Thursday, 25 October 2012

Inspired by the BBC Radio Food & Farming Awards

I’m always glad that my diary is the occasional diary.  I’ve been so busy the past few weeks that I just have not had the time to sit and write. My brain is full.  Writing is really my brain dump, and like writing a diary I mostly find myself writing at night.  I have twenty-seven years worth of diaries before I started blogging, and I often wonder if blogging is simply really the modern mans diary?

The children have been playing with a box of dominos and I have been showing them how they can all stack in a line and the knock on effect of one action affecting everything else.  This idea has been haunting me most of my life.

It's believing in this concept of being able to do one good thing that then changes everything else that that has meant that I've joined the parish council. I don't think that I am particularly political about anything .. but perhaps I am.  I do feel strongly about community.  I have been my village since I was eleven and now as I am about to turn forty there are a couple of things that really bother me.  The first is the speed at which the cars drive through.  It’s a short cut and the way to the local college.  Someone has to do something about it or I am quite certain something awful will happen.  I am too afraid to let my children walk out in the village because of the speed of the traffic. I’ve been thinking that for years.  In the end I guess nothing happens just waiting around for someone to do something about it and so when I was chatting with our new parish chair and she agreed with my concerns I was filled with hope that things might change. Before I had time to stop my mouth from speaking the words I found myself volunteering to help.  You may now call me councilor Kimbell. *laughing as I type.

Melton Mowbray Farmers Market
I mentioned two things that have landed me in local government…   the second issue means more to me. As a village we have lost two of our focal points in recent years.  There is no village shop anymore and sadly our post office was closed.  When I was little people would stop and chat outside the shop and the cars would drive slowly. 

I’m not is a position to reopen the shop, although running a weekly pop up bakery I must say the thought has actually crossed my mind when I see everyone chatting and laughing.

It was as I was listening to The BBC Radio Four Food Program that I had a light bulb moment.   I realized that the community that the awards celebrate could be recreated in our village. I love farmers markets and my mum has been going to the Melton Mowbray market for as long as I can remember. I love buying my chickens there.  So I was really delighted that the farmers market has been short listed to the final three for an award.  Food brings everyone together and we are still a largely rural and farming community after all, so the idea of having our own market was really well received .. and we are going for it.  

There have been a few set backs and we have some more meetings to decide dates and format and details .. and a few more things to sort out .. but the idea itself is alive and everyone is excited. We’ve got the location sorted in principle. All the money raised will be put back into out local charities.  I am both thrilled and nervous.  I am thrilled that it looks as though it may really happen .. but there is lots of work to do first.  I am quite nervous and hope that people will come along and make it buzz. 

 People chat, laugh, talk about life and buy wonderful seasonal local produce.   
Well I am never one to just leave things to chance I wanted to know what makes a really great market.  I went along to the Melton Mowbray Market to find out and collected some interviews for the BBC Northampton Kitchen Garden show. There were a few surprised faces as people I have known a long time were fascinated as I pulled out my microphone to interview them.  One chap who I've been buying sausages off for years and years kept say well I never  .. well I never ... !  In the meantime I have to share the audio of one particular lady chatting below because she really summed up what makes a great market and you can really understand why Melton Mowbray has been shortlisted for the awards.

I came away from the market even more determined that we shall create a wonderful place in our village.  A space where people can chat, laugh, talk about life and buy wonderful seasonal local produce.  Life is about sharing. 

This morning as I was thinking about writing this post I was tidying up the dominos wondering about how things happen. I was thinking that The BBC Radio Four Food and Farming Awards are actually really amazing.  This programme has the effect of that first domino.  It inspires …  and I wonder just how many other people must also have listened to those stories of real people and decided that they too can make difference?

Follow #BBCFoodAwards on Twitter

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Hand crafted truffles made by prisoners in Milan

Yesterday I was at Chocolate Unwrapped in Covent Garden, having been one of the judges in the international World Chocolate awards earlier in the week .. more about that later in the week.

Now I'm not one to post on a Sunday, but unless I photograph these beautiful Tartufo al Barolo Chinato truffles by Dolci Liberata right now I am afraid in all honesty there will be none left. They are outstanding and won a gold award after winning the best in the Italian section.  They are made by the short term prisoners in Milan to give then the skills to use for a chance at a better and more honest future when they leave the prison.

Find out more by listening to the audio below. 

Hand crafted truffles made by prisoners in Milan 

Friday, 12 October 2012

Ragdale Hall

This morning I found myself yelling at my children.  Really.  You see last week I spent two days getting the house completely clean, perfectly tidy and all the washing and ironing done.  I waltzed off to Ragdale Hall and had a 24-hour reviver break.  What bliss.  The quiet Leicestershire countryside, the fabulous food, divine treatments and time to catch up with my sister.  I felt like me again. However that was last week. This morning if you have been in my house you would think that a bunch of tramps had a party in my house after it had been burgled.

My children are adoring, beautiful clever, cheeky but totally and completely absorbed in their own world.  Too absorbed to give any thought to picking up their socks of the floor or flushing to loo or wiping off the tooth paste off the sink, and although I’m the first to admit that I am slightly bohemian,  I am never the less still house proud.

I told my children that I was going to resign if they didn’t stop untidying, and wreaking the house. Libiana was in tears, William looked devastated and Isobel didn’t get what resigning meant .. but looked sad anyway because it was the appropriate thing to do.

The quiet Leicestershire countryside, the fabulous food, divine treatments

Now I’ve spent the whole day not only feeling guilty for yelling, but fantasizing about Ragdale Hall whilst picking up the socks, shoes, loo rolls and countless other things my kids just drop where they stand.  I remember .. the saunas, the massage and the time to try out new cosmetics without feeling that I must buy. A good nights sleep, a breakfast brought to you in bed, the quiet, the peace, the smiles of the staff, who clearly enjoy their job.  More socks.  Manicures, pedicures, pampering, and in all honesty it is the cleanest spa I have ever been to.  Perhaps that is why I keep going back,  It’s so clean  .. I’d like to say it’s like home from home... 

It’s almost time to pick the children up from school.  The house is tidy again for a short time, but before I go there is just time to book my next visit to Ragdale.  It will keep me dreaming whilst I tidy.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Crazy EU Jam Jar Rules

If I ever buy jam I buy the prettiest jars I can find so I can recycle them. 

The great thing about blogging is that you can move quickly and say what you think in minutes.

This morning I lay in bed quietly watching the mist lift across the copper beech trees. It was a perfect Sunday morning until I checked my phone and noticed a tweet.  It said that the Church of England has banned the sale of all jams, marmalades pickles and chutneys.  At first I thought it was a joke.  Sadly it is not.
This is a link to the article I read in The Telegraph.  

Apparently someone has decided that because glass is slightly porous jam and preserves made in recycled jars may no longer be sold because there is a risk that someone might want to make jam in a jar that has contained something toxic. This ruling means that home jam makers wanting to donate preserves to a fundraiser may no longer do so without breaking EU legislation. 

I do not believe that anyone who makes jam would be so stupid as to use a contaminated jam jar. These rules and regulations made in Brussels are, to me, an insult to basic common sense.  What next?  Will the EU tell me how to cross the road with out getting run over? 

I wonder  - does this mean that milk bottles are no longer to be recycled and when I make a cake for the village fete, if I use my home made jam from a recycled jar of my home made jam am I then breaking the law?

How can you even prove that a jam jar is actually new?   And who are the jam jar police?

The whole thing goes against everything I stand for.  Using up gluts of fruit, supporting my local community, charity, kindness, recycling and being green.  It’s absurd.

I am therefore sending this blog post to David Cameron.  David please stand up for what is decent and right.  Credit us with some common sense and tell Brussels to stick their jam jar meddling laws. 

UPDATE - Monday Lunch time

I rang and spoke to Lou Henderson, Senior Media Officer at the Church of England.  I asked him about the story in the Telegraph and the Daily Mail and he was very clear in his response. 

"Yes The Churches Legislation Advisory Service did advise that this legislation might have implications for the church fundraising sales of home made jam but the news story is not correct.  the Church of England has not banned anything and the information ( in the article) did not come from us.  it is misleading to suggest that it is."

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Crab apple and rosehip jelly

The light is beautiful but I have to be quick,  for the apples turn brown in minutes. 
I have been threatening to buy a terrier for a while and so when I heard that there were some ready for collection I told myself I was just going to have a look.  Even as I write this I am shaking my head and laughing  -  of course I couldn't resist and I bought a little girl home.

Waiting for my husband to arrive home all afternoon I worry that he is not going to be happy.  I am sure that he will love her, but I don't phone him.  I wait, fussing and drinking camomile tea. He walks in the house, straight past her and into the kitchen. I laugh nervously and pick up the wide eyed pup he missed. My instincts are right, and although he tries to be cross he adores her. Her name is Polly .. the children called her Pickle and I think that she might be the naughtiest puppy in the world  .. ever ... and I'm mad about her.

Today the October sun is bright and I go for a bike ride. The weather holds but it takes me over two hours to cycle eight miles. The hedges are full of crab apples and rose hips and I keep stopping to pick them. I suppose really I am foraging, but I must say that the term just doesn't sit well with me and for some reason when I think of the word forage I picture a pig in the Dordogne snorting about for truffles.

I load my harvest into the basket on the back of my bike and reluctantly leave the blackberries and elderberries on the basis that I shall pick them and make hedgerow jam at the weekend.

When I get home  I can't resist cutting them on a beautiful old painted board that shows off the bright red and the acid green.  They smell sweet, appley and tart. The hips burst with seeds and I take no more than five minutes to take a snap shot from above whilst standing on a chair in the garden room.  The light is beautiful but I have to be quick, for the apples turn brown in minutes.

I throw them in to a pan, cover them in water and simmer until the kitchen is steamy and smells like apple pie.  The soft fruit is now sitting in cotton with the juice dripping ever more slowly into a pan and tomorrow I shall add the sugar and make crab apple and rose hip jelly in the morning.

I know that as the children get home from school in the dark in November that I will light a fire, make a pot of tea and spread this peach coloured tart jelly onto hot buttered crumpets.  I think that tart sweetness is even more delicious eaten in front of a crackling fire when it is cold outside.

 The hedges are full of crab apples and rose hips and I keep stopping to pick them.