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british farming

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

7 reasons why 2017 was a good year for ethical food innovation in Britain

28th December 2017

Meet the ethical food innovators who took it upon themselves to change how we eat, drink and shop in 2017.

#SquareMileChallenge is one solution to the mass misconception that disposable coffee cups are recyclable. Image: Hubbub.

2017 sent us some worrying signals. Cheap, chlorinated chicken could find its way to the UK. Large scale poultry plants were exposed for their fibs and deceit. Much-loved chocolate manufacturers ditched Fairtrade status. Supermarkets showed disappointing responses to the growingly dangerous use of antibiotics on livestock.

You get the point: headline news in the world of food elicited little more than doom and gloom. To spare us complete despair, here are a few stories that will have you feeling a little more optimistic as we head into 2018.

UK’s first ultra-sustainable cocktail bar lands in London

ethical food innovators 2017

Doug McMaster and Ryan Chetiyawardana of Cub. Image: Xavier D. Buendia.

Cub, a new restaurant-bar in Hoxton, is the birthchild of mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana and zero-waste pioneer Doug McAllister. The table tops are made from recycled yoghurt pots and the lights from paper mulch and cork. However, the main focus is the food and drink.

Cub employs a closed-loop system to produce as little waste as possible, while nothing but sustainable ingredients are bought into the kitchen and bar. It’s kind of a big deal ­– when someone as with as much international fame as Mr Chetiyawardana opens a bar hinged on sustainability, you can expect the rest of the world to take note.

More people buying into ethicality

ethical food innovators 2017

Native breed West Country Wessex Saddleback crossed with a Welsh Boar pigs at Pipers Farm in Devon

According to a report carried out by Triodos Bank and Ethical Consumer, sales in organic and ethical food and drink flourished in the past year, while conventional food stagnated. It’s good news for ethical food in general, as that side of the market saw a growth of 9.7%, and the fourteenth year straight in which interest in ethical goods has increased.

‘It appears that demand for locally produced artisan food is driving a revival of local shopping,’ said Ethical Consumer co-editor Rob Harrison. ‘Shoppers increasingly want to know where their food comes from, and that it’s come from somewhere as local as possible to reduce its carbon footprint.’

Sustainable cod is back on the menu

ethical food innovators 2017

Stocks of North Sea cod fell to 36,000 ten years ago. So it was remarkable news when the Marine Stewardship Council said reserves had recovered enough in 2017 for them to be sustainably sourced again.

Mark Pike, chairman of the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group, called this a ‘massive development’ where, finally, shoppers could buy one of the nation’s favourite fish with a clear conscience. We hope the fishing industry collaborates to make sure things stay that way.

Brewers take ethicality to heart

ethical food innovators 2017

The team at Long Arm Brewery, owned by brothers Ed (left) and Tom Martin.

Craft beer still makes up for a comparatively small portion of the brewing industry, but given the total figure of breweries reached the 2,000 milestone in 2017, you have to wonder – for how much longer? As the number continues to rise, so too does those with a sustainable philosophy.

Unlike big breweries, these small guys are more mindful. A more nimble bunch, they can adopt waste-saving initiatives such as repurposing spent grain otherwise destined for the bin, drastically cutting down on water used, rolling out more environmentally friendly packaging (such as cans), and turning surplus or waste products into beer. Some like the Long Arm pub in Shoreditch are even embracing aquaponics to feed fish their spent grain, waste from which is used to fertilise their urban farm.

Coffee drinkers snub high-street chains in favour of small batch roasters

ethical food innovators 2017

Will Corby, Head of Coffee at Pact with Colombian grower Faiber Vega and his family. Faiber describes how the opportunity to sell his best beans has revolutionised farm life.

Three years ago, Costa’s sales were on a high. August 2017, however, saw them at a new low. The reason? Partly down to rising costs, and the rise of internet shopping, but even Whitbread’s chief executive (Whitbread being the conglomerate who own Costa) had to admit Britain is caught up on a new appetite for higher quality, extra-ordinary coffee from independent roasters. And as we’ve seen with the likes of Pact, these setups generally favour the farmer’s welfare more than they do their own profits.

‘War on the straw’ takes hold among popular bars and restaurants

Millions of plastic straws, which end up in our oceans, are fatal hazards to marine life and sea birds. In the wake of a distressing video depicting a bloody sea turtle with a straw wedged up its nose, pub chain Oakman Inns stopped stocking plastic straws from their sites and opted for an eco alternative instead. The move triggered other chains to swiftly follow suit ­– JD Wetherspoon, Be At One, The Alchemist, Laine Pub Company and Liberation Group, Hawksmoor, and Redcob Pubs to name just a few. More are expected to join them.

Councils and organisations address the deplorability of disposability

The #SquareMileChallenge in the city of London. Image: Hubbub.

Innovation in the world of straws is just the start – it’s estimated there’s five trillion pieces of plastic floating in the world’s oceans. So does the war on the straw really align with the actions of cutting out plastic as a whole? Well, quite possibly.

This year, London’s first plastic-free shop opened in Hackney; Borough Market introduced water fountains as their first action in phasing out single-use plastic bottles; and City of London launched a Square Mile Challenge which succeeded in their goal of recycling half a million coffee cups in April, with the aim of recycling five million by the end of the year. However small these victories, they’re concrete signs that we’re not just open to the idea of harmony among animals, one another, and the planet – we’re actually championing it too.

Any other good news to come out of 2017? Shout it out in the comments below.

Discover 10 food and farming heroes to watch in 2018 and the food trends that’ll shape your plate.

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.

Cooking

An alternative Christmas dinner menu by Heirloom

19th December 2017

Want to impress with effortless seasonal stunners? Look no further than these alternative Christmas dinner ideas by Ian Macintosh, Chef Owner of Heirloom – a thoroughly modern British restaurant in Crouch End.

alternative Christmas recipes

Take a seat at the bar at Heirloom.

Talk to most chefs and restaurateurs and they’ll tell you that Christmas is something they get to enjoy between the menu planning, chaotic services, and never-ending kitchen prep. Rarely, in other words.

But despite the seasonal stresses, Ian Macintosh, Chef Owner of Crouch End’s much-loved Heirloom restaurant, retains a childlike enthusiasm for the festive period. He looks forward to putting together his Christmas menus and starts planning dishes as soon as summer departs, favouring those that blend tradition with modernity; British flavours with Continental touches.

alternative Christmas recipes

Ian Macintosh, Chef Owner of Heirloom.

This year, for the first time in a few, Ian, who has run Heirloom with his brother, David, since 2014, is opening the restaurant on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and for lunch on the last two Fridays before the big day; as well as the usual Tuesday to Sunday opening hours.

It promises to be quite a spread. But if you can’t make the jaunt to North London, then don’t despair as the Yorkshire-born has devised a special alternative Christmas menu just for Farmdrop, comprising some of his favourite recipes from Heirloom’s 2017 vintage.

Ian’s alternative Christmas menu showcases British cooking as it is today; seasonal, forward-thinking and delicious. Starters are provided in the form of tandoori trout rillettes and a sprightly kohlrabi, clementine and fennel salad. For mains, Ian flips the bird to turkey in favour of pheasant, which he pot-roasts on a bed of barley, and a vegetarian-friendly salt-baked carrots with labneh dish. Brussels with chestnut and pancetta makes a lovely versatile side, while treacle loaf rounds things off with some much-needed decadence.

Cook any or all of these on the 25th and your guests are sure to go to bed happy. (As for Ian, well he’ll still probably be working.)

To start:

Kohlrabi, clementine and fennel salad

Serves 6 | 50 minutes

Slightly smoky, citrusy and aniseed-y, this simple salad packs a real punch. A lovely light starter to precede the traditional festive gluttony.

1 kohlrabi
4 clementines, 1 saved for dressing
1 fennel bulb
Lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
80ml rapeseed oil
A handful of chives
150g flaked almonds, lightly toasted

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Roast the kohlrabi for 30 minutes or until slightly blackened on the outside.

2. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool, remove the skin with a paring knife, chop the flesh into neat chunks or slices and set aside.

3. For the clementines, cut each in half and sprinkle with sugar. Place a pan over a medium heat and, once hot, add the clementines flesh-side down. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown and caramelised. Allow to cool and then remove the skin.

4. For the fennel, slice on a mandolin or use a sharp knife to cut into thin slices. Store in water with the lemon juice to avoid it oxidising.

5. For the dressing, mix together in a bowl the juice from the remaining clementine, Dijon mustard and chives. Slowly whisk in the rapeseed oil until combined.

6. Combine the kohlrabi, clementine and fennel and toss in the dressing. Scatter with the flaked almonds and serve in bowls or on one big sharing platter.

Tandoori trout rillettes

Serves 6 | 25 minutes plus pickling time

We tend to serve this on blinis over the festive season, but it is equally good on toast or flatbreads. The tandoori spices add a warming twist, while the tartness of the cucumber cuts through the fattiness of the trout belly.

Ingredients

Pickled cucumber

1 cucumber
50ml cider vinegar
50g caster sugar
50ml water
5g mustard seeds
5g cumin seeds

Trout

1 trout belly
Tandoori powder
100ml duck fat
50g chervil, chopped

Method

1. First, prepare the pickled cucumber. Add the vinegar, sugar, water and spices to a pot and place over a medium heat. Heat for 15 minutes, then pass the liquid through a strainer or sieve and allow to cool slightly

2. Cut the cucumber into rounds and place into the pickling liquor for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 220°C

3. Leaving the belly whole, cover it in salt and roast in the oven for 6 minutes. Then, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

4. Place a plan over a low heat. Once hot, add the tandoori powder and heat to release the oils in the spices. After 5 minutes, add the duck fat and cook until combined.

5. Meanwhile, pick the meat from the belly, discarding any bones or skin, and add to a large bowl. Add the mixture from the pan in stages, using a spoon to bring the rillettes together. Allow to cool.

6. Once cool, add the chopped chervil to the mix, check the seasoning and serve on toast, flatbreads or blinis with the cucumber.

For the main event:

Roast pheasant with barley and cranberry sauce

Serves 6 | 1 hour

Pheasant are abundant at this time of year and not as costly as some other birds. Here we pot-roast the legs on a bed of barley and serve with the pan-roasted breasts and a side-serving of cranberry sauce to produce a tasty festive main.

Ingredients

Pheasants

3 pheasants, legs removed
1 carrot
1 stick celery
1 brown onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 a leek
300g pearl barley
Splash of white wine
300g pearl barley
250ml chicken stock
oil

Cranberry Sauce

300g frozen cranberries
250ml water
bunch of thyme
sugar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. To make the mirepoix, a traditional base for many winter dishes, finely chop carrot, celery, onion, garlic and leek and add to a large ovenproof casserole dish with a little oil. Place over a low-medium heat for 10 minutes.

3. Add the barley, a splash of wine and 200ml of chicken stock. Place the pheasant legs on top of the barley, leave the lid off and cook in the oven for 40 minutes, topping up the stock as necessary.

4. Towards the end of the cooking time, place a heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat and add a few drops of oil. Once hot, add the pheasant crowns and pan-roast until nicely coloured.

5. Turn the oven up to 185°C and place the crowns in there to cook through for 8 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, prepare the cranberry sauce. Add the cranberries to a pan along with chopped thyme, water and sugar to taste. Heat until the cranberries start to lose their shape, roughly 5 minutes.

7. Remove the casserole dish from the oven along with the crowns. Using a sharp knife, fillet the breasts from the crowns and place on top of the legs. Serve up a sharing dish with the cranberry sauce on the side.

Salt-baked carrots with labneh, hazelnut and chard

alternative Christmas recipes

Serves 6 | 50 minutes, plus resting time

Salt-baking draws out moisture and concentrates flavour, and we find the method works particularly well with carrots. At the restaurant we use Sandy carrots, which have been grown on loam soil in Brittany and have a high sugar content to counter the salt, but good-quality medium-sized carrots will work nicely, too. If you’re feeling extra generous, add some pan-roasted cauliflower to the plate.

Ingredients

1kg sandy carrots, or 6 medium carrots
1kg white flour
350g salt
50g ground cinnamon
700ml of water

500g natural yogurt
500g brown onions, thinly sliced
50g ras el hanout
knob of butter

500g swiss chard
150g hazelnut

Method

1. Mix the flour, salt and cinnamon in a food mixer with the bread attachment and add roughly 700ml of water to form a dough. Use your hand to finish the dough, then wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 1 hour.

2. Remove the dough from the fridge, roll out and place the carrots on top. Wrap back up to conceal the carrots inside. Place on a tray and bake in an oven set to 180°C for 30 minutes, then set aside.

3. To make the labneh, line a sieve with a J-cloth, then tip in the yoghurt and allow the whey to drip through until you are left with a thick set yoghurt.

4. Meanwhile, add the sliced onions to a pan over a low-medium heat with a knob of butter. Cook until slightly brown, then add the ras el hanout seasoning and cook for a further 15 minutes. You can add some water if the mixture looks too dry. Allow to cool then mix with the thick yoghurt.

5. Boil a pan of salted water and blanch the chard for 2 minutes.

6. In a separate pan, toast the hazelnuts then crush up using the side of a knife.

7. Remove the carrots from salt-bake and divide onto plates with the labneh, chard and hazelnuts.

A festive side:

Brussels sprouts with pancetta and chestnuts

Serves 6 | 15 mins

Say no to boiled-into-submission sprouts! They do nothing for the reputation of this deliciously versatile vegetable. Instead, do as we do at Heirloom and pan-fry them with salty pancetta and sweet, earthy chestnuts.

Ingredients

1kg sprouts, scored and halved
250g pancetta, diced
250g vacuum-packed chestnuts, grated or chopped into small chunks
50ml white wine vinegar, Cabernet Sauvignon if possible

butter
rapeseed oil

Method

Place a heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat. Add the halved sprouts, diced pancetta and a splash of water to the pan along with a few knobs of butter and rapeseed oil

Once the water has evaporated, add the vinegar to the pan and cook for a further minute, or until the sprouts are nice and tender.

Add the chestnuts, stir to combine and serve as a festive side.

To finish:

Treacle loaf

alternative Christmas recipes

Serves 6 | 45 minutes

A great way to use up brown bread, we serve this treacle loaf at the restaurant throughout autumn and winter. Sticky, sweet and comforting, it’s a real crowdpleaser and makes a wonderful winter pud.

Ingredients

1 small brown bread loaf, chopped and crusts removed
250g unsalted butter
65g caster sugar
210g golden syrup
150g black treacle
3 eggs

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Melt the butter, sugar and syrups in a pan over a low heat, then add the bread and coat in the mixture. Set aside to cool.

2. Once cool, add the eggs and transfer to a food mixer. Blend until smooth.

3. Line a terrine or loaf tin with baking parchment and pour in the mix. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

4. Once baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Slice and serve with a dollop of clotted cream or ice cream.

Heirloom, 35 Park Road, N8, 020 8348 3565

Need a hand in the kitchen? Try these 10 time saving strategies for Christmas cooking.

Sticking with turkey this Christmas? Here’s how to cook the perfect one

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.