The ABC of Radmorefarmshop.co.uk

A is for Avocados, just one of the fruits on our list

B is for Bread; organic, fresh, not to be missed

C is for Customers, for whom we deliver a feast

D is for Doves farm, selling flour and cereal and yeast

E is for Eco friendly, like the cleaning products we sell

F is for Freshly roasted coffee beans, to stop early morning hell

G is for Granola, showing us what local really means

H is for Hodmedods, British grown grains, pulses and beans

I is for Italian; pastas, infusions and oils

J is for Jams & preserves, the enjoyment never spoils

K is for Ketchup, without it measures get drastic

L is for loose vegetables, because why do we need so much plastic?

M is for My Bakery, where I hear ‘more lemon drizzle please?’

N is for Neneview; from whom we source local and yummy goats cheese

O if for Olives, perfectly marinated by Silver & Green

P is for Peanut butter; so tasty pure and clean

Q is for Quickly delivered to your door, packed carefully for no harm

R HAS to be for Radmore, where it all started at our own lovely farm

S is for Snacks; crisps, bars, chocolates and nuts as well

T is for Tigernut, just one of the range of dairy free milks we sell

U is for Unbelievable…we’re about to start stocking fresh fish

V is for Vouchers codes which we send out so that you can spend how you wish

“Code ‘JAN18’ gets you 10% off in January when you shop online”

W is for Why not? Give us a go for you shopping or even an office treat day?

X is for X-tremely easy, choose a time slot and PayPal makes it easy to pay

Y Is for Your feedback, if we don’t hear from you, you will be missed

Z is for Zonked, how I feel after writing this list!

• An ode to the Indies •

When I was young I’d hear it said, time and time again,

‘Farmers are always complaining’, they’d say, without any hint of refrain,

‘The weathers wrong, no time off, it simply doesn’t pay’,

‘Does anything ever go right for you?’ They’d very often say

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As I grew up, I though it unfair, I loved the life outside,

But sometimes when the times were tough I found it better to hide,

‘Everyone complains about their job’ I’d think, when they had a really tough spell,

‘But if I speak up I’ll get tarred with the brush of moaning farmer hell’!

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So smile on face I’d carry on, everything was great,

Even on those long long days when 2am stopped feeling late!

‘We love the hard work, we live for it, I wouldn’t have it another way’,

When at home the washings mounting up, next to bills we cannot pay!

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Now I’m grown with kids of my own my view begins to alter,

Isn’t it better I tell the truth, and that my love for it still doesn’t falter?!

Through all the stress, and all the hours and the heartbreak along the way,

I wouldn’t ever do anything else, not for one single solitary day!

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Not just to the farmers, this goes out to all of those who try,

To make a living being their very own boss, even when cost is high,

Our heroes that run their own small businesses, through doubt and stress and pain,

Through solitary days, and worry without ever wanting to complain.

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For those whose kitchen table is an office, whose holidays disappear,

For all those kids that hear ‘not now darling, maybe tomorrow, or next year’,

I’d really like you to complain about it more, because it really shows you care,

That through it all, you love what you do MORE, and that’s why…you’re still there!!

From Vicky,

P.S Keep smiling all the individuals and small businesses that keep the rich tapestry of our local economy going! And it doesn’t hurt to speak up about times being tough, and it not always being a bed of roses, it makes us appreciate the job you do more! January is tough but you are tougher!!

Eat your greens!

A couple of things happened to me today that made me stop and think!

1. I saw that cadburys are launching a white chocolate creme egg and if you find one you win a prize

2. I really craved vegetables

Why did these 2 things make me think, and how are they related? Well when I was younger I loved creme eggs! I could have eaten loads! I’ve enjoyed them less and less as I’ve grown up to the point that I don’t eat them now. And when I saw that picture today I felt actually really adverse to it! As for vegetables, I didn’t really eat them and I definitely didn’t enjoy them as a child. I liked peas, and maybe carrots. And I tolerated other things because I knew I should eat them. Now I genuinely love vegetables, in all colours and varieties. I’ve not been eating my usual diet over Christmas, and today I needed some colour again.

So this got my thinking, well it confirmed something I knew anyway really. If my children don’t like their vegetables and if I get sick of hearing them ask for ANOTHER chocolate coin, they are not necessarily always going to want to eat like this. So I’ll carry on giving them the skills to know how to cook, and setting a good example, and I’m sure one day they will come round to it! So more important than getting my diet back to normal in January, I’m going to get the boys cooking with me again. It’s easy to skip over these things when it’s busy, but I need to remember how important it is! I’m not one for New Years resolutions, but this has to come close!

What a year?!

Isn’t it just a brilliant time to reflect and look forward at the same time?! Since I was pregnant with my first I have made myself a little ritual on New Years Eve. I take pen to paper and write myself a little summary of everything significant that’s happened within our family, month by month, over the past year. Trips we’ve been on, life changes that have happened, new lives within our family and friends, developments in the business, if it’s significant enough to remember at the end of the year I write it all down. I finish it off with a page or 2 with our plans and hopes for the next year. It always focuses around ‘I’d like a little more family time’, but yet we load ourselves up with more jobs to do!! Then I don’t look at the folder until next New Year’s Eve. And when that day gets here I read back over the last year, and what my hopes and dreams had been and assess how many of them became a reality. Then I write the next instalment.

So this year I decided I’d do a little version of this for our business to include upon my blog. I won’t go into the nitty gritty of month by month but more use it as a reflection of another crazy 12 months and then think forward to what we hope to achieve in 2018! So here goes…

We Moved!

It’s easy to forget that this happened in 2017 because it was back in January! The move from Chesterton Rd to Victoria Ave was not far in distance but a big step for our business. It gave us the chance to have a smarter, more purposefully designed premises that showed off what we do a lot more. We were very happy with the new store but we were more than a little nervous. We have been very happy in our old home, and being the sentimental so and so that I am I didn’t like to say goodbye. You never really know what a new store holds for you until you do it. Truth be told we were still nervous until we had done a Christmas there. We need so much storage space at Christmas, and space we do not have. However, with huge thanks to our lovely new neighbours at the Waterman, who lent us some space, it all went well and now we feel a little more at ease. (If you haven’t eaten at the Waterman yet, I advise you try it, it’s been a godsend for us for lunches with the boys over this busy spell)!

I broke my ankle

Yes, although I may not want to remember it, it was significant! At the end of June I fractured 2 bones in my ankle which had me on crutches, in a boot and unable to drive for 6 weeks! We always used to joke about ‘imaging if one of us broke our leg’, as a sort of ‘what the hell would we do with all our responsibilities with one of us out of the game’? Well then it happened. Ben was brilliant at stepping into the breach and picking up a lot of my responsibilities, as was Karen, the amazing baker that works with me in the bakery. And do you know what?! We got through it. Nothing fell apart. We’re all still here. So it’s quite empowering really. That thing we always joked about happened and we dealt with it. It also allowed my time to reflect and…

I Started a Blog

I really miss the interaction I have with a lot of our customers and friends now that I’m more home based. Breaking my ankle gave me some time to think, and I decided to have a go at writing a blog! I’ve really enjoyed it, and the connection it’s given me back from people I don’t see that often anymore. People keep telling me they are reading it, which I’m thrilled to bits about!

We Said a Final Farewell

In September we sadly said goodbye to our friend, Brian King. Brian was the man that taught Ben everything he knows about butchery and had been with us since the beginning. Brian used to run his own butchers shop business in the 70’s and was always there for us with a kind nod of encouragement or knowing words of condolence when things went wrong. Brian was 80 when he passed away, but had still been coming to work until 3 weeks before so it was a shock to us all.

Brian will never be forgotten for the things he’s taught us in the business and for the lovely man we all got know as a friend, and all the advice and wise words he passed on.

We Welcomed New Team Members

Our team is bigger than ever with now 12 people, not including me and Ben (who mostly just get in the way!). The business we are runs on the array of characters that make it a welcoming and positive place. We are lucky to have them all to look after our customers and make delicious food!

We have our mini Commercial Free Range Egg Unit set up

Yep, there’s now chickens clucking outside my front door. This project took a lot longer to set up than we thought and was about 8 months behind schedule when we got it started in August. But better later than never. We now have 250 commercial free rangers supplying the bakery and shop!

We got to the Finals

Yes we got voted by our customers into the top 3 in the farm shop and deli category of the Cambridge food and drink awards, for the 3rd year running! But we didn’t win, for the 3rd year running! It seems our customers love us but the judges don’t. That’s the way I’d prefer to have it! I like the sound of 2018 anyway!!

We got to your doorsteps even more

In November we launched our new and improved online store, and it helped us get out to more people’s doorsteps than ever before. We have been working really hard to get more and more of our offerings online and to offer the best and most convenient service out there! We’re really proud of the start we’ve made…but watch this space!

On to 2018…

So what’s on the cards for next year?

To make the online store the best and most convenient way to buy food! We want to host the products of all the local and independent businesses we find on our site, and deliver it out to people’s kitchens. There’s some great small food producers out there and we want to get all their offerings together in one place for the most awesome independent shopping experience. So we have lots of adding and improving to keep doing.

To start a recipe hub. We have this idea of making video recipes for YouTube that people can cook along with. We would also like to make videos with our producers showcasing the awesome stuff we sell and giving tips about how to use and cook with it. This will be housed on our website to make it an even more complete service.

We want to fill the shop with even more great products! We can still squeeze a bit in!

We want to deliver even more days a week!

To keep making the best food around!

So 2017, there’s been blood sweat and tears, and the odd broken bone. There’s also been laughter, pride, good friends, a great team and awesome customers. Our little family has grown up a bit more! But now 2018 we are ready for you!

My Independent Christmas: The Results

Firstly, an apology. I promised myself when I started the blog that I would post frequently. However, nothing happens that isn’t food making and order taking in December! So I’m sorry for the lack of posts during silly season! I’m back in the real world again now!

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Beautiful handmade tree decoration by Kplunkers https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Kplunkers

So this year I made a little vow to myself that I would do all my shopping with independent businesses. We have the food well and truly taken care of, and I can hand on heart say that nothing on our Christmas dining table ever comes from a supermarket. It pleases me greatly to not ever have to battle the supermarket queues and panicking in the run up to Christmas. Plus we get to enjoy the experience that our customers get of a Radmore Christmas, and are bursting with pride at the food we produce. So this year I decided to carry this through to all my gift shopping and try to support only independent businesses, instead of giant multinationals. Here’s 10 things I learnt along the way.

1. You have to spend more time, not more money

Overall I have spent about the same in money on Christmas as in other years. The main reason I have used platforms like Amazon in the past is because it’s easy. You can sit down in one evening and get most of the Christmas shopping done in one hit and have it delivered to your door. It’s taken more thought and more leg work to use independent businesses, but as a result…

2. Everyone gets something with more thought

To use independents I have put a lot more thought into each persons present. You can’t just put 8 of the same item in your basket if you are getting hand made and personalised gifts made like you would from a major retailer. So everyone has had something with thought instead of just a token gift. And isn’t that what gift giving is all about?!

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Personalised sacks- the handmade Christmas co https://handmadechristmasco.com

3. There’s some great platforms for accessing small businesses these days

Sites like Etsy and Not On The High Street allow you to directly buy from small independent businesses without having to trawl around every craft fair in the midlands.

4. It takes longer to arrive

I will be prepared for this next Christmas. Because most things you order from an independent business are hand finished and made to order, they take longer to come. If you buy it on amazon it turns up in 24 hrs. Obviously it’s much nicer to have something hand made and sent out from a  business of real people, but I had left it later than I intended with some of my shopping and as a result was waiting for a few items till quite close to Christmas. And I couldn’t remember if I’d  missed anyone, or if siblings gifts were very mismatched in value until it arrived.  Not very organised of me, I know. Next year I will consider this before I start! Everything did turn up in time and was beautiful may I add!

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I can’t believe these are chocolate; the amazing chocolate workshop https://thechocolateworkshop.co.uk

5. You feel more virtuous

I really felt like my money was doing good and my custom was valued!

6. Everyone doesn’t get the same present

This is probably my favourite thing. Everybody got unique and individual presents. Some years I have worried that the same child might get the same toy 5 times over, but I didn’t even have to consider that this year.

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HandMade holly wreath by Bliss Lane Nurseries, Flore 

7. You have to decide what constitutes a small business

You have an image in your head of what a small business is and what a large corporation is. Some companies blur the lines though. If you see that they have 70,000 Facebook followers, they are not really ‘small’. But if they are making hand crafted goods in the U.K. Well that’s the sort of business I want to use. So I guess it comes down to personally how you decide to spend your money. I decided this. If I felt my custom would be appreciated. If I felt the owners of the business would wake up in the morning, look at the orders that had come in over night and be delighted. If I felt my custom would help the company of real people to grow. Then they made my list! Because that’s how WE feel. We appreciate our customers above all, we LOVE orders coming in and a good Christmas helps our business grow into the new year. So that’s how I set my bar!

8. You make friends along the way

Because you deal with real people you get a personal service and build great relationships along the way. This really has to be the best thing about using any small business. And you use each other’s businesses in return too.

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Hand stitched book pillow by Stitched By Em

9. It spreads to other areas

I found that I thought more about EVERYTHING I was buying. Instead of buying Christmas cards when I was at the supermarket (because it was easy and needed no thought) I went online and searched for cards that support charities. I’m a supporter of the air ambulance and found some lovely cards to raise money for their service. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never even thought to do this in the past. We also had some customers at the shop who were making hand made crackers to raise money for Mind and the DEC. Buying those made me feel good about Christmas crackers for the first time ever! And again, they were hand made so much more special than your supermarket waste of money ones!

10. You feel much more in control

I know this might sound a little crazy but when in a big multinational, either physically or online you know you get subliminal messages, positioning and a multi-billion-£ amount of research that influences you to buy more than you intended. I loved the feeling of being in control of my purchases through using small businesses. It felt much more considered and purposeful!

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Arthur beloved Peter Rabbit from a stall at his Christmas fair 

Overall, I loved the experience and have no reason to not carry it through to next Christmas and many other purchases in between! I did buy a couple of bits for my boys from a big company that wasn’t an independent business, but for many of the same reasons. This business was Toys R Us. A foundation of my childhood with a theme song that’s ingrained in my brain. I felt so sorry for them and their staff with the news that their future was uncertain, so I popped in to get a couple of bits on the run up to Christmas. I thought perhaps I could spread my money around a little more.

I have used so many great independent businesses and it’s been a lovely experience. I’ve put links to some of them in here, but this is just a few that I’ve used I couldn’t list everyone.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas!

Special thanks to my friend Catherine Tarbun who is an independent Usborne book trader who made Christmas a lot easier for me and all the book worms in the family.

Also deserving a special mention is Ben’s very talented Auntie Caroline who owns the Spa at Ely; fantastic for gorgeous high quality gifts, perfect for those who just need spoiling! https://spa-ely.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Yorkshire Puddings

This is brave of me. I’m opening myself up for a lot of criticism here. Everyone has their own way of doing it. Their own little twists and quirks, that they swear by! And nothing else can come close to their famous method, or worse, their MUMS famous method!! Because let’s face it mums always make the best Yorkshires! So I’m putting myself out there, on a limb, and sharing my yourkshire pudding recipe. I love this recipe because it’s easy, requires minimal fussing and delivers consistently risen and beautiful Yorkshires.

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To any international followers of the blog, of which there are a few now, Yorkshire Puddings are a quintessential part of a British Sunday roast lunch. They are not sweet or a dessert! They are plonked on top of your roast, or sometimes your roast is plonked inside of them. This is confusing. They are a vessel for soaking up delicious homemade gravy. Oh no, do I now have to explain gravy…this could be never ending!

Let’s get on with making them. I use the little foil pie dishes that I make small pies for the shop in, and I keep them and reuse them for Yorkshires again and again. You can buy these in large shops or online, or get a Yorkshire pudding pan.  I tend to make 12 at once, and I put the ones that aren’t eaten straight into the freezer in a sealed bag, for another day. I always make them ahead of time so I can make sure the oven temperature is right when I do them. They only take 30 seconds-1 minute back in the oven to reheat at dinner time anyway.

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Ingredients (for 12 decent sized ones):

300g plain flour

8 free range eggs

400ml milk

pinch salt

sunflower oil

Method:

1. Pre heat oven to 230 degrees centigrade. We need it HOT for Yorkshires so make sure there’s no littlies helping for this one!

2. Once oven is pre heated, put oil in the bottom and around the sides of the dishes/pan. If you use foil dishes make sure you have a sturdy tray to bake them on, and that the dishes are not too close together. Once I made this recipe and I didn’t have sunflower oil, so used olive oil. It resulted in an epic fail of flat Yorkshires as the olive oil didn’t get anywhere near hot enough! Be liberal with the oil. We all knew it was going to be unhealthy when we opted for Yorkshires! Put the oiled dishes/ tray into the oven to pre heat. We need the batter to go into hot oil!

3. Whilst the oil is heating up, make the batter. Combine the flour, eggs, milk and salt in a large bowl and whisk together, using some elbow grease. I never worry if the batter is not 100% smooth, they always turn out fine.

4. When the oil is preheated, we are ready to go. We are dealing with hot oil here and have to be quick with the oven door open so the temperature doesn’t drop too much, so be extremely careful. Take the pan/ dishes out of the oven. Working quickly, pour the batter in diving equally between the holes/tins. It should sizzle when the batter hits the oil. Sizzling is good!

5. Return to the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes, until well risen, golden brown and firm. Be careful not to over cook. Remove from the oven and lift the puds out of the tins and onto a piece of kitchen towel or baking paper. The oil that’s left in the bottom of the dishes can be used another day.

6. When the rest of the roast is ready, return the Yorkshires to the hot oven for 30 seconds to 1 minute to warm back through.

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Its not healthy, but if you’re doing it, do it right!

 

 

 

My independent Christmas

I’ve set myself a little challenge. To have an independent Christmas! The excitement we feel within our own business when orders roll in, is extraordinary. The satisfaction we get from knowing we make and produce the food that will make a families Christmas complete is immense. The pride we feel that people trust us with the most important family occasion of the year is humbling.

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My homemade mince pies

One hundred percent of our own Christmas meal comes from ingredients we sell in our own shop, as does our tree and wreath! We sit around beaming on Christmas Day, knowing how delicious our food was, and how beatiful our tree looks, happily satisfied that we have given our all to make the Christmas of others special. As for the customers that have choosen to trust a business like us with their food, they have my utmost respect. They could have found something cheaper, they could have stuck a few extra bits in their supermarket trolley to save an extra trip, they could have bought something frozen a month ago to save the hassle of shopping near Christmas at all. But they didn’t. They chose to use a small business, one that puts quality top and has pride in their work, even if it’s more effort, even if it’s more expensive. They chose to use a business that truely cares about customers, that gets excited by their custom. But most importantly they chose to keep their money in the local economy. These customers keep small business thriving, growing and then hiring even more local people!

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My homemade Christmas Cakes

 

So why on earth do I do the rest of my shopping for Christmas with the likes of Argos, Mothercare and other huge concerns that sell the same old generic plastic rubbish?! This year I have decided to put my money where my mouth is and do ALL my shopping with independent businesses.

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Christmas morning after Santa came!

When I first had the idea, I asked myself why I use these places anyway, to work out if there was a possibility of changing. Is it price? Well no not really because one always assumes independents are more expensive, but they usually aren’t when you scratch below the service. The cold hard answer is, it’s easy. You have a huge list of people to buy for, it’s just easy to sit on the sofa and do it all in one or 2 hits from big retailers and get it delivered to your door. So if that’s the ONLY stumbling block I can think of, then I can do this! I’m prepared to put in more leg work to source more personal, quality gifts, from companies that care.

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My beautiful big boy infront of our beautiful Christmas tree 2016

So what have I thought of my early browsing and purchasing? Well I can’t give too much information about gifts away yet, so as not to ruin the surprise for people I have bought for, but I will write my results up after Christmas! So far though I’ve noticed I’m putting a lot more thought into each persons gift. And it’s the thought that counts after all! I’ve also really enjoyed the diverse range of businesses that I’m using, and it’s opened up my eyes to just what creativity lies on your doorstep! I love that there’s so many small business and crafty individuals  around, enough to overcome any problem. An example is that I didn’t know how I would source Christmas crackers, and then I discovered some customers at our shop were hand making Christmas crackers to raise money for charity. Christmas crackers usually seem wasteful, both in terms of money and resources, but this year I feel virtuous about purchasing them for the first time ever!

The other unexpected thing I have noticed, is that it’s made me question what is an independent business. The other day I was browsing a company that makes handmade Christmas items, when I saw they had 60,000 Facebook followers. Not really what I would describe as a small business. So I had to make a decision as to whether they fell within my accepted list, which lead to me looking into their business. It was started a few years ago by 2 friends, who still run the business. Their production and offices is still completely in the U.K. and their products are still hand finished to the highest quality. I got the impression they were still new and a good season could make them, and a bad season could break them. This made me think my order would be important to them and cared about by them. This put them on my accepted list! I decided that any business that is delighted to get orders and the orders are important to them, is the sort of business I want to send my money to!

The other thing I have discovered is that Etsy is awesome!

I will keep you posted about how it goes, if I succeed and what I learn along the way! But for now, happy independent Christmas!

 

My Friends and Other Hungry Family!

I always talk about Family, Food and Farming…but there’s another very important ‘F’- Friends! Let me introduce you to Hannah & Vicki, 2 very special ladies that I first met back in a previous life at university. Since then we have all been through so much together, and grown up together. We have now accumulated 3 husbands and 6 children too! That’s one husband and 2 children per person! Since the most recent member of the gang arrived just 7 weeks ago (and the only girl in the younger generation) I decided it was time we got all 12 of us together for a Sunday meal.

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As I’ve been doing really well losing weight and getting fit and healthy, I decided it shouldn’t be any ordinary Sunday lunch. It had to be a treat and a celebration. We don’t all get together often so it definitely was a special occasion, plus you don’t have a new baby to welcome everyday do you? So I wanted a meal where I didn’t worry about what I ate and I didn’t feel guilty for it. So I announced we would be having a 3 course lunch (has to be lunch as evenings out with kids are an impossibility), and it would be as swanky as possible with children in tow! So then I had this idea that I could blog about how it all went down…so here’s my recollection, which I hope you enjoy reading!

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Getting ready for the dessert course!

So what do you need to do in advance to plan an epic meal for 12 people (really only 11 as the baby won’t eat food yet, but 12 sounds better!)?

1. Clean the house, only to apologise profusely that despite a day of tidying it’s STILL a tip. I like to think my home is warm and welcoming, and relaxed, and people never leave hungry. If you are coming to look at a clean and tidy show home, however, you will be very disappointed! Luckily my friends know this. They know they are ALWAYS welcome. Unless they are judging how tidy it is!!

2. Decide ‘the gist’ of what I’m going to make. Luckily I have a bakery attached to the side of the house so I don’t need to decide exact puds, I just need to have a rough idea so I have got the right things in. I decided that kids wouldn’t sit still for 3 courses, and they would want to play together when everyone first arrived so an antipasti platter starter would be best. I thought a casual starter that we didn’t need to sit for would allow me to get the main course finished off, would start things off casual and at ease, and would please the free range children. Plus there was minimum preparation needed. So main course was going to have to be a roast because a) it’s Sunday b)kids like it c)it can be trailored to suit any low carb/high protein/lots of veggies diet anyone may be following and d)I can put all the food on my breakfast bar and people can serve themselves so I don’t have to dish it up! So the desserts? I didn’t make my mind up ahead of time but I did decide that I was going to do 2 or 3 different ones so there was a choice…or you could try a bit of all of them! I was going to make a bit of the food the day before, but in truth I ran out of time wading through the mess in my house! Also I know I have additional ovens in the bakery so that takes the pressure off, and one friend lives 2 hours away, so I figured that if she told me when she was leaving I knew I had 2 hours to get it all done!

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Starter tasting plate!

3. Do the shopping. This involves sending a list to Ben who was at the Cambridge shop. This is where my preparation went a little off track! You see, I hadn’t told Ben (apparently) that there were 2 families coming. He thought there was 1. So he thought I was ‘making a fuss’ with the amount of food I had put on my list and scaled it back. Also the words ‘vegetables to go with a roast’ disappeared off the shopping list somewhere between me pressing send and the words arriving on Ben’s phone screen. Luckily we have an onsite butchery so a bigger piece of beef could be retrieved and I always have loads of veg at home. Disaster averted. We shall say no more about it!

So the day arrives. I used to get nervous to cook for a lot of people but these days I love it, and I’m much more confident.

I assigned Ben 3 responsibilities to take the pressure off-

1) Cook the meat, this is Bens speciality anyway

2) Make the gravy, because quite frankly I’m no good at it, and he is

3) Source and serve drinks (he did work in a pub for years after all)

My morning went down like this…Leo wasn’t awake yet and me and Arthur were up (Ben was out feeding the animals). I thought this would be a great opportunity to get potatoes peeled and in water ready to par boil and sweet potatoes peeled ready for sweet potato mash.

Next get Leo up and we had breakfast. By the time we are done it’s about 10:30, Ben’s home, and ‘far away’ friend Hannah is about to leave her house.

“Take control of the boys Ben, I’m disappearing into the bakery.”

“oh, and I know I said you only had 3 jobs but you wouldn’t mind par boiling and then straining those potatoes would you?”

How can he refuse, he’s trying to get back in my good books for not knowing how many people were coming? (Oops, mentioned it again)

Anyway, first job was to whip up some shortcrust pastry, this would be the base for 2 of the deserts; lemon meringue pie and sugar free apple tart. I had a bit left over so I thought I’d make my mum a lemon meringue too as I remembered the filling recipe always makes loads. Whilst they blind baked I made lemon meringue filling and got those in the oven and then made the sugar free apple tart filling. I didn’t follow a recipe for this I just winged it so I also spent some time hoping it turned out ok. Next I made a walnut brownie, this would later be plastered with homemade salted caramel. Final piece of baking before returning to the house kitchen was Yorkshire puds, which went a little like this…

“oh no, the batter has made 13, that’s so unlucky…oh well we are baking so I’ll just call it a bakers dozen”

Next roasties went into the oven as first friends arrived. I prepared the veg while we chatted. Then excused myself to make the salted caramel…pretending I’d left it till they were there because it was so quick to make but really it was because I’d run out of time! Rest of the group arrived so I got my starter platter ready…which was mainly opening packets and pretty-fying it! We had 2 kinds of cheese, charcuterie that ben had cured down the farm; bresaola, English Serrano style ham & paprika lomo (these aren’t ready for sale yet but what’s the point in having friends if it’s not to experiment on them?!), charcoal crackers, silver and green basil olives, and COBS Bakery Cambridge loaf and seeded breads. I was going to make my own bread but ditched this idea when I decided I wasn’t going to make anything the day before!

Whilst we picked at this, the children played and I was able to get the veg ready, whilst not feeling in a rush as nobody was waiting for food…they had a whole platter to get through! Then when all the roast beef meal was ready, I put everything on our breakfast bar so everyone could help themselves to what they fancied. And go back for seconds easily!!

After everyone was sufficiently stuffed we thought it would be best to go for a walk around the fields before dessert and coffee. This was to get the walk in before it got dark, and to let the food digest a little. It’s lovely to take the little ones for a walk. Until someone kicks off. This someone belonged to me. And the trouble was that he didn’t want to walk past the digger, he wanted a go on it. At least being a bit fitter I managed to carry an unhappy 3.5yr old across an entire field.

Back home we tested out the trio of desserts, and had hot drinks. I *may* have tried all 3.

Apart from the digger incident all the kids had a lovely time, and all played together so nicely. I think everyone went home with full tummies. I had a wonderful time. It’s easy when you are busy to avoid organising stuff, but catching up with close friends is something I have to tell myself to make sure I never put off. Thanks to my amazing friend for all traveling so far to see us, even when I told them I was going to blog about our meal. I  went to bed happy that I achieved my brief; a swanky 3 course meal with children in attendance. And I went to bed even happier that I combined Family, Farming, Food and Friends into one great afternoon. See you again soon guys, for the next feast!

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What an awesome bunch, we really need a selfie stick so we could all be in a picture at once though!

 

 

 

 

 

Our online store is open, with more than a ‘little’ help from our indie friends!

Our new and improved online store opened with a bang at an amazing launch party on Saturday. This is definitely not a post to plug that (honest), this is because I’m on cloud 9 after having a chance to meet and catch up with so many amazing and awe inspiring independent businesses. Many whom we have the pleasure of working with, and many who we hope we are lucky enough to work with in future.

 

A few years ago, I saw a headline in a national newspaper branding Cambridge as a ‘clone city’, saying the high street is full of chains and has next to no independents or character. I’ve had a bit of a rage simmering under the surface about this for years, and now again it rears its head and I can’t help but express my love and support for the independents, of which there are many!

You see, for every high street chain there is, there’s at least 10 times the number of independents working tirelessly, through blood sweat and tears to make a positive impact on people’s daily lives. And this extends beyond Cambridge! Independents may not have the money to have a fancy big city centre store, or the money to aggressively market themselves, but they are there, they are thriving, they are growing, and in their own way they are changing the world for their own families, the people they employ and the customers they serve.

I have a list of stores and business I never use; due to bad customer service, disregard for customer satisfaction, or unethical practice. One day I might share this list with you. But for today, let me just say that none of them are small independents! And I’d like to grow this list of nationals I don’t use, so I’m forever on the lookout for other indies to replace them with.

Our business only exists because of the whole host of indie business’ that work along side us; supplying us, providing services for us, shopping with us. We are all tiny players in a game where a mighty supermarket could just squash us all. We pay ourselves last, or not at all. We sometimes don’t know where the money is coming from to pay the bills. Yet we all hold hands and get through it together! We lose sleep, family time, money, sanity even. But we are united by a love for what we do, a pride in what we make, a respect for our suppliers, and an appreciation of our customers. And after our launch on Saturday, I’m more convinced than ever that we can do this together. We might not all be on the high street, but we can be there for our customers and offer them an alternative to the chains.

We need your help though, the more of us that get their names out there the better we will all do. If we can help one person to shop from their local indies, and help them avoid the supermarket, that’s pretty amazing. Nothing says you appreciate and recognise your indie business’ quite like spending your money with them. If you know anyone that makes quality food and drink please point them in our direction so we can hopefully give their food a home on our website. But above all, share with your friends and family the indie business that you use. There could be people dying to get away from chains if only they knew of a better option.

Aside of the food industry our lives have been full of friends and families running indie business, and they have all inspired and helped keep us sane. There is farmers, dj’s, spa owners, publicans, landscapers, nail technicians, therapists and personal trainers, to name but a few! I’d love to know more, because let’s face it; a life that is filled with interactions with real people, and not sitting listening to ‘your call is very important to us…’ on a multi nationals switch board is a life well spent. Let’s get sharing the indies we love and avoid the faceless, passionless, steam-coming-out-of-the-ears interactions as much as possible.

So special thanks to all those who helped, and continue to help, create the business that we have today. The future is looking bright for a more personal, enjoyable, passionate future that we all share together.

I don’t want to finish this post without a special thank you to Pina writer of the blog One Two Culinary Stew https://onetwoculinarystew.com/ , who took loads of the lovely pics I’ve used today. Pina’s blog is great, she works selflessly to help promote good indie food business, and cooks lovely food too, do check it out, she was a huge inspiration for me starting my own blog. Thanks also to Anne Beamish of Independent Cambridge who has also provided photos, spoke some lovely words at our launch, and generally does amazing work to make sure everyone knows that Cambridge is NOT a clone city!!

 

 

 

 

 

Our journey into the good life ‘part 2’: I wonder if we could start our own shop?!

I’ve put off writing this post for ages. Not because I’m not immensely proud of the journey we have gone on, but because there is so much water under the bridge, I don’t know where to start!

As regular readers of the blog may have seen from the original ‘Our Journey Into The Good Life’ post, I grew up on the farm, as my Dad had before me. I loved every aspect of living on the farm and my parents had instilled a strong work ethic in us, and themselves worked very hard over very long hours. My 2 great aunts that lived on the farm were an amazing influence and inspiration. Born just after the turn of the century, they had seen so many changes in the world, yet they still lived their way; collecting fruit from the hedgerows, growing vegetables, making clothes and repairing clothes, bottling and jarring till their hearts were content. Reading everyday, staying active into their 90’s, being so proud of what they had seen women achieve in their lifetime,  (they couldn’t believe girls now went for school for as long as boys, women were not only voting but we had a female prime minister), they really made me want to pass this lifestyle on to my children!

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So I will pick up my story in the summer of 2005. I was a bright eyed and bushy tailed, 19 year old student of Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge (Anglia Polytechnic ‘in those days’) , having just finished my 2nd year at university. In the long summer break before starting my 3rd year, we thought it would be a cool idea to open a little shop on the farm. This was part of an experiment into farm diversification to see if we could potentially bring in enough income from this, that after my 3rd year at university had finished that the farm could support me coming to work there full time! So we put up a little wooden summerhouse shed, in the middle of our farm, with a bit of space for car parking out the front, and we had a shop. A very sparse shop, but a shop nonetheless! We sold in the shop eggs from our free range hens, potatoes that we grew on the farm, and some veg that we had planted in late spring/early summer in readiness for this venture into retail. We weren’t a grower of vegetables, this was new to us. We had an alarm so we could hear cars driving down to the car park and I would run to the shop when it went off, eager to serve the customers the best eggs, potatoes and vegetables around. We hardly had anything in the shop at all, it was quite pitiful looking back. But what we did have was amazing, and I was proud as punch of it! As we sold each bunch of carrots, I would scurry off to the field and pull another fresh bunch to replace it. I got the buzz and I was hooked! Mum and Dad amazingly said they would keep the shop open while I returned to university for my final year. We had never had actual retail customers down at the farm before, and it was quite exciting.

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Then!

So after the hard work I’d put in on my summer break, I just had time for a girls holiday with my friend, also called Vicki, and then it was back off for my 3rd and final year. However, never one to stick to a plan, I happened to meet a nice red- haired chap whilst on holiday in Crete. He lived in Cambridge, where I was studying, and was working in a pub. This nice chap of course, turned out to be love of my life, and future husband, Ben! How life throws these curve balls at you?!

During my 3rd year, Ben spent a lot of time visiting the farm with me. He jumped into farm life with both feet. He even got into the early morning rises to watch a bit of cricket with my Dad before going out to tend to the animals. We had, over the course of the year, grown the shop to include a few lines for other local producers, and Mum and Dad had been on a course to learn sausage making, and we had started retailing our own home reared meat too. With Ben and I taking frequent trips back to the farm, our friends, acquaintances and even Ben’s pub customers were putting in orders to us, for shopping to bring back for them to Cambridge. We were starting to get a bit excited. ‘There could be something in this’, we would say to each other with youthful enthusiasm, ‘People in this city want this amazing stuff from the farm, maybe, just maybe, we should open a shop here, right in the middle of the city’.

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Testing out the produce from our first suppliers to our farm shop, local honey, straight from the jar!

 

Problem with me and Ben is, our crazy ideas soon turn into realities! Ben has a flair for retail and selling, and throws himself into anything he does. Within a year of meeting he had learnt how to look after animals, butcher meats, fit in with a farming family as an outsider and ‘townie’ (very tough order) and we were in the process of signing a lease at our first city store, on Victoria Road Cambridge.

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Now!

Well guys, I’m sure you can pick up on the story from here! What an amazing 12 years it’s been though. We now have a different store on Victoria Avenue (after spending time on Chesterton rd inbetween). We still have a little store and all our production on the farm. Ben still runs the butchery, I still run the bakery. We have an online store (fancy that for a little girl from the farm?!). We produce more on our still working farm that ever before. We have an arsenal of hundreds of amazing products from other businesses and producers just like us! We have laughed. We have cried. We have been so exhausted we couldn’t stand any longer! We have made life long friends, and learnt so much about such a fantastic industry. We have been immensely proud. And…we still love it. But do you know my best achievent? Ben and I are now married with 2 beautiful boys of our own. And they live with us on the farm. They get that magical childhood that I had! We have so much more we want to achieve, but with this goal I can safely say ‘mission accomplished’!