Trust the National Trust

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It might be my age, but I’m quite a big fan of the National Trust. We’re lucky in that there are several properties round here that are worth popping in for a cup of tea and slice of cake, not to mention letting MGG blow off some steam around acres of land. So I get great value out of my membership, and they get great value out of me through the temptation of their shop!

Their selection is always slightly unusual, and so a great place to pick up something a little bit different. They’re also a very foodie organisation (see their campaign with Delicious mag on knobbly fruit and veg for example), so no surprise there are great options for good gifts for foodies. And thanks to a good online store, you can do it from the comfort of your own stately pile! Here’s what’s caught my eye:

 

Dig for Vicotry - a selection of wartime music for gardeners

 

* To give a soundtrack to the frugal food movement, then try the Dig for Victory CD. War time music to encourage you to dig and delve for homegrown goodness, including Potato Pete and Run Rabbit Run. Which almost sounds like a menu suggestion!

 

Take your chicken everywhere

 

* In case someone hasn’t noticed, it’s a good thing to take your own shopping bags out with you. And I love the shaped ones, perfect for beekeepers and hen keepers. That’s BFF and her husband ticked off, one each.

 

Chef's Soap - perfect gift for a food lover and cook

 

* For a great stocking filler, try the Chef’s Soap. This traditional handmade soap will wash and moisturise messy hands and absorb some of the cooking aromas. Whether it will take the smell of Brussel sprouts out the air remains to be seen.

 

Comfort Puddings - great book for a food lover who likes it cosy

 

* If we’re going to be frugal, then we’re going to need some occasional comfort eating! If you’ve got someone who loves their puddings to shop for, then try getting them a copy of Good Old-Fashioned Comfort Puddings. Sounds like perfect fare for our winter of discontent!

 

Seed Tape - great gift for a food lover who likes to grow their own

 

* They’ll never guess what this is in their stocking: seed tape! The easiest way to plant a whole range of edibles, including lettuce, carrot, parsley and radish, and at £2.25 each these make a good gift for a newish gardener who wants to grow more next year.

The benefit if you go to one of the properties is you’ll probably find things by local producers and small businesses, so benefits to everyone all round. And you’ll get a nice cup of tea and a sit down thrown in too! Not to mention great cake!

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Gringley Gringo – Hot stuff with a heart

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Hot with a heart
Hot with a heart

On Saturday I was at West Bridgford Farmer’s Market, which was a first, which is a bit shameful to admit as it’s really close to here. I went with Best Foodie Friend who, when she was in tarts, used to trade there, which means she knew a lot of the folk braving the rain and cold behind the stalls.

We spent quite a long time chatting to Debby at Gringley Gringo. I must admit I’ve seen their stall before but not wandered over, but boy was it worth it. Not just for the great chilli products, but the great stuff they do in the background around community involvement. Before their move to bigger premises, chilli plants were given free to local schools and community groups, who were then payed for the harvest. Now they have space for their own polytunnels but the community is still getting involved, and getting something out of it.

So, this counts as good local food, and a good community business, and I would encourage you to both support them, and to find other examples close to where you are to support. I came away with a great gift set for Christmas, comprising Jalapeno & Ginger Dipping Sauce, Chipotle Sauce and Gringo Gold Hot Chilli Sauce. This is going to be perfect for a couple who are opposite ends of the chilli love scale!

I particularly like the Jalapeno & Ginger, as I’m a bit of a wimp on the heat front. This makes a good change to a sweet chilli sauce, and I could see using it in its place with everything from fishcakes to just dipping crisps in it. The Tounge Tickle Chilli Pickle sounds like it would liven up cold cuts on Boxing Day, whilst the wimps amongst us will be having the Jalapeno, Lemon and Cardamom Chilli Jelly instead!

If you’re up near Clumber Park then you can drop in and see them, as they now have a shop and you can get to see how it’s all made. I love that the Community Growing Project is a joint venture between them and the National Trust, who own Clumber Park. If you work at a school in the area and are not involved already, it sounds like a great thing to get kids involved in. The more involved kids are with food the more they appreciate it and will think about what they are eating. If that’s not a way to solve an obesity crisis I’m not sure what is.

Gringley Gringo, I salute you, a true food hero if ever I saw one!

Chilli pepper image by lizziebob on Flickr

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Looking for Bank Holiday food entertainment

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A nice cup of tea and a sit down. And cake.

 

Call it a hunch, but I reckon there’ll be traffic queues and toilet queues at the grand houses of the UK today. This must be peak viewing day for National Trust properties and other national treasures such as Chatsworth, which these days is less of a trial for children, thanks to kid’s trails and playgrounds, and for food lovers, as most places have caught on pretty quick.

We made a quick dash to Belton House yesterday, our nearest National Trust property. If only because it has an amazing adventure playground for a 7 year old to blow off some steam in. I’d not been before so was keen to see where the food level was pitched at. And I was pleasantly surprised! Local produce was well featured, from Lincolnshire sausages through to local veg. There were gluten free cakes from Crimbles, which is a nice touch for not excluding anyone from tea time treats.

And there were cakes. Glorious, homemade looking cakes. Of course there was Victoria Sponge and Lemon Drizzle cake, but was thrilled to see Chocolate Beetroot (MGG pronounced it delicious) and Parsnip and Caraway amongst others. Decent tea, Belvoir cordials and no sign of instant coffee anywhere. Perfect.

Of course, the grande dame of this sort of thing has to be Chatsworth though. Their farm shop is a thing of foodie beauty, and the coffee shop has the most idyllic view. And I’m not just talking about the cakes. I am thankful not to be there today, as I am sure it is hectically busy, but enjoyed an afternoon there a couple of Friday’s ago. Tea was delightful (and scarily, no more expensive for three drinks and three fabulous cakes than 2 mediocre coffees, a glass of water and 2 cakes at Starbucks) and the staff suitably charming. And the picture perfect scenery just added to the whole occasion.

 

The results of a farm shop dash at Chatsworth

 

The farmshop itself is upmarket, not exactly cheap, but very clearly focused on food values. Great selection that you could do your weekly shop from, or just choose some carefully edited highlights to add to the every day stuff you have. In my little haul there’s some great local salami,  slices of proper baked ham, a Lincolnshire plum loaf, Stout Porter from Tollgate Brewery, something from Peak Ales (we drank that already, so can’t check) and some Stichelton. The black pudding and oatcakes come from my earlier visit that day to the market in Hanley, which was responsible for this dish.

So, I would say planning a visit to a national treasure shouldn’t now mean compromising on your foodie values, even if you don’t take your own delightful picnic. Let me know if you think there’s a foodie treat hidden away at a national treasure near you, I’d love to notch up a few more. Although I’m going back to Chatsworth next week for the Country Fair, from 4th to 6th September. As you can imagine, it has a big food contingent. I’m pleased to see at least two very local suppliers in attendance: Belvoir Fruit Farms for great cordials and Brocklebys for the only organic Melton Mowbray pork pie around.

Advance tickets are still available, and there really will be something for all the family, whether they love their food or not. Just remember to pack a picnic for when you’re sitting in the traffic jam at the end of the day!

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