With Easter falling late this year, March is missing the usual build up to this spring celebration. However, spring is on its way, the weather is warming up and the days are longer so it is more fun to get out and about to enjoy the Milton Keynes food scene. Don’t forget that it is Mother’s Day at the end of the month so keep an eye out for special deals at the local tea rooms and for gift ideas from the artisan producers. Your mother is sure to enjoy a splendid afternoon tea, a meal out or a box of locally made goodies.Harvest of Olney

The month starts off with a little birthday celebration from local brewery Hornes of Bow Brickhill. Saturday 4th March will be their 2nd Birthday so to celebrate the Brewery Shop will be open 10am-1pm. You will be able to buy all of their usual bottled ales, a selection of jams and chutneys and some limited stock of Black Antler Smoked Porter in bottles, so pop by to help them celebrate and to show your support.

For a warming night of good food why not book yourself a ticket to the Saf’Tastic Curry Night on Saturday 11th March at 7pm at York House in Stony Stratford. Saf’s Kitchen will be cooking up a fresh homemade three course sit down Indian meal. This is a great opportunity to interact and make new friends over good food whilst also enjoying a colourful display of paintings by Jepati Art. The York House bar will be open to offer real ales, wines and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Tickets to the meal need to be booked in advance and are £25 a head. The menu has options suitable for vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free too. Please note the bar will be cash only on the night. If you can’t make it to this event but it has put you in a mood for one of Saf’s curries then look out for her curry nights on 17th and 24th March.

Sunday 12th March is the next Sunday Streetfood Session at the Craufurd Arms in Wolverton. This event is growing in popularity and will continue to grow if it is well supported so pop along for some great, freshly cooked local street food. This month sees the return of Taco Shack with a relaunched van and menu so keep your eye out for beef tongue in chilli verde amongst other things. Jeff the Chef will be providing grub to satisfy meat lovers, using top quality ingredients to produce top quality food. Urban Grilla will be back with their barbecue and a new menu so check what’s new from them this month. Safs Kitchen will be serving up Indian cuisine and will have vegan and veggie friendly options available. Little Oven of Joy will be there with a selection of pizza, including a special for this month.  Last month Nicky Kenny sold out of her fudge in record time so she has promised to make a bigger batch this time and it will also include some chocolate fudge. Minkie Moo Bakery will  be back with her vegan friendly cakes, including her legendary lemon meringue pie. Artisan chilli sauces will be on sale from Dr Augustus Concoctions.

There are two events on Saturday 25th March. The first is the Camphill Community Spring Craft Fair, taking place between 10am and 4pm. This event helps to support the community, providing a meaningful working life for adults with learning difficulties. On offer will be handmade arts and crafts from local makers, creative gifts made in-house at Camphill workshops, an Art Exhibition from the Milton Keynes Society of Artists plus homemade refreshments in The Chrysalis Theatre MK. There will be over 30 stalls including homemade goodies and edibles ranging from chocolate to honey, preserves and bakery items. The onsite café is also a lovely place to have a bite to eat and well worth seeking out if you have never been to it before.

The second event on Saturday 25th March is the MK Biergarten Spring Beer Festival at York House. This starts at 12pm and goes on until 10pm. Join the MK Biergarten team for a spring festival packed with delicious beer and fantastic food. Look forward to a rotating craft beer bar, German lager and wheat beer and a real ale room supplied by Hornes BreweryUrban Grilla and Good Times Cafe UK will keep you well-fed throughout the day and Geoff’s Real Artisan Bread‘s pretzels will be on the bar. Tickets are £5 on the door and include a souvenir glass..Accompanied children are allowed on site until 8pm.

It’s easy to forget, but Coldsmoking Cookery School in Great Linford are always running courses that appeal to food lovers. This month courses include Food Smoking, Meat Curing & Charcuterie, Sausage Making, and Preserve Making, and just into April there is one on Cheese Making too. Check out the website for availability for this month or to book a course for a future month.  If your mum is a bit of a foodie then a place on one of these courses could be the perfect Mother’s Day gift and there is currently a special 10% off the Preserve Making Course on 24th March to mark the occasion. Ring 01908 661848 to enquire about this special offer.

On a similar note, Virtual Orchard  has just released dates for the Cider Making courses that will be run when the apples are ready so if you fancy learning the art of cider making, book yourself onto one of the courses in the summer and autumn. Spend the day in the company of award winning cider maker, Laurence Conisbee, learning the craft of artisan cider making. The one-day course is suitable for anyone who is interested in making real cider at home or even for those wishing to start a small commercial cider making operation. By the end of the day you will feel confident about making your own cider and will be able to leave with 5 litres of pressed juice in a basic fermenter with airlock. Dates are:Saturday 19th August, Sunday 10th September, Saturday 23rd September and Sunday 8th October. Courses run from 10am – 3pm and there is a maximum of 10 places per course.

Speaking of Virtual Orchard, you may be wondering when the next Artisan Market at Wakefield Country Courtyard will be held. The date for that is 1st April so put a note in your diary and check out next month’s blog for further details of this and other April events. In the meantime you can pop up to the distillery and farm shop on Tuesdays to Sundays and enjoy the additions of Freshfield Farm fruit and vegetables and Geoff’s Artisan Bread on a Saturday.

Don’t forget to vote for your favourites for the Milton Keynes Food & Leisure Awards if you haven’t already done so. Public voting is needed to determine the winners in all sorts of categories from best local café to best waiting staff so have your say.

With slightly better weather, now is a good time to get out and support the local farmers markets too. Dates are as follows:
Saturday 4th and 18th – Wolverton
Sunday 5th – Olney
Sunday 19th – Woburn
Friday 17th – Newport Pagnell
Friday 24h – Stony Stratford

With spring on the way we are moving into a new season and a shift in the seasonal food available. Maybe the courgette shortage really had an impact on you or maybe you managed to scrape by anyway but it certainly highlighted the bonkers way supermarkets attempt to keep us in perpetual summer in terms of fruit and vegetables. If you would prefer to eat with the seasons then you might like to consider signing up for a local box scheme. There are a number available locally including Freshfields Farm, based in Stony Stratford, Harvest of Olney and Riverford Organic Boxes, based in Kents Hill. And if you really want to eat with the seasons, the foraging season starts this month with the emergence of wild garlic – ideal for making pesto, garlic bread and more.

Right now sprouting broccoli is at its best and it can be enjoyed simply steamed. However, for something a little more warming, try this recipe for broccoli and Stilton soup.

Broccoli & Stilton Soup (serves 2-3)

Broccoli SoupOlive oil
1 onion
1 glove of garlic
3 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
4-5 florets of sprouting broccoli or one head of calebrese broccoli
300ml stock
1 wedge of Stilton

Broccoli & Stilton Soup
Broccoli & Stilton Soup

Salt & pepper

Saute the onions until translucent then add the garlic and fry for one more minute. Put the all the vegetables and the stock in a saucepan and cook for 10-15 minutes until tender. Use a stick blender to blend until smooth then crumble in the Stilton and stir until melted. Season to taste.

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