Category Archives: Rural Econom
Today as the snow started to fall again I decided to make my marmalade. There is nothing like sitting snipping at peels, whilst squirts of acrid juice pop into your eye to aid contemplation. As I peeled each flabby Seville orange, trying to make one continuous piece, for luck, I thought about the french peau d’orange and my current lack of decision on whether or not to enter any big events this year. The two things are not unrelated, cycling and swimming certainly improve the appearance of the skin on the thighs, but do I want to commit to putting in the miles in preparation for another Great East Swim or Dunwich Dynamo? Basically I’ve calculated that if I don’t kick myself into touch next week there will not be enough weeks to be on form for the events.
There is another name for cellulite, ‘cottage cheese thighs’ and therein lies another part of my dilemma I’ve become distracted by cheese. Back in the summer I had the pleasure of visiting a mozzarella shop in Lecce; part of a great day out with Yle of Yltour, I’ll write more about this another day, now I’ve got my blogging mojo back. Later on returning home to Suffolk I discovered that Fi of Calf at Foot Dairy is selling milk for her lovely grass fed Jersey cows in Framlingham Market. The milk is unpasteurised and unhomogonised making it ideal for artisan cheese making. Armed with rennet and some muslin I made my first batch of mozzarella, took it back to the market for people there to try and on seeing how yellow it turned out rechristened it mozzayella! Since then I’ve tried making, feta, quark, ricotta, halloumi and my one real disaster cottage cheese…. So, I’m off to a cheese course later in the year, looking forward to learning how to make hard cheeses. Then all I’ll need is a house cow, a pig to eat the excess whey, a dairy, a cave to store my maturing wheels in and life will be complete…
Suffolk is in the news for the most curious of reasons. [For the ITV news item take a look here] The gist of the story is that Condiment working with Visit Suffolk have come up with the title The Curious County as part of a campaign to attract visitors to the county. When I first heard about it over the weekend I liked the idea, Suffolk is so much more than Beach Huts, Tractor boys, bucolic scenery and Newmarket racing (not that there is anything wrong with any of those) ~ but you do have to lift up the rug to find what’s under there. As the battle between the reported views of the MPs ‘Dangerous – got to go – negative, idiotic’ and a significant chunk of the twitter community who are #proudtobecurious I was getting ready to pen a letter to the EADT, the MPs or some other body. Then I decided don’t shout, show. So if you click the picture above or below it will take you to my particular take on Suffolk The Curious County, an ever growing Pinterest board of the things I find make me curious in Suffolk.
What would you add?
The weather has been amazing in the UK; for Easter Bank Holidays it is unparalleled, not surprising then that I haven’t written anything here for ages. There seem to be pairs of things queuing up; please skip to the bits that interest you most. In the following order we have:
2 Apps; the 360Panorama and the Moleskine
2 Cakes; a giant Jaffa cake and a sweet, tart, redcurrant tart
2 Fungi; A Dryad’s Saddle Paper experiment and St George’s Mushroom
2 Foragy bits; Sea Purslane and an experiment with cleavers and milk in an attempt to make cheese
2 Fabulous cycle rides, mapped from Framlingham, one following the Alde and one Green Bagging in Bow and Arrow Country
2 Local Food Discussions; why does Suffolk have a strong local food culture and a new local food festival?
2 Swims – How is my training going? – first sea swim of the season
Two Apps – 360Panorama and Moleskine
I have recently downloaded two apps for the iPhone that I am enjoying immensely. The first I heard about from @ssilvestori who showed pictures of Lecce using it. Fantastic images; Silvestro is currently cycling around Puglia to generate interest in the small towns of the region. His website is worth a gander, he offers food and wine courses and much more besides. The 360Panorama app allows you to take 360 degree images that can be shown flat, like the one below, or if you have an iPhone, the images can be uploaded and viewed as interactive 360 images.
The second app that I am enjoying is a digital version of the Moleskine note book. I think it is going to be great fun for gardening and foraging notes, especially as it allows you to geotag pictures. Now if it could just capture sounds and smells, and if I could draw a little better….. However I am quite pleased with my cover and a simple gardening note.
Two Cakes – Giant Jaffa Cake and Sweet, Tart, Redcurrant Tart
This being Easter cake baking seems essential. I have been quite pleased with two cakes this holiday so I am recording them here so I don’t lose the recipes. The first is a giant Jaffa Cake. Based on a Guardian recipe designed by Ottolenghi and supplied by the lovely @downatheel, it is a rich almondy, moist cake. I adapted it by adding a jelly layer. Using 300ml of fresh Clementine juice and gelatine at 1.5 times the normal ratio. I set the jelly in a soup plate before scooping it onto the cake. I allowed the chocolate coating to cool as much as I dared before covering.
The second cake is described as a tart but is somewhere between a cheesecake, meringue and a desert sponge. It is sweet-sour and just plain lush. I used frozen currants which worked well but makes the meringue very tricky to apply as it part freezes as you mix them in. The whole cake is gloriously messy to make, but well worth the effort. The recipe can be found on Catalina Bakes.
Two Fungi – Dryad’s Saddle and St George’s Mushroom
Spring is a joyous time for mushrooming, mostly because the spring ones are a bit easier to identify. A friend brought me a Dryad’s saddle. Not many commentators declare this to be edible, but it is supposed to be able to be used to make paper. I cooked it for hours, smushed it, strained it and ended up with some thing crispy stuff – nothing to write home about or on…. but it had an interesting transulcence so it might be useful added to other materials.
Much more exciting was the early appearance of the St George’s mushroom. One thing I have learnt is the earlier it arrives the less likelihood of worm damage. This year there were far fewer, so I only picked two, but they were in tip-top condition. For the record, this year’s photograph April 18th whereas last year they didn’t appear until May 8th – what a difference a year makes. This year I sliced them and placed them with trout and Jack by the hedge, wrapped in foil and cooked on the barbecue.
Two Foragy bits – Sea Purslane and using cleavers to make cheese
Spring is a great time for foraging on salads, two of my favourites at the coast are samphire and sea purslane. The samphire was not much in evidence this week but there were some lovely snacks of crisp, salty, purslane to be had.
Another favourite of mine is cleavers, a fresh pea-pod taste that makes weeding a pleasure. I had read that it was used in the past as a rennet for cheese making. I found a recipe for feta cheese and bought some goats milk. I heated the milk, added the yogurt and then decided to squeeze a massive handful of cleavers into the milk mixture. I left it and left it for days at room temperature. After two days I had remarkably fresh smelling yoghurt, no goaty smell, no cheese though. I think that cleavers other title of ‘milk sweet’ might be interesting to explore further.
Two fabulous cycle rides – Orford/Iken/Alde and ‘Green Bagging’
This spectacular weather has been a great excuse for some serious cycling. Regular readers will know I am hoping to take part in the Dunwich Dynamo so I am steadily increasing my distances. I don’t seem to be able to increase my average speeds though so I think I will be on the bike for in excess of 10 hours. Several chums have asked me how I manage, especially now I have a bike with a more racing style seat. The seat is quite comfortable, I am naturally ‘well upholstered’ and I have recently invested in silicone knickers, with thick padding they are supposed to be good for up to three hours – so do I need to wear four pairs?
Two great rides though. I have remapped these from Framlingham for you, parking in Framlingham is good at the Elms car park. Both rides are mostly on very low traffic routes. The first takes you to Orford, where there are plenty of pubs and the wonderful Pump Street Bakery, I also include a slight side track to High House Fruit Farm where they have fresh apple juice and Asparagus. Points to watch out for on this route too Adders! on the Iken lanes, basking on the tarmac. It is worth stopping and strolling down to the river for a spot of foraging (see above), you may also see Alpacas between Blaxhall and Farnham. Click on the image below to go to the full map at MapMyRide.
The second ride was my Suffolk version of Munroe bagging. I recently downloaded an app called Hill Lists, needless to say Suffolk doesn’t feature. However, if someone would like to create the antidote I think it could be used for bagging greens, bottoms or castles all of which abound round here. In this ride I count nine Greens, it goes over two commons, the one at Wingfield complete with tethered cattle. It is worth checking the Wingfield website before you leave, if you have time to stop they have magnificent arts exhibitions and can offer tea and coffee. There are plenty of pub stop-offs, if your timings suit; The De la Pole at Wingfield, the Low House at Laxfield (actually named the Kings Head, but called the Low House) and the Queen at Dennington (actually named the Queens Head but known as Dennington Queen) all have solid reputations for food and ale. If you just want quick supermarket fayre there is a shop in Laxfield and Framlingham has a full range of shops, coffee houses, pubs and a cycle repair shop. This journey is largely traffic free and you will find miles of Bow and Arrow country – remember too the #bowandarrowtweetup if you are interested in joining a few of us for drinks or to watch The Social Network on 25th May 2011 at Wingfield Barns. As before click on the map below to go to the MapMyRide site.
Two Food Discussions – Why does Suffolk have a strong local food culture and a new local food festival?
One of the features of Twitter is that it is not a forum or a place for lengthy discussions; until one breaks out. A few comments and before long a group of us were involved in a discussion about why Suffolk and Norfolk have a strong local food culture, as opposed to other areas which seem to feel a bit adrift. You can read and add to the full conversation synopsis here. It ranges from great products and producers, through sympathetic media and a relative absence of the ‘big stores’, but covers much more besides.
Pride in local food is important in so many ways. There has been a food, craft and music festival at Framlingham College over the last three days. The pre-publicity did not give many clues about who the exhibitors and demonstrators would be and I knew that a couple of local food related people were not involved so I wondered what the outcome would be. Framlingham has a bit of a reputation for events being called off due to appalling weather, with the Gala rained off, fireworks not even making it to the stage of damp squibs etc. However, the setting could not have looked better in glorious sunshine, looking at the castle across from the college green was a rural scene befitting of Midsommer Murders. There were a few local food suppliers, notably the Chilli Company, Jimmy’s Farm, Suffolk Cup Cakes and local chef Emma Crowhurst was providing demonstrations. There were also suppliers from further afield so it had the air of the food stalls at a county show. It will be interesting to see if the event is run again and grows to include more local suppliers, they certainly had the best possible of weathers and things looked reasonably busy, with plenty of cars in the car parks and people wandering the grounds and at the demonstration. I bought chilli sauces, curry sauces, sausages and enjoyed Emma’s demonstration, not least because real time demos are so much better than edited TV for things like sugar work.
Two Swims – How’s my training going?
I think I’m on track for the Grethathalon two swims; one the Great East Open Water Mile and the other a dip at Dunwich Beach preceded by the 120 mile overnight Dunwich Dynamo bike ride. I am gradually increasing my miles on the bike. I have been doing more reading around the subject and beginning to understand why the training plans also focus on shorter, faster rides. I hope this will make me try and ride faster, to build up the relevant muscles, mitochondria etc to improve my overall performance. It has to be said I am a bit sedentary at the moment.
Yesterday I did my first sea swim of the season, at Dunwich Beach; no way was I going to attempt crawl or put my face in the water though, so back to the old chestnut of controlling the drowning reflex.
If you would like to make a donation, I am supporting Diabetes UK this year. My Just Giving page is here.
Today I have had fun shopping for food in Framlingham, Yoxford and the Sandlings. Yesterday, I had a mystery shopping assignment to a top four supermarket. What a soulless place it was; the assignment itself was interesting but above anything it restored my understanding of why I don’t shop in the big four often. Today was a wholly different experience. First I picked up from the Framlingham Market Facebook page that the lovely Darren, below, was doing a Facebook deal on sea bass. So I went along and ask for two Facebook, great success – apparently I wasn’t the first, someone bought their’s with the papers at 7.00am.
Then I popped over to see Roger Etheridge on his veg stall, I bought watercress which will go nicely with the bass and a few purple sprouting plants. There was a time when I bought boxes of fruit and veg from Roger, but now I grow more and buy less.
Next stop was to meet Twitter friend Carl, or as I know him @solebaycheese, another one of those introductions where I have to remember that most people only know me as a green blob and a dodgy twitter name. Carl has just taken over the Yoxford Post Office and is in the ‘soft opening’ phase. This allows for the Post Office training to be carried out by the previous Sub-Post Master; I dutifully posted a parcel to ensure the training was maximised. Carl served me the most gorgeously gooey piece of Vacherin cheese, whilst dispensing tips on how to prepare and cook; that’s service. Good luck to you Carl, I really hope the new business takes off and look forward to the coffee and free wifi once it’s up and running.
Next stop was Orford country market to test out @PumpStreetBakery’s bread. The market is run in the hall and is a delight. I also bought some sausages with caramelised onion and some potatoes. The Pump Street Bakery stall was being run by @patorford and there was a roaring trade. Some fabulous looking pastries, croissants and meringues too. I now have a huge loaf of crusty bread to enjoy with the cheese. Pat mentioned that the village shop in Orford is taking off. It is fantastic, full of local produce and with a small coffee area, I bought a beautiful Romanesco and some Marybelle milk.
From there a quick jaunt to Snape farmers market for High House discovery apple juice, perfect pale lemon pink in colour and Suffolk Blue cheese, piri-piri Sutton Hoo chicken and then off Friday Street market for some Paddy and Scott’s coffee and smoked garlic. All in all, far more miles than I would normally do, but such fun and I have a tidy haul of food to serve over the next few days, topped up with some more veg and fruit from the garden, all will be well.
So what do you think – are we about to see a renaissance for the village shop or market? It may never be able to compete on price but how about quality and friendliness combined with convenience, is it a price worth paying? Vote below and add comments, for example should local shopping use social media more?
The Inter Village Games is a sports based tournament that takes place every year between villages in ‘bow and arrow’ country; the part of Suffolk that could be described as in the middle of nowhere but prefers to know itself as in the middle of everywhere. The competition was started to form a focus sporting activity for villages, many of whom had no playing field and some only had a hut for a village hall. The aim is to have 10 villages competing (it makes the scoring easy) but at present there are eight.
Each village takes a turn at hosting the games. Part of the deal is that the host village chooses the events, so of course they can skew things slightly in their favour. There are a group of pre-event games such as bowls, football, rounders, a quiz and badminton. Villages select a number of events from the list to enter. On the main day there is a ‘sports day’ like feel, with the usual running races, both long and short distances other regular village type sports such as tug of war and three-legged races feature. Again teams choose from a list but there are also some compulsory events which all villages must enter. All the events include age bands so there might be an over 40s distance run followed by an eight and under sprint.
There are some events that are quite unusual and only tend to occur at the Inter Village Games. We have four on two planks, with the planks passed from one generation to the next; egg throwing, slow bicycle and the wheelbarrow race uses real wheelbarrows.
There are always thrills and spills, controversy and tears. When people win they literally jump for joy – like the Badingham team member above. Everyone says ‘never again’ and then turns up the next year to seek retribution. This is the first year in a very long time that I have not been directly involved, due to signing up for the Great East Swim and not spotting the date clash. There are adults now taking part who were babes in arms when I first became involved. Dennington really needs to replace its tennis courts and villages are very dependent on their ability to raise funds through events like this.
I wish everyone the very best of luck both as participants and organisers.
UPDATE: Current positions as of 20th June 2010 morning – The main day starts this afternoon – Good Luck to Everyone – Click on image to open in bigger screen
1st Place Dennington, 2nd Badingham,
Please click on the link below for PDF of final score grid
p.s. The Inter Village Games are known by the local St John’s Ambulance as the inter village blood sports; for pictures from last years event go to nearthecoast.com
I have had great fun with the North Folk today. Sarah @Brays_Cottage Pettegree pushed out a tweet a few days ago asking for help on the Bray’s Cottage Pie Stall in Norwich today. It may have been a damp and blustery city centre, requiring massive amounts of tea and coffee to be consumed, but it was a great way to spend the morning.
The smell of the pies was gorgeous, Sarah claims she is immune to the aroma but by the time the shift was over there was only one thing to do…… chase a la Pietalian Job back own the A140 and tuck into the salary. The pies were of the Onion Marmalade persuasion; other pies on offer today included naked, chilli and lemon with garlic. Despite the suggestions of @deanrnch the urge to eat was great, no heating or mashed potatoes took part in the meal; just pork pie, mustard with lamb’s lettuce and rocket from the greenhouse. The pies are dark, dense, rich, with no extraneous jelly and the pastry had taken on the flavour of the onion marmalade. The meat has a good level of herb and spice seasoning without being over powered. It was great to meet Twitterers face-to-face and to gain some new friends among the North Folk. Thank you Sarah for a memorable morning out; I will think of you on sunny days, with the chat and comradeship of the others in the market and on cold days I will think of you standing on layers of cardboard wrapped up against the elements – true dedication to your pies. If ever you are stuck again you know where to find your pop up pie seller; somewhere over the rainbow.
The Spotify playlist for this post is here
p.s. also picked up asparagus on one of the other stalls, so that’s supper sorted.
*actually you don’t have to weigh the pies on the stall but it is my second favourite joke after the one about the duck.
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.
The Fifth Day of Christmas – 5 Gold Rings, four on two planks, three legged race, two in a sack and an Inter Village Blood Bath
This is the Fifth day of Christmas, traditionally a line in the song that allows a break while you sing out Five G –old rings, take a deep breath and then run on with the rest of the words. In the UK of course 5 Gold Rings in 2010 and beyond will be focusing on the London 2012 Olympics. Where I used to work in the North Cotswolds there was a tradition of Robert Dover’s Olimpick Games, at Dover’s Hill near Chipping Campden; including shin kicking and other cider fuelled activities. If you are a regular follower of the blog you will know that in the past I have been very involved in village activities and one of those is the Inter Village Games.
The Inter Village Games involve 10 North Suffolk villages, some with no sports facilities of their own, competing in a range of events. They range from traditional sports day type activities to, four on two planks, two in a sack, slow bike, wheelbarrow race (with real wheelbarrows) and egg throwing. In 2010 Dennington will be the host village, in the past the games were known by our local St John’s team as the Inter Village blood bath. If you want to see the calibre of the sportsmanship look here http://www.nearthecoast.com/laxfield/index.htm at the entry for ‘ su 17 ju 2007 ~ Final day of the Inter Village Games at Laxfield, Suffolk’.
Your challenge today: I am always on the lookout for new sports activities or fund raising ideas for fetes etc. What is the best sport or fund raiser you have ever taken part in; not necessarily for the amount it raised but for novelty and fun?
Forgot to add earlier – 5 gold rings = no legs therefore today only another 20 legs added. We are now up to 60 legs delivered so far.