Browsing Tag

agriculture

Living

8 farm stay holidays guaranteed to beat winter blues

9th January 2018

The farm stay encapsulates the holiday many of us crave: an unfettered getaway, remote from the mundanity of office life, that narrows the divide between food and plate. Question is, what most takes your fancy?

Brushing elbows with a farming family in the Italian countryside, or getting lost (but not, hopefully, too lost) in 4,200 acres of lush Tennessee wilderness? Here are a few picks of the best farm stays around the world to get you started.

1. Coombeshed Farm, Cornwall, UK

Tom Adam’s Pitt Cue has been a huge part of London’s charcoal-fuelled barbecue and grilled meat movement since he started with a trailer pitch on South Bank. So it was with great intrigue when Adams and British export and New York restaurateur April Bloomfield joined forces to open a B&B farm stay in a rather remote part of Cornwall. A large portion of ingredients used in the restaurant kitchen are grown and reared on site, including the Mangalitza pigs that made Pitt Cue famous.

coombesheadfarm.co.uk

2. Ca ‘de Memi, Veneto, Italy

Ca ‘de Memi, a 40-minute train journey from Venice, is a family-run operation: Ottorino, who helped establish the farm in its modern incarnation, works the land, while Michela, with her daughters, works the breakfast table. The family’s 14-hectare plot is run on the principles of slow food, growing vegetables and herbs and rearing Paduan hens, Muscovy ducks, and rabbits.

cadememi.com

3. Serenbe, Georgia, USA

Here’s one for the sustainable-minded adventurer. A 900-acre farm ­– one that’s part of an environmentally conscious community, no less ­– with 15 miles of footpaths among untouched forests, wildflower meadows, waterfalls, and all the wildlife that comes with it. There’s plenty of opportunity for exploration, while tours of its working farm are available for those more comfortable with someone who knows where they’re going.

serenbeinn.com

4. O’Vineyards, Carcassonne, France

Somewhere between Toulouse and Montpellier is the town of Carcassonne with an imposing 13th-century citadel, complete with watchtowers, battlements and all. O’Vineyards and it’s working winery is found just north of here and guests are free to wander the Syrah and Sauvignon vineyards before taking full advantage of the produce made on site. Five-course dinners and an ample supply of wine provide the main draws.

ovineyards.com

5. Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Australia

Views of Grampians National Park, close encounters with endangered animals, and tucked-away colonial lodges are abound in and around Royal Mail’s estate. As extraordinary a location as this is, most of the focus at this farm stay is on food and drink. Chefs lead tours of the kitchen’s organic garden, picked clean by resident ducks (rather than maintained with industrial pesticides), the restaurant is headed up by Robin Wickens (regarded as one of Australia’s best chefs), and the cellar, decades in the making, houses around 26,000 bottles.

royalmail.com.au

6. Blackberry Farm, Tennessee, USA

Given its 4,200-acre estate, Blackberry Farm is a farm stay with more than enough variety and intrigue in its natural bounty with which to furnish the bellies and curiosity of its guests. The farm has become a favourite for visiting chefs and producers, not just for the raw materials grown here, but for what’s for lunch too. To top things off, the farm has an on-site World Beer Cup award-winning brewery concocting saisons, pilsners, and pale ales for its guests and the wider market.

blackberryfarm.com

7. Asara Wine Estate, Western Cape, South Africa

Stellenbosch. Arguably one of the prettiest wine regions in the world. Asura Wine Estate, along with its hotel, bumps up against Stellenbosch with some vineyards of its own ­– 104 hectares of mostly red grape varieties are grown here, from Malbec to Petit Verdot. The whole mise en place means it’s a wine lover’s dream with wine tasting, wine tours, and bike rides through local vineyards.

asara.co.za

8. Brown’s Field, Chiba, Japan

Embedding yourself in the Japanese countryside among rice fields, traditional bathhouses, and Ewok-style treehouses sounds almost subversive to Japan’s affinity for the high tech. But there lies pleasure in the simple things. At Brown’s Field, a small farm run by an American ex-journalist and his Japanese wife on the east Chiba coast, everyone from local volunteers to hotel guests are invited to muck in with daily life at the farm. Sound a bit feudal? When rewards of a day’s work are shared at the communal dinner table, you’ll realise maybe Japanese peasant life wasn’t so bad.

brownsfield-jp.com

Bitten by the travel bug? Visit these great food markets of the world on your way.

Prefer closer to home? Don’t miss these six deliciously idyllic UK farm breaks.

Cooking Farming

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

1st January 2018

Ancient grains are back in popular favour. A trend that we reckon will only continue to rise. But what even is an ancient grain? And why should we care? Here’s our guide to why we’ve gone crazy for them, their benefits and how to cook them.

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

Grains make up more than half of the world’s daily calorific intake. Not to mention the vast amount that also goes to feed livestock – which, in turn, we eat too. It goes without saying that without grain we’d have very different eating habits. And if the world’s grain supply were to suddenly stop tomorrow? We’d be in big trouble.

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

“We eat wheat that is dead”

Wheat, corn and rice are the main players – the ones we humans eat the most of. These are crops that have been selectively bred for thousands of years, developed for their resistance to disease and ability to produce high yields. The problem lies with how intensively these main crops are grown, designed to rely heavily on fertilisers and herbicides to grow – damaging not just for our health, but our soils, water and environment as a whole – and to last longer on our shelves. Rather than breeding these crops for their flavour or nutrition, our main source of energy has been bred simply for the quantity it yields, and the economic return it provides big agro-business.

“The problem is we don’t eat true wholewheat. We eat wheat that is dead and denuded so it’s shelf-stable. We lost the taste of wheat and all its health benefits. And for something we eat so much of, it really is a true disaster. If we’re going to change the food system, we have to change how we grow and consume wheat.”

– Dan Barber

What are ancient grains?

And that’s where these so-called ancient grains come in. These refer to grains – like, spelt, barley and millet – and pseudo-cereals – like, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth – that have been little changed by selective breeding. Meaning, they are genetically very similar, both in terms of flavour, nutrition and yield, to the grains our ancestors would have eaten centuries ago.

Forget superfoods, it’s all about diversity

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

Naked Barley growing at Wakelyns Agroforestry – a research farm run by Professor Martin Wolfe a couple of miles away from Hodmedod’s HQ in Suffolk, it’s the perfect place for organic trial plots. This enables the team to try out new and ancient grain varieties on a very small scale and to look at how existing crops might work in different systems.

It’s not because they’re ancient that they’re better – if anything that tag is meaningless – it’s their diversity and what this can bring to our diets and farming systems that’s the key”, stresses Josiah Meldrum, co-founder of Hodmedod’s, the pioneering British suppliers of unusual and underused grains.

“More genetically diverse farm systems, that include a range of cereals in a long rotation, tend to be more resilient to disease and pests. These older varieties also have deeper roots and are better able to draw more of their water and nutrients from the soil than the input-hungry short rotation monocultures we’ve come to rely on”.

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

After a global search for seed, a couple of years of trials and several months working out how to flake and mill it, Hodmedod’s have welcomed organic naked barley into their range.

These ancient grains are often more nutritious (a little more exciting) too. A good example is naked barley. Named so because unlike normal barley, the grain falls from the ear without the need for polishing. This also means that, unlike polished or pearled barley, when you eat naked barley you’re eating a whole grain.

Naked barley was a popular crop among Bronze and Iron Age farmers because it’s easy to prepare for milling and eating immediately after harvest, but by the mid 20th-century it had practically disappeared, with wheat taking its place. However, naked barley is a crop that requires half as much water per tonne as wheat and needs far less fertiliser. It’s high in complex carbohydrates, especially beta-glucan – a soluble fibre that has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol. Also when compared to wheat, it’s higher in protein – around 15 or 16% as compared to 10 or 12% for wheat.

“It might have been forgotten by modern farmers and millers, but it can really fit into today’s farming systems, and while it doesn’t produce as high a yield as many other cereals, what you do get from it is far more beneficial to both our health and the environment”, says Josiah.

Enter the UK’s first home-grown crop of quinoa

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

Sandoval quinoa crops being grown in East Anglia for Hodmedod’s.

The trick is in getting people to buy it. In the UK, farmers legally have to rotate their crops. Meaning, they alternate between crops that exhaust the supply of soil nutrients with those that replenish them. But they do so on the assumption that anything that isn’t wheat will make a financial loss. There simply isn’t a big enough market for selling alternative grains at a profit.

Thanks to Hodmedod’s and a handful of other pioneering farmers and chefs, change is happening to promote the benefits of unusual and under-used grains, encouraging people to use their purchasing power and incentivising farmers to diversify the grains they sell. Hodmedod’s are selling the UK’s first-ever crop of quinoa, Gilchesters Organics grow and mill grains from einkorn to rye, and Sharpham Park’s organic spelt is sold as flour, porridge and grain.

As consumers, the key is in varying what we eat and supporting the farming systems that enable us to do that – farming systems that are moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach, and rethinking what they grow so it’s more in tune with agro-ecological principles, precisely by introducing a diversity of plants to the land. Helping them to do that could start, simply, with the grains we eat.

Here are a few to start.

5 ancient grains (and a pseudo-cereal) to try in 2018

Spelt

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

Spelt is an ancient member of the wheat family and a hybrid of emmer wheat and goat grass. It grows five-feet high whereas modern wheat has been bred down to a more machine-friendly waist height. Nutty in taste, it’s full of fibre and a tasty addition to stews and soups. Pearled spelt is made by bouncing it over five rotating stones which remove the outer bran so it can absorb water and flavour when making risotto. Try Sharpham Park’s organic whole or pearled varieties, grown in Somerset.

Einkorn

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

Einkorn is the earliest type of wheat that humans grew and ate. Einkorn production completely disappeared in the UK until 2008, when Doves Farm started working with a small group of organic farmers to re-establish the production of einkorn. Higher in protein than commercial wheats, einkorn flour has a nutty flavour and makes great rustic style breads and pizza bases.   

Quinoa

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain, but it’s used in much the same way. Grown in Peru, Chile and Bolivia for thousands of years, quinoa formed the staple diet of the Incas. It’s a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids, and it’s gluten-free. Try its black, red or white varieties in salads, use it to bulk out casseroles or as an alternative to rice or couscous. Try Hodmedod’s pioneering British quinoa.

Millet

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

Millet has a mild, sweet, nut-like flavour. A staple for a third of the world’s population, it’s most commonly eaten in India, China and Africa. It’s another gluten-free seed, a good source of protein and is high in fibre and B vitamins. Use it in place of oats to make porridge!

Amaranth

What are ancient grains and why should we eat them?

These tiny seeds are yet another great protein source and are also naturally gluten-free. You can use it much like quinoa, or in place of other grains in salads and soups, or try toasting them in a dry frying pan for added crunch to salads or breakfast bowls.

Intrigued? Here’s everything you need to know about amaranth.

Discover Hodmedod’s and Sharpham Park at farmdrop.com.

Thinking

10 food and farming heroes to watch in 2018

20th December 2017

Meet the farmers, chefs and all-round superstars safeguarding the future of our food and making the planet a better, healthier place you need to watch in 2018.

There’s plenty of doom and gloom in the media these days, what with chicken scandals and plastic-filled oceans and warming climates. But with every year that passes, more producers and farmers, more chefs and foodies, more brewers and growers are working harder to make our planet a better, healthier place to be.

They’re the guys helping to safe-guard the future of our food system, bringing our attention to what’s on our plate and where it comes from, and promoting better ways to grow, buy, cook, eat and enjoy it.

Here’s our super-select pick of the ones to watch; the inspiring, passionate and positive game-changers who are leading the way in the world of radical food and farming.

Massimo Bottura

future of our food

It’s hard not to love Massimo. Owner of three-star Michelin restaurant, Osteria Francescana in Modena, voted the Best Restaurant in the World in 2016, Massimo is one of the most influential chefs in modern Italian gastronomy. Now he spends his time heading up his non-profit association, Food for Soul – a series of community kitchens from Brazil to London that intercept otherwise wasted food to feed those in need. He’s also recently released a new cookbook – Bread is Gold is packed with recipes that show how to turn humble, often wasted, ingredients into delicious meals: “these dishes could change the way we feed the world, because they can be cooked by anyone, anywhere, on any budget. To feed the planet, first you have to fight waste.” Enter our competition to win a signed copy.

Foodforsoul.it

IG: @massimobottura

​Old Tree Brewery

future of our food

‘Living drinks for living soil’ is the tagline for this ecological brewery in Brighton investing in regenerating the land through their naturally fermented, seasonal, probiotic drinks. Suppliers of zero-waste restaurant SILO, Old Tree are equally serious about minimising their negative impact on the planet. They gather ingredients they’ve grown in their food forest or by foraging for abundant wild edibles and return any waste as compost to the land. Find them setting up their new nano-brewery of live, botanical drinks in 2018.

oldtree.house

IG: @oldtreebrewery

The Sioux Chef

future of our food

What with all Trump’s handiwork this year, the rights of North America’s indigenous communities seem on shakier ground than ever. So it’s good timing that the Sioux Chef, AKA Sean Sherman, is reviving an ignored slice of North American history. And he’s doing it… through food. Forget tacos and fry-breads, wheat and beef, dairy and sugar. The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen cookbook (soon to be restaurant and a string of Indigenous Food Hubs) dispels modern misconceptions of native American food, with a celebration of ingredients from venison to rabbit, lake trout to wild turkey, sage to sumac, plums to purslane. Of native American origin, the Sioux Chef draws from a long forgotten culinary culture that uses wild plants and animals, native crops and methods to inform a new take on what north American food really should, and could, become known for.

sioux-chef.com

IG: @siouxchef

Kate Collyns at Grown Green

future of our food

Magazine editor-turned-veggie grower, Kate Collyns ditched her office career for a life on the land, and now runs a successful, award-winning, sustainable market garden near Bath. After years of learning on the job – with challenges from chiselling swede out of the ground in sub-zero temperatures to picking kale in hail storms to educating customers on seasonal eating (and why they can’t have tomatoes in January) – she’s also written a book, aptly named Gardening for Profit, and shares her knowledge in farming groups and organisations to promote the merits of efficient small-scale farming. These days Kate’s two-acre garden is flourishing, and we’re big fans. Even with an eight-month-old in tow, she still manages to supply Farmdrop with quality greens grown with organic methods. She’ll be back on the site in spring.

Growngreen.wordpress.com

T: @katecollyns

Neil Rankin

future of our food

Offal lovers unite! The rise of nose-to-tail eating is showing no signs of abating, with more chefs and home-cooks seeking to swap prime cuts for under-loved and often-wasted parts of the animal. One such person is Neil Rankin, chef and owner of Temper Soho, whose focus on using well-reared whole animals, butchering them on site and barbecuing every morsel over open fire pits won him Best Newcomer at the 2017 Observer Food Monthly awards. “I buy a great cow, and then work out how to sell the whole thing. People come in and say they want a sirloin. There are maybe six kilos of sirloin on a carcass of 600 kilos. Every single part of the cow is delicious to eat, it’s just knowing how to cook it.” He knows what he’s talking about.

Temperrestaurant.com

T: @frontlinechef

Mazimas

future of our food

The revolutionary pop-up restaurant and catering company that ​connects refugee and migrant women with London diners has taken the capital by storm in recent years. Serving up ‘soulful, authentic’ meals, the social enterprise seeks to give women a means to work by putting their cooking skills to good use. After sold-out supper clubs and a Guardian Cook residency, Mazimas has now launched its first online shop, selling jams, spice blends and teas with interesting twists and quality ingredients.

Mazimas.co.uk

IG: @eatmazimas

Locavore Magazine

future of our food

Photo: @salutateporcum via Facebook

A new publication promising ‘slow, seasonal and sustainable food’ was always going to pique our interest, and this one’s a goodie. Launched in November 2017, the quarterly journal looks at how food is found, grown, prepared and served. Expect intelligent stories from chefs and farmers, foragers and scientists that explore anything from seed-saving projects and fermenting to heritage grains, asking the question; what does a sustainable food system look like?

locavoremagazine.co

IG: @locavoremagazine

Mr Lyan – Ryan Chetiyawardana

future of our food

Xavier D. Buendia / XDB Photography

It should come as no surprise that we’re big fans of Mr Lyan. Award-winning bartender and owner of Dandelyan, Ryan went on to open White Lyan – the world’s first bar without any perishables in a bid to reduce waste – and later Super Lyan (which we wrote about here) and adjoining bar-restaurant Cub (we wrote about that here too). Both work to empower their farmers, chefs, bartenders and consumers to produce, cook, eat and drink in a more sustainable and informed way: “we want to nurture a dialogue between producers and us, and between us and the public. By empowering each stage, we can treat our food systems more appropriately and find ways of championing positive change in a way that feels realistic and exciting” says Ryan. Cheers to that.  

mrlyan.com

IG: @mrlyan

​Nordic Food Lab​

future of our food

Eating insects is a concept we’re waking up to, albeit slowly, in the west. And it’s a trend on the up, with more scientists and chefs researching the benefits of eating bugs as a viable source of edible protein. Will it take off? It seems so. The Nordic Food Lab – the non-profit organisation founded by Noma’s Rene Redzepi and food entrepreneur Claus Meyer – are taking it seriously, with a new book, On Eating Insects, that explores most importantly, how they taste. Insects are just one of their many experiments, with a lab full of local roots, mushrooms and herbs, fermented fish, preserved deer meat and barrels of ageing quince ‘balsamic’ vinegar to name a few, in their pursuit of delicious foods that can feed a sustainable future planet.

Nordicfoodlab.org

IG: @nordicfoodlab

Delphis Eco

future of our food

Delphis Eco CEO Mark Janovich and team at Damer’s First School in Dorset during Recycling Week.

This kickass manufacturer and innovator of eco cleaning products is taking their mission one step further. They’ve developed the UK’s first 100% post-consumer plastic bottle. Meaning? They collect recycled plastic milk bottles, refine it, re-blow it and re-use it to package their products, lengthening the life-span of single-use plastic. Providing a small – but significant – solution to the world’s 300 million tonnes of virgin plastic that gets binned every year. All of their products will use their ‘closed loop’ packaging, and will be sold via Farmdrop soon.

Delphiseco.com

T: @DelphisEco

Don’t miss the food trends set to shape 2018.

Living

The food trends you need to know about

11th December 2017

From foraging to fermenting and from eating offal to cooking ancient grains, 2018 sees a return to our heritage as traditional methods and forgotten foods are brought back into the mainstream. Here’s our forecast of food trends to come.

Wild Food

Rosie Birkett foraging on the Oare marshes in Kent with Miles Irving.

The nation’s love of wild edibles continues to gain momentum with forgotten foods gracing menus, from restaurants to cocktail bars. Head to Native in Covent Garden for a menu that offers anything from seaweed mayo to native oysters, sip on Douglas-fir-infused vodka martinis at the Midnight Apothecary in Rotherhithe, take a wild booze course with forager Andy Hamilton in Bristol or experiment at home with Farmdrop’s selection of hyper-seasonal, foraged ingredients from rock samphire to dulse seaweed to fill the seasonal hunger-gap this winter.

Read:

The Edible City: A Year of Wild Food, by John Rensten, for great insights into picking and cooking your own and The Forager Handbook, by Miles Irving for an in-depth guide on this lost art.

Follow:

@foragerltd. Wild adventures and forgotten foods from our wonderful supplier foraged edibles, Forager.

Offcuts Are On

Wild food meets offcuts: Japanese knotweed with wild garlic at Cub. Photo: Xavier D. Buendia / XDB Photography

Whether it’s eating nose-to-tail or cooking root-to-fruit, using up offcuts is set to go mainstream in 2018. So far we’ve seen chefs – from Poco’s Tom Hunt in Bristol to SILO’s Douglas McMaster in Brighton (and Hoxton with Mr Lyan at Cub) to St. John’s Fergus Henderson and Dan Barber’s WastED pop-up in London – serve broccoli stalks and beet leaves, whole cod heads and offal in a bid to reduce waste and embrace vegetable, mammal and fish in their tasty entirety. And it looks like the trend is spreading. Unusual roots and tops are finding their way onto restaurant menus (celery root anyone?), consumer sales of offal – from pig’s trotters and cheeks to chicken livers – are on the up, and chefs from Anna Jones to Jamie Oliver are encouraging home-cooks to celebrate vegetables from root to stem to leaf.

Cook: 

Look out for bunched beetroot so you can eat its leaves when in season and love the unloved with Farmdrop’s selection of offal, including lamb’s hearts and chicken livers.

Follow:

@silobrighton for zero-waste inspiration.

DIY Fermentation

how to make fermented chard at home and what to do with it

Ready to get your DIY fermentation on?

The craze for all things fermented (think: kombucha and kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and chard) shows no sign of abating. With a rise in startups selling their own gut-loving concoctions, from Wild Fizz Kombucha to Bio-tiful Dairy Kefir to Tickles’ Pickles kimchi, and ferment-focussed restaurants opening over town (check out the new Little Duck Picklery in Dalston), 2018 will now see more of us home-brewing and pickling our own thanks to a proliferation of DIY classes – thanks The Fermentarium – and cookbooks.

Do:

Homemade vinegars provide an easy intro into fermenting. Make your own with this easy guide.

Follow:

@the_fermentarium for insights into fermenting, from sourdough to kombucha.

More mocktails?

Fermented drink

Binge drinking is out. Booze-free alternatives are in. So says Club Soda, the ‘mindful drinking movement’ responding to the health-conscious millennials seeking social drinking without the hangover. Studies say one in five adults in the UK are now teetotal – the highest in a decade – and start-ups and drinks companies are responding in kind. Dash Water are ‘perking up water naturally’ with otherwise wasted wonky fruit, Botonique is a botanical fizzy soft drink ‘for wine lovers’ and Luscombe Drinks’ wild elderflower bubbly is billed as a refreshing Champagne alternative.

Go:

The Ethicurean in Bristol offers a great selection of alcohol-free drinks and cocktails, all sourced from local or small-batch producers.

Follow:

@morninggloryville. A rave with a difference.

Ancient grains and pulses

Did you know you can grow amaranth – just at nutritious as quinoa and containing more protein than oats – in your back garden? #2018goals

As demand for plant proteins soar, ancient grains and pulses – including quinoa and spelt, fava beans, amaranth and millet – are making a comeback. Thankfully British growers seeking diverse, soil-nutritious alternatives to main crops, like wheat and corn are also on the up. Winners of the 2017 BBC Food & Farming Awards, Hodmedods have a lot to answer for with their pioneering British-grown quinoa and lentils. As do Sharpham Park’s organic spelt in Somerset, showing that we needn’t look far for tasty, nutritious grain and pulse alternatives.

Cook:

Celebrate grains with this wholesome autumnal spelt salad.

Follow:

@sustainablefoodstory for grain-based explorations and experiments.

New flavours, from herb to flower

“Herbs can extend a simple meal into a feast” says herb-queen Jekka McVicar, and it seems the rest of us are finally catching up. From sweet cicely to winter tarragon to chocolate mint, chefs and foodies are exchanging basil and parsley for a whole range of forgotten flavoursome foliage (check out Bristol’s Michelin-starred Casamia). And it doesn’t stop there. Delicate edible flowers and micro leaves are catching on too, with bakers and chefs brightening up plates and cakes with new and unusual plant-based flavours.

Buy:

Growing Underground’s flavour-packed microgreens – grown 33 metres below the streets of Clapham!

Follow:

@jekkasherbfarm to learn more about all things herbs, direct from Jekka McVicar’s herb farm.

Doggy bags to go

food trends - doggy bags - bethany newman via Unsplash 61417

2017 saw a rise in waste-conscious diners who are kicking doggy bag-embarrassment to the curb. And good news too. Restaurants throw out a whopping 600,000 tonnes of food every year, and with awareness around food waste on the up, chefs and diners are taking their leftovers a little more seriously. Thankfully, the trend is part of a bigger movement that sees restaurants monitoring, recycling and cutting their food waste from farm to fork. Hooray!  

Eat:

Sustainable street food, Gourmet Goat at Borough Market, make use of dairy industry by-product, kid goats, in their east-med-inspired dishes.

Follow:

@foodmadegood for news from the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s inspiring campaigns. @olio_ex app for sharing leftover food with neighbours and @TooGoodToGo_UK app for surplus dishes from restaurants and cafes.

In need some gift inspiration ahead of the New Year? Try our Christmas guide guide for home cooks.

Living

How to choose the best Christmas turkey

6th December 2017

Not sure which turkey to get? Once you’ve made the decision to ditch cheap commercially reared birds (that never see the light of day indoors and are grown in ultra-quick time), it can be tricky to know which higher-welfare free range one to choose. After all, the quality of outdoor life can vary still for free range birds and depends on the methods used by each farm.

To clear things up, here’s a quick guide to our farmers’ birds so you can choose the best turkey for you and your family this Christmas.

Fosse Meadows Farm, Leicestershire

Free range turkey crowns and whole turkeys

How to choose the best turkey this Christmas

Nick and Jacob at Fosse Meadows farm, where ‘happy birds taste better’.

 

Nick and Jacob rear traditional free range Bronze turkeys at Fosse Meadows Farm. They enjoy a natural diet of oats and foraged grass and are grown slowly over six months. Raised to the highest welfare standards, these turkeys live life on the wild side scratching around the farm’s hedgerows. Bronze turkeys are a little gamey and have an essence of wild turkey about them. Fosse’s turkeys are wax plucked to perfection and game hung for up to 14 days for a superior flavour and texture. Nick says: “We are transparent. Our turkeys are reared on the farm and slaughtered on the farm. We slaughter in a traditional process which none of the supermarkets will be able to do.” Catch their turkeys living a truly free-range life in this video.

Pipers Farm, Devon

Free range whole Bronze turkey

How to choose the best turkey this Christmas

Pipers Farm founders Peter and Henri Greig with grass fed cattle on their award-winning farm in Cullompton, Devon.

 

Pipers Farm founders Peter and Henri Greig rear Bronze turkeys in Cullompton in Devon. Together they chose them for their ability to grow slowly and produce beautifully textured meat. Their birds hatch in early spring and spend their first few weeks feathering up in a toasty barn. After that, they’re released into cider orchards where they eat a totally natural diet of simple cereals, herbaceous forage and windfall apples until they have reached natural maturity. Once ready, each bird is dry plucked each one by hand and then hung for a least 12 days. Peter and Henri say: ‘We started Pipers Farm over 20 years ago, with the goal to produce healthy meat that we, as a family, could enjoy eating with complete confidence.’ See their turkeys roam amongst the orchards in this video.

Frenchbeer Farm, Dartmoor

Organic free-range whole turkey

How to choose the best turkey this Christmas

Mike Malseed with his family’s free-ranging organic Bronze turkeys.

 

The Malseed family rear their slow growing Bronze turkeys at Frenchbeer Farm in Dartmoor National Park. The day old birds (poults) are hatched early in the summer. From start to finish are fed a simple traditional cereal based and certified organic diet. When big enough, the turkeys are given access to the surrounding fields and meadows. Here they forage on grasses, herbs and seasonal berries. After six months the birds have reached maturity and carry a layer of fat which ensures the meat to be tender and succulent when cooked. Crucially, this layer of fat is found only in the traditional rearing of the Bronze breed. The birds are then dry plucked by hand and game hung for 10 days to further enhance flavour and texture.

High-welfare farm-fresh turkeys have a superior flavour and slightly denser texture. Our farmers’ truly free-ranging turkeys are grown for at least twice as long as the average supermarket turkey, are never plastic wrapped and come in handy cardboard box. All of our farmers’ turkeys are all free range, exercise outside and encounter no routine antibiotics. Wave good bye to dry, flavourless mass-produced commercial birds.

View our full range of turkeys and get everything you need for an unforgettable Christmas.

Cooking

Bored of turkey? Try slow-grown cockerel this Christmas

4th December 2017

Did you know there’s a traditional alternative to turkey that’s not goose? Say hello to the cockerel (aka a male chicken). And not just any cockerel, a free-ranging bird that’s been slow-grown over 120 days (that’s four times longer than your average supermarket bird) on grassy pastures at Fosse Meadows Farm in Leicestershire. Fed a natural cereal diet rich with corn and as recommended by The Sunday Times, if you enjoy high welfare chicken, this takes the flavour to another gamier level.

Here’s how to cook it with care, keep it moist and impress at Christmas dinner with five steps to cooking the perfect cockerel brought to you by The Food Busker. [Warning: contains game-changing brine].

Ingredients

4kg cockerel

100g unsalted butter, softened

1 clementine, zested and sliced in half

1 lemon, zested and sliced in half

1/2 bunch of thyme, leaves stripped off stalk with a few sprigs saved

3 cloves of garlic into puree

Salt pepper

6 rashers of streaky bacon

For the brine

3 cups of salt

3 cups of sugar

3 bay leaves

1/2 bunch thyme

1 x cinnamon stick

1 tsp pink pepper corns

1 tsp pepper corns

3-4 cloves

1 onion, diced

1 carrot, chopped

1 celery stick, chopped

3 tsp fennel seeds

cockerel alternative Christmas turkey

Ready to try cockerel this Christmas, Food Busker style?

Step 1

“Brine its sexy little ass.”

First make the brine. Heat a pan of large pan of hot water big enough to submerge the cockerel in. Add the salt and sugar, stir and dissolve. Put the lid on and bring up to the boil. Add in the rest of the brine ingredients. Stir and allow the brine to cool down as it needs to be completely cool before adding the cockerel. Drop the cockerel in and leave in the brine for 24 hours.

Step 2

Bend a baking tray rack (trust me)

Take a large baking tray rack and bend it in the middle. This creates a V-shaped rack for the cockerel to sit on and raises the bird up, so it’s not sat burning on the bottom. This special rack also allows more heat to reach the underneath, so the whole cockerel is cooked more evenly. After brining the cockerel for 24 hours, place it on your V-shaped rack on top of a large baking tray.

Step 3

Use a flavoured butter

To ensure the cockerel remains moist, slather over a flavoured butter. Combine softened butter with the clementine and lemon zest, thyme leaves and garlic. Season the inside of the cockerel with salt, pepper, half the clementine, half the lemon and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Spread the flavoured butter over the breast and legs of the bird.

Step 4

Cook it high, then low and flip it over

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cook for 20 minutes for it to sizzle and then turn down to 140°C. Take it out of the oven, turn it upside down and cook it upside down for 1 hour. Doing this helps to keep the breast moist as all the juices run down into the breast. When the hour is up, turn it back over so it’s breast side up. Add a lattice of streaky bacon on top of the breast and put back in the oven. To calculate the full duration of the cooking time, make a note of the weight of your bird before cooking.

Here’s how to calculate how long to cook it for:

20 minutes at 200°C + 45 minutes for every kilogram at 140°C = total cooking time. So if your bird is 4 kilograms, that’s 20 minutes at 200°C + 180 minutes at 140°C = 200 minutes, or 3 hours 20 minutes.

Step 5

Rest it upside down

When it’s done, take it out of the oven, cover in tin foil and leave it to rest for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes upside down. Do not skip this step! This step allows the moisture to seep through the cockerel and back into the breast as it relaxes, ensuring the meat is perfectly moist and ready for the Christmas table.

Shop for Fosse Meadow Farm cockerel at farmdrop.com.

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