Hannah Thomas is a forager and chef, who is inspired by using foods from her local landscape. Read about Hannah's desire to create, her love for the rural landscape, and where she sources her local ingredients.
I have always loved creating and sharing the food I'm passionate about, and supper clubs have been the perfect platform for me to showcase that desire. Each supper club I host and cook aims to strengthen the connection between the food and the people eating it. Over the course of a year, I have taken that same ethos and expanded my skills into a multi-faceted business; running workshops on sourdough, fermentation and foraging, catering for private and public events, developing recipes, all the while continuing with the supper clubs.
The majority of the ingredients I use for cooking are locally sourced. Based at Gambledown Farm's kitchen in Hampshire, I have developed relationships with local producers, who I continually support. Gambledown provides me with small-scale home-reared meat and game shot on the farm, and my dairy products come from nearby Nunton Farm and Lyburn Cheese. My father often catches fish from the River Test; he is an avid trout fly-fisherman! Fruit, vegetables and herbs are either home-grown or locally sourced, and are therefore a celebration of the season's offerings.
These ingredients – fresh as can be with taste incomparable to exotic alternatives – form the basis of my menus, and are brought alive by the wild foods I forage; mushrooms, nuts, berries and flowers, from woodlands, hedgerows and pastures that surround me. Cooking exclusively with these local ingredients can be limiting but I believe it inspires creativity. I’ve learnt that what grows together often goes together, and love to be led by nature’s seasons. Moreover, foraged ingredients are rarely found on supermarket shelves, and can add such interesting and unusual flavours to food – not to mention they are rather more pleasurable to source, giving both a physical and emotional boost along the way.
I also love collaborating with other small businesses and immersing myself in the rural landscape where they are based. I am a resident forager and chef at Nomadic in the Chiltern Hills, who run woodland feasts over fire. Later this year, I am looking forward to hosting pop-up supper clubs at biodynamic winery, Tillingham Wines near the East Sussex coast, and Castle Farm in Kent, who have stunning rolling lavender fields, an apple orchard and grow hops.
The essence of all this is to follow my passion for food traceability and integrity, and to support its production in harmony with nature. I hope people feel inspired to get involved along the way.
Words by Hannah Thomas | @herbsandwild
Photographs by @danielcfilms, @neilwhitephoto