Kirsty’s blog

12th September 2013

It’s already nearly halfway into the challenge and despite a slightly late start, I’m getting into it at last. My wildcards are still a bit of a mess but tea and chocolate are certainties. Veggie stock and yeast extract have been used but I’m lumping them into the ‘spices’ category this year. A lot of yeast extract comes from Felixstowe anyway, or so I keep telling myself. I think it’s brewer’s yeast in the main, but still….

 

July 2013 – gearing up for September!

It seems incredible that it has almost been a year since the last challenge.  With a sparkly new 2013 challenge leaflet now ready to go, and a new colour-in calendar for school children available this year, I seized my felt tip pens and brightened up a September calendar ready for another 30 day challenge. First on the page – more cooking classes at the WI kitchen – which I hardly needed persuading to help out with again this year. Such good fun and so much food! I’m already envisaging more veggie delights and pasta making.

Speaking of which, the new challenge literature has prompted a review of how I’ve changed my diet since the 2012 challenge.  More fresh pasta has been made, much to my surprise. My arm muscles must be stronger since carrying a babe in arms, because it seems a lot easier to do the 15 minute knead now.  Using the eggs we’re getting from the Oak Tree Farm’s chickens, the pasta is practically luminous.

Victoria Nurseries continues to feature for their stocks of Marybelle cream. The occasional batch of butter has been made -admittedly it’s not a weekly undertaking – but I’m sure it will be in September. I’ve only just finished the frozen butter I bought from Domini Dairy in Diss last year – still (naturally) sunset yellow and very tasty. I’m sad to see no closer producers will make butter for us yet – perhaps there is some more sustained cajoling to be done this year!

The most noticeable change I’ve made is switching to a local milkman. Foulger’s in Woodbridge are brilliant and supplying raw milk from the Calf at Foot Dairy. It’s raw, it’s from pastured Jersey cows, and it’s frankly delicious. We were amazed a few weeks ago to hear from Adrian at Foulger’s that they are struggling to keep up with demand for the local raw milk, which is fantastic! I still have yet to source local yoghurt from an Ipswich outlet; there’s work to be done in the supply chain. Either that or yoghurt making will be my skill for 2013 🙂

I haven’t made soft cheese since last year so hope to pick this up again for the challenge. It’s so easy but requires a big supply of milk. Whilst our dream of getting a dairy cow at our community farm remains a lofty idea, we’ll be making cheese on Marybelle’s. A new cheese mould sits unused in a cupboard, just tempting me to try my hand at hard cheese too. For now, we have been enjoying Rodwell Farm Dairy‘s Shipcord, sold at an extremely reasonable price through the non-profit Ripple Food Co-op. It’s glorious!

In general I feel the dairy in my diet is more local, which is great, but I have regressed to more imported foods in other food groups. The back end of my pregnancy saw an insatiable craving for all things citrus, with clementines taking the fore. With decreasing guilt each time I ventured to Global Fruits in Ipswich almost every other day for them. I still buy lemons and oranges regularly so imagine they’ll be firmly on the wildcard list. Imported beans and pulses also feature daily. Since getting solar panels and a low wattage slow cooker I’ve been cooking a lot of imported adzuki, kidney and black turtle beans. Perhaps the Hodmedods local beans will be back on the menu in September – I hear their range has expanded so I’m looking forward to trying some new things.

The final big (monumental) change I’ve made in 2013 is the long deliberated decision to eat some local meat. I’m a vegetarian with one exception now – I am eating some of the pork reared by my husband at the Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm where he’s now a grower and Pig Club member. I see these pigs ploughing our land and having fun in the process, so the pork that fills our freezer every 6 months now end up on my plate too. After 7 years as a veggie this has been a big deal for me, but as a friend and fellow farm member points out, this occasional ‘happy meat’ sits comfortably with my outlook. As a colleague keeps pointing out, I should label myself an ‘ethical omnivore’ now – with strong emphasis on the ethical. It’s up for review once I’ve finished breastfeeding a hungry little boy, but for now the extra protein is welcome.

With August round the corner I’m already looking forward to another challenge. This September sees the anticipated weaning of our 5 month old so I’m hoping he will also embrace some local produce. As our taste test on Radio Suffolk proved last year, local tomatoes and carrots are a lot tastier, I’m sure baby will agree!  Onwards and upwards.

 

Challenge Day 30:

The last 10 days of the challenge were really enjoyable; I really felt I’d settled into it and I enjoyed the excuse to cook properly. I know cooking is not something every family has time for, and I have considered myself in the category in the past, but I have made time this month and it’s been a brilliant excuse to experiment and try new recipes.

Highlights included veggie lasagne, local melon for breakfast, the glorious simplicity of new potatoes with garden mint, a huge local roast dinner, and some repeated favourites learned at the Cook Local session; mushroom ragout, barlotti barlotto, apple crumble and butternut squash curry. Not to mention lots of vegetable based cakes, more pizza parties and lots of simple lunches.

How did the Cook Local recipes work out 2nd time round? Brilliantly, if I do say so myself! These are not hard recipes… there is time taken in peeling and chopping but they are do-able for most people who can use a knife and stir a pan!  And full of so much colour and freshness. I really felt I was feeding the foetus properly at last! I’ll add these recipes and the photos of my efforts to the Recipes page at some point, for those who want to give them a go. The barlotto takes time, but once I’d given in to the idea of a slow leisurely evening in the kitchen I really enjoyed it.

Green veggie lasagne

The lasagne I made was the real experiment. Without a thick passata I just wasn’t sure it would be very good. I’d already made a batch of lasagne sheets and dried them, so the actual construction of the meal was quite quick. We made a bechamel sauce with the butter I’d made and local milk and flour, and a filling of Trimley mushrooms and the Oak Tree’s french beans and courgettes, which gave it a fresh crunch. This is definitely one to repeat, and full of flavour despite home made ‘passata’ and a lack of my usual lashings of swiss marigold bouillon powder.

The simple lunches of local ingredients were perhaps the most enjoyable part of the last 10 days. Cravings for new potatoes were quashed with Maple Farm’s offerings and some really strong mint from the garden. The melon from the Oak Tree was a lovely change to my breakfast toast, and a tray of roast vegetables took minutes to chop up and then forget about in the oven in half an hour. Our housemate blended hers up for a soup which tasted delicious.

Maple Farm tatties and garden mint

(Gala?) Melons from the Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm

Roasted local veg

Tom tucks into a local roast

There was also the usual fun of autumnal preserving and baking which I’ve loved doing for the last few years. I rarely remember from year to year what works and what doesn’t so it’s always a trial (filled with errors!), but elderberry at this time of year makes an amazing jelly. We also had them in crumble at a friend’s with sloes in – pretty tart but scope to add sugar for a sweet tooth. Tom also made a massive batch of marrow and apple chutney. Apples are in short supply this year, it’s been a disastrous growing season, but who doesn’t have marrows to shift at this time of year? Although a little pricey, Aspall’s cyder vinegar can be used for a local chutney, with Silver Spoon sugar.

Finally our stash of jam jars have been filled!

The best cake recipe I tried was an adaptation of a bitter and low fat cake called Chocolate Heartache, using – yes folks – local aubergine. I picked up mine at Newbourne Farm Shop a few weeks ago and had been deliberating what to do with it. Cooked and blended, and added to local flour, eggs and honey, (and of course my chocolate wildcard), made an almost healthy cake. I’m told cocoa and dark chocolate have antioxidants splashing around in them, and without the fat and sugar found in a normal cake, this one was almost virtuous. And fresh from the oven, it even had little pockets of melted aubergine oozing out! Not the prettiest creation but taste made up for it 🙂

‘Chocolate Heartache’ Aubergine Cake

So after a frenzy of cooking, the challenge has reached an end. I’m looking forward to getting back to citrus fruits to make lemon and orange cakes tomorrow, and really craving soya sauce and egg noodles! But I’ve discovered a surprising abundance of food produced and grown locally. I can’t imagine doing this during the hungry gap – I would not have survived – but I think an annual 30 mile month is definitely possible. Boring breakfasts were brightened up eventually. Hill Farm Mayonnaise on toast helped here. I also found some local jam made in Bentley with Victoria Plums, which gave a sweet change. But toasted wheat flakes and winter porridge are something I’m looking forward to! Not to mention currants and all the nuts I usually add to the bowl.

Now is not quite the time to properly reflect on the month and what we’ve learned, but for now I can at least say, it’s been a challenge! But one I’m glad I undertook 🙂

 

Challenge Day 20:

After last night’s Cook Local session at the WI kitchen I’m really invigorated about the last 10 days of the challenge. Sourcing, cooking and eating 5 courses of delicious local veggie grub was certainly a good way to renew my pledge to eat local! I was amazed at what our volunteer chef Lesley helped us cook up – from delicious creamy mushroom ragout to spicy squash-filled curry, the variety of local produce available at this time of year seems endless.

Apple – Butter!

I was tasked with sourcing ingredients for the evening, which in typical fashion was left until the day of the course to get cracking on!  Although I’d already got apples from Thrandesdon on Monday and collected Domini Dairy’s raw Jersey cream butter on the way. Both looked and tasted delicious! The shapes, sizes and colours of the 10 different bags of apples were quite surprising, and the butter was an almost unbelievable yellow!

I managed to shift my work days to allow a whole day of preparation, and as I got to the end of a 12 hour day yesterday, at last I fully appreciated the task it must be for some people to stock their cupboards for the challenge. I’m lucky enough to get a weekly veg box from the Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm, but without this, finding local veg in Ipswich could be tricky, especially without transport… I generally cycle everywhere but yesterday had to get in the car and drive to Tattingstone, Newbourne and Bentley to get everything I needed. These places are certainly possible by bike with more time, but I’ve realised local food needs to be made a lot more accessible to people in Ipswich.

Taking off our venue hire costs, I had about £50 to spend for 12 people, and from the outset this seemed a lot. Buying meat for £50 would have been tricky, but for veg, I thought, there’d be money to spare. But I was amazed at how easy it was to spend £25 on local cheese, which averages at around £2.50 per 100g. Buy-one-get-one-free cheddar in the supermarket is a lot cheaper. But in the spirit of supporting local producers, and knowing the herds at our local dairies have a good life, I decided a cheese board to complement our local apple tasting session was a must.

The vegetables themselves were very reasonable. I had great fun in Newbourne Farm Shop quizzing the owner on the provenance of his veg. A lot was grown on site, and some was sourced from a farm in Tattingstone. Lots of Suffolk produce was available there, all well labelled, along with a couple of imports. The Newbourne peppers were a little smaller than the huge imported Argentinian ones, although at a roadside stall a few streets away I found big orange and yellow ones, grown by an organic gardener, which were enough to rival any tropical imposters!

To give some example prices, I paid 90p each for some huge cabbages, £1 for 1lb of mushrooms, 88p for a bag of 4 big onions, 96p for 4 big-ish courgettes and about 40p a pepper. The biggest spend was on Newbourne’s speciality – tomatoes. £2.26 for a kilo. I’d need to venture into a supermarket to compare, but this all seemed really good value. They were so helpful they even dug up a celery for me for the curry, despite not yet being ready for the shelves – I was well chuffed!

On my way back I stopped at Hubbard’s Hall Farm in Bentley, off the Wherstead Road. Yet again, I was bowled away by the farmer’s interest in the challenge and his keenness to help. I was desperate for leeks by this point, and with barely a word exchanged he disappeared for 5 minutes and returned with 2 muddy specimens, freshly dug!  His yellow chillies, raspberries and peppers were all delicious and very cheap. He even found me a thyme plant for our mushroom ragout recipe, what a fantastic gent!

In sum, local veg is available, it just takes some exploring to find. We have lots of information on the producers and retailers pages of this site, but we know we need to do a lot more to cross reference them so you know what you can buy where.  I went into a couple of farm shops not sure what I’d find, and often found them full of lots of English vegetables, but lacking more on Suffolk produce. More and better labelling would help – many labels said “English”, “Suffolk”, or “Local”, which is not much help to a 30 Mile challenge participant! Asking questions  of the right people behind the counter, like I had to do, can compensate for lack of good labelling; you’ll be surprised to find out about local farms you never knew existed and what they grow.

Despite a hectic afternoon, I found almost everything we needed to make some really lovely dishes.  If you stumble on some local ingredients, or find a new shop or roadside stall, do let us know by commenting on our retailers and producers pages; we’d love your input 🙂

 

Challenge Day 14:

By lunchtime tomorrow we’ll be half way through the 30 day challenge, it’s rushing by! This prospect dawned on me this morning and I decided to take matters into my own hands and attempt the apparently easy task of making butter. And was amazed to find, it is indeed VERY EASY!

My glorious golden butter!

Many warnings had come my way from apologetic dairies and friends with cows, about what a waste of time and money it is – with the figures of 1 gallon of cream to 1 pound of butter quoted. Hence the reason most of the local dairies don’t bother with it and just sell the cream. OK so I didn’t make loads but I made enough to use sparingly and last a week I reckon – from one little tub of Marybelle cream! Check out the results!

So for anyone who wants to try it, get hold of a tub of cream and a tupperware and get shaking. It really is that simple. I poured mine into a tall tupperware and shook for a about 5 minutes. It was quickly becoming like whipped cream and I wondered had I done something wrong? It was working much quicker than I was led to expect (half an hour to 1 hour’s shaking was on the recipe I used!).

The separation point, when I started draining off the buttermilk

Worried I had started shaking before bringing the cream to room temperature I stopped, carried on with my work for half an hour until it warmed up, and then started shaking again.  Within a minute the butter had solidified and was bumping around inside the tupperware!

I poured out the buttermilk which had separated from the solid butter, and added very cold water to rinse out the last of the liquid. Lack of rinsing leads to rancid butter quite quickly apparently  so I did this 3 times, before getting a long spoon and pushing the last of the water out. Finally I ground in some Maldon salt (probably only 1/4 teaspoon, if that), mixed well and spooned the butter into a dish. Voila! That’s one less wildcard, hurrah!

Ingredients, equipment and final product! DO try this at home 🙂

So I’m back down to 4 wildcards now; rice, yeast extract, tea and chocolate, although this week I haven’t had any rice. The pasta is keeping well and I made a wonderful tomato and veg sauce – recreated from our pasta course – to go with it. I blanched fresh tomatoes in boiling water (a first for me – what an easy way to peel tomatoes!), and added them to a chopped and fried garlic clove, onion and courgette. Simmered down for half an hour, it was delicious on fresh pasta for my lunches for the last few days, stored in reused jam jars in the fridge.  A friend doing the challenge was saying how boring it was with such a restricted diet. At times I’ve agreed, but with such fresh ingredients I feel I could never bore of pasta and sauces!

Chunky tomato and courgette sauce

Big carb-heavy lunches have allowed me to have quick small dinners, sometimes just a couple of buttered sweetcorn cobs and some fruit, with a slice of late-night toast.  I also had a big lunch yesterday in Aldeburgh after a meeting, when I finally bit the bullet (or more accurately, the cod) and had fish and chips. It felt like I’d been short on protein without my usual dose of nuts and lentils, so with a heavy heart but hungry belly I had some fish. It’s been a number of years since I ate fish, and it was an uncomfortable experience making the decision. Maybe the pregnancy hormones are clouding my judgement, but as I sat next to the fisherman’s hut on the beach,  I was sure it was pretty local, and managed to enjoy it!

In sum, it’s going quite well at this half-way point, albeit with good and bad days. In my guilt at feeling I’m not doing the challenge ‘properly’, I’m wanting to take chocolate off the menu and cut the wildcards down even further to the standard 3. Whilst I haven’t been eating much actual chocolate (except the jar of organic Italian chocolate spread that returned in my bag from Italy), I have been using cocoa.

Chocolate and marrow cakes

When faced with a marrow glut, I decided the best thing to do was to make cakes with it. No one can resist courgette and chocolate cake, so why not try it with marrow? With Silver Spoon sugar from the Bury factory, an Oak Tree Farm egg and Maple Farm plain flour, I ended up with a pretty irresistible creation, one I’ll definitely repeat. Which reminds me, there’s lots more marrow to get through, and it’s a Friday night after all…. 🙂

 

Challenge Day 10:

Stuffed marrow and local potatoes and sweetcorn

A much better few days following a weekend of having time to do food shopping and cook! Tom made some really delicious quiches with Marybelle creme fraiche and cream, and local french beans and Capel mushrooms.  The wildcard non-local butter went into the pastry which was frustrating, but it’s good to know there is some somewhere in Suffolk, even if we haven’t made it to get some yet.

We also had a delicious baked marrow last night, halved and scored and sprinkled with paprika, tumeric and topped with cheese. (I confess the cheese was only 30 mile local to the french village where it was bought by a friend last week, we just had to use it up! But this would work just as well with a Suffolk Blue from Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses). The sweetcorn from our veg box is delicious at the moment, as are the Maple Farm potatoes, roasted to perfection with some rosemary and sage from the garden.

Following our brilliant pasta-making class on Wednesday I decided to strike while the memory was fresh and make a big batch of lasagne and tagliatelle, using Maple Farm‘s local flour and eggs, with a splash of Hill Farm rapeseed oil. I mixed 300g of plain white flour with 3 eggs and some oil, kneaded for 10 minutes before feeding into the pasta machine. You don’t need a machine – rolling pin and knife work fine – but they sure help speed things up!

The trusty 1980s machine!

These machines are fantastic devices; mine’s a 20 year old relic left largely unused in my Mum’s cupboard until now. They have a number of flattening settings to get the pasta really thin. You feed the dough through about 7 settings, each one pressing it thinner than the last. Then when it’s lovely and thin, it’s ready for the cut – my machine has a flat fettucine/tagliatelle option, and a thin spaghetti one. Fresh pasta is so much less faff than I expected, and the ingredients are so basic.

If you want to get hold of a machine, I’m thinking of designating mine a Community Pasta Machine – willing to lend out to anyone in Ipswich wanting to have a go.  On doing a quick google, Lakeland in Ipswich sell them, but they come with a heavy price tag (£20ish). Best to ask around and borrow…. I’m sure others have them in cupboards collecting dust! We harvested a bag of tomatoes from my in-laws’ garden last week so I’m planning to make a tomato sauce with all the oregano that’s going mad in the garden.  For now, I just managed a super quick lunch with grated Shipcord cheese and pepper. Simple but pretty tasty when the pasta’s fresh.

A quick lunch: fresh pasta with local cheese.

Our other success has been my husband’s now well-honed technique of making bread with the Maple Farm Flour (you can see an example snuck into the edge of the first photo above). His concerns that this flour wasn’t of the ‘strong’ variety have soon quietened down. He’s made some great loaves, although I admit I am tiring of toast for breakfast. So I add to Steve’s plea; if anyone can find local cereal I would certainly be interested. I’m hoping to find local yoghurt and start having it with fruit as an alternative. Local fruit is quite easy to find at the moment. We’ve had some great early apples from the roadside in Tuddenham, put into a lovely crumble which I spiced up with some Suffolk raspberry cordial, added when reducing the apples.  But we had to use my butter wildcard again in the crumble, hhmph! We cycled out to Gosling’s farm shop near Trimley yesterday for some of their last few punnets of strawberries. Pretty pricey (£2.50 for a large punnet) but really delicious. Foraged blackberries would definitely be a cheaper option, and great for a kids activity.  We missed Dave Mason’s foraging walk in Woodbridge on Sunday but hope it went well, there’s lots of wild food to find out there.

So here’s to a few days of pasta dinners, I’m looking forward to trying my favourite mushroom lasagne recipe with 30 mile ingredients. Report back coming soon!

A lot of pasta!

Challenge Day 6:

My rather inedible baking attempt.

I’m full of self-loathing after a spectacular failure yesterday.  I didn’t manage breakfast after making a rather inedible Maple Farm loaf; the bread knife just wouldn’t go through it! With that and not taking enough lunch to work (just potato salad and some tomatos from the garden), by 3pm I had to halt the onset of a horrendous migraine with an emergency trip into Sainsbury’s for some carbs from their bakery.  And it didn’t even work! Local food at the Brewery Tap was cancelled and the evening spent in a darkened room 🙁

Luckily Tom had made some veggie soup with Oak Tree chard and courgettes, and had a more successful bread-making experience, so I managed to have a local dinner after all, albeit peering under my blindfold in agony.  But whatever way you look a it, I need more than 3 wildcards. Butter, yeast extract and rice have been joined by tea, wheat flakes and chocolate in the last 2 days. I’m craving all sorts of other non-local items too.  Our housemate reminded me that I am pregnant, so one expects cravings, but I’d hoped to get through the first week without cheating. My colleague cheered me up by suggesting that as I’m eating for two, the baby is also allowed 3 wildcards! It will certainly make it less miserable for now, but I hope to get hold of local butter, and cut out the wheatflakes once my bread-making skills have improved!

Pasta joy!

On a sunnier note, we had a FANTASTIC pasta-making class on Wednesday evening. A  lovely group of people came and really got stuck into the cooking (and clearing up, thanks guys!). I was drooling over the carbonara with local bacon but managed to stick to the veggie options: roast pumpkin and rosemary, tomato and courgette, and a veggie version of a carbonara, with Marybelle cream and cheese and some tomatoes for sweetness. It was all so delicious I felt like I was in a restaurant by the time we all sat down, aprons on and knackered from all the experimentation with pasta machines! If there are still spaces (check with Lucy) I’d definitely recommend coming along to one of the others over the next few weeks.

We’re off the the People’s Community Garden tonight to make local pizza, so it’s time to start chopping courgettes and tomatos for toppings!  Here’s to better progress next week once I’ve found time to stock the cupboards this weekend.

Challenge Day 4: 

As expected my partner Tom has caved and decided to have oats as a wildcard.  His inability to resist free food also led to a banana on Sunday, which were being thrown out to passers by at the Multicultural Festival in Alexandra Park. It was painful to be surrounded by lots of lovely Bangladeshi food which I couldn’t eat, but I managed to resist it, and the banana!

Which prompts consideration of our first dilemma. Free food.  Being offered non-local cake  and having to decline. And even trickier, saying no to whole meals lovingly prepared by friends and family. It’s rude to say no, and whilst I know my mother-in-law’s kitchen is largely stocked by a productive vegetable garden, I can hardly audit her entire larder. Or anyone else’s for that matter.

Ipswich Pig Club and their pork – not on my place but a hit with guests!

A possible answer came last night.  Simply be the host whenever possible! We invited family here for a 30-mile meal instead, of local Ipswich Pig Club pork, roasted Maple Farm new potatoes, and The Oak Tree Farm‘s courgettes baked with Marybelle cream. Steamed local beans and carrots bulked up my veggie plate which were wonderfully fresh. I didn’t quite manage a Tuddenham apple crumble, but it’s on the menu later this week if I manage to make some butter!

Constantly playing hostess could become exhausting, so a more realistic approach would be to accept the occasional invite to a non-local meal. The food challenge is a conversation point and a shared meal is the perfect opportunity to spread the word about it and get others thinking about provenance.   Lots of people aren’t used to fielding questions about where they buy their food (the supermarket seems to be a standard norm) but I think asking questions can be thought-provoking – even if a further explainer about the challenge is needed to explain your unhealthy interest in their fridge’s contents!

Even retailers are often flummoxed (or sometimes offended) by seemingly innocent questions.  A few weeks ago I excitedly asked a local greengrocer where he got his crown prince squashes. We grown them at the Oak Tree Farm and I was surprised to see some on sale so early. He looked at me like I was a pre-school infant and replied very slowly “they’re what we sell in the shop”.  But persevering with questions like this can also get retailers to think about their sourcing policies, which can only be a good thing, even if you get a few raised eyebrows or confused faces.

If you’re still deliberating a dinner invite in the coming month, there’s an even bolder approach, which was discussed in our early Transition meetings last winter.  Someone had the idea of getting others to be a meal ‘sponsor’; or to be precise, asking those who won’t undertake the challenge themselves to support it by cooking one local meal for a challenge participant during the month. Any takers?! I’d be interested in what others think about this. The hardliner in me thinks it’s cheating to gorge on exotic delicacies whilst away from one’s own kitchen, but it would be a bore to cancel all social occasions, and rather demanding to ask your kindly host for a 30-mile meal! I’m parking the dilemma for now and concentrating on my own kitchen, but I’m sure we’ll all have this one thrown at us over the coming weeks.

Challenge Day 2: A somewhat stunted start, but….

Having spent all of this week poorly and largely housebound, I felt rather unprepared for the challenge start on Saturday. Having cancelled our milk from Dairy Crest I ventured out on Friday afternoon in search of Marybelle milk – found at Victoria Nurseries on Westerfield Road, along with some Maple Farm flour. So I’d at least baked some bread in time for morning toast on day 1.  But I must confess I have made a couple of errors already. I gulped my usual cuppa in zombie mode this morning, forgetting until this afternoon that tea is not one of my 3 wildcards! A celebratory meal made by my in-laws for visiting family last night also contained some non-local elements. 30 mile food is not on everyone’s menu so I had to accept that this social occasion would set me back. In good faith I have resolved to start my challenge properly on Monday.

Apple juice tastings with Dave at Ipswich Food Co-op last year.

But by and large, it’s going well. My partner Tom made some fantastic bean burgers on Friday with some Suffolk fava beans, spiced up with some local Rushmere chillis – great reheated for a snack. The recipe is on the Recipes page. My first local loaf was a good effort, despite being a bit dense, and has sustained me most of today with toast for breakfast and a cheese sandwich with Rodwell Dairy cheese for lunch. A Tuddenham apple and and some raspberries from the Transition Community Orchard made a nice little lunch, washed down with Dave Penny’s Old Hall Orchard apple juice – just delicious. You can get Dave’s juice at the Ipswich Ripple Food Co-op that a number of us help run every fortnight from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Find out more about it here if you’re interested. Dave’s apple juice is the best I’ve had bar none.

As I debate tonight’s dinner, I’ve already realised my wildcards are not realistic. Initial decisions led to rice, yeast extract and butter.  As a veggie I need to get my vitamin B12 from non-animal sources and my beloved yeast extract contains buckets of the stuff. It’s great on toast, and I use it to flavour almost every dish I make. Risotto is my favourite comfort food, great with all kinds of veg, and arborio rice contains a fair amount of protein. Whilst these first two have already proved essential (yeast extract on this morning’s toast, and risotto with local courgettes for yesterday’s lunch), the butter is going to have to go in favour of tea. Sometimes peppermint from the garden in hot water is not going to cut it!Crucially, I was pleased to discover this week there is a supplier of local butter at Domini Dairy, up near Diss. It’s a long way to go for butter for us, even if it is within the 30 mile radius, but with this in mind, I can survive a week or so until I can get hold of some. I often fry onions in butter to start my cooking, but rapeseed oil is just as good, and local mayonnaise on toast – reinstated from my student days – is also an option when butter is in short supply. At some point I will make it to Diss so I can start making pastry. If anyone wants me to pick some up for them while I’m there do get in touch.

We have a pasta making course on Wednesday evening, so tonight is going to be a trial run for me, especially as I am attending as an able assistant to our fantastic chef Lesley. Some simple pasta sauces can be knocked up with lots of lovely local veg – mine come from the Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm which we’re members of…. including delicious sweetcorn, runner and french beans and tomatoes this week. I’ve decided to make a big batch of lasagne sheets to make some veggie lasagne in the coming weeks, and to try cutting out some spaghetti or ravioli. We also have some cream and crème fraiche from Marybelle to make quiches; I’m planning to use the Capel mushrooms and some local eggs and greens.

So despite a slightly stunted start, the challenge is under-way Chez Wilmot. Tom is boldly shunning wildcards, but I have yet to see how long he’ll last without porridge, muesli, bananas and peanut butter! We had a fantastic day today finishing off building the clay oven at the People’s Community Garden, ready for our pizza and BBQ evening on Friday. I hope it dries in time to fire it up! Do come and join us for some events over the coming weeks 🙂

5 Responses to Kirsty’s blog

  1. Pingback: I’ll be back! | Local Food Suffolk

  2. Kirsty says:

    Thanks for all this info John. The Jordan’s cereal is I think what Steve has coined “secondary local” – which is good enough for me. The point is identifying what can be grown locally, even if raw ingredients may have done a detour for processing. I have just had my first butter success, too exciting for words as it’s so easy!

  3. JT says:

    The source for the statistics on oats and all other crops and livestock produced in Suffolk can be found here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/statistics/foodfarm/landuselivestock/junesurvey/junesurveyresults/

    The spreadsheet you need is called ‘County level crop areas/livestock numbers – 2010’.
    It gives a great top level view of the variety of food being produced out there.

  4. JT says:

    Hi Kirsty
    This farmer near Bury supplies oats to Jordan’s Cereal, so definitely grown within 30 miles even if they take a little detour. http://www.jordanscereals.co.uk/our-story/countryside-commitment/meet-stephen-honeywood/

    http://www.farmersguardian.com/home/arable/arable-features/conservation-grade-oats-provide-dual-benefits/43983.article

    There are around 3000 ha oats sown across Suffolk & Essex so they probably go into the general mix or for animal feed.

    Have you looked into churning your own butter at home from Marybelle cream? http://www.allotment.org.uk/recipes/making-butter-at-home

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