Category Archives: safari
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?
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.
On Saturday I was with a friend in a party enjoying a Food Safari to Pinney’s of Orford and the Butley Oysterage. The Food Safari concept is to experience food from production to consumption within a day. This was a great day out, so if you have the time to, read on; if you have Spotify here is a playlist to go with this post.
We started with Paddy and Scott’s coffee, accompanied by some of Polly Robinson’s (the founder of Food Safari) flapjacks at Pinney’s shop near the quay in Orford. This was an opportunity to meet the others who would be taking part in the day. We then set out by car and taxi to Butley Creek. Harvey from Pinney’s has enthusiasm and knowledge that can only be gained by working hands on with a product for several years. His insight into the highs and lows of the Pinney’s history as the founder’s entrepreneurship blossomed, failed and blossomed again with the changing economic climate in the second half of the 20th century was absorbing. From dispatching the rabbits that were once abundant near the creek to the current oyster growing and harvesting old Pinney tried his hands at many things.
A day like this really comes into its own in the opportunity to actually be in the place where the food is grown, experience the freshness of the air, the emptiness of the landscape, the sight of the boats in the water and the scattering of empty shells on the side of the creek.
We then went into the shed where the dredged oysters are cleaned and made ready for sale. The oysters are huge and surprisingly heavy; learning about the relative merits of the oysters here at Butley over their native cousins harvested over the border in Essex was fascinating.
For me the next stage was the most intriguing of all; the smoking. The time taken to cold smoke the brined sides of Wester Ross salmon varies according the wind direction, moisture in the air, the amount the doors are opened or closed. All judged by experience and adjustments made by regular visits. This is not a highly industrialised process. Before long we were passing around a cold yet smoking piece of green oak to smell the vapours rising.
Back at the oysterage restaurant we had a delicious plate of oysters, trout, mackerel, prawns, sprats and salmon with their lovely sweet mustard sauce all served with local Staverton wine, followed by warm cake deserts.
The between course entertainment was a demonstration and then a chance to carve smoked salmon and to shuck oysters. If you have the chance do take part, there is nothing like giving it a go for yourself.
Huge thanks to Harvey and his team for their enthusiasm and knowledge and to Polly for putting the day together.
And if you need a little poem to finish the post….. go here
I had been looking forward to yesterday since Polly Robinson first invited me to join their Wild Food Safari at Henham a few weeks ago. Despite a pessimistic forecast the worst we had was a strong breeze and the day bowled along to go with the weather. The Henham Estate in Suffolk is a beautiful location, wide open parkland just off the A12 near Southwold in Suffolk, setting of the ‘friendly’ festival known as Latitude which happens in
mid July. Yesterday though the parkland was empty, miles of open track to drive down to the meeting point under a tree, where coffee, scrumptious flapjack and juice were being served. A small contingent of us had ‘met’ on twitter but not face-to-face so “Oh you must be @goodshoeday and @essexgourmet” was not as bizarre a conversation as it might seem anywhere else. The organisers of the day were Polly and Tim Robinson of Food Safari UK they were charming, as was Hektor Rous who is back on this side of the world managing the estate. For those into local history, or even just interested in the way that these large estates and their families have their stories to tell, the section of the Henham web site on history is well worth a read; several of us present on the day live in Dennington so the estate history has added frisson.
Our wild food expert was Jacky Sutton-Adam, to twitterers @wildfoodie1. Jacky has a marvellous way with imagery that means that she provides a full sensory description of the plants that you are investigating. This involves not just the look, taste and smell of the plants but what they feel like and the sound they make when they are snapped in just the right place. Her website is rich with additional detail and well worth a review if you are interested in eating from the wild. Jacky was also full of good advice on distinguishing one plant from another and very sensible about the warnings; only pick what you know and only pick what you need. A wide
range of salad plants were found only a few feet from the car park, with the full knowledge that you had the permission of the owners and that the risk of contamination at the site was minimal. We were introduced to nettle, cleavers aka Sticky Willy, burdock, ground elder, ground ivy and elderflower. The great thing was that even for someone who has tried these before, another person’s take on the topic or the way they use the plants adds breadth to your own knowledge; Jacky even won me round on the topic of ground elder!
After the initial foray we moved on down to the edge of the Blyth estuary, where wild samphire and sea purslane were found and eaten. There is something very special about this area, combining the drama of tidal changes and the history of Black Shuck, having seen the musical last year in the park in Halesworth you could expect to see singing scarecrows and man eating black dogs at every turn. I exaggerate as usual; in the company of 20 very affable people it was a lovely stroll by the river and the succulent little pieces of samphire just thrusting up through the sandy water’s edge were a delight.
The whole party then moved on to the Anchor at Walberswick, where our hosts Mark and Sophie Dorber and their fantastic team had created a meal based on the wild food we had been examining. Before we ate there was a quick tour round their allotment to be introduced to other common weeds that were edible, including poppy and chick weed.
Lunch started with an elderflower beer, fresh asparagus and samphire with gram flour pancakes; these were an absolute revelation, beautiful little light finger foods, we also had hop shoot tempura. This first phase of the meal was taken outside but we then transferred into a converted outbuilding, with one long table set for everyone to eat together. After the second sample beer I found myself deciding a taxi or lift would have been a good idea and will go back to collect the car later, it would have been a pity not to take advantage of Mark’s skills in selecting beers to go with each part of the meal and to appreciate his knowledge of the whole brewing process. The main course was three cousins salad, carrot, coriander seed and fat hen leaves; chicken in the woods risotto (always going to be a winner with me), stir fried sea cabbage and nettle and feta flat bread. There was also a glorious leg of lamb, sausages and crab. The flavours were marvellous and the team had worked well to balance strong flavours and enhance or compliment other more subtle flavours to produce a remarkable meal. At no point did you feel cheated on quality or quantity, these ‘weeds’ had
been given full starring roles. Jacky spoke more about the plants at stages throughout the meal and Mark expounded on the beers. Desert was a sublime elderflower panacotta made by @mikewallfish with gooseberries; this was followed by a wealth of cheeses both local to Walbersick and from Jacky’s deli, from mild fresh cheeses to seriously strong extra-matured examples. The whole polished off with coffee. We stayed way beyond the time allocated, so huge thanks to all for their patience and conviviality; I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday.
WildFood Safari are arranging more days that explore the journey of food from the sea, field, vineyard or brew house to the table and it is possible to purchase vouchers, which would make a great present for any foodie friends.