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Muddy talks sustainability with dynamic chef duo

Award-winning restaurant, Fourwards has made some serious strides to cut down on food waste, be more sustainable and spotlight their own home-grown produce. Here’s how they’re doing it.

Fourwards is tucked away in the quiet village of Earl Shilton. It’s an informal but stylish restaurant serving British cuisine with a contemporary twist. Since 2018 it’s been run by husband and wife – and chefs – Adam and Stacey Ward and this year they bagged the Muddy award for Best Restaurant in Leics/Rutland. During lockdown the resourceful duo made a conscious effort to be as sustainable as possible so of course we had to find out more.

You’d not had the restaurant long before lockdown hit. How did you get through it?

We’ve always tried to maximise as much produce as possible and just before lockdown hit last year, Adam literally got a greenhouse set up in the back garden of the restaurant. Lockdown helped us press the reset button and we did lots in the garden and started growing fresh herbs like bay leaf, thyme, rosemary sage. There’s tomato plants, micro herbs, a trough that grows cornered leeks, nasturtium an abundance of mint and lavender also.

What inspired you to do this Adam?

My grandad is a really keen gardener and used to grow lots of fruit and veg and would drop it off at the restaurant I used to work in before we took over this one. I asked him what we could do and he helped me set it all up.

You’d not had the restaurant long before lockdown hit. How did you get through it?

Yeah but at first, some of the customers were shocked that we were changing the menu every day but life isn’t the same as what it was before Covid. What we find is that most people are wasteful and greedy and don’t understand the process it takes to get one pint of milk or how much effort it takes to grow one tiny vegetable from seed. We’re trying to educate our customers without being offensive. We want them to understand why we are doing, what we are doing.

Sounds like you’ve found yourself a new hobby?

Well yes I think so. We also have an allotment minutes from the restaurant with a polytunnel and we’ve set up another another greenhouse too. We’re growing more tomatoes, cucumber, three types of green beans, swiss chard, butternut squash, courgettes,cabbage purple and green kalettes, broccoli, carrotos, parsnips, lovage, onions. The list goes on.

And what about fruit?

We’re growing strawberries, we’ve had gooseberries, damsons, rhubarb and recently my great aunt passed away and she had five fruit trees in the garden. My uncle and grandad got the apples and by the end of it, they had at least 100 kilos of apples.

What do you do with a 100 kilos of apples?

Instead of one thing, we made a number of things. It’s free produce and if it’s not rotting in the ground we’d prefer to use it to feed people. Once we core the apples we can roast them with sugar to make apple puree which we can serve with pork belly. All the skin and peel we put in oil drums and distill it with malt vinegar to make apple vinegar and then that preserves, so you get apple flavoured vinegar. We also juice apples to make a pickled apple gel. Nothing gets wasted!

Has the effort been worth it?

The most expensive thing in a restaurant is flavour. It costs you more if you throw it away. That love you get from putting the seeds in, watering nurturing, weeding and digging it. The reward comes when the customers eat it and the reaction they give. We don’t need a world full of edens, just eat a little less fish.

So what are you cooking with this month?

It will all be seasonal of course. We’ve been making harissa made out of our own green tomatoes, chillies, peppers, onion and garlic. There will be lots of root vegetable and everything from kalettes to cabbage.

And what about the upcoming festive season?

Instead of throwing out our Christmas tree last year, we burnt the trunk but kept the pine needles. From this we’ve made pine and orange vinegar and serve it with venison. When we serve it, we set the pine on fire and pop the venison on top so it’s smoking.

How else are you doing your bit for the environment?

We use our coffee waste as a fertiliser. Our waste is taken to our house – we live five minutes down the road and use it as compost. We’re swapping our car to a fully electric car and so we’re looking to get an electrical port installed in the restaurant car park. I think we’ll be one of the first restaurants in the area to have an electrical charging port.

Fourwards. 4 High St, Earl Shilton, Leicester LE9 7DG. Tel: 01455 841556

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