Topsham Trail – Graze & Flavour

Back in the depths of winter, I was invited to review a catch-your-own fishing & eating tour by a brand new, Devon based start up called Graze & Flavour. It was right up my street and as I had such a blast, I was beside myself when I was asked to cover another of their food trails for a local magazine.

The Topsham Trail is the newest trail in the Graze & Flavour portfolio which showcases artisan producers and suppliers within a stone’s throw of Topsham, a delightful suburb of Exeter which was once a thriving port and town in its own right.

Graze and Flavour Taste Trails

Our gastro-weekend started on a Friday afternoon by checking into The Globe Inn in the heart of Topsham. I got there a few hours early just so I could wander the beautiful streets and browse the fabulous little independent shops.

Late afternoon our little party congregated in the pretty courtyard of the pub where the community microbrewery, Topsham Ales, are housed.

What followed was a master-class in the processes involved in crafting a pint of real ale. We touched on everything from sourcing the ingredients to storing the finished beer in firkins. I really liked that the waste grains are collected by a local horse rescue charity where they get used to supplement the horse feed.

It was such a shame Jonny couldn’t join me for the weekend as the chaps in our group seemed to really enjoy the tasting part of the tour.

Graze and Flavour Taste Trails

Next we moved inside the pub itself and were treated to a tasting of the St Austell beers on offer. Starting with that proper Cornish brew, Proper Job and finishing with Korev, the one and only lager that St Austell brewery has ever made.

Graze and Flavour Taste Trails

We were next invited to take a seat in the dining room and indulged in a lovely menu of local foods. The venison salami teaser was delicious.

Graze and Flavour Taste Trails

The following morning started with a fabulous breakfast spread, and thorough cooked menu where I plumped for poached eggs and smoked salmon. Graze and Flavour Taste TrailsWe were then whisked off for our first adventure of the day to meet the charismatic Steve from Good Game, a small charcuterie company. This was the highlight of my weekend, and as our pigs will be arriving next week and we’re hoping to produce some exciting cured meats this year, I took a lot of notes!

Graze and Flavour Taste Trails

Among the many snippets we learnt;

  • Originally pancetta was made from the cheek of a pig, which Steve lovingly refers to as Face Bacon.
  • You can make salamis and sausages from pretty much any animal, but all of them need a % of pork, or Porky Magic, to make them taste good.
  • The only preservative used by Good Game is salt, and there’s no dairy used in any of their products. Hoorah!
  • To make a good salami use the back fat as it won’t render down during the curing process. In cheap salamis, any fat is used which can make the end product taste greasy.
  • During the curing and drying process, the meat is safe to eat after it has lost 1/3 weight. With coppa, Steve waits until it has lost 40-50% of its weight.

Graze and Flavour Taste Trails

After tasting a variety of Good Game products, of which the chorizo was the best I have ever tasted, we wandered off to our next adventure in a vineyard.

Graze and Flavour Taste Trails

We were introduced to Geoff the owner of Pebblebed Vineyard and his 23 year old winemaker Alex before having a tour of the vines and teeny tiny early grapes. Graze and Flavour Taste TrailsFor those that think it impossible for an English vineyard to produce a decent wine, I challenge you to try their sparkling rose. It is utterly divine, and one I will definitely be looking out for in the future.

Graze and Flavour Taste TrailsThis is Alex, the 23 year old winemaker. He was an absolute delight to talk to with his passion and knowledge on the subject belying his age. Graze and Flavour Taste TrailsNext, we moved into the winery where we were able to taste each of the wines produced by Pebblebed. As I said the sparkling rose was my favourite but they were all excellent.Graze and Flavour Taste Trails

And next we were whisked off to Pebblebed’s very own tasting cellar just off the quay in Topsham where we were treated to a simple but very tasty lunch. There were platters of breads with olive oil, cheeses, meats and smoked fish. And of course, lots of wine.
Graze and Flavour Taste Trails

Our little group parted ways after lunch, with many of the group staying on for a second night at The Globe. All in all it was a wonderful weekend in a gorgeous location and a great way to spend a few days for locals and visitors alike. Graze and Flavour Taste Trails

Big thanks to Jennie from Graze and Flavour for being such a fabulous host and tour guide. Her energy didn’t waiver all weekend and her enthusiasm for real food and getting people to understand the story behind it is admirable. Do check out her website to read more about the Graze and Flavour story.

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Tea Time Treats Round Up ~ July 2014

Welcome back my #TeaTimeTreats friends! How is your summer shaping up? We are busy here with ducklings everywhere (we had over 40 hatch within a couple of weeks of each other!) and our young pigs are turning up next week. Such an exciting time :)

Big thanks to everyone that entered this month’s Tea Time Treats. It’s a little quieter than normal, but I know how hard it is to bake when you’re down the beach or in the back garden!

Pop the kettle on, and go check out these fabulous bakers. Oh, and if any make your tummy rumble, please take an extra moment to pin, tweet, share or comment on them. Go spread the #TeaTimeTreats lurve!

1/ Gluten Free Alchemist Date, Apricot and Coconut Flapjack

Tea Time Treats

2/ Thyme and Envy  Gooey Double Chocolate Brownies Tea Time Treats

3/ I’d Much Rather Bake Than… Fiery Ginger FlapjackTea Time Treats

4/ Mainly Baking Rhubarb Shortbread Bars Tea Time Treats

5/ Farmers Girl Hugh’s Honey and Peanut Butter FlapjacksTea Time Treats

6/ What Claire Baked Chocolate & Raspberry Brownies Tea Time Treats

7/ Chocolate Log Blog  Blackcurrant BrowniesTea Time Treats

8/ Lavender and Lovage Strawberry Clafoutis Tea Time Treats

9/Lancashire Food Blackcurrant and Almond TraybakeTea Time Treats

10/ Kitchen of Kiki Karins Cake with Rhubarb Tea Time Treats

11/ Kitchen Maid Chocolate Marmalade BarsTea Time Treats

12/ Tales from the Kitchen Shed Peach Streusel TraybakeTea Time Treats

13/ The Lass in the Apron Molasses FlapjacksTea Time Treats

14/ Kerry Cooks Chocolate Flapjacks 14 Tea Time Treats

Thank you again for all your yummy looking treats and enjoy the summer! Don’t forget to rock up to Lavender & Lovage on August 1st to find out next month’s theme, I’ll see you there ;)

Janie x

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9 Things I Learnt on a Pro Food Photography Shoot with Olive Magazine

Way back in the depths of winter I found myself curled up on the sofa with a glass of white in one hand and my freshly delivered copy of Olive magazine in the other.

Olive Magazine Photoshoot

Since studying photography I devour each copy, dissecting the images as much as reading the recipes. I really like the photographic style used by the magazine, and whilst they use different photographers, the style stays true throughout each edition.Pro Food Photoshoot for Olive Magazine

When flicking through I try and work out what exactly it is that I love about certain images. I wonder if they’ve used a soft studio flash, or daylight like most of us bloggers tend to use. Is it one person making and styling the food and one photographer or are there are a whole team of people working on each dish. And do they use the old school styling tricks of using inedible varnishes and motor oil to make the food look its best for the camera. Surely no one does that any more, right?Professional Photo Session

With so many questions and a now empty glass of wine I bravely emailed the editor, Christine Hayes, and rather cheekily asked if I could join an Olive photoshoot to see how the pro’s do it.

Well, if you don’t ask…Pro Food Photoshoot for Olive Magazine

Amazingly, she agreed and 4 months later I found myself in Camden, London hanging out with Team Olive. Ha!

9 Things I learnt on a Pro Food Photography Food Shoot with Olive Magazine

1

It takes 4 people to make a day of shooting go smoothly. From left to right we have Ant Duncan; Freelance Photographer, Janine Ratcliffe; Food Editor, Mike Cutting; Designer and Anna Glover; Cookery Writer.

Olive Magazine Photoshoot

Janine and Anna did all the cooking and styling (and washing up), Mike chose the props and backgrounds and made design decisions as the shoot went along and obviously Ant took the photos.

2

Food photographers need to be fit! Seriously, Ant was up and down his ladder more times than a window cleaner! To get the overhead shots his camera was clipped onto the boom arm which was on wheels so could be moved round as necessary.

Olive Magazine Photoshoot

3

That a variety of props are essential. See Jonny, I told you ;)

In London space is at such a premium that there isn’t storage space at Olive HQ to keep their own props, so they hire them in for each shoot. Apparently there are giant prop shops in London that rent out everything from a teaspoon to full dinner services and everything in between. I would love to have a nosey round one of them! 

These are the bits that Mike had picked for today’s shoot, plus a few different slabs of marble and coloured backboards.

Olive Magazine Photoshoot

4

That however big and fancy your studio is, you’re probably only going to use a teeny little portion of it for a food shoot. The rented studio we were in must have measured at least 15 x 30 foot and yet the shooting was all done in this (I’m guessing East facing) corner, snuggled up next to the window making use of that beautiful light.

Pro Food Photoshoot

Doesn’t that make you feel better about your teeny little corner of the dining room? Yep, me too!

5

That even the professionals make a mess in the kitchen! Sorry for busting you guys, but it was SO reassuring to see that it’s not just my kitchen that gets in a mess during a cookfest!

Olive Magazine Photoshoot

6

If a food photographer’s not climbing ladders, they’re sat at a computer. I hadn’t thought about this before but I spend way more time editing my photos than actually shooting them. I guess Ants time on the day was about 50/50 although he may have had more edits to do when he got home.

Olive Magazine Photoshoot

7

That workflow is so much easier and quicker if you have an idea before you start cooking of what you want your final dish to look like.

The Olive team create a moodboard for each image needed so that the right props and backgrounds can be sourced and delivered ahead of the shoot, and everyone knows from the minute they turn up what they’re working towards. Whilst you wouldn’t necessarily go to these lengths for a single blog post, if you ever work on your own cookbook or a series of posts it may be worth bearing in mind.

It’s also useful to think through the colours in your finished dish ahead of time to give you some idea of what colour plates, backgrounds and accessories will work well with them. If you have time, style the shoot before you start cooking so that you can get the picture quickly (and as a bonus you may get to enjoy your dinner whilst it’s still hot!)

Olive Magazine Photo Shoot

8

You don’t need fancy schmancy reflectors. A tatty old piece of cardboard will bounce light back or create shadows just as well as something you’ve paid hard earned pennies for.

Olive Magazine

9

And finally, plan and work ahead of time. Obviously the Olive team has to work months ahead of time because of the logistics of printing and delivering a magazine. However this is still a great tip to take on board for us bloggers.

The more posts you have in draft or even scheduled ready to publish, the less demands there are on your immediate time and the less under pressure you will feel to get something out. And in my experience, this has a direct impact on the quality of the content you put out.

I still struggle with this one as life is often crazy busy, and any reserve I have of draft posts tend to get used up quickly but it is a great idea to create perhaps one blog post a week more than you need so you always have a little back catalogue to draw on when things are hectic.

Pro Food Photoshoot

There, that’s my Top Tips courtesy of the Olive team!  Thank you all so much for letting me invade your day, it was great fun and I learnt loads. Do keep an eye out for a guest post by yours truly coming up on the Olive blog Lulu’s Notes in the not too distant future, if you have a copy of the August edition it’ll be great fun I promise!

And as I’m incapable of being around good food without taking photos myself, here’s some other shots I took on the day…
Pro Food Photoshoot

Pro Food Photoshoot
Pro Food Photoshoot

beefglwBeans and Feta

Melon and Pancetta Salad

Anyone else melting today? Just walking up from the pond this morning after feeding the ducks had me breaking out in a sweat. And it was only 7am.Sweet, light and fragrant melon and pancetta salad

For muggy or scorching days alike, this Melon and Pancetta Salad is just perfect. It’s light, juicy and fragrant and surprisingly filling without causing you to need an afternoon nap.

I had it as a simple lunch but it would make a great starter for a dinner party too.

Do make sure you ask the deli counter if their Pancetta is OK to eat uncooked, and ask them to slice it as thin as they can. If you can only find the cubes of Pancetta (which really need frying first) try a Prosciutto or Bavarian ham instead. Mm Mmmm.

Melon and Pancetta Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 2 as a main course, 4 as a starter

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe melon. I prefer the fragrant orange fleshed cantaloupe, but I imagine any sweet, perfectly ripe melon would work.
  • 8 super thin slices of pancetta from the deli counter.
  • A sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves. Baby basil leaves would also taste great, or possibly finely chopped chives.

Instructions

  1. Skin and de-seed the melon. Using a potato peeler, slice the melon into long ribbons.
  2. Layer them on a plate with the slices of pancetta, curling them a little.
  3. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves.
  4. Sit down and enjoy, preferably with a glass of something chilled!
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How’s Your Bingo Lingo?

Have you ever played bingo? If so, you’ll know that each number has its very own call such ‘Legs Eleven’ and ‘Sweet Sixteen’.

I was recently asked to make a teeny little video stating one of these bingo lingo calls, and was given ’36 Three Dozen’. Quite apt when you think how many eggs I collect in a week!

Here’s my little video (with an impromptu appearance by SassyCat!).

The original video I shot had a chicken pecking corn on the picnic table, but when I got inside to edit it I realised I’d called the wrong number. Duh! By the time I got outside to film it again I forgot to drag the poor hen out of the run to join in so it’s just me and a basket of 36 eggs. Oh, and a gorgeous little cat ;)

Altogether there are 90 short videos that are designed to help people remember and learn the bingo calls. One is being released each week and there are some funny ones in the collection.

Now, where’s my lucky bingo pen…

Collaborated post, visit youtube to see all 90 videos in this campaign.

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