Category: food

Getting historical with Meridith Towne

Last month, we had my ideal meeting: History. Clothes. Women. REAL historical bags.

On arrival, our speaker, Meridith Towne proceeded to unpack a history lover’s dream from her boxes. Edwardian dresses were placed onto dummies, fur trimmed boots worn by a real Edwardian woman were carefully set onto the table. Beautiful beaded bags and purses glimmered as if they were only made yesterday.

I knew it was going to be a fascinating talk from the start. Meridith brimmed with enthusiasm about her subject and her collection of original items was astounding. I love a good talk with real objects to see and touch – it’s what history is about.

At the beginning of the meeting we also had an extra treat. The Sheffield Country Market ladies (including the one and only Nora Tebbutt …. recognise the surname?…) had brought us a range of sweet and savoury treats to try and taste. I particularly enjoyed the breads and pates. However, after having a Street Food Chef quesadilla before the meeting, my stomach didn’t agree…..

Lovely food from Sheffield Country Market

The ladies then gave us a talk about how the markets had originally been linked to the WI alongside some information about what they do and why. It was a lovely overview and hopefully got some of our members to either go and buy from them on a Saturday morning or to join in and sell their own wares!

After the usual info swap and Laura’s usual comedy routine (seriously, this girl should go into stand up) we prepared for the talk we had all been waiting for.

Meridith Towne

Meridith didn’t disappoint. Gliding into the room in her full Edwardian shopping outfit, we all gasped. She introduced us to exactly what Edwardian middle class women would have experienced if they had had the extra cash to roam the new department stores of the day such as Harrods and Selfridges. From gloves to French underwear which you wouldn’t tell your mum about (oo-er!) the story of the Edwardian shopaholic was a fascinating one. As well as being able to look at the original pieces of fashion in Meridith’s collection, we found out some amazing facts about women during the period. The ones that particularly stuck with me included the fact that there had not been women’s toilets in shopping stores previously as women ‘didn’t do that’. Also the dark detail (I like a bit of horrible history!) that a women would buy a shroud to go in her wedding trousseau. Because this was frequently needed due to the high rate of death through childbirth. It was just something that you had to prepare for!

At the end of the evening, ladies were allowed to look at and handle the original objects, connecting them to the women of foregone times.

A truly fascinating and insightful experience from an unusual and enthusiastic speaker.

Grace Escott-Tebbutt

Seven Hills WI return to Sheffield Food Festival

South Yorkshire’s largest Women’s Institute group, Seven Hills WI will be selling cakes once again for a local charity at this year’s Sheffield Food Festival.

The group have taken part in the festival since it began in 2011, selling homemade baked treats by women from the group. 

Members at Sheffield Food Festival 2015

This year, the Seven Hills WI stall will be in the Peace Gardens on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 May 2016. All money raised will go to local charity, Light Sheffield.

Light Sheffield is a small local charity run by volunteers providing support across Sheffield to families affected by perinatal mental health illnesses, including post natal depression and anxiety. Seven Hills WI’s members voted to support Light Sheffield as it’s charity for 2016.

Kirsty Bowen, President of Seven Hills WI said: “Every year, our members pull out all the stops to bake some impressive cakes for visitors at Sheffield Food Festival.

“We hope to beat last year’s amount raised and help Sheffield Light who provide a really important service to women and families in our community.”

Jess Rennie from Light Sheffield said: “We are absolutely delighted that Light Sheffield were chosen as Seven Hills WI’s charity of the year.

“We are a small charity so the money raised at Sheffield Food Festival will really make a difference to our work supporting women and families who are affected by perinatal mental health illnesses.”

Sheffield Food Festival is an annual event in the city centre, celebrating the quality and diversity of food and drink produced within the region.

The Cheese Factor

As summer drew to a close, there was one thing on the mind of all us SHWI foodies – cheese tasting!
On Thursday 17th September, SHWI was delighted to be joined by Simon Davidson from The Cheese Factor. Simon gave a wonderful insight in to how his father, Roy, established a successful cheese shop serving the good people of Chesterfield and North Derbyshire for over 50 years.

He told us tales of Roy’s adventures in the Merchant Navy, to settling down in Chesterfield to try his hand at poultry farming, to becoming a door to door vacuum sales man before finally finding his passion for fine cheese.
Starting out by serving the cattle market, The Cheese factor soon became a staple for locals and eventually moved into the main Chesterfield market. Tales of Roy’s profiteering techniques were reminiscent of Arkwright from Open All Hours, asking the bakery to deliver later in the morning to cash in on the warm fresh smelling bread! Whilst initially Simon wasn’t keen on joining the family business, he eventually took over from his father who sadly died in 2011.
Simon then went on to tell us about the triumphant story of how a small consortium of locals saved Hartington’s history of cheese production after a large corporate put profits over quality and closed the only remaining creamery in 2009. This small consortium battled for funding and investment but finally opened Hartington Creamery in 2012.
This is when Simon captured our full attention as it is from this very creamery that our fine cheese samples were produced. He handed around samples of both blue and white Stilton whilst explaining how it is produced, as well as giving us all a perfect pub quiz fact that Stilton can only be produced in 3 places in the world, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. If it’s produced anywhere else it just ain’t Stilton! Our small and tasty samples were delicious, particularly the white Stilton! But in the words of Wallace, Simon left us craving “more cheese Gromit!”.
The Cheese Factor now has branched into the wholesale market, so good news for us as there are plenty of places in Sheffield to get our cheese fix.
Louise Worn
SHWI Member

Seven Hills WI President is guest judge on Great British Menu

We’re excited to announce that our President, Kirsty Bowen features as a guest judge in the new series of the Great British Menu later this summer on BBC Two. 

The show returns to commemorate the Centenary of the Women’s Institute and this year the chefs must plate up perfection, as they fight it out for the chance to cook at a glorious banquet at London’s historic Drapers Hall.

The challenge is produce 21st century dishes that honour the custodians of first class home cooking, and pay tribute to the generations of women who have helped make Britain the great culinary nation it is today.  The chefs have taken inspiration from the women in their families – their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers – and the pioneering women of the Institute, to turn home-cooked classics, into modern masterpieces.

The Women’s Institute was formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and to encourage women to produce food for our nation during the First World War. A century later the Institute is synonymous with British home cooking.  Right from the get go the pioneering women of the WI were a force to be reckoned with – promoting equality for women, education, and impeccable standards – and in 2000, the WI Calendar Girls produced a nude calendar which raised millions for charity and proved once and for all that the WI are anything but a stuffy organisation.
As ever, the regional heats will see all of the chefs’ dishes scrutinized by Britain’s most accomplished chefs and veterans of the competition. Winners of this first round will present their menus to the judging panel, award winning critic Matthew Fort, doyenne of British cookery Prue Leith, and restaurateur Oliver Peyton.  Joining the Great British Menu judging panel each week will be guest judges – longstanding WI members, mothers and home cooks – who will ensure the dishes going forward to the Great British Menu national finals measure up to the exacting standards of the Institute.

For further information or pictures please contact:
Francesca Sostero, Publicist
Vanessa Land at Optomen Television on 0203 227 5941 or


SHWI Eats: Inox Dine review

SHWI Eats is our dining out/foodie club where members can enjoy visiting restaurants across the city. Member and Food Blogger Ros recently reviewed the group’s trip to restaurant, Inox Dine on her blog The Nibbly Pig.

Inox Dine was the chosen destination of the Seven Hills WI Eats group (of which I am a member!). The restaurant is nestled in the heart of Sheffield University’s campus on Durham road.
If you have been to the Octagon before, look at the skies to the right and you will see the Inox Dine sign on the 5th floor in the student union building opposite.
The restaurant focuses on using local quality ingredients to produce a predominantly British menu with fusion influences. As you walk in, you come to a smart bar area where you can take a seat and enjoy a relaxed drink, as we did while others arrived. I indulged in a bottle of the local(ish) beer, an IPA from Nottinghamshire’s Welbeck Abbey Brewery.
Blanche, a fellow WI member and the restaurant and hospitality manager at Inox, welcomed us to our table. It was in a quiet spot, but actually we had the place to ourselves for the evening as we were the only diners.


The table was attractively laid with lit tea-lights, bottles of water together with an appetiser of sliced focaccia with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
The first courses were brought in and the presentation was precise and delicate. I had the chicken roulade which was well-seasoned and had a decent flavour, in texture it was similar to pate/rillettes. It was served with a red onion and ginger chutney and toasted onion bread. I am greedy by my own admission and I could have eaten more, plus (in my view) you need to have the right balance of toast to roulade, so a few more slices of toast wouldn’t have gone amiss.
The young staff were friendly and attentive, efficiently clearing the plates and topping up drinks between courses.
For mains, I went for the teriyaki Moss Valley pork belly with a ginger and garlic noodle broth. Again, this was a nicely presented bowl of food with vibrant colour from the sprigs of coriander and sliced red chillies. The balance of soy, ginger and spice in the broth was well-balanced and very flavoursome. The belly pork was cooked spot on, the meat was tender and crisp on the outside. A comforting dish and my kind of food, as I love anything with Asian flavours.
I didn’t indulge in dessert but I can say that the sticky toffee looked very nice and seemed to go down particularly well with those who’d ordered it.
At £12 for 2 courses or £15 for 3, the evening offered value for money (as part of the Inox’s early bird menu served from 11.30am until 6.30pm Tuesday to Friday, or until 5.30pm on Mondays). It was just a shame that the restaurant wasn’t a bit busier to add to the atmosphere. That said, a good night was had by all!

Inox Dine

Level 5, Student’s Union Building
Durham Road
S10 2TG 

Seven Hills WI Christmas Market

On Saturday 15th November, we will be hosting a fabulous Christmas Market with a chance to buy handmade crafts, homemade food and gift ideas galore from both WI members and local traders.

The Market will run from 11am and 2pm and is being held at Electric Works, Sheffield.
Interested in taking a stall?
Please be aware that completing an application form does not mean you will automatically be given a stall. We will prioritise WI members and local people that make or design their stock themselves, or that sell unique products and vintage items. We will also try to ensure that we have a variety of different types of stall.
Able to help out on the day?
We are looking for willing WI members to volunteer to bake, help set up, look after stall holders and serve refreshments. If you can help, please let us know by emailing
The front entrance to Electric Works can be found on Sheaf Street, conveniently located in front of Sheffield Interchange and on the opposite side of the road to Sheffield Railway Station.
Can you display a poster? If you have somewhere you can share our poster, such as your workplace noticeboard or in a window, we’d be really grateful.

Lastly, we’d be delighted if you could share this post on social media using the icons below. Thank you!

SHWI Mad Skillz: Myth Busting Bread Making

Mad Skillz is one of our spin-off groups organised by Di and Anna T. They organise bespoke sessions where SHWI members can learn a new skill in a smaller-sized group. Last week, two groups of five members went along to Forge Bakehouse on consecutive evenings. Committee member Ruth tells us all about it….
A beautiful loaf of freshly baked bread is one of my all-time favourite things to eat, but alas my limited baking skills (and my dodgy oven) have put paid to any attempts at actually making it myself. I tell a lie, I made focaccia once in 2008. So anyway, I was in need of some bread-based education and I was thrilled to be one of the lucky few to secure a place on the oversubscribed SHWI Mad Skillz ‘Myth Busting Bread Making’ session at Forge Bakehouse.

It was a thoroughly damp day in Sheffield, but there was a warm glow from the oven in the shop and Martha, the young owner and all round baker extraordinaire, greeted us with freshly brewed tea and one of the most amazing brownies I have ever tasted. Having trained at the School of Artisan Food, she clearly knows her stuff. After the obligatory SHWI catch-up over said cuppa, it was time for the session to kick off.
Anna is amazed by the fermenting dough
It was a very hands-on lesson and we started off by mixing our own dough. I think we were all expecting a serious upper arm workout from all the kneading (we’ve clearly been watching too much Great British Bake Off), but Martha shared an absolutely revelatory tip with us: the ‘Ten Second Knead’ technique. Forget pummelling your dough for an age. Oh no. Kneading the dough in a circular motion for just ten seconds, then leaving it to prove for ten minutes and repeating a couple of times is just as effective and far less exhausting. Win! Whilst the dough was proving, we learnt lots of other interesting snippets about all of the different factors that can affect the success of your bake.
Plaiting the dough
We then went on to shaping and slashing a whole variety of loaves. Martha had kindly prepared lots of dough for us to practice on and I was disproportionately pleased with my baguette. My poor plaits left a lot to be desired though. Other members of the group were far more successful – there was some very impressive plait action going on – but my Great British Bake Off application will have to wait for another year (or four), me thinks.
Jen, Ruth, Di, Cat, Anna and Vicky
I know I speak for the rest of the group when I say what a great evening this was. Martha was knowledgeable, interesting, and thoroughly lovely. A great teacher. Some left with their own sour dough starter to bake for themselves at home. I left laden with some of Mr Potato Bread (it was delicious) and my very own scraper (essential baking kit apparently). I definitely won’t be leaving it another six years between bakes from now on.
If you’re a Forge Bakehouse regular, don’t fear – our loaves were not made to be sold to the paying public. All of the waste products from the shop are given to the pigs at Heeley City Farm – such lucky piggies! That gesture reflects the overall ethos of Forge Bakehouse. They use locally sourced organic flour in all their loaves and provide lots of local cafes with their goodies. Best of all, everything is really reasonably priced. It’s only been open for a couple of years but this place is going to become a Sheffield institution, I’m sure of it.
To find out more about what SHWI Mad Skillz have got coming up, speak to Di or Anna T at a meeting or search for the Facebook group ‘SHWI Mad Skillz‘. 
Ruth Kirkman
SHWI Committee member

SHWI goes to West Egg…

Anna and Laura with the Showroom chefs

Another month, another SHWI Dining Club..But not just any Dining Club! November saw a return visit to The Showroom, noted for being Sheffield’s friendly independent cinema, but also has a fabulous café bar with chef Simon Ayres in charge of the eats. After the success of our bespoke Tudor themed banquet earlier in the year, we went back for a Great Gatsby themed affair.

The regular customers must have thought they’d entered a time-warp as the bar area filled up with ladies in furs, pearls and feathers, and gentlemen sporting trilbys, spatz and braces. Seriously – everyone looked amazing and I agree with someone’s comment that we should probably dress like it’s the 1920s all the time.

1920s girls

Once seated in the café area, we were treated to an array of beautifully crafted canapés – lobster croquettes, egg and cress sandwiches, bread and butter folds, and fungi flatbreads with quails eggs. They were all beautiful and incredibly moreish.

Next up, we were served potato and leek velouté, with a garlic toast topped with cavier. I’ve never drunk cold soup from a teacup before – but if it’s always going to be that good, I’ll happily do it again!
The fish course was a sharing platter of Caesar salad – seared, rare tuna steak, fresh anchovies, shavings of Parmesan, crisp little gem lettuce, chunky croutons and a tasty, tangy dressing. On the side we were treated to a shrimp cocktail – with proper little brown shrimps in a piquant pink sauce. Non-meat eaters could have a green, fresh carpaccio of kohlrabi, with a wasabi aoli and plenty of sweet broad beans.

So far – soooooo good!

As I sat there with a glass of Pinot Grigio, looking at everyone enjoying themselves, I was suddenly interrupted by my Dining Club partner Anna Pilson – who, whilst being pescetarian herself, was so excited (on my behalf) at the sight of the meat course coming out, had come to tell me to prepare myself. It’s always good to get a warning on a meat feast – it gives me chance to get the camera out. And what a sight is was – a steaming mound of hot, Bourbon pork shoulder, with crispy roast potatoes, carrots and romanesco broccoli, and gravy. Oh, the gravy… At the Tudor Banquet, I may have drunk a small jug of gravy to myself. I’m a Northern lass. I love gravy. This time round, it being a more classy affair, I drank the gravy from a wine glass. (As you can imagine, I was a little thirsty later in the evening, but I don’t regret a drop of it.)

The vegetarian option of braised globe artichoke, roast garlic and spelt risotto with veg friendly Parmesan seemed to go down okay – but I would have covered it in gravy.
By this time, I was getting a little full. But the food was coming out at a nice leisurely pace, which allowed a little breathing space before the dessert trolley was rolled out.

I was expecting mini bite-sized versions of desserts – but no. It was massive, actual portions in amounts we were never going to be able to finish. With this in mind, I saw no problem in having three different desserts. I asked the chef, Simon, which he would go for – raspberry meringue roulade was the answer, with a cheeky chocolatey brandy snap (cream filled of course) on the side. A jokey comment of ‘if there’s any chocolate cake left over, I’ll take some off your hands’ was met with the offering of a slice of delicious ganache covered cake.

I think some tea and coffee may have been offered around at the end of the evening – but by then I was in the middle of a gravy overdose and was trying to look gracious as everyone thanked me for organising the event.

So, I would like to thank everyone for coming. I want to thank everybody for getting into the spirit of the evening and getting glammed up. I want to thank the new faces and prospective SHWI members for coming along and being so friendly. I want to thank The Showroom for being so accommodating (again). I want to thank Anna P for doing the boring bit of Dining Club – the spreadsheets and the banking. And I want to thank anybody who has come to a SHWI Dining Club meal. We’ve been doing this for over a year now, and genuinely believed it would be seven girls sat around a table in various Sheffield eateries. So to have 40 people turn up looking like the cast of Chicago last night was tremendous fun. Here’s to another year of local food fun!

Laura Bainbridge
SHWI Committee and Dining Club

Ye Olde Seven Hills WI Tudor Banquet…

SHWI member Grace
gets into the Tudor spirit!

Behold, good ladies of Seven Hills WI! On Friday 24 May, Sheffield’s Showroom Cinema Café Bar was brimming with gorebellies galore at the SHWI Dining Club’s latest event, Ye OldeTudor Banquet! The Showroom had very kindly offered to provide us with a bespoke menu of our choice and after consultation with our members, it became clear that SHWI ladies are suckers for a bit of historical action (oo-er!). With this in mind, Showroom Kitchen Chef Simon Ayres developed a menu based around traditional olde English fare from Tudor times, utilising seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients and presented with a very modern twist.

And here is his masterpiece:

Smoked mackerel and goat’s milk tart
Roast Tongue – corned beef and kidney pudding

Food for the poor:

Pottage, honey, cheese and bread

Rabbit – posh pastry, rabbit loin, swede fondant, rabbit cutlet
Cod Mornay

Poor Knights’ Pudding – with rose water
Tarte of strawberries with cream…

…A feast worthy of a king, I’ve no doubt you’ll agree.

For the first time in the history of SHWI Dining Club, the event was opened up to friends and family of SHWI members and 21 of us gathered on two banquet tables and awaited the start of the scoffing, with the added nerve-wracking element of Mama Bainbridge ready to experience Laura’s organisational talent! Although the room was abuzz with excitement, it is rare that the event lives up to the anticipation. However, when our starters arrived, we quickly realised that verily, had we witnessed naught til that moment (or for non-16th Century dwellers, we hadn’t seen nothin’ yet). 

Smoked mackerel and goat’s milk tart

Up first were the two starter dishes of smoked mackerel and goat’s milk tart and mini steak and beef puddings with gravy and tongue. The Showroom’s clever and inventive organisation and presentation meant that, true to historical form, our dishes were presented on sharing platters, meaning that people could pick and choose at little (or as it transpired, a LOT) of what they fancied. The names of the dishes make them sound fairly straightforward but the complexity of ingredients made them a joy to behold (and munch). The flavour combination of salty mackerel with creamy goat’s cheese was enhanced by fresh dill and crunchy walnuts and additional texture was provided by the cheese-infused, crumbly, perfectly short pastry tart base. 

Beef puddings
The beef puddings were super savoury bombs of meaty goodness, packed with tender chunks of kidney and encased in a melt-in-the-mouth suet shell. These were served on a platter bejewelled with freshly podded broad beans, that dazzled like emeralds next to the chunky puds, and came with a side of intensely meaty, addictive gravy (Bainbridge actually drank half a jug of the stuff.) These may not have looked as elegant as the mackerel tarts, but who cares when they come served with gravy this good?

These culinary delights were followed by a VERY hearty serving of pottage (chunky root vegetable broth with slivers of bacon), served with three varieties of home-made bread and three British cheeses. First up was a Yorkshire Blue from Shepherds Purse – a delicate, creamy blue with a subtle tang, it was perfect drizzled with the honey and squished onto the poppy seeded bread. The most popular cheese seemed to be the Ribblesdale Goat’s cheese – not the usual soft, log-type chèvre, but a firm, mild cheese with a pretty pea-green wax. Last, but not least, was the Cornish Yarg – a nettle wrapped beauty: fresh, creamy and crumbly. There was so much bread and cheese left over, we cheekily asked for some takeaway boxes, to which the super-friendly staff happily obliged.

Most of us by this point were thoroughly glad we were not dressed in corsets as our Tudor counterparts would have been. Kudos to Grace Tebbutt, Chelle Cook, Victoria White and Jen Marsden who frankly must have managed to channel Henry VIII himself in order to finish their meals whilst be-costumed! However, despite our (historically accurate of course) full bellies, we were only half way through the banquet! 

Next up were the main courses of rabbit served three ways and Cod Mornay. The cod was served on a bed of peppery rocket and was cooked to perfection, soft skin holding together the beautiful cod that flaked to the touch, all covered in a mellow and creamy cheese sauce. 

The rabbit platter was a work of art laid out on a massive slate square – it was difficult to know where to start. Juicy rabbit loin, crammed with herb flecked stuffing and wrapped in pancetta was a definite highlight – t’old Bugs can be a little dry and bland sometimes, but not this time! There were also dainty crumbed cutlets served on sweet swede fondant and little posh shortcrust pasties too, because you can never have a rabbit too many ways. Amazingly, there was still room on the platter for ridiculously delicious mushrooms (salty, baked perhaps? Who cares -they were good!), super-sweet tomato, cleverly presented courgette pieces, more of those jewel-like beans and the obligatory smear of veggie puree. 
Poor Knight’s Pudding
Finally, our intrepid diners were rewarded with two mouth-watering desserts of strawberry and cream tarte and Poor Knight’s Pudding with clotted cream. Many of us were intrigued at the sound of the latter dish, and there was certainly nothing ‘poor’ about it. Sweet, warm, fluffy mini pancakes were served drizzled with a perfectly tart berry compote. In glorious contrast was the smooth and simultaneously fresh tarte – a simple masterpiece of the thinnest, short-bread like pastry, filled with sweetened whipped cream and topped with fresh strawberries – it would not have looked out of place in a French patisserie window. Again, the generosity of the portioning meant many a tart was taken back home (in a box) to be enjoyed later when the savouries had been digested.

As our bonaire evening came to an end, our satisfied revellers headed home, taking with them full bellies and good memories. Universally positive feedback marvelled at the very generous portions, excellent service and the fantastic, flamboyant, fabulous culinary delights they had experienced. There was only one problem – after sampling the menus of both rich and poor Tudors, we honestly couldn’t decide if we would have preferred to be paupers living on pottage, bread cheese and Poor Knights’ Pudding, or great noblewomen feasting on an array of meat, fish, pastry and tarts. All that can be said is it’s easy to see why the Elizabethan era was called the ‘Golden Age’! To sum up: Most. Epic.Dining.Club.Ever.

Strawberry tarts

Showroom + SHWI Dining Club = Foody, Tudor-y, heaven.

Anna Pilson and Laura Bainbridge
SHWI committee members and Dining Club organisers