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Food for Thought

Recipes can be found here.

Food for Thought with Helen Buckingham

In a new section on the site, Helen Buckingham from The Street will review eating places in the area and talk about recipes with seasonal produce. Helen is an Environmental Health Officer by profession and her career has progressed through the ranks with her eventually becoming Director of Regulatory Services in a large local authority until 2008. For the last two and a half years she has set up her own company and now advises on regulation policy and practice in environmental health, trading standards, licensing and fire.

In her spare time in recent years she trained in London to be a food and drink journalist and has been lucky enough to be published in Time Out London. She therefore has an understanding of the food industry from the kitchen hygiene side of events, through to the regulation of the industry and also its presence in the media. Until now, she has only written when the mood has taken her but she will be contributing articles to the web site whenever she can.

Follow Helen on Twitter: @Mongella12

A New Year – A New Landlord

21 January 2012

Alan and Jane have finally called time at the Queen’s Head and our beloved local hostelry enters its next chapter as we welcome Ollie Coote and his family to Brandeston.

What would a new landlord bring to the village? What menu changes are in store and would the pub still host our much celebrated June fete (and please could the new landlord do something about the weather this year?!).

Never one to miss out on local food news, Helen went to meet Ollie …….….

Since the age of two Ollie has lived and worked in pubs run by his family in Suffolk, including the Queen’s Head in Bramfield and the Crown at Great Glemham.  At 18, having travelled for a year, Ollie then worked at Ufford Park and the White Horse, Easton where his passion for good food and wine was cultivated. Offers to train with Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver followed, but preferring to be the master of his own destiny, Ollie took over at The Lemon Tree in Framlingham, making a huge success of a new brasserie style operation. The Queen’s Head opportunity came up at the right time and Ollie took over as Landlord on 4th January this year.

With a warm personality and professional outlook, Ollie strikes me as someone clearly cut out to be a ‘front of house’ Landlord. He believes that the village pub should be at the heart of its community, welcoming to all. Food-wise, Ollie will “change things regularly, but get the original offer right; consistency with variety,” citing the Regatta in Aldeburgh and Prezzo in Woodbridge as places he believes achieve this. We can expect to see dad, Barry, behind the bar and occasionally Ollie’s sister, Nicky, and brother-in-law too. Chefs Jerome Dawson and Andy Logan Smith are behind the scenes and Ollie rates their skills highly.

We can look forward to a ‘winter warmer’ lunch with two or three courses for £12.50/£15.50, plus baguettes as well as the full a la carte.  Saturday night is à la carte along with the specials board. Sunday will major on a selection of brunches and a roast, served ‘til 3.30pm with later closing at 6pm. For the romantics amongst us, the 11th February will be a special Valentine’s menu, consisting of three courses (all sharing plates) plus coffee for £25 per person. 

We can expect charity art exhibitions by local artists in the back room, a bouncy castle in the garden in the summer and the occasional quiz ‘n’ curry night; Ollie’s not ruling anything out! Our June fete will be most welcome in the grounds of the Queen’s Head this year on 16 June and Ollie will do his best with the weather too!

As for his first views of us as his new patrons and how things are going in general, Ollie ‘couldn’t be happier’. January is often a quiet time in the pub trade but it’s been quite the opposite for the Queen’s Head, seeing an unprecedented number of customers so far. A particularly busy Sunday service last weekend sold out of many items but Chef’s professionalism came to the rescue and presented me with a superb local meat dish from the a la carte menu instead. Free range eggs (my personal crusade) a delight to see - this customer ‘couldn’t be happier’ too! A very warm welcome to you and the family, Ollie!

The Queen’s Head pages can be viewed here.

‘Local Food’ for Local People

25 October 2011

A relaxing day in the glorious sunshine at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival this year was the perfect backdrop for contemplating the words of the many guest speakers, each of whom was passionate about local food producers and their need for our custom.  Add to this plenty of references to the (currently topical) sustainability agenda - a good example being Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight campaign - and I found that my attitude to shopping and eating out was about to change for the good.

But what does ‘local’ really mean?

Well starting right here in the village we’re lucky enough to have a variety of home grown foods produced and offered for sale.  These include Ruth and John’s apple orchard in Mill Lane.  Virtually organic in production, Russets and Cox’s have been grown here for years and this labour of love starts with the five-week frantic picking season in September then work continues through to Christmas. James White buys up a good quantity and ‘seconds’ are sold from the barrow at Ruth and John’s home - the Old Post Office in Mill Lane. 

Brook Farm (Brandeston Road, Kettleburgh) grows a variety of organically delicious potatoes for sale out front, amongst other seasonal produce. Brandeston Beef at Westhill Farm has been producing beef for 50 years, grazing on Brandeston grass which has been free of chemical sprays since the 80’s.  Throwing the (fishing) net a bit wider, we have Max’s fish van coming through the village on a Tuesday afternoon bringing beautiful fresh fish (seasonal and sustainably caught) from his family firm in Lowestoft. He’ll stop outside your house if you give him a call.

Slightly further afield we have the trusty Co-op in Framlingham; one branch of many which promotes a Sourced Locally campaign, working with local producers to provide quality products and reduce food miles, whilst helping local businesses to grow. For the big names in the vicinity we have James White fruit juices (Ashbocking) and Aspall’s (in Aspall, of course!) – both less than 8 miles from Brandeston and sold in the Co-op as well as our local Waitrose (also very good on the local produce).  How proud I was to be in a hotel up in t’north a couple of weeks ago, to find that both these products were on sale!

Sprinkle onto this local recipe of flavourful loveliness the occasional free range egg from one of many back garden flocks around here, as well as the golden pears being picked and given away for free in The Street … and what a fantastic and truly local range of foods we are lucky enough to have on our doorstep, many of which sell for very reasonable prices in these financially challenging times.

So my pre-New Year Resolution this year is to go the extra step by buying from all our local producers whenever possible, to keep our businesses in business, asking questions about food origins on menus and supporting the pubs and restaurants of a like mind. 

Will you do the same?

Some useful contacts:


Max – Fresh Fish from Lowestoft 07786 243928

Brandeston Beef 01728 685644 brandestonbeef@westhillfarm.co.uk




…and here’s me, name dropping after the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival….pictured with Fergus Henderson of St John Restaurant, London, famed for ‘nose to tail eating’ (not for the faint hearted) and a great supporter of local pigs

The Truffle Pig – Popping up on our Doorstep

10 February 2010

If the words Michelin Star, Joel Robuchon, triple AA Rosettes and the Harden’s Guide grab your attention and enliven your taste buds, then the arrival of The Truffle Pig at the Queen’s Head at the end of January would undoubtedly have been of major interest.

The Truffle Pig is a ‘pop up’ (or ‘visiting’) restaurant, headed up by chef David Williams, bringing together the talents of a selection of other first class renowned cheffy colleagues with a proven track record, a la Michelin Star etc. For our Brandeston event, the Savoy’s pastry chef plus one of Gordon Ramsay’s protégés provided input.  The way it works is that the Truffle Pig literally moves into the restaurant space and takes over for a set period of time, front and back of house. All bookings are made direct with TTP (via David’s wife Susanne) and the menu is available on-line in advance of the event. The Truffle Pig promotes Suffolk as the ‘home of the pig’ so where better to start its culinary pop up journey than in the heart of Suffolk?

As a customer of the event (albeit a take-away version, given the sudden arrival of mumps in my household!), I thoroughly enjoyed this culinary experience and wanted to say a few words about it for those who share a passion for good food but were unable to join in.

TTP’s Prix Fixe menu, available Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes and evenings (yes, Sunday evening!) offered a generous selection of five starters, five mains and five desserts. Culinary creations spanned vegetarian, fish and meat options, including (from the starters) a succulent and beautifully flavoured Telmara duck with a Peking consommé, tortellini and coriander or a hearty, earthy wild mushroom and oxtail ravioli with braised oxtail and shallot puree. My main dish of bream with boulangere potato, cabbage balls and a white wine velouté was delicate and supremely cooked and the honey braised pork belly with candied beetroot puree and russet apples was a visual delight as well as paying homage to the beautiful pork that we’ve come to expect in our corner of the country. The dessert of Arctic roll was a grown-up treat of all things chocolatey blended with dark cherries (a far cry from my childhood memory of all things yellow with a ring of red jam) and the duck egg custard tart with earl grey prunes was beautifully smooth and rich.

So - does ‘pop up’ work in Brandeston?

As village pubs go, I think we’re extremely lucky to have on our doorstep such consistently satisfying, creative and value-for-money pub food as that which is always on offer at the Queen’s Head.  When dining elsewhere it is clear to me how hard Alan strives to keep one step ahead of other run-of-the-mill local pub offerings that charge more but deliver less.

Bringing The Truffle Pig to the Queen’s Head was, in my view, a real success; the icing on the very-good-cake that we already have. It gave those of us with a passion for food the opportunity to go ‘to the next level’ of dining on our doorstep at a very reasonable price of £40 per head (compare and contrast with £200+ for dinner for two at (Richard) Corrigan’s of Mayfair or £150+ for Atul Kochhar’s Benares; both excellent quality and with London overheads, but for the consumer what a difference in £’s).

 The customer base at TTP’s event, which was fully subscribed throughout, appealed to locals, food tourists, the young and old, professional and amateur food fans alike and compliments have been paid to TTP via the Twitter network ever since.  For Alan, handing over his kitchen reins for the weekend must have been like leaving a child with a new babysitter for the first time; you really want it to be a good relationship. I think it was just that and I hope that TTP will return again for us all to enjoy and to continue to promote Suffolk and Brandeston as great food destinations.

Well done and thank you to all concerned.

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