Every now and then we are going to hang out with some of the cool foodie folk we get to work with to find out a little bit more about what makes them tick, both on the ‘shop floor’ and in life more generally.
We call the series “5 Food Minutes with …“
We have loved Liz Knight since we sat around her kitchen table in the lea of the Black Mountains on a wild January day in 2016. This was a foretaste of our now-regular roadtrips, a chance to connect with the people behind the products. We were captivated both by Liz’s knowledge and enthusiasm and the stunning tastes and flavour combinations she summoned from the hedgerows. Since then, Mrs Deli has been foraging with her and we have both celebrated seasonal offerings at two gorgeous feasts Liz organised. We are so deli-ghted that she agreed to take part in our ‘5 Foodie Minutes With’ series … though we’ve cheekily had to expand Liz’s foodie minutes to ’15’ to do justice to her unbridled enthusiasm (we were also going to ‘bleep’ out the “flamin’ noras” but we reckon they’re cute!).
Hi, who are you and what foodie mischief do you get up to in your day job?
I’m Liz Knight and I spend my days in hedges, fields and woods picking the things that most people think are weeds and turning them into little pots of flavours. Basically I do the same things I did when I was 5; making potions and quite a bit of a mess.
What inspires you?
Blimey … everything; almost everything. From the smell of spring, to rotting leaves in the woods; once you realise how much out in the wild is actually food, suddenly smells become potential flavour and you can’t help be inspired … even by sitting behind a tractor as it strips a hedge bare with the antiseptic scent the cuttings give off. It’s brilliant and wonderful what’s out there; the day I stop being inspired by something new is the day I need to hang up my basket.
Where in the world do you get to hang out doing your foodie thing?
I live and work on the edge of the Black Mountains, on top of a hill that sits between the border of Wales and England; if you look out one side of the house you look down onto swathes of farmland of Herefordshire, but out of the other side of the house there are the mountains, valleys and woods. It’s here I get to hang out, gather and play.
In all honesty I love all the places I get to hang out – I’m very lucky to live in a pretty magical place; it’s really unpopulated and some of the places I forage are so untouched by humans that I might be the first person in hundreds or thousands of years who has stood in a certain spot – that’s special. And a bit awesome.
Can you tell us a little of what is so special to you about ‘place’?
I could go on about this for years … and indeed I have gone on about this for years. The effects of place – soil, wind, rain, sun – all have huge influence on flavour.
Take a trip to a peaty Scottish island and the elderflower you gather there will taste different to the elderflower I gather from the hedges around my house.
It’s not just place that affects flavour. But also time; sorrel gathered in the early spring is a different beast to that plucked in late summer; in the spring it goes with vibrant young herbs like nettle, wild garlic and hedge mustard – later in the summer it’s magic paired with lavender, rose, fennel – flavours that go together grow together.
Which 3 food (or drink) producers should the foodie world know more about?
The trouble with you, Mr & Mrs Deli, is that you already stock some of my favourites. I think I love food more when the people who make it are nice; you can’t eat better than Coedcanalas or Charcutier Ltd products and they just so happen to also be the best kinds of people – I get to see Nick & Annette and Liesel & Illtud once a year at Abergavenny Food Festival and we might just have ten minutes chat all weekend but those ten minutes are like gold dust.
Having said that, here are some of my other favourite favourite’s:
I love everything that Orchard Origins is doing and what it stands for. They are based in Herefordshire and are part of The Wild Life Trust; they make the most delicious almost Verjus called Verjuice; it’s amazing in cocktails and in food. Orchard Origins work with people who are marginalised and they train them to look after the many old orchards in Herefordshire – their produce tastes very good and (everything they do) does lots of good.
Martha Roberts’ Decent Meat Company – Crikey, just look at Martha Roberts (Twitter) feed and you’ll see how much love her pigs get; she rears Old Spots on the side of the Blorenge and turns them into the best pork you could ever, ever eat.
Neal’s Yard Creamery – Some of the rose petals that go into my rose petal preserve come from my neighbour and friends’ farm belonging to Sarah & Stephen Fletcher. They produce milk like no one else and the local cheese makers know it’s good stuff. In fact, another lovely person, Charlie from Neals Yard Creamery, uses it to turn into his delicious Finn cheese. Made with the milk from the cows who fertilise the roses I use to make my syrup … and, guess what, Finn cheese and rose petal syrup taste really rather nice together!
Where was your last holiday … any ‘hidden gem’ recommendations?
Our last holiday was in Devon, and as far as hidden gems are concerned in Devon I think most are well known; we fell in love with Beer; my kids fished for mackerel and ate like kings (queens) with the heads of the fish they caught proudly on their plates. However, I know of one place you might not know about and you should make a beeline to. If you’re in Devon and there is a course running at Otter Farm in Honiton, I’d highly recommend you book onto it; Mark Diacono is the best host and he has incredible teachers who head down there (spookily, Mr Deli is attending an Otter Farm course in July … it is in London and it is being run by Mark and celebrated Food Writer, Diana Henry).
What is your favourite meal?
Blimey, I have no idea at all. I honestly love any food someone else has cooked for me. I loved sloppy school dinners, airline food (even the worst) … I just love being fed. My best meal ever meal probably was cooked my Gran – plate pie and dripping chips.
You have £30 in your wallet/purse and an open mind about supper – where do you head to locally and what do you buy?
Flaming Nora … or ‘bleep’ ‘bleep’ for any sensitive readers. You’re tough. I’d want to go to lots of places; in Abergavenny, The Art Shop & Chapel for one of their incredible fennel & monks beard salads … or to Marches Deli for a feast of cheese. If I was in Hereford I’d have to toss a coin between The Courtyard Theatre, which has a salad bar to rival Ottolengis, or The Burger Shop – or if it is open, their sister eatery The BookShop; but then there is Bill Sewells All Saints which dishes up comfort food like no where else on earth. But in reality, if I had £30 and an open mind, my kids would frog march me down the hill to Eywas Harold to the fish & chip shop and we’d have a fish supper in the park. Classy (that’s a lot of choices … just as well we’re not strict!).
Favourite food writer?
I think you might’ve guessed by now I’m not gifted with the art of decisiveness. Once I spent an hour in a wine aisle trying to decide on what bottle of wine to buy. My husband at this point was my fiancé – by the end of the hour he was nearly an ex … so, can I say more than one? Please?
I’ve got a selection of books in my kids’ bedroom which I read over and over while standing by the door waiting for them to fall asleep; each one makes me hungry and sends me somewhere more interesting than in a bedroom with narky kids.
Elizabeth David – of course, the lyrical Olia Hercules, her recipes are bold and light; her writing is lyrical and she likes a bit of pine cone. Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Dairies are a stalwart; at least once a week I dip into this book and read what he ate, what the market was like, what the weather was doing and how his garden smelt on the date I’m on (albeit, a few years on). Good food writing is like good food; it does more than fill your tummy, it feeds your soul.
Most comforting ‘comfort food’?