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





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


Letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about pollinators, St Georges day, my peach tree update and Vegan, Vegetarian and Coeliac Fair here in Newport


I am determined that everything that I plant in my garden from now on will help the bees, the butterflies, the birds and hedgehogs.  I am concerned about how wild life in my garden has deteriorated in the last 20 years despite my best efforts. So I am making a concerted efforts and hope you will too. I will try every month to make an efforts to plant beneficial flowers/ shrubs, or make some sort of hideout/ nest etc for animals and birds , I shall tell you how I get on in future blogs.

This month I have planted hyssop seeds. The seeds are very fine so I simply  put a fine layer of sand on top of them as I didnt have any pearlite available


hyssop seeds

With a bit of luck I shall have lovely blue flowers like this this summer


Generally speaking  blue flowers attract bees.. I have read that hyssop is  one of the top ten bee attracting plants.

One of our Newport local lads has made a famous career in entomology – Dave Goulson. He is now a professor of Biological Sciences at Susses University and studies especially  bumblebees. I have just bought his book  ‘A Sting in the tale’

a sting in the taila sting in the tail 2

Dave Goulson is the founder of the Bumblebee Conservation trust. A ‘Sting in the Tale’ was published in 2013,  and was the BBC Radio 4 “Book of the Week”.
He details the life of bumblebees and tells us the fascinating research into the effects intensive farming and what this meas for our bee populations and on the potential dangers if we are to continue down this path.

St George’s Day in Newport


St George and the dragon

We have great fun on the nearest Saturday to St George’s Day in Newport. This years its the 22nd April. Fun starts at 12 noon.


St George with the town crier

Peach tree update

For those of who who read last month’s letter, during which I related that that we covered up our peach tree in early spring as we had read that it would help prevent leaf curl. You will see peach tree leaves that – for now – the peach tree has no leaf curl! Brilliant!

Vegan, Vegetarian and Coeliac Fair

cosy hall

This is a Newport event happening on Saturday 13th May at Cosy Hall from 10.30 – 2.30.

Map another

Organised by A Very Vintage Events

My friend Berni will be there with her ‘Thank Goodness’ range of nut roasts and pies, which I have reviewed and raved over in previous blogs. Delish! I shall be there with a few of my fliers to  support the cause, and maybe nick a piece of roast on the side!luxury-handmade-nutroast-small


Hope to see you all there!!

Best wishes for Spring.


April letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about St Georges Day, ‘Thank Goodness’ Cottage Pie and Staffordshire oatcakes

St George’s Day

Here in Newport we have celebrated St Georges Day for a number of years. This years we shall be celebrating this Saturday starting at 12 noon. St George will be defeating ( we hope!) the dragon on the High Street.

The day is a free event which includes The Mile of Coins which aims to raise £1000 for Local charities starting at 10am, The Bedcote Morris Dancers, a procession from 12pm followed by a live dragon slaying. I have shown the cross on the right before, but I think it’s so funny, I am displaying it again !

st george 2


Outside the library

 ‘Thank Goodness’ Veggie Cottage Pie

cottage pie packet

The pie has to be defrosted before putting in the oven

Bernadette tells me that she was unimpressed by the usual veggie cottage pie made with lentils, and so wanted to try something with more texture and flavour. The replacement for the meat part of the dish  therefore comprises pieces of carrots celery, leeks, mushrooms and aduki beans.  I noticed that the taste is  similar to the ‘Shroppie Pie’ in flavour and texture.  So if you have enjoyed the ‘Shroppie Pie’ – which has beautiful  pastry by the way- you will love this.

Bernadette told me that meat eaters love this recipe because it is as hearty as a meat Cottage Pie. She also told me that this is the product that she enjoys best of all her range!


A birds eye view  – I served it with green salad and grated carrots salad

The fluffy mashed potato has cheese on the top which adds to the flavour and colour. Bernadette also told me that  the secret ingredient that makes it so tasty is the stock part of which  contains the remains of the aduki beans liquid which gives it a gravy-like flavour.

eating cottage pie

The Cottage pie is only available at the moment at the  Green Fields Farm Shop Donnington – next to Wyevale Garden Centre in Telford, Shropshire. Check them out

Staffordshire oatcakes

For breakfast at my B & B  you could try Staffordshire oatcakes. They are  a type of  pancake made from oatmeal, flour and yeast. They are cooked on a griddle or ‘baxton’. The oatcake is a local speciality in the North Staffordshire area of England, specifically Stoke-on-Trent

I always purchase Povey’s Oatcakes. They make them  in Biddulph, Staffs.  The business was started by Steve Povey in 1994. Steve explained: “There was an oatcake shop in town before – at one time you could find a baker in every street in someone’s back kitchen – but the proprietor went bankrupt and I took a gamble, rescued the machinery from his garage, copied the recipe, and the rest is history.”

His son, Alex, says  ” Everyone who tries the oatcake for the first time is knocked out by how good they taste and I see it as my personal crusade to introduce the oatcake to a global market.” . His recipe is a closely guarded secret, but he will tell you that the oatcakes contain no artificial additives, fine oatmeal, plain flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, yeast and water.

I buy them from Newport Market ( Friday or Saturday). I am confident in the ingredients, and so all vegetarians or vegans can have oatcakes for breakfast, if they wish.  They are delicious!

The canal….

Walking along the canal in Newport this afternoon, we saw a swan nesting



and we disturbed a heron.



Best wishes Linda

March Letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about Percy Thrower, Mediterranean nutroast and Spring

Percy Thrower

Here in Shropshire Percy Thrower has a special place in our hearts. The first TV gardener and the person responsible for garden displays in Shrewsbury’s Quarry  by the river Severn. He moved to Shrewsbury in 1946, as the Parks Superintendent, becoming the youngest parks superintendent.

percy thrower

.He was also Shrewsbury Flower Show’s chief horticultural advisor and lived in Quarry Lodge  while parks superintendent.

Percy’s daughter, Margaret,  will be appearing at a lunch and fund-raiser for our Newport Cottage Care Centre on Sunday 17th April 12.30. Her talk is entitled “Three Generations of Gardeners”. It cost £12.50 which includes lunch.  See website

cottage care

From a historic view-point, the Cottage Care Centre is quite unusual. Lady Annabel Boughey, a local landowner from Aqualate Estate,  gave the money in 1914, for building a hospital for the town. It didn’t get built till 1930, however, it is a lovely building. It is chiefly now a day centre for the elderly but the NHS still uses it for X-ray work and physiotherapy.  Very useful for the town not to have to travel all the way to Wellington to our nearest hospital.  I myself have had the benefit of the physiotherapy unit-  and its only 100 yards down the road. Excellent!

Mediterranean Nutroast

And now here is my regular feature on ‘Thank Goodness!’ products.mediterranean-nutroast ‘ This month I tried the Mediterranean Nut roast

Bernadette, whose brainchild this company is – and who lives in Newport –  suggested a novel way of serving the nutroast as a stuffing for Mediterranean peppers. The ingredients in this nutroast include:  cheese, onions, courgettes, cashews, Brazils, peanuts, eggs, olives, tomato purée, sun dried tomatoes, red peppers, quinoa, gram flour, garlic, butter, basil, mushrooms and herbs. Don’t those ingredients look interesting?

It was dead easy to cook the stuffed peppers. For two people I used two peppers  –  Romano this time. I had never tried Romano before, but   an unusual shape which is something of a talking point in itself.romano pepper


I cut the peppers  lengthwise and took out the seeds. Divided the nutroast mixture ( defrosted but not cooked)  equally . Added  a little Cheshire cheese to the top- optional. Brush peppers lightly with olive oil and bake at 190C for 45 – 50 mins.



I served it with a rice, pea and leaf salad with lemon & lime dressing. The  texture was crunchy which went well with the rather soft  peppers. I could see pieces of olive in there. The olives and tomatoes gave it a tangy flavour. The recipe was easy and very impressive. Will certainly do this again.

stuffed peppers3

How to get your Mediterranean nutroast? If you live near to Newport Shropshire, go to Greenfields Farm Shop at Donnington. if not,  have a look on the internet at  the ‘Thank Goodness’ website, where stockists all around the country can be found.

Well done Berni! Healthy, full of goodness and tasty.


Well, Sunday was the first day of spring. We have blackbirds nesting in our  evergreen honeysuckle bush and frog spawn in the pond. The broadbeans are coming up in the greenhouse, and I am trying to get Mike to dig up the rest of the  Pink Fir Apple potatoes before they start to sprout again. They are a lovely potato – very knobbly  so you can’t peel them. Just  wash them.



Is a this  a  sign of global warming?  For two years running I have had English marigolds surviving the winter Here they are in the garden on Sunday.


Best wishes, Linda


February 2016 Letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about Nadyia Hussain, luxury nutroasts and hedgehogs

 Nadiya Hussain

Newport is very fortunate in having Nadiya Hussain  – the winner of Great British Bake Off 2015  – come to the Newport Show on Saturday 9th July.


The mum of three will be giving cookery demonstrations, talking about the competition and how it has changed her life. Newport Show takes places in the lovely setting of Chetwynd Deer Park and lake, about 1 mile outside Newport town centre. For visitors to my B & B it would be a half hour’s walk or you could drive there.

deer prk

Chetwynd Deer Park

deer park4

Newport Show

I watched all  of the episodes, and  was surprised at her  new ideas about  unusual flavours for desserts and cakes. Ditto Tamal – another contestant. It was interesting to see Paul Hollywood, taste, think about it, and in a rather surprised way, say, ” That really works!”

Thank Goodness Luxury Nut roast

luxury-handmade-nutroast-smallI am working my way through the range of the ‘Thank Goodness’ company; a business run from my town (Newport Shropshire). Bernadette who runs the business is not a vegetarian but her partner is, and so it came about that this lovely range of products happened through catering for two different styles of eating. Not only are they very good for you, but, in addition, it makes easier the vegan/ veggie in a  family of meat eaters.

veggie nutroast1The cook in a family of meat eaters might wonder what to give the veggie to eat, but here is your answer. It  would fit in with the meat and two veg brigade and you simply put in in the oven. So in December we tried the vegan nut roast which was excellent. This month we have tasted the Luxury Vegetarian Nutroast.

veggie nutroast2 Continue reading

December Letter from The Ferns chatting about vegan nutroasts, Nature’s Kitchen and ‘Bon natale!’

“Thank Goodness” nut roast company

In Newport we not only have me with my Veggie  B & B , but around the corner  from me there is a great  nut roast business called ‘Thank Goodness’ run by my friend, Bernadette McCarthy. I featured  her in my last blog with her ‘Shroppies Pie’. She has won awards for her delicious nutroasts

Today I am tasting  her ‘Luxury vegan nut roast’. The nut roast was easy to cook, just open up the top and put  it in the oven for 20-25 minutes

opening the packet

Opening up – prior to cooking

You can see just from opening it up, there are lots of interesting ingredients in there, and   we had  large portions.  I cooked it from chilled and it took only 20-25 minutes.   There were   lots of ‘big’ ingredients – chopped nuts  (some large some small – brazils, cashews, hazelnuts)  which give a variety of flavours and bite-ability. The vegetables are onions, carrot, courgette and mushroom plus lentils and the  nutritious quinoa.

vegan luxury nutroast


It had no egg in it  but held together really well. One of the reasons that people put egg in  anything is to hold it together. Bernadette told me that they did a lot of testing on all the recipes, and the addition of gram flour and peanut butter were the secret ingredients for holding it together – plus these two have additional  protein, which most people wouldn’t know about

Once cooked you can see how delicious it looked with the cranberries  peaking through – they added extra festive  flavour and colour.

I bought my ‘Thank Goodness’ nutroast from Greenfields Farm Shop Donnington, Telford  but other places to buy  are listed on their website.

Mike’s  verdict was “Fantastic! ” In fact this was as good as  or better than my nutroasts ( and I’ve been a vegetarian for 40+ years) , and its not often that I think to myself “This is as good as  my home cooked food”  –  but it was! It was lovely. We shall be having more at Christmas.

The beauty of these products is that at Christmas time or any other celebration, the fact that if you have a vegetarian or a vegan in your party or someone who wont eat the type of meat that you are serving, can be catered for with ease. No fuss! Easy peasy!

In 2016,  I shall eat my way through all of ‘Thank Goodness’ range! January will be the cashew nut pate which we shall try over the Christmas period.

 Nature’s Kitchen

Healthier Eating, Ethical Thinking


This is the motto of another  company that really interests me. I found them at the Greenfields Christmas Event last weekend, which included them selling vegan muffins. I have always had a desire to use little dairy and  fewer egg foods, so these looked just what I wanted. Their website  say that they produce “Healthier baked goods with a focus on seasonal, Fairtrade and vegetable based recipes.  I tried their  biscotti which were excellent and am hoping that they can supply me more muffins nearer Christmas.

The company can be found on twitter @NKShrewsbury  and on facebook/natureskitchenshrewsbury12308626_1651683861765902_8164188030236542325_n

Bon Natali !

Those of you who read my blog last month will have seen my very easy recipe for Limoncello (see below). Wonderful recipe from my sister Pam.

20145 cheewrsSo here we are  celebrating Christmas with my home-made limoncello  and damson gin   “Salute!” as my dad would say.

Merry Christmas!

Linda and Mike

Pam’s Limoncello

6 oz (plus more if you need it sweeter) sugar                   150 ml water

zest and juice of 6 unwaxed lemons                                        700ml vodka


Put the sugar and the water in a pan and boil for 3-4 minutes until syrupy. Then cool. Add the zest and lemon juice and the vodka. Bottle and shake daily for a month or so.