F: Can you tell us about Black Bough?
AW. Black Bough is a small shop based in the market town of Ludlow which lies in South Shropshire; we sell a mix of homewares, books, gifts and vintage objects including vintage watches.
F. What made you decide to open your own shop?
AW. We moved to South Shropshire in 2009 and opened Black Bough in 2011. I had previously worked in London managing a studio workspace for artists and designers; I therefore had lots of friends and contacts who made things and thought that there was a gap in the market for a shop in Ludlow selling the kind of things that I was interested in.
F. Can you describe or give tips on the best places to eat, drink, source ingredients in your local area?
AW. Ludlow has quite a big reputation for restaurants and food, but the basis of this is that it is surrounded by people growing and producing food. Ludlow Food Festival was the first food festival in the UK and celebrates its 26th Birthday this year. The town has 4 butchers, 3 bakers and two really good greengrocers and some really good delicatessens including Harp Lane Deli which is run by some friends of ours.
F. You sell Falcon enamelware in your shop. What’s the most interesting way you’ve heard a customer use our product?
AW. I’m always hearing from customers about how they use the Falcon products from using the tumblers as toothbrush holders or pen pots to using the 1, 2 and 3 pint jugs as impromptu vases. If I’m going for a walk I often take a flask of tea and a couple of beakers in my rucksack for a half-way point break.
F. Is there a specific dish that you would make using any of our Falcon products? If possible, please do share the recipe?
AW. There’s a Simon Hopkinson recipe for spiced almonds that is endlessly versatile and you can use a wide variety of spices in different combinations, all of which can be roasted in a Falcon Bake Pan, and then served on a small tray or in a 12cm bowl.
The basic ingredients are
300g skinned, blanched almonds
3 teaspoons of caster sugar
2 teaspoons of sea salt
2 teaspoons of olive oil.
Place the almonds and the oil in a bowl and coat the almonds with the oil.
In a pestle and mortar mix and grind approx 3 teaspoons (total) of spices - I currently favour fennel, cumin, black pepper and bait of cayenne pepper, but have been known to use dried lime powder, mustard seeds, coriander, fenugreek, smoked paprika.
Add the ground spice, sugar and salt to the almonds, coat the almonds well and tip into an oven dish. You want the almonds to not be stacked on top of each other but rather in one layer so might need to cook in two batches. Place in a preheated oven (170) for 10-15 minutes, give them a shake after this time and then roast for another 10 minutes.
Leave to cool. Serve as a pre-supper/dinner snack
F. Do you have any unusual food combinations you can recommend?
AW. I’ve been making batches of pickled carrots recently which are great as a snack but also make a good, sharp counterpoint to lots of other things. I recently made some dill-cured salmon and served that with some black treacle soda bread, pickled carrots and a creme fraiche and mustard sauce.
F. How have you been keeping during this time? Do you have any tips for small business owners as we all become accustomed to this new normal post-lockdown?
AW. The uncertainty of the current situation has thrown everything up in the air. I think that the only thing we can learn to do at the moment, as a small business, is to be as flexible and adaptable as possible and to try and find a path to work that feels safe and secure. As such we are not open to the public at the moment - our shop is too small for customers to safely maintain social distance - so we have moved to further push our online presence and keep that visibility dynamic and fresh. Lockdown has forced people who haven’t normally shopped online to do so now; fulfilling their orders efficiently and keeping them informed of the progress of the order seems to be the best way to reassure them . . . and getting their order to them as swiftly as possible. Having good relationships with our suppliers and being able to swiftly restock is integral to the online business working successfully.