April kicks off the season of outside events as the weather improves and people get out to enjoy spring and Easter. This month you can shop at artisan and farmers markets and try hot food from Streetfood sessions and pop up restaurants.  And with Easter in the middle of the month, be adventurous and shop local for your Easter gifts this year.

Chocolate Mill easter egg
Chocolate Mill Easter egg

April gets off to a great start with the Spring Artisan Market at Wakefield Country Courtyard near Potterspury. This regular market is growing in popularity and will continue to do so with the support of its customers. There will be local food and craft stalls outside in addition to the Wharf Distillery and Shop, selling their usual selection of interesting and local food and drink products including beer, spirits and cider. Northamptonshire based The Beer Garage will be there with a selection of craft beers and there will be an expert on hand to offer wine tasting too. There will be hot food from Bandit Street Food, serving up their impressive gourmet sandwiches and as usual The ARTearoom will be open for light lunches, afternoon tea and hot drinks. Browse the stalls and shop for Geoff’s Real artisan bread, JamMK’s jam and chutneys, Freshfields Farm fruit and veg, Fistful of Spice chilli sauces, Indian food and curry kits from Chin’s Kitchen and handmade truffles and luxury Easter eggs from The Chocolate Mill MK.

If you enjoy a local artisan market, then you might want to make the trip out to Waddesdon Manor in Buckingham for the Artisan Food Market on 8th April. Running from 10am until 2pm, and occurring every second Saturday of the month from April until November, it includes many of our familiar local producers. This month, amongst others, you can find Geoff’s Real Artisan Bread, Open Air Foods, The Chocolate Mill MK, Indian Orchard, Wharf Distillery, Crayfish Capers, Beekeeper Honey and Monty Pieman.

Also taking place on 8th April is the MacIntyre Easter Fayre in Great Holm. The event will have 40 stalls to shop from including foodie delights from Page & Moyse, Indian Orchard, The Chocolate Mill MK, Treats for Chocoholics and Fudge to You. The event runs from 10am until 3pm and includes Easter activities and an Easter egg hunt.

Fans of vegan food will be pleased to hear that there are a couple of pop up restaurant events in April serving solely vegan food. The first of these is from AVegetative State on Saturday 8th April at the Peartree Centre in Peartree Bridge. Running from 10am until 4pm, they will be serving up their vegan all day breakfast including seitan bacon, eggless fried eggs and mac n cheese. After the success of their first pop-up restaurant, Saf’s Kitchen will be hosting its second at The Old Bath House, Wolverton on Saturday 22nd April, this time catering a fresh homemade three course sit down vegan Indian meal. Suitable for all, this is a great opportunity to interact and socialise with fellow diners with a lively atmosphere and live music from “Reeds” and a colorful display of paintings by “Jepati Art”. Virtual Orchard will offer a selection of vegan alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks at their cash only bar. Tickets are £25 and must be booked in advance.

Sunday 9th April is the next Sunday Streetford Session at the Craufurd Arms in Wolverton. The line-up for this is as follows: Taco Shack doing Mexican & American BBQ fusion as well as some favourites;  Saf’s Kitchen with amazing Indian food; Urban Grilla offering their barbecue fare; Clucking Oinks with their buttermilk fried chicken, waffles and pulled pork; The Little Oven of Joy with their wood fired oven pizzas, including dessert pizzas; Purple Spice, a Wolverton-based African restaurant, serving hot Nigerian food; Nicky’s Fudge with handmade fudge; Minkie Moo Bakery with her vegan cakes and treats for all; Dr Augustus Concoctions artisan chilli sauces; and Kaur’s spice selling a blend of spices and a set of cooking instructions for you to make fabulous Indian food at home. The event starts at 12pm.

If you enjoy these Streetford events you will be pleased to know that on 30th April there will be another one starting up at The Kings Arms in Newport Pagnell with plans to become a regular event too. Join the Sunday Street Food Group on Facebook to keep informed with which vendors will be attending. Fans of  Stu’s Oven pizzas will be pleased to know that he will be at this new street food session. You can also find Stu’s Oven in April at MK Rugby Club on 9th April between 11am and 4pm. They will be the street food option at the Angel Inn in Bicester on 14th April, when it reopens after its refurbishments, and they will be at Roman Park Residents Club, Bancroft Park on 28th from 6:30 until 9:30pm, serving up pizzas to the public and club members. From May until the end of August a fortnightly Friday Night Pizza Night will run at Wharf Distillery, alternating between Stu’s Oven and Little Oven of Joy – more details in next month’s blog. If pizza is life as far as you are concerned then you may also like to make the trek up to Birmingham for Brums Big Fat Pizza Festival, a festival dedicated entirely to pizza. Stu’s Oven will be there along with a host of other pizza traders.

Easter this year falls on the weekend of 14 to 17th April. It is very easy to slip into the routine of buying chocolate eggs from the supermarkets for Easter but local producers have other well-thought-out options available so keep an eye out for special Easter products and gifts available locally. The Chocolate Mill MK is taking orders now for their new and impressive handmade Easter eggs so don’t miss out on these handcrafted delights. Order online or catch them at the Artisan Markets at Wakefield Country Courtyard, Waddesdon Manor and at the MacIntyre Easter Fayre.

Chin’s Kitchen will be taking orders until 13th April for her Easter gifts and cupcakes. She is also running her next curry night on 14th April if you fancy a curry on the first day of the long weekend. If you would like to learn how to make authentic Indian cuisine then you might like to book a place on her Cooking Experience cookery class on Saturday 29th April. This runs from 10.30 to 1.30 in Oakridge Park and will involve the cooking of a two course meal. Alternatively, you might like to book her for one to one cookery classes or to cater on a special occasion.

19th April is the date for the next Bierclub at the MK Biergarten in Wolverton Park. This month the theme is Siren beers. Sour, sweet, bitter, malty, spicy, Siren beers have it all. This will be a beer tasting to challenge your taste buds. Since their foundation in 2012, Siren have often been the forerunners of the UK craft beer market and inspired it in countless ways. The highlight of the event will be an exclusive batch of the rare ‘Bourbon Milkshake’. Fans of the MK Biergarten will be pleased to know that the Beer Bear will be opening on Stony Stratford on 16th April. Follow them on Facebook to find out more about the opening and the crowdfunding opportunities.

Saturday April 22nd sees the first event of the year from Growing People at Urb Farm in Wolverton. The Discover Nature at the Urb Farm event will run between 11am and 2pm and is free with no need to book. So, grab your wellies and get down to the Urb Farm to discover the fascinating wonders of the natural world. It is a chance to meet their chickens, plant some seeds and see what they are all about. There will be tea and homemade cakes on sale, alongside produce, preserves and plants from the farm. Additional activities include pond dipping, bug hunting, nature painting, making a bird feeder, face painting and getting messy in the mud kitchen.

Environmentally conscious individuals will be pleased to know that Forest and Folk, with the help of funding from OurMK, will become MK’s first re-fill shop, helping to cut down on unnecessary food packaging. The studio shop and medicine garden at Great Linford Parklands is already known for selling plant-based, mostly refillable, packaging-free health and beauty products but with the funding they will be expanding this to include organic dry food goods. The “Slim you bin” campaign is setting out to provide an alternative to buying these dry goods in non-recyclable packaging and at Forest and Folk customers will be able to purchase goods such as chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, rice, pasta, spices, dried fruit and seeds by weight in re-usable containers. This will significantly cut down on household waste and support citizens to move to a greener Milton Keynes. Look out for this new initiative from 6th April. Bring your own containers or purchase one of their re-usable cotton drawstring bags.  Forest and Folk is located at Milton Keynes Arts Centre, Great Linford and open 10-5 Thurs and 10-6 Friday and Saturday.

Saturday 22nd April is judging day for the Best Local Product category of the Milton Keynes Food and Leisure Awards so if you are a local producer looking to enter this year, make sure your entries are in by Friday 21st April. Public voting for the other categories closes at the end of April so check out the MKFLA webpage to cast your vote.

As usual, the farmers markets will be running this month and here are the dates:
Saturday 1st and 15th – Wolverton
Sunday 2nd – Olney
Sunday 16th – Woburn
Friday 21st – Newport Pagnell
Friday 28th – Stony Stratford

You can keep up to date with all the latest news in the local food scene by liking our facebook page at Artisan MK Food & Drink. We also have an email list so that we can directly email food producers and interested customers to let them know about upcoming food events that we hear about so please send us a message via facebook to let us know if you would like to join our mailing list.

This month’s seasonal recipe has been kindly provided by Vanessa from the Riverford Organic Box scheme. Vanessa not only delivers organic fruit, vegetable and meat boxes to people’s doors, but she also runs a cookery class to help people make the most from their seasonal vegetables. The next one of these will be on Sat 22nd April at Oxley Park Community Centre.

Spicy Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Garlic, Olives and Toasted Breadcrumbs

This has a robust and spicy flavour and makes a great side dish to a roast, or eaten as a pasta sauce. It also works well with cauliflower or Calabrese broccoli (the normal green kind) instead of purple sprouting.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Purple Sprouting Broccoli

* 100g breadcrumbs
* 75ml olive oil
* 600g purple sprouting broccoli, trimmed
* 1 tbsp capers, rinsed & roughly chopped
* 4-6 anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)
* 6 garlic cloves, chopped
* 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
* Pinch dried chilli flakes
* 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
* 4 tbsp black olives, chopped
* Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Toss the breadcrumbs in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and spread them out on a baking tray. Bake for about 5 minutes, until golden. Remove and set aside. Break the purple sprouting broccoli into separate small heads, warm about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a wide, shallow pan over a medium heat, add the broccoli and stir well. Leave to cook for about 10 minutes, until you see the edges browning slightly, then season to taste and stir gently. Add the capers, then cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until the broccoli is tender. Drizzle over the remaining olive oil and scatter with the chopped anchovies, if using, plus the garlic, fennel seeds and chilli flakes. Toss to mix in. Cook for 2 more minutes then add the parsley and olives. Sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs and serve.

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