Lucy will be blogging about her experience undertaking the challenge, and other foodie matters here.
Challenge Day 8 – Sunday
The big event in Ipswich was the start of the Tour of Britain. I watched the pack, and the very lengthy entourage, cycle up the hill through Christchurch Park, just around the corner from where I live along with hundreds of other people wanting to catch a glimpse of Wiggo and Cav. The general view was that no-one could tell which ones they were – but we must have seen them.
Then the general excitement swept me in to town with my friend Gaye to cycle (with what seemed like several thousand others of all ages) round a bike-only circuit through the town centre and the docks, which were looking Mediterranean in the heat and blue sky.
Two circuits later, with a lot of stops and detours to say Hi to people, I got home famished at about 2.30 and quickly made an omelette with Lux farm eggs, rapeseed oil and some of the chorizo and fresh tomato sauce I had made earlier in the week as a trial run for the pasta evening. I’m guessing this cost less than £1. The Lux farm eggs, at £1.10 for 6 are far cheaper than the £1.60-1.80 which seems to be the going rate for supermarket free-range, outdoor eggs.
In the evening I made a big, thin pizza using some of the left-over dough and finished off the tomato sauce, chorizo and some sliced yellow courgettes, (and the last of the ‘free-pass’ mozzarella from Friday). A hot home oven cooked it much quicker than the clay oven, and it was good to be able to see what I was eating. Delicious. Difficult to estimate the cost as I made enough for two (and ate the other half the next evening) but no more than £1 for a portion.
There was still quite a lot of dough over – it’s amazing how much 5kg of flour makes. Not wanting to throw it away in its raw state and as the oven was hot I kneaded it a couple of times and plopped it into a large and a small bread tin and then into the oven. I wasn’t expecting it to do much as it was 48 hours since the dough had ben made so was amazed when 2 very respectable loaves materialised. A bit under-done, as I am a novice bread maker, but very tasty. Just wished I had some butter to spread on it.
Saturday 8th September
The highlight of the day was The Oak Tree Farm CSA Harvest Party in the evening. A few months ago I had bought a leg of pork off Steve, one of the founder members of the Acorn Antics Pig Club http://ipswichpigclub.wordpress.com/. The leg had belonged to one of the Large Black pigs, the first pair to arrive on the Farm last December.
Steve had had it in his freezer for months, but as his wife is vegetarian thought it unlikely they would ever eat it, and at 10lbs it was taking up a lot of space he let me have it at ‘cost price’ of £35.. I de-frosted it for 36 hours sprinkled the skin with salt and cooked it for 5 hours so the crackling was amazingly crunchy and the meat wonderfully soft.
Needless to say it disappeared extremely fast as 30-40 people at the party demolished it with lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and ‘this is the best pork I have ever tasted’. It was really satisfying sharing and eating it on the land it had been raised with the people who had looked after it. The pigs have a very jolly life – a snug straw bale shelter, lots of just-cultivated ground to rootle in (they especially liked playing ‘hunt the carrots’) and other goodies arriving daily from nearby. If you are going to eat meat, I’m sure this is the best way of doing it.
As to the rest of the food at the party, some of it was 30-mile local, as quite a few of us are attempting the Challenge, but plenty probably wasn’t. But it had become obvious at the pizza party the night before, you can’t be too purist when out, or with people who are sharing their food with you –if you want to have a good time. So a few rules were broken, but what the heck – it was dark.
Challenge Day 7, Friday 7th
It was the Clay Oven pizza barbecue tonight so I’d set aside the afternoon to get the oven well fired up and the dough collected from the K-Bar, St Nicholas St, a restaurant in town which has its own bakery. Collecting the dough was straightforward – there was a heaving mass of it in a huge plastic box out of the 5kg bag of Maple Farm flour I had left with them the day before. But the oven did not want to play ball. The kindling would light but the larger sticks would not take a hold – probably because of the lack of a chimney and the fact that the oven was still pretty damp. Resorting to firelighters, and using a bee-keeper’s smoke blower as a mini bellows, we had a sort of fire going after 3 hours when most of the guests arrived, but still more smoke than heat.
Fortunately it was a wonderfully warm and sunny evening and people were happy to wait a while and make their pizzas in the open-air kitchen. The dough was definitely local, and some of the toppings. Mozzarella was declared a one-off wild-card for the evening
Finally we got the first one in the oven
And then a long queue built up of other people waiting their turn as the pizzas were taking a long time to cook – probably because the oven just wasn’t hot enough. We all had something to eat by the end of the evening, and learned what techniques didn’t work, and had a fun time. But reckon that it will get easier each time we use it as it dries out more and we get the hang of how to get the best out of it. Next firing is planned for lunchtime Sunday 30th Sep.
For a number of reasons I have got really behind with my blog so the next entries are a bit retrospective!
Challenge Day 6
I had to drive up to Heveningham, about 20 miles north of Ipswich, to return the Rape Seed Oil Press we had borrowed from Hill Farm Oils as an attraction for our stall at the Ipswich Maritime Weekend in August. The nice people at Hill Farm have been really kind – lending us the press, twice, allowing us to use their place at the Festival, and giving us some of their oil and mayonnaise for our cooking events and raffle hampers. The Press was a real draw for all the family! Most people had no idea what it, or the little black seeds were.
All the seed is grown locally. The oil is made at the Farm by a very simple screw press, filter and bottle process and can be bought in loads of outlets, including supermarkets. http://www.hillfarmoils.com/index.html It is equivalent in quality and price to a good extra virgin olive oil, but has a higher smoke point so is good for frying with as well. The taste is nuttier than olive oil and I have been using it for all sorts of cooking this month. The 5l container I bought from them should last me well into 2013, though it doesn’t pour well into smaller containers – loads dribbles down the side when it is full. I need to track down a screw-on spout.
Some people complain that rape seed flowers cause, or exacerbates their hay-fever. The (Wikipedia) jury seems to be out on a direct cause and effect, but the amount of pollen produced by tens of thousands of flowers per sq.m., and fields of several thousand of sq.m. is enormous and some irritation to sensitive nasal passages would be understandable. There is a down-side to almost any product, but with the demand for, and price of olive oil going up all the time (as well as the cost of transporting it here from the Mediterranean countries) home-grown rape-seed is a great alternative. Only a small amount grown in this country is for human consumption. Most of it is used as animal feed and in bio-diesel.
Home to another bowl of yesterday’s soup and bread and then I zipped out to the
People’s Community Garden with Gemma to take out the sand dome (big relief that the oven didn’t collapse) and make the first fire, which took a long time to get going as the oven was still very damp. We munched on my plum museli squares while we were watching, and blowing the fire into life.
Dinner was a bowl of the left-over pasta with tomato, chilli and chorizo from the night before and a green leaf salad grown in a pot in my garden. So a very cheap day food-wise.
Challenge Day 5, Wed 5th September 2012
Breakfast was MUCH improved by chopping up a couple of squares of the museli bake and adding them to my breakfast museli: the same sweet, doughy effect of banana but much tastier. No mid morning hunger-pangs today (or afternoon as I scoffed some more for tea!)
Lunch was a bowl of onion, courgette, and tomato soup (well, more of a ratatouille) made from Oak Tree courgettes and tomatoes, Hill Farm Oil and People’s Community Garden onions.
It’s difficult to price my Oak Tree veg as we pay £7.50 a week through the year, and have to put in work 8 hours of work a month at the Farm in the summer and 4 hours in the winter, and quantities vary, but the cost of the soup was no more than £1.20 for a generous 5 portions. Drizzled with more Rapeseed oil in the bowl, I didn’t miss the lack of butter on the Capel Wholemeal bread – which is quite a dense, moist bake.
The afternoon was spent buying ingredients for the first of our Cook Local evenings that night: Pasta and Plums. When we had planned the menus in June we had expected a wide choice of cheap plums in early September, as last year. But the early blossom in March (before the bees emerged) the rain in April and May (which kept them in their hives) and a late hard frost in June has almost obliterated the plum harvest, as well as the cherries, greengages, apples and pears. It’s the same across France. It’s going to be a really tough year for UK fruit growers. I can see major shortages and high prices in the shops. Maybe it will be the first real sign for most people in the UK of the direct (and disruptive) link between climate change and our food supply. We can’t ‘just import more fruit from elsewhere’ because we have eaten the southern hemisphere’s harvest from last year, and all the northern hemisphere, or at least the parts nearest us, are in the same straights. I think ‘doing without’ will begin to bight for almost all of us this winter. Even those with the money.
I found some large damsons at Kiln Farm Nursery, Kesgrave http://www.kilnfarm.com/ for £4 a kg and Victorias at Grange Farm Shop, Hasketon for £2.99kg. Scary prices but they looked good quality. This was our menu (and the other sources)
Home made pasta in a variety of forms, with the following sauces
1. Tomato & Onion
2. Tomato sauce with Chorizo & Chilli
3. Tomato sauce with courgettes
4. Carbonara (with eggs, bacon and cream)
5. Butternut squash, onion and rosemary
Damsons with sweet cream
Victoria Plum Clafoutis
Sources of ingredients:
Flour & parsley: Maple Farm, Kelsale
Oil: Hill Farm Rapeseed
Milk, cream & crème fraiche: Marybelle
Tomatoes, onions, courgettes, butternut squash, victoria plums: Newbourne Farm Shop
Cheese: Mature Shipcord, Rodwell Farm Dairy
Eggs: Lux Farm
Chorizo: Suffolk Salami Company
Bacon Cubes: Lane Farm
Damsons: grown near Assington, bought from Kiln Farm Shop, Kesgrave
Herbs, garlic & chilli: People’s Community Garden, Ipswich
Honey: Ian Ferguson, Grundisburgh
Sugar: Silver Spoon (Bury St Edmunds)
We had a very good evening, 9 of us learning how to make pasta from Lesley our accomplished chef, sculptor and High School teacher.
And sat down to enjoy it all with a (non-local) glass of wine.
Even with 2 plum desserts and lots of seconds of everything (we didn’t finish it) the cost per head (for 10 people) was about £4 each.
The next 2 Cook Local Evenings are fully booked, but there are still 2 spaces on the Game evening on 26th.
Challenge Day 4
The craving for bananas is not diminishing. I’m getting SO hungry mid morning, and mid afternoon (when I often have toast, butter and jam to keep me going). Toast without butter is so dry. I don’t really want to make cake without butter or margerine and cakes take quite a bit of sugar (OK in Local terms as we can use Silver Spoon but I don’t react well to too much sugar). Could I do something with museli? Museli bars?? All the internet recipes included butter, or marg, or peanut butter, then I found a ‘fat-free’ one with apple puree and had a brainwave.
I had a bowl of stewed Victoria plums from a doorstep in Rushmere (£1.50 for about 1kg) in the fridge which I was planning to put in kilner jars and store for later. But it had been there since the weekend and I hadn’t got round to it. I had had a bowl for lunch but there was loads left.
I chopped these up and added half to a big bowl of museli and stirred it around. The mix seemed a bit loose so I added a bit more museli, then it was a bit dry so I just piled in the rest of the plums and stirred it till there wasn’t any visible juice and the mixture was holding together quite well. It seemed rather tart (I hadn’t put much sugar in the plums) so I added a couple of tablespoon of local (Grundisburgh) honey and some more Silver Spoon (Bury) Granulated till it was pleasantly sweet. I piled it all into a baking tray, squished it down level and put it into my oven at Gas 5.
I then cycled up to Victoria Nurseries to buy some Marybelle milk (£1.15 a litre). I’m not used to buying milk, after years of doorstep deliveries and had forgotten to stop off on the way back from Kesgrave yesterday. Still, the exercise is good for me.
By the time I got back, checked my e-mails and made a cup of tea the museli bake was going a nice brown colour around the edges and was firm on top (perhaps 40 minutes overall?).
15 minutes later it had cooled down enough to cut into squares. I ate 3 straight away. Brilliantly chewy, doughy, fruity, sweet, nutty and oaty. A fantastic fat-free and low sugar snack. Big success!! Probably cost about £3 for 24 squares
Supper was a repeat of yesterday’s – I had enjoyed it so much I wanted it again, but with some just-arrived sweetcorn from Oak Tree http://www.the-oak-tree.co.uk/ Veg Box, delivered by Inga just in time. A particularly good box this week:
Come and visit the farm next Saturday (15th). We are looking for 18 more members for next year. Good company, great produce, lots of fun – and you can’t get more local food if you live in Ipswich and don’t have an allotment or garden you can grow stuff in.
Challenge Day 3:
No raspberries left, and I can’t have a chopped nectarine -my other standard summer topping on my museli – so breakfast seemed very dull. I am really missing bananas, not helped by seeing my son Michael munching one while Skyping me last night from Iowa! Not deliberately.
Lunch was the final portion of the marrow soup, with the last of the Palmers wholemeal loaf as toast.
The toast seemed really dry so I dunked it in the soup. Butter could be my 3rd Wildcard – I love it on toast, or even just in thin slices sliced off a block straight from the fridge (guilty secret). Lurpack Semi-salted is so creamy – my daily treat. But I have been trying to wean myself off it for the last month or so in anticipation of the Challenge. I’m thinking I could survive a month without butter, and will probably need to have rice as my final wildcard to give me some starch variety, in addition to potatoes and bread. I do have a tiny knob of local butter in the freezer – the end of a pack I bought last November made by Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses. But they only make it when they have spare milk (and time), which they don’t at the moment. I was going to save that for omelettes – just not the same with oil.
Kirsty has discovered a source of local butter (see her blog) Domini Dairy near Diss, who make it from untreated milk and also sell it at Wyken Farmers Market near Ixworth on Saturdays. Slightly nearer Ipswich but still a good 20 miles, or 40 minutes drive, each way. Not very low-carbon, but if one of us went and bought for the other butter-lovers it might be justifiable…? Difficult decision, but all of us are doing other things this Saturday, which suggests that it is not THAT crucial to our lives. We’ll just have to do without, or get creative.
This afternoon I went to talk to Sarah and Dan, the two Class 6 teachers at Heath Primary School, Kesgrave, on the edge of Ipswich. They are planning a Local Food theme for their year-group and will be taking them to visit the Marybelle dairy to see the short production chain from cow to bottle. They would like their students to appreciate the produce of the countryside around Ipswich, and that not all food has to come from a Supermarket. They are also hoping to have some ‘local school dinners’. I left them a pile of our leaflets – Sarah and Dan will give them out to their classes and ask them to persuade their families to start talking about where their food comes from and to try and have one ‘local meal’ in September. I’m going back in October to spend an afternoon with the classes – and see what they have discovered. It’s really encouraging that schools can break out of the confines of the National Curriculum to do some practical, ‘real life’ projects.
I needed to do something with a bag of ‘cooking tomatoes’ I had bought from Newbourne Farm Shop last week (£1 for 800g of ripe plum tomatoes). Some of them were going soft but they were very fleshy with the great flavour that comes with tomatoes ‘on the turn’ at this time of year. Deciding to do a ‘proper tomato sauce’ I chopped up 2 large onions I had bought from the People’s Community Garden on Saturday (20p each) and gently fried them in a large saucepan with some Hill Farm rapeseed and a chopped up garlic bulb (also 20p from the PCG). Meanwhile I dropped the tomatoes, a few at a time into boiling water for a minute or so, and then into cold water, so the skins easily came off, and I chopped them into 1cm cubes, approximately and added them to the onions, with some salt, pepper and a teaspoon of sugar. It was all pretty wet, and the saucepan pretty full, but a steady simmer with the lid off for 45 minutes, with the occasional stir to stop it sticking to the base, produced a wonderfully thick and intensely flavoured ‘pure tomato sauce’.
Needing a quick supper before going to Woodbridge for a showing of the In Transition 2 movie, I boiled up some little potatoes I had bought from the PCG (50p for about 500g), grilled some Revetts (Wickham Market) chipolatas bought from Newbourne Farmshop (the 4 I had cost about 80p) and boiled the last of the runner beans from last week’s Oak Tree veg box. With a large spoonful of the home-made tomato sauce (who needs ketchup?) I had a fantastically tasty meal for about £1.50. I had heard about Revetts’ sausages but never had them before – they definitely lived up to their reputation.
Saturday 1st September: Challenge Day 1
The lack of banana on my breakfast museli was more than made up for by some raspberries bought yesterday for 50p from a roadside stall in Newbourne. Bags of zingy flavour and the rest of the box to look forward to tomorrow.
I needed a quick lunch to take out with me so heated up a portion of courgette, onion and potato soup made on Thursday. The courgettes were 50p from a house in Rushmere Village that almost always has homegrown produce for sale on its porch. The rest of the veg were from Lux Farm, just around the corner on Playford Road, costing another 50p. Even allowing for a little Hill Farm Rape seed oil and a clove of garlic, each portion of soup cost about 20p and will give me 6 lunches. A couple of slices of Palmer’s wholemeal bread sandwiched together with Hill Farm mayonnaise (a good savoury substitute for butter on bread) and a Newbourne Discovery apple completed my picnic, quickly stuffed into my backpack with some old clothes.
I had to get to the People’s Community Garden (on the Maidenhall Allotments, south east Ipswich) by 9am to get things ready for our Challenge Launch Event: building a clay oven and the Garden Open Day. While stopping off to buy some copies of the East Anglian Daily Times (including one for my Mum) as we had a really good feature article about the Challenge Susannah from the PCG phones me to say that no sand had been delivered to the site (a crucial ingredient to mix with the clay) so an emergency dash to the nearest builders’ merchants open is required.
By the time I arrived the tables were set out for the Open Day with a whole range of Garden-grown fresh vegetables for sale. Onions, potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, sweetcorn, courgettes and 3 different coloured beans – green, yellow and purple. I’ve visited the Garden several times in the last 6 months but only just discovered that all of their produce is available to buy at a very reasonable price (whatever you think is reasonable) on a Pick Your Own basis. They are open Monday-Wednesday, and Friday 9.30am to 4pm. The best source of cheap, fresh local veg in Ipswich. I stocked up with onions and garlic – two of my staples.
The Clay Oven building – a good-natured collaborative effort by about a dozen people – went in fits and starts but by the end of the day we were all pleased with what had been achieved, and had learned a lot:
First we made a big spherical pile of sand on the base which had been built a couple of years ago.
Meanwhile the rest of the crew were busy puddling the clay and sand mix:
After a whole the wellies were dispensed with:
Dinner was a trial run of the Beef Olives we are planning to do at our Cook Local evening on 12th September. Little rolls of topside from Lux Farm stuffed with mix of onion, mushrooms, garlic, breadcrumbs and egg, tied up with string.
A bit fiddly, so I’m glad I practiced. Fried and then gently simmered in home-made beef stock from Lux Farm beef bones and served with my Oak Tree Farm CSA potatoes, carrots and runner beans. Delicious, and costing about £2.50. More than I normally spend on dinner ingredients but it was a Saturday night
Friday 31st August: Challenge Day -1
Yes, we have no bananas – well for the next month at least. I’ve had a mug of tea and a banana with my museli for breakfast every day for as long as I can remember but with only 3 exotic Wildcards to chose from, I don’t want to use them all up before 9am. I can’t face dropping the museli – we haven’t managed to track down any oats from within the 30 Miles – and tea has got to be an essential, so the bananas will have to go.
I’ve written a note to Phil our Dairy Crest Milkman cancelling my deliveries for the next month and leaving it out with a 30-Mile Challenge leaflet to explain why. I feel bad as he is self-employed, so that will mean less money for him, and a doorstep delivery is very convenient, but I can get Marybelle milk (near Halesworth) from a few local shops. My nearest is Victoria Nurseries on Westerfield Road, Ipswich. The milk comes from their own farms, with a mix of Holstein and Jersey cows that make wonderfully rich and tasty milk. They do very little to it apart from pasteurising, filtering, cooling and bottling it. The super-long-life of big-dairy milk is achieved by intensive mixing to damage most of the good bacteria, and the taste.
Marybelle are the only milk-producers of any size in Suffolk and deliver to homes in north Suffolk and shops throughout the county. With steady cuts to the price paid by the big milk companies and supermarkets which dominate the market, and the ever-rising costs of production over 60% of dairy farms in East Anglia have gone out of business in that last 10 years. Its a long time since we have been self-sufficient in milk – the West Country has better (wetter) weather and grass – but let’s value the few that do remain.
My local baker’s shop: Bakers Delight on the corner of Westgate and Crown Streets, closes tomorrow. I have been buying their fantastic Organic Brown bread made from Marriages flour (milled at Chelmsford) for at least 10 years. The shop lease has come up for renewal with the rent going up. Competition from Greggs around the corner hasn’t helped but that’s another local food shop gone in Ipswich. The owners, Capel Bakery, will be selling their bread through Memorable Cheeses in Dial Lane, so I can still get my favourite loaf, but it won’t be as convenient for me and I’ll miss the cheery service from Eunice and Eve. I popped in this morning to say farewell to them. Eunice (left in picture below) will be moving to the Capel shop and Eve is retiring.
The rest of the morning I was buzzing about collecting a selection of delicious local food to take along to BBC Radio Suffolk for a feature on the Food Challenge with James Hazell on the afternoon show. Lots of generous retailers were keen to help: a mini local cheese platter from Memorable Cheeses, a loaf of wholemeal bread from Pakenham flour made by Palmers Bakers and tomatoes, carrots and the first Discovery apples from Newbourne Farm Shop. Supplemented by a pack of Fairfield crisps and some Hillfarm mayonnaise I already had, I got a very warm welcome from James when I walked into the studio and offered him lunch. Radio interviews are definitely easier with props – at least for a novice like me.