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Corona conversations

Well here we are - under the cloud of a global pandemic, with social distancing our strongest weapon so far in the fight against Covid 19.  But we are going to use this space to share what we are doing to face up to the challenges of home isolation.  Each day, we will add a new diary entry with our thoughts and ideas, suggestions of things to do and, possibly, the occasional rant and howling at the moon.

So many people are now confined to their homes, interaction with the outside world restricted, day to day life disrupted beyond recognition.  Some people will remember wars; others, here in the UK can reach back to the 3 day week, but for so many, this is an unprecedented disruption to their daily life, an unsettling reminder that not everything in our lives is under our control.

 

Day 77

31st May 2020
Last day of the month and end of week 11.
“Ideally, a loved one will be cooking these pancakes for you, serving them straight from the pan to plate…….”
Thus read the instructions for cooking sourdough pancakes in Mark Diacono’s gorgeous, lime green covered book Sour.
 
The internet is awash with recipes and photos of sourdough bread, the go to activity during lockdown, the next challenge after all the banana bread had been eaten and everyone realised that with time, but no yeast on/in their hands, they could finally tackle sourdough baking.
But what to do with all the discarded starter? 
Hating waste, we have followed Mark’s advice and are now, like him in danger of losing our offspring’s devotion and loyalty to a pile of pancakes.

Day 76

30th May 2020

 
Classic combinations: Laurel and Hardy, Morecambe and Wise, fish and chips, cheese and onion, strawberries and cream, gin and tonic – so many favourites, so many memories.
 
A real memory jerker and one of our all time favourite twosomes is rhubarb and custard, fond reminisces of children’s television with Roobarb and Custard ; pink and yellow, sugar coated boiled sweets, crumble and custard.  With a rampant rhubarb plant going mad in the garden, we are getting inventive and are planning to follow Genevieve  Taylor’s lead and throw some in a pot of dal, adding a background sour note to the creamy comfort of soft, spiced lentils.
And we have also created a rhubarb and custard cake, which will be eaten with extra custard on the side – because there is no such thing as too much custard.
Spot the tell tale Netherton  rivet on our cake tin!
Oh yes, we got to see the SpaceX Dragon fly past too.
 

Day 75

29th May 2020
On July 20, 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin (1930-) became the first humans ever to land on the moon. About six-and-a-half hours later, Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. As he took his first step, Armstrong famously said, As some of us at Netherton are old enough to remember, this was an event worthy of the label, momentous.  We gathered round small TV screens, watching in black and white, as a new kind of history was being made.  And the event brought the entire world together, in anticipation and admiration.   There was a collective holding of breath across the globe as science fiction became science fact and those immortal words were uttered as Neil Armstrong took his first step, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
 Photo by our Production Supervisor, Mandy
Now you can say what you like about Elon Musk, but he certainly doesn’t lack ambition.  And the same thrill that captured the world with the first lunar landing was being recreated last Wednesday, with the planned launch of his SpaceX Dragon, the first commercial flight into space.  Were you, like us, ready to watch it pass overhead and will you, like us be doing the same again on Saturday?  And if you can’t stand outside to watch it, then there are options for watching the whole thing on-line – and who would have imagined that back in 1969?
At a time when the global community is united by the threats of Covid19, isn’t it great to be united by something not bound by the stratosphere?  

Day 74

28th May 2020

 

Let’s talk about the markets.  Not the financial ones, that’s anyone’s guess these days.
 
No, outdoor markets, the gathering of trades and town people to exchange goods for money, and oh so much more besides.  Markets are centres of social as well as commercial exchange, meeting places, social levellers, the very heart of communities. 
Markets have existed for as long as humans have engaged in trade. The earliest bazaars are believed to have originated in Persia, from where they spread to the rest of the Middle East and Europe. Documentary sources suggest that zoning policies confined trading to particular parts of cities from around 3,000 BCE, creating the conditions necessary for the emergence of a bazaar.
The Roman word forum, for the place where the market trade took place, is now used for the on-line exchange of experiences, views, enquiries and knowledge.
 
The town where one of us grew up was established as a market town in 1200 by Royal Charter and there is still a market held there today – the layout of the High Street, designed to accommodate both the flow of traffic and the setting out of market stalls.
 
In Shropshire, one of our favourite and most picturesque markets is Ludlow, which has taken place outside the castle gates in the market square for over 900 years.
Photo from Shropshire Star
 
One of the oldest and most famous markets in the country is London’s Borough Market    Still trading through over 1,000 years of history through  plague, the great fire, two world wars, a terrorist attack to name but a few.
 
Another childhood home, Wilmslow does not have a history of ancient markets, of farmers trading their cattle and market gardeners plying their wares, but has embraced the concept more recently and established the fabulous Artisan Market, selling gorgeous food and handicrafts to a discerning clientele.  And, during lockdown, enterprisingly advertising the on-line offerings of their erstwhile stallholders.
 
But of late, markets old and new have been deserted, closed down by the pandemic, quiet and  empty spaces in stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of a traditional market day.
 
But there is a light on the horizon, at the end of the tunnel, in the market square.  The government has announced that outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from 1 June, as soon as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers. As with garden centres, the risk of transmission of the virus is lower in these outdoor and more open spaces. 
 
Not all markets will re-open immediately, not all traders will return to their old pitches, new rules will be in place, new guidelines to follow, restrictions to be observed. But it’s a start.
And  they will all need our help to recover fully, for the town centres need to feel alive again, for the traders to bounce back from the pressures of lockdown; they will need our business, our support, our presence, our cash.  These markets across the country, be they old or new, rural or metropolitan, are a vital part of communities, a way of life, an exchange of far more than goods for money, let’s welcome them back.

Day 73

27th May 2020
We have been wondering what to share with you today and pondering the plans for the re-opening of shops.  We have been talking to some of our stockists and looking forward to their opening their doors again in June and taking a look back re-reading some of our blog entries during the May months of years past.  These conversations, have , for now, taken the place of the blog and we look forward to returning there in the future.
It’s strange how time has flown by and how much has and hasn’t changed.  We had almost forgotten the content of these and it came as a bit of surprise, echoing as they do some of what’s happening now.
 
In 2012 the title of one entry was “Man walks into a shop”    - well his choices would be limited just now, wouldn’t they? And he would have to take his turn in the queue, not dash in and dash back out again.  Fingers crossed, we will all be safely walking back into shops soon.
 
And a year later, how prescient was this?
 
Looking back 18 months to when we first started the Netherton Foundry adventure, I wonder if we were entirely sane?
There were so many good reasons for doing what we embarked on, provenance, sustainability, eco awareness  - of which more later, but with the High St in the doldrums and the economic outlook gloomy to say the least, WHAT WERE WE THINKING?
We even decided to supply only to independent outlets and not approach the multiple retailers, but one of the reasons for that is that we are fond of our High Streets and we don’t want them to lose their individuality and originality.
And now in 2013,  we face more economic hardship, and we have seen the disappearance of some major retail names, but our determination to succeed and bring quality, value and British made products to High Street is as strong as ever.”
 
The future of our High Streets is now very firmly in our hands; we hope that the support that has been shown to and provided by so many independent delicatessens, farm shops, corner shops, butchers, bakers and greengrocers will be repaid and that the same support will go out to ALL the independent retailers out there, including those that had to shut their doors in March, not knowing what their future would hold.
This is our chance to shape our High Streets, to decide what we want our retail experience to be like, to embrace individuality, to support independence and originality, to expect good and personal service, to value quality and design.
We want our stockists not merely to survive, but to thrive and for that we are relying on you.
    

Day 72

26th May 2020

 

We are great believers in William Morris’s golden rule  - “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” 
This was lecture entitled The Beauty of Life given to the Birmingham Society of Arts and School of Design.  So I think we can conclude that when he mentions houses in the plural, he is addressing the whole audience, not those with more than one home! 
And it is with this in mind that we thank Charlie for taking the time to write this message to us………
 
“Thank you so much for your help in these difficult and bewildering times. My casserole arrived just after lunch. It is an object of magnificence. William Morris is correct, it is beautiful and I am thrilled.
I also value the principles of local, sustainability, and longevity.
With thanks, Pax et Bonum, Charlie.”
 
And we could all do with more pax and bonum. 
  

Day 71

25th May 2020

The secret to feel good food.
In this delightful article for the Telegraph, Diana Henry and her gourmet friends reveal how the find happiness in the humblest meals.  Diana Starts by explaining  that “all food writers want people to cook.  That’s why we get out of bed in the morning”.  She goes on to describe how the corona virus has made cooks, for good or bad, of us all, forcing everyone into the kitchen.  Nigella Lawson, whom Diana describes as “the person who finds more happiness in home cooking than anyone else she knows,” comments that “for people who cook a lot, using leftovers creatively….is a way of life; but it can be intimidating for those who cook only rarely and follow recipes to the letter”  But she is encouraged to think that, with practice, albeit enforced, it is impossible not to pick up ne culinary skills.
 
Yesterday Netherton’s eldest indulged his love of sweet things and made us a batch of Madhur Jaffrey’s gulab jamun, using the recipe in our yellowing a increasingly fragile copy of An Invitation to Indian Cooking.  Today, we have used the leftover syrup and infused it with rose petals, rosewater and splash of Pimms to make the syrup for a savarin, using our savarin ring and a recipe from the equally delicate Penguin Cordon Bleu Cookery, with its classic recipes using ounces and gills for measurements.
I think these petals are from Gertrude Jekyll, another of our David Austin roses.

Day 70

24th May 2020

Just up the road from the Netherton workshops, a few miles away is David Austin roses, a marvellous collection of the most magnificent roses.  We already have several in the garden, here are just two of them, blooming most brilliantly.  

  

The climber is James Galway and the shrub rose is Darcey Bussell.
And we have just planted another three, delivered by post, of course, as we are still staying at home as much as possible and these were ordered a couple of weeks ago.
We have added Ferdinand Pilcher, Gentle Hermione and Silas Marner to our collection and if they come into flower while we are still writing the conversations, we will post photos.
Some of the brassicas were also planted out today, so we are now on permanent pigeon patrol!  More news from the veg plot another day.
 
Day 70 - that's 10 weeks!

Day 69

23rd May 2020

 
Our local papers are called the Shropshire Star and the Express and Star and we are not only delighted to be featured in this super interview with Shropshire Star journalist Heather Large, but to share the pages of the Weekend section with our friend Adam Purnell – who is Playing with Fire. We also spotted Shrewsbury Food Festival organiser, publisher and journalist Andy Richardson using one of his Netherton pans in an article about restaurant take-away Sunday lunch.
 
Neil discusses the famous writers who have featured our cookware in their latest books, the lockdown baking mania sweeping the country, a growing enthusiasm for outdoor cooking, inspired, no doubt in part, by the likes of Adam, the Shropshire Lad, sharing his recipes, tips and techniques on YouTube, and his concerns for the future of the small, independent retailers who stock Netherton range and who have been forced to close during the corona crisis.
  

Day 68

22nd May 2020
 
It was September 2017, at Ludlow Food festival.  It was the end of the day and we were just tidying up before heading home (via the workshops to pick up extra stock for the following day).  And then, striding across the castle grounds, with a look of steely determination and heading straight for us, was Val Stones, the cake whispering star (if not winner) of the 2016 Great British Bake Off.
“Right”, she said, “you are just the people I need to talk to.  I want a baking sheet that doesn’t go boing as soon as it starts to heat up in the oven.  Can you make me such as thing?”
Always ready to rise to a challenge, Neil pulled out a piece of paper and he and Val got to work immediately on the design and shortly afterwards the Val baking sheet was launched.
Since then Val has travelled the length and breadth of the country demonstrating at Food Festivals and always raising money for good causes and we have steadily been making  more and more Val baking sheets.
If you head over to follow Val on Instagram you will be able to see how she makes these amazing cheese scones and how pre-heating “her” tray gives them just a bit more rise.  And you could also buy a copy of Val’s lovely baking book for more delicious recipes.

Day 67 

21st May 2020

Sue's birthday today and dinner and cocktails by Netherton's youngest  - we all dressed up and got a cheer from the neighbours alongside the #ClapforCarers.

Other things that make us smile……….
We are very proud of our plastic free, recyclable packaging, but if it can be re-used rather than recycled, then all the better.
And what better use than to sit in a box eating toast?  Or cuddling a rabbit?
Thank you K, for sending these fabulous photos of the after life of Netherton packaging. 
  

Day 66

20th May 2020

 
Nigel was round here for dinner this evening.  And very enjoyable it was too.
But before you get worked up about us breaking the rules, I can assure you that Nigel was not here in person.  We were cooking from Nigel Slater’s Greenfeast, Spring, Summer.  A beautifully balanced, subtly spiced dish of paneer, aubergines, cashews.  Such is the timbre of his writing that you can almost feel his presence in the kitchen, gently coaxing and coaching you as you set out the ingredients and start the preparation.
On a gloriously sunny evening, with a glass of Paso Primero rosé in hand, it was nice to dream that the man himself has dropped in for dinner…………  Sadly, his photographer, Jonathan Lovekin couldn't make it either, so we photographed the dish in one of our prospector woks ourselves
  

Day 65

19th May 2020

 
Today has been a day of phone calls; nice ones, from people who have patiently waited for their Netherton cookware and who then called to tell us how delighted they were; entertaining ones about the anatomical appearance of our baking cloches; enquiries from people intrigued, interested and tempted by Netherton cookware, who gave us brief insights into their lives, the trials, tribulations and triumphs of life in lockdown. 
I was particularly taken by the gentleman who manages to sneak mangetout peas into his son’s snack pot when he is watching television.
And then there was the lady who had been hiding all the treats in her car and clandestinely transferring them to the kitchen cupboards a few at a time, while her children slept…. the warmer weather is challenging her to find new hiding places.
 
We are very busy, our ironmasters are working their socks off, our suppliers are coming up trumps in the most difficult of circumstances and the couriers turn up day after day.  It’s not easy, it is challenging, but it is rewarding, it is wonderful to see so many of you adding to your Netherton collection or dipping a toe into the Netherton waters and trying a pan for the first time.
Thank you all for your orders, your generosity of spirit, your patience and your kind words. 

Day 64

18th May 2020

 
A reflection on what lockdown has meant for us and for others.
Neil was recently interviewed by Tom Parker Bowles for a series called Crisis in the Country which he is conducting for the Daily Mail on line.  You can hear the full piece here, in which Neil explains our initial fears when lockdown started, the growth of website sales during lockdown and our hopes for the small independent shops when lockdown is lifted.
  

Day 63

17th May 2020

 
It may feel like time is standing still, like Groundhog Day, but nature carries on regardless.  It is encouraging to see signs of growth in the garden, with the promise of good things to come.
The tomato and pepper seedlings were transferred into pots today; the iris looks resplendent, strawberries are coming along nicely and our very first jostaberries are forming.
 
The garden is flourishing, filled with the sound of bees and birds and the burgeoning plants signpost the prospect of better times ahead.
       

Day 62

16th May 2020

 

We haven’t nominated a hero for a while, but we will redtress that this evening with a mention for footballer Harry Kane, who has bought the sponsorship rights for Leyton Orient’s 3 kit shirts and is donating them to three good causes.  In turn, the club will donate 10% of all shirt sales to the causes chosen by Harry.
What you might call a win:win situation.
 photo credit Leyton Orient Football Club

Day 61 

15th May 2020

 
Today it’s Netherton’s youngest’s 21st birthday.  So Happy Birthday, Maddy
Not the party and celebrations you wanted, but all of that will come.  And today, the company of a single friend sat 2m away from you sharing champagne, pizza and cake was still a good day.
We love you, gorgeous girl xx

Day 60

14th May 2020

For some of our team the facility to work from home has allowed for the concept of dress down Friday to be further extended to the whole week, and it’s not so much dress down as not get dressed at all.  This is Tony, busily working on our purchase orders. 
 
 Having heard Mary Beard admit to being in her pyjamas on Radio 4 and Martin Clunes appearing on breakfast TV in a stripy pair of PJs, we know he is not alone.
 
On the other hand, those who are still heading to the workshop do feel that certain standards and a degree f decorum still apply and that includes not exposing one’s bottom.
So we are now busy with some more traditional skills,  patching and darning a pair of work jeans to protect everyone’s modesty.

Day 59

13th May 2020

 
Another day, another fridge raid.
Coming to the end of our last shop, so it was time to go through the cupboards and put together a meal from whatever we could find.
Some red onions, half a pack of risotto rice, a tin of tomatoes, chickpeas leftover from a couple of days ago, the dregs of a bottle of red wine  and handfuls of herbs from the garden and a large frying pan.
Not entirely sure what you would call it, but it was very tasty.  The days of diligent recipes following with carefully sourced and weighed ingredients are but distant memories.  That’s not to say that we won’t go back to our favourite books, we most certainly will, but in the meantime we will continue to make do with whatever we’ve got and combine them in the most imaginative way we can.

Day 58

12th May 2020

 
Testing, testing.
Your name has been selected at random………. drawn out of a hat, a pin on a page, a lucky number.  Not a lottery win, not a chance to sign up to the Readers’ Digest (for those of you old enough to know what I’m talking about) or even a discount on double glazing. 
One of us has been randomly selected to take  part in the Covid-19 testing survey. 
We are all fit and healthy, we have all followed the guidelines to the letter, and whilst there have been many things to worry about, having the virus has not been one of them.  We are pretty confident that the results would come back negative.
So are we going to take part?  Yes, of course we are.  Because the more information is available to the NHS and all the other bodies involved in fighting this, then the better equipped they are.  So if that means sticking a swab up our nose and down our throat, which sounds unpleasant, but is only momentary, then that’s what we will do.

Day 57

11th May 2020

 
What a change in the weather – who would have believed it could get so cold again, especially after two beautiful sunny days over the weekend.  If you’ve got tender plants coming along in the garden be sure to wrap them up.  We have got strawberries and cherries coming along nicely and are praying that we will remain frost free and hang on to our potential harvest.
Especially as we have just finished off the last of last year’s cherries from the freezer in this cocoa Dutch baby from the Borough Market cook book, which was compiled by food writer Ed Smith
Luckily there is a drop or two of the cherry vodka left to see us through until this year’s crop ripens.

Day 56

10th May 2020

 
Late last night, just before we went to bed, we received a photo of a prospector pan in use.  In use, in a kitchen, in a flat, in Cambridge, Boston, Massachusetts.  It was being used, well used, in lockdown, by a lovely family, whom we have met at the Good Life Experience for the last 3 years.  A meeting place for fascinating, friendly folk from around the world, a gathering of like minded individuals, creating a temporary tribe, but making lasting connections.
It was good to hear from M, A and E, overlooking a city across the Atlantic from their 5th floor window.  And good to hear that they are making good use of the Shropshire cookware.
 
And then entirely by coincidence, in an article in today’s Observer, featuring pictures from acclaimed photographers from around the world, this beautiful shot of a pale blue house, by Teju Cole, in……………Cambridge, Boston.
Maybe our friends have walked by it in pre-pandemic days, and if not, maybe, when it is safe to go back out again, they will seek it out.

Day 55

9th May 2020
 
Every month, for as long as we can remember, we have made sure we make at least one new dish a month.  It may be from a recipe book, it may be one we have created ourselves.  It might become a go-to favourite or we may never make it again.
But it’s a challenge we keep up.
And tonight was the first new dish for May.  We have just got round to buying Dishoom's beautiful cook book  and because it’s Saturday night and we can’t head out for a curry, it was the perfect excuse to open up the book and get cooking.
This is matar paneer, one of Netherton’s son’s favourite meals, cooked and served in a prospector wok.
And it was absolutely delicious.  Washed down with a cold beer, we could almost imagine we were out for the night.
Sadly, though, we are going to have to do our own washing up.

Day 54

8th May 2020
 
A tranquil day, pottering in the garden, appropriately enough for the anniversary of VE Day, when we can reflect on peace and what it means to each of us.
Today, the only sounds were the bees and the birds and someone up the street tuning up for tonight’s singalong.
 
A cause for celebration and an excuse to raise a glass is that today also happens to be Sir David Attenborough’s 94th birthday – we hope that it is a happy and healthy one.
 
We hope you have a had a good Bank Holiday Friday and can look forward to the rest o f the weekend.

Day 53

7th May 2020

 
Beautifully blue skies and verdantly green trees, the signature colours of Spring and a cheering sight
 
And while the sun was still shining, it was tome to go out again to clap for all the key workers.  And, to a chorus of cheers, a supermarket delivery arrived at our neighbours, right on cue, his van adorned with a beautiful coloured in rainbow drawing.
 
So it was only fitting that we added red, orange and yellow to our evening with a dinner of stuffed peppers, liberally sprinkled with foraged 3 cornered leek flowers for a touch of white.
A true bung it in the oven dish – halved peppers, with chunks of tomato and slices of garlic, snuggled into a prospector pan, drizzled with oil and left undisturbed in the oven for 40 minutes, Mozzarella slices added for another 15 minutes, then sprinkled with edible flowers and served with the luxury of buttered Jersey Royals.
A rainbow evening.

Day 52

6th May 2020

Cheese Gromit? 

 
“As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, the depth of the economic damage being dealt to so many livelihoods is becoming clear. The world of British artisan cheese has been dealt a devastating blow by the closure of restaurants, hotels, pubs and cafes. Practically overnight, cheesemakers and cheesemongers who supplied these businesses saw a massive loss of business.”
Not our words, but those of food writer Jenny Linford who wrote this piece about the plight of many British independent cheesemakers affected by the impact of the coronavirus on their businesses.
 
Fortunately, this article has been spread far and wide and many people, like us, have responded by buying more cheese direct from the makers or from specialist cheesemongers who are doing national deliveries.  In fact, we are taking the opportunity to try cheeses we haven’t had before.  So whilst we have been regularly munching our way through local favourites, Moydens, we have most recently tried Londoners’ Wildes cheese for the first, and not the last, time.
  
 
You may not be able to buy all your cheese like this, but if you can, please do support the British cheesemongers – even take part in Patrick McGuigan’s #BritishCheeseWeekender over on Twitter

Day 51

5th May 2020

Taking your work home with you…………..
This is Jack.
Jack is a front line, key worker for the NHS; he is a Community Staff Nurse, working in North Worcestershire.  In other words, a hero. Life is busy and stressful, more so than usual right now.  His wife Nataley is part of our ironmasters team at the workshops - you may have seen her and her boys in recent conversations.
Jack is also now the proud owner of a Life Kitchen spatula, which Nataley took home from work for him. Nataley was proud to take a part of her work home with her, but  of course, Jack doesn't not like taking his work home with him.  It seems that cooking, and especially getting their boys involved, is a great way to relax from the stresses of being a paramedic.  
We sell the Life Kitchen spatula in support of the Life Kitchen initiative, whose free cookery classes for those living with the effects of cancer treatments are obviously now on hold.  However, the Life Kitchen recipe book, written by Ryan Riley and Kimberley Duke is on sale and as some people have experienced similar taste numbing symptoms with Covid-19, as are experienced by those undergoing chemotherapy, its release is more timely than the pair of them would have expected.
We donate £5 from the sale of every spatula to help them run their free cookery classes.

Day 50

4th May 2020
 
For all you Star Wars fans - May the Fourth be with you.
 
Are you missing your trips to the Chinese restaurant or takeaway?  Do you long for chop suey, sweet and sour pork?  Well, we may have the answer for you.  Our friend kwoklyn Wan has written two brilliant books, showing you how to recreate Chinese takeaway food at home.  We absolutely love these books, as do the youngfer Nethertons. 
The first, red cover version The Chinese Takeout Cook Book covers all your favourites and the second, green cover version is full of vegetarian Chinese takeaway dishes. 
And if you are not sure, just watch Kwoklyn on this fabulous video, where he also showcases our round bottomed wok (just remember to choose a flat bottomed on if you have an electric hob!).
You will also see that Kwoklyn is doing weekly cookery lessons for key Stage 1 and 2 children on his Youtube channel and a version for grown ups too.  Please lend him some support.
 
 

Day 49

3rd May 2020
 
First of all, we wish Joe Wicks, Body Coach a full and speedy recovery.  He has been an absolute star during lockdown and we hope he is back to full fitness soon.
 
We are regular users of the services provided by Feet First in Chesterfield, who repair rock climbing shoes, and a very good job of it they do too.  Checking to see if they are still working, we were amused to read this on their Facebook page.  "Stand back and throw your boors through our door" - Social distancing with a smile 
 
 
And today’s #coronabake is this scrumptious chocolate sticky toffee pudding cake, once again from Sue Quinn’s book, Cocoa, baked in our 8½” cake tin

Day 48

2nd May 2020

A day spent in the garden, weeding, planting out and general maintenance; making the most of the weather and counting our blessings for having a garden.  
And a real treat for dinner tonight: chocolate, ginger and marmalade steamed pudding from Sue Quinn's delectable book, Cocoa, cooked in our copper pudding pot.   if this lockdown has taught us anything, it is that there is little point saving things "for best", for special occasions.  Why not have a luscious pudding for no other reason than to cheer yourself up and what is the point of having a lovely pot if you don't use it?  Live life to the max, make the most of every day.
  
 
What are your favourite treats?
 

Day 47

1st May 2020

May Day - the first day of a new month and one with traditions and rituals around the world; from the bucolic scenes of maypole dancing and the crowning of a May queen; Fête du Muguet  (Lily of the Valley Day) in France, dating from  1st of May 1561 when a lily flower of the valley was given as a lucky charm to King Charles IX of France, from then he continued the habit of offering lilies of the valley to all the ladies of the king as a sign of good luck and happiness to International Workers’ Day.
A strange one this year, but we are delighted to see not only lily of the valley in bloom in the garden but lilac and our first rose too.
   
 
Another entertainment/distraction for children of all ages has come to our attention today.  Internationally recognised and renowned architects Foster + Partners have launched a whole series of architecturally themed challenges for children, from building a skyscraper to designing a city.
We love this and are even considering having a go ourselves.
 
And with English asparagus season underway, here is one of our favourite recipes

Day 46

30th April 2020

Collecting some much needed kit for  the workshops this morning, from the Black Country warehouse of our friends at Straaltechniek, Neil was intrigued by all the sacks of black foam rubber filling up every available bit of space.  Certainly not their normal stock of shot blast machine spares and blasting media.
It turns out that just around the corner, at UK Rubber and Plastics Ltd they are busy making visors for NHS staff and had run out of space to store their materials.  The boys at Blastcom were happy to step in and offer them some support.
Whatever your opinions on the supply of PPE to frontline workers, stories like this confirm and strengthen our faith in human nature.
 
This morning we listened to the wonderful Asma Khan on BBC Woman’s Hour.  Asma closed her restaurant, Darjeeling Express BEFORE the lockdown, keen t protect the health of her staff and her customers and promised to keep paying them all before the government’s furlough scheme was announced.  She is a true hero of the hospitality industry.  But what really caught our imagination, and touched a nerve ,was that here was one of London’s , Britain’s most lauded chefs telling us that her “ungrateful” teenage sons don’t like her food. 
Listen again – it’s well worth it.
 
Thank you to our friend Rachel for sending us a picture of her pane cafone (Neapolitan peasant bread) baked in her Netherton deep casserole.

Day 45

29th April 2020

There is still plenty of wild garlic to be had, if you know where to look, and can get to on your daily exercise outing.  We can gather ours en route between home and the workshops, where it grows in abundance along the banks of the River Severn.
We have been looking back through some of our old recipes and re-creating them recently and this one for wild garlic dumplings is a particular favourite.  And if you think tat you have lost all track of time, it came as something of a surprise to us that this was written five years ago! 
  
There are more wild garlic recipes on the blog; just use the search field and let us know if you try any of them, please.
 
And very shortly we will be looking out for elderflowers too.  Last year we created some delicious elderflower and strawberry gin, and with the strawberry plants already covered in flowers, that could well be on the cards again this year.

Day 44

28th April 2020

We were thrilled to welcome Mark Gough from ITV Central news to the workshops to talk about how we are still making, packing and despatching our cookware around the world.
You can watch a clip on our Instagram page and keep watching our news stories for more information.
   

Day 43 

27th April 2020
Now that flour is finding its way back into the shops and bread is once again the staff of life and not the ghost of a taste, haunting our memories, thoughts turn to the toastie.  Who doesn't love two caramelised slices of bread encasing  a laval flow of your favourite ingredients, be that cheese, beans, jam or chocolate spread.
This article from the Guardian talks about electric sandwich toasters, as a preamble to a compendium of filling suggestions - it is a step too far, in our opinion to call them “recipes”.
But we have an alternative, a toastie maker without a plug on and one used to quite staggeringly stunning effect by the Wigmore in London.
Behold their cheese toastie, made using  a Netherton cooking iron...........
 
Sadly these are not available while the Wigmore is closed, but they are a treat to look forward to when all of this is over.
You will be pleased to know that the cooking iron is also handy for something else best served between two pieces of bread  - I refer to the smashed burger, lovingly cushioned in a bun.
 
And some uplifting news here, including  hero of the day  - the postie who delivered a parcel, posted in Sweden and addressed to “somewhere in Sheffield”.   Facebook can come in handy sometimes.

Day 42

26th April 2020
 
Well it seems like everyone's a baker these days.  We normally make yeasted bread, but couldn't resist jumping on the sourdough bandwagon that has been rolling along every street, in every town across the copuntry.  The only vehicle with free rein to roam unchallenged.
After carefully cultivating a rye starter (called Sybil, if you are interested), today we cooked our first loaf and we have to say, it doesn't look too bad.  A bit flat, perhaps, but a cracking, crackling crust.
  
 
Many thanks to Hobbs Bakery for the delivery of our order of Shipton Mill bread flour.  And thanks for the advice, Tim, aka  @GasheadAu
We will report back when we break into this!!

Day 41

25th April 2020

Another glorious sunny day, so we made the most of it and cooked dinner outside on our 15" chapa, fuelled with Whittle and Flame charcoal and yes, I know we keep going on about it, but it really is the business and cracking charcoal means cracking cooking.  Used the tree trimmings from last weekend's gardening session as kindling and Genevieve Taylor's top down fire lighting - works a treat.  Watch her on Instagram to see how it works!
We also cooked some new recipes from Genevieve's book, Charred; potato and Halloumi kebabs and cabbage with chestnut and raisin butter.  Outstanding.
Some hot sauce from someone we are proud to call our friend,  Mark Shayler for the burgers and Hobson's Twisted Spire to wash it all down. 
    
Almost felt like a normal weekend!

Day 40 

24th April 2020

Apparently we are reading a lot more during lockdown, well I never!

We are certainly enjoying the opportunity to read more during the shutdown and would welcome your recommendations. 
We are also re-reading some of our favourites, including Blood, Butter and Bones, by American chef Gabrielle Hamilton.  This is the story of her childhood and how she came to be acclaimed chef, running her own restaurant in New York’s Manhattan’s East Village. 
But of course, her tiny restaurant is now closed, and she has no idea when or if it will re-open.
For a searingly honest and articulate account of what it means to see your business change overnight, read this article she wrote for the New York Times.  Powerful stuff, but with strength and hope at its core.
Another American autobiography, with food as its central theme is Poor Man’s Feast by Elissa Altman.  So fascinated were we by this, that we have just ordered Motherland, which explores Elissa’s relationship with her outrageous mother.
Deeply moving, but also uplifting is Allan Jenkins’  meditation on nature and nurture, Plot 29; the story of his families, birth and adopted and his connection with the soil, with gardening, with growing plants and growing up.
Rooted in real history and geography, but re-presented as a work of fiction, A Long Petal of the Sea, is a love story, spun out over continents and decades, taking in some of the major political upheavals of the 20th century, in Europe and South America.  Utterly absorbing.
Norwegian writer Lars Mytting has become best known for his non-fictional book Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way , but we have loved the intricacies and mysteries of The Sixteen Trees of the Somme, this will keep you occupied for a day or two.
A delightful novel, set in a Japanese coffee shop has  delighted us, with its whimsical, but potent play on time travel.  Before the Coffee gets Cold, by Toshikazu Kawaguchi will not take long to read, but will transport you to another place and several other times.
And whatever you want to read, please, if you can, buy from an independent book store, rather than the giant on-line retailers.
Hero of the day has to be Tom Hanks, sending a Corona typewriter  and type written letter of support to a young Australian called….. Corona.

Day 39

23rd April 2020

A long day today, so a simple supper was called for.  Taking inspiration from Diana Henry's From the Oven to the Table we simply put some saudages, potatoes and apples in a prospector pan, added masses of sage, sploshed on some Bennett and Dunn rapeseed oil, maple syrup and sea salt and roasted in the oven for 40 minutes.

  

Simples, as a well known meerkat would say.

Hero(ine) of the day is Alex, a 2nd year medical student and friend of Netherton's youngest.  Alex is working in a caring, (rather than treating) capacity at a Midlands hospital, doing whatever is asked of her, putting in long hours and experiencing some of the harsh realities of life in a large hospital in the starkest of scenarios.  This is not the introduction to medicine that she must have imagined, but she is doing an amazing job and we are very proud of her.  


Day 38

22nd April 2020

Well that was a bit of a shock - just after 8 o'clock last night we got a mesasge on Facebook to say that our website had crashed.  Oh no! What has gone wrong?
Well nothing, as it happened; nothing wrong, that is.  ITV4 ran a repeat of the episode of Made in Britain featuring Netherton Foundry and it got eevn more attention this time than it did when it was first shown.  All the new viewers rushed over to the website to find out more about us!
Fortunately, the blip only lasted half an hour and then everything stabilised and got back to normal (whatever that means these days!!).
If you missed the programme first or second time around, you can see what all the fuss was about here
 

Day 37

21st April 2020
 
If you follow social media or even just read the colour supplements in the papers, then you may have noticed a lot of people are making banana bread in lockdown; it has become the pandemic go-to bake.
At first we thought we were simply imagining it, that the people we are connected with are just banana lovers, that perhaps banana bread had always been the default baking choice and we had simply missed the memo.
But apparently it really has taken off big time during the crisis and this American article, which is equally relevant over here in the UK, explains why.
 
One thing remains constant; it is banana loaf, not banana cake and what you need to cook the perfect social media and tea table ready confection, is the perfect loaf tin.  We may be able to help you there..... this is the loaf tin that Nigella Lawson uses for her banana bread, need we say more? 
 
There are almost as many banana bread recipes as there are Instagram photos, this is one of ours 
 
Baking in lockdown has been a challenge and a balm; ingredients have not always been readily available, but the joy of immersing oneself in the tactile joy of making pastry, the olfactory bliss of toffee and the sheer concentration in note taking, blocking out interference in the brain from the clamour of coronavirus news is unrivalled.
It has also been a time for seeing what we have in the cupboard and working out ways to use up stored ingredients.
This is an elaboration, a variation, dare I say an improvement of a recipe my mother used to make when I was a child.  It is, without a shadow of a doubt, an indulgence, but it is easy to make and right now, we all deserve a treat.
 
Pastry
150g plain flour
60g cold butter, cubed
Cold water
 
Filling
30g butter
120g brown sugar
2 eggs
200ml double cream
120g dried fruit*
 
Preheat the oven to 175ºC
 
Make the pastry; rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Bind together with just enough water to make a stiff dough.
Roll out on a floured board to fit either a 10" prospector pan, which is all I had to hand in lockdown, or a 10" pie dish, I should be getting one of these back in the Netherton kitchen any day now. 
Place in the fridge while you make the filling.
 
* I keep a jam jar full of dried fruit; raisins, currants, sultanas, dried citrus peel, soaking in sherry in the cupboard and used some of these for this dish, but booze free fruit is quite acceptable.
 
Put the butter into a saucepan (our copper pans are perfect for this) or a milk pan and melt over a gentle heat.  Stir in the brown sugar and the fruit.  Beat the eggs and cream together and add to the fruit mix.  Pour all of this into the pastry case and pop it into the oven.
Cook for 30 minutes until the filling has just set - a little wibble is a good thing, it will firm up as it cools.
Cool and serve in small slices; it is pretty rich and you can easily get 8-10 slices from this size of pie.

Day 36

20th April 2020
When you can’t go on holiday, bring the holiday to you.  This is Nataley and her family camping in the back garden to celebrate Alfie's 7th birthday.  A welcome distraction and great fun for the boys, including 5 year old Callum and Dad, Jack – after all, everything seems better with cartoons, marshmallows and a tent!    jack is a frontline NHS worker, so we hope there was an off duty beer for him too!
      
 
Has anyone else braved the chilly evenings and slept outdoors?
 
And if you fancy cooking outdoors too, take a look at our outdoor cooking sections – one with our chapas, outdoor hobs etc and the other featuring all our cooking pots and pans.
 Photo by Genevieve Taylor

Day 35

19th April 2020
 
What have you all been cooking?  This was a delicious Spanish style stew, using some tinned chick peas, tinned tomatoes, chard from the garden and thick slices of Shropshire Salumi chorizo.
 
Whilst it is sometimes challenging, occasionally inspired and often fun cooking in lockdown, we do find our selves daydreaming about dining out.  This article in today's Observer is a sobering read about what is happening in the restaurant trade and what will happen when all of this is over.  We intend to get out and get eating when they re-open; are planning where to go; looking at old on-line menus and wondering if the same dishes will still be offered.  Or are all the chefs working at home on new, innovative and exciting dishes to tempt us back?  
If we want a thriving restaurant trade, choice, quality, variety and service it will be up to us, the customers, to make it happen.  So make a list, your old favourites, those you always meant to get around to, those you have never even thought about until now and as soon as the restauruants are open again, start working your way down that list, at whatever pace your budget will allow.
Show the chefs some love, give them your support.

Day 34

18th April 2020

The days are beginning to merge - this is yesterday's news, posted on Sunday morning.  More of today's news later.

A new piece of kit

"It's time to expand our capacity," we said. "Shirley the shotblaster isn't going to cope much longer. We need to replace her with a bigger machine".
So we did our homework, found a replacement and even made sure that Shirley would be refurbished and a new home found for her.
Then it was a question of when to do the swap.
"Let's pick our quietest time", we said. "Let's make sure we don't impact too much on business and give ourselves time to get to know the new machine."
So last month, when we are normally at our quietest point in the production calendar, the new machine was delivered from our friends at Straaltechniek UK Ltd.
Just as well it turned up when it did!! So much for the quietest time of the year! With a reduced workforce and an unseasonably busy order book, we would never have coped with Shirley.
So while Shirley sits and waits for her refurb, we are grateful to our friends for the seamless installation of her successor.

Day 33

17th April 2020

And today, it’s all about our younger friends.

 
Meet our new favourite baker – this is 8 year old E, seen here with her new Netherton loaf tin. Her first attempts at baking would put many an adult to shame. 
  
 
We are delighted to announce that the winner of the Gastronomical Guide to Fabulous Food is 7 year old Hannah, from Worcester and here is her winning entry to the competition
 
And finally, while her Mum works from home for us, 10 year old Lucy has been out in the garden with her sketch pad and has sent us this beautiful drawing of tulips.
Another talented youngster.
 
The next generation are a delight and inspiration.

 

Day 32

16th April 2020

Two things have made us smile today: the first is the notion of Banksy “working from home”.  This is his bathroom art installation, apparently his wife is not too impressed
 
Also working from home, BBC North West weatherman Owain Wyn Evans, who not only gave his weather report, but also accompanied the closing credit theme on the drums.
 
 
And hats off to Captain Tom Moore and his garden perambulations and money raising.
A true hero of the day, nominated by our very own Michelle.

Day 31

15th April 2020

This is a Public Service Announcement – one of our friends at Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service has told us that they are getting called out to far too many out of control back garden bonfires. 
Fences and sheds are going up in smoke!  
While they are dealing with these, they are not able to support and assist their colleagues in the ambulance service.
So please, for everyone’s sake, including your own, take care if you are trying to dispose of your garden rubbish.  After all, you don’t want to be buying a new shed, do you?
And as we are on the topic of fires, they are also telling us not to send up any sky lanterns to celebrate the NHS - #clapforcarers on Thursday, but don’t torch the countryside!
 
We admit it, we are having our own garden bonfire tonight.  Having a tall son at home has its advantages, he can reach up to trim the higher branches of the overhanging conifers from our neighbour’s garden, but the but that leaves the problem of how to dispose of the branches when the tip is closed.
 
However, the dead plum tree, which has had to be felled, has been saved for some creative activities back at the workshop – watch this space!
 
Now, if anyone has any tips for getting rid of rampant ivy, please let us know!

Day 30

14th April 2020

 
More sunshine today, but decidedly chilly, especially standing in a queue at the shops.  But it is good to see food and other household essentials on the shelves and people behaving in a responsible and civilised manner.  The staff on the door and inside our local supermarket were good humoured, helpful and to be applauded for all their efforts.
Please take a minute or two to read this letter from a supermarket worker
 
We have been experimenting with our bread making too  - this is one third buckwheat flour, which has a good texture and delicious taste.
And this is a fascinating read about the national obsession with baking.
 
We would like to thank Shropshire County Council for their swift and efficient handling of the small business grant, which arrived in our bank account promptly and without drama.  The steps that local and national government are taking to support businesses are a real lifeline for so many businesses and taking the stress out of applying for them makes a big difference.
So our heroes of the day are all the staff at Shropshire County Council and at Shropshire Chamber of Commerce.

Day 29

13th April 2020

We hope you all managed to enjoy the Easter weekend, despite the restrictions and that everyone who was hoping for one, got an Easter egg.  We are enjoying some from Salcombe Dairy - scrumptious, especially the bar of salted caramel milk chocolate.

Rewind to day 23 when we palnted our seeds.  And less than a week of sunshine and warmth later, there are the first signs of life in the greenhouse - on the left, dwarf beans and on the right, peppers.  The pots in the middle contain som eexciting tomato seeds, but they are yet to emerge.  Fingers crossed. Those first, tiny green shots always feel like hope and the promise of things to come, something we need right now.

Thank you for your continued support and all your enquiries and on-line orders, we really do appreciate it.  We will be back in the workshops tomorrow, making, packing and despatching.  If you have ordered, please bear with us and you will get a text or email from the courier when your parcel is on the way.


Day 28

12th April 2020

Easter Sunday - we hope you all had chocolate Easter eggs and as good an Easter day as is possible in the circumstances.  We also hope that despite the glorious weather, you did what the majority did and stayed at home.

This parcel arrived for us earlier this week, enough to put a smile on our faces.

Will is the owner of Shropshire salumi and a great friend of ours. He makes amazing salamis - and he is still making them, even though his restaurant trade disappeared overnight.  We want Will to be making salami when all of this is over, we want more people to know about his delicious creations, we want you, like us to support small, independent producers whose businesses have been impacted by this pandemic.  So please head over to his website, peruse his wares and give him a call to place an order.  He wasn't geared up for postal sales before the lockdown, so you have to place your order by phone, giving you the chance to have a chat, discuss what you'd really like and he would love to send you a parcel.

It's not every day that we quote a football manager, but we were struck by these words from Roy Hodgson

Maybe the NHS will be valued differently in future.

Heroes of the day: more stitchers and sewing masters.  Hiut Denim are also putting their talents and resources to good use and makin scrubs for NHS workers.


Day 27

11th April 2020

Still doing our best to make the most of what we have in the fridge and the cupboard, supplemented by a bit of foraging on our daily walk; tonight's dinner was full of Spring flavours.  Leeks sweated in butter, then poached in a lemon and thyme broth; peas added and toped off with wild garlic potato dumplings.  All cooked in a spun iron casserole

 

Heroes of the day: Our friends at McNair Shirts, who are going to be using their skills and facilities to make protective gowns for Huddersfield and Calderdale Trust.


Day 26

10th April 2020

Good Friday: so a breakfast of hot cross buns in the sunshine.  These were made with 50:50 plain and bread flour to stretch out our dwindling stocks, using the recipe in Regula Ysewijn's new book.

Heroes of the day: Thank you to the German army, who have donated us 60 mobile ventilators.  Proud to call ourselves European.


Day 25

9th April 2020
 
Geek of the day: Small achievement, big job satisfaction of the day – Neil has fitted a moisture trap to our airline, just before we close up for the Easter holidays.
To those of you who know, well you know.  To those of you who have no idea what we are talking about, don’t worry.
 
As it is Good Friday tomorrow, we have plundered our precious stock of bread flour and made hot cross buns for tomorrow’s breakfast.
These were cooked on our baking tray
You can hear some fascinating insights into the history of these Easter treats in Regula Ysewijn’s interview with Jenni Murray.  
 
Please keep watching our social media over the weekend, as we have some new product information to release – watch this space.
 
The workshops are now closed until next Tuesday, but the website remains open for orders and you can email us if you have any questions.
 
We wish you all a Happy Easter, Passover or whatever you may be celebrating this weekend.    Please stay safe, respect the guidelines on social distancing, be kind.

Day 24

8th April 2020
 
We are getting lots of web orders coming in and there are lots going out – you will already have seen the piles of parcels that we are leaving out for the courier to collect.
A big thank you to everyone who is buying Netherton cookware and to all of you who are sharing your Netherton photos and recommendations.  It really does make a huge difference and raises our spirits.
But it does feel strange, not boxing up orders for all our wonderful independent retailers.  We are thinking about all those shops who have to board up their windows, lock their doors and walk away, until all of this is over.
 
So may we make this plea, that once they re-open, you support them.  Go in and say “Hello and welcome back, we have missed you”, make a purchase, however small and repeat, repeat, repeat.  Many of the shopowners are now working as volunteers, supporting their communities, your communities,  so we need to support them and  to say “thank you”.   Some shops are offering on-line or delivery services; our local garden centre is taking telephone orders and dropping  them off outside the door, many farm shops and bakeries are taking orders for you to collect – if you can use them, please do so.  As the big shops say, “every little helps” and we would love your support for all small businesses
Cast your minds back to when you could simply go to the shops, browse, chat, select whatever you wanted; remember when shopping was a treat, not a chore, make sure we will be able to do that again.
    
Let's hope all of this lot are still there when the High St re-opens for business.
 
Tonight’s dinner, for anyone who is interested will include a bowl of Panzanella, because “someone” over baked the bread and the tomatoes are a lot squishier than they were yesterday and we are determined not to waste  ANYTHING.
 
Tonight is the April full moon, a supermoon and also known as the pink moonn, not because of its colour, but because it is linke d to the blossoming of the American wild flower, moss phlox, with its lovely pink blooms.
Lia Leendertz's beautiful little book, the Almanac, details the phases of the moon every month and is the Kindle version is currently available for only 99p
  
 
Hero of the day: Vanesa Kimbell of the Sourdough School, who has offered a limited number of HUGE discounts to join the Sourdough Club.  Apply here
 

Day 23

7th April 2020
 
Reasons to be cheerful
An unexpected sight at the workshops today – a blue tit popping in and out, we can only assume they have a nest in there!
  
 
Our dill seeds have sprouted and our tulips are in bloom
  
 
Beers, deers and heroes – we love this round up in the Guardian of some of the initiatives by companies, institutions and individuals putting smiles on faces around the country.
 
 
Reasons to be hopeful
Tomatoes and beans planted….watch this space.  We promise that we won’t post daily activity (or inactivity), but will be on the look out for green shoots.
 
Reasons to be outside
1. The sun is shining
2. Another meal on the chapa:  marinaded pork, recipe from our blog 
  
 
 
Throwback
To last year’s River Cottage festival, where Samin Nosrat cooked on one of our chapas; so exciting to meet one of our food heroes.  We love her book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, as well as the Netflix series that accompanied it, so if you are looking for something to watch, we would definitely recommend you dip into this one.
We love her book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, as well as the Netflix series that accompanied it, so if you are looking for something to read or watch, we would definitely recommend you dip into these.
 
We would like to wish Boris Johnson a full recovery, and wish him and Carrie Symonds all the very best. 

Day 22

6th April 2020

 
We are lucky enough to have a garden and will be making the most of the good weather to cook outside and top up our Vitamin D.  If you haven’t got access to an outdoor space at the moment, forgive us for talking about it - having lived in flats in the past; some nice, some not so nice, we understand how hard that must be.  
We have barbecue chapas of both sizes 12” and 15” on the shelf ready to send out – so if you get your orders in by Wednesday, you could have one in time for the Easter weekend.  LINKS
 
This is some English asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli getting a char on, over some well seasoned hardwood logs.  And we have used one of our precious stock of eggs to make a wild garlic mayonnaise to slather on top.  Simple, but very tasty.
 
But if we fancy something fancier, then we will turn for inspiration to the books of Genevieve Taylor and Christian Stevenson and what’s so good about these is that they explain how most of their recipes can be made indoors as well as out on the barbie.  So even if you can only open the window, at least you can experiment.
  
And however tempting it may seem, please do not head to the park or the beach for a barbecue with your friends.  Keep your distance, stay safe and make plans for the parties you will have when all this is over.
There will be more about our outdoor cooking adventures throughout the week.
 
Heroes and villains: these can both be found in the same story.  Anaesthetic registrar Tom Roberts, came off his hospital shift to discover that someone had cut through the security chain and stolen his bike.
When he posted about this on Twitter, he was overwhelmed by the response and Tour de France cyclist Luke Rowe has come to the rescue and is sending him a new bike as a preplacement.

Day 21

5th April 2020

The Queen has addressed the nation, only the fifth time during her reign when she has done this other than in her Christmas broadcasts.  This surely is a measure of the gravity of the situation, but she offers hope for the time to come when all of this is over.  We should all echo her acknowledgement and gratitude to those who are on the front lines of this pandemic.
‘We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.
 
And whilst we are living in historic times, let’s just look back to this day in history.
On this day in…..
 
1722 It was Easter Sunday and Dutch navigator Jacob Roggeveen discovers an island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, naming it Easter Island.  It is famous for having over 1000 extraordinary moai or statues, which were  created by the Rapa Nui people.
 
1874 Birkenhead Park, the first civic public park, designed by Joseph Paxton , opened in Birkenhead, England.  We should be grateful for all the public parks now open across the UK, with their green spaces, children’s playgrounds, bandstands, duck ponds, trees, plants  and wildlife.  Now, more than ever, people are discovering the joy of a walk in the park and so we can continue to enjoy this simple please throughout the corona crisis, please use your local park sensibly, keep your distance and save the parties and sunbathing until it’s safe to do so,
We are particularly fond of the Quarry in Shrewsbury, site of the Shrewsbury Food Festival

Day 20

4th April 2020

Kids Challenge

We have been enjoying the latest series of Great British Menu on BBC 2, where top chefs stretch their talents and imaginations to win the chance to cook at a four course banquet.  The competition is always themed and this year, they have been challenged to create exceptional dishes inspired by children's literature.

So we thought we would have our own challenge for those aged 11 and under.

For a chance to win a copy of the Gastronomical Guide to Fabulous Food, full of recipes for children and adults to try together, simply send us a story or picture of the food you think your favourite book character would like to eat.

Email your answers, and tell us how old you are, to sales@netherton-foundry.co.uk and we will pick our favourite.

Entries close at midnight on Sunday 12th April.

And for those of you over the age of 11, there is still time to enter our current competition and there will be another challenge for those aged 11-16 soon.


Day 19

3rd April 2020
Watch out tomorrow as we will be launching our Kids Challenge, with a chance to win a copy of the Gastronomical Guide to Fabulous Food, full of recipes for children and adults to try together.
 
Back at the workshops, we are still making, packing and despatching, as you can see!  We would like to thank all the courier drivers and posties who are keeping the country supplied with their regular deliveries.
 
The Grand National – one of the highlights of the horse racing calendar should have been taking place tomorrow, but it has, of course, been cancelled.   However, in its place there will be a virtual race, and bookmakers have priced up the contest and plan to donate any profits to NHS Charities Together, with stakes limited to £10 per horse per customer or £10 each-way per horse. The Tote will also be providing a pool on the race and donating profits to charity. #betresponsibly
We, meanwhile are seriously considering cat racing as the new sport – our kitten Ripley is doing a fine impression of a cheetah, hunting down an impala here

Day 18

2nd April 2020

 
We should have been going to the launch party for Regula Ysewijn’s new book, Oats in the North, Wheat from the South  tonight; a chance to put on our glad rags and hightail it to London and join in the celebrations of this wonderful book.   We would have wowed you with photos of the event, regaled you with tales of who we met.
But alas, it was not to be.
However, the book IS launched and you have until midnight next Tuesday to enter our competition to win a copy, along with a 10” prospector pan
  
 
And you can also hear Regula  interviewed by Jenni Murray on Woman’s Hour, over on Radio 4.
 
If you need a little inspiration, take a look at this beautiful illustration of Greater Stitchwort by Anna Koska, who has very kindly sent us this photo of her work in progress.
 
We can’t all be as talented as Anna, but that shouldn’t stop you having a go.  See more of her beautiful work and lyrical words over on Instagram and then find a piece of paper and a pencil and have a go yourselves.
 
#Clapfor the NHS – please get back out there tonight and join the nationwide applause for the NHS and everyone caring for the sick and vulnerable

Day 17
1st April 2020
 
A day typically full of pranks and gags, with newspapers, major brands and Google all joining in.   This year it has been a more muted, but no less amusing April Fools’ Day and we have i-news to thank for this great round up of stories.
Did any one of you spot our social distancing pan on Twitter and Facebook?   We umm’ed and aah’ed about doing this, but in the end we decided to go ahead and we had some lovely feedback.
 
 
 
And any other time, you would have thought that stories of goats invading Llandudno town centre were definitely a joke, but now it’s all part of the new normal!
And no, going to see the goats does NOT constitute essental travel
Meanwhile, as Neil drives through the Wyre Forest on his way to and from the workshops, he has seen queues of muntjac deer gathering at the rural bus stop.  Wonder if he should be offering them a lift?
The white stag, however continues to keep his distance
 
Hero of the day: David Hockney, thank you for sharing your visions of Spring

Day 16

31st March 2020
 
When you find out who your real friends are………… in our case, a huge thanks to Mandy, who found us some yeast in her corner shop!  Our attempts at sourdough have been just about edible, but we still need a lot more practice, so the gift of a packet of yeast has felt like the best present ever.  And their  thoughtfulness and generosity will be repaid in cake. 
Bread rolls made to accompany home made soup
And a thank you cake to be delivered tomorrow.
 
Back in the workshops, we are still making cookware and sending out parcels, and whilst our hearts go out to our fabulous independent retailers, who have had to close their doors, it does mean our delivery times for website orders have improved.   If you want to see what we get up to in there you can have a flashback to when we were on the telly!
 
 
Heroes of the day are Morrisons supermarkets, doing their bit for food banks

Day 15

30th March 2020
 
For fans of the Archers, where time has moved at a slower pace for decades, it appears that the first reports  coronavirus won’t reach Ambridge until May 
 
Back in the real world, April is just around the corner, the clocks have gone forward, bringing lighter evenings, the blossom is out on the trees, it’s almost English asparagus season  and we can look forward to Easter eggs and hot cross buns.  We are chalking up the positives, ticking off the signs of Spring, heralding any and every piece of good news.
Please send us your “signs of Spring”, be it your first cuckoo call or the ceremonial lighting of the barbecue.
 
Tonight’s dinner will be a quiche, made with wild garlic foraged from the banks of the River Severn, so recently under water and now thick with garlic, nettles and blackthorn blossom. 
 
Our hero of the day is James McAvoy, who recently starred  as Lord Asriel in His Dark Materials and who has donated £275,000 to a crowdfunding campaign for vital protective equipment for NHS staff treating coronavirus.
Photo from the bbc
 

Day 14

29th March 2020

How have you spent your Sunday?  The differentiation between weekday and weekend is beginning to blur for those totally isolated in their homes.
We have used today to re-charge our batteries, before heading back to the workshops tomorrow.
Taking advantage of the weather, we have been out in the garden, digging, weeding, clearing away dead and broken branches and planning a bonfire.  Hopefully our seed delivery will be here soon and we can get planting.  There is something hopeful about the planting of seeds, the promise of fresh shoots and life to come.  A metaphor for the future, perhaps.
 
And what have you been cooking?  This would once have been considered a standard, even boring dish of pasta in tomato sauce, with griddled Halloumi, but now any pasta dish feels like a luxury. 
Carefully rationing out the store cupboard supplies and savouring every mouthful.
 
Heroes of the day: The German government who have sent military planes top pick up Covid19 patients from Italy and France and transfer them to German hospitals to relieve those countries' over-stretched medical facilities.  A truly humbling geature of solidarity and support.

 
 
 
 

Day 13 

28th March 2020

We'll get by with a little help from our friends

The crisis is bringing out the best in people, well most people, and we are grateful for all our friends in the midst of this.

On Friday, our friends Rupert and Tracey from Bennett and Dunn, dropped off (from a respectable distance) a special delivery of their beautiful oils, infusions and dressings, which are now available on the website.

We have been selling their gorgeous rapeseed oil for some time, it certainly fits our criteria for local supply, coming from 9 miles up the road!  But npw we have added their full range of delicious dressings and infusions.  And as we all revert to cooing up whatever we can find in the back of the cupboard or the depleted shop shelves, this is the perfect opportunity to support a local, small scale food producer, while perking up your cooking.
A quick drizzle of Chaat Masala infusion can transform a bowl of boiled carrots, and a drizzle of horseradish oil is the added zing you need on a dish of beetroot.
Browse the entire range and keep watching for more recipes and ideas.
 
When our local, independent household store closed its doors a few days ago, they left a big box of chitted seed potatoes and onion sets on the step for everyone to help themselves.  So today, we made the most of the fair weather and planted out our first outdoor sowing of the year.
we will be heading steraight into the shop when it re-opens to pay for our spuds and deliver a thank you cake.
 
Back tomorrow

 
 

 

 

Day 12

27th March 2020

 
The whole of our street came out to clap for the carers last night and we could hear the applause echoing from the neighbouring roads, avenues and crescents.  It was a clear cold night, under a beautiful crescent moon and we hope that the sound carried to the ears of all those whom we were thanking and celebrating.  It was all a bit surreal, as we all kept our physical distance, even though we drew close in spirit and to be honest, it was certainly very emotional.
 
Right then, let’s talk about pastry.  The easiest form of pastry is bought, ready rolled,  from the supermarket  - all you have to do is take it out of the packet, cut it to size, add a filling, pop it in the oven and hey presto you have pie.
But where’s the challenge in that?
Now’s the time to have a go at making your own (Please don’t shout at us if you haven’t got any flour.   We are hoping that now that the shops have sensible restrictions in place, rationalised product ranges,  limits on the number of items people can buy and  orderly queues to get into the stores, then the shelves might start to fill up again and we can all calm down and keep shopping)
The simplest pastry is probably shortcrust; flour, fat and water, which is a good place to start.  If you have children, why not start with jam tarts?  Let’s be honest, if something has got jam in it, they are noty going to go full on food critic over the quality of the pastry, are they?
 
Once you feel a little more confident, try a few more simple ideas, such as sausage rolls:
Or a cheese and onion pie.
 
And then you will be ready to branch out – so get your hands on a copy of this stunning book about all types of pastry and what to do with it, by Annie Rigg.
It was Annie who first got us into making the pie dishes, so we can all be grateful to her for coming up with the original idea.  We just happen to know that Annie is working on a new book at the moment……..no more, our lips are sealed, but we will reveal more when we are allowed to.
 
Our baking trays and pie dishes are absolutely perfect for making sure you don’t get a soggy bottom; the black iron heats up beautifully to ensure your pastry cooks to a crisp and even finish.
 
 
And finally, a day in the life of the workshops.  This may not look very exciting, but it means a lot to our workshop team.  We had to knock a hole in the wall to keep our new compressor cool. Fortunately it's the only thing running a temperature round here.
 
 
Stay safe, look after yourselves.

Day 11

26th March 2020
Another sunny day, if a little chilly!
The greenhouse has been swept out and we are getting ready to pot up some seeds. 
Even if you only have a windowsill, it is worth  planting a few seeds and watching their progress; even if it’s only some herbs, the sight of seedlings emerging from a tub of soil is uplifting.  If you are fortunate enough to have any eggs, wash out the used shells and use those as mini pots for cress, and get any children you have under your feet to paint faces on the shells.
 
Here is an update on yesterday’s buckwheat bulked bread – it’s delicious, so when we have wheat flour in abundance again, we will still be repeating this one.
  
 
Judging from our order book there is a lot of baking going on out there!
 
So, moving on from bread, let’s tackle something more basic.  I was going to talk about pastry, but that is coming tomorrow.  Let’s practice our rubbing in skills with some scones first.
Scones are simple and delicious; you can make savoury or sweet ones and  the debate about jam or cream first will rumble on regardless of what else is happening in the world.  Allegedly, the Queen prefers jam first
 
Once you have got the basic idea, you can play around with all sorts of additions beyond the traditional cheese or dried fruit.
The best cheese scones we have EVER eaten were made by Great British Bake Off star, Val Stones, who now bakes all her scones on the Netherton baking sheet she designed in collaboration with us.  Her tip is to heat the sheet in advance, so that the scones start to rise as soon as they hit the hot metal – it really does make a difference. 
 
You can read more about the collaboration and find our recipe for beetroot scones on our blog.
If you want Val’s recipe for the best scones in the world (in our opinion, at least, but we do know that there are other good scones out there) you can find it on her website or better still, buy her book.
 
We have also got recipes for apricot scones and savoury scones with sun dried tomatoes and goats cheese, so get baking and send us pictures of the results.
Please do send us your #coronabaking stories and photos. 
 
Heroes of the day: it goes without saying that these are all the people in our amazing health service who are working so hard to look after everyone who is in need of care, not just those suffering from Covid19
Will you be taking part in the national round of applause at 8pm this evening

Day 10

25th March 2020

Another gloriously sunny day, so we hope you managed to get out for some fresh air and your daily exercise.  If you are self-isolating, we hope that you at least opened the window and listened to the birds.
Take the opportunity to relish the quietness, no planes overhead, cars down to a minimum, although there does seem to be an underlying hum of lawnmowers across the land.
 
After yesterday’s post about bread making, we have been experimenting.  Our stock of bread flour is running low, so we have added some buckwheat flour to today’s bake.  We’ll report back after breakfast tomorrow.
 
We thought you might be interested in a quick peek behind the scenes at the workshops.  Yes, we are still making things, packing things, despatching things.  DPD keep turning up, and we are leaving all the day’s parcels out on a pallet for them to collect each day.  So far, so good.
Everyone else is working from home.
Which leaves a lot more space for Neil, Carl and Mandy to get on with things well away from each other.
We appreciate everyone’s efforts in keeping things going and keeping one another safe.  We would also like to thank our suppliers who are keeping us ticking over.
 
  
 
And if you want to see what life was like before the arrival of shiny new big blue machine or, indeed the less welcome corona virus, take a look at the time that ITV4 came to visit LINK.
If you would like to nominate a hero or villain of the day, please write to us, explaining your reasons for the nomination and adding a photo if possible

Day 9

24th March 2020

Ok, so now it’s time to start thinking about things you haven’t tried before that you can do at home.

Seems like EVERYONE got the memo make bread, right? Well if you are not stocked up on ingredients, you may struggle until supply lines and supermarket sweeps settle down  Really, really good bread is the result of years of experience.  Our friend, Robert Swift is the 5th generation of his family to bake, he knows how many years of experience are distilled into every loaf, every roll he bakes.  Baking an adequate loaf isn’t hard, but it does take practice and not every loaf you make will have you dreaming of opening your own bakery.  But if you are one of the early birds who bought the flour and the yeast, then keep up the baking and if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.  Don’t leave the ingredients lurking at the back of the cupboard.  And if you can share your efforts with others, then please do so.
 
And if you are in the mood for baking, head over to our competition page for a chance to win a copy of Regula Ysewijn’s glorious new book; Oats in the North, Wheat from the South.
  
 
Drawing:  we are a household of two halves.  There are the two who make it looks so simple (we know it isn’t, honestly, it just looks that way!), who can create a piece of art from practically nothing.  And then there are the other two, who struggle to draw a stickman who doesn’t look like he’s about to fall over.
But don’t let your perceived inability, lack of practice or underconfidence stop you – just have a go.  Just doodle on the back of an envelope or in the margins of the newspaper.  Get inspired, go on-line and lok at the “old masters”, check out fashion or cookery illustrations, create your own cartoon character.  It doesn’t matter what form it takes or what medium you use.
 
 
Heroes of the day: Carol Vorderman who has made her maths classes for 4-11 year olds free and David Walliams who is uploading a free audio story every day  
Villain of the day: Tim Martin, who is refusing to pay his staff until the company receives the government grant , which may not be until the end of next month.  We will be boycotting Wetherspoons when the pubs re-open.

Day 8

23rd March
 
A deep dive into the freezer and we emerged with a pot of gold.  A tub of dal, rich with ginger, chilli and turmeric was emptied into our new round bottomed wok.  A forage in the fridge unearthed some sorry for itself spinach and that was chucked in to the wok with some squishy tomatoes.
Traffic light dinner dished up with date and tamarind chutney and makki di rotis from Romy Gill’s glorious book Zaika. 
 
The shops seem to be reasonably well stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables, and this book is a very handy helpmate for creating tasty vegan meals – a good opportunity to experiment.
 
If you want to read more about dal, this is a superb introduction from our customer, Jas.
 
In other news, another export order was loaded up today, heading to America; life goes on.
 
Social distancing - 2m, 6’ 6” is further than you think; take the tallest person you know and imagine them lying down between you and the next person………….then add a bit, because even most tall people are not THAT tall.
The old measurement of an English ell is 45”, or 1.143m.  An ell-wand was a rod of length one ell used for official measurement. Edward I of England ordered that every town should have one.
Perhaps we should all have double ell-wands now!
 
And CONGRATULATIONS to Thom E who has won our collaborative competition with Fieldware Co – a stockpot and a waxed cotton apron will be on their way to him this week.
Keep watching our competitions page and social media as there will be new competitions coming soon.
 
 
Heroes of the day: a joint award today to Shrewsbury Ark, who together with Shropshire Council have secured accommodation for all their vulnerable clients at the wonderful Prince Rupert Hotel for the duration of the crisis.
  
  
 

 

Day 7

22nd March 2020
 
Mothers' day in the UK - a one like none we have ever seen before; where the advice has been to keep our mothers safe by keeping our distance, by staying away.  Hold them close, but only in your hearts and minds.
We know that today can be hard for some; for those who have lost their mothers, who never knew their mothers, mothers whose children were taken too soon and those who will never be mothers.
Our thoughts today are with you all, mothers, mothers in law, stepmothers, foster mothers and adoptive mothers.
 
We particularly enjoyed reading about the Mum who received flours, not flowers on her doorstep today.
 
We would also urge you to think about taking your mum out to lunch when all this is over.  Many restaurants are setting up voucher schemes to generate income now, to ensure they can be back later.  They will appreciate your support.
 
In other news, and in the spirit of "life goes on", we are delighted to receive an order to send a baking dome and tray to Hawaii and Neil is especially cheered by an order for a Dutch oven - just goes to showe that you lot are reading our social media and browsing the website. 
 
Hero of the day: Ryan Riley and Kimberley Duke who used their shared experience of losing their mothers to cancer at far too young an age, to set up Life Kitchen.
You can support these inspirational youngsters by buying the Life Kitchen Cook Book  and/orbuying a Life Kitchen spatula
 
  
 
Keep being kind, keep washing your hands, keep your distance.
Don't be a COVIDIOT!!
 

Day 6

21st March 2020
 
Beautiful sunshine today, but still bitterly cold, so the contents of the freezer are stacked up in boxes in the shade outside, while the big white box weeps the equivalent of a Titanic sinking iceberg into drip trays and bowls.
A veritable treasure trove has been unearthed, including a long forgotten pack of sausages and some of last year’s blackberry harvest.  Hopefully we should now have a bit more room to store some basic supplies.
So tonight’s dinner, from the freezer to the prospector pan to the oven to the table to our bellies, will be Diana Henry’s baked sausages, apples and blackberries from the indispensable From the Oven to the Table.
You can see the version that was cooked up when Sue headed down to Salamander Cook Shop last year.
    
 
Pubs, cafés, and restaurants are all now closed for normal business.  But many are still finding ways to operate, by offering takeaway services.  This is going to be a tough time for businesses, so if there is any way that you can support your locals, please do so.  After all, we want them to be back in business when all this is over so that we can celebrate postponed birthdays, anniversaries, weddings etc.
 
Meanwhile, we are going to going to be cooking outdoors as often as we can and looking forward to getting on to a course at Bristol Fire School with Genevieve Taylor – the courses are listed on her website and if you want to support her and sign up for future courses, then please, please email her.
 
If you fancy getting out into the fresh air and practising, we are still shipping out our outdoor cooking kit, including the brand new Dutch oven.
 
And please use good charcoal, we think that Whittle and Flame charcoal is outstanding, these guys rock.
 
The government has stepped up its response to the crisis and is offering more support than has ever been committed before.  Whatever your political affiliations, this has to be acknowledged as brave, bold and finally decisive.  
 
Hero of the day: Rishi Sunak
 
Can the supermarkets hide the large trolleys and you can only use one if you can prove that you are shopping for a larger than average number of people?
STOP PANIC BUYING.

Day 5

20th March 2020

Reasons to be cheerful :

#1 A breathing space for the planet: every cloud has a silver lining and the glow shining from the underside of the corona cumulus is the impact on the environment. This piece in the Washington Post highlights how emissions of pollutants have dropped significantly as industrial activity and the use of transport has fallen.

Of course, global shutdown is NOT the answer to global warming, but we should at least celebrate any and every piece of good news.

#2  Today is the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere - the start of Spring. We have had sunshine today and the blossom is appearing on our damson trees.
If you can safely leave the house and head to a patch of green space, we urge you to do so. Count the flowers, listen to the birds, stop, look, listen
 
Leisure
by
William Henry Davies
 
 What is this life if, full of care, 
We have no time to stand and stare.
 
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
 
No time to see, when woods we pass, 
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
 
No time to see, in broad daylight, 
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
 
No time to turn to Beauty's glance, 
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
 
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her mouth began.
 
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare
 
#3 The National Trust are currently offering free admission to some of their parks and gardens, but please check on their website, before setting out, as circumstances change from day to day.
 
#4 We sent 4 pallets of baking domes to America today - hope they have not been cleaned out of bread flour too.
 
Villain of the day: Britannia Hotels, we will be boycotting them from now on.  
Hero of the day: MacDonald Hotels

 

Day 4

19th March 2020
 
Well it had to happen and now it has.  Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson announced last night that all schools will close from Friday, until further notice.  There is no date for them to re-open and how could there be?
Obviously this raises a huge number of issues, far too many to list here and many of which are being tackled by government departments and schools.
 
We take our education system for granted most of the time; the schools educate and nurture our children, they are staffed by dedicated people with skills which we do not possess and they provide safe haven for them while we go to work.
And now it’s down to us – to care for them all day, to educate and entertain them, to keep them safe and explain the social distancing without frightening them, to mitigate the disappointments of cancelled trips and birthday parties.  Of course, much of this is the role of parents in any case, but this a whole new ball game, isn’t it?
Our own children are older – one is directly affected as he is employed as a teaching assistant, the other is at university, currently still open, but for how long?
All of our staff, however,  have school age children, so what do we do? 
Well, we will keep going as long as we can as that is the best way to support them in the long run – so we will be making your pans and posting your orders as long as is physically possible.
But what about the children?  If you have heard the expression “it takes a village to raise a child” you will understand when we say that this is where the wider family comes in.  We are located in a village, life here could be described as tribal; when one person is in need, the community responds. 
This is the positive side of this situation, the rainbow on a grey day, the bright light at the end of the tunnel.  The resounding chorus of “let us help you”, the hands reaching out, the coming together – all of this lifts the heart, all of this is what binds us closer.
 
Relatives and friends, who can safely do so, are stepping in to look after the children whose parents are at work and we will be welcoming some of the children in to work a couple of mornings a week and trying to relieve besieged grandparents, aunties and neighbours.   
 
The plan is to spend some time on school work, but also to get out and about if we can and introduce some new activities if the weather doesn’t cooperate.  When we were at primary school, many, many years ago, we always had a nature table in the classroom, covered in things that us kids picked up and brought in or that the teachers thought would interest us.   My Dad taught me to identify birds and trees, my Gran knew the names of countless wild flowers.  In the intervening years, I have learnt a lot about foraging and the abundance of edible plants that can be found on verges and in hedgerows.
Who knows, we may even get to see the white stag that lives in the Wyre forest
 
The timing of the school closures at the start of Spring is a metaphorical ray of sunshine -  a few genuine rays would be appreciated too –  nature rambles are high on the agenda!
There will probably be coloured card, glitter and glue too.
One thing’s for sure – there will be cake; it can’t cure anything, but it does make you feel better.
Today’s cake was chocolate and orange, much enjoyed by Nataley (left) and Mandy (right)
 
We wish all of you with children the very best of luck and much patience in the coming weeks, and applaud the efforts of all those school staff who will stay on the front line to provide support and care for special needs and vulnerable children.
 
In other news  - we know it’s serious when Eastenders has to eke out its episodes and the cobbles of Corona(hit)tion St will be seen less frequently.  Bring out the boxsets.
 
Hero of the Day is Gary Neville – read why here

Day 3

18th March 2020
We have just listened to the moving, emotional speech by Leo Varadkar TD  "This is the calm before the storm, before the surge......To all those living in the shadow of what is to come, we are with you".
 
These are extraordinary times and extraordinary people doing extraordinary things will emerge and be remembered.  For the rest of us, the motto Be Kind, has never been more important.  If we start with kindness and consideration, we can make this all a little more bearable for everyone. 
What can you share with your neighbours? Can you do a book swap and run an on-line book club?   (Don't forget to wipe the book with sanitiser and leave it on their doorstep.)
Have you got more loo rolls than you really need?  
Call your parents, grandparents, friends - keep in touch by whatever means you can.  And think about writing a letter, even if you can't get out to send it.  The art of letter writing may be due a revival.
 
BAKING
We plan to do as much baking as long as our stock of flour allows.  And then we have a flour free preview recipe from Regula Ysewijn's latest book, Oats in the North, Wheat from the South to try out.  Keep reading along with us and we will share the recipe shortly.
Meanwhile this is a carrot cake we made last night.
 
 
Recipe from Nigella Lawson
 
Keep being kind
 
 

Day 2

17th March 2020

The financial impact of the coronavirus is yet to be quantified, but the number of noughts on the end of whatever figure the economists come up with is going to be staggering. This is a stressful time for everyone, from huge financial institutions and international corporations right the way through to the homeless and those living day to day, hand to mouth.

Today, newly appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, who can never have dreamed that this is what his new job would entail, pledged to do "whatever it takes" to provide the security blanket to get us through the crisis.  An aid package of £350billion is being made available to support businesses with loans and grants. Whether or not this will be enough remains to be seen, but this is a reflection of a global response from governments around the world, determined to overcome not only the virus, but also the economic and social consequences of the pandemic.

READING

Now is the chance to read all those books that you have always promised to get round to.... 
We currently have bookmarks in Isabel Allende's A Long Petal of the Sea, Bill Bryson's The Body; A guide for occupants and in every one of Philip Pullman's tales about Lyra in her alternative universe; His Dark Materials and the first two books of the Book of Dust trilogy.   We can only hope that he gets started on the follow up to the Secret Commonwealth soon, we want to know what happens next...........
 
If you can't get to the newsagent, we would seriously recommend checking out the newspapers on-line; some are available free, others offer a couple of free articles a week and there are some that require a subscription.  As a means of keeping up with world events and listening to a variety of voices, newspapers are incomparable.  If you can speak a language other than your mother tongue, seek out a national newspaper published in that language - you will get a different perspective on life elsewhere and be able to improve your language skills at the same time. (More on that another day).  There are many international titles published in English however.  The Wall St Journal is an endless treasure trove, packed with news, interviews, opinions.
 
Recipe books can be more than just a list of ingredients and a methodology.  Writers such as Diana Henry, Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater, Regula Ysewijn and Samin Nosrat write far more than recipes in their books, scattering words like crumbs which lead you into their kitchens, into their lives and tempt you into your own kitchen with their passion for food.
 
  
And while we are all stranded on our own small patch of this island nation, we can virtually travel the world with Caroline Eden, Olia Hercules, Fuschsia Dunlop and of course, Claudia Rosen.  We are heading to Carpathia with Irina Georgescu, to read about Food from the Heart of Romania. 
 
 
Whilst our store cupboard may not have everything we need to cook from our recipe books, there is a sense of hope in planning for parties and get togethers to come once all of this is over.  And while they are still running, there is always the lure of the Sous Chef website for a delivery of exotic ingredeints to be left outside the front door.
 
Send us your reading recommendations and reviews, we will pass them on.

 


Day 1

16th March 2020
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has advised that we should all avoid non-essential travel and contact, but has not introduced the more stringent measures in place in countries such as Italy.
 
Covid 19 presents enormous challenges to families, schools, health services, large industries, the financial markets, supply chains, travel and, close to our hearts, small businesses.  National governments are also wading through uncharted waters and responses around the world have shown differing opinions on the best reaction.
 
But we are going to make the most of the opportunities that are presented to us.  We are, thankfully and for now, well and the business is still open.  We will do whatever we can to support our staff and keep making things.  But we will also be sharing what we are doing to face up to the challenges of home isolation.
And if you want to share your thoughts and ideas, please email us.
 
SHOPPING
Those of you with the good sense and/or good fortune to own Claire Thomson's books the Art of the Larder or New Kitchen Basics, will know that a well stocked pantry/cupboard/kitchen drawer is a "good thing".  Right now, a well stocked cupboard is what we all need.
Note: we are not talking a spare bedroom full of loo rolls, pasta and baked beans; that would be a very specialised round of Ready Steady Cook!  Do not panic buy, do not hoard, consider others, especially those less fortunate than you.
So while there is still some degree of normality, either get down to your local bookstore, IF YOU CAN, or order Claire's books on line.
 
  
 
Then sit down and write yourself a sensible shopping list. Check with neighbours, friends and family to see if they need any supplies.  If you are not self isolated, head to the shops, go to your independents if you can, go to the supermarket if you can't.  While you are out, and if you are in a position to do so, please pick up a little extra for the food bank trolley; these are going to be more important than ever, espaecially if (when?) schools close and free schools meals are not available.
If you can't get out, ask someone else to go for you and leave the shopping on the doorstep or shop on-line.  If you are shopping on-line, be prepared to wait, the supermarkets are struggling to keep up with rapidly increasing demand for delivery services and are likely to be seeing reductions in the number of staff available as the virus spreads.  
 
This is a dish of yoghurt and garam masala slow roasted carrots from Art of the Larder, that we made...........
 
and Claire has kindly given us permission to share the recipe with you:
 
Back tomorrow
 
 

 

 

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