Category Archives: Farming

Graze and Suffolk cattle – chewing the cud or joining the herd

Aldeburgh Food Festival has some great fringe events, I joined two separate farm walks and thoroughly enjoyed them both.  [Here is your Spotify playlist to accompany this post]

The first was at Whitegates Farm, just off the A140 at Creeting St Mary and home of Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses. If ever you have the chance to go on tour do. Here is a happy farmer, with happy cows and a great example of turning adversity into advantage. The whole project started when Jason’s employer decided to sell up his herd leaving Jason without a job. Now he and Katherine,  after a few false starts along the way, have perfected their Suffolk Cheese, using milk from their Guernsey herd.  You may remember the cheese featured in my Suffolk diet dinner a few months ago.  The creamy milk is gorgeous too and I thoroughly enjoyed the pork sausages I brought home.

The spare whey goes to feed an eclectic mix of pigs, who grunt eagerly for scraps of cheese experiments that have gone past their sell by dates. I am looking forward to hearing how the air dried ham and Brie style cheese trials are going.  If you are interested in learning the craft of cheese making, you may like to join one of the Food Safaris that are run at the farm.

The second visit was to Peakhill Farm at Theberton, here the emphasis is on the beef end of cattle production with beautiful South Devon cattle strolling through the meadows, slowly creating full flavoured organic beef.  I wish I had taken my proper camera as I only have one photo.  Rob is a charming host and talks passionately about his love of his farm and cattle.  Here beef never goes to slaughter, it goes on holiday and comes back ready for the shop. The last year has seen the farm add another element of diversity with a small caravan site; a fantastic location for those wanting to hide away near the Suffolk coast. The walk finished with tomato and basil soup, jacket potatoes and beef casserole and quince crumbles all produced by the delightful Karen and cooked in the field kitchen.  I bought a beef pack and the brisket was great, the rest will come out of the freezer over the coming weeks and the dried field mushrooms are being turned into a Heston Blumenthal recipe soup.

It was great to meet Rob and Karen, having ‘conversed’ with them via Twitter for some time before the walk.  Slightly worrying that Rob was expecting an older woman with a ‘large chest’; but as he ended up having to push my car out of the pond I guess he had to deal with the batty creature that turned up anyhow.

So two farm visits, plenty of luscious meat and dairy to eat and then along came a code to allow me to try and Graze on nuts and olives.  If you haven’t come across the concept before, you order a Graze box, it is posted to you (typically your work address) and you munch.  I quite enjoyed the nibbles, fresh and very tasty; I would normally pack a small selection of nuts or dates with my lunch box anyway, but I do have a basic packaging over expediency problem with the whole idea. So not sure I will be joining the herd, long-term, or only for very special treats but I can see how it would appeal to the office bound with only a cake shop to fall back on for comfort.

If you would like to try the Graze experience click HERE you will receive your first box free (until the voucher expires) and I will receive either £1.00 off my next box or to donate to a Uganda farming project.

#Suffolkdiet – Road kill rolls and Heston vs Delia Desert – Earth Day

We have a little tradition round here, a group of friends take it in turns to host a supper when it is one of the group’s big ‘O’ birthday.  This was my chance; ever one to set myself a challenge, I decided to try to source all the ingredients from Suffolk.  This is how the meal went, there is a Spotify playlist to go with the post; it was Earth Day too, so celebrating all good things around us seemed particularly appropriate.

The opening gambit from two of the friends when they arrived was, ‘so are we going to have road kill?’ – Little did they know.

Being fabulous people the first thing they asked was, “is there anything we can do?” – I explained that the one product I couldn’t buy locally was Suffolk butter. I poured some cream into a jam jar and asked them to shake it whilst they talked.  Passing the jar from one to another; we could eat once when we had produced butter.

Starters: Platters –  Salami and Ham from Lane Farm Brundish, Smoked Trout, Mackerel, and Salmon from Pinney’s of Orford, Green Peppercorn Dressing from Suffolk Mud, Mayonnaise from Stokes; mixed leaves from my greenhouse and Road Kill rolls made with white strong flour from Maple Farm, Kelsale.

The Lane Farm meats are dry and not overly fatty so really tasty to eat, especially with something a little spicy like a mustard or the peppercorn dressing.  The Pinney’s smoked fish is delicious.  The fish is soft and delicately smoked, not overly flavoured.  The Road Kill rolls were bread rolls shaped like flattened hedgehogs.  Kelsale flour is not bleached, so even their white flour comes up as a brownish roll, perfect for hedgehogs.  The flour has a gloriously silky feel when you work with it.  I was caught out though by using too much water in the initial mix, so much kneading on a well and frequently floured board was required to bring it back to a good consistency.  I proved the dough over night and did a secondary shaping and proving in the morning.

Another time I would make the rolls smaller, they did look rather intimidating.

Amuse-bouche:  Weed shot.  I made a soup using, Jack-by-the-hedge, cleavers (aka sticky willy), nettles, chick weed, sorrel and land cress from the garden and the lane.  I served the soup by giving everyone a shot glass and pouring the soup chilled from a White’s pear juice bottle.  Variously described as disgusting, smelling like drains and quite nice; I think it is possibly an acquired taste.  I’ll drink the rest for lunch, I guess it will have cleaned the palate if nothing else.

Venus and the Hunter’s return: The main course was a variation on coq-au-vin.  Made with chicken breast, Shawsgate Venus, onions, carrots, potatoes, a good bundle of fresh herbs as a bouquet garni and some chopped pickled walnuts (walnuts from one of the friend’s garden) stirred into the sauce.  I was trying to keep this course low fat, so didn’t thicken it with a roux and used skinless breasts, the little oil I used to soften the onions was local rape seed oil from Hillfarm.  With hindsight this may have been a mistake, the chicken came up rather dry and I wish the potatoes had a bit of a crispy edge to them.  Another time I think I would use a deep casserole, slice the potatoes and do as a layered topping.  The chicken, potatoes and carrots are all from local suppliers and bought at auction at Abbots at Campsea Ashe.  As there were already some veg in the casserole I just served it with a huge deep dish of Birds Eye peas.  Now I can’t guarantee these were from Suffolk but there is a fair to middling chance they were; but equally that they may be the last ones we see.  I have previously written about the pea harvest in this area; what I didn’t know at the time was that just before this year’s crop should have been planted, Birdseye would pull the plug and not renew the contract. Some of the farmers will have planted beans or other replacement crops, but various contractors have been laid off and had to find new work, all at very short notice.

Cheese: I served, Suffolk Gold, Suffolk Blue from Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses, Creeting St Mary, and Shipcord, Hawkston from Rodwell Farm in Baylham near Ipswich.  Trying to avoid biscuits, I served them with spiced pickled pears that I made last year and some spiced peaches from Laxfield that I won in a WI draw.

At this point a friend that I knew was going to be late arrived.  It was agreed that she should try the weed shot before being allowed to proceed, she correctly identified nettles as an ingredient.

Heston vs Delia Desert: I am not a great lover of puddings and often pass on them preferring to tuck into cheese instead; so deserts with me are always a bit of a risk.  I gave each person a small plastic tub and a pipette.  The idea was to build your own desert taking as many (Heston) or few risks (Delia) as you like from the following list.

  • Baby meringues, eggs from garden, Aspall Balsamic Vinegar and Billington’s Sugar, at the time couldn’t find British Sugar.
  • Marybelle Creme Fraiche, Yoghurt
  • Coffee Granita made with Paddy and Scotts, Great with Friends Coffee
  • Tea Granita made with Sencha Wild Grey tea from Butterworth and Son
  • Beetroot Jelly made with ‘Beet it’ from Whites
  • Coulis – Wild Blackberry and Raspberry from Whites
  • Chocolate from Hadleigh Maid
  • Walnut Liquor made with green walnuts from friend’s garden (which is what the pipette was for)

Throughout the meal the drinks on offer were Shawsgate Baccus 2004 and a selection of juices from Whites.

The meal was finished off with a gorgeous cake that one of the friends had made, fizz from another friend and there should have been tea and coffee but I think by then I had forgotten that bit – oops.

I am hugely grateful to Eat Anglia, who when I was having problems getting the Kelsale flour called and asked them to deliver some for me especially, that’s service.

Germs, gems, and chicken salad

This Friday as part of the Aldeburgh Food Festival Fringe I went to Maple Farm Organic Farm in Kelsale to take part in their farm walk. I have written previously about the industrial scale of farming immediately around our house, the farm at Kelsale is quite a different story. We went around the poly tunnels where salads are grown for sale in local shops and farmers markets, met Kylie and co the very tame and contented pigs, the outdoor, free range, organic chickens, the Limosin cattle and the flour mill, which is pictured above. Having been raised on a farm and living in Bow and Arrow country I am always intrigued by the different ways that people choose to farm. Maple Farm are clear, they are an arable farm that need to add value by, for example, turning their grain into eggs or flour to sell to bakers to make the sums work. The result is a delight, small fields, friendly animals and increased wildlife. The Kendal family and farm manager Simon were interesting and informative and even sent us home with a goody bag of eggs. Part of the party trundled off to the Bell at Saxmundham for an excellent meal afterwards.

One of the concerns for the owners in running a tour was the recent publicity about E Coli infections following visits to farms by children. They had hand sprays available for the children who seemed quite content to play with the chickens and then go off and eat their sandwiches. It amused me because I am a firm believer in the ‘peck of dirt’ approach to children and dirt; it reminded me that my own children thought chicken salad was a mix of worms and grass that they collected to feed to our hens when they were younger. Also this weeks Illustration Friday topic is germs, so another brushes on iphone concoction.

The gem, was the latest must have kitchen essential; a table top milling machine, so tempted to get one, I could extend my gleaning to wheat field edges…….

%d bloggers like this: