Archive for the ‘Local Food’ Category

Guest Blog from Kate at Veggiedesserts; Chocolate Courgette Tray Bake

Pudding as well?

Pudding as well?

What a year for courgettes! They seem to all be absolutely enormous and the gardeners and allotment-holders that I speak to seem to be at a loss as to do with them all.

My 1 year old daughter chose to carry a large yellow one around like a dolly, occasionally waving it out of the window or taking a bite, but I’m sure most people have been making soup, stuffing them, making more soup, roasting them and storing excess in the freezer.

By this time of year you may be getting a little tired of them, but don’t consign them to the compost heap just yet – how about putting them into chocolate cake? More dessert recipes with courgettes and other vegetables are at

Kate x

Chocolate Courgette Tray Cake Yields 16

CourgetteChocolateCake 150g raw courgette
225g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
75g unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
85g vegetable oil
200g granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
150ml plain natural yogurt
Powdered icing sugar, to dust

Preheat the oven to 175C and lightly grease a 9” square baking tin.

Grate the raw, unpeeled courgette and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt together in a bowl.

In a large bowl, beat together the oil, sugar and vanilla. Then beat the eggs in, one at a time, followed by the yogurt. Stir in the grated courgette.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to combine.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin for 30 minutes or until the centre springs back slightly when touched.

Allow it to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with sieved powdered icing sugar and cut into squares.


Seasonal Super food: Squash & Pumpkin

Healthy squashes

Healthy squashes

The Squash family are a healthy source of vitamins and minerals including fibre, folate, riboflavin, phosphorus and potassium. They can also aid in the processing of fat, carbs and glucose. For ladies, squash aids with the symptoms of PMS as it is full of manganese, which helps reduce mood swings and cramps.

Pumpkins are the most famous of all the winter squashes, and are most associated with Halloween lanterns and thrown away after the event. DON”T, what a shocking waste! Inside the hard orange or yellow skin, the bright orange flesh is sweet and honied, a particularly good source of fibre, and delicious roasted as a veg with meat, roasts, risotto or pasta, in a stew or a sturdy winter soup.

Climbing pumpkin

Climbing pumpkin

I have a rampant pumpkin plant climbing a tree in my garden, and will definitely give them more space next year, as well as grow squash, especially the spaghetti variety, which is delicious and a much healthier alternative to pasta.

So when preparing your halloween lantern don’t throw away the pulp, or even the seeds that can be roasted and salted for a snack, or kept for next years crop. And watch out for cheap pumpkins after halloween.

Spaghetti squash

Spaghetti squash

For a pumpkin soup recipe click here (although I would roast the pumpkin first). To find your local farm shop for fresh pumpkin and squash use our local food map, or to buy organic, spaghetti squash, on line, straight from the farmer, click here.

Please feedback any recipes and we will add them to our database with your name. Or do a quick video and add it to our KIS Cookery video library and perhaps be discovered as the next famous chef!

Bumper Crop of Apples, time for Farm shops to act as community juice/cider maker?

Bumper crop of apples

Bumper crop of apples

This year there is a bumper Crop of Apples, many falling to the ground and wasted. We see this as a great opportunity for Farm shops to win customers by acting as community food hero and invite locals to bring their apples to make juice or cider.

We think farm shops should try and become the centre of their local food community and differentiate themselves from the supermarket as much as possible.

This can be done with fresher, local, fruit & veg, cheaper prices, better service, pick your own, animals around the car park, nature trails, tastings, cookery demonstrations, courses, crop for the shop, food swaps, and seasonal open days like, apple day, where locals can bring their apples and bottles to be pulped and juiced using the Farm Shop’s juice press.

Fiona at the Loch Arthur Farm Shop

Fiona at the Loch Arthur Farm Shop

Every community should really have an orchard and apple press, after all ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. As most communities have a farm shop it seems to make sense to make the shop that centre. Especially if locals are encouraged to switch from the supermarket to buying from the shop and even growing produce to sell in the shop, with our Crop for the Shop scheme, or cooking to swap food at the shop on special food swap days.

People who love making cakes can swap a cake with someone who loves making stew, then do the rest of their shopping before they go home. All bringing new customers to the farm shop.

Switch from the supermarket? YES, we must. Perhaps not completely at first, try the local butcher or farm shop every week, (using our local food map) and the supermarket once a month for washing stuff, loo rolls, etc. You should save money, get better food and encourage more local production.

So the next time you visit your local farm shop mention apple day, crop for the shop and food swaps. If they are keen and not on BigBarn please tell them to contact us.

Mislabeled meat in Tesco, Jamie’s brisket. Where to buy real meat?

Pressure to cut costs

Pressure to cut costs

Tesco sells dutch pork labelled as British-reared. Horse meat still in the supply chain. Jamie Oliver shows consumers how to save money by buying brisket, then directs them to the supermarket on this website. COME ON, we must switch to shorter, local, supply chains and the local butcher or farmer for meat!

A previous blog on horse meat predicted another food scare due to the long food supply chain and cost cutting. Mislabelled pork will not kill anyone, so not really a scare, but an great example, and I am sure that we have not seen the last of this. Apparently large caterers are still finding traces of horse meat in what they buy and my worry is that the authorities are not that worried about foods, like dutch pork or horse meat that do not harm us.

BigBarn local food map

BigBarn local food map

Or perhaps they are very worried, as they realise very little can be done and the next food scare is going to be bacterial infected meat that pops up everywhere?

So for so many reasons we need to buy locally wherever possible, and help build local, honest, and transparent, food supply chains. Where you can see, or ask, where your food comes from and trust the supplier knowing he sees you as a valuable customer and advocate. And that any lie will soon be found out and reputation ruined. The more we buy the more local production and greater diversity of foods available.

Your friendly local butcher

Your friendly local butcher

As for Jamie, we have already sent lots of emails to his team asking for links to the BigBarn local food map to help more people find the best brisket, the story behind the meat and tips on preparation.

And PLEASE don’t be frightened of your local butcher, they will would be mad to tease you in front of other customers if you don’t know the difference between ribeye and rump, or brisket and topside. You local butcher needs your custom and will look after your needs to try and make you a regular customer.

BigBarn’s view on Free school meals

Government news that kids are going to get free school meals is great for some kids and parents, but please do a proper job, rather than try and score political points!

Mum passing fast food to child from the cemetery next to Rawmarsh school.

Mum passing fast food to child from the cemetery next to Rawmarsh school.

The trouble is that some school meals are terrible, and far too many kids have become too fussy. We need all school meals to be good, and made by enthusiastic, caring, cooks, and need kids to appreciate and enjoy what they are given.

Jamie Oliver has done some brilliant work on this and progress has been made despite the occasional, horrific, and ironic, pictures of parents passing fast food through the school railings from the cemetery.

We need to get kids interested in real food and why we are still shouting about our Crop for the Shop in schools project were attitudes to real food were transformed by the growing, harvesting and cooking fruit and veg. ‘I hate carrots.’ turned in to ‘cor, they’re lovely, can I have another one’?

To see more click on the video link:

So please bring food in to the curriculum with a small allotment in every school, fruit and nut trees surrounding playground and even chickens.

For more on Crop for the Shop in schools click here

Guest Blog: Plan Your Polytunnel, and Pay Dividends in Produce

A big welcome to Lucy at the Smallest Smallholding. It is fantastic to see food growing on a small scale with enthusiasm for quality and often unusual food. We need more people like Lucy to get out and about and show how growing food is good for the soul, health, and wealth with our Crop for the Shop scheme. So here’s Lucy:luce_yoko2

Here at The Smallest Smallholding – a domestic, backyard project aimed at living a bit of the good life – we have invested in a modest 10ft polytunnel to not only give our vegetable harvest, a much-needed boost, but to also help create conditions that will allow us to expand on the range of fruit and veggies that we currently grow. For instance, sweet potatoes – commonly important from the USA and farther afield – prefer moist, warm conditions that are difficult at best to replicate outside of a polytunnel in our mild UK climes.

For years, I’ve coveted fruit and veg that thrive in warmer climes– so when our tunnel is finally in action, I’m looking forward to the prospect of adding the likes of sweet potatoes, Italian cucumbers, more peppers and cucurbits to the mix. We also hope to extend our growing season either side of the frosts in early Spring and late Autumn, making us just that little bit more self-sufficient throughout the year.
But thanks for a prolonged period of hot, dry weather, there were a few weeks this year when we were unable to get a fork in the ground. Our sandy soil has a tendency to turn virtually rock-like in such conditions, and so we have faced a delay in getting the polytunnel up over the summer as originally planned. It has, however, given us a little extra time to tweak our plans and do a little bit of research, which will hopefully pay in dividends when it comes to harvesting our polytunnel produce. So here are some simple, rudimentary (but important) tips to consider if you’re thinking of investing in a polytunnel of your own.

Siting Your Polytunnelpolytunnel1

Although preferable, your polytunnel doesn’t have to be sited on flat ground. If being sited lengthways down a slope, as long as the polytunnel hoops are level on both sides and the incline relatively steady, positioning the tunnel down a slope shouldn’t present any problems. If you’re erecting a polytunnel sideways down an incline, then things become a little more complicated and it’s probably best to opt for some professional advice ( have a wealth of knowledge about such things!).

Next, it’s time to think about orientation. East to west offers exposure to sunlight all day – great if you want to grow veg that requires the same conditions all year round, as the temperature inside the polytunnel tends to stay more even throughout the day. However, if you want to grow a variety of fruit and veg with differing growing preferences, you can opt for a north-south positioning on your plot, as the northern end will offer cooler conditions, with the southern end warming up much more.

You should also think about the strength and direction of prevailing winds – we are lucky in that our patch is enclosed by fencing, and various types of hedging, so strong gusts of wind aren’t an issue. But in more open spaces, it’s best to locate your polytunnel closer to hedges and natural wind breaks (with at least 3ft clearance either side), to prevent any damage from stronger winds. However, bear in mind that it’s not ideal to site your polytunnel close to overhanging tree branches, especially those that drop their leaves. This is because the leafmould, sap and honeydew from insects feeding on the trees can cause all kinds of problems and mess with the polytunnel cover, causing you more work in the long run!polytunnel4

Lastly, consider how your polytunnel will be fixed; with foundation tubes on softer ground, you can opt for anchor plates, which need to be dug into the ground before construction begins. On hard ground, the foundation tubes can be fixed and bolted directly to the hard surface. If space is an issue, then base rails will be a necessity, as they won’t require a trench to be dug out around the perimeter of the polytunnel to secure the cover.

Take all the above into consideration before you get building, and the chances are that you’ll face a much smoother construction process… at least, that’s the theory!

Polytunnel photos complements:©

Ant from BigBarn on the radio; listen again

The Sausage King Stephen Plume

The Sausage King Stephen Plume

Ant was on the radio last night for the Foodie Fix on Radio Castle with the Sausage King and local food evangelist Stephen Plume. With a mix of great music and animated chat about BigBarn and local food you can listen again here

The programme begins with the BigBarn grace, for those listeners siting down for a family dinner, and moves through why BigBarn started, the early years with superhero Carrot man. And BigBarn’s mission to build a local food industry to divert as much as possible of the £120b spent with supermarkets to food producers, independent retailers and local communities with massive social benefits for all.

The early years; Carrot Man

The early years; Carrot Man

Stephen is a fantastic host drawing out the passion behind BigBarn and why Ant has made the business a Community Interest Company so that the core values of the business must remain in place in the interest of all stakeholders (farmers, consumers, retailers) and not investors or fat cat management.

So enjoy the show, the wonders of modern technology mean you can click on the link and listen while cooking up a feast for the family. Please join the local food industry, you can even register for local update here, tell your friends and CELEBRATE the seasons with fresh local food, not the plastic packed ‘old’ food on the supermarket shelf. A message Ant thought he may have left out!

The more local food we buy direct the more local producers will produce. So increasing the range available, and reducing the price, as economies of scale are reached. Exciting times!