We live in Mid Wales, on a Welsh family's farm where they generously allow us to live in a three-bedroom caravan while we build a smallholding and a house on some land we own less than 15 minutes away. Part of our land is ancient woodland so we have access to a lot of wild foods. One of the bedrooms in the caravan has been converted to a large larder for our dry and preserved foods.
It’s late March so technically spring but this week long account is very typical of what we eat between November and April. We have lived and eaten like this for a number of years, even when we lived in a city.
It’s not the hungry gap yet, there is plenty of root veg, kale and winter salad. No fruit is available but I have jars of preserved apple, pears and plums in the larder and apple and rhubarb in the freezer. We occasionally buy organic bananas.
We are not vegetarian or vegan. Our focus is on local and seasonal. We eat high welfare meat 1-2 times a week, bought directly from the farmer in the autumn (while we set up our smallholding) and then preserved for the whole year, either in the freezer or cured. I save all bones and buy bones from the local butcher to make our own stock which can transform simple dishes and has incredible health benefits.
We have 5 hens and refresh the flock every couple of years for a constant supply of eggs. We had eggs all throughout the winter, albeit fewer during the shortest days. They are now all laying almost every day. We buy food like oats, rice, flour, chick peas, split peas, etc in bulk, often by the sack. I would describe most of what I cook as peasant food and cook large batches pretty much every time I cook so we can have easy meals on the days we are busy working outside.
We buy most of our food from a local wholefood shop and always buy organic if possible. Yes, it is more expensive but we think it’s important to spend our money on quality food where the producers are paid fairly rather than spend money on other things. For example, most of my clothes are homemade or secondhand, we rarely go on holiday apart from visiting my parents who live in France, our phones and other tech are old models, we check Freecycle every day and buy most things second hand.
Our main source of heating in the caravan is a fairly large log burner. I use this as much as possible to heat and cook food. I heat a large jug of water on the log burner at all times for washing our bodies and dishes. I like to get things out of the freezer 2-3 days before we need them and put them in the fridge. This means the fridge has to work less hard and uses less electricity.
I make sourdough every week, perfected during lock down like so many people. I feed my starter pretty much every day unless I forget (which is fairly often).
Eating like this is time-consuming but despite spending more money on quality ingredients it saves a lot of money in the long run. We have traded busy full-time jobs for a slower, seasonal life where we have time to grow and forage our own food, preserve it and cook with it. I genuinely believe that when you eat seasonally you live in abundance, enjoying the absolute best that each season has to offer. A tomato in winter just doesn't taste as good as one still warm from the sun, bursting with flavour. When nature offers a bit less in the winter months then a well stocked pantry and freezer is a source of perpetual joy.
We are applying for a One Planet Development scheme in Wales and as part of the application I kept a record of everything we ate and drank for a entire year and calculated how much everything single ingredient cost. I wrote it by hand in a ledger and really enjoyed it... I love record keeping. Our daily average was £5.83, for both of us, less than £41 per week. (This was in 2020 so before the cost of living crisis we are currently going through in the UK.)
I usually bake a batch of flapjacks (usually a variation on these) for snacks every week and have loads of jars of nuts and dried fruit. We also love Montezuma’s chocolate and the occasional cake from a local bakery. We like to drink at the weekends which could be homemade cider or sloe gin or local ales and French wine bought cheaply when we visit my mum and dad.
Breakfast is porridge with bottled apple sauce, turmeric, apples we have dried, sultanas and almonds.
I feed the sourdough starter with locally milled rye flour.
For lunch I make some winter salads for the week. Using some chick peas I recently cooked from dried in the pressure cooker I make a salad with celery, stored apple, nuts, curry powder, kale, red onion and welsh natural yoghurt. I also make a carrot salad with grated carrot, lemon juice and zest, almonds, sultanas, red onion, olive oil and thyme.
These two salads are served with homemade white cabbage kimchi.
For dinner I make a big batch of soup using a recipe I made up some time ago using soaked split green peas, homemade stock, Indian pickles from a jar, cooked squash from the freezer, tinned chopped tomatoes and mixed spices including lots of fennel.
I make a batch of polenta bread to go with the soup and freeze the leftovers along with the leftover soup.
I feed the sourdough starter when I get up today, around 6.30.
Breakfast as Monday.
We are overrun with eggs so I use 18 to make a frittata in a deep but narrow oven baking tray. I use three types of mushrooms, some ceps and horse mushrooms I foraged and dehydrated last autumn and some girolles from a jar I bought in France. I fry some onions and garlic and then pour over the brown liquid left from rehydrating the mushrooms. I cook them slowly until all the liquid is absorbed. I stir everything together and add some unappetising looking but still tasty bits of cheese I find in the fridge. It makes 18 portions. We have it for lunch with the winter salads.
I make up a batch of sauerkraut, ready to eat in a couple of weeks.
Dinner is leftover roast pork from the freezer mixed with some leftover cider gravy which makes a kind of stew, steamed kale and roast potatoes
As I start the dinner I mix the bread dough and fold it 3-4 times over a few hours. I put it into a proving basket and into the fridge before we go to bed.
I take the sourdough loaf out of the fridge and turn the oven on to bake the bread in a dutch oven.
Porridge as before for breakfast.
Eric and I are both at home for lunch so I fry some garlic and fill the pan with kale we’ve grown on our vegetable plot at the wood. When it’s cooked I add 4 eggs and mix it all together. At the end I add a bit of grated pecorino cheese. Served on slices of the homemade sourdough I baked this morning, spread with local butter.
For dinner, bean chilli from the freezer which I made in the pressure cooker a few weeks ago (a great winter meal from the dried stores), poured onto baked potatoes with some yoghurt (one of my absolute favourite comfort dinners!)
Porridge as before
Lunch is mushroom frittata with some winter salads. Taken to eat at the wood so we pick a handful of salad leaves and forage some cleaver tops.
After a long day working at the wood I opt for the ultimate easy option. Rigatoni pasta with a jar of bottled ratatouille. I make vats of rat for the freezer in the summer and autumn but when I take the time to put it in sterilised jars and pasteurise it for the larder, it tastes so much better.
We are both at home with no-where to rush off to so a we have brunch of scrambled eggs and marmite on sourdough toast.
In the evening I roast a small pork joint from the freezer, making sure to save the fat which goes in a jar in the fridge. I make a root veg gratin with beetroot, potato, celeriac and cream. It made 8 portions and is delicious so I’m very happy to put the rest in the freezer for an easy meal another day with some leftover pork.
I make bread but don’t prove it overnight in the fridge as I’m working tomorrow. Instead I get it started earlier and bake it after dinner.
Homemade granola for breakfast, no time for anything else as I work at the Lavender Farm on Saturdays and Sundays and it’s a bit of a treat for the weekend. I use this recipe.
Lunch is winter salads taken to work.
Eric makes pizza on Saturday nights. He uses the discard from the sourdough to make the dough and makes up enough for 6 pizzas so some can go in the freezer. I get home from work and sit in front of the fire with my knitting and a glass of wine, pure heaven.
Granola again for breakfast
Cheese and winter slaw sandwich for lunch at work.
Dinner is homemade curries from the freezer, one red lentil dal and a courgette and chick pea curry made last year, served with brown rice, yoghurt and pickles.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about how we eat during the winter in a way which nourishes us, supports local farming and does as little harm to the planet as possible.
A lot of my work is inspired by seasonal eating, pickling, preserving, foraging and filling the larder which you can find below: