From London to Pescara (via Paris, Milan, Bologna & Dijon...) by train

Earlier this year, Barny travelled by train from London to Pescara in Italy to visit Casa del Colle, the home of our week-long culinary adventure that takes place in May 2020. Along the way, he jotted down a few notes and suggestions (where to eat, where to walk, what to plan for) for others that might want to follow the same route.
NB Timings and costs were correct at the time of writing but are likely to change over time. Itinerary in brief:

Eurostar London St Pancras - Paris Gare Du Nord Paris Gare de Lyon (GDL) -Milan Centrale - Pescara Centrale

Pescara Centrale – Bologna -Dijon
Dijon - Lille - London St Pancras

And here’s the above journey in more detail with some suggestions for what you might do in Paris and Dijon:

Outward: Depart 9.24 from London St Pancras arrive Paris Gard du Nord 12.05

Go straight to GDL by Metro (10 minutes) and leave your bags in the left luggage (lock-up) at GDL. And then here are three things you could do with 4-5 hours in Paris:

Have lunch. If you want any suggestions – let me know

Walk from GDL to the Musée D’Orsay - which I think is the best art gallery in Paris. It will take about 50 minutes but is worth it; it follows the Seine all the way and for the most part you can walk along the embankment itself.

Or you could just hang out around the Ile de La Cité and see the scaffolding around Notre Dame - which is pretty spectacular somehow - or cross the Pont St Michel and take the first right to the Quartier Latin where there are dozens of wonderful book and art shops and cafes (especially Le Rue St Andre Des Arts).

Also in the LQ, is the 15th Century L’Elise St Severin. Nobody goes there. I can’t imagine why not. It has some of the most beautiful stained glass windows I have ever seen.

If you haven’t had lunch, get back to GDL by 5pm and have an early supper in one of the many brasseries across from the station square. There is one called L’Europeen. And so very Parisienne too. I had oysters and salade composé (with confit de canard) and 2 glasses of Sancerre for €32.00. Brilliant.

Depart 19.15 Gare De Lyon arrive Milan 6am. Coffee and brioche at Milan station. This will be very welcome. Also get a panini or other from for the last leg of the trip - the ones on the train are pretty average.

If you get delayed in Paris as I did, get the 11.15 from Milan to Pescara and spend the wait looking around Milan Centrale station, the largest and arguably most magnificent station in Europe – even if was built by Mussolini.

Depart 7.30 Milan arrive Pescara Centrale 12.39 where you will be picked up.

Return Via Dijon and Lille. Take the sleeper from Pescara to Dijon.

Spend the day and the following night in Dijon, a beautiful city with its legendary cathedral in the heart of Burgundy (so you will also have a lovely dinner in the evening) - and then take the morning train to Lille and connect there with Eurostar to London.

What will it cost?

Of course travelling this way is going to be more expensive than flying. You could probably get a flight to Pescara for 30 quid if you were canny. But if you take into account the fact that the sleeper element of the journey involves a bed for the night, the price of the train trip becomes much more attractive.

They don’t have the schedules for May 2020 listed yet but here’s what I found this morning (11/10/19) if you travelled midweek in March:

Outward London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord £39.00

Paris Gare de Lyons to Pescara Centrale via Milan on the sleeper train In a 6 berth cabin: £87

In a 2 berth cabin: £165

Return Pescara – Bologna – Dijon

Day time train approx £67.00. By sleeper: In a 6 berth cabin £103.00. In a 2 berth cabin £188.00

Dijon - Lille – London

Approx £83.00

A recipe for August

Roast Peaches with rosewater & saffron syrup

Serves 6

12 ripe peaches

75ml water

75g caster sugar

juice 1/2 lemon


large pinch of saffron

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5. Wash and dry the peaches then halve and de-stone them. Arrange them, cut-side up, in a single layer in an ovenproof dish.

Meanwhile make the syrup. In a small pan gently heat the water, sugar and lemon juice until the sugar is dissolved and then bring to a boil.

Boil for 3-4 minutes, then remove from the heat and add the saffron transfer to a small bowl and leave to cool. Once cooled, add rosewater to taste (it can be very overpowering so go drop-by-drop). Pour over the peaches and serve with yogurt, ice cream or as they are.

A recipe for raspberry jam

You’ll need the same weight of sugar to fruit for this recipe but we think it’s only worth making with 500g or more.

1kg raspberries

1kg granulated sugar

First sterilise your jars. You can either put jars and lids through the dishwasher on a hot cycle or else wash jars and lids in hot, soapy water, rinse well and dry in a pre-heated oven (130C) for around 10 minutes until dry.

Put the raspberries in a large preserving pan (or your largest saucepan) and heat gently, lightly crushing with a spoon until the juice starts to run. Add the sugar and leave to dissolve over a gentle heat. Every so often, dip a wooden spoon into the mixture and check to make sure the sugar crystals have all dissolved. Whilst the sugar is dissolving, put a small clean saucer in the fridge - you’ll need this later on to check whether the jam is set.

Once the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat to high and bubble vigorously for approximately ten minutes. Spoon a teaspoon onto the chilled saucer and return to the fridge for a minute or two. Check to see whether a skin has formed. If you push gently with your finger, it should be sticky and syrupy not runny. If not yet set, boil for a further five minutes and test again - you might need to repeat this process several times until the jam has reached setting point.

Once you’re happy with the set, remove from the heat, carefully ladle into the sterilised jars and fasten the lids tightly.

NB Take extra care with boiling sugar.

Behind the Scenes at Square Food Foundation

What’s it like to volunteer at Square Food?

We asked one of our newest volunteers, Lucy to give us her first impressions of the Square Food Kitchen. Here’s what she said...

As I walk into the Square Foundation Kitchen, for the first time it wasn’t the delicious smell of cooking which hit me first, although that was to come.  The thing that I first saw was an overflowing basket of clean aprons being emptied from the washing machine indicating that this was a serious set-up.  The kitchen is a hive of activity, with dirty dishes piling up in an alarming endless stream. I envisaged a morning up to my arms in soap suds but it was evenly shared between cooks and volunteers ensuring the stack of dirty pans and plates do not induce too much anxiety as they grow.

On arrival you are welcomed by friendly teachers showing you round their domain.  A store cupboard to die for, tubs and jars of herbs and spices, long shelves stacked with pans and spatulas, chopping boards and baking trays – in fact every kitchen implement you have ever come across , well used and cared for. A walk in fridge with a terrifyingly solid bolted door, and a constant flow of deliveries from supermarkets and markets, which I later learnt was often donated unbought food. Barny Haughton who heads up the kitchen is an eco-pioneer and his values are carried throughout the operation.    

I was shown to a scrubbed wooden worktop, and as a volunteer my role was to support the participants in their cooking and preparation.  The group comprised of adults with learning disabilities, and on the menu was Singapore noodles and pineapple upside down cake which they could take home to share with their friends or family. The teaching was clear and the group absorbed every word. The kitchen is a home to a huge variety of teaching from groups of over 70s, to corporate away days, to parents and children from every background, to children expelled from mainstream education. Its variety is its strength and the adaptability of the team to each group its power.

Very soon the bubbling smell of butter and sugar for the caramel could be smelt throughout the kitchen and probably throughout the ground floor of The Park, a former school which houses the organisation. The flour, sugar, eggs and butter were creamed together and placed in the oven which heaved with almost a dozen cakes.  Then to the serious job of chopping, and each participant watched the demonstration with intent, and then added their own take. Smiles grew wider as the vegetables, spices and noodles came together to create a delicious meal and the waft of cake baking could be smelled throughout the room.  The finale was the unveiling of the cakes and  this is where the magic happens - there were broad grins all around.  It was a thoroughly satisfying volunteering opportunity for me. So great to see these young people, some with challenging lives, go home with bags full of food they had created, inspired to cook for family and friends and for themselves. 

If you are interested in volunteering at Square Food Foundation, click here or if you want to find out more about their work, click here

Spring tapas recipe - a sneak preview to the Spanish Steps Masterclass

Our Spanish Steps masterclass is fully booked but here’s a sneak preview into the kind of thing we’ll be cooking on the night.

Green lentils with Swiss chard and crumbly sheeps cheese

Serves 6 as a starter

You can use sheeps milk curd or sheeps milk ricotta or feta. And goat’s cheese works very well too.

175g (6oz) dried green lentils, soaked overnight in cold water (or 1 tin cooked lentils drained well)
750g Swiss chard, well washed and drained
1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tsp ground cumin
Juice of half a lemon
extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
150g crumbly sheeps milk cheese

To cook the lentils: Put them in a saucepan on a medium heat with plenty of water and a couple of bay leaves and bring them to a simmer. Cook gently for 20 minutes or so or until just soft but not mushy. Leave for a few minutes to cool a little then drain well. Put the lentils in a mixing bowl, add a little olive oil,, season with salt and pepper and mix well. Leave to one side at room temperature. To prepare the chard: strip the stalks out, chop them into 2 cm lengths and chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Now, heat a little olive oil in a large casserole pan over medium heat, add the sliced onion and cook gently until slightly coloured. Add the garlic, chilli flakes and cumin. Add the chard stalks and fry for a little longer until still just crunchy, then add the leaves. Mix well, put a lid on and stew for a few minutes until the stalks are tender. Add the chard and spices to the mixing bowl with the lentils and combine well with the lemon juice, some salt and pepper and a little more olive oil. Transfer to a serving dish, crumble the sheep’s cheese over the top, sprinkle with cumin, drizzle with a final slug of olive oil and serve.

Better Food’s Streets to Kitchen hits £10K target, and fundraising continues

Read all about it! Better Food Company have hit their fundraising target and pledged to continue raising money to deliver more cookery classes for people affected by homelessness. Read on for the full press release…

Organic retailer Better Food’s Streets to Kitchen fundraising campaign has reached its target of raising £10,000 to fund a yearlong cookery and food service course for people affected by homelessness in Bristol.

The money is being donated to local charity Square Food Foundation who have already begun hosting weekly sessions at St. Mungo’s Recovery College. The classes, which are open to all service users at the New Street site in Bristol, offer participants the chance to learn the fundamentals of cooking from scratch, a range of cookery and food service skills, and provide a space in which clients can share the experience of creating and eating meals together. Clients can also take advantage of optional qualifications, which can be used to progress a career in catering.

Speaking after a Streets to Kitchen session, one St. Mungo’s client commented:

“Seeing people once a week means you get to know them. It’s a huge step for me because I never used to leave the house or do groups. I wanted to start slowly with one thing I could stick at."

Better Food launched the campaign to coincide with their 25th anniversary retailing organic, local and ethical food in Bristol. Since then, staff have led a range of initiatives to reach the target, including events such as a Giant Pumpkin Party, a yoga breakfast, in-store raffles and book sales, and special charity products. Meanwhile, customers and supporters in the community have contributed generously to the project, with some such as Bristol Student Junk Food Project even staging their own events to raise funds.

Commenting on the project’s founding Better Food’s Marketing Manager, Lucy Gatward, said:

“As a business, we felt secure that we were leading the way in organic retail, but we wanted to set ourselves the challenge of creating a project that would have a real and positive impact on the people in the community we hadn’t been able to reach previously.

“We’d already supported St. Mungo’s through a one-off fundraiser; bringing Square Food Foundation on board as a partner presented us with the perfect opportunity to start something that could help deliver our mission of creating a better, fairer food community.”

Partners on the project now feel that Streets to Kitchen has gathered enough enthusiasm and momentum to continue with a second year at the Recovery College, with plans to develop a long-term programme based on peer-to-peer learning and to transform the college’s kitchen into a shared space where participants can create, serve and share good food.

You can donate to Streets to Kitchen online, in store and by supporting fundraising events from Better Food and their supporters in the community—see their website for updates.

How To Be A it all began

The pilot

Back in 2017, the pioneering people at Bristol24/7 approached us to ask whether we’d help them run a training programme for young chefs. We jumped at the chance - and How To Be A Chef was born. Over three days of workshops, hands-on learning and 1:1 mentoring from professional chefs, the young chefs were ready to cook a four-course meal for over 100 invited guests at the Bristol24/7 Autumn Feast.

Watch our film to see what went next.

The 12-week course

Fast forward to September 2018 and Square Food launches its expanded programme. How To Be A Chef is now a twelve week course that includes a Btec, a Level 2 Food Hygiene qualification, work experience placements at food businesses across the city, field trips to farms and producers and comprehensive hands-on cooking instruction from SFF experienced teachers. Watch our film to see who took part in the programme and how it went.

What’s next?

The next How To Be A Chef starts in April 2019!

Things on toast.

Someone said to me today that when you grow things and cook them, you learn about the unconditional giving of the soil. You sow some seeds in some fine soil say, then water them, watch them grow a little and when they are strong enough, big enough, you put them out into rougher soil, water them and watch them grow again. And when they are big enough, you can pick them or dig them up and cook them.

There are bits in between of course – weeding, protecting them against pests and against cold and heat perhaps. But basically that’s what growing is about.

I’m not saying it’s easy. At Coleshill Organics, between the Spring & Summer Equinoxes (this year that’s from March 20th to September 23rd)  it’s a 50 hour week for Matt the grower and his helpers.  Just harvesting for the box scheme and the market and the shop takes 2 days.

Things on toast.png


And then there’s preparing the soil for the next crop…  We are talking here about green manure

Don’t go to sleep, ask the question: What’s green manure? 

OK, what’s green manure then?

It’s a mix of seeds, typically red clover, vetch, mustard, chicory, trefoil, field beans, pea, rye, buckwheat and other quite fasting growing plants which you sow between crops which adds nutrients to the soil, improves its structure, fixes nitrogen, suppresses weeds, prevents wash-out, attracts pollinators (to the flowers) and looks pretty.

Oh. That’s very interesting

Because even the unconditionally giving soil needs nourishing, re-vitalising. Though, of course 87% of conventionally grown produce doesn’t bother with green manure. Chemical fertilisers are easier and more efficient. Plus your glyphosate of course. That keeps the weeds down. And the butterflies - but who cares about them not me -    

Don’t start, please

Just saying. If I were soil I’d rather have red clover, vetch, mustard, chicory, trefoil, field beans, pea, rye and buckwheat than your

Ok, yes, I agree

White pellets of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium and

Absolutely. Indeed. So you’ve made your point. Where’s this leading?

Well, that three weeks ago wherever you looked the grass had become brown and parched and the soil had great cracks in it and everything looked dead and now, after just a few days of rain, the green has come back. Imagine that.

What’s that got to do with green manure?

I’m not talking about green manure now, just thought I would mention it. Isn’t nature amazing? Anyway it’s almost Autumn and I’m now back at work. I wanted to say something about Brexit too – you know, how you couldn’t make it up etc, but let’s leave that for now.

Here’s the point. I have just spent five weeks living in a shepherds hut writing and I have also been watching a garden and cooking things from it. I have learnt a little more about the soil and how things grow. And here I am back at Square Food thinking about the term ahead and all the different groups we will be teaching during any given week and how we might bring some of this soil connection thing into our classes. The How To Be A Chef programme starts next week for instance. And there’s a BTEC qualification in Home Cooking for children with dyslexia. And we will beginning a whole new project with St Mungos. And of course there’s back in The Kitchen, the Monday morning class for adults over 55, in which the chopping and stirring are well seasoned with ironic banter. And suddenly that small piece of land (7 acres. YES: just 7 acres) and what happens on it every hour of every day and night seems a million miles away.


Yes. I want to know how we can bring the value of the soil into what we do with our learners, young, teenage, middle, old, dyslexic, street workers, homeless, Downs Syndrome, unemployed, team building groups, people from Clifton –


People from Clifton, yes. The ones who come to a class about bread or Indian Cooking. 


Yes, so to all those groups and – what we make together whether it’s pasta or stew or cake. And why it matters. You know, for the soul and stuff as well. The whole person. Community. The next generation. It’s a global thing. Making the connections, talking about it. Grow, cook, eat. But not impose our middle class values and standards. One man’s agnolotti is another man’s pork pie.

I’m not following you…

Or, indeed the food of Barcelona […]. The thing is, it absolutely has to be exciting and fun and delicious. Otherwise we might as well just eat energy bars. Even if it’s just something on toast.

Ok, well. I notice you haven’t included any recipes for the things on toast.

What? Can’t you just imagine? Look at the pictures. It can’t be that difficult

Yes, but some people might want a

Oh God, I think I need a little lie down

Me too

Next week I’ll be talking about hierarchies of change

No thank you



Baked Eggs Florentine

Some years ago, I discovered something. That all vegetables and almost all fruit last better just left somewhere cool and airy and maybe covered with something  - a tea towel perhaps. I only keep lettuce and cucumber in the fridge. And more recently, I have discovered something else which is that the CEO of Sainsburys and also some food standards expert (in the wake of the recent debate about our profligate use of plastic as food packaging) were talking nonsense when they said that vacuum sealed cucumbers give them longer life. The real reason they pack them like that is below. Anyway, to test this claim, I bought two vacuum-sealed cucumbers at the same time in the same supermarket, took them home, unwrapped one, put them both in the fridge and left them for a week. After a week the unwrapped one got a bit floppy and the wrapped one had begun to rot at one end. I have done similar less rigorous experiments since - just to see if that was an accident or if I had cheated in some way. I might have put the end of the sealed cucumber in some boiling water for a minute. I’m not above cheating in pursuit of the truth. But it was clear; cucumbers keep better unsealed. And just for the record the floppy unwrapped one tasted a bit better too and was crunchier than you might have thought.

Not that either tasted of much at all. Apart from the cucumbers my friend Michelle grows on her allotment and whom I help from time to time and they are those creamy coloured small egg shaped ones, the best cucumbers are those small prickly ones most organic growers grow and which you can get in almost any decent organic veg store. And of course you don’t keep them for weeks but you eat them: sliced with tarragon, peeled with dill, pickled with a little lemon or white wine vinegar, in a sandwich with black pepper and marmite and butter, peeled and finely diced with tomato, mint and couscous and feta… And it’s all gone in a couple days.

What reminded me of this is that this evening I made a baked eggs Florentine dish. I helped myself to spinach and eggs from the farm shop here at Coleshill. It’s one of those honesty farm shops. It’s a joy to not know what you are going to cook and go in such a place and be able to make up a supper just looking at everything. Chard, sweet corn, carrots, black and green French beans, spinach, three different varieties of tomato, two of beetroot, potatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, cucumbers, squash, courgettes, apples…..I’m sitting here in the wagon trying now to remember what was on the shelves and in the boxes. Like pelmanism. I know there was more than that but this will do.  The point is that you will never get better produce than this. Anywhere. And the reason supermarket cucumbers are vacuum-sealed is to make them travel to the supermarket from wherever they have been grown , so they don’t bruise as much. I get that. Up to a point. A bit of imagination and a bit more valuing of a product, someone might be bothered to find another way to transport them safely so they didn’t bruise. And if they tasted like anything and we spent a little more time using our imagination about what to do with them, we might eat them more and the shelf-life issue would become the fairy tale that it is.  And I know not everyone can wander up the garden and help themselves to lovely organic produce either. Just making a point is all. If we want change - to the use of plastic etc, then we have to think differently and stop being lazy and indifferent.  Anyway, have a go at this one; Fresh organic eggs, proper (not baby) fresh spinach and some decent floury potatoes. But here’s a story first.

Baked eggs Florentine  

The old man stood with his back to the fire, his tall figure slightly stooped, its weight on one leg, head forward. He was looking into his gin and tonic. As if it might bring something else to mind than the thing he was thinking. Something happier. The fire hissed and spat as it gathered heat into itself. The logs which the boy had brought into to the house were not properly dried out. Some of them still had moss on them. They were a mixture of birch, elm and oak. At the beginning of the summer the boy had cut these logs over a saw-horse with a bow-saw whose blade had been sharpened by the old man, one tooth at a time, with a thin pencil-like file. The boy and the old man had stacked the logs by the workshop and covered them with a tarpaulin against the rain. And on sunny days the old man or the boy would take the tarpaulin off.

Eventually the fire settled, began to blaze and allowed heat into the room. It was early October and still warm, barely the weather for a fire, but the boy knew the old man well enough and had lit one anyway. 

While the old man was standing in front of the fire, the boy was preparing supper in the kitchen. For such a large house (it had a flower room and a library in it as well as many bedrooms), it was a very small kitchen. Many years before this time the old man had made a seat, fitting it into the wall, a seat with 2 foot high sides on which two children could sit in together. The seat had a maroon coloured cushion on it which just fitted. And because of this seat, the pine kitchen table took up less space in the room. Already though, the boy knew that small spaces work well for cooks. You could turn round and what you needed would be there or only a step away by the sink.  He also knew how to gather together everything you needed first. On the table were eggs, butter, potatoes, an onion and some spinach. The boy washed the potatoes clean under running cold water, looking out of the low kitchen window from time to time, imagining the sun setting behind the poplar trees. And then he put the potatoes in a saucepan with some more cold water, lifted the lid of the Rayburn, put the saucepan on the ring for the potatoes to cook, sat down at the table and looked at the recipe in the cookery book.

It was for baked eggs Florentine and had some scribbled writing down the margin: 1 onion, ½ pound spinach, nutmeg, make feesh. Make dish? Make something anyway. The boy couldn’t read the writing. The cookery book had belonged to the old man’s wife. As he was reading the recipe, the boy suddenly remembered her cooking egg noodles, draining them over this same sink and tossing them in butter in the saucepan and adding pepper and he remembered the smell of it. He also remembered her laughing. She seemed to have found life endlessly amusing and entertaining but also found it annoying and she flew to rage quite often.

She was dead now though and the old man couldn’t cook and the boy could. Or rather he was learning. Through having watched and tasted and listened. Not just to voices but to the sounds of cooking; of a knife through an apple or the noisy juddering of water captured on the bottom of a saucepan as you put it on the flat cast iron of a stove ring.

So the boy made baked eggs Florentine for the first time. The eggs were over-cooked and rubbery and there was too much nutmeg. But they were good all the same. The spinach was soft and tasted of iron and butter and earth and the old man and the boy drank red wine and talked about the next day’s work in the garden.


Baked eggs Florentine

This recipe is adapted from my grandmother’s 1959 Good Housekeeping Cookery Book. It could be a high tea or a light supper. It’s also a great dish to make for someone who is feeling a bit miserable. Eggs Florentine proper (see below) are also good for this condition.

700g potatoes, scrubbed or peeled

50g butter

1 onion finely sliced

50ml crème fraiche

2 tsp Dijon mustard

500g spinach, washed

4 eggs

Cut the potatoes into ½ cm thick slices and cook them in as little lightly seasoned water as you can or steam them until soft. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, add the butter and then the sliced onion and cook gently till soft and just coloured. Add the crème fraiche and mustard, stir well, add back the potatoes, toss gently and then transfer the whole to a suitably sized baking dish.

In the same pan, cook the spinach; just a splash of water, high heat, stirring occasionally, lid on occasionally, until cooked. There should only be just a little liquor; drain it into the baking dish.

Spread the spinach over the potatoes. Make four wells for the eggs, put a nob of butter into each and then the eggs. Bake at about 160 for 20 minutes or until the whites have just set and the yolk is still running.







Barny's book...and a recipe for bruschetta of stewed bolted lettuce and fennel

Ever wondered what happens at SFF after the schools break up, students depart Bristol for warmer (though perhaps not this year) climes and our teachers take a well - deserved break? Usually we use the enforced breather to take stock of the year gone past and look at what's in store for the next 12 months. And this year we're doing the same - but with one difference...

Barny is away.

"I’m trying to write a book", he says

"Neither am I" hollers someone from down the garden somewhere, maybe in that little copse of cobnut trees over there, hiding anyway and ready to skedaddle down the lane if I should come after him with a spade.

Eloise and Claire are happily holding the fort. It is not falling apart. They are doing a high summer clean of the storeroom and everywhere else too. And preparing for the busiest Autumn of Square Food’s life. More of that another time.

Barny is staying in a shepherds hut overlooking an orchard. You can’t see it because it is the other side of that red brick wall. More of this place another time too. Meanwhile because it is a book about food and you can really start from anywhere with food – the beginning, middle or end, all are the same to great cycle of life, I have just been up the garden to see what to have for lunch and here’s what came out of my researches.

Bruschetta of stewed bolted lettuce and fennel.

I’m not sure what’s happening chemically to a lettuce as it begins its journey towards going to seed, but one thing I do know is that its leaves become increasingly bitter to taste. And while a little bitterness in lettuce can be an appealing addition to the flavours in a salad or even on its own, it can also be quite unpleasant.

Likewise bolted fennel eaten raw is inedibly tough - fit only for the compost heap or a donkey.  And yet… maybe not.

So today I found a way of combining these two well past-it products to make this very simple and surprisingly delicious dish.

Starter for 4 people

A head of bolted lettuce

1 bolted fennel bulb

Unsalted butter

olive oil

red wine vinegar

juice of ¼ of an orange  

salt and pepper

4 slices of good bread


Make a dressing of 2 tbs red wine vinegar, the orange juice and 4 tbs olive oil, mix well

Strip the leaves off the lettuce and wash them. There should now be just enough water on the leaves from the washing for you to cook them in without having to add more.

Put a nob of butter and a splash of olive oil in a saucepan, bring to a gentle heat, add the lettuce and a pinch of salt, put the lid back on and stew for about 8 minutes. Remove. They should be darker in colour and look like spinach. And hopefully you will have cooked out all the water. If not drain it off. Put to one side. Don’t wash the pan.

Remove the hard core, the roots and most of the fronds of the fennel completely and finely slice the rest. Put a nob of butter and a splash of olive oil in the same pan, bring to a gentle heat, add the sliced fennel, put a lid on and cook for as long is it takes for the fennel to become soft, adding a splash of water as you need to.

Toast the slices of bread, divide the lettuce and fennel onto each slice and drizzle with the dressing. Serve at room temperature.

I just ate this with some tinned sardines. Bloody lovely.

And because I cooked too much lettuce and fennel to eat on my own as a bruschetta, I sliced and cooked half an onion as well until it was soft in some butter, added the rest of the  cooked old lettuce and fennel, along with some crème fraiche (how much? Lots) and a squidge of orange, cooked the whole lot for a little longer and then blitzed it until it was smooth. Delicious though a little dubious in colour.

I would love you to try these recipes for yourself and tell me what you think.

Meanwhile, for myself, I will keep plodding on with this book. Unlike food, books do need to have a beginning. I haven’t found it yet. I think it begins when I was 7. In the depths of a very cold Yorkshire winter when the lake was so frozen over you could walk on it, and when on one day the sun set in a blaze of red so fierce over the elm trees that even the crows in them became silent and when the snow had become hard like rock underfoot, the tractor ruts a foot deep, the hedges on either side of the lane long gone under the snow so that as the darkness gathered around us, we, my brothers and I past being cold, said watch out to each other and we did.


I think it was then. Coming in from such a bitter cold, through the scullery and into the kitchen to the smell of bread cooking in the oven.




celebrating our Volunteers for #volunteersWeek!

Not only do our volunteers work tirelessly, helping Square Food's classes (and back office) run smoothly, they also take the time out to write about it. Here, one of our newest volunteers, Lowri, gives her first impressions of helping out at SFF. #VolunteersWeek    

Hi there, I'm Lowri, a newbie to Square Food Foundation. I'm a volunteer class assistant and I'm loving every moment. I decided to get involved with Square Food Foundation because I wanted to help the community learn how to cook healthy, affordable and delicious meals. Square Food Foundation ticks all the boxes! Barny and his team believe that anyone can cook, and offer affordable, hands-on cooking classes to adults and children of all abilities. I love how enthusiastic and committed the team are about promoting healthier lifestyles and making a positive difference to the local community. My first day of volunteering was at a Meat Masterclass. I was busy setting up, weighing out ingredients, supporting the teachers and washing up and clearing away. It was a friendly and relaxed environment and everyone was happy to do their jobs. The Masterclass was taught by Barny and Seb and they did an amazing job! All twelve students learnt something new and left with a smile on their face. As a volunteer, I felt a big feeling of reward. It was great to help others and make a positive difference to people's lives. The team and I were rewarded for our hard work, as we sat down at the table and enjoyed a home cooked meal together. We are one big family at Square Food Foundation and we all enjoy promoting and delivering affordable, accessible and hands-on cooking activities. If you love food, helping others and promoting healthier lifestyles, I highly recommend volunteering at Square Food Foundation. You'll learn new things and have lots of fun with a great bunch of people. My next volunteer adventure will be helping children to cook at a primary school - I can't wait!

All good menus leave most to the imagination

A summer’s feast

Bristol Food Connections 2018

15th & 16th June

The Station, Silver Street Bristol BS1


I am standing outside a restaurant I haven’t been to before, reading the menu.

A menu is just words. It might try to conjure up flavours and season and texture and colour in the description of a dish. We say: that sounds delicious, I’ll have that.

Or it might just be words stripped back to nouns; the name of an ingredient or a cooking method, one we haven’t heard of maybe. We say: that sounds really interesting, I think I’ll have that

Or it might be the name of a dish. Cassoulet. And we know where are. So we say: That’s what I’m having, I love cassoulet

All good menus leave most to the imagination and so we need hope and faith.

So you can say: Here’s hoping.

The menu

What does June taste like?

With Sicilian & Middle Eastern influences

Seasonal, sustainable and organic ingredients

Who cares? We do

  • Radishes, carrots, peppers, courgettes, broad beans, peas, chard, potatoes, flowers, herbs, salads
  • Picked on the day, washed, cleaned, raw, salted, sliced, chopped, dressed, heated
  • Charcuterie
  • Pasta: agnolotti de plin (very small fresh pasta parcels) and other stories
  • Home-made sheeps milk ricotta, eggs
  • Fish and smoked fish
  • Kelp, samphire and laver bread
  • Pigeon, goat, offal
  • Welsh, Bristol and Somerset cheeses
  • Bread made with influences from France and India
  • Nuts and dried fruit
  • Gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, Sicilian ice cream, lavender biscuits

A fully licensed bar with wines, beers and ciders chosen to go with the food. Watch out for the Summer Feast Gin Cocktail devised by acclaimed Bristol mixologist….

It's marmalade time

It’s marmalade time


Every year for the past decade at about this time in January, I have to ask my brother Phil – also a marmalade maker - to send me a recipe which I should know by heart since I have been using myself since the mid 1970s. Oddly enough though, it turns out that very few people remember even their own marmalade recipe from one year to the next.

But it’s now time to write this one down myself. I think family recipes are fascinating. They are the cornerstones of all food cultures. An Italian mother and daughter who recently visited Bristol from Abbruzzo to make their legendary polenta and pasta dishes at Phil’s shop had been making the same pasta and polenta dishes in exactly the same way in every detail for all their lives.

It is also true that the bloodline for a family recipe is traditionally through the mother and grandmother. And great-grandmother. You can imagine being slightly fearful of straying from the path of such a lineage in case one of them was watching you.

This recipe however comes from my father. Although dedicated and particular in his making of it, he would allow for small changes. And so over the decades, the recipe, while remaining essentially the same, has been adapted and refined by siblings and generations of Haughtons. I think this is the way of all good family recipes.

Some people prefer a lighter more citrussy, sweeter and less caramelised marmalade. If you are one of them, give this a go anyway. I think you will love it.  It’s delicious; a deep long lasting bitter-sweet flavour, a beautiful oak-red colour and not too set but not so runny it flows off your heavily buttered sour-dough toast.

With thanks to Phil for his recipe and to Algy for his too


This recipe will make approximately 2.5k or 6 -7 standard (375g net weight) jars of marmalade.

You will need a big heavy-bottomed pan.


1 kg organic Seville oranges

1 organic lemon

1.5k organic granulated sugar


Put all the oranges and lemons in the pan with about 3 pints of water to cover them. You can reduce the liquid later.

Cover and bring to the boil until the orange skins are softened, but not too soft. This will take about 45 minutes. Leave to cool. You could do this step the night before.

Line a large bowl with a muslin cloth (or very clean tea-towel), edges hanging down to the outside

Lift the oranges out of the pan, leaving the liquid in the pan. On a clean non-onion smelling chopping board, halve the fruits. Use your fingers to pick out the pips and drop them into the muslin-lined bowl, then scoop all the flesh and pith into the jam pan.

Using a sharp knife, cut each half orange and lemon in half again lengthways, and then slice widthways into pieces which will be about ½ cm thick and 2cm long

Put the sliced peel into the jam pan with the flesh and pith and boiling liquor.

Add another 1 pint of water.

Tie the corners of your muslin together, and suspend the bag submerged in the pan, tied to the handle of the pan.

Bring to a fast boil and reduce the overall volume by 1/3. This will take about an hour

When the liquid is reduced, take out the muslin pip bag, add the sugar and bring up to a rolling boil again, stirring occasionally and carefully! The temperature of the mamarlade is going to be 250c. Bring to a rolling boil. This last stage of cooking is going to take up to 45 minutes. You need to be on the ball though because you don’t want it to burn or over-set.

After 15 minutes, pour a teaspoon of the marmalade onto a saucer which you have just taken from the fridge. When the marmalade on the saucer is cold, if it sets to a slight wrinkle it is ready. If it’s still runny it needs more cooking. Keep doing this every 10 minutes or so until it is ready.

Leave to cool enough to handle safely but still hot. Transfer marmalade into room temperature sterilised jars. I do this with a plastic jug rather than a ladle – it’s less messy. Put the lids on the jars straight away. This will enable a good vacuum when the marmalade cools in the jars. Clean the jars in hot water.

Marmalade will keep for years in a sealed jar but once open, keep it in the fridge.

Soon, not yet, you can buy Barny's marmalade from Square Food Foundation. Follow us on Instagram to find out as soon as it's ready... 

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin Bread

  • 500g pumpkin, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 600ml water
  • 15g yeast
  • 500g strong white flour
  • 2 tsp runny honey
  • 2 tsp salt
  • egg glaze, made with 1 egg yolk and a splash of milk beaten together
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, to decorate

Bring the water to the boil with one teaspoon of salt. Add the pumpkin flesh and simmer steadily until soft and cooked through, about 20 minutes.  Drain the pumpkin well, reserve the cooking liquid and elsave both to cool.

Mash the pumpkin well and sieve or puree in a food processor.

Sprinkle yeast into 100ml of the reserved cooking liquid, add the honey and stir to dissolve.

Mix the flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.  Make a well in centre and add yeasted liquid then the pumpkin.

Gradually mix in the flour to form a sticky dough.  If the mixture is too dry, add a few tablespoons of the pumpkin cooking liquid.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface.  Knead for about 10 minutes - until very smooth, silky and elastic.

Put dough in a clean bowl cover with tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size. Knock back dough the leave to rest for 10 minutes

Shape the dough into a round loaf.  Place on an oiled baking sheet and cover with tea towel and leave to double in size. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 7

Brush dough with egg glaze and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.  Bake for 40 minutes. 

Off the streets, into the kitchen - A Better Food company campaign in support of Square Food & St Mungo's.

Our newest partner is the brilliant Better Food Company - Bristol's organic food store - who've chosen to support Square Food for 2017-18. Over the year, Better Food will aim to raise £10,000 to support Square Food’s work, teaching people from all walks of life to cook from scratch.

At Square Food, our plan is to use this money to work with St Mungo’s, Bristol and develop a rolling cookery programme to reach anyone who is experiencing, has recently experienced or is at risk of homelessness, to teach them new skills and build confidence, whilst empowering them to find their own route to recovery.

The money that Better Food's staff and customers raise will launch a brand new training programme in partnership with St. Mungo’s Recovery College in Bristol, training clients of the college, reinvigorating the college’s disused kitchen facilities and inspiring peer to peer learning.

Solomon Kelly 1.JPG

A Sustainable Future

Our hope is that this programme’s impact will reach beyond just the first year’s trainees, too. Each year, trainees will finish the course by preparing a fundraising feast, raising money to kick-start the following year’s training course. Throughout the year, we'll work closely with the trainees, giving them the confidence to share their skills with others and ensuring that the college’s wider community benefits from the programme. 

Over the coming months, Better Food staff and customers will be raising money to help breathe life into the project, with the aim of taking in our first students in September 2017. Beyond that date, Better Food will continue to fundraise to ensure the continuation of the project term by term, and into the future beyond. 

Visit the Better Food Fundsurfer page to find out more about our latest fundraising activities and to review our overall progress towards our target.


Risotto and the night train from Milan

The first risotto alla Milanese I had was in a trattoria just next to the huge Milan central station. It was in July 1965. I was 14 years old and on my way back to London from a holiday and was booked on the night train from Milan to London. I could tell you more about the circumstances leading up to this but Claire says I haven’t got time. 

The food on that holiday – maybe even this one risotto – left a huge impression on my sense of what good food and cooking was about. 20 years later, when I was making risotto myself in my first restaurant with alla Milanese or with red wine, wild duck and thyme or with crab or just with lemon, the memory of this one dish was like a kind of guardian angel; it had set a quintessential standard.. The rice had achieved that keen balance between softness and firmness –how on earth did they do that? the beef marrow, parmesan and saffron – flavours I had never even tasted before – cast a kind of spell over me. It was so delicious that I almost cried while I was eating it. Maybe I was just tired. Maybe I was in love. A food memory is never far from such things. But what I do know is that even though I never saw myself then as becoming a chef, this risotto had done a little magic, had made an inexorable link between my love of cooking and my choices in life. 

To watch Barny cook risotto followed by a three course Italian feast - arancini, antipasti, Risotto alla milanese (or with beetroot and pecorino for non-meat eaters) and panna cotta with Yorkshire rhubarb to finish, book here


Mostly Plants: A Vegan Cookery Demo & Dinner

MOSTLY PLANTS: a Vegan Cookery Demo and Dinner

Friday 24th February 2017,  7pm - 10.30pm
Spike Island Cafe, 133 Cumberland Road, BS1 6UX

Continuing the collaboration between Spike Island Café and the Square Food Foundation, Barny Haughton presents a vegan cookery demo, followed by a three  course feast.

Barny says, ‘This is definitely not just for vegans. I’m going to show how plantbased food is as delicious and satisfying as traditional meat based dishes’.

The evening will explore the huge diversity, depth of flavour and texture in food which comes from plants - whether the plant itself - how many ways do you know how to make cabbage taste delicious? - or a by-product of a plant - preserved, ground, cured, fermented or even distilled.

‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants’

Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food, The Eater's Manifesto contains this now often quoted encouragement to consumers. ‘We’re not suggesting that the only way forward is to be vegan’, continues Barny, ‘though a recent Telegraph report suggests that veganism is the fastest growing lifestyle movement of the last 10 years, particularly for the under 35s.’

‘We hope the food itself will exceed our guests’ culinary expectations and leave them with some for thought too’, Barny concludes.

Barny will be joined by special guest Sue Miller from Miller Green, a vegan
food delivery service. They’ll explore the case for eating less meat, the new found joys of vegan cooking and how people and planet can benefit from eating a more plants and fewer animals. Miller Green’s mission is to create 'vegetable-based dishes for people who love food’.

This collaboration in part of a series creating a conversation around food, cooking and how it impacts everything we do, every day.

To book, click here

For more information, see:
Previous and future events:

The first demo and dinner, Pasta Making, was a sell out with wonderful feedback: 
“We went to a pasta cookery demo and meal on Friday evening - it was fantastic."
"Lovely demo by the charming Barny Haughton from Square Food Foundation, followed by a delicious meal, washed down with plenty of Italian wine.”
“Really nice crowd. Lots of chat with interesting people. Will be going to more events, both at Spike Island, and Square Food Foundation.”
“The pasta making demo was great! Very nice atmosphere and a great opportunity to watch a chef doing pasta in front of you, with the chance to hear all the tips and secrets. And the meal afterwards was fresh and delicious. It's a must do!” 

The third in the series is Risotto - the mysteries of this simple ingredient
transformed into food of the gods unravelled before your eyes.

For more information, contact Liz Haughton, Spike Island Cafe
07815 774436

Happy #HomemadeSoupDay

Minestrone Soup by Barny Haughton


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g pancetta rinds removed and roughly chopped
  • 2-3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 small leek, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 75g long grain rice or macaroni
  • 2-4 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley, to taste
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • shaved Parmesan cheese, to serve

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add pancetta, celery, carrots, leek and onion and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are soft.

Add garlic and potato and cook, stirring for 5mins. Add the tinned tomatoes then half cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer gently for about 15 minutes.

Add the rice or pasta then bring to the boil again and simmer for 15-20 minutes, check consistency and add more liquid if necessary. Stir in parsley and taste for seasoning.

Serve hot, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.


Community Cookery Schools in Bristol: Changing the City's Food Habits And Health?

The Bristol Food Connections Festival is now in its 3rd year. And for 2016, Barny & the Square Food team will be at the Riverford Yurt on Friday 29th April with representatives from other of Bristol's Community Cookery Schools to discuss what difference we're really making. 

Away from food television, fat and sugar politics, celebrity-ism and the middle-class food revolution, perhaps our relationship with food is being changed by people making soup out of vegetables which would otherwise be thrown away or by a class of children who have made fresh pasta, gone home and shown their parents how it is done.

There are over 100 food education initiatives in Bristol. From full-fledged cookery schools and urban growing projects to after-school cookery clubs, the business of teaching and learning about food is everywhere in the city. This event explores how they work and what impact they are having on people and the city.

Beyond teaching ordinary people to cook healthy and affordable food, could community cookery schools also be having an impact on social welfare policy, on food ethics, urban and local food systems, shopping habits, public health policy, environmental awareness, mental health strategies, school communities, and food poverty awareness?

Following a live cookery lesson with Square Food's Barny plus other cookery teachers from Co-exist Kitchen, HHEAG and All About Food, illustrating how a typical community cookery class might work, you can look forward to a panel of cookery teachers and experts along with volunteers and students to lead a lively debate on these topical and far-reaching issues.

This is a free event but you'll need to Click here to register your attendance.