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Cotswolds local and seasonal food - August 2017

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time” *

Aerial fork-tailed, dive-bombers are abundant above the ready-to-harvest fields of swaying wheat that surround our homes. The summer visitors have built their nests, fledged their young, and now enjoy acrobatic feeding before the weather encourages them to head for sub-Saharan winter warmth. August in Britain may evoke the best childhood memories - sun-kissed noses, bouncy grass underfoot and seaside picnics, although this may be more nostalgic than reality this year. We crave late garden sunshine to enjoy the sweet scent of roses and honeysuckle. One of the more grounded celebrity chef’s website states that “we are spoiled by nature and spoiled by Nature”. This certainly rings true for August as the fresh produce available presents our chefs with endless golden opportunities, having scratched through the early months of the year. *John Lubbock

The regular, ongoing contact we have with our 30 Mile Food Zone suppliers is particularly meaningful when we are close enough to pick up the product each week in person. This is the case with our 25kg bags of Shipton Mill bread flour, wholemeal, soft cake/pastry flour, pinhead oats and rice flour. Rattling down the lane to the Shipton Moyne wood 5 minutes drive away sometimes means that when we load up The Priory Inn van with 6 or so bags of flour, they are still warm from their time on the mill stones. Not only does that feel special, but also reinforces the top quality of the product we are lucky enough to enjoy as it has spent no time in storage. As with the majority of food products that we buy for the restaurant – it is better when fresh.

We spent an hour or so at the mill with our chefs and front of house staff late last month to give them a better understanding of the high quality products we buy from Shipton Mill. Tom Russell gave us his passionate and much simplified summary of how the process of food industrialization and technological and genetic “advancements” have created modern mass-produced flour. Over the last 50 years, we have: replaced stone mills with huge steel mills; demanded high wheat yields by genetically mutating the grain; intensely fertilized the soils; and, over-used pesticides. The result is a factory-made modern flour with a very long shelf-life, the grain is resistant to pests, it can be quickly and economically mass-produced and stored for months (hundreds of miles from where it is finally consumed). Modern flour is made from mutant grain, which is devoid of nutritional value, undigestible, cheap, bleached, chemically over-treated and quite significantly, tasteless.

Since 2005, Shipton Mill has been the source of flour for The Priory Inn's pizzas, bread, biscuits, desserts, and more recently batter in Stargazy. The ethos behind the mill has earned it a top international reputation for producing exceptional flours which are completely different to any mass-produced product. “We have a deep-seated belief in how we do what we do, as much as making sure that what we do, we do better than anybody.” The process to make the organic flours harks back to Mediaeval days, using methods which rely on traditional French Burr stone millstones to grind the high quality (neither hybridised nor enhanced) traditional grain. The source and quality of the grain is of great importance to the mill which relies on relationships with local organic farms as well as overseas suppliers who share the same approach and maintain older and rarer varieties of grain. The flour that we collect each week from Shipton Mill is natural, nutritional, digestible and superior in texture and flavour to any commercially produced flour. This in turn enhances our product, improves your eating experience and concentrates the pride we feel in running our restaurant the best way we can - with the highest quality ingredients.

If you enjoy a good burger then the beefburger on our menu may have caught your eye. It is a 100% Wagyu beefburger from The Newnton Herd, raised on lush pastures just a few miles from Tetbury. The Tucker family's patient and traditional approach to farming ensures the cattle enjoy a nutritious, healthy diet and plenty of fresh air. The word Wagyu refers to all Japanese beef cattle. 'Wa' means Japanese and 'gyu' means cattle and is often referred to as the 'caviar of beef'. Renowned by chefs all over the world for its highly prized marbling (which is a ribbon-like pattern of healthy fat running through the meat), it is graded according to the pedigree of the beasts and the meat's propensity for top grade marbling patterns. The high level of intramuscular fats is the main reason for the meat's buttery texture and exceptionally tender and juicy flavour.

Local gardeners continue to bring their surplus produce to our “Barter at the Back Door” scheme. Anyone with an overflow of freshly harvested herbs, vegetables or fruit, can exchange them at current market value for vouchers to be used here in the restaurant or bar. Most summer seasons we print out vouchers for more than £1,000 and the range of food we receive is immense. At the moment, strawberries, beans, peas, gooseberries, spinach and rhubarb are the stars of bartering. The seasonal strawberry, basil and Brinkworth Blue cheese pizza won't be available for much longer so try it while you can!

If you are interested in any of the local artists displaying art on our walls, we can put you in touch with them – or you can buy any of the prints displayed. Carole Condé (the artist of Rhumble, the huge cow) is open to commissions, so if you have a beloved pet – or child(!) she has an amazing knack for capturing their character and complete essence. Ed Collacot the landscape photographer travels with his camera and camper van all over the British Isles and we love the results. He has many more pictures, calendars, greetings cards and now a book available for sale through his website.

Live Sunday music is an integral part of The Priory Inn's product and starts every week at 8pm - entry is free.  On the 6th, we welcome back Teri Bramah weaving her own particular magic on a whole bunch of Americana type covers and originals. Chris Webb the young Bristolian guitarist joins us on the 13th, followed by songwriter, guitarist, and music tutor Leo James on the 20th of the month. Chester is back on the 27th playing “a mixture of the traditional, the popular, the original and obscure.." See this link for information on each performer.

And so the seasons went rolling on into summer, as one rambles into higher and higher grass.” Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)