Vicky Moffitt, of Vallum Farm on Hadrian’s Wall, shares the trials and tribulations of the Kitchen Garden which supplies produce to the farm’s tea room, restaurant tipi, and wedding and events venue.
Vallum, Military Road, Newcastle, NE18 0LL, tel 01434 672 652, www.vallumfarm.co.uk
The early part of the year is a really challenging time for cooks who want to source locally, and for those of us who try to grow our own. We’re forced to get more creative and, honestly…it’s really hard to stay enthused AND keep things local/seasonal.
Fortunately, we have some wonderful suppliers in the area and, when the fun dries up with exciting new seasonal ingredients, we can turn our interest to new twists on old favourites.
At Vallum Marquee & Tipi, we work closely with Robin Baty at North Acomb Farm Shop. His animals graze on the hills between Bywell and the A69, just a couple of miles from us here at Vallum, and his meat is second to none.
If you can’t make it to Robin’s Farm Shop, try your local farmers’ market. It’s a mini adventure, deciding to go and make a meal out of whatever you find. I had the best rump steak of my life from the Askerton Estate stall at Hexham Farmers’ Market at Christmas, and Ravensworth Grange‘s pork is the best for miles around.
So, because I’m short of gardening tips, let’s talk slow cooking. Speak to your butcher and see what they have; I favour venison haunch, neck of lamb and shin of beef. I also love barley in a brothy winter stew served with celeriac and potato mash. Think bay leaf, thyme and parsley, and imagine the delicious aroma. When I have good meat, I use a little less and increase the vegetable ratio, and in this stew, the barley helps to counter-balance the sweetness of the vegetables. Rose’s sourdoughs from Hexham Farmers’ Market are just the job for soaking up a stew. I used to sell ready meals in the market and I miss the lovely people and the stallholders’ camaraderie. It’s a long day and a hard slog for them, so if you enjoy what you buy, let them know…it makes all the work worthwhile.