Our second adventure into the field of the Community Farm at Chew Magna took place on 6th October and was a day filled with vegetable treats, glorious views and real (muddy) hands on cookery! We were again relieved to find that the day was beautiful with clear bright skies after a misty start. The view of mist settled on the Chew Lakes makes getting up and out into the fields on a Sunday morning a real pleasure.
The day was a popular one with a group of nine people keen to pick, prep and cook and we were in for a treat because the Farm’s Yurt has just been furnished with an amazingly complete kit of cookery equipment including pro quality chef’s knives and stainless steel work benches. Claire Rosling, the Farm’s Community Learning Officer had been hard at work making the yurt now feel really like a cookery school and an ideal venue for cooking-despite the lack of electricity! Most of our cooking this time was done in the outside Cob Oven which was built as part of the Farm’s education programme-it gets unbelievably hot and meant that we could make great smoky dishes in a really short time.
At this time of year the farm is mid harvest-the squash have been brought in from the fields to protect them from the frost and we had the pick of numerous different varieties. We chose my favourite, the Crown Prince, which has a beautiful blue skin and bright orange flesh. Higher in the fields the crops were growing well with plenty of different types of greens and root vegetables
Still growing in the fields were a variety of different coloured carrots and beetroots. We picked a basket full as well as main crop potatoes and lots of different types of kale including Cavolo Nero which is probably my favourite. A quick visit to the herb beds for marjoram, sage, thyme, rosemary and parsley and we were ready to start washing (thoroughly!) and then practicing our knife skills.
We prepared the carrots first with everyone trying out their brand new, super sharp knives and roasted carrots with haloumi cheese and a spice blend called Za’atar which we made ourselves with coriander, cumin and sesame seeds with sumac. We also sliced the beetroot with a mandolin to create super thin slices which we “cooked” in lemon juice. The acidity of the lemons actually softens the beetroot. This we later seasoned with chilli, a little sugar and fresh herbs.
Next we tackled the huge squash, easily done with a sharp knife! Squash skin is edible so you don’t have to peel it if you are serving roasted squash so we just roughly chopped the squash into quarters and deseeded it before placing in the cob oven. The Squash cooked in about 20 minutes in the Cob (more like 50 at home!) and charred on the outside so that we had the fun job of scooping out the soft, sweet flesh. We mixed this with Feta cheese and made our own pastries using a yoghurt based dough which we love at the Cookery School.
For lunch we sliced the fresh potatoes and made a classic Tortilla de Patatas which I learned to make when I lived in Spain. The classic tortilla is a real skill to learn which is easy when you know how (to learn it you’ll have to come to one of our courses!) We made the biggest tortilla we could fit in the pan and the taste of the just picked potatoes really shone through.
We also braised our kale with tomatoes, chilli and capers with a griddled polenta dish that was taught to me by Antonio Carluccio when I won a competition to go and cook in his house (ok, I know its namedropping but I can’t resist! It was the best day ever!). We were lucky enough to be able to eat outside in full sunshine - food always tastes better eaten outside, even better still when it was growing in the ground just hours before!
The afternoon was full of bread making fun. We created herb focaccia and handmade pitta breads sprinkled with our Za’atar spices which only took a couple of minutes to puff up in the cob oven. These we served with our Middle Eastern platter of roasted carrots, beetroot, squash pastries and a tasty Mojo Rojo dip made from roasted peppers, almonds and spices (all done by hand in a huge, heavy pestle and mortar). Amazingly we managed to eat outside again, something we doubted would happen in autumn!
Our next Plot to Plate workshop will be just before Christmas on Sunday 15th December to celebrate Winter vegetables. We will make warming, hearty dishes, Christmas Chutney and a vegetarian main course which would grace any Christmas dinner table. We are also planning to include the ultimate Scandinavian Mulled Mine and are inviting guests to “bring your own” - either soft drinks or a little alcohol if you aren’t driving!
The course is a real chance to get in touch with what you are eating, find out more about The Community Farm and learn some new recipes and skills to make your vegetable cookery a pleasure.
Click here to book a place on the next course.
And to find out more about the Community Farm visit their website at thecommunityfarm.co.uk.