Producer of the Month: Annie Clift of the Talbot, Knightwick
Annie Clift has a definite make rather than buy approach to producing food. For more than two decades, Annie and her sister Wiz Clift have been running the rustic hostelry, the Talbot, which overlooks the River Teme in Worcester. The kitchen and kitchen garden produces nearly everything served from salads to salami. Anything that is not produced on site comes from the nearby locality and those producers are credited on a list that lies on every table.
The rabbit and pigeon served in a delicious terrine will have been shot in the local woods, all the vegetables have come from Annie's garden and the ham comes from Annie's pigs. Aside from growing or rearing her produce, Annie is keen on gathering nuts, berries and fruits from the hedgerows as well as using surplus crops from friends' and neighbours' gardens. The Talbot is also home to the Teme Valley Brewery. The beers are made from hops grown in the surrounding fields, with locally brewed cider and perry also available. Annie and her sister are so passionate about seasonal and local food that they host the Farmer's Market, on the second Sunday of each month, in the pub's car park.
Annie is keen to unearth traditional British recipes and food on offer can include cream of nettle soup, Lady Llandover's salt duck (an eighteenth-century recipe), wild brown trout with wild garlic gnocchi, piccalilli with pig's head brawn, or stuffed breast of lamb with stir-fried gourds. Pudding options vary from treacle 'hollyhog' to Teme Valley apple and cider cake.
- Why do you do what you do?
In my day not being academically bright meant our options were limited. Having far toomuch fun to opt for marriage, catering was the only alternative. God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform!
- What achievement are you most proud of?
Being invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted in Recognition of Services to The Hospitality Industry.
- What is your most memorable moment?
Meeting The Queen and Prince Philip.
- If you were Prime Minister, what one thing would you do to encourage more people to eat British food?
I would lower VAT on all food grown or produced within 50 miles of where it is sold.
- Favourite food and why?
At the moment it’s St George’s mushrooms and asparagus because they’re new and just ready in the garden, but next month it will be something different. My favourite thing is the first of each new season's produce, but I also love offal and game.
- What are your predictions for the future of British food?
I think the future of British food is looking good. People care a lot more about what they eat, how it was produced and where it comes from. It may be a bit difficult for a year or so, but it will also make people up their game.
- If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food?
The Best Food comes from British Soil.
- Credit crunch tip?
My tip for fellow producers is: Keep a tight rein on costs, especially labour, and don’t give up.
- What's on the menu this evening?
Brown Trout from the local brook and, of course, Asparagus.
- How can people get hold of your produce?
Come for a drink, a meal, or an overnight stay. The Talbot at Knightwick, Worcester WR6 5PH Tel: 01886 821235; Fax: 01886 821060