Pizza made with Ro­man flour? That’s authen­tic

You don’t get more authen­tic than pizza made with flour based on an an­cient Ro­man grain - and served from a horse­box!

Cotswold Life - - INSIDE - WORDS: Tanya Gled­hill PHO­TOS: Mikal Lud­low N

In the car park of a recre­ation cen­tre, a food rev­o­lu­tion is hap­pen­ing. Rosy-cheeked lads, fresh from train­ing on the next-door foot­ball pitches, are nag­ging wait­ing par­ents. Young cou­ples and groups of friends are mak­ing a bee­line for the gates. Well-to-do vil­lagers with dogs of var­i­ous shapes and sizes are wan­der­ing in, wine glasses in hand, chat­ting to neigh­bours.

And in a horse box across the car park, ex­cep­tional piz­zas are be­ing cooked to or­der by a tal­ented team in striped T-shirts, who spin dough the­atri­cally and cre­ate in­cred­i­ble flavour com­bi­na­tions.

Baked to bub­bling per­fec­tion in a mon­ster Blis­ter­ing wood-fired oven in the back of the trailer, Toad’s Mill Kitchen spelt piz­zas are no or­di­nary piz­zas.

Back in 2016, at their home in Cal­low End, Worces­ter­shire, farmer Toby What­ley and his wife Ly­dia hatched a plan: to grow spelt - an an­cient Ro­man grain - on the fam­ily farm.

They ig­nored ev­ery­one in UK agri­cul­ture who said it couldn’t be done and forged ahead, de­ter­mined to har­vest the high­est qual­ity spelt from the un­du­lat­ing land that Toby’s re­la­tions had farmed for gen­er­a­tions.

Their first crop was a roar­ing suc­cess and, hav­ing found a tra­di­tional wa­ter­mill in Dorset to tra­di­tion­ally stone-grind the grain, Toad’s Mill flour was born.

Nat­u­rally low in gluten and eas­ily di­gestible, celebrity bak­ers like Bath­based Richard Bertinet snapped up Whole­meal and Light White to make loaves, brown­ies, piz­zas bases and bis­cuits.

Home-bak­ers clam­oured to buy beau­ti­fully-branded bags - each marked with the name of the field from which the spelt was har­vested - in food em­po­ri­ums from Glouces­ter­shire to Lon­don.

But now breaks a new dawn for Toad’s Mill. Un­der their Toad’s Mill Kitchen brand, Toby and Ly­dia are bring­ing the ben­e­fits of spelt straight to their con­sumers with de­li­cious wood­fired piz­zas made from their own flour.

The cou­ple spent last sum­mer at­tend­ing pizza-mak­ing cour­ses, de­vel­op­ing recipes and re­cruit­ing staff for their quirky pop-up restau­rant ven­ture.

Now, the Toad’s Mill Kitchen trailer, with its dis­tinc­tive black and cop­per liv­ery, is be­ing towed be­hind Ly­dia’s Land Rover to the Cotswolds’ big­gest food fes­ti­vals, wed­dings and par­ties

and vil­lages, for pop-up pizza nights.

One of their reg­u­lar venues is Eck­ing­ton Recre­ation Cen­tre, near Tewkes­bury.

Ev­ery other Thurs­day evening, the oven is fired up and dozens of food­ies pour in to snap up a pip­ing hot Toad’s Mill pizza be­fore they sell out.

As soon as the trailer doors are opened to re­veal black­boards chalked up with the evening’s menu and the names of the food he­roes sup­ply­ing that night’s top­pings, pizza fans ar­rive.

Over the oak bar they watch the chefs pre­par­ing bases and top­pings in the open kitchen, oven flames flick­er­ing in the back­ground.

The aroma is ab­so­lutely in­tox­i­cat­ing. “We’ve been thrilled by the num­ber of peo­ple who come,” says Ly­dia, chat­ting to ev­ery­one in the queue as she tops Ital­ian chef David’s spelt bases with amaz­ing lo­cal in­gre­di­ents from goat’s cheese to chilli jam and ev­ery­thing in be­tween.

“The first night, we sold out in an hour. We were bowled over by the re­sponse.

“Now we’ve got it right and we love see­ing all the reg­u­lars and so many new faces who’ve heard about us through word-of-mouth.”

For Toby, whose back­ground is in agri­cul­tural en­gi­neer­ing, it’s a de­par­ture from his day job.

He is pas­sion­ate about the fu­ture of Bri­tish farm­ing.

“In Bri­tain, we grow the best food in the world,” he says, as he slides the lat­est or­der into the oven on a huge pad­dle, check­ing the tem­per­a­ture to en­sure each pizza cooks per­fectly.

“We’re lucky enough to have the most in­cred­i­ble pro­duc­ers. The cli­mate here is sec­ond to none, as is the land, and we need to be telling peo­ple.”

Get him talk­ing, and he has a view on ev­ery­thing farm­ing-re­lated from Brexit to or­gan­ics, hedge­hog habi­tats to the qual­ity of seed.

“It’s all very well talk­ing about how great Bri­tish farm­ing is, but we’ve got to put our­selves in front of the con­sumer if we want to have a farm­ing in­dus­try in 10 years time,” he of­fers.

“We know our spelt is ex­cep­tional, that it makes fan­tas­tic piz­zas, and we’re re­ally happy to be supporting some of the best lo­cal pro­duc­ers.”

Each pizza is evoca­tively named af­ter fields on the farm.

Maple­ton is a Margherita with smoky sun­dried toma­toes; Gat­more is topped with Light­wood goat’s cheese, Chilli Zoo jam and rocket; fiery n’duja sausage and char­grilled red pep­pers give Pep­per­box a spicy kick. Menus are adapted for each event, and there are plenty of veg­gie and ve­gan op­tions.

“The feed­back is amaz­ing,” says Ly­dia, as she watches happy cus­tomers walk back down the ramp car­ry­ing stacks of pizza boxes, ready to share their con­tents with friends and fam­ily. “We had a text from a chap who’d spent years in Italy, and said ours was the best pizza he’d ever tasted. You can’t get bet­ter than that. We’re so ex­cited to see what the fu­ture holds.”

The fu­ture looks busy.

Fans keep up with events on Toad’s Mill lively so­cial me­dia ac­counts, and book­ings are flood­ing in for wed­dings, chris­ten­ings, par­ties and food fes­ti­vals, as well as food-pair­ing events at craft brew­eries.

It’s some­thing of which the cou­ple are jus­ti­fi­ably proud.

“There’s noth­ing we love bet­ter than shar­ing the story of Bri­tish farm­ing and amaz­ing pro­duce with our cus­tomers,” says Toby.

“We love what we do.”

To book Toad’s Mill Kitchen for your event, visit­toad­smill.co.uk

‘We love see­ing all the reg­u­lars and so many new faces who’ve heard of us through word-of-mouth’

Toby and Ly­dia What­ley of Toad’s Mill Kitchen

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