Archives for posts with tag: Laverstoke Park Farm

I have worked in the food industry since 1985 and latterly knew the fashions which generally surround the seasonal local story for anyone who is even vaguely clued up on these things. But I don’t think it was until I went to work at Laverstoke Park Farm that I understood what that really meant and how it should be applied to the food we eat.

Since leaving there, my connection has remained with M who continues her quest to make ever improving dairy products from the buffalo milk there and each year is humbled by the gold awards that she receives from the cheese, yogurt and ice cream aficionados. Unlike me, M grew up with nature in her soul. I tell her she is Mother Nature herself in my eyes and she laughs at me. She literally eats and breathes biodynamic principles because she was brought up with parents who taught her to pick and eat the flowers and herbs that nature presents us. She is horrified by the combination of many recipes, like tomatoes and kale salad to name but one as they are simply never in season together so what are we talking about. And now she connects with the buffalo on the farm in such a spiritual way that her cheese emanates the quality of the milk like no other I have ever tasted…hence all the awards.

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This weekend I managed to get out of the smog and down to the pure air of Hampshire to re-charge. On Saturday we went up to the stables to feed her horses and then strolled through the adjacent woodland picking elderflowers as they are absolutely in season right now. I never ever in a million years did this sort of thing in my childhood so I was like a child once more embracing nature’s presents. We filled two bags with the pretty flowers and made our way back to the farm kitchen.

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The flowers we immersed into pure water and married with lots of lemons (Juice and rinds) to be left over night to share their magic with each other.

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On Sunday we had a leisurely morning and then addressed the flower water. M has the most wonderful folder of recipes that have been handed down to her from two generations with handwritten and illustrated recipes all in her native Dutch tongue. In these days of the internet, it feels we have lost this art. Every page was more inspiring than the last and whilst I don’t speak Dutch, I could glean the precious nature of the folder. You could never get that sense of something special from a computer file. We opened up to the elderflower and elderberry recipes and calculated the sugar, which is a whopping 1kg to 1 litre of liquid in Grandma’s recipe and started mixing the potions. It is a cordial after all.

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After bringing to the boil and leaving it there for 5 minutes, we decanted into our many and varied bottles, added slices of lemon and more whole elderflowers and hey presto. The Summer cordials were made. M told me that you can do lots with them such as storing in ice cube bags and then adding to water that way, or making lemon juice ice cubes and adding those in, with some little flowers too. I always like to mix my juices so will be serving with lemon but also ginger and mint to mix it up a bit but either way am dead chuffed that we did this. It was such a fun day.

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We rewarded ourselves with a long walk in the farm saying hello to the buffalo, cows, pig, sheep, wild boar and the odd deer before coming back to a simple lunch of M’s mozzarella, seasonal tomatoes and basil. The tricolore salad was as colourful as the peonies plucked from her garden and I just embraced the whole day. Sadly the motorway beckoned, but at least I had three bottles of elderflower liquid gold to bring back to London with me.

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This week I have been catching up on Raymond Blanc’s How to Cook Well series on BBC iplayer. I’m not normally the biggest fan of his shows, but I like the set up of these and to be honest it is great to be able to fast forward through the less interesting stuff onto those recipes and processes that interest me.

I like the restaurant tips but my favourite bits of programme are those he shares with an expert in a related field. There were two that particularly caught my attention. Firstly there was Dave Pynt. I was peeved when I realised I missed his Burnt Enz pop up last year as I have had Etxebarri at the top of my dream list for some time now, and this would have been my closest connection which didn’t involve a flight. So to see him doing fabby things with leeks, scallops and a firepit just made me sad….and as committed as ever to get to that Spanish top 50 restaurant. Anyone fancy?

Nathan Mills with Raymond

Nathan Mills with Raymond

But the recipe of all recipes that tempted me was the slow cooked Asian flavoured beef shin, although I would replace the papaya salad with something more hearty like mash! Raymond shared this segment with butcher Nathan Mills of The Butchery fame. Nathan claimed he was the only London butcher cutting from the carcass but that simply isn’t true as I have been working for the whole of this year with the guys from Laverstoke Park Farm and both their shops on the farm and in Twickenham work with carcasses which are delivered direct from the organic, biodynamic farm. Still, Nathan did demonstrate the benefit of carcass butchery showing a host of cuts that are not generally available. I immediately rang the Twickenham shop manager, Andy, ordered my piece of beef shin and planned a weekend feast.

Laverstoke Park Farm Shop in Twickenham

Laverstoke Park Farm Shop in Twickenham

There is no doubt that buying meat from a qualified butcher is the best way to go and when the meat is as wonderful as this, I feel a responsibility to do something special. The hanging carcasses in the shop are fabulously visual and not just for theatre, but genuinely the best way to retail meat. In the hands of qualified farmers and butchers, you understand the full value of great quality meat and how you should be eating it.

Shin of Laverstoke Park organic beef

Shin of Laverstoke Park Farm organic beef

Butcher and shop manager Andy cut me a wonderful piece of beef shin which was the centrepiece of a fabulous lunch housed chez Jones. Their rooftop terrace is a celebration of Eug’s greenfingers and as it is right in the heart of Westminster, you are greeted with the chimes of Big Ben to remind you of the day passing in glorious sunshine. JR was also in attendance and at the last minute the lovely Mr and Mrs Flapjack Foods joined with award winning produce, more of which later. So the pressure was on to do the shin justice.

The pig looks on...

I have to admit that I did adapt the recipe a bit. Firstly I substituted lovely banana shallots for white onions to add more sweetness and then I upped the ante on all the Asian flavours. Half a chilli was now 2 chillis, 1/2 tsp five spice was more like a tblsp and I kind of splashed around with the other ingredients to really bump up the volume. In the end, we agreed it was absolutely the right things to do and could even have stumped up a bit more. We went with stir fried noodles with garlic broccoli and ginger carrots to accompany and four and a half hours later, lunch was served.

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Everyone agreed it was totally yummy and I would certainly make it again. Very easy, very tasty and a great example of the benefits of slow cooking.

2* Great Taste Award Carrot cake from Flapjack Fabulous Food

2* Great Taste Award Carrot cake from Flapjack Fabulous Food

Dessert was presented by Mrs Flapjack Fabulous Food. It was her signature carrot cake which recently won TWO stars at the Great Taste Awards. The best in carrot cake class by a whole star and well deserved it was too. She and hubby make the most wonderful cakes for their business alongside a whole host of other yumminess and we all understood why she was such a winner this year.

Chez Jones rooftop revelling

Chez Jones rooftop revelling

So another lovely weekend lunch with friends, sunshine and lovely food. As they say on Masterchef…it doesn’t get better than this.

I have just had the most wonderful weekend with my friends in their country cottage in the Gloucestershire.

It is at times like this that I really appreciate the country lifestyle, particularly when I share it with two people who are so into their food in the same way I am, except that they are proper professionals. Mr and Mr Melrose and Morgan do such a great job in their shops and I always love to hear about what they are working on and who they are connecting with as it is always spot on. They have such an understated style and yet do food so incredibly, properly and well.

Laverstoke Park Farm organic, biodynamic blackcurrants and gooseberries

Laverstoke Park Farm organic, biodynamic blackcurrants and gooseberries

Saturday breakfast set the tone with the most perfectly cooked boiled farm egg, yummy coffee and a warm raisin, apricot, bran muffin fresh from their shop. Sunday we paced ourselves with buffalo milk yogurt, blackcurrant compote made from Laverstoke Park Farm organic blackcurrants and Melrose and Morgan sour cherry granola which is just the best.

This cottage of theirs is perfect, set in the outskirts of Sapperton in rolling countryside with their own garden and in the catchment of some great pubs and markets. They have kept it simple and homely with mismatched crockery from the local antique shop plus lots of little touches to make it theirs, centred around the most beautiful big wooden kitchen table which is the heart of the whole place.

Some of our market produce

Some of our market produce on the wonderful wooden kitchen table

On Saturday we went to Stroud market which is apparently one of the biggest, most popular farmer’s markets in the country and winner of the best farmer’s market award from FARMA for the second year this year. It is so well supported locally and you can see why when you shop the stalls. We created our weekend menu as we wandered around picking and choosing our way to the best offerings. I brought some bits with me from the farm which added to the market fayre resulted in a larder full of goodies… the perfect thing for a trio who love to cook, cheered on by a glorious sunny day to create yummy things and potter around.

Dappled garden sunlight on our frittata lunch

Dappled garden sunlight on our frittata lunch

Throughout the day, we split our roles really well with Mr. M in the garden in charge of pruning, planting and bringing in all the best the garden had to offer such as fresh herbs, beans and leaves. Other Mr. M was most definitely head chef running a slick kitchen and creating lovely tasty treats. He knocked up this simple lunch frittata and quinoa, broad bean and feta salad plus a banana and chocolate cake baked in time for tea. I took on my favourite role of head chopper and prep chef under Mr. M’s tutelage which is always fun. There was no room for dinner so we popped to the local Butchers Arms pub and put the world to rights as we snacked our way through a couple of their well made starters.

Sunday was a bit of a fresh, rainy day but we pushed on with a proper country stroll to build up an appetite for the buffalo forerib I brought from the farm. The neighbourhood woodlands were like something out of the Lord of the Rings film with huge old trees, pretty moss encrusted stone walls and the odd deer lurching through the shrubbery. An hours stroll was just right and then we were fully ensconced in the kitchen creating the most perfect Sunday lunch.

Sunday lunch in style

Sunday lunch in style

Mr. M’s beets were boiled, roasted in balsamic vinegar and complemented with garden fresh fennel fronds, pan fried greens and a dash of great quality oil. We had a radish and bean salad plus a salmoriglio or Summer thyme sauce made fresh with garden herbs. Central to the table was that wonderful forerib cooked perfectly to 55 degrees by Mr. M and rested whilst his baby Yorkshire puddings puffed up to bursting in the hot oven. Accompanied by a bottle of English red wine from Kenton vineyard in Devon we had the most perfect celebration of everything we did over the weekend.

I feel like I have had the best holiday and guess I now need to get back to the real world. I can only hope that my impending move to the country will facilitate a similar lifestyle and then all will be good with the world.

This week I have been at the International Cheese Awards representing Laverstoke Park Farm on their stand.

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The Awards are basically the Oscars of the cheese world and whilst I have heard about this event for many years, this was my first time there. I find it quite funny that the cheese Oscars take place in Nantwich of all places. What brought it there? Anyway, instead of this little rickety tent and pongy cheese, I was amazed to see the scale of the whole thing.

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4235 cheeses were entered for awards this year over 226 categories. I didn’t know there were that many cheeses, least of all categories in which to enter cheeses. Madness!

After researching the British cheese world, it is clear that we really are in a league of our own. We now outstrip France in terms of number of cheeses boasting 700 against their 600 and we can certainly see some British classics competing and winning hands down against those old traditional French favourites. Roquefort is a thing of the past with a plethora of great blues such as Shropshire Blue, Colston Bassett Stilton and Stichelton coming from across the country. In fact, last year it was a British blue that won the overall prize at the World Cheese Awards and that was the Cornish Blue….and at this week’s International Cheese Awards, it was blue again with Long Clawson dairy producing the Supreme Champion award for their Claxstone Smooth Blue.

Brie is also seeing competition in the soft cheese world with Tunworth and Waterloo holding their own. But it in the hard cheese categories that we really are leagues ahead with the most wonderful cheddars coming from people like Montgomery’s, Keens Farm and Lincolnshire Poacher plus all the fabulous regional classics like Double Gloucester, Lancashire and red Leicester. It really is something to be proud of.

Cutting the curds

Cutting the curds

Filling the brie moulds

Filling the brie moulds

I actually helped our dairy manager make our buffalo milk ‘brie’ last Friday and had such a wonderful time seeing it from the raw milk stage right through to final product. It was a very simple process, with a lot of love thrown in and there you have it. Now I am waiting for my batch to reach its ultimate maturity and then I can sample the benefits of my endeavours.