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 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
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!
30th March 2020
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.
Photo from the bbc
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.