Having already worked at HQ since June 2015, I’ve become fairly familiar with the surroundings, people, animals and ethos here. In my past fifteen months I’ve noticed that no two days are ever the same, and hopefully over the space of the next year I can illustrate to you just how constantly we’re kept on our toes.
September proved to be a busy month as we celebrated our inaugural music festival, released the A-Z book, and marked the 10-year anniversary of being located at Park Farm. The music festival was a huge success, and we transformed the farmhouse into a seated restaurant whilst also serving our traditional curries. The curry, made from badger beans and chard, was served alongside rosemary focaccia, pearl barley grown next door at Trill Farm, and a rhubarb “mango” chutney. Made in the style of a traditional mango chutney, we had some fun explaining to customers that there wasn’t actually any mango in there!
Over in the farmhouse restaurant, we transformed the glut of squash we’d grown on the farm into a rich squash, apple, and chili soup. With more than a thousand people per day expected on the farm, it’s fair to say that a lot of prep needed to be done. Believe me when I say that prepping more than your bodyweight in potatoes becomes a tad tedious after 5 hours.
If you need another example of the whole “no two days are the same” thing, then I’m sure my next experience will convince you. It’s a fairly normal and regular occurrence here to be asked to pick fresh fruit from the gardens surrounding the kitchen. What’s not so normal however, is when you find Syrup, our three-year-old Angus/Jersey cow, perched beneath the wedding arch of sweet peas! With a little help from another chef though, Syrup was quickly back with the others and free to roam around the pastures of the farm.
Allowing our animals to roam across our 90-acre site and enjoy a superb quality of life is of huge importance to us at River Cottage. Living off a rich and nutritious diet, the animals are afforded the freedom of the farm, which ensures a better experience for them while providing higher quality, better tasting food. Everything we serve has enjoyed a free and proper life, and there’s a great sense of satisfaction in understanding exactly where the food you’re eating has come from. This is what meat is all about to us, and knowing that it’s been looked after in the best possible way makes all the difference.
As with all our animals, this was the case with Syrup, who after slaughter was matured for 3-4 weeks before being returned to the farm. Served last weekend as the beautiful, elegant centrepiece of our Head Gardener Will’s wedding, we all took pride in contributing to the animal’s quality of life, and as a result, its richer, deeper flavours.
Thank you all for reading, and I look forward to giving you some more insights into life on the farm in November.
For more information on the River Cottage apprentice scheme click here.