No Coats and Sunshine!

I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I really don’t know what to eat at this time of year! The suns out, we’re getting a bit of warmth and everyone has a bit bigger smile on their face…but it’s still February! We still have ages to wait till the first sight of asparagus meets our eyes and we are, with that, assured we can eat “spring” foods. Yet, even me (lover of all winter foods), has gone off of the slow roasts, casseroles and soups. They just seem too heavy for a bright sunny day!

 

 

 

So what are we eating? Well after my sourdough course there’s loads of bread, obviously! But also there’s tikka chicken with rice and veggies, flatbreads with chicken (or steak) grated carrot and salad and hummus, and flavoursome yet not too heavy curries. I also have on my current rotation bolognese, chilli and stir fries (made more hearty with addition of avocado). But I’d love some more inspiration!

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I’d love your suggestions for how you deal with the changing seasons. Or what you fancy and don’t fancy in this strange transitional period. Or are you a “carry on with the slow roasts until we start getting peas and beans” kinda person?

My First Voyage into the world of Sourdough!

This weekend I was lucky enough to attend a sourdough workshop at White Cottage Bakery in Kingston, Cambs. I was bought the voucher for the course as a birthday gift from Ben. If I’m being honest, I thought to myself “I can bang out a loaf, how hard can it be?!”. Turns out, very hard! The fact that it even shares the name of “bread” with a run-of-the-mill yeasted loaf seems like something that should be called under question by the trades descriptions act! It’s a skill, a passion, a life’s work even, to refine the skills of sourdough. And one that I’m sure yields plenty of tasty rewards along the way! But one that shouldn’t be gone into lightly, the pages of a recipe book couldn’t do these skills and techniques justice. Our hostess and amazingly skilled and knowledgeable teacher, Helen, was telling us of some communities on the continent where sour dough starters have been passed down through the generations for hundreds (even into the thousands) of years. And perhaps more importantly than the starter, the skill!

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The day started with a delightful welcome breakfast of sourdough toast, with homemade white cottage jams. Then our journey into making sourdough started. It was hard to believe that the “shaggy mess” of just flour, water, salt and the sourdough starter (stickiest mess I’ve ever seen) would ever form an edible loaf of bread. I thought I’d pick it up easy, but the art of kneading this didn’t come naturally to me at all, and I really had to concentrate. I’m sure I’ll improve if I keep practicing. While we worked Helen explained to us the importance of flour selection, the differences with stiff and liquid starters and the importance of stretching and strengthening the dough while protecting the membrane! By the time we stopped for a delicious lunch, we had made a white sourdough, a roasted garlic and rosemary sourdough, a rye sourdough and a rye and caraway semi-sour. Not to mention the herby soda bread we made to eat alongside our lunch. Busy morning! We had time to break for yummy Chelsea buns and coffee during the morning too!

We learned how to shape our dough, the optimum time for each part of the process, and nurturing a starter. We learned scoring patterns and techniques and the importance of them, and the best ways to bake. We even had a maths lesson on converting recipes, so that now the world is our oyster! Finally Helen baked our loaves and we went home with bags stuffed full of steaming hot loaves.

What a day?! Lovely company, a fantastic teacher, delightful setting, amazing food and some wonderfully skilful techniques learned that I would have never got from a book! And then that bag of bread to take home. If you’re thinking of dabbling in sourdough and you get the opportunity to go and learn with Helen my advice would be to take it (even if just to try her delicious potted cheese)!

Now the real test- how much bread can I eat in a day?! And of course, can I replicate it at home?!

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“Got Drunk and Pulled” Pork

This is a great winter comfort feast! And it uses a cut we love, pork shoulder. It’s great value for money and the flavour is second to none. Get that slow cooker on!

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Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

1 x onion cut into big chunks

4x garlic cloves crushed

lemon thyme x few sprigs

800ml-1litre beer (any, we actually used lager)

Pork shoulder on the bone- 1.5kgs scored

salt and pepper

To make it delicious:

1. Put the pork into the slow cooker crock pot (on high for 4 hours, or on low for all day cooking). Put all of the other ingredients in and season well. Leave to do its thing.

2. An hour and a half before dinner, Preheat oven to 200oc. Take crock pot out of the slow cooker, make sure the pork skin is sticking out of the liquid (remove some liquid if necessary), and season the skin. Put into the oven for 1-1.5hours. This will give the very tender pork a lovely crackling.

3. Strain off the liquid, this can be made into a gravy by adding some cornflour and boiling. Or you can cheat and add some gravy granules to the liquid. Take the crackling off the pork joint and then pull that tasty pork apart!

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4. We served with mashed root veg (swede and carrot), and steamed green veg (beans and broccoli), some of the chunky onions it cooked with and gravy. Yum!

 

The Small Victories and the School Lunches

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve always struggled to get my oldest to try different foods. I have always refused to call him “fussy” because I think it’s unfair to label a child as fussy, which is a label that will stick and become a self fulfilling prophecy. It’s more that he’s suspicious of foods he doesn’t know, and he’s still learning confidence to try things.

And it’s not always try NEW things, it’s try things you know and love but presented to you in a different manner. For example, if give him a boiled egg (known in our house as a dinosaur egg) in an egg cup with toast “soldiers”, he will demolish a full plate of 2 eggs and 2 slices of bread. However, recently he was given that same egg, mashed up in between the bread (egg sandwich), there was no chance of it passing anywhere near his lips. But I have learnt with Arthur ways around this. I’m going to try it with the egg sandwich next to test my theory further. Get him involved in the process. If he plays a part in taking the dinosaur egg, helping to take the shell off, mash it and spread the bread, then he will have more than just my word that “it’s the same thing as your dinosaur egg”! I’ll let you know how this test goes, but I’ve always had success with getting him involved in cooking in the past, as I have blogged about before.

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2C80FCA9-E70C-4ED1-89D7-1E24E5F1F6CBThat success might not look like him suddenly joining us in devouring a plate of stir fry, that might still be in my dreams. That sucess looks like him being happy to have things he doesn’t like on his plate. It might look like him scraping the potato off the top of his shepherds pie and eating it (something he wouldn’t have touched before). It might look like him being ok that he has got some bolognese sauce on his pasta and he’s still going to eat it, even though before he would have rejected that piece of pasta as yucky. And that sucess might look like him tasting a blackberry when we are picking them. Ok he didn’t like it, but the confidence to try things is massive. I would never pressure him to have another bite of something he didn’t like. But I always explain to him it’s good to try things otherwise we don’t know what we like. He recently discovered that he loves grapes, he’s partial to a jam sandwich, and when in character as peter rabbit, he can even tolerate a raw carrot.

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Which brings me onto school lunches. Arthur just started primary school in September. I knew he would get free school meals being in the early years of school (and knowing that hasn’t been taken away from us just yet!), and so most of the children would obviously be having this option, well because it makes sense! I was a bit anxious as to how he would react, but decided the best thing to do was not send him in with his “safe” packed lunch that he had at Preschool of cheese sandwiches, and to throw him in at the deep end with hot lunches. I thought that 1) he wouldn’t know he had the default cheese sandwich option if I had never given him that option and

2) he was much more likely to eat food if most of the other children were sitting down to eat it.

So after the first day of having lunch at the school, back on his settling in day  before summer, I tried to hide the anticipation in my voice as I asked “did you have lunch at school today?”. His reply “yes I had a jacket potato, with beans on the potato and cheese on the beans” filled me with relief and little surprise! At home if I put the beans on the potato, he would just refuse to touch it. Everything had to be separate on his plate. What a miracle school lunches had been and it was only day 1! Since then he has happily had foods touching or mixed together on his plate, and even had beans ON toast the other day. Not beans next-to-the toast, and I will only eat the toast if it has no bean juice on it. This is a small step but a very important step in his eating journey.

I don’t know how much of his actual lunch he eats at school. He always tells me he was “too slow to eat it all”. Arthur doesn’t like food when it’s hot, and always waits till it’s nearly cold before he starts it.  So I tell him that he will have to tuck into it a bit quicker tomorrow. I know he will get the hang of it! But it’s made a huge difference to how he eats at home in a very short space of time. He even looks at the options and chooses which meal he’s going to have with me, which is nice. He has a lovely range of food available, school lunches really have changed since my day. He even had salmon fish fingers the other day! And of course, the other change we have had since starting school is that he’s really hungry by dinner time. He even empties his whole plate of dinner sometimes, before he would pick at the bit  he likes the most and not touch the rest.

FD98CFD2-FD54-4B71-BA7A-7EDE1CE795F5So small steps, but steps in the right direction! We will look back and smile when he’s an adult and eats everything under the sun, like his Mum and Dad do!

My favourite ways to demolish a squash!

When I was younger squashes were for lugging to harvest festival or for hacking to bits at Halloween. Yet in recent years we have seen their popularity grow enourmously, in all different shapes, sizes and varieties, and now it’s to be eaten!

I’m sure the key to their growing success is their versatility. So here’s my favourite ways to squash!

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1. Roast it!

I have yet to find a squash that isn’t perfection when cut into chunks, drizzled with rapeseed oil, seasoned and roasted in a hot oven for 45 minutes. It’s so soft and sweet, and deliciously crisped and caramelised at the edges. Perfect accompaniment to a roast dinner, with sausage and mash, in creamy pasta dishes, with rice or quinoa, or in a veggie quiche.

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2. Souperise it!

There is little that tells you it’s autumn like a hearty squash soup. It’s filling and warming and carries those autumnal spices beautifully. I cut a squash into quarters, drizzle with rapeseed oil and season and roast in the oven until the flesh is soft. Then in a pan I sauté some onion and garlic, and scrape the squash flesh off of the skin and add to the pan with some veggie stock. I add warning spice like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, season and blend until smooth. You can add a little cream for a really indulgent soup. Perfect with some buttered allotment sour dough bread!

3. Add it to Risotto!

Its a great way to use less rice, or to make your meal go further. Peel and cut the squash into small dice and add with the rice. As the stock is added and the rice gets creamy and tender, so will the squash. It makes a lovely smooth and sweet risotto.

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4. Add it to veggie chillis!

Adding a squash to your veggie chilli really pads the mixture out to makes it go further, and who doesn’t love leftover chilli? It also absorbs the flavour of the chilli really nicely, and adds a little sweetness. A definite winner for our family!

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5. Bake with it!

You know I’m a baker at heart! Adding squash to baking was new to me when a customer asked if I could make them a pumpkin pie about 5 years ago. But the more familiar you get with using squash the more you discover it can do. Because it’s sweet you can reduce the amount of sugar that goes into a recipe, and like with the soup it carries those autumnal spices perfectly. I roast it until it’s soft and then mash it into a pulp. The pulp can be used in cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, muffins and more!

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I have had loads of sucess with squashes, these are just my favourites! I’d love to hear your best squash recipes too so please get in touch. Happy squashing and happy autumn!

“I will get time for loads more blogging” and other lies I told myself before the summer holidays!

Now I know I’m not the only one that sets themselves goals ahead of this huge 6 week expanse of time. And I’m also sure I’m not the only one that decides about one week in that most of it ain’t gonna happen. This for example, is my first blog post of the summer holidays. And the summer holidays is but a memory! I can only apologise! Here’s my roundabout of the rest of my biggest summer holiday fails!

1. I will have all my friends over for a BBQ

Ok, so this one never even got to the sending out a message to invite people stage. I settled on “I will meet up with all my friends individually”. Well with some of them (you know who you are) there’s not even a date we are all free till October! Oops! We all have young families and are all in the same boat.

2. Bedtime and our routine in general will not change

When I was putting the children to bed at 10oclock on the first day of the summer holidays, I couldn’t actually believe that I hadn’t lasted one day on this one. Summer is such a lovely time on the farm, with tractor and combine rides, and so much fun to be had. To fit it in before 7pm is never going to happen.

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3. I will get school ready in plently of time

As my uniform order arrived the day before term started and I looked to the heavens and said “thank you!” I though to myself “I nailed this being organised thing!”

4. I will clean my whole house

Yeah that just didn’t happen.

5. I will get time for loads more blogging

Well as you know, that one didn’t happen. But as we start the new school term we also enter my favourite time of year for food, the autumn! I love everything about autumn food so the recipes will start coming your way again now! Here to kick things off is a mega awesome slow cooked braising steak chilli that Ben recently made for us! Thanks for the recipe Ben!

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Diced Dexter Beef 500g
Onion- chopped as lazy as you like
Garlic -2 cloves
Tinned Tomatoes – organic 2 tins
Tomato purée – good few squeezes
Big Five Chilli paste- tea spoon
Green Sriracha sauce 1/2 bottle or 125ml approx
Paprika – tea spoon
Cumin- tea spoon
Kidney beans – 1 tin
Divine Dark chocolate- 30 g approx
Red wine 400ml
Beef stock cube
Salt
Pepper
Water – 100ml approx

Method

Brown onion and beef until caramelised
Add paste
Add paprika
Add cumin
Stir in to coat the beef.
Add water- this should stop it sticking.
Stir in. Once stirred in no particular order…
Add everything else
Stir in.
Simmer 3 or 4 hours and keep stirring- let it reduce. I promise it’s amazing.
Serve with rice or anything really.

Enjoy!

 

 

How to eat well in a heat wave…

It’s so hard to know how to shop in the summer, because when it’s hot you never know what you might fancy, if anything! This is what I always have at home to help us through the heatwave that us Brits are so unaccustomed to.

1. Juicy fruit!

Because sometime you just need the refreshment. Especially if you can eat it straight out of the fridge. And when it’s reeeeally hot, some juicy berries and yoghurt suffice just fine as a meal without having had to cook!

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2. Lean protein and salad

Chicken, fish or lean beef with a seasonal mixed salad is a pretty perfect meal at this time of year. It’s quick to make, nutricious and not too heavy. All you need to make it perfection is…

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3. A good sauce!

Be it hummus, a nice dressing or a tasty marinade. The plainest of meals can be made exciting and delicious with a good sauce, without any standing at a hot stove needed! I would say that if you invest in good quality sauces made with “real” ingredients they go a lot further, so it’s a good investment!

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4. Free Range Eggs

An all year round favourite but you appreciate just how amazing they are in the summer. Versatile, which is just what you need when you are in an “I don’t know what I fancy” sort of mood. Filling, yet not heavy. And very quick to prepare!

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5. Bread/rolls/wrap/flatbreads

Because if you can wrap it up in bread, then it’s made for summer. A lot of the time I cut carbs down a lot in the summer as I don’t fancy them in the heat. Unless it’s bread. Bread is life in summer!

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6. Ice lollies

Because I have children and value my sanity! I hope there’s some other parents with me here?!

7. Cake!

Tea and cake on a sunny Sunday afternoon. What a reason to be alive?!

8. Smoked Salmon

Or any meat or fish that are best when eaten cold, that can be served perfectly alongside salad, crusty bread, a nice dip, and most importantly can pack a flavour punch without any cooking!

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9. Overnight oats

If you’ve ever read the blog before then you know I love my oats. But a hot sticky morning makes you really appreciate pulling a cold and refreshing breakfast straight from the fridge!

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10. Homemade quiche

Because  if you are going to be eating one thing that is best served hot, quiche is that perfect thing to hit the spot in a heatwave!

And I’m sure, if all else fails, the fruit in a pimms and lemonade counts as a meal…surely?!

Stay cool!

 

 

Back to square one!

 

Yep, that’s how I feel today! And this face sums it up! When you run a small business you have to know (or pretend you do at least) a little about a lot of topics…

Let’s dig a little further into that…

what we love is food, and producing it. Of this subject, we know a lot. It’s our passion, it’s our life, it’s what we choose to do to support ours and our families future. We are well practiced in making food, experimenting, refining a recipe, taking it to our audience, and rolling it out. We are also immersed in the world of other business like us and have gotten to be pretty savvy at choosing other businesses that are food experts too, whose produce sits nicely within our range and would appeal to our customers.

 

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BUT to do this we have to know a bit about health and safety, hygiene and management systems, employment law, insurance, bookkeeping, tax, banking and finance to name just a few!

Once you’ve “sort of” got around these issues and are running your business, you need to work out how to get out to more customers. So you may well do what we did today and start doing some courses to help to market yourself. Today’s was digital marketing. And like the title suggests, I am mind-blown and realise I know NOTHING! Yes, I did a degree in marketing, at a highly respectable business school. Yet, still I know nothing. But cut me some slack, when I did that degree it was 2003 I relied on dial-up, and I hadn’t even heard of Facebook, and what the heck is snapchat?! To be fair I still don’t know the latter! So today was eye-opening to say the least, and here’s to the rest of the journey of me learning that I have a lot to learn! World, Radmore Farm Shop is coming to find you…once I’ve worked out what CRM means, and what SEO is, and what a SERP is, and a GMB listing. Oh and a H1 and H2 tag. And a bumper ad…

Maybe I should go into the “need a cold drink” industry! 😂

Overnight Oats for blissful breakfasts!

Overnight oats have transformed my life! I’m sure if you follow my Facebook page you have noticed my obsession. I posted a pic of it once and a couple of people commented asking for the recipe, since then it’s the recipe that I have been told has been tested out the most (and enjoyed might I add). I have had dozens of people telling me they have tried it and loved it, all with their own twist, which is a huge benefit of this recipe. And I’ve never actually written the recipe up, this is all from a Facebook comment! Until now that is…

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So why do I love them so much?

1. Well they are tasty, which has to be number one other wise I wouldn’t keep coming back!

2. They are versatile. This is a base recipe which you can enjoy on it’s own, but you can add so much other stuff to, for a different variation every day.

3. They are a massive time saver. I know I’m not the only one that’s super rushed in the morning. Having something ready prepared that you can just pull out of the fridge, grab a spoon and tuck into… is beyond amazing. Also you can make several days worth up at once. So a few minutes effort one evening buys you several ready made breakfasts.

4. They are healthy. With no refined sugar, and made all with filling Whole foods makes them a winner on the nutrition front! And I’m definitely not hungry again until lunch time.

5. The kids can help make it. It’s basically just stirring so it’s a great thing to get them to help with. If I remember to make it before their bed time that is. And they now ask if they can have some of mine every morning too. I don’t think it will be long and I’ll be converting these coco pop and weetabix fiends and making them their own pots of oats.

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6. I have time to drink more. I’m guilty of not drinking much water in the morning, but not having to make a breakfast buys me time to make sure I’ve had a drink. Sometimes I even squeeze in a cup of tea!

IMG_2597The recipe:

As I said before, this recipe is a base. It’s great on its own, but it can also be added to, with loads of other combinations of fruit, nuts, seeds, spices. I’ve listed some of my faves below but I’d love to hear yours.
This makes 6 portions (although ben eats 2 at once).

2 bananas
2 tbsp meridian crunchy peanut butter
4 tbsp chia seeds
3 tbsp honey (not necessary if you don’t have a sweet tooth, or if you’re adding sweet fruits; it’s naturally fairly sweet anyway)
2 cups jumbo rolled oats (I use a child’s cup)
2 heaped tablespoons natural Greek yoghurt
3 cups oat milk (can use any milk)

It’s so easy:

Mash the bananas, and then mix all the rest together and then put into tubs in the fridge until morning. I make enough for a few days at once.

Some of my favourite variations, some that I’ve tried and some that others have tried and recommended to me.

1. Take out some of the honey and add some cinnamon

2. Add a chopped pear and some chopped walnuts

3. Add a tbsp of cocoa powder, and the juice and zest of an orange (use a little less milk to compensate for the orange liquid)

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4. Add some cacao nibs and chopped hazelnuts

5. Add some grated apple, cinnamon and pecans

6. Top with fresh raspberries and blueberries

7. Add some chopped strawberries and sunflower seeds

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8. Add some chopped apricots and flaked almonds

9. Add some raisins and cashews

10. Make in a nutri bullet for extra smoothness

Do let me know if you’ve tried it and what your favourite variations are. Happy stress free mornings!

 

Paprika Seed Pork Schnitzels

I hate waste! And so if I have any quantity of bread left over that I’m not going to use, I share it with the chickens! But the bit I keep I grate up into breadcrumbs and put in the freezer. So many things you make can use breadcrumbs, and most of them straight from frozen, so they are a great thing to have in stock.

The other day I had a pork tenderloin in the fridge, and pondering what to make with it, I thought of my trusty tub of breadcrumbs. Schnitzels!

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So I cut the tenderloin into disks about an inch thick, and then put them into a bag and beat them with a rolling pin until they were thin, about a quarter of their starting thickness. This is so great for getting rid of the frustrations of the day!

Next I put a couple of handfuls of my frozen breadcrumbs in a bowl, with some salt and pepper, a couple of teaspoons of smoked paprika and a sprinkle of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and mixed it together well. In a separate bowl I prepared a beaten egg.

Next I dipped each pork steak into the egg and then into the breadcrumb mix to coat,  repeating the process on any areas that looked thin.

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The final stage was to preheat some rapeseed oil in a pan, over a high heat, and fry each steak for a couple of minutes on each side (or until the pork was fully cooked through). I did them two at a time so as to not overcrowd the pan, and made sure there was enough oil so that they didn’t stick. As they were very rich I served with a nice simple salad!IMG_2031