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Cotswolds local and seasonal food - January 2017


“It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily. "So it is." "And freezing." "Is it?" "Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately.” A.A. Milne

The Roman god Janus gave January its name: the ruler of new beginnings; gates; doors; the first hour of the day; the first day of the month; and the first month of the year. He was pictured as two-headed - one looking forward into the new year while the other took a retrospective view. Janus also presided over the “Temple of Peace”, where the doors were opened only during wartime. It was a place of safety, where new beginnings and new resolutions could be forged, just as the New Year for us is a time for new objectives, renewed positivity and commitments to long-term goals.

The beginning of 2017 represents the thirteenth year of business and family life for us here at The Priory Inn. Since taking ownership in the early part of 2004, our personal drive for representing local businesses within our menus, rooms and bar has continued with force. We continually develop the close network of local artisan suppliers who provide us with high quality produce and personal service, that makes it all worthwhile, to deliver our product to you, our guests.

January is a popular month for pizzas, so our wood oven and pizza chefs work long hours, turning out the very best possible pizzas cooked in our wood-fired oven, which originated in Italy. Its internal dome makes it act like a convention oven and reaches temperatures up to 400° centigrade. The wood that we use is well-seasoned and sustainably forested. The embers are always burning inside the oven and once the breakfast chef has finished baking the day's bread in the cooler morning temperatures, our pizza chef rakes and builds the fire so that it reaches the maximum temperature for lunch service. Of course good equipment means nothing if the ingredients are not top notch and for the last 2 years we have managed to achieve 100% of the ingredients from within our 30 Mile Food Zone:

Mozzarella - Two years ago, we were on the hunt for a new supplier for the 3,000 kilos of mozzarella that we use on our pizzas each year. The easy option would be to buy mass-produced, over-processed, tasteless cheese, but that just doesn't do it for us. So in 2014, we began talking to the cheese-making Godsells, as we had an inkling that they would be up for a challenge. Many months of discussions, calculations, experiments, creative improvisations, (a few meaningful mistakes) and crucially hours of tasting, resulted in a delicious Gloucestershire mozzarella. A staff visit last year to the cheese room gave us an insight into the history of the village of Leonard Stanley. We saw the early stages of the mozzarella-making as the curds were separated from the whey in the massive stainless vat. Then the hand-stretching of the cheese which is crucial to the process, involving large quantities of very hot water, a couple of broom handles, much patience and a critical time window. We are in awe of families like the Godsells who have made difficult choices to continue in a tough world, but do it because they truly love what they do - and do it so well. As restaurant owners who care, we can be sure that the authentic, characterful, top quality product which we pass onto you is truly good and right - on every level. godsellscheese.com

Tomato sauce - Opening bulk cans of tomato sauce was a million miles away from where we wanted be with our pizzas, so after many calculations and conversations we hatched a plan with Tracklement's (well-known locally for their fabulous pickles and chutneys) and they supply us tasty, rich, 'tomatoey', preservative-free sauce for the bases of our pizzas. tracklements.co.uk

Pizza dough - Shipton Mill has been the source of our flour for pizza bases (and bread) since 2005 and is a significantly higher quality product than any mass-produced flour. We are so fortunate that the mill is just 5 minutes away in Shipton Moyne Wood on the swollen banks of a tributary of the River Avon and we can easily collect our huge sacks once a week. Rattling down the lane to the mill in the van can mean that sometimes when we load up The Priory Inn van with 6 or so 25kg bags of flour, they are still warm from being freshly milled. That always feels truly special. The organic flours are made with traditional French Burr stone millstones, as in Mediaeval days, and much of the grain comes from local farms. Aside from the high quality flour, the key ingredient which they include (never present in any commercially made bread) is time. Nothing in our bread or dough-making process is rushed. Whilst it takes longer, it creates tastier and more digestible bread and dough. This is the case each week with our 25kg bags of Shipton Mill strong bread flour, wholemeal, soft cake, pastry flour and pinhead oats. shipton-mill.com

Charcuterie – Thirteen years ago it was a real struggle to find good quality charcuterie without resorting to overseas products. Today life in our 30 Mile Food Zone is much easier on many fronts and we have two high quality companies from which to create our charcuterie board and the pizza chorizo, pepperoni and prosciutto – the exceptionally talented and passionate people within Native Breeds in Lydney and Trealy Farm in Monmouthshire. nativebreeds.co.uk and trealyfarm.com

It will be an exciting start to 2017 for Stargazy as our fish bar has made it into the UK top 3 as Best Newcomer Fish and Chip Shops in the National Awards. Stargazy has faced an in-depth visit from an awards auditor to assess front and back-of-house operations and mystery shoppers. The winner will be announced at the Seafish ceremony held in London.

Live Sunday music is an integral part of The Priory Inn's product and starts every week at 8pm - entry is free. Sunday 1st we welcome The Funkinsteins playing an acoustic brand of funk rock. Steve Page joins us on the 8th an performs some of the best Americana being played in the UK today This is followed on the 15th by Iron and Oak bringing you roots music from both sides of the Atlantic – expect rhythmic guitar, smoky violin, tasteful mandolin and beautiful harmonies. Then on the 22nd we are introduced to Dymphna who has teamed up with Mike Bowels to create an eclectic mix of songs from covers to blues to pop covers and songs from the American Song book. Phil Cooper a contemporary singer/songwriter rounds out January's Sunday music.

“But the mole sleeps and the hedgehog lies curled in a womb of leaves And the bean and the wheat seed hug their germs in the earth And a stream moves under the ice. Tonight there is no moon” Winter Poem Laurie Lee