Garden projects: Early Spring in the fforest gardens, veg patches & polytunnels

The fforest gardens are as old as fforest, 10 years to be exact. From the very beginning we knew that if we were to be serving food, then we would grow what we could ourselves. And so, the fforest gardens were designed to provide fresh produce for our kitchen.

Our lovely gardener, Brook, gives an insight into the work she's currently doing in the fforest gardens; what she's been planting and why. Get your planting tips here!

Late Winter / Early Spring

The first thing to be done is sow the tomato and chilli seeds in a propagator to get a crop as early as possible. This is done in mid February. At the beginning of March I start sowing lettuce to grow in the polytunnel, and some flowers for the accommodation. Through mid to late March and April I'll start the sowing of chard, french beans, kale, cucumber, courgettes, beetroot and lettuce at roughly 2 week
intervals to try and get a continuous crop. In late April I'll sow squash for the autumn.

Late Winter and early Spring is when the set up for Spring planting needs to be done as well. The autumn fruiting raspberries are cut back to the ground to re-shoot. The other berries we have (blackcurrant, red currant, white currant) are also pruned at this time. We're also hoping to grow some strawberries this summer! The beds get mucked and fertilised. Garlic that was planted last autumn is fed with blood fish and bone feed. The polytunnel gets cleaned to try and get rid of any pests and diseases and also to try and maximise the light getting in.


The best thing about Summer in the polytunnel is the tomato plants! We grow about 120 plants; a mix of different varieties in red, green, yellow, orange, purple and even striped! My favourites are Dr. Carolyn Pink, Emerald green and Orange Banana. Nearly all the seeds we get are from Real Seeds, you can get some really interesting varieties from them and they have good germination rates. This year Sian had requested we grow some Japanese veg after their trip: Daikon - a white radish and Shiso - a herb that looks similar to nettle. Other things we grow for the kitchens are courgettes, chard, kale, lots of rocket and lettuce, oriental greens. This year I'm trying out an amazing squash I discovered at Glebelands which is Buttercup Squash.
Where we can we keep the gardens as organic as possible, using organic fertilisers and feeding the tomatoes with comfrey tea. We also use companion planting to try and deter pests, some companions are meant to encourage the growth of what they are planted with. Having good pollinator flowers around also encourages natural predators to pests such as the ladybug which eats aphids.

'With the cut flowers we have we're trying to grow a number which are good for insects, as their numbers are dwindling and their natural habitats are becoming ever smaller. It seems right to do our bit and provide some food and space for them.'

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From the fforest kitchen: Salted caramel recipe by chef Michelle


Perfect for Christmas; in tarts, brownies, on toast, or as a homemade gift, fforest's chef Michelle has perfected her salted caramel recipe to share with you.


250g granulated sugar
100g salted butter
150ml double cream
1-2 tbsp Maldon sea salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract


  • Choose a thick bottom pan with high sides and clean, non-wooden utensils to melt down the sugar
  • Pour all the sugar into the pan and wait for it to brown, the outside will start to turn before the middle. Begin stirring the sugar once you see a brown rim to make sure it doesn't catch. Chef Michelle says its fine to stir as it helps the sugar melt evenly
  • Watch the sugar closely as it can burn quickly, when you can no longer see sugar granules at the bottom of the pan, the sugar is ready for the other ingredients. The colour should be a golden brown 
  • Bang in the butter and whisk vigorously, the mixture will rise and spit so be careful!
  • Pour in the cream and keep whisking, cook the mix out for 3-5 minutes
  • Add the vanilla and salt, mix through, cook out for a few more minutes letting it bubble away to make sure all the salt dissolves
  • Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool in the pan before pouring into hot sterile jars and sealing.


You can choose whichever jars you like for your salted caramel. To sterilise your jars, put them in the dishwasher or hand wash them thoroughly. After washing, use a teatowel to transfer them to an oven preheated to 80°C and leave them in there until completely dry. Remove the jars from the oven and place onto a teatowel, making sure they aren't in contact with cold surfaces, ready for the warm caramel to be poured in. Seal the jars tightly and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

We love to use this salted caramel recipe in our signature chocolate tarts, a desert we recently served at our fourth fforest feast. Gone in a flash!


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Pancos! Pancws! Crempog!*

*whichever word you choose to use, they are all Welsh for pancake! This year shrove Tuesday falls the day before St David's day so what better time to dig out our Welsh pancake recipes ready for a proper Welsh teatime. Bigger and better (& fluffier) than the classic pancake, pancos are traditionally cooked on a cast iron bakestone (but you can use a frying pan if you don't happen to have one to hand...)

You will need:

2 oz/ 55g butter

15 fl oz/ 450 ml warm buttermilk

10 oz/ 275g all purpose/plain flour

3 oz/ 75g sugar

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp vinegar

2 eggs, well beaten


Stir the butter into the warmed buttermilk until melted. Gradually pour the milk and butter into the the flour and beat well. Leave the mixture to stand for at least 30 minutes (or a few hours if possible) before stirring in the sugar, bicarbonate of soda, salt and vinegar into the beaten eggs.

Pour this mixture into the flour and milk mixture and beat well to form a smooth batter. Heavily grease a griddle/ frying pan and heat, then drop the batter a tablespoon at a time onto the griddle and cook over a moderate heat until golden brown on both sides. Keep the pancos warm and continue this method until all the batter is used up.

Top with banana, syrup, lemon, sugar, chocolate...whatever you like! Try mixing some currants into the batter for a twist on traditional Welshcakes.

We had a go ourselves at fforest...

Our recipe is adapted from Visit Wales

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fforest Granola: The Secret Recipe Revealed

This recipe has been secret for more than 10 years. However, after finding a disgruntled ex-fforest elf has passed the recipe to Wikileaks (Julian looks like he needs some roughage), we felt we had little choice but to publish it.

Before fforest began and we were talking about how it could be and what we would do, breakfast was always going to be included as part of staying here. I love breakfast and can't go without it, not a massive fry up, but boiled egg and dippy soldiers, toast and honey, granola, banana and yogurt kind of thing. A simple yet satisfying start to the day. 
We have been making granola to this recipe for ten years now at fforest and it has been on the menu since day one. We also have a really good muesli but it's the granola that is the firm favourite. Sometimes we can't keep up with demand and have to make it on a daily basis.  
It's the perfect mix of oats and nuts/seeds and the way it’s cooked guarantees a super-crunchy outcome. Crunchy is what we love about it and crunchy it is.  
We have often been asked for the recipe, so now here it is, ten years of tried and tested, delicious and easy to make fforest Granola.    
The recipe is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. It's a simple, not-too-sweet granola that's good with milk or yogurt and added fresh fruit.  
Because this recipe uses water, the granola takes an extremely long time to dry out. If the granola isn't completely dry by the end of the baking time, I suggest turning off the oven and leaving it to cool. To get the crunch it has to be properly dry.
1 kilo Jumbo oats
60g sliced, blanched almonds                                            
100g omega seed mix including unsalted sunflower seeds, sesame, linseed, pumpkin seeds
50g desiccated coconut
50g raisins, sultanas, currants or dried cranberries, dried apricots(optional)
300 ml water
180 ml wild flower honey
130 ml sunflower oil
3 tbls brown sugar
1 pinch sea salt
Preheat the oven to 180° C
Mix oats, almonds, sunflower and sesame seeds together in a high sided baking tray
In a small sauce pan heat the water, honey, oil, brown sugar and salt until simmering until dissolved
Remove from heat and pour the liquid over the grains and mix until all the oats are moistened. Roughly spread out on the tray and bake in the oven for20 minutes at 180C. Take out and stir and lower heat to 140.C and cook for another 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Turn down the heat to 120.C and bake for 30 mins turning every10 minutes. If you think it needs to cook more to be dried out, leave it in at 110C until it appears dry and golden. Remove from the oven and toss it a few times until it cools completely and then add the dried fruits.            
Store in an airtight container.

From our kitchen to yours,

You are welcome.

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