The trouble with them is every one gets on, leaving little room for individual personality. Like fashion..........
BIG Hospitality ran a feature recently where highly admired Chefs gave their predictions as to what will be gastronomically En Vogue in 2011, which will no doubt have others searching amidst their area for supplies and recipes to keep them 'hip' and happening.
Certain Things I get, and fully follow. Like utilising locally produced, reared and grown produce, and the recent sustainability surge with regards to fish (and other produce). But these aren't trends, they are Revolutions spurred on through the gaining of knowledge and the attainment of Ethics.
When the call for buying local erupted forth from legendary proclaimed chefs shouting from the rooftops of their Restaurants and Hotels I stuck my thumb out and hitched that lift. However, after time I realised that although Local is a very important part of our current Ethos, the one thing we were seriously overlooking was the quality aspect.
As a Chef, I take pride in utilising the best ingredients I can get and that means not all that comes from within a given radius of supply will necessarily meet my needs. For example, the weather and soil further up the Isle, I.E. Norfolk, may aid the production of a better quality Carrot as opposed to the Somerset Levels. The grazing land may be better in Yorkshire nurturing better Milk, as opposed to the wilds of Cornwall.
And it's not just product for product. It is also product within product. Consider the Potato. With approximately 4000 varieties grown throughout the world and around 80 farmed in the United Kingdom, there is plenty to choose from. Chefs have their favourites depending on what task the humble spud is for and a lot of the attraction will be due to the quality of local crop.
I do still buy locally, don't misunderstand. I get these amazing Jerusalem Artichokes, and Shallots from just down the road albeit from a very annoying (overly passionate) grower. I get my Fish from two 'as local as land-locked Somerset can be' suppliers. and all my meat is raised within the Borders of Somerset, Dorset, Devon & Wiltshire. I get very ratty & p***ed off if ever I have found out a supplier has bought any produce that has travelled more air miles than I have because it was a good deal and have not told me before purchase. I would rather pay more, charge more and enable myself to sleep safe in the knowledge that Britain is growing and rearing fine foods for me and my Diners.
The main hub of this post is to heavily endorse and promote a fantastic Local (yet not....sort of) product that I am very fortunate to be allowed to utilise.
At the bottom of the Village, there is a hidden farm reached via a 'Southfork' style track with white fences adorning the sides and wide open level fields of grass beyond. Occasionally you catch a glimpse of Bovine herds in the distance roaming free, grazing and lazing under mighty Oak trees. Eventually you arrive into the large and clean complex typical of any aged Farm in the UK. There are signs pointing the directions that one may need to take including the Butchers shop.
The Farm is called Lower Oakley Farm and as afore mentioned, looks similar to other Beef Farms yet there is one slight difference..............
They are not Cows.
The placid Beasts that roam this idyllic Somerset countryside are Water Buffalo.
Similar in appearance to your average breed of Cows there is only three features that make them notably different in species. They are all a rich chocolate brown in colour, their 'Blade' (the ridge after the neck) is highly defined, and they have magnificently carved and curved Horns.
These mighty animals are just as inquisitive as Cows tend to be and often wander over to the fences for a nuzzle and a sniff which is when you notice their deep, searching eyes, often shaded beneath toupees of hair.
The farm started out with a Herd of 22 which were imported from Romania, and to date they have increased to a steady 200 strong. Their diet consists of grass for most of the year and then during the freezing Winter months they are fed natural Winter Forage which the Farmer grows on his own land. At no point do the Buffalo eat any form of added concentrates, ensuring that they maintain a traceable Organic lineage.
When the animal has been killed, it is then matured for 21 days on site before Barry expertly Butchers the meat into various cuts to sell at Farmers markets and within their own shop. As this is a small concern, the produce is only for public retail, and there are no plans to breed enough for Catering outlets. However! I am lucky enough to have gained the good grace and blessing of both Tony the Farmer and Barry the Butcher to feature their wonderful meat within my place of work.
On my Classic Pub Menu I have created a mouth watering and flavoursome Buffalo Burger, using high quality Mince, and seasoned with blended Onions, Cracked Pepper & Sea Salt. These have become highly regarded as one of the best Burgers available in the area. We also sell their beautiful topside, Slow Roasted for 3 ½ - 4 hours on Sundays as opposed to the usual Beef, which is always sold out by 2:30pm. And I have just created a new Pie of Slow cooked Buffalo, Somerset Cider, & Caramelised Shallots with a delicate Blue Cheese Pastry, which again has been given plenty of compliments.
All three dishes come highly praised and we would probably sell even more (especially the Roast) but, just as the Farmer insists on keeping a small, sustainable herd, I too keep an eye on the amount that I require to enable us to maintain an equilibrium in supply and demand.
This has had a knock on effect, which due to the guests enjoying our food Buffalo dishes, they purchase their own from the farm to enjoy at home. Business has certainly increased for both parties, giving a symbiotic relationship here in the fields and hills of rural Somerset.
If you have never tried this Bovine alternative, I urge you to find some and try it. It has approximately 40% less Cholesterol & 70% less Fat than normal Beef, it is rich in Iron and other vital Minerals, has a slightly more open Texture, a terrific fresh flavour that melts over your palate, and is a very tender and pure meat.