Pause for thought

Dreamy First blossom 2016My life is usually so busy that I rarely pause for thought. As much as I try to listen to Radio 4’s ‘Thought For The Day‘, which I find uplifting, challenging and wise in equal measure, in reality I’m usually at work by 7.45 am or at least on a train somewhere to it. Then along came a bike accident, a knee injury and rehabilitation. Suddenly doctors surgery’s and hospital waiting rooms become a lacuna for thought. 

The knee injury has prevented me from working on my orchard, which is frustrating as spring is a vital time to set to work on cherry trees. However I am lucky to have a fit and strong horticulture partner, who in my absence, thoughtfully sent me a photo of the first blossom. Not just of spring but the first ever cherry blossom on the orchard! Whilst I could not be there in person I decided to take a lesson from Japanese culture and enjoy Hanami, to take time to marvel at the amazing photo.

Hanami or the festival of cherry blossom viewing encourages us to;

Simply enjoy the intensity of the many blossoms by looking at a single tree or a group of trees. From a distance, the trees appear as beautiful clouds, while the beauty of single blossoms can be enjoyed from a close distance.

To enjoy ‘as beautiful as a cloud’ reminded me of something else I had been neglecting, my membership to the Cloud Appreciation Society (CAS). As an amateur meteorologist, or really just having a rather British obsession with the weather, I joined the CAS after hearing its founder Gavin Pretor-Pinney speak at the Royal Meteorological Society.  Captivated I started to stare at the skies, rather than just taking that blue background with cotton ball lumps, for granted. 

Cloud a DayThe sky, it’s a big subject but CAS is no offering a new ‘Cloud-a-Day’ e-mail service. Each day an e-mail pops into my account containing a beautiful, mystical or hilariously shaped cloud, with a brief but through description and explanation for it’s formation. In a busy world Mr Pretor-Pinney provides a mobile thought for the day, something I can pause to look at whatever waiting room I am in. I feel thoroughly cheered up on gloomy painful days by the clouds and if you would like to be lifted too, to enjoy the sky whilst stuck on the underground or in a windowless office you can sign up here.

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More Spurtles for sale!

Spurtles - Cranachan & CrowdieBack at the start of the New Year I started a search for Porridge Spurtle sellers. By February I had amassed quiet a list that I posted here on my blog. However not one to rest on my laurels! I kept the search going and I can now add Edinburgh’s ‘Cranachan & Crowdie‘ to the list.

The lovely Spurtles you can see photo above are available in the Edinburgh shop on the cities ‘Royal Mile’, 263 Canongate, EH8 8BQ. They are also available to buy on-line here.

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Farmers, Food and the EU. Where is ‘Food Brexit’ in the EU referendum debate?

Cereals tractorI’ve been talking to a wide range of people involved in food and farming over the last few weeks about how leaving the EU could change their businesses. According to The Spectator (27/02/16) 40% of the EU budget is spent on supporting farmers via the Common Agricultural Policy or CAP. With Britain paying £6 billion into the fund you would be forgiven for thinking it’s an expensive issue, if not an important one. However food and farming has been overshadowed by the headline grabbing issues of boarders, immigration and terrorism.

Whilst the Guardian has broached the issue of falling incomes for farmers in a post-Brexit UK, very little has been mentioned in the mainstream media. Is this because we don’t have an have an appetite for food politics? Or as the Spectator states because we are now urban dwellers (80% of the population) we are removed from farming, removing support both social and political, from farmers.

For me farming is a vital aspect of ‘Brexit’ because the EU has played such an important role in regulating the agricultural practices that produce our food. That is why over the last few weeks I have been talking ‘Food Brexit’ to anyone who will listen. However it’s felt like a one woman campaign until I heard about an event being hosted by The Kindling Trust and The Food Ethics Council.

Food Brexit‘EU Referendum: a spotlight on food & farming’ is an event that will “bring together industry experts and those working in the sustainable food sector to get clued up about the implications of staying in or leaving the EU” and will explore “the social, economic, cultural, environmental and ethical implications of the ‘stay’ or ‘leave’ outcomes”.

I am really disappointed not to be able to make what sounds like a challenging and informative event. However I am really glad that finally campaigning organisations and those working in the agricultural sector are coming together to talk ‘Food Brexit’.

The event is happening this Tuesday (19th of April 2016) and you can register here. If you are attending the event I would love to hear from you afterwards, to find out about the presentations, the debates and mostly importantly where ‘Food Brexit’ goes from here.

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Vladimir Putin the Porridge eating President

Putin PorridgeStop press, hold the front page! Vladimir Putin is a Porridge eater! In news that overshadows the ‘Panama Papers’ 😉 it has been widely reported (from Putin’s annual phone in with the Russian public) that the Russian President eats Porridge “with pleasure every morning”. Although asked by a young girl what he did when confronted with sub-standard Porridge the premier answered;

“You know, I’ve never been forced into anything I didn’t like in my life.”

Porridge chefs You have been warned! Although my favourite reporting on Putin’s Porridge eating comes from the Telegraph newspaper who provide a full minute by minute account of the radio interview;

Porridge: the verdict

Questions from children coming in. Should you have porridge for breakfast? What would your three wishes be?

Putin says he found he came to like porridge more as he grew older. And we shouldn’t rely on fairy tale characters to grant us wishes, but work with our own hands.

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Posh Porridge Hits Australia

Delicious Posh Porridge

Back in February I blogged on the new trend for ‘Posh Porridge’. I talked about the rising trend of pretty Porridge pictures on Twitter and Instagram and my own experiences of very posh Porridge at Claridges Hotel, London. So I could see it was already a big trend but now ‘Posh Porridge’ has hit Australia too!

This week Delicious, the on-line ‘down-under’ version, posted this really interesting article on the rise of Australian ‘Posh Porridge’. “Topped with everything from violet sugar to mulled wine, porridge has never been better” says the article and I have to agree when looking though at the cafes listed. Personally my favourite is ‘Foxy Autumnal Porridge’ served by ‘Bread and Circus’ with pre-soaked whisky oats, bananas, blueberries, coconut, pistachio and, and!!! Clotted cream.

So when the magazine asks “is posh porridge the next big thing?” My answer would be, it already is!

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Easter, rain, rhubarb and a recipe

Forced rhubarb 23aMy Easter has been one of rain and rhubarb. It’s been a pretty wild bank holiday weekend and my garden looks a little worse for wear after the winds of storm Katie. However my resilient rhubarb has come up trumps, as it seems to be as wind proof as Donald’s Trumps hair. 

Last autumn I invested in a rhubarb forcer that has allowed me to have a really good crop of early, and brilliantly pink rhubarb, alongside the slower growing ruby red kind. To make the most of this early crop I’ve been cooking up a rhubarb compote ready to top my Porridge. 

Forced rhubarb aI like to serve my rhubarb sharp and tart on creamy jumbo oats made with plenty of milk. My recipe is a simple one that allows the rhubarb to shine. I hope you will give it a go on your Porridge and enjoy the best of the early spring season.

Forced Rhubarb Porridge

Ingredients

  • 200g forced rhubarb
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of orange juice
  • 80g jumbo oats
  • 285ml cold water
  • 285ml full cream milk

Serves: Two

Method

  • Take a heavy based saucepan and pour in just enough cold water to cover the base.
  • Add the vanilla to the water.
  • Then wash and chop the rhubarb into chunks and place into the saucepan.
  • Cover with the orange juice and then put the pan on a low heat to simmer gently.
  • Into another saucepan add the oats, water, milk and stir thoroughly.
  • Place the pan over a high heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 mins.
  • Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for a further 3-4 mins, stirring the oats regularly until you have a nice thick Porridge.
  • Whilst the Porridge has been cooking the rhubarb should have softened and be ready to serve. Don’t stir the rhubarb during cooking as this will break the pieces. Only turn the rhubarb gently with a spatula if it starts to stick to the pan.
  • Pour the Porridge into bowls.
  • Spoon the rhubarb pieces and some of the juice, over the Porridge.
  • Serve hot and enjoy the best of the season. 
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Hot Porridge News: Entires for the 2016 Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championships are now open!

The Golden Spurtle (2)Think you make the world’s best Porridge? Then it’s time to put your oats to the test as entries for the 2016 Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship are open!!!

On Saturday the 8th of October 2016 chefs, cooks and Porridge enthusiasts will be gathering again in the beautiful village of Carrbridge, Cairngorms, to battle it out to become the World Porridge Champion and you could join them! The competition is open to all, and you can find out more details about the competition and apply for a place here.

Golden Spurtle Winners 2009

If you would like to know what it’s really like to compete at the world Porridge Comp then have a read of my first hand account of being a competitor, I hope it encourages you to give the competition a go!

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This Farming Life, from the Isle of Lewis to Reading, Berkshire

TFL snip 2I’m impressed by all you eagle-eye TV viewers! Yes you are correct, it was me that you spotted in episode 2 of the BBC’s new agricultural programme ‘This Farming Life’. Thank you for all the tweets and and kind messages.

In the episode my friend Sandy Granville delivers my years supply of Hebrides raised meat and we talk mutton and drink tea (obligatory in my home!).

If you didn’t get a chance to see the episode you can watch it again on iplayer and the series runs for another week on BBC2.

Most importantly, if after watching Sandy’s hard work to raise high welfare mutton and beef, you too would like to receive an annual delivery, can order it on-line here. Although I can’t promise a camera crew with your delivery 😉

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‘This Farming Life’; Friends, crofting and BBC 2’s new programme

TFL Tolsta_smlLate summer time every year, I receive a delivery of mutton and beef from the Outer Hebrides. I always look forward to the delivery, not just because of delicious naturally reared meats it brings, but because it is also a chance to see Sandy Granville, my friend who drives all the way from the Isle of Lewis to deliver it.

I first met Sandy several years ago when I stayed on the Hebridean croft run by him and his wife Ali. Wonderfully welcoming and warming the Granville’s soon made me feel at home, even though the croft was a world away from the kind of agriculture a southerner like me is used to! I was soon feeding the croft hens and pigs from the community pig club and enjoying the Leòdhas or Lewis crofting ways.

TFL Feeding the hens (sml)Barristers turned crofters, the Granville’s have quiet a story to tell, and sharing home cured meats and hearty meals around the dinner table, I would laugh heartedly with Ali & Sandy as the tales were told. It was clear from the outset that Sandy is what most people call a ‘character’ but I think of him more as a rock star of the crofting world 😉 So it was no surprise to me when the media became interested in him. However it was a bit of a surprise to get a phone call from Sandy telling me that with my next meat delivery he would also be bringing a camera crew.

TFL Film crewOne Saturday in September I found myself making tea for Sandy and his team as we discussed animal welfare, sustainable food and mutton that Sandy raises through ‘sea shepherding’. The filming forms part of a new prime-time BBC 2 programme called ‘This Farming Life’ that starts this Monday (07/03/16) and was filmed over the course of a year following life on five farms around Scotland, including the Granville croft. I don’t want to tell you too much or it will spoil the programme! However I will say that if you want to learn about crofting or just find out more about the Hebrides, you will not be disappointed in watching.

And…. if after watching you get a taste for the Hebridean way of farming you too can order mutton meats from the Granville croft by ordering on-line here. Or better still you can visit the Tolsta Chaolais croft on the beautiful Isle of Lewis for yourself.

TFL Feeding the pigs

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Has Porridge got too posh?

Claridges PorridgeHas Porridge got too posh? That’s the oaty question being posed by the Guardian ‘Word of Mouth’ blog.  The article discusses posh Porridge ingredients; “rosewater or sprouted oats with chia seeds”, to posh places to breakfast – including my review of London’s newest Porridge place; ‘Sky Pod Bar’ the “Porridge bar in the sky“.  

The article points a finger of blame at social media for posh-ifying Porridge. From sumptuous instagram shots to perfect pictures on Twitter are we, and I include me! Guilty of  wanting our Porridge to look perfect for the world to see?

Christmas Porridge Snip

Caviar PorridgeI’m not shy of sharing my posh Porridge pictures or reviewing some of the most luxurious places to Porridge in London such as Mayfair’s Claridges. However I’m still a fan of honest home cooked Porridge, of getting my Porridge pot out day after day to make the best breakfast with value oats and simple toppings like windfall apples.

Apple puree Porridge snipPerhaps then in this period of Lent I should be giving up posh Porridge and going back to its simple, wholesome roots. What do you think? Has Porridge got too posh for you? I’d love to know your thoughts here on the blog or via Twitter @porridgelady.

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