Wednesday 29 February 2012

This Week At Farm Direct....

We've been super busy planting this week, taking advantage of the recent dry and sunny spell before the hopeful March rain arrives.

Some of our winter crops are now coming to an end - this week sees the end of our squashes (which are now almost too hard to peel!), as well as the last of our sprout stalks.

This is the first reminder of the imminent 'hungry gap' (which usually occurs in April and is essentially the gap between the end of the winter and start of the summer harvests).

But, a bit of a Brucey bonus: our over-wintered crops will be available from mid-march - these are the winter crops that have another spurt of growth during the warmer spring weather, just before dying off (spinach, green chard & rainbow chard).

Next week should see the return of our watercress and the divine wild garlic - so plenty to keep you engaged over the coming weeks.

As the hares retreat to breed (March - April), in what seems like perfect harmony, our guinea fowl are now fat enough to eat. Half way between a pheasant and a chicken, these petite birds are great braised, roasted or even stuffed with our end of season stewing apples (only £1/kg). This week we are offering legs, supreme, jointed and whole birds at an introductory price.

After enjoying Philippe's pear and apple tartes for the past 6 months, we have finally been able to coax some savoury dishes from our French chef's kitchen. He is making quiche for us this week (£1.69 for a 200g slice or £4.99 for a 600g quarter) as well has his own Franco/British fusion: Sausagemeat, Apple and Raisin Tarte (again £1.69 for a 200g slice or £4.99 for a 600g quarter). If his sweet baking is anything to go by, I would definitely give this a try.

And finally, to welcome the onset of spring, we are offering complimentary daffodils with every order this week. Happy shopping.

Ham Hocks - Simple, Economical & Delicious

During these brow-frowning times, hassle-free, cheap cuts of meat provide a humble and tasty pleasure. This week, try our ham hocks - one of the most satisfying slow cooking joints around and you can produce multiple meals from one hock. Start by boiling the meat (you can use the left over water for soup or split-pea stew), before slow roasting in the oven. You can use the remaining meat for sandwich fillings, in salads or, if you are feeling adventurous, in a terrine (actually, its a lot easier than you might think). At £2.49 for cured and £2.69 for smoked, ham hocks are definitely one for the shopping basket.

Shokoh's Menu - Fish Pie, Biryani & Crumble

A delicious offering from Shokoh this week, she is making:
Cornish Fish Pie (serving 2 or 4) - made using fresh fish caught by Dylan and Chris off the Cornish coast.
Vegetarian Biryani (serving 2 or 4) - an English-Indian fusion dish, spiced rice and a sauce using seasonal Wild Fields vegetables, topped with toasted almonds and fresh coriander.
Apple & Pear Crumble - An English classic, Shokoh uses our Jacobs Farm apples and pears for the filling.
Braised Cabbage - A hassle-free, tasty side dish, only £2.49.
See Shokoh's range (including side dishes) here.

Matthew's Blog - Bedding Seed & Inadequate Rain

On Sunday the 19th I checked the met office 5 day forecast for our area of East England, it looked good, dry right through with wind and sun, the perfect conditions for getting the good seedbeds I needed. Armed with this information I got the cultivator out Monday morning and run it through the raised beds that I had made in the autumn (this opens the top of the bed and brings some wet soil to the top to help it dry).

Sun and wind duly followed and the ground was drying nicely, I was convinced that I would be drilling by Thursday. I like to check the forecast daily as modern technology seems to make the 5 day forecast less reliable than it used to be, sure enough by Tuesday they were forecasting heavy rain for Wednesday evening.

My initial thought wasn’t printable but after I had calmed down I embraced the idea of some badly needed rain.

Did water butts over fill and reservoirs rejoice as the rain came down?
The rain, light at best lasted for about an hour Wednesday afternoon and with the wind drying it out quicker than it had fallen it was back to the original plan.

The raised beds were remade (see picture) and 6 beds of carrots were drilled Friday afternoon.
With the wind subsiding on Sunday it was possible to lay a nice warm blanket of fleece over the crop to try and bring it on as quickly as possible.

Roy has also made the most of the conditions planting first early potatoes, broad beans and peas.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

This Week At Farm Direct....

While the last of the snow melts away, a few days of sunshine serves as a timely reminder that spring is just around the corner. Now it's a potential drought that concerns us and with water shortages expected this summer, we are having to re-think our growing strategy for the year.

It's amazing how quickly the change in weather affects what we have available. The first of the baby plum tomatoes are now ripe and ready to pick, these were the sweetest of last years crop and we can expect the same this time around. We have baby parsnips (smaller and sweeter than last seasons giants), as well as organic cylindria beetroot (it looks a bit like a beetroot sausage!) and purslane (a salty salad leaf that's also at home in a stir fry).

To keep you busy in the kitchen, we have wild meats from the Suffolk countryside (see below for more details), or for a night off cooking try Shokoh's new range of prepared meals.

If the last few days of sunshine have still not shifted those winter blues, the first daffodils of the season will brighten up your mood and your living room (1 bunch 99p, 5 bunches for £3.99).

New to our seasonal sausage range, we have Duck, Orange and Apricot, Lamb and Rosemary, Pork Honey and Mustard and Spanish Sausages (made with Paprika and Red Pepper). Give them a try and let us know what you think.

And finally, a resounding success from last week, our hand-roasted Suffolk coffee has received some great feedback. This week our Kenyan range is complimented by a new single estate Brazilian bean - sweet from start to finish, with floral, caramel and honey notes. Enjoy!

Wild Meat From The Suffolk Countryside

The Suffolk countryside boasts fantastic wild game, all low in fat, low in food miles and completely free range. This week we are able to offer you the best seasonal game that Suffolk has to offer. Try our hare, it's strong, rich and gamey and we have both haunch and saddle portions available (best stewed or roasted). I you want a more gentle introduction into the world of wild meats, pigeon and partridge breasts are both subtle and tender, or for something a bit different, go for squirrel - it is moist and sweet as its diet consists of nuts and berries. Finally, for the perfect pie, you cant go wrong with diced game
See our wild meats here

Shokoh's Prepared Meals

This week Shokoh is using food direct from our farms to make a range of prepared meals and sides, all at an introductory price. Cooked with organic beef brisket from Beatbush, try her Beef Cottage Pie (available in 500g serves 2 or 1kg for 4) or Slowcooked Beef in Red Wine Sauce (500g). If you don't fancy beef, Shokoh is making Lentil and Cavolonero Cottage Pie (500g serves 2 or 1kg for 4) with ingredients from Wild Fields Farm. Complete your meal with Celeriac & Potato Mash (350g). Her usual range of salads are also available. See all Curious Yellow Kafe products here.

Matthews Blog - Drought, Carrot Drilling & New Greens

What a difference a week makes, the snow is forgotten and the gutters are dripping. As temperatures head towards double figures the mind starts to think of spring. The soils start to dry and fingers get twitchy, the slightest glimpse of such weather makes me eager to get the first drilling of carrots into the ground. For now patience is required, weather forecasts are checked daily in the hope they will promise a string of good drying days so good seedbeds can be produced.

With winter appearing to be short, 2011 is confirmed as the driest 12 months in England and Wales for 90 years and with no considerable rain forecast, water companies are once again warning of possible water shortages for large parts of England this summer.
Speaking ahead of this week’s drought summit, National Farmers Union vice president Gwyn Jones said, “ The Environment Agency is already forecasting drought and severe restrictions on irrigation in several Eastern counties.”
Following this Defra announced that the South east of England had joined parts of East Anglia in drought.
With root crops and salads heavily reliant on adequate irrigation, some farmers in the worst effected areas have already changed their cropping plans for 2012 by reducing the amount of roots they grow.

The worst drought predicted for 90 years just happens to coincide with me taking over the carrot growing from Roy and Rita. I will let you know later in the year whether or not it was the right decision but I am actually looking to increase the amount of carrots grown to meet demand. This also means greater investment in machinery, seed and crop protection.

Most of the early season seed has now arrived and finishing touches have been made to the transplant orders. New additions for me this year will be wild rocket and basil during the summer, thyme, sage, kohl rabi and pak choi for the autumn. Alongside this there will also be increased amounts of garlic, shallots, torpedo onions, celery, french beans, carrots and fennel.

As well as their usual tasty offerings Roy and Rita will be planting more lettuce and cavelo nero for the summer and autumn, and a new green that should bring you succulent greens from January 2013.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

This Week At Farm Direct....

Fighting off the snow, frost and oversized wood pigeons, it's never a dull day on our farms. A white blanket still coats much of our veg and with temperatures as low as minus 13C over the weekend, we have lost a few crops that may have otherwise lasted until the end of the month.

Fortunately it's getting warmer and as shooting has resumed this week we are able to bring you hare, rabbit and woodpigeon - the return of our really wild game. If you are not quite ready to face the great outdoors, we have plenty to keep you busy; Phillip explains how to use our ducks to make confit (reduced to £5.99/kg), while we also have smoked ham hocks from Dorset Farms (ideal for terrines or warming soups). Otherwise, sit back and relax with our new home-made dishes, and a bottle of Hepworth Prospect.

To kick start lent, Tuesday the 21st Feb marks Shrove Tuesday, the traditional time to use up your rich foodstuffs (butter, eggs, milk, sugar) before the 40 days of fasting. Take a look at our Shrove Tuesday section for a reduced price pancake making kit, recipes and whole load of toppings - there really is no excuse this year not to make your own.

From the Curious Yellow Kafe kitchen, Shokoh is making Swedish beetroot salad, stewed lentils, winter coleslaw and apple compote for us this week. If you would like to have a go at making your own compote, stewing apples are now available at only 70p/kg.

From the New Breed Sausage company we have chicken & red pepper, Creole smokey, pork, bacon & sage, steak & Guinness and venison & red wine sausages. Give them a try and tell us what you think.

This week have a new beer for you to sample - the Hepwoth Prospect is an organic bottle conditioned beer, with a complex aroma of leafy hops, woody notes, tart lemon fruit and a cracker-like malt, only £2.60.

And finally, we are extending our order deadlines (excluding bread) to 7am on Friday mornings. Hopefully this will provide that extra bit of time to ensure you get what you want for the weekend.

Matthew's Blog - Frozen Fields & Pesky Pigeons

The new year has seen the unseasonally mild conditions that brought about our late carrot fly attack (November) and encouraged the purple sprouting to flourish and the kale to begin its seed setting ritual, giving way to more traditional winter conditions.

Four inches of snow have lay covering the fields for the past week and daytime temperatures have struggled to get above 2 degrees c.

Roy has found it impossible to harvest beetroot, turnips and parsley as they lay beneath the frozen white blanket. Above the snow harvesting continues but many crops are taking twice as long to gather in and it is a constant battle keeping the large flock of wood pigeons off the taller sprouts, kale and purple sprouting crops as they fly searching for nourishment away from there preferred food of choice oilseed rape.

Oilseed rape is grown by the majority of large farms in our area but is struggling to poke its leaves through the snow, as Roy’s greens are from the same plant family he is normally guaranteed a visit when the weather turns bad.

My autumn planted garlic was showing about 5cm of leaf above the soil when the bad weather set in and is now completely covered.
It is said that planted garlic cloves will benefit from a period of cold winter weather as this is supposed to help bulb formation and flavour, this year will certainly test out the theory. The first of the new season garlic is normally ready in early June, so have those taste buds ready so we can put it to the test.

Sitting eating my breakfast Sunday morning I felt sorry for the birds that were struggling to find food through the covering of snow. I decided to break up some leftover bread and scatter it on the lawn I had cleared. Sitting back feeling good about helping the sparrows and blackbirds I was most distressed to look out of the window and see the largest wood pigeon I have ever seen clearing up nearly every piece.

Coffee Real - Hand Roasted Sussex Coffee

A first from Farm Direct, we have roasted coffee this week. Husband and wife team Gary & Maarit source the best and most unique single estate Arabica coffee beans from around the world and hand roast them to inspiring standards of perfection. Their coffee has been produced under their own fair trade certification scheme RealTrade.
We have Kenyan (whole, ground) and Sumatran (whole, ground) beans, available at £4.99 for 250g.
Packets last for 6 months in the fridge and are available exclusively through Farm Direct.
See the whole range here

Pip's Tip - Preserving Your Duck

This week Philip offers some practical advise on how to re-stock your larder for the less than inspiring winter months. He uses our organic farmed ducks to make duck confit, storing both the legs and breasts in the ducks fat, ready for a quick meal or special occasion. While the weather remains dreary, give this recipe a go, you will have more confit and stock then you know what to do with. See Pip's tip here.
We have a special offer on our organic ducks this week, from £8.12/kg to £5.99/kg, surely an offer too good to miss.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

This Week At Farm Direct....

Brrrrrrr. It's is still freezing outside and with much of our veg under a blanket of snow, our farmers are working around the clock to ensure we have plenty of produce available this week. We are likely to be without a few of our leafy greens and salad leaves (which are suffering from the bitter cold), but everything else will be available as usual.

Meanwhile, the repercussions of our unseasonally mild January are still being felt - with our cherry tomatoes ready a whole 6 weeks early. We don't usually see these sweet little fruits until at least April, but with the the recent weather and high levels of light on the Isle of Wight, they are now ready for picking.

Next Tuesday marks St Valentine's Day, that time of year where we celebrate the burial of 14 ancient Roman Christian martyrs by presenting heart shaped cards, cooking extravagant meals and whispering sweet nothings into the ear of our significant other. Always keen to facilitate romance amongst our customers, this year we have a St Valentine's section, complete with hand-made chocolate, British wine and romantic meals for 2.

If you want to further grease the wheels of love, rock oysters are on special offer this week (6 for £3.79 or 12 for £6.99). Take a look at Pip's tips for some helpful advice.

With the reared game season now over, this is the final week to make the most of our end-of-season game sale. We have plenty of partridge, pheasant & mallard available at reduced prices. Next week expect the return of rabbit and pigeon, as shooting resumes for the really wild game.

Goufrane has prepared another batch of traditional Lebanese treats for us this week. Choose from venison samosas (made using our own wild venison), pumpkin kibbeh or tomato, onion and cheese bread.

And finally, New to our cupboard section we have two soups from the Yorkshire Provender (Caramelised Onion with Cider Vinegar and Sage & Beetroot, Parsnip, Horseradish and Ginger), as well as peanuts from Shire Foods (salted, chilli and dry roasted).

Start shopping here

Shokoh's Menu - Kale Crisps & Apple Compote

Shokoh is using our Jacobs Farm apples to make a sweet apple compote (try it on top of your muesli with a spoonful of Greek yoghurt), as well as crisps using our Wild Fields kale. Shoko's kale crisps are insatiably moreish - they are salty and brittle, while also being packed full of vitamins C, K and calcium. At 60p for a bag, they are one not to be missed this week.
Also available from the Curious Yellow Kafe: Stewed Lentils, Rhubarb Compote, Winter Coleslaw & Middle eastern Aubergine Dip.
See Shokoh's menu here

Special Offer - Free Bag of Bookhams Dried Pasta

If an extravagant valentines meal isn't for you, we have a simple alternative available this week. For every jar of bookhams pasta sauce that we sell, we will be giving away a free bag of bookhams dried pasta - a quick meal for two, or enough for one with some left over for lunch (sorry, we don't include the tupperware).
Our flavours include: Truly Tomato Sauce, Spicy Tomato Sauce with Black Olives & Tomato Pasta Sauce with Mushrooms.

Pip's Tips - Oysters For Valentines

This week Philip takes a look at rock oysters, a food-stuff we have consumed since the Roman times. Try them raw with a bit of Tabasco sauce, vinegar or a squeeze of lemon, it wonderfully cuts through that intensely salty flavour. If not, coat your oysters in egg & breadcrumbs before quickly frying them in butter. Simply delicious.
See all of pips tips here

Wednesday 1 February 2012

This Week At Farm Direct....

Finally, the first cold snap of the year, taking all of us a little bit by surprise. Most of our farms have hardly been affected (we have cavolonero kale back from Wild Fields this week), but it's our soft green organic greens that have suffered the most (chard and spinach will be unavailable until the weather improves).

Our tougher greens like kale and cabbage are able to withstand the frost and you will find they are that bit sweeter as a result. Pair them with our new salad potatoes from The Elveden Estate and a rack of lamb ribs, new in from Beatbush Organic Farm.

Meanwhile, we have been using our fresh farm direct ingredients to bring you an extended range of home-cooked products. Goufrane Mansour, a Highbury resident, will be making her beautifully crisp meat and cheese rolls for us this week, as well as meat pasties (using Nicola's beef mince). Likewise, Shokoh from the Curious Yellow Kafe is using the tenderest of our forced rhubarb to produce a rhubarb compote, both tart and sweet, this one is not to be missed.

With the arrival of February the guns are silenced as the game season officially comes to an end. We should still have birds available for the next 2-3 weeks, so now is the time to stock up your freezers until next autumn. If you are lacking inspiration take a look at this weeks gamey addition of Pip's Tips.

Solent garlic from the Isle of Wight returns this week - a stop gap until we have Mathew's new crop in the spring. On the tomato front, we are again taking the cocktail vine variety (smaller than the classic vine that was available last week).

And finally, a new section for our newsletter, our Farm Direct 'Winter Survival Guide'. This week starts with forced rhubarb.

Winter Survival Guide #1 - Forced Rhubarb

A new addition to the Farm Direct newsletter, this Winter Survival Guide will support you through some of the bleaker months for fresh British fruit and veg. This week's extension delves into the world of forced rhubarb - a crop that can compete with the best, in terms of beauty and tartness, subtle flavour and texture.
Try our rhubarb compote this week, home-made by Shokoh using our own forced rhubarb.
See all winter survival guides here.

Pip's Tips - Game

This week Philip reflects on the joys of game and it's place in the British culinary calender. To make the most of your bird, he suggests storing your game in the back of the fridge for a week, serving to soften the flesh and further intensify the flavour. A simple rub of salt, pepper and orange before roasting in the oven will allow for a simple, crisp and moist bird. Pair with roasted root vegetables, puréed squashes or ideally sesame stir fried kale.
See all of Pip's Tips here.