Archive for Cafe Chatter

New location, same quality service.

Last week we moved Pea Green Cafe to a new location on the banks of the river Teme. We are still providing the home delivery service of our delicious freshly cooked meals. Specials today are either Chicken chasseur OR vegetable lasagne. Both cooked from scratch using fresh locally sourced ingredients. See below for details.

For lunchtime delivery phone before 11.00AM or supper delivery phone before 3.00PM, the number to call is 07983 941856. If you’re connected to the answer phone when you call please leave a message and we WILL call you back

At the moment, until cafes are allowed to re-open, we are just providing the delivery service. In the fullness of time we shall be offering our full table service in our new location. Watch this space for future updates!

Pea Green Cafe’s New Home

Pea Green Coronavirus Response No 2

Friar’s Walk in Spring Sunshine

What a strange week it has been. The town so quiet, the streets deserted, unless you were in one of the enormous, serpentine queues for food or medicine. All of us standing the regulation six feet apart, all anxious, all wondering if the shop would have run out of stock before we reach its doors.

The lane to the café has been sunk into a dreamy sleep. With bees loud in the hedges and blue and white for-get-me-nots speckling the banks. No sound of children playing, no traffic at either end. The one woman I pass backing into the wall with her dog to let me pass. We exchange greetings and commiserations from a safe distance, relieved to be polite and friendly in what can appear a friendless time.

We have used the cool and silent streets of early evening to begin posting our new Supper Solutions Menus through doors, which is beginning to have results. The only living beings in Mill Street were a pair of mallards who politely got out of the way and waddled off towards the Art Gallery. Obviously cultured ducks.

We are all learning to adapt to a new way of living, reaching out through different means for the important, necessary things we need. Hopefully our new delivery slots will go a little way to helping customers plan their weekly needs.

http://www.peagreencafe.com/supper-solutions

Coronavirus Pea Green’s 1st Blog Response

The word medieval keeps coming to mind. The hush of the streets, the quietness of town. The few people abroad hurry purposefully to their pre set destination. Greetings are muted in the main, a grimace of a smile, an averted gaze. We are all at sea with the new etiquette required in these pestilence times.

The café is silent, cleaned, light, airy and empty of life. The new photo canvases, the updated magazines remain unseen. The planned for events, all cancelled. No more Good Greif Café, Speed Awareness Course, Ladies who do Yoga, Veterans walking club. The Dance Studio is hollow with the remembered noise of a Saturday morning session. For a while Phil the Gardner came, pruned, weeded, left.

While we are under the Coronavirus curfew, we will be focussing on serving our customers through our take away service “Supper Solutions“, a service for all those vulnerable category people who would benefit from this service. There are the over worked, stressed priority workers who at the moment just don’t have time to shop and cook, in addition to all those with special health needs who are sensibly staying home, “Supper Solutions” would really help.

All these developments coming pit pat one after the other, has as you may imagine kept us on out toes. We will be refining and expanding the services we offer to our local community with updates on menus and other take-out options via Facebook, twitter and more frequent blogs.

Sign up for blog updates on our home page

We will stay in contactless communication with you for as long as the crisis continues.

Passing Through

August, the Centre sleepy in the heat. Most classes are sharing the school holidays, and there is a feeling at times of the boarding school child, left in school because their parents live aboard.  Every so often there is a burst of activity as a local group meet in the Teme rooms, or a Speed Awareness course fills the car park with disgruntled participants.

In the café we are experiencing the summer holidays in all their multi-faceted glory. The customers come from a much wider base, as we cater for people who are visiting Shropshire, some staying over in the centre, but many just passing by and wanting a stop that isn’t cooperate.

We are a favourite stopping place for cyclists, as the café building is set back from the road and affords safe harbour for their bikes. As far removed from the bikes we rode as the Wright Brothers from modern jets. I am in awe at the distances they travel, yes, we have had Land’s End to John o Groats riders, but most are cycling 50/60 miles, which information is causally given as drinks are served, water bottles filled, tired limbs rested. I follow the routes (that I know) as they leave, wondering if they get a better sense of the landscape, they travel through than those that go by car. Or if their whole effort and concentration is taken up by staying safely on the machine they’re crouched over.

At the other end of the scale we host Conferences, the last being The Mary Webb Society which I loved being a great fan of her work. In fact we named our company Golden Arrow in homage to her work and inspiration. They filled the centre with a bright burst of book talk and chatter, music and poetry.

We also have just hosted a local Wedding, which took over the centre with music and laughter, good food and dancing for most of one day. How wonderful to be a small part in such an important day for a local couple.

There are Meditation Groups, a clutch of elderly gentlemen who meet once a week for drinks and cake and chat, families in for an ice-cream, local workers, an occasional coach driver seeking peace and calm before the next leg of his journey.

And then there are the regular customers, some of whom have become friends, who drop in to eat and tell us their summer holiday tales, the state of their gardens, the weather, how the town is filling up/ empty (Burwarton Show).

Some bright spark tried to depress us by saying “Oh Shrewsbury Flower Show. That means the nights will be drawing in!” Little did they know that they were talking to Frost Worshippers. Autumn will bring in a whole crop of new and returning customers to enjoy.

“If you come my way”

I always consider March to be a particularly Welsh month, and not just because the 1st of the month is St David’s day. The daffodils are coming into flower, bowed by the wind but still subtle enough to bounce back and smile at us.

Rugby’s six nations champions are battling is out, with the Red Dragon of the Welsh rampant and breathing fire.

Leeks, another Welsh symbol are in season along with shallots and spring onions which all come from the same vegetable family. The edible part of the leek is it’s bundle of leaf sheaths, which we sometimes wrongly call the stem. As well as being versatile and tasty, it contains calcium, iron and other vitamins and minerals. The daffodil is known in Wales as “Peter’s Leek” and is worn on St David’s day, a custom that goes way back to at least Saxon times.
It was said that a Welsh King ordered his soldiers to wear them in their helmets so that they could be identified in an ancient battle that took place in a leek field. Or maybe it was beacuse St David was alleged to have eaten only leeks when fasting.
The Welsh Guards still use a leek as the cap badge of their regiment.

Leeks have a mild onion taste but a smoother texture. The whole of the leaf sheath is edible, though most people discard the tougher outer leaf and the dark green tops. If washed however these make a good addition to stocks and can be tied in a bundle with herbs to make a bouquet garni.

Leeks can be eaten raw in salads, having a mild flavour and a slightly squeaky bite, but they are commonly eaten as part of soups and stews. The welsh soup, Cawl cenin, is celebrated in the poem “If You Come My Way” by Lynette Roberts, who lived in a small village in Wales.

“I will offer you a choice bowl of cawl
Served with a “lover’s” spoon and a chopped spray
Of leeks or savori fach, not used now,”

I like a leek sauce on top of a cooked sausage base, a cheap, easy supper and delicious cold too. Makes a great picnic item. Pop along to your local market or green grocers and pick up some pearly white and soft green leeks.


Dumplings

This is the season when a hearty bowl of stew is one of the most welcome of meals, and there is nothing I enjoy more as an accompaniment than a dumpling. Not that I have always been able to cook them, my first attempts being like bullets and one one memorable occasion, so large that they supped up all the liquid in the casserole!

Dumplings originate from China. 1800 years ago in the Han Dynasty, a man named Zhang Zhongjian noticed that all the people in his village were suffering most dreadfully from frostbite, especially around their poor ears. He solved he problem by cooking up mutton, chilli and healing herbs wrapping them in scraps of dough, folding the dumplings to look like ears. He boiled them and handed them out to the villagers, who thought they tasted wonderful.

History does not record wither they cured the frostbite. The experience of eating food such as this, is enhanced for me by knowing that our ancestors enjoyed them too.

The dough of a dumpling can be made from a variety of starch sources, based on bread, flour or potatoes. This is then wrapped around a filling which can be one of meat, fish, cheese or vegetables. There are also sweet dumplings, filled with fruit or sweets.

They can be cooked using different methods such as baking, boiling in stock, simmering or steaming. It is easy to see why dumplings are so popular, they are relatively cheap and (allegedly) easy to make. The traditional British dumpling which some of us remember so fondly from childhood onward, is made by combining twice the weight of self-raising flour to suet, bound by cold water to form a dough seasoned with salt and pepper and if the fancy takes you herbs.

My family hale from Norfolk where the dumpling is made in a slightly different manner. The Norfolk Dumpling, (the food not one of the inhabitants!) is not made with fat but with a raising agent and flour. In the Cotswolds they add breadcrumbs and cheese, sometimes rolling them in breadcrumbs too. Then, oh sinful loveliness, they fry them all golden and crispy.

A vegetarian version of the suet dumpling just uses a vegetable suet rather than the meat based product, and you wouldn’t taste the difference. We use this in our sweet mincemeat so that vegetarians can enjoy it too. In Scotland, dumplings sweetened with fruit and spices are boiled tied inside a cloth in water and are called a “clootie dumplings” after the cloth.

Dumplings in fact, have taken over the world, being made and eaten from the Asian continent to the Americas. A truly international dish.



Break-fast

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It was certainly dinned into me as a child. Remember, “Go to work on an egg.” Those lucky Ready Brek children with their glowing auras of warmth and smugness?

But that wasn’t always the case. The word comes from the phrase, to “break your fast.” A religious term, denoting the end of night and the beginning of a new day. But up until the 17th century, it was considered an uncouth and unnecessary meal. Only peasants and manual workers needed to eat before lunch. It was thought of as indulging in the sin of gluttony, and people, men especially, were frowned upon for taking it.

It was also a very different meal from today. In antiquity it consisted of flat breads and a sort of porridge.  In the middle ages, copious amounts of beer or wine were helped down with a piece of bread and cheese. No meat was consumed, not until the late 15th century anyway.

The Edwardians gave us the traditional English breakfast, that “golden age” as we view it, when the upper classes had the leisure to indulge in their country life style. They believed that they were continuing the Anglo-Saxon custom of hospitality in offering breakfast. I don’t quite understand this, although the Anglo-Saxons did bake bread, and keep chickens for their eggs and pigs for their meat. So maybe they did eat bacon and eggs for breakfast.

Today the term has taken on a whole new meaning “Break really fast!” Snatching a piece of toast out of the toaster, making a smoothie, or filling a bowl with cereal while downing a cup of tea/coffee. Only on our days off do we still make time for breakfast. Then, we pour ourselves a juice, cook bacon, sausage and egg, maybe accompanied by mushrooms, tomatoes, (insert extras of choice!) butter the toast and spoon on the marmalade. It is still in our family a favourite way to start a day at home.

At Pea Green we do a wide assortment of breakfast foods, from porridge and pancakes to an “any time” complete with local bacon and “thick Ludlow” sausage. Sample our hospitality, pop in and get a great start to your day.

 

 

The Nut Brown Maid of Autumn

Walking up the hill one morning last week, the mist wreathing St Lawrence’s tower, the only sound the creak of a bird flying over the street, one could be forgiven for thinking Ludlow was either sinking into or emerging from an enchanted sleep.

Days later and we are experiencing the longest period of wind and rain we have had for months.  All is battered and buffeted. The Teme is up and roaring, bringing small trees, large branches to clutter the weir. The ducks and salmon are ecstatic. Not so sure about the walkers and their canine companions.

The chestnut by Pea Green gate has been moaning and wringing its hands, sending volleys of nuts to smash their spiny cases all over the car park, exposing their glossy treasure. There is no other word for a pristine chestnut, they glow, jewel like. I love the smooth feel of them too. I wonder how many children over the years have collected them? Apparently the game of “conkers” only became popular with the young (of all ages) in the late 19th century. Not so strange when you realise that they were planted first on private estates and in the gardens of the well to do. Due to their gregarious nature, they eventually escaped to be enjoyed and used by everyone.

During the second world war they were harvested for a starch the nuts produced which was used for something unpleasant I’m sure. Unlike the sweet chestnut, whose creamy flesh is a winter bonus, they are inedible for humans. But it doesn’t stop the fascination of collecting, either for the noble game, to make doll’s house chairs, or as a arthritis remedy, people just can’t resist them.

In the kitchen we use the other native stalwart, Hazel. That beautiful coppice we now drive by without a second glance, that bouquet of stems rising from it’s bole, making a swaying shade in summer, is now harvested. We make a hazel nut sauce for our vegetable pancake, one of our most popular vegetarian dishes.

Sliced blanched almonds are scattered on top of our honey cakes, a satisfying crunch to the sweetness. and walnuts add texture and taste to our apple and walnut cake. Before we know it the sweet chestnut will centre stage as accompaniment to brussel sprouts, in stuffing and just thrown on an open fire and roasted.

The Nut Brown Maid of autumn is stepping out with all of her bounty and colour. Take time to enjoy the homely delights of this most intimate season. I know that I will finding a good thick book, my favourite jumper, and enjoying the taste of the nuts and fruits on offer.

Enjoy our honey cake with a cappuccino or a cup of earl grey and a slice of lemon. Take one home for tea.

Make Room for the Mushrooms

They are everywhere, legion. Erupting from the dark, invading plant pots, colonising any damp filled nook or cranny.
Every meadow has its crop. Shaded lawns collect them.

Mushrooms are extraordinary, not strictly a vegetable, fruit or herb. So why this particular 1980’s advert about them should be such an ear worm for me, I confess, I don’t know. It could just as easily have been Shirley Conran’s “Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom.” At least that’s culinary. Her book of household tips and how to over come the daily chore of catering for the family, was published when women were beginning to carve out careers for themselves. Now of cause there has been a revival on the domestic front, with programmes like “The Great British Bake Off” making us revaluate the task of cooking, a skill we can all at some level achieve and be proud of.

I digress. As I said, mushrooms are exceptional.  They inhabit that unique category called the fifth flavour, umami, being neither sweet or sour, salty or bitter. Their taste is rich, earthy, almost meaty and rounds out the other flavours in a dish. Mushrooms are easy to cook with, generally only requiring a few minutes to cook, although as a casserole ingredient they stand up to a long cooking time without falling apart.

Mushrooms are used in medicine offering health benefits to those who suffer from arthritis, inflammation or minor heart problems. There are literally thousands of different fungi and they have a myriad uses other than being consumed by us. Many are of cause poisonous so if you fancy foraging, please take an expert with you.

 

The most common in cooking are the white button mushrooms which are available all the year round. They are still the favourite extra on a breakfast, quartered and sautéed, we add a little fresh lemon juice to the mix.

They make a great soup and are wonderful as a stroganoff. They are added to our chicken casserole and we use them  in our vegetable risotto and omelettes. On a cold autumn morning what could be nicer than a bacon and mushroom sandwich?

 

 

 

In Praise of Autumn

Summer is beginning to drip away. The chestnut is turning russet and yellow, while the split silk of its conker cases are being squashed by cars parking underneath. Along Friars walk, in the stone wall and railings that mark out Stephens Close, small pale pink and white cyclamen have flowered. The blackberries have unfortunately been cut back, but the hips on all the roses are ripe and swing like pendent earrings in the slightest breeze.

In the kitchen the steady drip through the jelly bag announces damsons deep crimson juice is ready to be bottled. It goes  really well with our apple crumble, as well as an ingredient in sauces and stews.

We were fortunate to be given a small crop of local pears, grown in a high walled garden. Ludlow is replete which such spaces. The tall Georgian houses each hiding a walled back garden. How romantic. One of my favourite books is Hodgson-Burnet’s “The Secret Garden”. First read as a dreamy child, it is still taken down and read from time to time.

We lightly poached these pears in a red wine syrup and serve them with chocolate ice-cream. Local pears with a local ice-cream, what a great combination. Autumn is full of good combinations; from  apple and blackberry to venison and cranberry. It will soon be time to think about mixing mincemeat, that evocative seasonal blend of fruit, nuts, and a tipple or two of alcohol.

Autumn is coming in all the colours of a good fire in the grate. A good book by the fireside, a poached pear, chocolate, lovely!