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Farming Thinking

How supermarkets ruined pork

21st March 2018
  • New campaign positions pork as healthy a chicken but a staggering 90% of all pork sold in the UK is intensively farmed.
  • Lizzie Rivera reveals the truth behind the pork we eat, the murky world of food labelling, and how supermarket dominance is at fault.  

Free-range pigs at Fernhill-Farm. This type of high-welfare farming is far removed from the reality of how much of British pork is made.

Pork is making a comeback. Its decline in popularity has been so slow you may not have noticed it – but farmers and supermarkets have. So a new campaign has been launched to rekindle our love of the majestic-sounding pork medallion, firstly by taking on chicken (whose popularity has soared) and secondly by taking on the Oxford English Dictionary.

Yep, a pig farmer hit headlines last week by formally requesting the phrases ‘pig-out’, ‘eat like a pig’ and ‘porker’ are removed from the dictionary because they are offensive to the animals that are, in reality, no greedier than any others.

In fact, British pigs are now 44% leaner than they were in the 1970s, while us greedy-hogs – oops! humans – are 30% fatter, according to the latest data from the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board.

Pork drops: how we fell out of love with pork

The new Love Pork campaign encourages people to eat more pork but 90% of all pork sold in the UK is intensively farmed.

Sales of pork fell by 8% between 2013 and last year, with around one million fewer households buying pork. Meanwhile sales of chicken, touted as the healthy white meat, soared by 18%.

A significant factor of this decline may have been the World Health Organisation’s warning in 2015 that processed and cured meat ranked alongside cigarettes as a cause of cancer.

The evidence that links a high intake of red and processed meat to poor health is growing according to the British Dietetic Association (BDA). It is not yet clear why this is, but one theory is the higher saturated fat or salt intake in foods such as burgers and sausages, and the typically un-healthier lifestyles of the people who regularly consume these foods.

The key point here is “high intake”. Dr Frankie Phillips, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the BDA, says the official recommendation is to eat less than 70g of red meat per day – about the amount in a pork medallion.

She also highlights how pork is also rich in protein and provides a source of a range of essential vitamins and minerals.

Hence the new “Love Porkmarketing campaign, which presents pork as healthy as chicken by highlighting that a pork medallion contains a whole 0.03g less saturated fat than a skinless chicken breast.

So, we can eat pork as often as we do chicken. Right? Well, not quite…

Telling porkies: health claims and intensive farming

As our last report on chicken investigated, there’s a lot more to the arguments for how “healthy” a meat is for you than the simplistic fat and protein content marketing message. And there’s a huge range of pork to choose from – from intensively reared to free-range and organic.

So, while “Love Pork”  is not telling outright porkies, they’re not telling the whole truth either because the way a pig is farmed has a significant impact on its nutritional value.

And that is another reason we’re seeing a decline of meat sales generally – consumer concern for animal welfare.

A report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism last year revealed that the number of intensive farms (housing 2,000 pigs for grown meat) in the UK has risen by a quarter since 2011. “Mega Farms”, which hold at least 2,500 pigs, are also increasing at a concerning pace with the largest UK pig farm able to hold a staggering 23,000 pigs.

Piglets suckling their mother on an intensive pig farm.

Intensive farming now accounts for an incredible 90% of all pork sold in the UK, according to Philip Lymbery, chief executive Compassion in World Farming (CIWF).

When it comes to pigs, what passes as acceptable is pretty horrifying. Piglets are born to sows in farrowing crates, which are so small the sows can’t even turn around.

The piglets compete with one another for teats that aren’t providing enough milk for them all, so they have their teeth painfully clipped to minimise damage when fighting to suckle.

“That’s not a pig, that’s a genetic monster who’s lived in a shed all its life.”

Unstimulated, their tails will have been docked by the time they are transferred to pens at three weeks old (without anaesthetic if they were under seven days old) to stop them causing serious damage when they bite each other as their boredom turns to aggression. The growing pigs live on hard slatted floors so the excrement they live in can conveniently be washed away.

Fed growth hormones to grow quickly, commercially reared pigs are ready for slaughter from five months old, twice as fast as higher welfare breeds which grow at a more natural pace.

They are fattened up on cereals and are fed routine antibiotics because diseases spread quickly in tightly packed conditions and they haven’t fed from their mother for long enough to build up immunity. In September 2016, a study by organic certification body Soil Association revealed 63% of pork samples contained antibiotic-resistant E. coli.

Farms Not Factories have campaigned against the intensive farming of pigs – a farming system which is heavily reliant on antibiotics.

“In Britain, a nation of animal lovers, most of our pigs are in factory farms in conditions that in my view can only be described as utter deprivation,” says Lymbery, who believes it’s supermarkets who have benefited from this centralisation of supply.

Intense competition between the supermarkets and their tiny margins mean that meat has become cheaper than ever. The farmers themselves have been forced into levels of efficiency that have never been seen before – and that includes pushing animals to grow at unnatural rates. As one farmer explains it: “That’s not a pig, that’s a genetic monster who’s lived in a shed all its life.”

But over the last decade supermarkets have also realised consumers want their animals to be treated better. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have to treat the animals better – just market them to suggest this is the case.

The word ‘fresh’ leads to 30% of consumers to believe products are more free-range than they are

Lymbery says: “Packaging on animal products can be designed to make consumers feel better about what they are buying. Pictures of animals happily grazing in rolling fields do nothing to inform people of the truth about how farm animals are actually raised.”

He points to research that shows simply adding the word ‘fresh’ leads to about 30% of consumers believing products are more free-range than they actually are.

Even worse, when I asked David Clarke, CEO of Red Tractor, which certifies 85% of pig farms, what are the advantages of “outdoor bred pork” (which means the pigs are born outdoors and raised indoors) his reply is: “The advantages are some people are prepared to pay more money for it because they think it’s better welfare.”

Happy as a pig…outdoors

A free-range, organic pig at Purton House Organics farm in Wiltshire.

At the other end of the spectrum a luckier 10% of pigs are raised in truly higher-welfare, free-range and organic conditions.

Pigs are very sociable animals and when given the chance they will happily spend their days grazing or rooting the ground with their sensitive snouts – or wallowing in the mud to cool down. If it’s cold, shelter with plenty of straw is their perfect hideaway.

Given the opportunity to behave naturally, pigs on these farms will automatically designate themselves a toilet area – away from where they live and eat.

This style of farming goes hand-in-hand with passionate and enthusiastic farmers fighting to keep the rarest pig breeds in existence – such as the Gloucester Old Spot, The British Saddleback and The Tamworth.

At Fernhill Farm, there are just two Saddleback sister sows, who each have the potential to produce about 24 piglets a year. These animals get to live as a family unit in eight acres of land and rotate around the woodlands and gardens to cultivate, fertilise, clear scrub and help to reclaim unmanaged woodlands.

One of Fernhill Farm’s two saddleback sows with one of her piglets.

“We consider them as part of the team, clearing up windfall apples, garden and vegetable waste, weeds and consuming large quantities of fodder beet throughout winter,” says owner Jennifer Hunter.

“To us they form part of our holistic approach to farming rather than a stand alone business. Pigs were my first love after studying animal behaviour and they sure do deliver on bringing a bit of joy into our lives.”

The Saddleback is one of the original British breeds of pig and is gentle and quiet perfectly suited to life outdoors, with great bacon potential.

Rare breeds have been phased out of commercial farms because they don’t grow quickly enough, but unsurprisingly the quality of the meat is incomparable. It will have depth of colour and be full of flavour, fry beautifully in its own fat and it won’t release grungy water.

Some British farmers are even turning rare breed meat into charcuterie – with impressive results. British Salami from Marsh Pig, for example, typically has a third less fat so you get all of the flavour without the greasy after taste.

Of course, meat from these pigs is more expensive – and some cuts can cost the same price as a steak. It’s a tough sell to re-educate consumers who have lost touch with how their food is really produced. But, somewhat ironically, these pigs need to be eaten so they can continue to be farmed and ensure the survival of the breeds.

Going the whole hog

The rise in popularity of nose-to-tail eating means even a pig’s head now comes with a price tag of about £15, whereas butchers were literally giving them away a few years ago.

Yet, the head is still the most undervalued part of the pig, according to chef James Golding, who uses it to make Bath-chaps (cured and smoked pork cheeks), braised cheeks and crispy ears.

As chef director of The Pig ‘restaurant with rooms’, who rear their own pigs, you’d expect Golding to be a big fan of pork.

“It is so versatile and tasty, whether you’re roasting a shoulder for dinner or making a paté, every product is packed full of flavour,” he says. But there’s one condition.

“As long as it’s responsibly reared, it’s a beautiful meat.” To Golding, the difference between a quality piece of pork and a cheap one is huge.

“The depth of flavour is the biggest difference and the smell is intense. We finish our pigs on apples and it does transfer into the meat, it’s delicious.”

The message to eat less but higher welfare meat is no longer just about animal welfare but human health as well.

The difference between low-welfare and high-welfare farming also impacts the nutritional value. For example, the biggest nutritional difference between organic meat and non-organic is that organic meat contains around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, according to a report published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Plus, organic meat was found to have slightly lower concentrations of two saturated fats linked to heart disease.

Organic and truly free-range pigs are reared without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers common in intensive farming. This is especially important in light of reports highlighting how the overuse of antibiotics in farming is undermining the treatment of infections in humans.

Suddenly the advice to eat meat less often so we can afford to eat better quality doesn’t seem so unreasonable, it seems necessary.

This is where buying cheaper, less common cuts can provide the best of both worlds. The meaty chump, from the rump, is easy to cook in a pan or under the grill. The cheek, from the other end of the pig, is fatty and great in a stew. Deboning, stuffing and rolling the loin can make it go further – and removing the skin to make a tasty crackling makes this go further still. Of course, the shoulder can be slow-roasted until tasty and tender, but it can also be minced for a delicious, slow-grown and slow-cooked ragu.

Lizzie Rivera is a journalist and founder of BICBIM, London’s ethical food and fashion guide, covering the eco-friendly and ethical brands that produce top-quality food, fashion and experiences. 

Shop for high-welfare and organic pork at

Discover more about the effects of factory farming on our food:


7 effortless all-natural kitchen spring cleaning hacks 

12th March 2018

Chemical-free spring cleaning tips and tricks made so easy, you wish you’d done them sooner.

Kitchen lovers, it’s that time of year again. Get ready to savour the spotless happy place that will be your kitchen after these cost-effective, all-natural spring cleaning tips.

1. Stainless steel: Put a bit of vinegar on it

7 effortlessly easy all-natural kitchen spring cleaning tips and tricks

Vinegar is acidic so it’s perfect to use anywhere where you want to get rid of smears and stains. Clean stainless steel by spraying distilled white vinegar mixed with equal parts of water. It’ll wipe out greasy surfaces, fingerprints and reduce limescale in no time, leaving you with shiny taps and mirrors.

You can also use it to get rid of the damp smell on clothes from your washing machine. With no clothes in the machine, pour half a mug of distilled white vinegar where fabric conditioner goes in, set it on a run at 90°C and follow up with a rinse. Just don’t reach for the balsamic .

2. Burnt pans: Cake them in bicarb

spring cleaning made easy

…or use lemon halves to brighten up copper pans. Photo: Natale Towell.

Sodium bicarbonate is a mild alkali and that can cause dirt and grease to dissolve easily in water. Save the outside of burned pans by covering the offending area with a thick layer of bicarbonate of soda and leaving it overnight. The brown bits should wipe off and use a scourer if there’s a bit of resistance.

For the inside of pans, try adding some water to the bicarb, heating the pan briefly with the solution in it and leaving it for 24 hours. Whilst suitable for stainless steel, cast-iron and non-stick pans, don’t do this on aluminium. For aluminium pans you can remove water tide marks by boiling water with sliced apple, rhubarb or lemon peel. For tough stains, boil three parts vinegar to one part water. To brighten up copper pan, use lemon halves dipped in salt or baking powder.

3. Ovens: Don’t reach for oven cleaner…

7 effortlessly easy all-natural kitchen spring cleaning tips and tricks

Who knew oven envy was a thing…

Reach for the bicarb (again) to degrease your oven. Not only will you avoid harsh chemicals, but you’ll also resist the need to invest in a biohazard suit.

Spread a paste of bicarb and water all over the inside surfaces of your oven, being careful to avoid the heating elements. Leave it overnight and wipe it all off with a damp cloth. You’ll probably need to give it a little elbow grease and spray some distilled white vinegar onto any soda residues. This will get it to gently foam up and make it easy to wipe away anything left.

4. High surfaces: Do the cloth trick

Baffled by how the top of cupboards get so dusty? Even more baffled by how to clean them? Lay a piece of cloth over the surface and when it comes to cleaning time, just carefully remove it, give it a shake outside and a wash.

Gone are the perilous days of scrubbing an area that you can’t really see properly and no one else will ever see, making the whole escapade feel like a total waste of time…

5. Larder: Fall in love with jars

7 effortlessly easy all-natural kitchen spring cleaning tips and tricks

Go on, give good kilner. Photo: Helen Cathcart.

Storing dry goods such as rice, pasta and lentils needn’t be a matter of shoving bags into an already jam-packed giant Tupperware. Show off your staples by investing in a few large kilner jars and artfully displaying them on a shelf.

No, this is not just a thing for other people with fancy kitchens. Not only will you be able to easily see what you’ve got in your larder, it’ll urge you to actually use it.

Pop a label on with the before before date and basic cooking instructions. Remember to do a little stock rotation too, i.e. decant what’s already in there first before adding the new stuff.

6. Crockery: If it’s chipped, chuck it

7 effortlessly easy all-natural kitchen spring cleaning tips and tricks

Chipped? Chuck it. It’s the crockery rule.

Unless you have a real attachment to something  – we’re talking about the mug that got you through university – get rid of any chipped crockery (and invest in some super-tough Duralex glasses).

They’re both a breeding ground for unwanted bacteria and a weak point that could lead to breakage mid-slurp. Sort through your cupboards and remove them from your kitchen. Go on, you can do it.

7. Spices and frozen foods: Be ruthless

7 effortlessly easy all-natural kitchen spring cleaning tips and tricks

If you haven’t seen it in a year, it’s time to get rid.

Spices lose their flavour over time. If you bought a giant pack of garam masala when travelling around Kerala in 2012 and it’s still in your kitchen, now’s the time to bin it.

Same goes for old mystery meats, stews and bread in your freezer over a year old. Sounds tough, but if you haven’t used by now, chances are you never will. Keep frozen ground meats for up to four months and frozen cooked meat up for to three months.

Don’t forget: after you’ve taken a lazy afternoon to give these all-natural spring cleaning ideas a go, pour yourself a much deserved cup of tea / coffee / negroni and enjoy the fruits of your low-labour efforts.

Replenish your larder and pick up essential eco cleaning products at

Treat your shelf to some DIY pantry goodies such homemade kombucha, tahini, mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar.

Treat yourself post-spring cleaning to one of these beautifully simple gin cocktails with a twist.


Meet the cult chefs taking Instagram by storm

13th February 2018

Chefs are taking to Instagram to connect with diners in ways like never before. But as top spots move away from understatement and diners reach for phones before forks, is it ruining the restaurant experience or simply reaching an audience who care more about likes than Michelin stars?

We spoke with some of Instagram’s cult chefs to find out how the platform is transforming going out for dinner.

Meet the restaurants (and chefs behind them) taking Instagram by storm

@cheftombrown via Instagram

At the back end of last year, the Rouxs banned diners from taking pictures in the dining room of their flagship restaurant, The Waterside Inn, arguing that the Instagramming of food was spoiling the dining experience.

Though the move had precedent — a handful of notable restaurants in the US and France had previously taken similar steps — it seemed a strange one nonetheless.

While some of the old guard rail against the invasive nature of photo sharing apps, many of their peers have already embraced it and are reaping the rewards. Not only do many top chefs enjoy follower counts in the tens of thousands, but they are revelling in the interactive possibilities it offers – and making the Rouxs of this world look like King Canutes trying to push back the tide in the process.

Take Calum Franklin; his posts, typically of elaborate pies and pastries, regularly achieve thousands of likes and dozens of comments. Back in the real world, this equates to a steady stream of bookings at his restaurant, Holborn Dining Room.

“I definitely see an impact on the business, we have reservations made daily off the back of Instagram — guests often tell us that,” he explains.

Pie Room so soon 😱

A post shared by Calum Franklin (@chefcalum) on

With bookings up for grabs, more and more chefs are following Calum’s lead and signing up to Instagram to promote themselves and their restaurants. But with this comes increased competition; our feeds now offer an endless scroll of overhead breakfast scenes, manicured patisseries and drool-worthy burgers. Surely it’s difficult to stand out?

“Most people in the UK like pies so that’s an advantage,” says Calum of his own feed. “But also they’re a very tasty canvas to create something really visually beautiful with as well.

“My dishes that are the most popular on Instagram are the ones that make people stop and think ‘how has he done that?’ or think about how long something must have taken. We have never created dishes specifically to suit that fit, but it’s lucky that ours do.”

While Calum may not consciously target Instagrammers, the influence of the social media platform on London’s food and drink scene is there for all to see; it’s the latte stencils used by your local coffee shop, the “Press for Champagne” buttons at Bob Bob Ricard, the toilet pods at Sketch. Instagram is not only changing the way we document food but the way we consume it, too.

Hence, whether by accident or design, many of London’s most talked-about dishes seem to be tailor-made for Instagram. Some — Meat Fruit at Dinner by Heston, for example — come with a quirky social media-friendly backstory; others showcase the technical mastery of the chef, the buns at Bao. And then there are those that simply look bloody tasty, the Parmesan fries at Luca, perhaps, or Temper’s side of beef fat potatoes with Ogleshield cheese.

Whereas five, maybe ten years ago London’s top restaurants dealt in elegance and understatement, now the emphasis is on statement dishes that mirror the cultish, must-try appeal of street food. From haute to hot, you might say.

With presentation key, even seemingly minor details such as getting the right tableware (think earthenware plates, embossed coasters and pristine glassware) have become essential for the would-be Chef Instagrammer. After all, there are not just your immediate diners to impress but potentially millions of others online.

But is it all style over substance? Chef Tom Brown doesn’t think so. After racking up 20,000-plus followers while Head Chef at Outlaw’s at The Capital, he is set to open his first solo restaurant in Hackney Wick next month. Coupled with his supreme talent, social media has helped him find his audience and convinced others in the industry that he is worth backing.

“I started using Instagram about 6 years ago,” he explains. “It’s a great tool for seeing what other chefs around the world are doing and a way to show off the food you’re doing too. It’s amazing how many people do mention Instagram to you and the impact it has.”

Tom has a totally different style to Calum; his dishes look deceptively simple and are pared back to three or four hero ingredients. Which goes to show that despite the emergence of a distinct Instagram look, there is still room for individual styles to flourish. Nevertheless, both chefs share the view that Instagram should never interfere with the dish development process.

Tom Brown says: “It’s definitely not at the front of my mind when creating new dishes. You have to always start with what a dish will taste like — aesthetics can’t be the first thought.”

Photo sharing sites may have changed the way chefs present, style and photograph their food, but for the likes of Tom and Calum, flavour remains the ultimate objective.

Five Chefs to Follow on Instagram

Tom Brown @cheftombrown

Nathan Outlaw’s protege has a brilliant eye for presentation and the Cornish chef is a master of the overhead shot. Look out for his upcoming restaurant, Cornerstone, which is already creating plenty of buzz.

Follow for: Stunning seafood dishes.

Skye Gyngell @skyegyngell 

This Australian chef treats her twenty thousand-following to gorgeous shots of produce and dishes from her Central London restaurant, Spring. As ever with Skye Gyngell, it all looks and feels perfectly natural.

Follow for: Food with feeling.

Calum Franklin @chefcalum

Calum Franklin’s brilliantly creative pies and pastries have to be seen to be believed. The best part? After drooling over them you can taste them for yourself at his restaurant, Holborn Dining Room.

Follow for: Next-level pastry work.

Sat Bains @satbains1

Sat Bains is culinary royalty, having earned two Michelin stars for his eponymous Nottingham restaurant. His Insta is testament to his immense talent – and a constant source of inspiration for ambitious home cooks and young chefs alike.

Follow for: Gastronomic wizardry from one of the world’s best chefs.

Neil Rankin @frontlinechef

Instagram was made for chefs like Neil Rankin, whose fiery cooking (and character) have made him a “must follow” for London’s epicurean folk. Oh, and his two-site restaurant, Temper, is pretty special, too.

Follow for: Rants, bantz and shots of sizzling meats.

Fancy a bite out? Head to London’s best sustainable and cosy pubs.

Feel like staying in? Try Bristol Lido chef Freddie Bird’s and cook once, eat all week slow-cooked beef recipe.


5 of the best alcohol-free bars and cocktails in London

17th January 2018

Where to drink when you’re not drinking.

Forget mindful eating, mindful drinking is the next new thing. More of us are seeking social drinking without the hangover, and studies say one in five adults in the UK are now teetotal – the highest in a decade! So if you’ve jumped on the wagon for good or you’re just dabbling in a dry-as-much-as-you-canuary, this is the guide for you. Here’s to how to ditch the sugar-laden juices and boring alternatives out there thanks to London’s best alcohol-free cocktails, along with tips and ideas for making your own at home from the genius mixologists behind them.

Tonics and ferments at Kultured

best bars for alcohol-free cocktails in London

Probiotic tipples are the focus of this new Soho bar where you can expect clever cocktails (both boozy and not) of fermented fizz, bitters and naturally carbonated tonics. Their Retox Tonic of ginger kombucha, tonic, ferment brine and Manuka honey syrup is rather apt for January, packed with gut-loving stuff and vitamin C to give your immune system a boost. Or try Botanique; a botanical fizz topped off with a shot of kombucha.


DIY. Kombucha is a brilliant alcohol swap and is incredibly easy to make at home. Its naturally fermented fizz and flavour tastes somewhere between a mulled cider and a drinking vinegar – a delicious drink that’s not overly sweet.

Distilled and spiced with Seedlip

best bars for alcohol-free cocktails in London

The world’s first non-alcoholic distilled spirit, Seedlip is well worth a mention. Try their Spice spirit with notes of allspice and cardamom, lemon and grapefruit, mixed with Indian tonic water and a twist of grapefruit for an alt G&T vibe. Available direct from their website or find them at some of London’s best bars, from The American Bar at The Savoy and Dandelyan (below) to Nightjar and The Ned. The American Bar serve up a mean Sherwood Forest Cocktail (above) of lemon-infused Seedlip, kefir cultured milk, gooseberry jam, egg white and sorrel. No booze and you won’t notice.

Around London.

DIY. Making your own mocktails at home is certainly getting easier with imitation spirits and wines cropping up that include Seedlip, Botanique – a botanical fizz aimed at booze-avoiding wine lovers and perfect for Bellinis – and Luscombe Drinks’ wild elderflower bubbly; a refreshing Champagne alternative.

The Peach Cider at Dandelyan

best bars for alcohol-free cocktails in London

Awarded the world’s best bar in 2017, Dandelyan raises the bar with innovative alcohol free that mimic the body and brightness of their more potent mixes. We asked for advice on how they do it; “To get savoury notes we often use ‘teas’ made from herbs and spices, such as dried chillies and fruits. Changing what you use as an acidulant works too – citrus often needs quite a lot of sweetness to balance it out so using vinegars and tart juices can lead to a cleaner, drier profile.” says the man behind it Mr Lyan, aka Ryan Chetiyawardana. Try his Peach Cider, using Seedlip Garden Spirit: a delicious floral blend of pea and hay with nutty spice and peach.

Mondrian Hotel, Southbank.

DIY. Experiment with herbs and spices to add natural sweetness and depth to tonic water or juices – try muddling in fresh herbs like mint or basil, adding ginger or chilli, or ribbons of fresh cucumber. Dandelyan’s sister concept bar, Cub, make a mean celeriac & sea buckthorn drink, using juiced celeriac, sea buckthorn (for savoury funk), Thai basil and a dash of gooseberry juice. A dash of the Forager’s Sea Buckthorn & Birch Water works well too.

Health-conscious mocktails at Redemption

best bars for alcohol-free cocktails in London

A restaurant-bar with a difference, Redemption is vegan and totally alcohol-free with a menu of mocktails that make the usual pub offering laughable. Their coconut water, lime and birch syrup ‘frozen margarita’, blitzed with ice and rimmed with Himalayan mountain salt is a punchy answer to those sugar-laden alternatives out there. Or give this blackberry and basil concoction a go at home; macerated berries, basil and maple syrup, shaken up with coconut water and lime for an ace balance of tart sweetness, aniseed and citrus.

Notting Hill and Shoreditch.

DIY. Make Redemption’s Black Beauty Martini for yourself. Mash and macerate together 10 fresh or frozen blackberries, 4 leaves of ripped basil and 25ml of maple syrup, then chill overnight. Shake vigorously in a cocktail shaker with 150ml of coconut water, 15ml of freshly squeezed lime juice and a handful of ice cubes for 10 seconds. Pour into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with a lime twist. 

The classics at Mark’s Bar

Downstairs at Hix Soho, you’ll find Mark’s Bar with a decent offering of non-alcoholic tipples that make it worth the trip. Their Pickled & Charred Seedlip Martini is smoky and dry, the Shirley Temple with Luscombe ginger beer, Mark’s grenadine and lime is a sweeter fizz, or go classic with a Bloody Shame virgin Mary.


DIY. Experiment with creating your own dry, sour, bitter and savoury drinks using mixers, teas, brines, salts and shrubs. Take Shrbdrinks’ sodas for example. Inspired by Prohibition-era shrub making, they make sodas by steeping ingredients in apple cider vinegar, then adding spring water and a touch of fizz for a lightly sweet, subtle-tasting soda. Pickle juice from The Pickle House adds a delicious sour tang to cocktails, as does Wild Fizz Kombucha. Or turn your cold brew into a virgin espresso martini.

Fancy some of the hard stuff? Try these cocktail bars for an sustainable tipple or these pubs and restaurants with excellent sourcing to cosy up in this winter.

After some gin-spiration? Here’s 5 beautifully simple gin cocktails with a twist.

DIY Pantry

How to make yoghurt at home in 5 easy steps

10th January 2018

Yoghurt starts with yoghurt. Just a spoon of it. Then all you need are a couple of pints of milk, a thermos flask and eight hours of no work whatsoever, to get you a whole big lot of it. Thick, tangy, creamy yoghurt. No effort, less plastic and a few quid saved. Here’s our guide to help you.

How to make yoghurt at home from scratch in 5 easy steps

You’ll need….

Starter yoghurt

It might seem counterproductive to buy yoghurt to make yoghurt, but this is only necessary the first time. You can use the remaining yoghurt from your next batch to make the following one, and so on and so on. Most importantly, look for yoghurt that has the words ‘live’ or ‘active cultures’ on the packaging. This refers to the living organisms or ‘good’ bacterias which will convert your milk into yoghurt. One other thing to remember is to make sure it’s plain yoghurt – anything that’s flavoured will taste odd in your homemade batch.


You can use either raw or pasteurised milk, and semi-skimmed or whole milk. Whole milk will give you a thicker, creamier yoghurt.


You’ll need a thermos flask to keep your milk nice and cosy while the bacteria does its job turning it into yoghurt. A wide-mouthed flask is best. If you don’t have a thermos, use a heavy pot with a lid, and keeping it somewhere insulated and warm – an oven set at a very low temperature would work. You’ll also need a pan to heat the milk, a spoon or fork and some jars to store your finished batch.

5 easy steps to homemade yoghurt

Step 1

How to make yoghurt at home from scratch in 5 easy steps

Add 2 tablespoons of live yoghurt to a thermos flask.

Step 2

Heat 2 pints (1.1 litres) of full-fat milk over a medium-low heat until almost bubbling (85ºC), stirring often so it doesn’t catch on the bottom. Leave it to cool so you can stick your finger in it but it’s still pretty hot (46ºC). If you want to get specific with this, use a thermometer.

Step 3

How to make homemade yoghurt from scratch in 5 easy steps

Pour a good splash of the milk into the thermos and stir well to combine with the yoghurt, then pour in all of the remaining milk, stirring gently.

Step 4

How to make homemade yoghurt from scratch in 5 easy steps

Put the lid on immediately, then set aside for at least 8 hours. It’s important it is not moved at all during this time, so keep it well out of the way.

Step 5

How to make homemade yoghurt from scratch in 5 easy steps

And there you have it. Tangy, delicious, creamy yoghurt. Store in jars in the fridge. It’ll keep for as long as the regular store-bought stuff.

Enjoy with fresh fruit and yoghurt, or try it in this banana bread or on top of your favourite pancakes.

Caught the DIY pantry bug? Learn how to make a stunning apple cider vinegar, an incredibly easy mayonnaise at home or a go-to paneer cheese at home. Or head to the larder for more store cupboard essentials.


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. Coombeshead 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.