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Cook once, eat all week: 4 slow cooked beef recipes

28th December 2017

We’ve teamed up with one of Bristol’s best chefs, Freddy Bird of the Bristol Lido, to bring you a soothing slow cooked beef recipe (plus three leftover ideas) to warm up the wintry weeks ahead.

slow cooked beef batch cooking recipe

Cooking in the wild with critically acclaimed Bristol based chef, Freddy Bird.

Few people set out to eat badly. But during the week, after a busy day at work, it can be hard to muster up the energy to buy ingredients and cook yourself a nice dinner. As a result, takeaways and ready meals become the default option.

Which is why we’ve chosen batch cooking as the theme for our new recipe series, Cook Once, Eat All Week. Each instalment will feature a signature recipe from a guest contributor, plus three resourceful ideas for using up leftovers. The idea being that you can prepare the main dish over a languid Sunday afternoon and then freeze or refrigerate the leftovers to whip up save-the-day dishes throughout the week.

Our first recipe comes from Bristol-born chef Freddy Bird, who is Executive Head Chef at the city’s award-winning Lido restaurant as well as nearby sister eateries, The Glassboat and Three Brothers Burgers.

Having appeared on Saturday Kitchen, The Hairy Bikers and Michel Roux Jr’s Hidden Restaurants as a co-presenter, Freddy is well-known for his relaxed, outdoorsy style of cooking that brings together British, Mediterranean and Moorish influences, as befits a chef that grew up on a farm and worked a formative stint at London’s Moro restaurant.

But for a true indication of his style, look no further than this tempting beef shin recipe, which slow-cooks the meat in an unusual Pedro Ximenez sherry sauce and serves with mash and greens of your choosing. Hearty, unctuous and deeply satisfying, it’s a glorious dish that you will be happy to enjoy more than once.

slow cooked beef batch cooking recipe

Slow cooked beef shin in Pedro Ximenez by Freddy Bird

Serves 4 | 1 hour, plus slow-cooking time


1.2kg beef shin (gnarly, fatty bits of shin)

2 litres fresh chicken stock (ideally homemade with a pig’s trotter or two)

300ml Pedro Ximenez sherry

2 carrots, roughly diced

1 stick celery, roughly diced

1 large onion, roughly diced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 sprig rosemary

handful of chives



Maris Piper potatoes, roughly 4-5, peeled and chopped




1. Place a large ovenproof casserole dish over a medium-high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom. Once hot, lightly season the beef shin, add to the pan and fry until evenly coloured. Set aside.

2. Using the same pan, add a little more oil, turn down the heat slightly and add the carrots, celery and onion. Cook until caramelised and softened slightly.

3. Add the garlic and rosemary, cook for a further 2-3 minutes and then add all the Pedro Ximenez. Do not add any salt at this point as you will be reducing the stock later. Make sure nothing is caught on the bottom of the pan, if so you will need to change the dish.

4. Reduce the Pedro Ximenez (or PX for short) by about three quarters and then add the stock and allow to reduce over a medium heat until it is about a third of its original quantity. Check the seasoning and remove from the heat.

5. Pass through a sieve, discarding the vegetables but reserving the liquor. Return the shin to the pan and cover with the sauce. Slow-cook in the oven (or in a slow-cooker) set to 150-160C for 2 1/2-3 hours.

6. Depending on the dice of the shin, in 100-120 minutes the shin should be tender and starting to fall apart and the sauce beautifully glossy. If it isn’t, very carefully remove the shin, reduce the sauce to a glossy consistency on the hob and then return the shin to the pan.

7. For the mash, boil Maris Piper potatoes until soft, strain and allow to steam dry. Pass through a potato ricer (the only way to make mash by the way!) and finish with butter and cream to taste.

8. Serve the shin on top of the mash with some greens (spinach or kale would work) and a giant pool of sauce. Sprinkle with finely chopped chives to finish.

Freddys Three Leftover Ideas

The juicy snack: Pedro Ximenez soaked raisin Argentinian empanadas

Soak some raisins in the PX to make them more juicy, then add to the leftover beef shin. Use the mix as a stuffing for empanadas, an Argentinian pastry snack that resembles a small Cornish pasty, and serve with a salad.

The hearty lunch: Shin stuffed bubble and squeak potato cakes

Mix any leftover mash with chopped kale to form bubble and squeak-style patties, stuff with leftover shin and the sticky sauce. Fry the potato cakes and add a fried egg on top for added decadence.

The warming supper: Slow cooked beef shin pie

Using the same mix, divide the shin and sauce into pie dishes and top with shortcrust pastry, you can either use pre-bought pastry or make it yourself. Freddy often creates a mustard and bone marrow crust which would work really nicely with the PX and shin mix.

Craving more winter warmers? Discover 6 slow cooker-perfect recipes by some of Britain’s top chefs.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

T: @frontlinechef


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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

T: @DelphisEco

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


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.


Pickled cucumber

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


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


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.



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

Cranberry Sauce

300g frozen cranberries
250ml water
bunch of thyme


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.


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


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.


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

rapeseed oil


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.


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


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


A guide on how to have the ultimate ethical and green Christmas

30th November 2017

Don’t let your Christmas be destined for landfill. From presents with provenance to DIY decorations, here’s your ultimate guide to a more ethical and green Christmas.

green Christmas

Jazz up festive napkins with fresh herbs and twine. Easy.

There are many things in life that are taken over by the big corps – don’t let Christmas become one of them. As retailers are doing their darnedest to get you to part with your pennies and line their pockets (thanks to 7-foot monsters, Paddington Bear and big, big budgets), there is another way. This Christmas, we invite you to make your mark by embracing an ethical and green spirit, so you can leave a smaller one on the planet. Together, let’s not forget what really matters this festive season.

Gift’s galore: what is a good green Christmas gift?

Christmas is undoubtedly a time for giving and receiving, sharing and loving (Joey knows it). It’s also an ideal time to exercise your spending power wisely and give a meaningful gift that your friends/mother/lover will rave about in years to come (rather than regret the skincare set that was ⅓ off but looks dodgy at home, away from the shiny high street lights). Broaden your ideas of what a gift could look like and you’ll set the wheels in motion for winning the in-family award for ‘most thoughtful gift 2017’.

Gift an experience

Photo: Hobbs House Bakery/Mark Lord.

How about the gift of a bakery course with the Fabulous Baker Brothers? Photo: Hobbs House Bakery/Mark Lord.

Try giving an experience or course where the lucky recipient will try or learn something new (this also handily requires little or no packaging). There are plenty of online and in-real-life courses out there to satisfy every curiosity. Help someone get to grips with all things sustainable with a course at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Powys, Wales, where they cover all aspects of green living: from environmental building, eco-sanitation and renewable energy to energy efficiency and organic growing. Help save ancient woods under threat and create new native woodland in the UK buy gifting a membership to the Woodland Trust.

If they’re a foodie, consider fermentation, pickling and jam making with our award-winning producer Newton & Pott in Hackney or a casual afternoon whipping up British free-range charcuterie in the Norfolk countryside with Marsh Pig for the wannabe self-sufficient carnivore. Send them to Hobbs House Bakery in Chipping Sodbury for a course by the Fabulous Baker Brother Tom Herbet or for the ultimate last minute gift pop ’em a Farmdrop gift card. There’s always foraging and mushroom hunting to be done too, just so it’s clear your friends and family know you’re a funghi to be with

Give less, give better

Don’t bundle up on gifts. Tempting as it may be to add on a few little extras here and there, it’s makes for a much better experience for the giftee to bask in the glory of one lovely, wonderful thing that needs no accompaniments. By giving less you’re also contributing less to the vicious cycle of cheap and disposable items destined for landfill. Wave goodbye to presents without provenance and give a warm welcome to lovingly-made homegrown items that’ll last and are made by ethical traders where the people behind them are treated fairly.

Try Nudie jeans – they’ll literally last a lifetime with their free repair service and have transparent production to boot. Or how about a mighty fine umbrella? Ince Umbrellas are the UK’s oldest makers and they pride themselves in a sustainable supply chain. Rest easy in the knowledge that the one thing someone living in Britain will always need is a proper good brolly.

Sustainably secondhand

Pre-used goodies might not scream Christmas, but you’ll be amazed at what you can find on sites such as Preloved or Oxfam where you truly can contribute to the reduce, reuse, recycle cause. Many items listed are brand new and have never been used at all, and some perhaps just once for a special occasion. If you have a certain gift in mind, spend a little time searching and you could save a lot of money and help the planet out too.

Green Christmas tree, oh green Christmas tree

green Christmas. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

To buy a real tree or not to buy a real tree? Did you know 8 million Christmas trees are felled each year in the UK? The majority of which land in the tip a few weeks later. Some will say it’s not a proper Christmas unless you have the scent of pine wafting around the living room and yet many of the trees available in garden centres will have been intensively farmed on a large scale. Some may even have arrived at the petrol station forecourt via a long-haul journey from overseas.

But it’s not all doom and gloom – there are ways to bring the German-born tradition of a decorated tree indoors without leaving a huge environmental footprint. 95% of Christmas trees grown in the UK are from farms that provide habitat for wildlife. So whilst a freshly cut spruce is greener than an imported fake tree, here’s what to look out for for a green Christmas tree.

Know where your tree is grown

To make sure your tree is grown in the UK, check out the British Christmas Tree Growers Association. Look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approved trees (as well as cards and wrapping paper or even paper-craft to decorate the tree with and keep little ones busy). These trees are grown in a well-managed forest, minimising the use of pesticides and protecting forest plants and animals. The Forestry Commission have a list of Christmas tree sales centres where you can buy a sustainably grown, local tree. The Christmas Forest is small and independent family business who provide sustainable trees from 10 sites across London (or you can order online). Every tree cut after its nine-year growing cycle is replaced, and for each tree sold, another is donated so it can be grown by a family in Africa through Tree Aid.

Go locally grown or organic

If you can’t get an FSC tree, you could try sourcing one that is organically or locally grown by a nearby farmer, which can provide benefits in terms of pesticide use and carbon footprint reduction as well as the added benefit of organic Christmas tree farms providing a rich habitat for wildlife. To find a retailer selling organic trees, head to the Soil Association’s website.

Rent, reuse or recycle a tree

Did you know it’s possible to rent a tree? You’ll receive your tree in a pot and it’ll be returned to the ground after Christmas so it can happily live on. Try Forever Green Christmas Trees in Essex. Or try reusing a potted tree or using an existing (i.e. secondhand) fake tree year after year and win brownie points in the reducing-waste department. If you do go for a real cut tree, make sure it does some good to the environment by giving it to the council and recycling it – it’ll be shredded and then go on to be compost or wood chip mulch. Check with your council on their Christmas tree recycling scheme or try

Hello Christmas dinner (and some)

Know where your food comes from

There’s almost nothing sorrier than scrambling around a crowded supermarket, fending off the rest of your neighbourhood for the last sad bag of sprouts. By avoiding the stress of the last minute supermarket dash not only will you save yourself time and energy, you’ll also avoid mass-produced food without provenance that’s been sitting around in distribution centres reaching your plate. Not what you want for your festive feast, aka best-meal-of-the-year, right?

Source local food where you know how it’s been produced and where it’s come from. How can you know how your Turkey was raised? Go for a free-range or organic turkey from a source you trust. (Catch farmers Peter and Henri Greig who 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’ and Nick & Jacob at Fosse Meadows with their turkeys on video).

Make a meal of your leftovers

The average family wastes around a third of the food they buy at Christmas. Save your pennies and the planet by planning in leftover dishes that you and the gang will really look forward to. Try a few simple tricks and tips, such as throwing leftover herbs into a frittata or going hell for leather on a cracking bubble and squeak. Make stock by roasting turkey bones and simmering them with water and leftover herbs. Be the ultimate Christmas multitasker and leave it to simmer whilst your favourite festive film is on. Leave to cool and freeze in an ice cube tray and it’ll see you into the new year. And there’s always room for turkey tacos and a panettone bread and butter pudding

Say goodbye to BOGOFFS

Avoid waste by resisting erroneous buy-one-get-one-free deals. Don’t end up lumbered with a mountain of not-so-special sweet treats you and your family simply won’t need after all that tasty turkey and nut roast. Notoriously designed by supermarkets to get you to buy more, BOGOFFS aren’t there to help you, but help line their pockets.

green Christmas

Win ultimate thrifter by whipping up gift tags using old Christmas cards.

Decorations and all the trimmings

During the festive season alone, in Britain we create 3 million tonnes of waste (gulp). We use over 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper over Christmas, which creates over 83 square kilometres of rubbish – that’s enough to cover Guernsey (blimey, let’s just call the whole thing off…). Together, we can ease contributions to the rubbish pile by using recycled paper and recycling it again after use. As an alternative to buying anything new, try using old wallpaper, posters or even newspapers to artfully wrap gifts. Get your crafting hat on and embrace homemade decorations such as timeless paper chains and easy-as-pie snowflakes. Try our 5 easy and sustainable DIY craft ideas with what you have at home and impress your guests with your crafty-prowess. Soon enough you’ll find yourself saying: ‘You won’t be able to find these beautifully handcrafted… foraged in a shop’.

Sick of the big companies owning Christmas? Big corps pay themselves at this time of year. We give our producers ¾ of the retail price all year round. Other retailers give as low as ¼. Have more ideas for a green Christmas? Share your tips below.

Pre-order your free-range festive turkey and centrepieces and browse everything you need for a stress-free Christmas at Go behind-the-scenes in this video at Fosse Meadows farm and discover their secret to slow-grown poultry.

This article originally featured on the Farmdrop blog in December 2016 and has since been updated.


This supper club will change how you think about food forever

20th November 2017

Here’s what happens when a lab-grown meat scientist turned farmer and Skip Garden’s eco-chef do the cooking. Welcome to a supper club like no other.

London supper club - Sustainable Food Story

Abi and Sadhbh tending to the table at King Cross’ Skip Garden. Photo: Ben Peter Catchpole.

When farmer and scientist, Abi Aspen Glencross, and eco-chef Sadhbh Moore met over a shared interest for future food and farming, it was only a matter of time before an experimental supper club was born. We talk to them about pushing the boundaries of provenance beyond ‘farm-to-fork’ and seeking inspiration in heritage grains, lab-grown meat, foraging and even blood, in anticipation of their upcoming Sustainable Food Story at Borough Market.

What is the Sustainable Food Story?

A: We’re a roaming supper club, telling stories about the origins of food and what it means to grow, source and eat food sustainably, in a fun and delicious way. We’re so much more than farm-to-fork, but we don’t claim to be sustainable either. The supper club is very much an ongoing adventure and we want to bring people along with us for the ride. We grow our own produce and we have close ties with producers. We use surplus or underused ingredients, we forage and we try to demystify the issues and preconceived ideas that surround food and farming.

London supper club - Sustainable Food Story

Sustainable Food Story diners in the Skip Garden greenhouse. Photo: Ben Peter Catchpole.

Let’s go back to the beginning. What inspired you to set this up in the first place?

A: We’re a team of scientists, chefs, storytellers and farmers. I’m a farmer, and previously worked as a scientist, growing meat in a lab. I went into it with a romanticised view of how lab-burgers could feed a growing population, but came out realising that far from solving a problem, it’s distracting attention from all the other issues surrounding our food system. For example, the massive waste of meat industry by-products. We need a mind-shift towards using what we have available.  

“We need a mind-shift towards using what we have available.”

S: We also have a big shared interest in growing and using heritage grains. We’ve both spent time at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill Stone Barns, who’s amazing at embracing biodiversity and growing under-loved grains. I’m an eco-chef at Skip Kitchen behind King’s Cross, and I’ve been using diverse British grains to show how incredible alternative crops are, and teaching kids about it too. We’re really inspired by what Hodmedods are doing to grow and sell different types of British-grown grains to the public.

A: It’s grains, really, that inspired our first supper club.  

Tell us more.

A: The wheat that we eat – and wheat is one of the crops that we humans eat the most – has long been grown for yield. Not only are we seeing a big drop in its mineral density, meaning it’s not so good for us anymore, but the fact it’s grown so uniformly and in such large amounts means it’s a crop that’s much more susceptible to disease and pests. It’s a bit of a crap crop really. We need more diverse grains to nourish the soil, protect our crops from disease and feed our population. By law, farmers have to rotate their crops and not just grow wheat, but the problem is wheat is the only crop that really makes them any income. It’s much harder to sell anything else and make a living off arable farming. There just isn’t a big enough market for human consumption, so they often go for animal feed.

S: For our first supper club, we made dishes that would showcase how good these alternative grains and pulses really can be.

“We served minty peas rescued from going into dog food.”

London supper club - Sustainable Food Story

Each plate has a story: salt-baked beets, goats curd and grains. Photo: Ben Peter Catchpole.

Can you give us a taster?

S: We served whole radish with their leaves, dipped into toasted spelt breadcrumbs, as well as salt-baked beets with goat’s curd and a grain-seed crumb crunch using farro I’d picked up in Italy. We also made einkorn bread, and crispbreads made from the sourdough starter that’s often wasted when making bread, and served them with minty peas that we rescued from going into dog food.

A: People think of wheat when they think of grain, so we’re using farro and einkorn, barley and corn, to show how diverse grains really are. My favourite dish has been carrot and einkorn berry-croquettes, using leftover rye breadcrumbs and surplus cheese rinds from the Cornish Gouda Company – Farmdrop actually supply them too.

S: As you can see it’s not just about grains, it’s about showcasing the alternatives around us. Even those rinds that would otherwise get thrown away, coupled with trying to source seasonally, locally and organically.

Do you only source seasonally, locally and organically?

A: No. We realise the limitations of trying to tick every box. It’s all fine to sit in London and say I’m only going to eat organic food from Wholefoods, but it’s not as black and white as that.  

S: We want to tell a story and inspire debate. For the next supper club at Borough Market, we’re thinking of including an imported ingredient. Trade continues to exist and always will so how can we do this in the best way? Let’s talk about it, rather than shy away from the topic.

Diners share the story over a platter. Photo: Ben Peter Catchpole.

A: Saying that, we’ve used some great produce from within London.

S: We made a tartiflette using dehydrated mushrooms that were grown from old coffee grounds at Mercato Metropolitano by Article No. 25, as well as charred squash from Growing Communities and Wildes cheese made in Tottenham. We also had a Forty Hall white wine spritzer – their vineyard is in Enfield – with rowan berries we foraged on Elephant and Castle roundabout! The foraged ingredients are always complementary though.

“Sustainability isn’t all about doom and gloom, it’s a fun exploration.”

Why so?

S: We forage, but only on a small scale, and only to complement the main event. I did a day down with Miles from the Forager. I love his attitude that the more people know about wild food, the more they can look around and become aware of biodiversity and the value in maintaining green spaces, hedgerows and wild spaces. Of course, over-foraging is never good, but to be aware of what’s around you can only be a good thing. And it’s a nutritious way to supplement your diet.

London supper club - Sustainable Food Story

Abi and Sadhbh plating up in the Skip Garden Kitchen. Photo: Ben Peter Catchpole.

And are your supper clubs always vegetarian?

A: We’re not vegetarian, but we use offal to show that it’s not all about the prime cuts of meat. There are so many nutritious parts of the animal that get thrown because we don’t know or don’t want to use it. We did a workshop on blood recently and were surprised how difficult it was to get hold of fresh blood for consumption! We’re thinking we might introduce it as a surprise ingredient…

What should we expect from your next supper club?

S: We’re going to go back to focussing on grains again, but with lots of delicious seasonal produce and a few surprises thrown in. It’s a fun excuse to get together with mates and enjoy a good meal. Sustainability isn’t all about doom and gloom, it’s a fun exploration and can be really tasty too. That’s what our supper clubs are all about, and if that means people can spend their cash in a way that supports a better food system, then all the better.

The next Sustainable Food Story supper club is coming to Borough Market on 26 to 27 November. Buy your tickets here.

The Skip Garden and Skip Garden Kitchen is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm, with lunch served between 12am a 2pm.


Why is the small British family farm quietly disappearing?

15th November 2017

Could the small, family farm all but die out in the next 30 years? Provided things stay as they are, that may be the direction we’re heading in.

The small British family farm - why are they disappearing?

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


The small UK family farm has been on the decline post-WWII, with the number of holdings of 20 hectares or less vanishing from 158,000 in 1950 to 38,500 in 2015. While these farms may be tiny on a commercial scale, the trend follows through to those of 40, 50, and 60 hectares too. According to a Defra report released last year, farms of these sizes have more than halved in number in the past 60 years.

Where have our small farms gone?

A few months ago, The Campaign to Protect Rural England reported on this issue. One of their biggest worries? Tumbleweed. The government’s kept shtum about it, and the NFU have abstained from addressing the matter (their press office also failed to respond to my calls). For some reason, the powers that be aren’t willing to face up to ­– or even comment on ­– the problem. Pippa Woods (CBE), founder of the Family Farms Association, bluntly suggests why. ‘The government knows food is cheaper from the bigger farms,’ she tells me. ‘So why should they bother with the smaller ones?’

Without any official comment, we can at least deduce possible answers from the facts. For one thing, could it be these farms are simply getting bigger, outgrowing their ‘small’ status? Not quite. Defra’s report shows that total hectarage is regressing in every category except the largest ­– collectively, farms of 200 hectares and more have seen an increase in size of almost 11% in the past 10 years.

Besides, given the current capital required for new green space (which between 2004 and 2015 has increased from £3,000 to £8,000 per acre), the spend often outweighs the production value it can net you. ‘It seems very difficult for people to buy up more land,’ says Abby Allen, marketing director at Pipers Farm. ‘I think Pipers is about five times the value of what it was 30 years ago.’

Diversifying the family farm

Why is the small British family farm disappearing?

Pipers Farm founders Peter and Henri Greig: ‘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.’

Pipers is, ostensibly, a 20-hectare, family-run meat farm in Devon. But they also work shoulder-to-shoulder with a community of 25 family farms, helping them diversify and grow into a sustainable business. ‘All are small scale,’ says Abby. ‘200 acres [80 hectares] would be the largest.’

Small farms such as these are often written off as inefficient or low-output. But a study carried out by the Prince’s Countryside Fund last year points out top-performing small family farms are just as efficient as many of the country’s much larger ones. Especially when it comes to producing higher value food – grass-fed, hand-reared, free range, self-sustaining, and all. ‘Lots of farmers have found they’ve had no choice to diversify,’ says Abby. ‘We’ve got guys who will grow veg alongside pigs, and the pigs will eat the roots and spread the manure to grow more veg.’

Big farms, getting bigger

British small family farm disappearing

An example of intensive arable agriculture.

There’s also the case of large scale farms often being too efficient, in that they produce surplus, which can be sold cheaply. These fluctuating profits don’t cause so much of a dent in the coffers of large industrial farms, but for the smaller ones, it can price them out and, in worse cases, shut them down completely.

Perhaps this is one reason why the number of US-style mega farms has increased in the UK by 26% in the past six years. Cheap food culture is still a force to be reckoned with, and corporate-minded farmers don’t want to miss out. When looking at the amount of disposable income each household spends on food for example, the UK comes third last in the world. A statistic particularly notable when on average UK residents are the biggest spenders in Europe.

This just goes to show – the noise of supermarket price cuts and promotional discounts drown out the family farm and the defining aspects of their produce. And is something smaller family-run farms are likely to find even more of a challenge in the decades to come. Provided the next generations will want to stick around, that is. ‘My daughter is working for me at the moment,’ says Rowie Meers of Purton House Organics, a 70-hectare farm near Swindon. ‘It would be great if she kept up the interest, but it’s not an easy life. Everything’s at such a huge scale these days – while people are wanting organic and home grown produce, you are really fighting against the tide of people wanting cheap food.’

Success in alternative routes to market

British small family farm

Purton House Organics founder Rowie Meers with her free ranging hens.

But as Rowie says, there is still hope for family-run farms who refuse to pander to the demands of the mass market. Purton House, like many of its ilk, finds there’s sufficient desire in high quality produce for the farm so sustain itself with its farm shop, box scheme, and the support of Farmdrop. ‘It’s a good route for small family farms to go down for the future,’ she says. ‘Without Farmdrop, my business would be really struggling.’

This interest in quality food, fortunately, often carries through to the work required of farmers as well. ‘Though it’s not the same as every other part of the world, here we’re seeing a lot of young blood come back into farming,’ says Abby. ‘People in their thirties, who’re really respecting where their food is coming from, and want to put something back in. When farming’s about nurturing the soil, and grass-fed animals, it attracts a lot more people. But as a wider industry, farming is certainly on the decline.’

Out of necessity, comes invention

It could be said that a world not fit for small farms to flourish means less access to generally better quality produce. But even ignoring that, should we be sitting by while their demise quietly unfolds? Doing so would mean less potential for businesses to shape the future of our food for the better – like what the world’s first no-kill caviar farm KC Caviar in Leeds or London’s first subterranean farm Growing Underground are doing.

The decline of the small family farm would mean fewer farms who are ready to champion the war on waste. It would mean a significant disadvantage to rural communities, whether it’s farmers sitting in on parish meetings, or being a major force in conserving the local environment. Ultimately, supporting these businesses is supporting the backlash to destructive, profit-driven industrial farming. So let’s make it happen.

Find out more on Rowie’s story and discover how you are a part of securing Britain’s sustainable farming future.