PX+ Festival

 

In two weeks from now we will find ourselves in the middle of a field, well actually a crop circle bringing Where the LIght Gets In to PX + festival. We will lift our multi course menu straight from our home on the cobbled streets and serve 30 people amid the slendour of nature. Tickets are still available and should be booked through :
https://www.pxplusfestival.com/book-experiences/wtlgi

DSC_0072 copy.JPG
 

Rainy Days

 

The north west of England is in the middle of inexplicable flash floods. Only two weeks ago we harvested in sandals, cooling off in the river after a long hot day. Now we are back in our wellies.

The beds prepared for the next crop pool up and are difficult to drain. The beds filled with crops take the water into their root systems helping drain the soil and keep the land relatively dry, courgettes and squash seem to enjoy this the most. This is interesting to note in a small area when thinking of the effects deforestation has on water levels.

Biodiversity kicks in as the soggy habitat begins to suit different life. Rodents have fled the scene and Spiders find their way indoors, sadly we can see many worms drowned on the surface of the beds but the baby frogs, spawned from the river have taken up residence and will be a welcome nemesis to the slugs that enjoy the wet so much. There is always good and bad from any condition on the farm.

It is hard to get to grips with this weather when we remember that this time last year we had to visit the farm three times a day just to water and keep moisture in the soil. So many crops on so many farms were ruined last year because of the intense heat and dry climate. The capricious nature of the seasons is unfathomable. We count ourselves lucky that we only run a small plot and that we do not rely solely on this land to make a living.

Ironically this is the ‘second spring’. A time when we regroup and start to plan the autumn/ winter crop. So we have taken shelter in the polly tunnel and sew for the season ahead. Plenty of kale, turnips, red kohl Rabi, winter beetroots, chard and chicories including a great variety we picked up in Italy called Rosso de Verona. We have also sowed an experimental called sessantina, known as rapini in the south of Italy and a much loved brassica in Spain and Portugal. It flowers with small, tender broccoli florets and sweet leaves.

Who knows what next week will bring. These days we carry footwear for all occasions.

IMG_9118.jpg
 

The Sun and the Rain

 
Sam in a bed 17.07.19 c Kat Wood  copy.jpg

We have had a couple of weeks of sun alongside some heavy showers and the farm has once more sprang into action. 

We are harvesting our carrots, small and tender and sweet. They are complimented so simply by the many varieties of thyme flowers that are flourishing at the bottom of the bed. 

Our kohlrabi is ready and provides a refreshing crunch at the beginning of the menu. 

The beetroot are nearly there. First up is an 1840 heirloom variety known as ‘Bulls Blood’. Named for its deep colour and fruitful punch. We have plucked the first few to work on a dish that will maybe go with lavender. 

The herb beds are so abundant now. From parsley, verbena, bronze fennel, cinnamon basil, fennel pollen, lemon balm, rosemary, Indian mint, marigold and nasturtium, the list goes on and they provide so much vitality to dishes throughout the menu.

Courgettes and cucumber are slowly beginning to fruit. We have planted five varieties of courgettes and we have ideas to premier these together on one plate in a total celebration of that most summery of squash. Cucumbers include ‘Crystal Lemon’ and an experimental variety from Stone Barns centre in New York.

Robin’s ‘Koginut Squash’ are starting to take over their beds on the cabbage patch. This is another variety from Stone Barns. We are delighted to bring these seeds from the other side of the Atlantic and watch them do so well in our northern soil.

In the polly tunnel the sweetcorn is nearly bursting through the roof and the cobs are growing everyday. 

We have begun sowing the kales, kohlrabis, turnips, sessantina and salsify that will go into the beds for autumn.

Life does not stop on the farm and we struggle to keep up, but we take inspiration from the bees that busy themselves around the flowers and work in droves to keep the harvest coming. 

The heat obliterated our peas, we got around four pods and learnt a valuable lesson about water. It doesn’t rain in the poly tunnel. But the tomatoes don’t seem to mind, varieties abound from the many plants that are thriving round the perimeter tunnel. 

Every loss is a gain in knowledge. Every harvest is a gift in creativity. 

Wheelbarrow and bed 17.07.19 c Kat Wood  copy.jpg
Hives and Tractor 17.07.19 c Kat Wood  copy.jpg
Photography by Kat Wood

Photography by Kat Wood

 

Field Notes

 
Bees copy.jpg

Last weekend we saw the first bit of sun for over a month. The dining room swelled in the heat as we placed electric fans at every strategic point and offered our guests paper fans to help the cooling. With the windows wide open a gentle breeze passes through as the late summer evening winds on in a brilliant blue sky and the dining room never feels more suited to its purpose. 

On the farm certain plants are basking in this much anticipated heat whilst others are crying out for water.

In The Poly Tunnel  

Beans.JPG

The sweetcorn stands so tall and strong and the first signs of its fruit slowly appear from between the dark green foliage.

The broad beans shoot to the sky reminding us of the fairy tale. We took a last harvest and then took the plants up. The beans are served in a nettle custard at the beginning of the menu but for our crop outside we have other plans.

The ‘crystal lemon’ cucumbers are exploding out of their pots now, as well as the ‘experimental cukes’ from Stone Barns. They take place around the perimeter of the polly tunnel along with a  multitude of tomato varieties. 

The Peas are bursting from the pods, next week we will take a first harvest, this week we are talking about them in the kitchen. Ideas to pair them with berries from the ‘Cabbage Patch’ or as a salad with curds, maybe as a chilled soup with a buttermilk cracker. Who knows.  

On The Cabbage Patch

a gooseberries copy.jpg

The gooseberries are coming thick and fast. They make regular appearances on the menu from beginning to end including a sharp and fresh ice. We use the unripened fruits to make a ver jus that is a perfect tool for seasoning with acidity. 

Carrots have made their way into the dining room. Young and tender we are thinning the bulky lines so that as the season goes on the carrots will be utilised in their different stages occupying, too, different places in the menu. Right now at the beginning of their growth they appear at the beginning of the evening. 

Next week will be the first week for our kohl rabi, paired again with gooseberry and a preservation of elderflower. A dish from last year that we though would be fun to revisit. 

The abundance of nasturtium, bronze fennel, balm, verbena, parsley and mint keeps a healthy dose of herbs coming into the kitchen. At this time of year I can’t think of a dish without thinking of an ample hand of herbs adding character and warmth. 

carrots copy.jpg

Time is always limited on the farm and it is true that you get out what you put in. There are always so many projects that go unvisited and methods that we want to put into place. A few weeks ago we had a guest that had maintained an allotment for over 40 years, since he was 13 years old and not missing one year. 

We talked for a long time and he offered many suggestions. It made me realise just what a slow and gentle rhythm gardening can take. It can take a whole year to learn that a certain direction is not the best to take and you can quickly be at square one again. But it is a journey where you can check in, watch whats happening carefully and make adjustments as you go.

COmpost copy.jpg

We are taking lengths to utilise a no dig system, layering good amounts of healthy compost onto the the beds between planting and saving up all of our cardboard from the restaurant to lay innate the soil for next year. And this feels good, to be going forward with a plan that works for both the waste cardboard from deliveries whilst simultaneously adopting a system to suppress weeds and create mulch through the resting period on parts of the land.


 

Gerry & The Farm

 
Beehive .JPG

It has been my intention to log our endeavours, to share our efforts with our guests in a journal format. The truth is that running a restaurant and attempting to maintain a growing space that will supply us with fresh produce has left time for little else.

I feel that as well as giving an update on our crop and it’s development, here is a good point to introduce the farm giving some history and a little insight into our direction. 

This whole tangle started in the early days of the restaurant when we met a man named Gerry, a local beekeeper producing honey only 4 miles up the road. It had always been our intention to turn our hands to the field, a wholesome and inclusive approach to cooking. For me, building my own restaurant, was a chance to start at the very beginning. It meant we could involve ourselves in the very genesis, starting with the land, starting with soil.

Furrows.JPG

When I met Gerry for the first time, explaining our plans, I watched his countenance slip into a sort of curious and sympathetic look. I told him about our plans for foraging, for starting from the ground up and that we wanted to go back to the root of everything. Whole animal butchery, preservation, growing. ‘Whats wrong with going to Aldi?’ He asked.

Each time he dropped off our honey we’d talk. He’d ask questions about the food and I’d ask questions about bees. After a few visits he invited me to come and explore the land where he kept the bees. He said we might find something to eat. Since that day, around the farm, I have been affectionately known (or not) as ‘the weed eater’ and anyone who joins me takes the same title. 

Gerry is from a simpler time. Where his mum would always have a pig, cut up, in a bed of salt in an old Belfast sink in the cellar. He grows veg to take home where his wife Gwyneth cooks whatever he bring. He uses no chemicals, never has, never needed to. He doesn’t understand the need for labels like organic and sustainable because he has never partaken in the process in between what was and what came. 

In the early days we would take trips though the woods and the fields, me showing him the edible plants that we would use at the restaurant and him pointing out birds, their nests, the landscape that made habitat for all. I’d offered him a handful of sorrel or yarrow, he would take it pensively and chew thoroughly and thoughtfully. ‘Not bad’ he’d say. ‘What yer gonna use that for like?’ I’d explain an idea for a granita or a foraged salad. ‘You spoil em’ he’d say teasingly referring to the guests. 

Picking Gooseberries .JPG

In that first year Gerry taught me to trap crayfish that we used on the menu intermittently, when there was enough to go around, helped me pick blackberries and showed me other areas where we might find other plants and new ideas. 

That summer, After we’d been open 6 or 7 months he asked me if I’d like a little space to grow. Of course I would. I was so excited at the prospect of having a little piece of land, in beautiful surroundings where we could learn to grow and get even closer to the concept of our food. I started to make plans, I’d go and see him and Gwyneth in his local on Saturday afternoons before our evening service and go through the kind of crop I’d like to grow and amounts. 


Beans in the greenhouse.jpg
Digging .JPG

I had never grown and knew nothing about it and Gerry, in his cryptic and measured way started to teach me what would and wouldn’t be possible but always letting me lead by making my own mistakes and discoveries. 

The first year we prepared a bed around 30 by 20 feet to grow herbs and a few smaller roots. He gave me some space in the poly tunnel where we grew beetroots, kohl rabi, fennel, radishes, turnips and beans.  

In the winter of the second year we brought an old patch back to life down on what Gerry called the cabbage patch. He hadn’t touched it for a few years. His dad had fallen ill and, as he said, he had concentrated on looking after his old man instead of the farm. 

We worked whenever we had a spare half day, an hour or a weekend, weeding a tangled network of raspberry cane, nettle and thistle and we cleared enough room for 15 beds. The work was hard in the cold months but we would go down as a team on days the restaurant was closed and inch by inch clear the site for our dream plot. 

Slowly things started to take shape. We built the 15 fifteen beds direct into the ground, a two section compost bin and filled it with horse manure, green grass, hay and mulch. All the time learning. Even the simplest tasks come with the right technique. We got more proficient with weeding, trading a knife for a spade but keeping the same attentive eye and same final intention.

Sorrel .JPG
 

Back To School

 

Last Monday we were truly humbled when we took a visit to Adswood primary school to collect their food reviews in published form. 

Let me explain… 

Three months ago we invited ten children from Adswood primary school for lunch. The kids were members of an after school creative writing club. We offered the full experience, around 15 courses, and treated the event as if they were adult, paying guests. 

We wanted to offer members of the prevailing generation a chance to connect with food and each other. To show, in our own way, the importance of a balanced diet, responsible choices concerning the provenance of food, an insight into how food is farmed and how creativity brings further excitement to a meal and also to show the importance of taking time out to sit around a table and converse with friends or family, sharing in the bounties of all of the above. 

Dinner Together 2.png

What we got that day was a lesson in our own conduct, the flavours we set out to create, the design and feel of the room, the stories we choose to tell and how we choose to tell them. The honesty and sensitivity received off these guests was refreshing and I failed to see where the preconceived notion of the ‘child in a fancy restaurant’ made them in any way a more unsuitable candidate for dining than their older counterparts. In short. We had a lot of fun.

On the day of the lunch the teacher told us that they would all write a review and that maybe, when completed, we could pick them up from the school in a morning assembly.

And so Gemma and I found ourselves stood in front of 360 pairs of expectant wide eyes. A miniature sea of crossed legs and faces cupped in hands waiting to hear why and how the restaurant came to be and the only answer that seemed to make any sense at the time was that my Gran had been a lousy cook. 

After assembly we were led, by the reviewers into a classroom where we sat together. They presented us with compilation of their work, the stark reviews of their lunch with us that day. We’ve had a few big reviews from nationals where the lead up to print day has sent me over the edge but holding this book in my hand and feeling the eyes impress on me was a real test. Both parties knowing that soon the truth would be uncovered.

Cutting Up Celeriac.png
Holding Nose.png
Prodding Mackerel 3.png

I don’t know why I was so surprised by their writing talent. We seem to forget the raw state of our early creative stages as we battle later in life for originality but the reviews were written so well and were so honest. The little nuances that they picked up on, some that are in the design of the restaurant’s working but some new and only pointed out by them were pretty overwhelming and Gemma and I started to get a little emotional reading. 

Skate Wing.png

Adswood primary school is awash with colour. Around every corner there’s inspiring art work, paintings , sculptures and models. There are projects and activities that spin outside of the standard curriculum. Next time I visit I am promised I can help look after the chickens. The learning spaces are little hubs of activity and precedent is not put on keeping still with fingers on lips but rather the needs of the individual to be able to learn and absorb. Have they rested enough? Eaten enough of a balanced diet? Are they in the correct head space? There is a consistent, but discreet check in with everyone’s positivity and supportive procedures to keep everybody in the right place to learn and grow. 

I would like to thank, any of the students or teachers reading this, for their incredible hospitality and warm welcome, for showing us your place of work and the systems that get you through the day. And also for visiting us and reminding us that what we do is not for any particular accolades or does not have to be configured to any type of guest or confined within ‘fine dining’. It is for fun, to learn and to stretch our own imaginations. Your reviews will reside on the lounge for all our guests to enjoy.  

Group Photo 2.png
 
 

We have had too much of a good time with this project to just let it lie. We will be repeating ‘School Dinners’ on a monthly basis from October 2019.  Schools from all over greater Manchester can apply to come and eat lunch with us. Get in touch by emailing work@wtlgi.co and bring your appetites. 

 

Strawberries & Cream

 

Following our post about Alan Jones and Derwen Gam here’s a little insight into what we’re doing with the sheep milk at the restaurant. It appears throughout the menu, but this week we’ve been having fun with the sweet stuff.

When the milk arrives from Alan, making yoghurt is the best way to preserve it and its healthy fat content makes it ideal for the purpose. We use a natural back slop method, saving a little yoghurt from the last batch to inoculate the new batch. We keep a little of the milk back to drink in it’s raw state. Nothing really compares to this simple serving.

Like everyone in the country we are revelling in the strawberry season. We always take our strawberries from Carey organics, a small farm in Hereford. With the milk increasing in cream content week by week we felt it only right to look toward Strawberries and Cream.

Churner and bread 2 .JPG

A small bowl of Alan’s yoghurt is covered with strawberries cured very lightly in soy and elderflower syrup and dressed with apple marigold from the farm. This is served with a shot of the raw milk.

We make all of our ice creams in an early 20th century hand churner. It’s the best way we found to date, of churning ice cream. The texture feels more akin to the natural textures of the cream, maintaining the fattiness but still achieving a light whip like gelato. Whipping the cream fresh to order also omits the use of artificial emulsifiers that seem to add a gummy texture.  

We churn the Sheep’s milk yoghurt and add a good helping of whole fruit, strawberry jam made from the discarded fruit, either damaged in transit or too small to cure. We think it’s possible that the old churners might have been the start of the rippled ice cream. An old grandma somewhere out in the mid west, finding herself scraping out a jam jar in a flash of creativity to add a zang to her creamed ice. You never know.

Churning .JPG

We make a whey caramel by taking the left over whey from the yoghurt making process. The whey is reduced very slowly so that the proteins do not crystallise, until we have an incredibly sour caramel. To this we add honey from our bees and then spread the mixture between two wafers creating, in essence a strop waffle which we then serve along side the ice cream.

Sorry for any spoilers but after a bowl of this ice cream I’m sure you’re going to forgive us. 

Strawberries and Cream.JPG

When you find a raw ingredient this good, the urge is to show it off in as many ways as possible and to use everything it gives. I would love to say that this dish will stay on for ever but we start to get more ideas and find other ways of showcasing the milk. For me the dish is not the most important element in the process - it is a fleeting idea for the moment, we cannot be precious. What will stay is Alan’s milk, and our relationship will strengthen, learning more every year and enjoying it in different ways. In this way our menu changes and adapts around the strengthening of our relationships to the people we work with. 


 

A Sunny Disposition - Lunch at WTLGI

 

Mid May, we started serving lunch on Saturdays, at Where the Light Gets In. It has brought a breath of fresh air into our dining room and made me realise, more than ever, the benefits of spending time. 

We have always been lucky with our guests, a diverse crowd, bringing different reactions, reasoning and knowledge into our space. Guests that are engaged in what we do, pleasant to talk with and share our stories, guests that leave feeling inspired by the experience we have offered.

Bowl with flower SMALL.jpg

The guests of our Saturday lunch service have brought a slightly different energy which I believe to be due to the time of day. A good lunch carries with it an idea of complete relaxation. We all enjoy to go out in the evenings, to a favourite restaurant, a few bars or a club. It is our time away from work, well earned, our escape and a chance to cocoon ourselves away from worries or obligations that we hold in our daytime occupations. But with this we feel a certain pressure - that we must have a good time. There is a responsibility, on our side and a wariness that this is your Saturday night and it is precious. 

Pigs Blood Taco .jpg

Lunch time is a little different. Lunch is more frivilous. The afternoon is cushioned between the morning and the party to follow, it can, as easily, be filled with a weekend shop, washing the car, cleaning the house or any other chore that keeps our domestic life in check, and so a room well lit by the sun, a breezy dining room and a daytime glass of wine seems to offer a more opulent expression of passing the time.

Since we started serving lunch at WTLGI, I have been inspired to spend my Sunday afternoons in the same vain. A train or drive out to the countryside to find a good pub or a stroll into town to find a simple bistro. To while away an afternoon over plates of food and a few good bottles of wine. 

Pig and Lettuce .jpg

Our team too, myself included, have been more breezy, carrying a lighter mood whilst serving lunch. Even though it is a big push for us to get ready for the night time service, where the lights are dimmed, the music turned up and the jostle of a Saturday night keeps us on our toes, we slide easily into this affable and gentle sway of a Saturday afternoon with our guests. 

And I think we all appreciate the sunny disposition of an afternoon well spent. 

 

PROFILE: Alan Jones at Derwen Gam, May 2019

 
DSC_0348.JPG

When February comes around I pick up the phone and call Alan Jones. It is getting close to lambing season. But it isn’t for the lamb I am getting in touch.

Alan Jones is an organic farmer on the Lleyn peninsula near Pwllheli, North Wales. On his farm Derwen Gam (Crooked Oak) he breeds Lleyn sheep to produce a rich and satisfying milk. He has worked with sheep for three years now. His flock is 200 strong, 120 of which are used in the production of milk. 

Lleyn are a native breed to this particular peninsula near the Snowdonia National Park. They were also originally found in parts of Ireland.  In the 1970’s the population of these sheep dropped to around 7,000 but has since enjoyed a steady growth, especially in parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire. This is due to the characteristics of the ewe, a prolific breeder, with a quiet temperament that yields high levels of milk for her offspring. They produce a healthy quantity of milk feeding purely on grassy pastures and this is exactly why Alan spends the majority of his time researching and implementing a strict herbal ley system.  His use of herbal leys is integral to the health of his flock and the flavour of their milk, and why I wanted to visit him. 

A herbal ley is a complex mixture of grasses, herbs and legumes that is maintained through animal grazing. Its benefits to the soil, wildlife and livestock are innumerable. Frank Newman Turner, a pioneer in this field, described these pastures as his “manure merchant, food manufacturer and vet all in one”.

DSC_0292.JPG

Alan’s reasons for utilising this system are that it saves money and time whilst providing his flock with exactly what they need when they need it. We should understand that the choices of farmers to follow organic principles and traditional methods must, primarily, come down to good business. Alan actually turned from breeding cattle to sheep when the foot and mouth crisis hit hard, ruining thousands of farms up and down the isles, Alan’s included. The plan made good business sense, after all farmers must first make a living to sustain their families and livelihoods. This is why many farmers, in the first place, will turn to fertilisers and antibiotics to maintain steady growth of their crops and livestock and pesticides and fungicides to suppress weeds, pests and other unwanted troubles that will kill off their crop. 

These farmers were given tools to ensure their crop would be successful year after year with minimum maintenance and work. The poisons that now leach into our soils, rivers and our bodies were offered to make sure the farmer would not go bankrupt, that he could feed his children, cut out the strain of long days and nights and prosper against the supposed opposition of nature. Unfortunately this has given control to the agri chemical companies and made big business out of intensive farming. These options, for an uncertain farmer are understandable on personal terms but there has always been other options, more traditional methods available, that require a little more planning and a firm understanding and working with nature. We needn’t use the modern labels of ‘organic’ or ‘bio dynamic’ but rather simply observe these principles for their sound ethical reasoning to both the land, the economy and our own bodies. 

Alan’s organic herbal leys are a wonder to behold. The bright colours attractive, the smells sweet and aromatic, underfoot it is soft and springy. It is easy to maintain, only taking a simple rotational system of grazing to keep short and it proves enormously cost efficient. That’s because the various herbs are feeding the soil and the sheep all at once. And not just that but it is medicating both parties too. 

Each type of grass, herb and legume that Alan plants plays a unique and integral role, which when combined create a delicate and balanced system of bio diversity that is harmonious to all concerned.

DSC_0298.JPG
DSC_0367.JPG

Grasses, which include westerworlds ryegrass, timothy, cocksfoot, meadow fescue, creeping red fescue, foxtail take on many applications in the overall picture. First, our climate here in the British Isles is ideal for grass growth, making it a cheap and abundant source of forage for livestock. 

Westerworlds in particular is an extremely fast growing variety and along with its high sugar content is ideal for producing silage which will feed the animals throughout winter. 

Cocksfoot has the deepest roots of the varieties which makes it ideal to facilitate drainage and offer lots of organic matter to thin soils. It is the earliest of the grasses to spring and grows back after grazing with vigour. 

Red fescue tolerates drought as it forms dense turf making a good choice for surplus forage. 

Legumes play an accompanying role, collecting nitrogen from the air and fixing it into the soil to aid the growth of plants and eliminating the need for artificial nitrogen fertilisers. Legumes are also high in protein and medicinal properties boosting animal welfare and performance.  Included in Alan’s mix are white clover, red clover, crimson clover, sainfoin, sweet clover and vetches.  

White clover is probably one the most valuable plants in any organic farmers arsenal. The stem that runs along the ground producing leaves and flowers at low levels make it perfect for grazing. It grows well in nitrogen deficient soil and adds carbon trapped from the sunlight back into the soil. As an integral part of the diet for the sheep it helps to cleanse the blood, aids digestion and balances cholesterol. 

Sainfoin adds copious amounts of nitrogen to the soil eradicating the need for chemical fertilisers. It is also high in tannins which provide a high protein count to the feed. The tannins present also prevent bloat in the sheep. Its medicinal properties extend as a natural worming antidote for lambs as it has natural anthelmintic properties. It also helps to reduce the amount of methane produced by ruminants, invaluable from an environmental perspective. Just In this one plant we find various ailment preventatives eliminating the need for antibiotics whilst also helping to enrich the soil and keep the atmosphere clean. 

Sweet clover Is a huge nitrogen fixer and produces huge quantities of green material for forage whilst vetches out compete weeds and improve soil structure. 

Herbs have deep rooting systems which aerate the soil - tractors and their high diesel consumption are left at the wayside. The herbs are abundant with micro nutrients and minerals, adding a high nutrient content to the diet and remarkably, or maybe not so remarkably, these nutrients end up in our milk adding nutrient to our bodies. 

Herbs in the mix include chicory, rib grass, yarrow and burnet. Alan loves chicory. We set about on his springy pastures, heads bent to the ground as he points out each grass, legume and herb and tell us each benefit. The chicory was yet to burst into season but he was determined to find a sample that he could show off. 

It is deep rooted and will grow in heavy drought periods. It is high yielding, rich in mineral and also has anthelmintic properties which prevent intestinal parasites in the animals. Ribgrass is another nutritous plant, specifically containing large amounts of copper, calcium and selenium. 

Yarrow is rich in vitamin A. This is interesting in sheep as unlike cows they do not transform vitamin A into carotene which is what turns cows milk butter yellow and why Sheeps milk butter (rare as it is) stays white. 

DSC_0288.JPG

Striding through these grasses and herbs I just couldn’t work out why anyone would farm any other way. Alan told me that many of his neighbours laughed at his rotation system whereby Alan herds the sheep twice a day to different meadows. The sheep will clip the grass from the tops when it has grown to just under a foot, leaving the last few leaves which allows the plants to catch sunlight to propel growth. This will take anywhere from up to three days to a week, weather dependent, after which the sheep will be put back onto the meadow to enjoy the flavours, nutrients and medicines at their most optimum. 

Alan enjoys the time outdoors and as the meadows only need replenishing with new seed every three years or so he cuts out time weeding, ploughing and fertilising and, most importantly for a small hold farmer saves money on machinery, chemical fertilisers and diesel.

In this scenario everyone seems to win. Alan spends time outdoors, roaming the fields with his flock, surrounded by nature. The sheep enjoy a diet high in nutrient and are served medically by the wondrous plants. The land is thick with vegetation making a veritable habitat for insects, birds and other wildlife whilst replenishing the soils and cleaning the air around. And we at the other end of the chain receive a milk that is so thick and creamy, flavoursome and packed with vitamins and minerals.  

The sheep themselves are testament to the benefits of the system. As Alan tells me, when he started out sowing herbal ley he only laid one field. When it came time to move the sheep to a new pasture they instinctively went to the herbal ley every time.


DSC_0351.JPG
DSC_0314.JPG

The ewes are milked twice a day at 6am and 6pm. Walking up a gantry tempted by a little feed Alan secures their heads and attaches a pump to their teets. This way he can milk two Sheep at a time. Afterwards their teets are wiped with an organic wood wool that keeps the sheep clean and prevents infection without using unnecessary chemicals.

In lambing season the lambs are left with their mother for up to 6 weeks and then weened off and after this fed by bottle. A lamb can drink 1.5 litres a day and a Ewe can produce 3 litres a day so there is plenty for the lamb to drink and for Alan to collect. Later when the lamb needs a larger amount of milk a substitute powder is mixed with left over whey from Carrie’s cheese making process.

The sheep will milk for 7 - 8 months between March and November. At the beginning of this season the milk was 3.1 % cream content, in April it went up to 5.9% and last season ended with a 13% content. This is due to the pasture becoming richer through the summer months. Extra fields are planted with his mixture of herbs and grasses in order to make hay and silage containing a high variety of herbs for the winter months. 


DSC_0335.JPG
DSC_0312.JPG
DSC_0363.JPG

Alan’s milk is distributed to only three places. Cariad Bakery in Anglesey, Carrie Rimes of Cosyn Cymru who is a sheep cheese producer in Bethesda, and our lucky selves at Where the Light Gets In in Stockport.  Here, it flows through the menu from yoghurt, curds and an ice cream garnished with the left over whey in the form of a caramel. 

There is of course a long waiting list for Alan’s milk, and we feel incredibly lucky and privileged to work with this product that all begins with what appears to be field full of grass. 

DSC_0371.JPG
 

News from Where The Light Gets in ... Some Changes from May

 
Poly Tunnel.jpeg

Bookings open for July at midnight tonight and we have left the kitchen for our Spring break - opening again for dinner on Wednesday 15th May.

On our return our tasting menu will allow for a vegetarian option. We have tested a full vegetarian menu for the last two months, and as our team is now bigger and stronger than ever, we feel we can serve an alternative to our vegetable loving friends, on a daily basis.

We still hold to our original sentiments - here at Where The Light Gets In we do not cater for likes or dislikes, you get what you are given - and we are still humbled each day that our guests come with an open mind. We ask that any dietary requirements for your party at given at the booking stage so we can fully immerse ourselves and our guests in the evening’s experience.

A reminder that we are open for Saturday lunch as of 18th May. We will serve a lighter menu to suit a Saturday afternoon, of 8 courses for £65 and an optional wine flight for £40.

We have also learned that our guests do not like to eat late into the night midweek - work beckons and Netflix hums in anticipation of attention. Perhaps we will never have the night time spirit of our European family … and with this in mind we will now offer a lighter menu on Wednesday evenings, mirroring our Saturday lunchtime menu.

To book, please visit our website.

 

 

News From The Kitchen

 
tutto wine.jpg

29/03/19

We're excited to have our friends at @tuttowines host an evening in @the_staff_room , taking you on a journey into indigenous grapes from Italy.

Snacks will be available and records will be spinning... the wine bar will be open from 6.30 till late. Swing by whenever you want. The evening is free to attend, but to give us an idea of numbers, please grab your tickets from here.

carrot2.jpg

03/04/19

Because our last experimental night was such a success, we're doing it again! 
The chefs will preview some of the dishes they are working on for Spring. The food will be stripped back, we will turn the music up and pour wine freely.

Fewer courses, with less fuss. 
Tickets will be £50 with a wine pairing at £30. 
Dinner will be served between 6 & 8

Book a table here.

carrot.jpg

24/04/19
22/05/19


Due to the overwhelming popularity of our first vegetarian evening, we’re hosting another two evenings.
Book a table here.

Joseph.jpg
 

FULL FAT x WTLGI's Charity Shop

 
IMG_1679.JPG

We are teaming up with fundraising team @fullfatmcr and opening our kitchen up to guests like never before, inviting just 20 people to drink and dine alongside our chefs, who will serve an experimental multi-course dinner.

Taking place on Tuesday April 9, Full Fat x WTLGI is a chance for our chefs to cut loose, utilising techniques and ideas that have not yet made it to the menu, creating dishes from discussions in the kitchen.

Seats will be limited to just 20 in order to allow the chefs to go big on the things they’re passionate about and to take the chance to share their stories with the guests. 
The dinner will be paired with four glasses of natural wine which will riff on the plates served that evening and will also be poured by the chefs.

All proceeds from the evening will be donated to Full Fat’s charities: Keep Our NHS Public - a campaign group working to maintain a publicly funded NHS, and Headway - a charity that supports people affected by brain injury. 
Full Fat was set up in memory of John-Paul Cassidy, a much-loved member of Manchester’s food and drink scene who passed away last year. Now, his friends and family run fundraising events to celebrate the cream of Manchester’s food, drink and creative community on his behalf. 
This one-off fundraising event will have a very limited capacity - seats are up for sale on eBay, where diners can bid on a table from 99p. Listings will go live at 1pm on Friday 15th March!

IMG_1635 2.JPG

Click here to bid on a CYNDI LAUPER, Girls Just Want To Have Fun, Twelve-Inch Single and a table for two

at 18:30 on Tuesday the 9th of April at 18:30

IMG_1640 3.JPG

Click here to bid on a Soccer Game For Two Players and a table for 2 people

at 19:00 on Tuesday the 9th of April 2019

IMG_1650 2.JPG

Click here to bid on a Pottery Girl Sitting With Goose and a table for 2 people

at 18:30 on Tuesday the 9th of April 2019

IMG_1652 3.JPG

Click here to bid on a Champagne Rubber Toy With Squeak and a table for 2 people at 18:30 on Tuesday the 9th of April

IMG_1662 3.JPG

Click here to bid on a Pearl Coloured Elephant Teapot and a table for 2 people at 19:00 on Tuesday 9th of April

IMG_1663 2.JPG

Click here to bid on motivational signs for your home and a table for 2 at 19:00

on Tuesday the 9th of April 2019

IMG_1665 2.JPG

Click here to bid on an Alpine Scene Puzzle and a table of 4 at 19:00 on Tuesday the 9th of April 2019

IMG_1674 2.JPG

Click here to bid on a Ordnance Survey Map of Huddersfield and a table for 4 at 18:30 on Tuesday the 9th of April 2019

 

TRACK X WTLGI

 
SAM.jpg

For us, hosting a beer tasting with TRACK was an opportunity to delve into the culture of beer drinking in the north of England. To foster some of the stories linked to ale’s fragrant past.

We started the evening with a plate of poppadum and house chutneys. I grew up on curry and it is still one of my most comforting foods. Every Friday night we went to the local pub with my grandad, auntie and uncle. I drank orange soda and my grandad taught me to play pool. Then we’d pick up an Indian takeaway on the way home.

Track003small.jpg

The table would be piled with samosa, bhaji, poppadum and pickles, curries of fragrance and heat, salty and sweet and steaming charred naan. These are my first memories of sharing food with loved ones, of staying up late and talking around a table, of the exotic (different tones on the palate compared to my gran’s swede and mash). I’m sure this is where my love of traveling came from and why I ended up in India for so long and this is where I realised that food was important for social unity, sharing and swapping stories.

So we made poppadum, to share, to spark a topic, for fun and, in the spirit of the North, to sink down a crisp lager. Our poppadum are made from Red Duke of York, a heritage variety of potato dating back to 1942, supplied by the Carroll’s at Tiptoe farm. We made chutneys form our preserves including pickled apricot, salted damson and a wonderful sheep’s milk yoghurt made from milk supplied by Alan Jones in North Wales, spiked with woodland wild garlic.

Track001small.jpg
Track002small.jpg

We rolled our bread in spent beer grains from the beer making process to add further crunch and caramelisation to the crust of our sourdough. Out from the oven they looked ready for battle, armed and textured with a malty shell.

The windows in our dining room look out onto Robinson’s brewery and we share the same red brick heritage. We are, ourselves, situated in an old Victorian Warehouse. We wanted to tap into ale’s part in the industrial revolution, its lubrication. Workers, lined up outside the gates in the smoggy dawn, receiving a pint of nutty brown ale to fill their bellies, swirl their heads and ready them for another day of grind. 

Track008small.jpg
Track010.jpg

What better beer to represent this, than Track’s ‘Sonoma’. For me, its the new pride of Manchester, one foot firmly in the real ale camp whilst edging over, with citrus notes, to the growing craft beer scene. It’s a beer for all people at all times. 

So we got our guests out of their chairs and they lined up at the bar. For the first time at WTLGI we served a pie dinner. Liz’s saddle back pigs filled a crisp pastry, all swamped by a split pea wet with mushroom vinegar. And Stefan met them at the other end of the bar with a frothy ‘dimple’ of barrel aged ‘Sonoma’. 


Dinners like this allow us to get closer to the people in our community that we respect. That are plying a skilled craft with honesty and integrity. They allow freedom to us chefs, allowing us to dig into certain themes and whet our creative appetite. We can express ourselves in ways we may not dare on regular nights in the dining room and they hopefully allow our guests to see a different side of WTLGI, to explore and meet new friends and find new flavours and stories that have been resting patiently on their doorstep. 

Track005small.jpg
 

The team at Where The Light Gets In visit Ramon Saavedra at the foot hill of the Sierra Nevada

 

The spirit of Ramon Saavedra

The team at Where The Light Gets In visit a vineyard at the foot hill of the Sierra Nevada

In Graena, a small village near Granada, at the foot hills of the Sierra Nevada, Ramon Saavedra makes youthful wines full of vigour and honesty at his small winery Bodegas Cauzon.

This land appears arid, incapable of supporting any life. The rocky outcrops and red soils, cactus and long, flat horizons make you want to throw on a pair of spurs and rough house in the local saloon. The dusty plains of Andalucia were used as the back drop to Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns. 

IMG_5586.jpg

But the dry climate supports so much growth. Ramon’s high altitude vines gnarl around training posts surrounded by olive trees, groves of almond and chestnut, fruit bearing cactus, wild thyme, rosemary and eucalyptus. Here at 1200m the peaches and oranges are bursting with sweetness and acidity. The minerals deposited from the Sierra Nevada sparkle in the rust coloured earth and minerals trickle down too from the snowy peaks in crystal clear water which we drink in the circumspect winter sun. It is these minerals that bring fertility. 

This fecund land is actually one of the best places in Europe to grow wine grapes. The dry climate protects the grapes from moisture prohibiting rot, the sandy soil keeps phylloxera at bay. The hot days ripen the berries and give colour and tannin whilst the cool nights slow down the growth and allow acidity to develop. This is a wine makers paradise and Ramon gives his thanks through his work. No fertilisers or chemicals, nothing added to the 8 hectares he farms. In the winery no sulphites or enhancers, nothing added to the wine. He allows only nature to do what it does best and presents as true an expression of his home land as he can.

IMG_5672.jpg

He also takes great measures to protect the land around him. When a local land owner tried to pull down the oldest chestnut tree in Andalucia, a tree 600 years old, he created a petition calling for its protection and won. He told us that one year the same tree produced 400 kilos of fruit. There is also a gang of vultures hanging around these areas, from large Rioja wineries, trying to buy up land in a preempt of a crisis for growers in the north due to global warming. They have already managed to buy huge pieces of land which they have levelled flat and filled with pesticide and fungicide, preparing for huge, intensive, mechanically farmed plots. Ramon is gathering support from other local wine makers and fighting with the local councils to try to prevent more of these tragic acts.

IMG_5703.jpg

Recently we spent 3 days with Ramon and his partner David on a trip with Fernando Berry from Otros Vinos. Within 2 minutes of pulling into Bodegas Cauzon we were in the cellar with glasses in our hands, a dazzling, peachy white using sauvingon blanc, chardonnay, viognier, macabeo and torrentez.  

Later we helped with lunch, preparing 'manita con gambas’. A dish of pigs trotters and red prawns in a sauce made from dried pimentos, almonds, garlic and fried bread. Ramon hadn’t cooked this for 20 years, since he had been a chef in the Catalan region. We sat under a bright blue sky to eat using crusty bread to mop up the moorish sauce and drinking Ramons Pinot noir. An uncommon grape for this climate which he had turned into a bright, floral rosé.

For three days we ate and drank, making new friends at every table, meeting the people behind some of the wines and ciders we pour every night. 

IMG_5760.jpg

At La Huerta, a local restaurant high up on the south face of the Sierra Nevada, Luis created dish after dish of  Catalan inspired veg dishes with most of the produce grown by him and then rest by local farmers. Although he is from Catalonia he has lived in these mountains for 30 years and prides himself on marrying the two cultures together through his food. He started us with a newspaper parcel of oven fired, steaming calcot onions with a dip using the same moorish ingredients as Ramon’s sauce. Around the table farmers opened their wines and ciders, new vintages or limited productions made from small parcels for their ‘own personal use’. Laughing at the volatility of a wine, arguing about the age of another, admiring dryness or colour. 

IMG_5737.jpg

Afterwards Luis and I talked about the ease of cooking when produce is pristine, the simple touch one needs to transform a handful of vegetables into a meal and I thought about Ramon and his wines and how he lets the land do all the hard work and intervene only to take the juice from the grape and put it into the bottle, a lightness of hand that is present in every bottle, along with a boldness of spirit that will not let this land down. 

And this is the point, to be able to come here and meet the people behind the grape. To eat and drink and listen and share stories about our crafts, our experiences. Friends are quickly made in these surroundings because we have a direct kinship for a way of life. It is not the fact that they make wine and we buy it but a vigour that we share in our beliefs, a volatility that we share in life, seeking for a connection to nature and simple pleasure in everything we do. 

To travel and meet people of like mind is stronger than any Facebook meme or Instagram post. It gives strength to a community that is not bound by geography or even craft but by direction and projection of spirit. 

 

The Scene Was At Best, Unusual.

 

A few weeks ago on a Saturday night, after a busy service we were sat, as always, at this time of the week, in the staff room, drinking wine, listening to records and winding down after another full paced shift. These times allow us reflection and retribution, a necessary and almost ritualistic shedding of the week gone by.

Near the end of our family dining table was a huge store of apples, stacked high in crates and covered over with dust sheets. The bounty of our last pickings from the farm and no less than 120 kilos in weight.

apple001.jpg

I decided to take a quick look and finding that some of them were on the turn I began to grade them into empty crates, the good, the bad, the ugly, etc. The team, one by one followed suit to make the job lighter. By the time we had got to the end of the third crate it had been decided what we must do.

The fruit mill and cider press, lent to us by our mutton farmer was set up in the main kitchen, the music was turned up, Caro, our sommelier, scrupulously selected the right bottles of wine for the job and we set to making cider.

The scene was, at best, unusual. Young ladies gyrated to Italo disco, tossing apples into the fruit mill. The spattering of crushed fruit mingled with the grating of iron teeth under deep disco baselines as bearded men twisted on the press to release a rich golden juice into muslin lined buckets. The fruit mill continued to spatter amidst dancing, drinking and giggling, juice pouring forth in a dionysian frenzy. I was surrounded, in the throws of some kind of Berlin meets west country electro, apple romp. But the work was conscious, methodical and precise even though we were excitable, intently impassioned and... a little pissed.

Within 90 minutes we had pressed around 70 kilos of apples into 40 litres of clear juice ready for a gentle maturation into cider. 30 more minutes and the machines were stripped and cleaned, benches scrubbed, floors mopped, eighties disco baselines still booming. As I looked on at the celebration I wondered if this is what I had really intended to create two years ago when we set up Where the Light Gets In.

Day to day we try to keep things a little more sober but the principle is still there. Everybody grab a reign, the one you feel most comfortable with, and help to steer. We try to encourage an autonomy where each individual is responsible for the whole. Cleaning, laundry and other menial duties are shared out evenly across the board to ensure there is time for creativity and progress.

apple 2.jpg

In our organisation communication is also integral. We sit down each morning with breakfast as a whole team to share information about improvements needed for the next service, bookings and dietries. A member of the team will introduce a dish, a wine, coffee or special ingredient with stories of the producers; giving voice to everyone and making sure that each aspect of our experience is understood by all. Family meal times and pre service briefings give us more opportunity for constructive communication.

Of course we have leaders within the organisation but we work on an experience system where those with more of it for the task at hand, lead. This means everyone, at some point plays the role of both student and teacher, something that is good for personal and group development.

The top down power struggle of restaurant employment breeds an unhealthy competitive nature in a lonely arena, pitting team mates against each other and businesses against each other. This concentric and vicious circle leads to oppressive attitudes, and incorrect reasoning of the mind. All too often members of our industry feel they need to ’stick it out’ or ‘last two years,’ in order to succeed to the next level.

The bullying, drug abuse and mental exhaustion that plague our industry are all spike like symptoms of this desperate system where we are willing to put too much aside in order to reach the top. This scramble, in most cases turns into a pitiful rattle to just keep above board. The attitude drips down from the organisations to its staff like sewage from a drainpipe.

apple3.jpg

Competition is good, its makes us progress. But we as owners have to set the pace, the rules and the prizes. Teams must be able to work together in confidence of their own part played, to push the limits of what the business can achieve. The project must belong to all.

At the recent Food on the Edge symposium I heard Helen Puolakka, of Aster say that a kitchen brigade is not an army, it’s an orchestra. A great sentiment for us all to keep in mind. Obviously Escoffier’s militarised brigade system is the fulcrum of organisation in a modern day kitchen but the army-like attitude can be swapped for one that allows more harmony for everyone to feel their part is integral no matter their experience.

In a horizontal system, space created for the individual allows independent thought, creativity and voice, making the group effort more multi dimensional. Traditional and contemporary, relaxed and disciplined, opulent and austere can all exist, amicably in one experience.

As of recent I have spent a lot of time on our farm with my hands in the soil, this has led me to think of our work system as rhizomic. There exists a loose framework of ethics and creativity in which we all exist symbiotically. Each person brings his or her passion and knowledge into the framework to create a complex system where each element relies on the next. The system is shared as an experience with our guests who, hopefully in turn take on board some of our creative and ethical values and so on.

This system is not without its difficulties. Structure can be hard to maintain without the traditional discipline practices and job titles. Autonomous led group tasks can lead to the task in fact not being carried out but Communication and reliance on everyone’s individual skills allows for a better understanding of structure, why systems are in place and how best to stick to them. And of course the 3am cider making disco parties help.

 

Poultry Farmers of the Peak District National Park

 

"Meringue is on the menu next week… we’re going to need 120 extra eggs”.

We take a trip to visit our regular supplier, Joanne, who is situated on a small hill-farm which predominantly produces beef and lamb, based at the foot of Kinder Scout in the Peak District. Because of the small-scale nature of the producers that we select, regular changes to the menu necessitates a network of local suppliers.  
Joanne provides us with a list of other farmers in the area also producing free-range eggs.

 This takes us to a variety of secluded farms dotted around the Derbyshire landscape, where we meet with several suppliers. One of whom lends us an incubator and half a dozen fertilised eggs...