St Hilda's Dining Hall offers meat-free options only on two days of each week. On the remaining days, two of the three options on our Dining Hall's daily menus are vegetarian and or/vegan. The College's Junior Common Room and Middle Common Room have encouraged us to reduce further the amount of meat we eat by promoting days where only vegetarian meals will be available. Our JCR Ethics and Environments Rep for 2020/21, Niamh Gray, produced a Guide to Understanding and Reducing the Environmental Impact of Food at St Hilda’s, which has helped to inform debate and future choices within the College.
The selection process for our suppliers includes assessment of their ethical and sustainability policies and practices. Only vegetarian food is served at the College's guest nights. Our commitment to reducing waste is shown by our reduction of single-use plastic. We encourage the use of 'keep cups' and reusable water bottles, which we sell in the Dining Hall. There are water points at various locations in College. We recycle as much packaging as possible. The oil we use is recycled and reused by our supplier. We use locally sourced products whenever possible, with our dairy products and vegetables come from local suppliers. Our coffee suppliers are all Fairtrade certified; our tea bags are supplied by Taylors of Harrogate, certified by The Rain Forest Alliance and the Carbon Neutral Global Standard. We limit use of table cloths as much as possible to reduce the use of water and chemicals.
Since 2008, St Hilda's has showcased sustainably produced food at its annual Green Feast, a popular College social occasion. The Feast was back in 2022 after a two-year COVID-19 related absence, and our Catering Manager, Garry Luke, took us through the menu. As part of our efforts to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable, we are moving to be more in line with the seasons and to provide local and British produce. Garry explained how the choice of food for the 2022 Green Feast reflected this.
The first course was Lovage and Dandelion Barley Risotto with wild garlic and a creamy Cerney Ash goat’s cheese. Head Chef, Kevin Barratt, worked with vegetable supplier, The Menu, to source the lovage, dandelion and wild garlic from the Cotswolds. Cerney Ash is a soft, unpasteurised, goat’s milk cheese, made by Cerney Cheese in the Cotswold village of North Cerney, Gloucestershire. Second Chef, Melissa Durham, hand-crafted the bread for the evening, which was flavoured with local seasonal parsnip and sage that grows just in front of our very own multi-faith space, The Sanctuary. The butter was locally produced also.
For the second course, we enjoyed cauliflower, sourced from Leicester, which Kevin encased it in wild mushrooms and a crisp pastry to form a wellington. It was served with a selection of seasonal vegetables and a seasonal gratin.
For the cheese course, we were served the Highmoor and Witheridge in Hay, which came from Nettlebed Creamery in Oxfordshire. The Creamery was founded in 2015 by Rose Grimond to utilise the organic milk produced by her grandfather’s 1950s farm, less than two miles away in Bix. The business was founded in 2015 and it has since won many awards, including Super Gold at the World Cheese Awards and Best Organic Cheese and Best Soft White at the British Cheese Awards. Rose received the Sue Ryder Women of the Year Achievement Award for Best Business in 2020. As well as three cheeses, Bix, Highmoor and Witheridge, she sells organic milk and cultured butter, which we also sampled during the Green Feast. Rose is very proud of the partnerships she has with the local community, notably with Style Acre, a charity providing support for young people with learning disabilities.
With our cheese, we enjoyed a glass of the Oxford Rye, brought to us from the Oxford Artisan Distillery in South Park, the first certified organic grain-to-glass distillery in the UK. Their environmental credentials are at the heart of what they do and from launch they have worked tirelessly to become, what they like to call, ‘beyond organic’ – organic plus plus. The Distillery's spirits are made with total provenance from seed-to-still using local organic farms to grow exclusive heritage grain. The grain is distilled at their home in the centre of Oxford in bespoke handmade stills. The Oxford Rye has an intoxicating aroma of sandalwood and vanilla, whilst on the palate the delicate flavour of creamy praline, nuts and sourdough is followed by a finish of cloves, nutmeg and smooth spice.
The wine for the evening was provided by Brightwell Vineyard. The vineyard produces white, rosé, red and sparkling wines which are frequent medal winners in regional, national and international competitions. It covers 16 acres and grows 8 varieties of grape including Bacchus, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. The wines are made in the on-site winery employing natural, minimum intervention methods. We also work with a local brewery for some of our bottled beers and Draught products in the Val McDermid Bar. Known as The Oxford Beer, Chadlington Brewery in Chipping Norton, 40 miles by road from St Hilda's, the brewers are passionate about the art of brewing beer. They believe it is important to be respectful of the environment, both locally and on a global scale and work hard to leave the smallest carbon footprint possible. The hot water in the brewery is provided by renewable heat sources and their spent grains are used as animal feed on farms in Oxfordshire and the surrounding counties. Boat Race is their popular Lager, and we sampled this as well as the Brightwell wines.
Garry thanked the team, Kevin, Melissa, and Chef de Parties, Kate, Freya, Ahmed and James, who were supported by supported by Sita, Sashi and Wiktor. We joined the applause for them and also for Garry, for providing such a delicious and educational evening.