Archive for Colour

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.

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!

 

 

Seeding Summer

Walking up Friars Walk these mornings I am struck by how quiet it is. The children are not at school, so no weaving between push chairs and scooters, no excited greetings as friends meet at the gate.

Children no longer play in the streets as we did. They have organised activities, dance lessons, swimming, school holiday clubs. All perfectly wonderful, but not like the summer days we spent making” camp”, riding our bikes around, exploring. Whole days were spent going to the swimming pool, which was next door to the park, which was next door to the library. I loved a day spent this way. It didn’t matter if one went on ones own, you were bound to meet someone during the course of the day. 

The grass is seeding, arching sprays over the deceptive blackberries. Deceptive because although black and ripe looking, they taste sharp, tart on the tongue. We used to play a game with the grass seeds, stripping the stem with the thumb and fore finger, making a bouquet of heads. We presented them to a friend saying, “Bunch of flowers?” and then scattering them all over them with “April showers!” as the seed caught in their hair and clothes. Ah, innocent times.

I watched a glass blower making “seeds” in glass baubles for a chandelier to hang in the renovated “Willow Tea rooms in Glasgow. These imperfections, made prisms to catch and glance from the balls, enhancing the effect, magical. We use seeds in cooking, and not just the colloquial British “pip” as in apples and blackberries, but seeds such as cardamom in pilaf rice, pumpkin in muesli, mustard seeds in stroganoff, vanilla in custard. White pepper, a must for béchamel or any white sauce is made from ripe pepper seeds.

Seeds are everywhere, taking root for a new season.  

 

Make a Brew

I love a cup of tea, it’s how I start my day and the beverage I chose after our evening meal. We use a good quality tea from the West Country which makes a pleasant tasting cup. But I also enjoy tisanes, a word we borrowed from the French, which applies to any drink made with herbs, flowers and spices, they are refreshing and make a nice change from the caffeine infused drinks.

Some teas can aid the digestion, both mint and chamomile tea are good after a meal. Sage and ginger supress colic. The medicinal qualities of different teas are endless, and many people use them as a gentle remedy, but that’s another blog!

For me, the real pleasure comes in the look, smell and taste of the drink. I used to enjoy blending teas, the aroma of Rosehip, Anise, Raspberry, Nettle and Liquorice with a waft of spices clove and cardamom was one of my favourites. It’s called Herbal Harmony and is a real feel good drink. The colours make it look particularly appealing.

Rose tea helps calm you down. It’s aroma is that of a summer garden, with just a hint of sherbet. You can mix dried rose petals with a black loose leaf tea for “Rose ” tea. You can buy loose wild rosebuds which make a pink beverage and has no caffeine.

Some herbal and fruit tisanes are lovely chilled too. Hibiscus, a tea that is popular in the middle east, has a deep red velvety colour. Over ice with a twist of lemon its a great summer drink. Keep some in the fridge for mixers or straight drinks.

At Pea Green we sell fruit and herbal teas as well as the quality tea from Miles. With the roses scenting the air, and the herbs thriving in the heat, ready to  be picked and used. Enjoy a summer tea with us the next time you’re in.

Friendly Lions & Wise Old Owls

I have a long connection to Herbs going right back to childhood. They were clouds of fragrance and spice as I brushed passed them in the gardens of which ever National Trust property we were visiting, a fleeting glimpse of another way of life. They permeated many of the books I read, from, The Little Grey Rabbit series to Tom’s Midnight Garden.

More prosaically they were one of my favourite television programmes. I was lucky enough to grow up in the era of the late great Oliver Postgate, and The Herbs were memorable. They were a motley bunch from; a very friendly lion called Parsley, through to Dill the Dog, Bayleaf the Gardner, and  Sage the Owl among others. They were enchanting, and herbs have been that for me ever since.

Herbs seem to create a slower way of life. They need to be picked, washed, chopped or shredded all the while releasing their wonderful aromas. The mere whiff of sage and onion and a whole roast dinner is conjured up.

There are over 14 different mints, of different strengths and flavours. I love mint, and have grown a range of them. It is probably my favourite herb. I could write a whole piece on just this versatile plant. It goes so well with new potatoes, but it can also compliment peas, lamb and chocolate. We use it in our Asian Slaw which is a lovely fresh garnish and pretty salad accompaniment. (Chef’s Tip, Moroccan Mint makes the best tea.)

Parsley is a vibrant, peppery herb full of calcium, iron and vitamin C. It can be used as a breath freshener. There are many varieties of this herb, but the most common are flat leaf or curly.
A firm favourite in white sauce over fish, but it can also be used in soups , stuffing, crusts and salads. We use it as part of our mushrooms in garlic.

“Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme,” Add a Bay Tree, some mint and a pot of Basil and you have a good range of herbs. Now we can buy “fresh” herbs of all sorts in all seasons. But a few pots of herbs on a sunny window sill, or in a plant holder in the garden, to cut and come again, will give you scent and flavour for minimum effort, all summer through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art for Art’s Sake

We have been trading at the Mascal Centre for a whole year this month. While we are not actually hanging out the bunting and drinking a toast in champagne, we are glad to have made it through our first catering term.

One of the best things we inherited from the old café was the Ludlow Art Society’s Exhibition, who use one of our walls to house a semi permanent display.

These are all for sale and change every so often to keep interest going. There are some very talented artists among the collection, with a wide range of media and subject matter.

I have always been in awe of people who can produce something, beautiful, interesting or thought provoking with their hands. A favourite day out for us would be spent visiting  art galleries and collections of an artist’s work.

We also have a series of local photographs of the wild hill ponies up by the source of the river Teme, very evocative. I remember the day vividly. We were by a pool watching for dragonflies when the sun went in and they all disappeared. As we were about to leave my husband, Nick, noticed a string of ponies appearing over the brow of the hill. We stayed still and with bated breath watched as more and more appeared and came down to the pool to drink and play. It is an experience I shall never forget.

That is what art does for us, it transports us to another place, or gives us an insight into a different way of perceiving the world around us. They make a great point of contact with our customers, and the high and light interior shows them to advantage.

So, I can be listening to the sound of the tide breaking onto beached boats in a rocky Cornish cove, light bouncing off the water, the scream of gulls over head.

Or lose myself in an enchanted wood, where winter is barely over and these hot pre summer days are a spell that some welsh wizard has spun.

Or I can share the thermals in the air currents with the buzzards and hang suspended over the hills and fields of Shropshire.

Then I remember that there is an art to living as well, and that there is an art to cooking too. The thought and preparation that goes into producing the dishes needs concentration. The knowledge gained through experience of balancing combinations of flavours to make the food taste good.

Happy Birthday Pea Green Café! Come and celebrate life with us.

 

 

Walk This Way Too

A couple of times a week, I take the long way round to work and a very different walk it is. A trip to Ludlow town is always a pleasure, it is so easy to moan about the steep streets, (I’m sure they put a brick under its slabs last night!) and to forget to look. My husband has given me a love for architecture which enhances any town centre visit. Ludlow just keeps on giving.

I start my journey by walking up Frog Lane towards the town walls. What a great name! Even if it was named for its damp water meadows. I wonder if it’s inhabitants were thought to have webbed hands and feet?

I turn left, passing the tiny black and white cottage, conscious that I am walking the boundary of the old leper colony, its gardens and hospital. I so want to think it was a place of peace as well as isolation.

The town wall gardens are vibrant, with their newly minted greens and blues, the Blue bells look as if enamelled against the bricks.

A woman is pushing a buggy and walking her dog and talking on her MOB all at the same time. I wonder if she noticed the shadows cast by the trees over the pavement, or heard the birds twitter patting in their branches.

Wheat sheaf Inn passed, looking spick and spam with its new coat of paint I turn under the last remaining gateway and enter Ludlow. It always makes me smile to remember that we live “beyond the pale”, outside the town’s protecting walls. Although if I remember some of my local history right, most of the local rouges lived inside the town. Perhaps we were better off outside, if looked down on, literally.

What’s not to like about Broad Street? It has been voted the most attractive street in England, and it certainly enchants me. Not just the gracious Georgian sweep with those enticing hidden walled gardens, but the gorgeous glass façade of the Wesleyan chapel, the yellow paint of the medieval, the Victorian pillared and covered shopping arcade, Bodenhams, leaning and creaking on  the top corner, as if its holding up the café next door. (Always be De Greys to me). A Ludlow institution now sadly gone.

The Butter Cross is the icing on the Broad Street plate, though not in the street but looking down it, as if keeping an eye on the comings and goings. When it was the home of local government, I’m sure they kept it all in their sight.

So, left at the top and the real purpose of my visit, buying local produce for the café. First stop Walls the Butcher’s. Charlie’s on form today and singing at the top of his voice from the cellar.

They certain cram a great range of locally produced and butchered meats from a very tight space. They are there from about 6.30 most mornings, and I have never known them to be anything but helpful and cheerful.

We are very fortunate to have three local butchers in the town when many towns have to rely on super-market meat. Now one of the best pieces of advise my husband ever gave me, and bare in mind that this is from a man who has worked in the catering industry most of  his life, is ; “Always look the person you are buying your meat from in the eye.”

Next on the round is Prices the Bakers. We have been using Price’s a long time. They were still baking in the old original bake House in Quality Square then. Turning into the square on a cold morning to the aroma of bread and cakes baking was wonderful.

Their shop was formally an old coaching inn and has some great history hidden behind its walls. But I am on a mission and today just order and receive freshly baked bread.

Last stop is round the corner in Mill Street to Farmers Fruit and vegetable emporium.  It really is the way to shop for perishable goods. I love the range they have, the seasonal quality and the display of flowers entices me in.

The Butter Cross clock is chiming out over head as I  make my way towards Galdeford and Green Pea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trees Be Company

 

“In the company of flowers we know happiness. In the company of trees we are able to think, they foster meditation. Trees are very intellectual. There is nowhere on earth we can think so well as in a thin wood resting against a tree.”
(John Stewart Collis)

Woods have been on my mind recently. I have just finished the excellent book by John Stempel-Lewis about a wood he manages for a year in Herefordshire, he makes you look with fresh eyes at the way we use and relate to woodlands. Every morning as I come into the car park I greet “the guardian of the gate” a wonderfully gnarled horse chestnut of indeterminate age. He has daffodils at his feet today and I can see the buds breaking through the bark. Little points of light in a dull day.

A few weeks ago, the “Save Mortimer Forest” group were using the Mascal Centre to host their meeting and debate about the possible despoiling of the forest by a business consortium who want to build a holiday park here. There would be sixty cabins, a shop, a café all within the forest. A place which is currently free for us to roam in would be enclosed, private, no longer somewhere to visit quietly on long summer evenings.

We have visited the forest frequently since we came here 30 years ago. We brought our children and now take the grandchildren. Its varied flora and fauna, some like the deer unique to the forest never cease to enthral. We have seen adders basking on a rock in the late summer sun, owls feeding their young in the dusk. The noise they made was unbelievable. Squirrels, my grandson spotted one eating a nut the last time we went, and once and twice most magical of all the deer. A small herd flowed by us in the twilight, and once a single doe, leaped and ran beside the car, in and out among the trees accompanying us on our way back into Ludlow.

Then, last week a group from the Forestry Commission met up for a well deserved late breakfast after taking part in a deer survey. I don’t understand how the Forestry Commission can sell the land. I always thought that if an area contained animals and plants that were specific to that place, they were protected? Don’t we have enough B & B’s, hotels, guest houses, camping sites and caravan parks in the area to accommodate visitors? This seems to me another incidence of those in authority selling off assets that belong to the people of Ludlow and the surrounding area, like the old swimming pool and Whitcliffe Common.

How can you measure the age of a tree without either chopping it down and counting the rings or boring a hole into it, which sounds painful? Do we really have to chop down a forest to realize what we have lost?

 

New Shoots

 

The forsythia is showing its wands of gold, and daffodils have sprung back up from the snow. Every tree and bush has its quota of green buds, and the anemones are pushing up their feather boas.

At Pea Green we too are emerging from the cold snap with a brand-new set of menus to tempt you in. Although we have kept some firm favourites, the all-day breakfast and the smooth and delicious White Windsor soup, we have some great additions

 

New Spring Menu 2018

Piquant Prawns, and Ratatouille Au Gratin have already become popular starters or light lunches. I love the colours in these dishes, the pink prawns in sauce laced with red and yellow chillies, grown in our greenhouse We lay them on a bed of green leaves, in a smoky green glass dish. I enjoy the way the vibrant reds, and yellows of the Mediterranean vegetables are revealed when the cheese and breadcrumb crust is broken through.

We serve an Asian slaw as a starter, although we also use it to garnish salads and sandwiches. It makes a refreshing change from the usual coleslaw, not as heavy but pretty to look at as well as eat. Chopping the red cabbage, red pepper and then the mint creates a wonderful aroma. It transports me back to my childhood garden, and the bed of mint that dad grew to go with new potatoes.

Spring Menu 2018

You will be spoilt for choice. Come in out of the April showers, tear yourself away from the shopping and chores. Take the weight off your feet and let us take the dilemma out of what to have for lunch or supper, it’s all at Pea Green.