March 2, 2016 by Vic North
The next North’s Night at the café features the culinary talents of Jen Goss of Our Two Acres. Here she shares her ‘Meal to Remember’, and talks about the passion for local, seasonal produce that underpins her cooking.
“The very fact that, ten or fifteen years down the line, I can remember everything I ate at St John, is a testament to how memorable that meal was. It was the first time I ate bone marrow on toast and I was blown away by how amazing something from the inside of a bone could be. Served so simply on sourdough, with parsley, it was delicious. I remember grilled razor clams cooked perfectly; Squirrel liver pate; a blackcurrant ice cream – British food, cooked so simply – all about the ingredients.
Fergus Henderson has been cooking ‘nose to tail’ before it ever began to become fashionable, and yet he never really shouts about it in a way that other chefs do. A way of cooking that the Chinese culture embraces, and probably how we were cooking 100 years ago, the way he champions using every single bit of the animal is outstanding.”
Leaving behind London and a career working in catering, and taking a pile of books about animal husbandry and self-sufficiency, Jen and her family moved to North Pembrokeshire in 2009. They found their Two Acres not far from Newport, high above the sweeping Teifi Estuary and Poppit Sands beach. Growing her own vegetables, rearing pigs and chickens, Jen’s food is very much rooted in the ‘nose to tail’ ethos she tasted at St John over a decade ago.
“I don’t seek to emulate Fergus Henderson – although perhaps now I’ve thrown myself down the gauntlet of cooking perfect razor clams for a restaurant full of people – but that meal and his ethos always reminds me to think about all the ingredients I’m using, where they are coming from and how I can use everything and make it taste delicious. Growing and rearing our own produce, I think about it all the time – ‘what’s here now, what do we have in the polytunnel, what’s preserved’. If I can’t source it from our smallholding, I will look for seasonal food from local producers – although yes, sometimes I do want to use things like pomegranate.
I won’t pretend that it’s easy to do the ‘local’ thing, especially cooking for business. Sourcing things does take longer and is harder for me as a professional cook because I want to use seasonal produce that’s available in the area, but we all need to make more of an effort to use what’s around locally. The more we do this, the easier it becomes for everyone. If we can source 90% of what we eat locally, we’re doing really well – then ingredients that don’t fit that – a perfectly ripe melon, bright citruses – are a treat”
Jen cooks regularly at the café every Tuesday, and will be taking over the kitchen for our next ‘North’s Night’ on 19th March 2016 here in Newport. True to her aim of sourcing 90% of food locally, Jen’s ‘Asian-inspired – locally sourced’ menu features crab from Cardigan Bay Fish, based in St Dogmaels, pork from Jen’s own pigs, local beef from T G Davies, the butcher over the road from the café here in Newport and fresh veg from Glebelands Market Garden, also near St Dogmaels.
If you’d like to share in this special evening please email email@example.com, phone on 01239 820777 or pop in to the café. Tickets are £30 a head.