I write a monthly food column in Viva Lewes. I welcome news about locally-produced food and drink products, and events or workshops based in Lewes or close by. To be considered for inclusion in the column, please get in touch with details by the 10th of the month preceding publication. I try to include as much relevant news as I can, but I cannot guarantee coverage.
Viva Lewes 114
The pilot of The Crunch – a new ‘interactive dialogue’ event from the Wellcome Trust that aims to get people thinking about food, our health and our planet – has been the food highlight of my year so far.
Over two days, I enjoyed performances of ‘verbatim theatre’ inspiring me to think about food in its broadest sense; lively discussions; Q&As with experts, and a group brainstorm about how to change our food systems for a brighter future.
It all inspired me to start a (feeble drumroll) Facebook Group, ‘Lewes Foodies’, to hopefully continue some of the debate. Lewes already has many progressive initiatives in the food sector: co-ops, conscientious businesses and charitable groups. I hope Lewes Foodies will support communication and help to create further positive collaborations: please join.
It seems to be working already. Without Lewes Foodies, I wouldn’t have known that Annabella Ashby is hosting a Waste Food meeting on 16th March, 7.30pm, at the Town Hall, Yarrow Room for anyone interested in supporting waste food activities in Lewes.
It’s a bit of a leap, but in other news we have Mother’s Day, which is – in my own interest to say – not throwaway. The team at Lewes Hamper have put together a perfect Mum gift, see leweshamper.co.uk, and Pelham House is offering a special three-course roast on March 6th, with a present for ma thrown in. Good news from Cheese Please also, who are now stocking artisan truffles made by a small, family-run chocolatier, and just in time for Easter too.
Viva Lewes 113
I’m supposed to know things but, ahem, the news that Harvey’s make gin has alluded me since late November.
Turns out Miles Jenner is descended from Dutch distillers and the Dutch, don’t you know, invented gin. Our famous London Dry was made palatable through the addition of juniper after the Dutch spirit Jenever, and it’s as a nod to Jenever, originally distilled from malt wine, that Miles developed his recipe. Incorporating malt to create a warm, masculine spirit with notes of nutmeg, Harveys Malt Gin is available from Harveys shop at £22.50. I’m enjoying mine with a generous sliver of orange zest and Fever Tree tonic.
Which brings me to the news that Seville oranges are in season. Julian at Ouse Valley Foods is putting them to best use in her fabulous marmalades, find them at the Saturday market along with her range of Valentine’s gifts.
Lewes also has a new juice merchant. Juices for Angels is run by chef Myriam Murray, returning to Lewes following many years in France and Spain where she kept a large bio-dynamic veg garden in the Pyrenees. Myriam’s 100% organic juices are available as plans to ‘help detox or to boost vitality’. juicesforangels.co.uk
And last but not least, The Greek Girls Supper Club, run by sisters Clare and Maxine at the Pelham Arms on the third Monday of the month is raising money for refugee charities. The February edition promises a Thai theme, is BYOB, and as Andrew is donating use of the venue, all profits go to charity.
Viva Lewes 112
January: the month clean eating advocates have been waiting for. If you’re not cutting out alcohol, sugar, wheat, dairy and frankly anything enjoyable this month, then I don’t know what magazines you’ve been reading.
Fortunately, in Lewes we have a whole load of healthy, organic, locally grown produce available year round, including brilliant box schemes from Ashurst Organics, Barcombe Nurseries and May’s Farm Cart.
At Pestle & Mortar, you can discover a cleansing brew in the form of their new Burmese green teas, or feast on a vegan Thai curry made with homemade paste, and ‘no shrimp!’ Curry, of course, is a great way to up your veggies, and fortunately, Community Chef is holding a workshop on 30 Jan, making ‘quintessential “Udupi”: pure vegetarian, healing dishes from Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu’.
Eating well expert Tina Deubert is launching her new recipe collection this month. ‘Cards with a difference,’ she says, featuring all our favourite dishes sold in Tina’s Kitchen and more; pick up in store.
At the Lewes Friday Market, Ana Frearson sells homemade fermented vegetable pickles like sauerkraut and Kimchi. You can speak to Ana (07900 827839) about attending her fermentation workshops. ‘Such an interesting process,’ she tells us, ‘and the resulting food and drinks are so good for you.’
And those still satisfied with a well-constructed sandwich, a slice of something sweet and a good cuppa on a cold day will welcome the new branch of old favourite The Runaway Café; now open on Station St.
Viva Lewes 111
Christmas: how depressing, to only have a half-page on which to list all the food news this December.
Of course, you might also do well to make your own from products on offer at the Food Rocks Market on 13 Dec, 11-4pm, or the weekly Lewes Food Market – maybe with Jane Fairman’s Beech Leaf Noyau or Cherry Blossom liqueur? Lewes Food Market will be open on Christmas Eve from 9-12, for collection of pre-ordered turkeys, raised pies, Christmas puddings, pies and stollen.
More choice again when it comes to delicious handmade festive bakes. The Hearth has brought back their Harveys mince pies and Christmas cakes. Made to heirloom recipes and with heirloom wheat.
Happily the local allergy-friendly Steph’s Kitchen is back in operation, to order their free-from festive treats, email Steph. Pleasant Stores too, are making classic, vegan and gluten free cakes to order, and Robin at Lewes Community Kitchen will be baking up a storm for Stollen Fest on 18 Dec, join for mulled wine and nibbles, 3.30-5pm.
Before I wish you Merry Christmas, it wouldn’t be right not to mention that the Soup Kitchen at The Hearth will be raising money for Calais on Fridays, noon-2pm, and the Oyster Project Christmas Appeal needs to top £1500 this year.
Viva Lewes 110
As the air turns colder and the leaves turn from green to gold, our cottage industrialists are gearing up for the seasonal rush. Pleasant Stores have extended their opening hours to Thursday and Friday evenings from 6.30 to 10.30pm. Owner Sara Grisewood has put together a tidy list of natural organic wines, gluten-free beers, and a light menu featuring ‘Lewesian membrillo’ served with High Weald Dairy Sister Sarah, and other lusciousness.
At the Friday Food Market you’ll find handmade cheese from Plumpton College, and forager Jane Fairman selling her “spicy, smoky, hot and fruity” Bonfire Sauce. Flavoured with plums, wild berries, wild garlic, smoked paprika, chilli, seaweed and nettles: the perfect accompaniment to a Harveys banger.
Chloe Edwards of Seven Sisters Spices is teaming up with VRAC and the creators of Lewes Map to offer a seasonal hamper, and will also be teaching Christmas Baking classes at Lewes Community Kitchen on 16th and 22nd Nov. Also at Lewes Community Kitchen, on 12th Dec, Petra Lovelock will be sharing some Scandi-inspired seasonal skills at her Make & Bake Christmas workshop.
Anyone experiencing a coffee-scented void left by the transformation of Bar & Coffeehouse into Fisher St Studios, or Baltica’s decision to focus on their sought-after pottery, may need to discover Ground. The award-winning Kemptown coffee merchants opened a pop-up on Lansdown Place in Sept, and Rick and Tash say they are also planning a retail micro-roastery, for customers to sit and drink “whilst watching the beans turning from green to gold.”
Viva Lewes 109
I’m honoured to be taking the organic sourdough baton from the inimitable Lewes Nibbler, but with just 250 words I’ll hold back introductions and focus on what else is new this October.
A welcome addition to the Lewes food scene is The Persian Food Company, a new delivery service launching this month offering Persian meze home-cooked on the High Street by Azar Kazemi and daughter Raha. Expect honest, carefully prepared Iranian dishes: slow cooked lamb stews and spiced patties, pilaffs, soups, flatbreads and dips flavoured with barberries, sour pickled lime, saffron and fresh herbs.
Also on wheels: VRAC Teashop, now based in the Star Brewery, has launched a bicycle courier service for their ethical loose leaf teas in Lewes every Thursday.
Exciting changes afoot at The Real Eating Co thanks to the appointment of new General Manager Elisa Furci, former manager of the London Restaurant Festival. Elisa is heralding a bold new phase for the restaurant by sending staff for training at London Michelin Star eateries and the über fashionable Clove Club. Expecting big things.
And continuing the wave of large food events after OctoberFeast (continues until 10th Oct), is Street Food Rocks in Sussex: the first competition held exclusively for Sussex-based street food traders. A street food market and ‘cook off’, incorporating local produce stalls, Sussex bar and live music will be held in Cliffe, from 11-4pm on 25th Oct, as part of the Sussex Food & Drink Awards 10th birthday celebrations.