Letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about Lidl nut roasts, Plastic and Snow

Lidl nut roasts

I was reading  the Good Housekeeping web site and their review of 23 vegetarian options for Christmas For some years I have been buying our locally produced ‘Thank Goodness’ range of nut roasts, but I thought it would be interesting to try something new. Meat free Mondays  is starting to affect how we eat and 40% of us are chosing to eat less meat The Good Housekeeping Institute has , therefore, sampled some of the supermarkets offerings. They say that grocers are embracing the rise in veggie trends, with a better selection of great-tasting, meat-free dishes.

The GHI have sampled some of the supermarkets’ new offerings,  The top rated was Aldi’s ‘Specially Selected Vegetable Parcels Spinach, Leek & West Country Cheddar’

aldi-specially-selected-vegetable-parcels-spinach-leek-west-country-cheddar-0-.jpgRated 81/100

The Good Housekeeping verdict was: “Our testers devoured the golden, flaky pastry parcel seasoned with fine herbs. It’s comforting with creamy mature cheesy spinach and potato beautifully offset by crisp, buttery pastry. A great choice for all the family!”  Rated 81/100

I tried the product that they rated 4th out of 23. This was in fact was the top rated  nut roast, which was

Lidl Deluxe Hazelnut, Cashew & Cranberry Nut Roast


The Good Housekeeping verdict was: “This delicious nut roast had a strong savoury aroma of mature cheddar and peanuts. Praised for tasting much better than it looks, the roast is densely filled with carrots, beans, nuts and cheese. Our testers kept coming back for more of this caramelised cheese feast”.

I do think that the image on the package does not look like the product  when in comes out of the oven or when it is served. This is disappointing.

As you can see below on the left  the  nut roasts looked fairly flat (see left image). What I did was to  run a fork across the tops to rough them up a bit (see right image),which made them look more home made



In respect of the Hazelnut, cashew and cranberry roast, . I feel that the really beauty of it is the cranberries dotted in the chunky nut mix, as you can see from the image below.

nr3 cranberry

Rated 78/100

The other nut roast was

Lidl Cashew, quinoa and carrot nut roast 


This is described by the Good Housekeeping testers as:  “We adored this bright orange nut roast with its sweet aromas of carrot and onion, followed by an inviting scent of caramelised cheese. Bursting with flavour, this dish is well-seasoned with black pepper, rosemary, thyme and chunks of nut. However, some testers were disappointed by the mushy texture and felt it needed more bite”Rated 71/100


nr 4 quinoa

I wouldn’t  have said it was mushy. It did, however, have a totally different flavour to the  first. Mike  and my sister preferred this one, as it had a more sophisticated taste – not so sweet – despite having cashew nuts and carrots in.

The lowest rated on ‘Good Housekeeping’ website was Ocado Dee’s Christmas Vegetarian Stuffed Butternut Squash at 39/100. Oh dear. Won’t be trying that one!

Another good tip is to use any remaining nut roast as a  filler for  a ‘sausage’ roll. Thanks Bernie!

saus roll

Simple –  puff pastry with the nut roast fashioned into a sausage shape with some salad



I have been worried  about the world getting swamped with plastic. I have done a beach clean several time when visiting Wales, but I have just read an article in The Times on which was titled: ‘Cleaning beaches cannot turn back tide of plastic’, which told of a study  of Cornwall beaches which showed that  90% of litter was made of plastic. The chief culprits were: drink caps, bottles, crisp and sweet packets and cotton bud sticks  Interestingly, only a fifth of the litter came from visitors to the beaches, most was washed in from the sea and so indicates that Beach CleanUp can not solve the problem because they do not tackle the source.

David Attenborough has urged people to stop using plastic unnecessarily.

The journalist, Ben Webster, recorded Prince Charles comments that there is so much plastic in the ocean that it will soon be consumed by anyone dining on seafood



Releasing a  turtle that  had plastic wrapped round its leg


Here she is before the rescue

He condemned the “throwaway, convenience lifestyles of many around the world” and called for the rapid introduction of a deposit scheme on plastic bottles. He also urged industry to make all plastic easier to reuse or recycle.

So what am I trying to do? In the old days when I went to Wolverhampton market with my mum and dad, you would either take your own heavy-duty bag for  potatoes, onions carrots etc, and for everything else there were paper bags. I have now taken to doing market shopping again in the hope that I shall try to stop myself for buying vast quantities of plastic and sellophane wrapped fruit and vegetable. We have a small market in Newport and also one in Market Drayton.

market drayton market1

Market Drayton market, Cheshire St. Every Wednesday

The Market Drayton stalls have much more choice and one of the stalls is  happy to use our bags.

We have done our market shopping there for 3 weeks. You can see they are using our Waitrose bags. The only plastic I came away with was the three pack  peppers and cucumber.  If I buy my peppers at Waitrose or Aldi I know that I can buy the peppers individually, so I shall do this. I have my own cucumbers in the summer time, so maybe I shall stop buying cucumbers in the winter.

I think we all need to be aware of where our plastic is going ( landfill, China, the oceans) and how to cut down. See what you can do.


Well I have finally started doing my Snow warden work.

snow warden1It was quite interesting because I found that somethings worked and some didn’t. The heavy-duty gloves were  too difficult to use effectively.  The shovel was Ok for soft snow,  but not for clearing snow that had been flattened by  lots of pedestrians.

I also felt a bit conspicuous clearing just a patch of say 100 yards, when there was obviously no one else doing it  locally!  I wondered whether it was worth it to just have a small section of pavement cleared? I did think it was worth while  clearing  the corner of our road where the footpath  was sloping and went round a corner to a crossing, which  certainly needed  clearing  and gritting.

I also enjoyed going in to the town this morning. Saw some neighbours with their snow man

snow man 10.12.2017 Adam and Eleanor Hicklin


and the church and Puleston Cross looked lovely

town centre

Well we are nice and snug in our house today, and it is so nice to be able to walk into town to get any groceries that we need.

Have a happy and  meat free (or  less meat) Christmas!

Best Wishes, Linda





November Letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about herbs, crab apple jelly and local Christmas events



herb garden

Image courtesy of Newport Town Council web-site

Although it is not often that I use herbs in my breakfast offering, I have plenty of herbs in my garden. In addition we are very fortunate in Newport to be able to use a free community herb garden. I have been making dried mixed herbs recently but my rosemary died last year and my new one is too small to cut. So I went to the community herb garden to pick some sprigs. It’s a lovely quiet spot; well worth taking a seat and having a bit of quiet contemplation; especially in the summer.


herb garden

Taken at the back of our 15th century Guildhall

Crab Apple Jelly

I have been trying another type of jam for my B & B ‘rs. This is free – all from the hedgerow. Doesn’t look very interesting at the start but ends with a beautiful delicately coloured jelly; a lovely jelly set and unusual flavour. I never  made crab apple jelly before, but it was really quite easy.

canal apple tree

Mike looking for crab apples on the ground by our canal. The crab apple tree is on the left.

Firstly, you need to find the crab apples. I did two or three walks before I found a tree.


The recipe is very easy:

For 3 lbs fruit, chop into quarters – no peeling or taking cores out. Put everything in. For 3 lbs fruit, add 1 pint water. Cook them till the fruit is totally mushy. This may take about 45 minutes.


Strain through a jelly cloth – I used a piece of net curtain and suspended it using a good piece if heavy-duty string and suspended the bag on kitchen steps.


I then left it overnight. I put a piece of cling film lightly between the bowl and the bag, just so that no flies or any other debris could get in. The next day I squeezed the bag a little to get some more liquid out. ( Cookery books say not to do this because  you may end up with a hazy jelly, but I don’t think the jelly became hazy).

Similar to all jellies,  you have to measure the liquid and add 1 pound sugar to 1 pint of liquid (Not sure how this works out in metric – but imperial is easy to remember.) Boil briskly and not for very long – about 10 – 15 minutes.


Test for jelling after about 10 minutes ( To do this; put a little liquid on a saucer, put in the fridge and after a couple of minutes, test by running your finger tip along the surface and see if is wrinkles. When it does, switch off heat and pot immediately). You can see my jelly is beautifully clear, and such a delicate apple flavour! Lovely!

I have  made jam this summer from Black Lammas plums, damson, pear & ginger and now crab apple jelly. So plenty of choice for my guests!

Local Christmas markets

We have an abundance of markets. You don’t need to go as far as Birmingham. Here are a few to visit…

23rd November – 23rd December Telford European Christmas Market

2nd December Much Wenlock ChritmasMarket


This stall has two Italian veggie pies

25th – 26th November Ludlow Medieval Christmas market A very British Christmas fair!


Looking forward to December and more unusual foodstuffs to tell you about.

Best wishes,  Linda









October Letter from The Ferns chatting about Orzo barley ‘coffee’, butter v margarine and the sun

Orzo Coffee


I was given some samples of Orzo ‘coffee’ to try  in nice one cup size sachets.

orzo sachets

Really it’s a barley cup, and if I said that it tasted more like decaffeinated coffee than anything else, well I think that’s about it.

orzo sachet2

Barley has been known for centuries for its health-enhancing properties, and hulless barley has a high content of beta-glucans, which have been recognised for lowering cholesterol and glucose levels. It is like our English barley cup products, naturally caffeine-free.

Apparently,  the company was awarded a gold star in the Great Taste Awards in 2013.
This is what the judges said:
Very pleasant robust and dark, coffee-like appearance. Very well rounded barley flavour, not too bitter with a nice finish – good with milk. Great for people who like a coffee-style drink with no caffeine.

I always have decaf coffee for my B & B visitors and usually drink it myself; saving proper coffee for weekends or treats. Because it is so similar to decaf, if I now see Orzo on the shelves, I shall buy that instead. A very nice drink!

From their website http://www.orzocoffee.co.uk you can find out more and get details of suppliers

Butter v Margerine

I always have a mixture of spreads in our fridge and also for all my B & B visitors. I like to have a selection. For years I have mainly used ‘Pure’butters

This is a dairy free margarine and I also use it for cakes and pastries. I cant  understand why people would still use lard in their pastry. Just now I am thinking and wondering what lard is?

Huffington Post says:


Lard — rendered pig fat — was what people used when they needed to make pastry; when dinner needed frying; and even as a quick breakfast, eaten smeared on a piece of bread. So much has changed in our recent history. Lard is not only out of favor, it’s even considered a derogatory word.

As I have grown older, and looking to keep my bad cholestrol down,  I tend to use Pro Active on sandwiches. It doesn’t work well on toast as it has a lot of water content in fact about half. The plant sterols are sourced from pine-tree oil, and these apparently block the body’s cholesterol-absorbing sites.  It does have milk products in it.

And chiefly for my B & B visitors, I use a butter type of spread. I used to use Lurpak Spreadable but I read that on ‘taste tests’, Aldi’s Norpak  tasted exactly the same, and  was  cheaper. So I am buying Norpak now. Personally I don’t like buying animal products, but I have to say that  Norpak does taste very nice.


Finally what do we reckon to the sun yesterday?


I t was all a bit spooky. I took this from the garden, but there were much better images on the TV.  I think I prefer my sun  yellow! Here is a shot of the garden in summer time. Very nice. Best wishes Linda

from kitchen window

From the kitchen window in July


September Letter from The Ferns chatting about swifts, bees and tomatoes


We have been trying to make our house more bird, bee and butterfly friendly, so to this end I was given a swift box as a birthday present. It was so enormous that we had to get a local building firm – KRM-  to put it up for us.

swift box 2017 a


swift box 2017

We read up about putting this up and it had to have a good space at the front for the swifts to be able to come at it at speed. It also had to be high up from the ground – so this is right below the eves. The box is an RSPB box, so should last for many years. Apparently swifts boxes don’t need cleaning out as they don’t bother much with nesting material , so it should stay there for many years without us having to do anything to it.

We are the Bees & Bee’rs

People who have been reading my blog for some time will  know that I am very keen on the survival of the bumble bee. Since reading Dave Goulson’s A Sting in the Tale (2013), a local man, I have been so interested in bumbles. The Guardian newspaper wrote:

Ketchup. Nothing better illustrates the mess we’ve made of managing the environment on which our survival depends. When you next plop it over your chips, as Dave Goulson points out in his enlightening account of a life studying bumblebees, consider that it was probably made in the Netherlands from tomatoes grown in Spain, pollinated by Turkish bumblebees reared in a factory in Slovakia.

When we think of bees, we imagine stripy creatures producing honey in hives tended by white-cloaked keepers. There are in fact 20,000 bee species. Honeybees – “the anorexic cousins of bumblebees”, as Goulson rather dismissively describes them – have been domesticated for centuries and are drab


Image result for dave goulson bees

Hear him on Radio 4 2014 – a man from Edgmond  – It is so worrying to know that insect life is what does all our pollination from tomatoes to fruit trees, and pesticides can be both  good and bad.

Here are some bees and butterflies  from our garden taken this month:


The white flower is a herb called ‘winter savoury’ which I dried and used in my ‘Mixed Herbs’ jar. The blue flower is borage. I grow a lot of them- well in fact they are all self seeded , so I told have too much input into their lives-  but the bees love them!

(Thanks to one our sons friends who suggested we should be called the Bees & Bee’ers)

 My tomatoes

From July to September we have tomatoes from our greenhouse as part of our breakfasts for B &  B visitors. I think it is lovely to have fresh tomatoes from the greenhouse without any pesticides ( and all pollinated by – you guessed it – the bees). We have a variety of tomatoes from yellow ‘Gardeners Delight’, red Cuban tomatoes which I brought back the seeds of from Cuba two years ago, and another called Gigantico.

We have a greenhouse on a south facing wall; so we have tomatoes from the greenhouse until December time. Great for our visitors and ourselves.

Best wishes and good gardening! Do enjoy the last of the sun!





August letter from The Ferns veggie B & B, chatting about breads, wildflower roundabouts and Heritage Open Day

Breads: Jaspers Newport Cookshop and Waitrose

Although the Co-op closed in Newport, which was where I would get my pastries at 7.00 am for my guests who wanted Continental breakfast, I now have a selection of shops when I  find my breads and pastries. Unfortunately, none of them open at 7.00am as the Co-op did.  So this is a problem to get fresh bread and pastries for breakfast. Sometimes I buy the day before and freeze breads. The croissants and Danish pastries don’t need freezing they keep well in the fridge and I simply warm up at breakfast time

This is shot from today’s Continental breads and pastries offering:



We have croissants from Waitrose (right); chilli and coriander bread from Newport  Cookshop (top centre) and bread rolls (left)  and a pecan plait (centre bottom) from  Jaspers. I hope that I give a fair share to all our Newport shops!

Wildflower roundabouts

We are very lucky to have a borough ( Telford & Wrekin) who decided a few years ago to make most of the roundabouts  bee and butterfly friendly ie most are wild flowers. Here is one from Stafford Road, Newport.



We have one at the end of Station Toad, with a metal sheep sculpture at the centre.



Not quite as pretty but it  reflects our market town status. Usually, at Christmas time, someone decorates them with Xmas decorations which livens  them up a bit!


Heritage Open Day Saturday 9th September

This year we are involved with Heritage Open Day in Newport.  So, any B & B visitors will have to be up early with us, because we shall – well I shall –  be preparing with other members of the History Society and Newport town hall staff to open Newport Guildhall for the public. Normally, the Guildhall is not open the  general public because it is our town hall and council offices all rolled into one – as well as being a 15th century building.



Just taken today  – showing  lovely flowers courtesy of  ‘Newport in Bloom’ group


So we shall be doing guided tours, selling booklets and postcards, having a video showing all day about the history of the buildings, perhaps getting the mayor to sign in with a quill pen and getting involved with a group called Victoria County History Shropshire, who will be joining forces with us to create a new and definitive  history of Newport before long

The Guildhall has a very unusual timber-framed ceiling. Very smart for a little market town!


Anyway the Guildhall will be open from 10am – 2pm on Saturday 9th September. Free entry!

May be see you there! Linda


Our back door. The butterfly isn’t real, but looks good. 











July Letter from The Ferns B & B chatting about mid Wales and, The Hutchison Way and my birthday

Mid Wales


Here at  Newport we are quite close to all the beauties of mid Wales. You could take in Shrewsbury on the way. It takes us about an hour to get to Welshpool. It has  a steam railway.  This is called Welshpool and Llanfair railway and it travels into the countryside to Llanfair Caeirinion.

Image result for welshpool railwayWelshpool is an attractive market town. The indoor market is on every day of the week with a farmers market  once a month. Often you can hear the locals speaking Welsh. Nearby is the National Trust’s Powys castle,  which has wonderful gardens going down the hillside. Only good, really, if you are a good walkerImage result for Powis Castle


We also went to see the ospreys on the Dyfi Valley: two parents – Glesni and Monty and 3 offspring. The site is run by Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust. As well as the ospreys, they have two water buffalo clearing the boggy areas. There are many pools;  one notice board by a pool  took my attention. See bottom left.


It says: It takes three litres of water to make 1 litre of bottled water!

Hutchison Way

200 yards from our house in the start of a shortish- long distance way to Wellington (Shropshire).This is a route linking the two historic towns of Wellington and Newport and the base of celebrated hill the Wrekin via Telford new town; combining modern developments with lanes, trackways, woodlands and open spaces created from old industrial sites.
It was created by Telford & Wrekin council as  a millennium project and named in honour of late former Chief Executive of the council David Hutchison, the original inspiration of the route

It is nineteen miles long, but you can easily just walk to Church Aston (10 minutes)

Image result for church aston newport shropshire

St Andrews church

Image result for church aston newport shropshire

The local – between Church Aston and Lilleshall

or to Lilleshall and the monument to the Duke of Sutherland on top of Lilleshall Hill which has lovely views over the flat countryside ( about 45 minutes)


The monument and trig point

or go to see the Lilleshall limestone workings at the side of the hill. These have recently been restored by a friend of Lilleshall through his own time and money and hard work.


Some of the kilns

Any of my guests who would like to do some or all of the Hutchison Way, just ask me for  walk leaflets.

My birthday

was spent in Borth last week – hence the lateness of my July Blog – at my brother and sister in law’s caravan. My sister brought me a home-made coffee and walnut cake, which was a lovely surprise and very tasty. Mike is looking a bit surprised by it all! DSC05726

Best wishes Linda











June letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about our artisan bread shop, fruit in the garden & food festivals in Shropshire

New bread  shop in Newport – The Cook Shop Deli

cookshop deli1The Cook Shop now do artisan breads, ice creams, quiches, gluten free products, unusual teas, oils and a wide range of deli products.

cookshop deli2

Hannah ( pictured )and Sue  know all about their products and are ready to help with any queries. We have tried  our local Mr Moyden’s Wrekin Blue and  individual quiches such as leek quiche, which were beautiful. Interestingly they had a thin layer of tomato on the base, which is  unusual and I’m sure enhances the taste.

The bread section is currently on sale on Fridays and Saturdays and comes from an artisan Shropshire baker. Here I am buying a baguette and Sue packing it up for me.

cookshop deli3

We have tried their olive bread, chilli  & coriander bread, granary and ‘Shropshire brown’  – an unusual very brown almost chocolate  coloured brown bread. Everything is lovely, I  have ordered the wholemeal for visitors next weekend. Although we have another more standard baker in Newport – ‘Jaspers’  – who bake their own bread from scratch, I shall be torn between choosing between them. I shall have to  have some bread from one and some from the other. The Continental style breads from the Cook Shop’ will obviously suit my continental breakfasters.

Fruit in the garden

Has just been looking round the garden for what’s ready and what’s not, for my B & B visitors  Black currants  are almost ready blackcurrants

Raspberries – because I cut down  my sticks in a certain way – I have early fruiting berries and autumn fruiting from the same stock. Some thing I devised myself , which I am quite proud of. Here you see the currently fruiting plants at the back, and the  autumn fruiting  just with their leaves in the front. They wont be ready for fruit for another month or two.


Artichokes are just coming into flower. We don’t tend to eat them because they are so fiddly, but we do love seeing the bees visit them


My peaches have a good way to go before ripening, but notice how the peach leaf curl has pretty much gone. This is due to covering the tree up before the leaves came out (see  my March and April  blogs). Mind you it’s a good job that it’s not a large tree!


Food festivals in Shropshire

We are blessed with great food   – cooks, restaurants and markets in Shropshire. The chief food festival,  which is an hour from here, takes place in Ludlow. This festival takes is on  8th – 10th September. Unfortunately the ale and sausage trail is for meat-eaters only. It  is lovely to walk around the town anyway and sample some of the delis.


Then we have closer to home Telford’s  Telfood Feastival on 2nd — 3rd September at Southwater  / town park. Not keen on the bug eating bit, but, with the town park


next door, should be a fun-filled event for families in particular.

Then we have our own festival on September 23rd with demonstrations, beer and food stalls including our very own Newport success “Thank Goodness” nut roasts



Lets hope for a lovely day as it was last year. We dawdled down the High Street, which was closed for the day and sampled cuisine from Shropshire to Africa. We bought items that then became Christmas presents. We have our own microbrewery called New Brew in Newport and they had a stall as did Joules brewery of Market Drayton. Lots to eat and drink!

Food frenzy1


food frenzy4

Whatever the weather, we have lots to interest our visitors in Newport.

Have a lovely summer