Monday, 25 May 2015

Olives and Blackacre

This is part 4 of our series, A Trip South West.

On our third morning of travelling, we raced (as fast as we could in the old camper van) to Olives et Al in Dorset for lunch in the sunshine at their little cafe on site. They were genuinely some of the best olives we’ve ever tasted.

Giles was a pretty inspirational guy to meet and it was a pleasure to listen to him tell the story of how Olives et Al came to be. Some 20 years ago, Giles and his wife to be gave up their former careers and set off on two old motorbikes looking for an adventure. The trip took them through North Europe, Syria, Jordan, across the Allenby Bridge into the West Bank and Israel, Cairo and Libya. Their adventure lasted about a year and the pictures that are peppered around the Olives et Al offices tell the tale.

Giles and Annie returned to Southampton and in the sway of post travel blues, set up camp in the garden. They went to the local shop and bought some olives recreate the life they had grown accustomed to that year. The olives were apparently disgusting, nothing that resembled the Olives they had enjoyed on their trip. It was at that moment that they decided they needed to bring olives into the country and that's how it all began.

Back on the road and after an hour lost in the Dorset countryside, we reach Blackacre Farm.

Blackacre is a small family farm run by Dan and Briony Wood. They weren't really expecting us - Giles had only suggested us to meet them a few hours previously - but nonethless kindly welcomed us in. Dan put us in his Land Rover and drove us up to see his hens. Blackacre is a much larger operation than the Dave and Wendy's, but still only sizely enough for them to ensure the well being of all the animals.

So we got to meet more happy chickens - the hens looked really healthy and had a huge amount of land to roam, dig and socialise in.

Blackacre is also home to many ducks and quails. The quails' eggs were delicious - did you know that each quail lays a uniquely patterned shell, so that the bird can pick them out? 

As the sun set we hit the road back to London, fresh faced, inspired, excited to get back to the kitchen - and, thanks to the openness and hospitality of all the folk we dropped in to see, with a real sense of the kind of the production we want to support, the kind of produce we want to work with every day. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Cider, Meat and Eggs

This is part 3 of our series, A Trip South West. 

Next up, we drop in on Cornish Orchards Cider. It’s always a pleasure to meet people so knowledgeable about what they do. Head cider-maker Chris Newton had a wealth of insight on all things apple related.

The operation at Cornish Orchards was huge. After a quick tour Chris introduced us to Margaret, who was ready and waiting back at the farm shop. It was time for the all important taste test. Margaret talked us through the different ciders, all of which were delicious, but it was the vintage cider that really impressed. It was crystal clear like a white wine, with a complex taste, far removed from anything you might expect from a cider. 


Cornish Orchards are clearly growing but they seem to have kept their ethos strong. Maybe this is because of the people at the heart of the project - Margaret, Chris, and long standing local staff who are clearly so passionate about the company and their product. They sent us off with a little box of ciders to enjoy that evening. 

Next up, a trip to Philip Warren the butchers in Launceston, well known by London's restaurants for their expertise in sourcing and dry ageing meat. It was great walk around their ageing fridges and talk to Ian (part of the Warren family) about the different native and rare breeds they farm themselves and source from the small hillside farms of Devon and Cornwall. Warrens can dry age meat in their fridges for as long as a restaurant specifies, which makes for really big flavour. Our final stop of the day was a visit to Dave and Wendy, introduced to us by Matt from the Cornwall Project. We arrived at the farm quite late in the day, but the animals were all still grazing and the chickens were not yet home in their sheds. We wandered about the field as the sun was going down.They must have about 150 hens and almost all seemed to be out of the shed digging for worms, flicking dust on their backs, feeling curious – so clearly healthy and happy.That night we drove up the coast to Sidmouth. With kale and white sprouting broccoli from Sean, huge fatty steaks from Warren’s, half a dozen eggs from Dave and Wendy and a bottle or two of cider from Cornish Orchards, we were all set to camp.By the time we were setting up, night had fallen and we found ourselves scrambling around in the black, freezing night trying to light a fire. Once the fire had taken, Joel cooked up all the veg and a steak for each of us and topped with some Cornish butter and a fresh egg. Cooking fresh food on a fire with your friends, and the gentle sound of the sea in the distance - unbeatable really.