Steve’s blog

Steve will be blogging about his experience undertaking the challenge on this page.

Challenge Day 1:

Jam on toast for breakfast on day 1 – missing muesli & porridge already! The jam is home made (from Stowmarket) and the bread is from Victoria’s Bakery in Woodbridge Road. Victoria’s (and Martin’s bakery, further along Woodbridge Road) use Marriages flour which is milled in Chelmsford, so more than 30 miles from Ipswich. And the flour probably come from further afield. The sugar in the jam probably came from more than 30 miles away too.

Bought lots of local veg from Chris’s on Woodbridge Road – cabbage, spuds, carrots, butternut, lettuce, tomatoes, rocket and strawberries. Chris is ready for the Chalenge – he’s planning to stock up on veg direct from Home Farm Nacton. I expect I’ll be seeing Chris again in a few days!

I was hoping to be able to buy some apples from Dave at Ipswich food co-op, but like many growers in Suffolk his trees were hit by late frosts and produced very few fruit this year. His habenero chillis aren’t ripe yet either – aargh! In a moment of panic I bought some Fairfields crisps (I rarely eat crisps). I also bought some Hill Farm rapeseed oil & got my usual dozen eggs from Dave. I then went to Memorable Cheeses where I bought some Shipcord and Hawkston from Rodwell Farm in Baylham. Nice, but pricey. I also bought some Maple Farm flour there, which comes from Kelsale near Saxmundam. I’m going to try to make some bread – things are getting really desperate! Unfortunately I forgot to buy yeast – and in any case, I doubt that I can find yeast that’s produced within 30 miles of Ipswich. I also got some Suffolk kippers from the market – I hope they were from Aldeburgh rather than Lowestoft!

Lunch was cheese salad sandwiches and dinner was potatoes, carrots and runner beans with …. a kipper! The veg were fresh & tasty and the kipper was nice & salty! [Note to self: get some Malden salt asap!] Desert was half a punnet of really nice strawberries.

I bought some field beans from Ipswich food co-op some time ago. They came from a farm near Framsden, and I’ve just made some tempeh with them. Looking forward to seeing how that turns out in a couple of days.

Day 2:

For a bit of variety, I had Suffolk honey on my toast for breakfast – not sure where Nigel & Debbie keep their hives now but last time I checked they were at the Apricot Centre near Manningtree. The honet is great, but I hope someone soon locates a source of breakfast cereals from within 30 miles of Ipswich!

Lunch was cheese salad sanwiches again, followed by a few strawberries.

Dinner was potatoes, carrots and runner beans with ….. 2 boiled eggs! The veg were fresh & tasty, even without salt, but it was a bit odd having boiled eggs on the same plate!

I was relieved to read Kirsty’s post about Suffolk Garlic Farm in Blaxall – I’ve emailed them to ask how I can get hold of some – it’s a 33 mile cycle ride. I also want to get some chilli from the Chilli Company at Mendlesham – about the same distance in the opposite direction. Maybe I can get chilli for someone else and they can get garlic for me.

I’ve been missing tea and coffee already, though I did enjoy a cup of mint tea today made with leaves from my garden.

I’m not going to have any “wild cards” for this challenge – I think I’ve already used them up with the ingredients in the “local” food I’ve been eating. But I’m going to stick with the challenge and hopefully my diet will improve as I find more local food and learn some new recipes. And at least I can look forward to an Abbot Ale this evening!

Day 3:

Toast for breakfast again 🙁

Hopefully I’ll have time to cook kippers or eggs tomorrow.

Lunch was Shipcord cheese sandwiches with tomato & lettuce.

Dinner was an issue: we had guests with young children and there was no way we’re able  to create an acceptable meal from purely local ingredients – yet! So I had non-local pizza with non-local potato salad, non-local green salad and very non-local wine, followed by non-local apple crumble & custard! Not only was it absolutely delicious, but it was made even more enjoyable by the absence of flavour over the previous few days and I suspect the fact that I was breaking the 30/30 rules!

Day 4:

Just for some variety with breakfast, today I skipped it entirely!

My field bean tempeh was ready

so I had fried tempeh & salad sadwiches for lunch

Delicious, though the tough skins on the beans were a bit chewy (like crispy bacon) and made the tempeh a bit crumbly. The Maldon salt made the tempeh even more like bacon!

I’m trying to find out if the de-hulled field beans I got from Ipswich food co-op came from within 30 miles – I hope so as I think they’ll make perfect tempeh.

I’ve been worrying about bread. I’ve never worried about bread before – this is a new pastime for me. Even if I use the Maple farm flour, which was grown and milled within 30 miles, how about yeast? The solution, from Richard (?) at the Bar K Smoke House Deli, is now obvious – sourdough! So I’ve been reading up on this esoteric topic and hope to be raising some of my own dough in the next few days and hopefully baking something edible!

My Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm CSA veg box yesterday was full of goodies – chard, green pepper, tomatoes, carrots, spuds, sweetcorn etc – so I’m spoilt for choice for dinner this evening. I’ll probably have a tortilla with chard, pepper and potato,  with some salad. Second thoughts, it’s probably too late now, so I’ll cook a tortilla tomorrow and just grab a quick fried tempeh sandwich again, before going to the Fat Cat to get some chili from Kirsty and have a pint of two of local ale.

Day 5:

Toast for breakfast again. Don’t think I’ll ever make time for cooked breakfast during the week. If anyone can locate a supply of 30 mile oats, or some other form of breakfast cereal, they’ll gain a friend for life!

Lunch today was local cheese, local tomato and local rocket sandwiches made with “local” bread.

Dinner? Well it’s my son’s birthday and he wanted to go out for a meal. My family’s obviously getting interested in 30/30 – we’re going to the Arboretum, which claims to focus on locally sourced food. Looking forward to it & will report back!

Last night I was enjoying some locally brewed ale when someone pointed out that the barley, hops and yeast could have come from anywhere. Of course this also applies to any locally made food products – some ingredients could have travelled thousands of miles. Coffee Link roasts, grinds and blends coffee in Ipswich. Does this make it “local coffee”? I don’t really see how such products can authentically be described as local food. Perhaps we should talk about “locally grown” and “locally produced” foods? Not sure that it makes much sense to talk about Rodwell Farm “locally grown” Shipcord cheese though. Maybe “primary local” for Shipcord and “secondary local” for Adnams beer?

I’d be interested to hear others’ views on this, but in  the meantime I’m going to continue searching for food and drink made from ingredients grown within 30 miles of Ipswich.

Before cycling up to the bakers today to buy a “locally produced” loaf , I wondered if I should bother, given that the wheat was grown and milled more than 30 miles away. In the end I decided that at least the bread was baked locally and the wheat was grown and milled within 70 miles, so I decided to go. I must start my sourdough culture!

Day 6:

The Arboretum had 30 mile challenge leaflets on display and they attempt to offer a local menu so I’m loathe to criticise. Suffice it to say that the menu was mainly “secondary” local, with most ingredients coming from far afield. They did have Cliff Quay beer though!

Suffolk kipper for breakfast, though I don’t know how far off the coast it was caught, where it was landed or where it was smoked. More research needed!

Lunch was again local cheese and local tomato sandwiches with “local” bread and a packet of Fairfield’s crisps.

For dinner I cooked a nice big tortilla, with local eggs, potatoes, chard and green pepper. But as I was cooking for others I also used non-local ingredients: onion, garlic and black pepper plus some mushrooms that needed to be used up. A semi-local tortilla!

Josiah at Provenance  sourced the de-hulled fava beans but akthough he knew they were grown in Suffolk or Norfolk he couldn’t be sure which. I’m going to make some tempeh with them anyway while I try to figure out how to de-hull Glen & Jeannie’s beans myself. Any suggestions on how I can do this?

Day 7:

Toast with honey for breakfast, tortilla sandwiches for lunch – all local except the bread. Dinner at the Brewery Tap. Mike Keen is a fine chef and specialises in dishes made from locally sourced ingredients. My son Lyle and I had pickled eggs as a starter (from Mike’s own chickens and pickled in locally brewed ale) then  I had hare thighs which were quite delicious. The hare had been shot within a few miles of Ipswich and several of the vegetables were from the People’s Community Garden just across Ipswich dock. I’m sure some of the ingredients in the sauce weren’t local but this was almost a 100% 30 mile meal. Washed down with beer brewed around the corner at Cliff Quay brewery too, thought of course the malt, hops and yeast came from beyond the 30 mile radius.

Day 8:

Breakfast is getting really boring – toast and honey every day, with no tea to wash it down. And although the bread’s baked locally, the flour’s from wheat that might have come from as far away as Canada.

Apparently a lot of oats are grown in Suffolk and sent to Jordans or used for animal feed. Jordans takes oats from Abbotshall Farm, Great Wigborough, Essex and from Halls Farm & Little Haugh Farm, Suffolk, but sadly by the time these get back to Ipswich they’re mixed with oats from further afield. This also raises the question of whether food is really local if it’s grown locally then shipped for processing elsewhere before being transported back to local shops. I think it probably fits into the “secondary local” category.

Lunch is typically cheese salad sandwiches, with Shipcord, local shop-bought lettuce, tomatoes from my garden and cucumber from my allotment! All good, but I’d really like a bit more variety.

Days 9 to 30:

Last day of the challenge and time to catch up on my blog! The main reason I fell behind was that as well as working (very) full time I also had to spend all of my spare time on studying for an exam (should know better at my age!).

Anyway, there’s not an lot more to add really. My meal planning and culinary skills haven’t magically improved so my diet’s been pretty monotonous really. Oddly enough, I’ve adjusted to this and started to enjoy things that I wouldn’t have noticed so much before. The flavour of food, even a simple plate of veg, seems to be enhanced. I’m also enjoying local fruit, even though the poor summer seems to have made apples smaller and more tart.

I’ve had a few exciting variations in my meals. I had some pork chops in the freezer from the last batch of pigs raised while I was in the Acorn Antics pig club and these provided some variety.

As far as 30 mile booze is concerned, I reckon that traditional cider from small producers is the best bet. They typically use their own apples, or their neighbours’ and I don’t think they need to add yeast. Not sure if they might add sugar though. another area for more research!

I went to Youngs fish stall at Ipswich market and asked where the Suffolk kippers come from. Fairly predictably, the answer was Lowestoft! I said “that’s a pity, just too far” and the lady serving me asked “are you one of those 30 mile people then?” She must have had a few people ask for 30 mile fish. I said I was struggling to find 30 mile food and was “wasting away” (a bit of an exaggeration – I’ve lost about half a stone but I’m still above what I should weigh for my height). She said she had nothing that was more local, though the herring would be here in October, then I spotted some Colchester oysters. I only bought three and the lady said “they’ll never fill you up” and one of the oysters she gave me was the biggest one I’ve ever had. Delicious – even without tabasco!

Other exciting additions to my diet have been the butter Kirsty got from Domini Dairy and the chillies from the Oak Tree CSA that she and Tom had frozen last year.

I’ve really enjoyed Rodwell Farm’s Shipcord and Hawkston and will be buying this again.

My most recent  attempt at fava bean tempeh looked great but tasted awful – it was very bitter and I had to throw it away. According to The Book of Tempeh, which I’ve just found on line, rhizopus arrhizus works best with fava beans, rather than rhizopus oligosporus which works with soy beans. Just need to figure out where to get some now!

My sourdough starter hasn’t worked either – I was using Maple Farm spelt, so now I’ve switched to their wholemeal wheat flour. I’ve decided that sourdough is definitely teh way forward and I’m planning to start baking regularly. Me – baking? Who’d have thought it?

But that’s what the 30 mile challenge is all about – at least for me – learning new skills, discovering great local producers, appreciating simple, seasonal foods more and, in my case, developing a healthy bit of self-control! I hope this lasts and I’m already looking forward to repeating this challenge next year!

Thanks to Lucy, Kirsty, Dave, Kate, Fraser and all of the other people who made this one happen!


3 Responses to Steve’s blog

  1. Deborah Pratt says:

    Hi Steve, I’ve also had considerable doubts about just how local are the foods that are manufactured locally! I was uneasy about including Silver Spoon sugar as I knew darn well it travelled over half the country to various storage sites before it arrived in the local Supermarket, and I reckon there are many foods labelled local, produced locally, but with ingredients from over half the world! However, I decided in the end that the whole thing was an Exercise In Awareness and developed my diet using that attitude, and didn’t try to make like John Seymour & only eat what came out of my own back garden! The main problems I found were a) cost and b) diesel. I work out the price per kg for EveryThing and I am a total sucker for bogofs and biffs, but refuse to drive more than a mile out of my way to do anything! Must stop typing and go to bed but first re yeast, the local useful shop, Poppies, has some made in Felixstowe, so no prob! Best of luck with the last week. regards, Deb

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for your response Deb! Cost is definitely a problem, but I’m hoping we can start bulk-buying more local food through Ipswich Ripple Food Co-op to get prices down. Diesel isn’t an issue for me as I usually bike everywhere, but this does limit where I can buy food. Kirsty mentioned Poppies and I might try some, but I’m determined to get my sourdough working first!
      Cheers, Steve

  2. well done Steve on the zero wildcard challenge!!
    Have you tried soaking the beans for a good 24/48 hours to see if the skins would then come off? Sandor Ellix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and other wonderful books, did this on a course of his I went on ages ago.

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