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We All Had A Marvellous Thyme!

8V7A0848Our little part of the world encapsulates a wealth of great local producers, many gorgeous medieval Cotswold stone buildings and a glut of wonderful eateries. At Thyme in Southrop, a mere stone’s throw away from our little fruit farm, all three are rolled rather luxuriantly into one.

Boasting an award winning pub, (the Swan) a boutique hotel, top notch cookery school, art exhibitions, dining events and so much more, what is astonishing about Thyme is how much of their food they source from their own kitchen gardens. Local produce is of the upmost importance as well, which is where we recently popped into the frame for an evening with top chef Oliver Rowe. Aided and abetted as he ably was by Charlie Hibbert and Darryl, Thyme’s resident culinary genius.

Oliver Rowe is a multi faceted, multi talented chef, author and all round stubborn bugger. As documented in his bestselling book Food For All Seasons, his quest to use exclusively local, seasonal, quality ingredients has made him a thing of legend. Ok, so maybe that’s overdoing it a bit, but upon reading his quietly thoughtful companion to the seasons; at once an eye opener, a page turner and a seasonal bible, you can see immediately how his determination and focus on strict availability of nearby fresh food has set the bar a fair notch higher for anyone who dares utter the words ‘local’ and ‘seasonal’ in the same sentence. He is the guru of the veg patch, the wise man of the hedgerow, and once you’ve read his book, you will never, EVER, look at a strawberry in November again. Seriously, not even a peek.

We were beyond flattered that the lovely Olwynne from Thyme and Oliver decided not only to use our raspberry liqueur in their welcome cocktail, but also to invite us for the whole evening. (yes, it’s true, I squealed in such excitement, only dogs could hear me.) After visiting our farm to get some inspiration, Thyme mixologist Charlotte, (a wee fey slip of a thing with a liver I suspect is made from reinforced steel) swirled together our fruity fayre with some top notch vanilla and rosepetal infused vodka, a dash of something herby, something else which I think was quite strong, sashayed in a little swirl of lemon and treated the evening’s guests to her very unique framboise épice.

8V7A9218I don’t go out to fabulous do’s half often enough (cough, hint), and hailing from deepest darkest Cornwall, where only bats live, am rather overwhelmed with seeing actual people from London when I do. Thus far, my tried and tested technique is to hide behind my camera and snatch canapes as they pass as if in some duck bobbing game at the fair. Whilst Miles mingled like a proper urban sophisticate, all tailored tweed and cut glass vowels, I stuffed myself so full of radishes with whipped anchovy butter and broad8V7A9339 bean and goat’s curd bruschetta, all that came out of my mouth was a mixture of muffled chewing and a small spurt of anchovy butter. Good job my camera caught most of the butter. Although that bit on that really nice lady’s jacket, yes, um, sorry about that.

After I’d eaten my own body weight in radishes, supper was served. The barn is a tall airy space, huge long dining table twinkling with candlelit glasses, sky high flowers, and beautiful paintings especially commissioned by Caryn. A delicious whisper of 8V7A9139salads to start was followed with the most celestial porchetta ever, stuffed with fennel and silver skin onions and very probably also angels (if seasonal). All veg sourced from the vibrant kitchen garden at Thyme, of course. On the side, a rhubarb compot and milling around the table huge bowls of potato salad with more varieties of potato than you could shake a stick at, and some greeny salad strewn with marigolds. The flower, not the essential rubber glove. Sadly, I missed most of this, as I was licking the plate.

8V7A1919Summer pudding, with Oliver’s lavender ice cream, one of the most sublime combinations I’ve ever eaten. The recipe’s in his book, incidentally. Buy it. Or pester him on Instagram with photos of his book in the hope he’ll send you some.

Cheese course, of course. At this point there was no room in anyone’s tummy. So defying waistlines and buttons and gravity, everyone piled into the delicious Berkswell, a hard, tangey ewe’s milk cheese and the sea salt and woodash covered Cerney Ash, served with hefty chilled slugs of our blackcurrant liqueur.

Staggering under the weight of our newly expanded bellies, we gradually drifted off into the night, with everyone magnificently sated and agreeing that a wonderful time (thyme?) had had been had by all. This little piece is an opportunity to thank our spectacular hosts for such an exceptionally tasty evening out. Caryn Hibbert has created something truly special in Thyme, no wonder it’s a such a coveted venue for both guests and cooks alike. I can’t wait to go back.


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When Miles Met Sybil

8V7A1303A little while back, the producers of Radio Four’s ‘Farming Today’ got in touch with us regarding a feature they were doing on soft fruit growing in Britain. The programme’s host, the lovely Sybil Ruscoe was duly dispatched to Westwell to pick Miles’ brains on the matter (he’s a veritable mine of information on different varieties of blackcurrant) and look around the farm.

Then there was possibly the most bizarre week in politics for a long time. Brexits, regrexits and exits, more resignations that you could shake a raspberry cane at, and Farming Today had to put Miles’ interview on ice while they addressed the slightly more pressing implications of leaving the EU on farming.

Well, fingers crossed the panic is over a bit, and the other day we were able to tune into a fantastic chat between Miles and Sybil as they wandered around the farm, tested the ripeness of the fruit, and finally quaffed a little of the finished liqueur in the winery.

You can have a listen here, and tune in weekly either on Wednesday mornings, on BBC IPlayer, or take a look at their website for a wealth of information on farming around the globe.

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First Summer Harvest!

WhitecurrantsAfter a bumper year for elderflower, our first fruit harvest is upon us. This year has been months of inclement weather, rain, wind and more rain. Finally though, we’ve had some intermittent yet glorious sunshine and the fruits have slowly changed colour from hard, unripe green to juicy black and red, ready for us to pick, press and make more of our glorious liqueurs.

fruitsThe redcurrants are the first crop that are ready for picking. They produce the most glorious colour liqueur with a tartness belied by their bright, almost neon hue. A favourite drink is redcurrant martini, a particular summer hit last year.

Our newest liqueur is whitecurrant. This has a very delicate taste, and is stunning in fizz. Whitecurrants become almost translucent when ripe, look out for this one on the shelves and at our upcoming markets.

8V7A1871Blackcurrant liqueur is our multi award winning, most stalwart product. Delicious on it’s own with cheese, in fizz or  vodka based cocktails. Try poaching fruit in it for a summer pudding, or drizzling over a good vanilla ice cream.

Our harvest begins in earnest now. Fruit picking will go on right through to October/ November, when we will pick the last of our autumn fruiting raspberries and sloes.

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Scattered Showers

8V7A9920June has been a month of torrential rain punctured with bursts of glorious sunshine. The elderflower harvest has been a welly and suncream fest, day after day in an interchangeable manner, and quite apart from being soggy, we are sartorially confused. Finally, we’re nearly all done and the winery is brimming with the fresh scent of our first liqueur making process of the year. Mingling elderflower and syrup infusions, and the tang of organic lemons. If only we could bottle the smell as well.8V7A0455-2

Our elderflower liqueur is a delicate and refreshing drink. The fragrance of the organic flowers is captured perfectly by making it into a liqueur, and is a taste of summer throughout the year. It is a wonderful addition to champagne or sparkling wine, a gin and tonic or just with soda water. With a delicate panna cotta or over a sorbet or mixed with fresh berries, this liqueur is perfection.

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Elderflower Mania

For the last few weeks, elderflowers have been popping out all over the countryside. We have severElderflower in the fieldal different varieties in our hedgerows and as cultivated, natural windbreaks between fruit bushes, all grown well away from roadsides and all on our organically certified farmland.

This week we start picking the first harvest of elderflowers and will be making the year’s first batch of liqueur. Elderflower liqueur is one of our most8V7A9174 popular products, and year on year we’ve been making more and more and still can’t make enough. And we have to leave some for our elderberry liqueur, which was the surprise hit last winter (it’s delicious mulled, try it).

Elderflower liqueur is fresh tasting and feels like summer in a glass. Try in a gin and tonic, a mojito or with fizz for a refreshing cocktail.

It’s also amazing with ice cream, sorbets, panna cotta, basically any desserts that don’t overpower it’s delicate flavour.