Aylestone

    The Black Horse in Aylestone is spreading happiness and keeping its community entertained and supported during this testing time.

    Alan Merryweather and Sarah Cunnington, business owners of The Black Horse in Aylestone, Leicestershire were stranded in Tenerife as the coronavirus crisis started to take hold in the UK.

    “Being in isolation in our hotel room gave us time to think about how we and our pub could help our community through this when we got back. We could see what was happening in Tenerife and knew it wouldn’t be long before it started happening at home,” says Alan.

    When Alan and Sarah finally arrived back, all pubs had been ordered to close.

    “We decided we wanted to help people take a little break from all of this and spread a little normality and happiness.”

    The Black Horse – Great Food Club’s Classic Pub of the Year 2019/20 – is known for its innovative entertainment programme, including Sunday Bike Ride Club, quiz nights, Cheese Club and comedy nights. So it didn’t surprise regulars when it started putting on virtual events.

    “We think it’s important to keep spirits up and bring the community together,” says Alan. “So, we took our pub online.”

    Alan and Sarah have organised virtual pub quizzes, comedy shows, jam nights and a book club. And people from all over the country are joining in, as well as their regulars.

    “We are learning and improving as we go but we have been overwhelmed by the support. It’s amazing to see so many people getting involved. We miss the pub and this has really helped us, too,” says Sarah.

    You can even join Alan and Sarah online every Friday for ‘Lunch with the Landlord’ where they invite you for a good old chat. And on St George’s Day (April 23) they plan to host an online music festival, featuring live performances throughout the day.

    “We’d like to thank our loyal customers and community, who have supported us over the nine years we’ve been at the pub,” says Alan. “Aylestone has a great community vibe and we are happy we are able to give a little something back.”

    The Black Horse is also supporting its community by sourcing food boxes and hosting a food bank in the garden (with The Emerald Centre) on Wednesdays, 11am-1pm, for people who are struggling to get provisions.

    Furthermore, Alan and Sarah help co-ordinate ‘Aylestone Help and Support Network’ – a Facebook group set up to support people in the Aylestone community.

    Find out more on The Black Horse’s Facebook page and website.

  • Food heroes of lockdown: Nottingham’s Alchemilla

    Alchemilla, Nottingham’s newest Michelin-starred restaurant, initially launched a local delivery service in response to lockdown. Many loyal customers took advantage and enjoyed having Michelin-starred cuisine delivered to their doorsteps, often dropped off by the head chef & owner himself, Alex Bond.

    However, Alchemilla has since decided to focus its energy on cooking for the NHS and vulnerable members of its community.

    Each Friday, head chef Alex Bond and his team deliver several hundred free meals to Nottingham’s Queens Medical Centre and City Hospital to help sustain front-line NHS staff.

    On April 3, Alchemilla posted on its Facebook page beneath a video showing stacks of pre-prepared meals: “That’s the first 600 dropped off at QMC. This is only going to get harder for the people fighting to keep us all safe. Stay safe everyone.”

    A still from the video posted by Alchemilla showing meals produced for Nottingham hospitals. Click above to view it in a new window.

    One comment left beneath the video said: “A massive thank you from the night shift team on AICU last night! The lamb hotpot was beautiful and the sticky toffee pudding was seriously EPIC! Xx”

    Another, beneath a picture of a devoured sticky toffee pudding, said: “You have definitely brightened my day! Thank you kind people!”

    Alchemilla has set up a donations page for anyone who wants to give money to its free-meals-for-the-NHS project.

    As well as helping NHS staff, Alchemilla – along with several other Nottingham independents including Ugly Bread Bakery and Bar Iberico – has teamed up with Open Kitchens. Open Kitchens is a national food solution that brings together restaurants and their communities to fund, produce and deliver free meals to those in need.

    Alchemilla posted on its Facebook page: “It’s official! We’ve partnered with Open Kitchens to #FeedThoseInNeed. Just £1.85 is enough to provide a meal to someone vulnerable or our tireless NHS staff… We’ve pledged our time and resources to provide 400 meals a week for six weeks! So we need your donations to fulfil this and make it happen. Help #FeedYourCommunity by spreading the word and donating via the link.”

    To donate to Alchemilla’s NHS meals project, click here.

  • Local food heroes of lockdown: The Blue Bell at Desford

    The door to The Blue Bell Inn & Lodge in Desford, Leicestershire, is temporarily closed but the pub remains at the heart of its community.

    Michael Cosgrove has run the Blue Bell since 2015 and despite the pandemic crisis, he’s busier than ever.

    “The pub is the heart of the village and at times like these the people need each other and a central point,” he says. “We have tried to pull everyone together. We’ve set up a shop to support the village and we’re using our suppliers to source items like pasta, bread and milk. Many in the village are vulnerable so we’re delivering where we can and social distancing when people are collecting. It’s kept me busier than the pub did some days.”

    Michael is also putting on virtual nights through Facebook Live, including quiz and bingo nights. “We’ve had such a great response,” he says. “People are sat at home bored, wishing they could be down the pub with friends, so it seemed right to put what I can on for them. The events are not polished, and I’m learning as I go, but everyone is so supportive and getting involved – it highlights what a great community we have here in Desford.”

    Michael says: ”I want to thank all of the volunteers who have been helping out with the community shop and everyone in the village who is supporting the pub in these difficult times, it really means a lot.”

    Find out more about The Blue Bell’s community shop and virtual events here.

  • Local food heroes of coronavirus: The ‘Feeding Nottingham’ Project

    By Bobby Twidale

    In these unsettling times, an army of health-care workers are facing unimaginable challenges, and many vulnerable people are struggling to access good nutrition. As a result, two Nottingham independents – CHEFF and The Body Project – have teamed up to launch an inspiring project.

    CHEFF – ‘clean, healthy, energising, fresh food’ – is continuing to provide its regular delivery and collection service, offering up to a month’s worth of fresh or frozen meals to doorsteps in Nottingham.

    However, as lockdown has gone on, the CHEFF team – Adam Sinnott and Rebecca Clarke – realised that many local people are in genuine need. Not just the elderly and sick, but also people who are struggling financially, families who rely on school meals, and NHS staff and other key workers.

    “I didn’t realise how many vulnerable people live so close by,” says Adam.

    In response, CHEFF has joined forces with The Body Project, run by Kelly Marshall and wife Nina. The two companies are now working in tandem to help their local communities.

    Adam Sinnott, founder of CHEFF

    As two small businesses with limited funds, they too are facing uncertain futures. So they set up a GoFundMe page – Feeding Nottingham – to cover costs in their quest to fund 1,000 free meals for people in Nottingham. After publishing the page, they smashed their goal in a few days and at the time of writing their original target of £3,000 stood at £4,736. Deliveries to vulnerable people have now started.

    “Feeding Nottingham has highlighted the incredible community that exists in Nottingham. So many people have generously donated and allowed us to fly the flag for what the kindness of strangers can achieve,” says Kelly.

    Feeding Nottingham is now actively inviting enquiries, particularly for larger deliveries where several people can be supported in one drop-off.

    More about CHEFF

    CHEFF was launched by former tradesman and fitness enthusiast Adam Sinnott after he became frustrated by not being able to easily access healthy hot food while at work or out and about.

    In January 2019 he opened his business in West Bridgford to provide people with healthy, fast food and meal ‘preps’. Meal prepping is the practice of preparing meals in advance, balanced to support weight-loss, nutritional, budgetary, dietary or training goals. Generally, people ‘prep’ for anything from a few days to a full month in advance. It’s a great way of maintaining a healthy diet if you’re time-poor but does require a level of organisation and planning. That’s where CHEFF can help.

    The Body Project

    Crowned Functional Fitness World Champion in Brisbane, Australia, in October 2019, Kelly Marshall, founder of The Body Project, is an elite plant-based athlete with a thriving Specialist Prehabilitation Clinic. Before finding CHEFF, her work and training schedule meant the challenge of preparing and maintaining the correct nutritional support had been overwhelming.

    To donate to Feeding Nottingham, click here.

  • Local food heroes of coronavirus: The Larder of Oakham

    The Larder in Oakham has responded to the coronavirus crisis in an inspirational way. When lockdown started, Great Food Club’s Café of the Year 2020 chose to close temporarily to help struggling people in the local community.

    Co-owner Alyson Kyle, who runs the café with Iain Stares, explains: “We considered opening The Larder as a takeaway and delivery service, but many others are already doing that – and doing it well. So we decided to give something back – albeit small. The government has given strong support to small businesses, which is partly why we felt able to do this.”

    The Larder is making and delivering around 300-400 meals a week, free of charge

    Since temporarily closing its doors, The Larder has been providing ready-meals in and around Rutland to around 60 households twice weekly, equating to 300-400 meals a week. It is doing this completely free of charge while simultaneously raising funds via its Free Food For Rutland Just Giving page. At the time of writing, the page is just short of £2,000 in donations. 

    The meals are simple, hearty dishes – stews, casseroles, pies, soups and curries. Other local businesses, including Hitchen’s Barn and Leesons Butchers, are donating ingredients.

    Alyson says: “The thinking behind the service is to offer a helping hand to those who might be struggling with the current Covid situation. We have no eligibility criteria but many recipients are the elderly with no nearby relatives, the self-isolating or people who have lost their jobs. We also deliver to a few NHS keyworkers. Some deliveries are regular and others are one-offs to help people if they’re having a difficult week.”

    For more information, visit The Larder’s Facebook page.

  • Local producer fights to stay open with wartime-style food-parcel scheme

    A food producer whose grandparents supplied the frontline during World War II is pushing to create a similar food-parcel system for vulnerable people during the coronavirus crisis.

    William Sutherland’s grandparents sent potted beef to soldiers in the 1940s. Today, William – managing director of Chesterfield-based Pro Chef Terrines & Patés – makes potted beef to the same 1940s recipe. Inspired by his grandparents, he has launched a plea to set up food-parcel deliveries for those in most need.

    William Sutherland’s grandparents produced Sutherland’s Potted Meat

    “We’re on a war footing,” says William. “There are more than a million vulnerable people isolating at home who need our help. Small producers also need to stay in business. With government help – or possibly corporate sponsorship – small local producers like us could team up to create food parcels at cost price for these vulnerable people.”

    One of William Sutherland’s products today

    William argues such a system would be a win-win. Not only would it help vulnerable individuals; it would also allow existentially threatened small producers to keep going.

    “Food parcels containing high-quality local food & drink make sense,” he says. “Receiving them would make vulnerable people feel more cared for, comfortable and happier than receiving a box of generic food. Furthermore, such a scheme would breathe life into small producers at a time when they need help. Can the government or a corporate sponsor help us to set this scheme up? If you can help, please contact me.”

    To get in touch with William, email him here.

  • The Berkeley Arms: A pub at the heart of its community

    By Bobby Twidale

    Since taking over The Berkeley Arms in Wymondham just over a year ago, Dipak Raxit, or ‘Kumar’ as he prefers to be known, has quickly established himself and his traditional village pub as the beating heart of the local community.

    He’d be first to admit it wasn’t an easy start; losing a chef in the first few days of trading was not part of the plan. He’s proven himself more than equal to the challenge though. He’ll tell you he and his team, all locals, are still learning every day and he’s proud that the food and service are getting better and better.

    Kumar in the kitchen at The Berkeley Arms

    In a rural environment where community facilities can be limited, the pub becomes the hub of the community. Actions speak louder than words and so one of Kumar’s first initiatives was to establish a Village Night on a Monday evening where for just £10 you could enjoy a meal and a drink. It has been a big hit with locals with most Mondays fully booked! And what Kumar instinctively gets is that the more you’re involved with the community, the more they will support you in return. “The pub is not mine,” he insists, “it belongs to everyone.”

    He’s developing a reputation for great food that people want to eat; he really listens when his customers tell him what they want. You mention you’re a fan of fresh seafood and the next week razor clams will appear on the menu. Good value, tasty pub grub more your cup of tea? You’ll probably like a burger and pint for a tenner then.

    Best laid plans and all that…

    None of us saw the Coronavirus crisis coming, did we? But true to character, Kumar’s main motivator is his extended family, the local community. His first reaction of course was devastation for his business and team of colleagues after a year of hard graft, but he’s quickly put aside those feelings to focus on how The Berkeley Arms can continue to be there through these unprecedented circumstances.

    He started by giving away all of his surplus stock to the villagers and then put out a takeaway and home delivery menu. However, he’s since drawn that to a close to encourage as many people to stay at home as possible, although he’s working out how to provide free meals for those in the village who need them.

    “It’s a new world,” he says. And you can be sure Kumar will be there doing whatever it takes to help his community navigate the challenges that lie ahead.

    And when it’s all over? The Berkeley Arms team will have a warm welcome, some great food and a nice pint waiting for you.

    Find The Berkeley Arms on Instagram and Facebook.

    Kumar and his family.
  • Coronavirus: Support independents. Talk to them. Spend with them.

    Great Food Club comment:

    This is an existential crisis for many local independents. Before heading to the supermarket to stock up, consider what you can buy from your local food shops, traders, pubs and restaurants. Also, talk to them. Give them a call or pop in for a (socially distant) chat. Start a conversation. Explain how they can help you and ask how you can help them.

    Since 2010, we’ve been shining a light on small, talented, local food & drink businesses. From farms to farm shops, from street-food vendors to pubs and restaurants, Great Food Club exists to celebrate these important enterprises. They make our villages, towns and cities better places. Their energy, stories, personalities and passion add up to much more than just a nice meal.

    Therefore, we acutely feel their worry and disorientation during this unprecedented coronavirus challenge. The government’s recent ‘neither fish nor foul’ message that we should avoid pubs and restaurants but they should remain open (if they want) adds further confusion, and risks zombifying the entire hospitality sector.

    How should we as customers – as food & drink lovers – respond? Well, first and foremost, of course, we must look after our vulnerable family and friends.

    However, this is an existential crisis for many local independents and if we want them to survive, we must support them, too. The government needs to act to help them financially through however long this thing lasts. But we should also act.

    Every household is right now hellbent on making sure it is as ready as possible for whatever challenges lie ahead. Supermarkets are the primary beneficiaries of this drive. However, before heading to the supermarket to stock up again and again, consider what you can buy from your local food shops, traders, pubs and restaurants.

    An excellent place to start is to talk to them. Give them a call or pop in for a chat. Start a conversation. Explain how they can help you and ask how you can help them. Do they plan to offer takeaways? Can they deliver bread, milk, wine or other essentials? An advantage of small businesses is flexibility. This agility – plus their knowledge of the local community – give many of them the power to become vital hubs during this crisis.

    Second, if you’re healthy and feel safe doing so, continue to book tables and eat and drink out as much as possible. If you have to cancel your reservation, give as much notice as you can.

    Third, if you don’t want to, or can’t, eat out, consider buying vouchers to use later. They could be cashed in for a post-coronavirus celebration meal (how good will that occasion be?), a deferred Mothers’ Day gathering, or set aside for a rainy day. If you know someone who’s isolating, buy them a dining voucher with a gift note. It would brighten up anyone’s day to receive a voucher with a message that read: “Hope you’re doing OK. Let’s hook up to eat out as soon as possible.”

    Fourth, send messages of support and post positive reviews. The importance of raising morale should not be underestimated.

    These are surreal, bizarre and worrying times for everyone, but we can get through it and come out stronger if we support each other. So please, spend some of your budget at local food & drink businesses. Pick up the phone and talk to your village pub, independent restaurant or local shop. Doing so will help to ensure local independents keep on trucking during this unprecedentedly challenging time.

    Search for excellent food & drink independents here.

  • “I had to step back from the stoves to focus on my wellbeing and mental health”

    Sean Hope, co-founder and former Michelin-starred head chef at The Olive Branch in Rutland, writes about his tough decision to step away from the stoves and his exciting new product range, Add Hopes…

    In April 2018, I decided to step away from the stoves at The Olive Branch after nearly 20 years. The reason was simple. It was starting to affect my mental health. 

    Exiting the pub kitchen was difficult. Cooking is an ingrained passion I’ve held dear for more than 35 years. It left a huge void in my life, but while recovering from my diagnosis of anxiety and depression, I was able to spend valuable time with my family.

    Sean ran The Olive Branch kitchen for 20 years. In that time he won many awards, including a Michelin Star.

    Another door opens

    I also followed another passion of mine – growing fruit and vegetables. Three years ago, I developed a plan for The Olive Branch paddock, which is located over the road opposite the pub. Of late, I have returned to the paddock to continue what I’d started – growing sustainable, seasonal organic ingredients for the pub. Doing so has inspired me and rewarded me with greater peace of mind.

    My approach is to use as much general waste from the pub as possible alongside a ‘no-dig’, organic policy. We’re using old cardboard to make growing beds, and combining coffee grounds with waste fruit, veg and fireplace ash to produce compost. My composting area is like mother nature’s stockpot for fabulous food!

    Sean’s new workplace – the allotment he created, situated over the road from The Olive Branch in Clipsham

    Add Hopes is born

    I came up with the idea for Add Hopes while working in the paddock and while talking to family and friends. The importance of sauces and condiments to my Olive Branch cooking style often cropped up in conversation. The question came: “Why don’t you make them, bottle them and sell them”?

    Add Hopes is the result. I’ve painstakingly developed each product, taking the time to perfect each one. They are designed for people who, like me, adore food but sometimes don’t have enough time to make complex sauces and condiments at home.

    I want people to Add Hopes to their dishes. You might sprinkle Add Hopes Hoisin sauce – made from paddock-grown hawthorn berries – to a midweek stir-fry. Or maybe you’ll add Add Hopes spiced tomato sauce to a simple ratatouille. Or perhaps you’ll complement grilled spring lamb or your Sunday roast beef with Add Hopes creamed horseradish (grown in the paddock).

    When the weather has been less fair, I’ve spent time creating the www.add-hopes.com website and online shop to bring my products to a larger audience.

    Exploring fermentation

    Most recently I have been researching fermentation, which I find fascinating. The result is a local organic Rutland beer vinegar and my interpretation of Worcestershire sauce, which has been in development for almost four months! I’m also developing kombucha brewed with paddock-grown lemon verbena. All my products will soon be available to try at The Olive Branch and buy in the pub shop.

    Mind Space Stamford

    After struggling with mental health and finding it hard to get the right support, I was delighted to discover a local charity – Stamford Mind Space. Their positive and practical support is excellent and much needed, so I have decided to donate a proportion of the profits from Add Hopes to this amazing charity.

    The future

    Soon, I would love to give people the chance to spend time at The Olive Branch paddock via gardening workshops. I am also planning to take part in a 100-mile charity bike ride in July to raise money for Mind Space Stamford. Also, Sean continues to be involved with The Olive Branch on a consulting level as a director and co-owner.

    The Olive Branch’s polytunnel
  • How John Molnar and his award-winning team turned The Cod’s Scallops into Britain’s best fish & chip shop

    By Bobby Twidale

    East Midlands chippy The Cod’s Scallops was already riding the crest of a wave following its victory in the National Fish & Chip Awards 2020. A few weeks later in March 2020, it bagged a top prize at the British Pie Awards – for its chicken, leek & ham pie (in the Fish & Chip Shop category). I spoke to John Molnar, owner of The Cod’s Scallops chain of restaurants, at their Mansfield Road fish and chip shop in Nottingham...

    From the moment you walk through the door, it’s clear The Cod’s Scallops is no wet fish. Every member of staff offers a ready smile, the perfect side to the mouthwatering plates of fish and chips they serve up six days a week in its four establishments.

    It’s a cold Wednesday afternoon in February but the place is warm, bright and buzzing with customers. The menu is extensive with around 20 different species of fish on offer, which are served traditionally battered or baked for a gluten-free, healthy alternative. And all this in a land-locked, urban setting, 70 miles from the coast. 

    John jokes: “We offer a massive range of fish. My menu is written by my fishmonger. I speak to him more than I speak to my wife.”

    John has been in the business for 30 years and knew it was time to apply the same rigorous standards he’d learned in top fine-dining establishments to the fish and chip trade.

    “I didn’t understand why you couldn’t go into a fish and chip shop and order some baked bass with chips and some moules marinières to take away,” he says.

    That was probably his main motivation for putting him and his team through the gruelling Fish & Chip Awards selection process; the mystery shoppers, the head-to-heads with other top restaurants, the London pitch to 15 industry-leading judges – it’s all been about giving their customers a better experience.

    “I entered because it made us a better shop,” John explains. “The little touches that are now second nature. You become a better operator.”

    But the success, he insists, is all down to his staff.

    “They’re the winners, not me.”

    And winners they are. With the UK leading the fish and chip industry, The Cod’s Scallops is arguably the best fish and chip shop in the world.

    John takes his obligations as an industry ambassador seriously. They will be travelling to Japan in September to represent the best of the UK on the world stage, and he’s also using the profile to support two charities close to the team’s hearts, The Fishermen’s Mission and Maggie’s Nottingham.

    A recent addition, The Top Floor Development is the production and development kitchen where chef Dan Burridge, formerly head chef at Hart’s, works his magic. Everything sold in the restaurants – the pies, fishcakes, fish soup and tartar sauce – is produced on-site, guaranteeing a consistently excellent standard across the shop.

    The Top Floor Development has also provided the perfect opportunity for Dan to show his creative flair by offering bespoke private-dining events for up to 24 people. You choose your menu, select your wines from an extensive list and make your Sunday lunch last as long as you like (or your Monday supper or Friday dinner). Dan will cook to your specifications, create a menu from a wishlist of ingredients or influences, or even let you don an apron and join in. It’s all grown by word of mouth but the initiative has been such a success they’ve had to employ a new staff member to handle the bookings. It’s the kind of innovation that will keep John, wife Helen and their team at the top of their game, and The Cod’s Scallops and the UK industry they represent leading the world in fish & chips.

    Find The Cod’s Scallops in Sherwood, Long Eaton and Wollaton in Nottinghamshire, and in Market Harborough in Leicestershire.

  • The female head distiller making waves at Burleighs Gin of Leicestershire

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    Distilling is traditionally a male pursuit. There’s no reason why it should be – except the shackles of history – but many more men make gin, vodka, rum and whisky than women. The same is true for brewing.

    However, things are changing. The gin boom is creating more women distillers. And one is Charlie Hendon, head distiller at Burleighs Gin of Leicestershire.

    Charlie’s career began at Derby Brewing Company, where she developed a passion for brewing and distillation. Joining Burleighs Gin in 2018, she found her feet under the guidance of Master Distiller Jamie Baxter before taking over Burleighs’ distillation and product development.

    “It’s a great time to be a woman in the gin industry,” says Charlie. “A world that was predominantly led by men is increasingly being shaped and influenced by women. The popularity of gin has opened many opportunities for distillers to hone their creativity and skills.”

    Located in Leicestershire’s Charnwood Forest, every bottle of Burleighs Gin is distilled by Charlie on a 450-litre copper-pot still. They are enjoyed as far afield as Malaysia & Thailand.

    Charlie’s first creation as Burleighs head distiller is the limited-edition Enchanted Woodland Gin, released in January 2020. It’s a classic London Dry Gin distilled with bilberries, elderberry and lemon. A limited number of bottles are available here.

    Charlies says: “My advice to women looking to enter the gin industry is to be confident and show a willingness to learn. You never know how far your passion might take you. Being the head distiller of an international gin brand once felt a distant dream, but now the sky is the limit.”

    If gin distilling sounds like your dream job, you can try your hand at Burleighs Gin Academy. Working with Charlie, you’ll gain a unique insight into gin, enjoy behind-the-scenes access to Burleighs Distillery and craft a bottle of gin to your own recipe.

  • Wigston Fields News & Deli celebrates its first birthday

    The owners of Wigston Fields News & Deli – Pratik & Bee Master – are our Food Heroes of the Year. The couple won the award after transforming their corner shop into a local-food hotspot. Time flies, and on Saturday, March 7, 10am to 3pm, the shop celebrates its first birthday.

    For 17 years, the Wigston Fields News & Deli – christened #NotJustACornershop on social media – operated as ‘Masters General Store’. Owned by Jay Master, it was a typical corner shop, stocking the essentials. It was the bread and butter of the neighbourhood.

    However, on March 2, 2019, Pratik and Bee – Jay’s son and daughter-in-law – transformed the shop. They retained its identity as a family-run corner shop but added an inspirational range of local, artisan food & drink. This includes Leicestershire wines from Rothley Wine Estate, loaves from Hambleton Bakery and Bisbrooke Artisans, milk from Vine Farm Dairy of Great Dalby and pastries from Choux’tique and Christopher James Delicatessen.

    In total, 57 local producers and retailers are now represented.

    Pratik says: “The presence of thriving small family businesses is fundamental to community life. We all rely on each other and without the support of likeminded people, Wigston Fields News & Deli would not exist. In particular, Sukhina Garcia of Betty Brown Boutique, creator of the #SupportLeicesterLocal hashtag, has been key.

    “Wigston News & Deli embodies the days when the local shop was a community hub where you could pick up a pint of milk and a loaf but also stay for an hour putting the world to rights. It’s almost like therapy.”

    Pratik and Bee hope to stock items from 100 local producers by May 2020.

    Head to Wigston News & Deli on Saturday March 7 to sample Burleighs Gin, Choux’tique French pastries, Eleri’s Welsh Cakes and, knowing Pratik, a samosa or two! Furthermore, Martin Bros will be there on Sunday March 8 cooking fresh pizzas.

    Click here to find out more.