Middle Eastern-style spiced baked apples

We love Autumn, and to celebrate we've been baking apples all week.  Our Kids Simple Suppers class and Back In The Kitchen over 55's have tested several recipes and the winner is.......

Middle Eastern-style spiced baked apples

4 large apples

45g unsalted butter, softened

75g nuts (eg cashew, almonds, pistachio)

100g dried fruit (eg apricots, raisins, dates)

50g pomegranate seeds

2 tsp cinnamon

80g muscovado sugar

1 tbs pomegranate molasses

½  tsp rosewater

1 tsp lemon zest

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c
  2. Core the apples from the stalk end down, making sure that every last trace of core & pips has been removed, but carefully enough not to pierce through the bottom of the apple
  3. Chop the nuts. The best way to do this is to put the nuts in an ‘envelope’ of greaseproof paper and bash them gently with a rolling pin. In this way the nuts won’t scatter all over the place. Don’t chop them too fine.
  4. Chop the fruit to the size of the dried fruit in a fruit cake
  5. Mix the fruit and nuts together with the butter, sugar, cinnamon and pomegranate seeds. Add the molasses, rosewater & lemon zest. Mix thoroughly
  6. Fill each apple with the mixture, pressing it well into the cavity
  7. Place on a baking tray and cover with foil
  8. Bake for 45 minutes
  9. Serve with pouring cream or home-made custard or even a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you enjoy the hot/cold thing

We're also celebrating Autumn with a very special offer. We invite you to bring a friend for free and hope you'll take this opportunity to join us and to introduce some new people to our Masterclasses.

**** Autumn Offer - Bring a Friend For Free ****

Win A Copy of The Kitchen Orchard Cookery Book

The Kitchen Orchard

For Natalia Conroy, an exciting new food writer, the kitchen is an orchard, the source of abundant meals, platefuls of fresh salad or slow-cooked vegetables. She combines seasonal produce with essential everyday ingredients making sure nothing goes to waste. 

Not so different then from Barny's own food philosophy that underpins each and every one of Square Food Foundation's Masterclasses.

Natalia's first cookery book is the Kitchen Orchard - a gorgeous hardbacked back with more than 100 recipes to feast upon. We've got three copies, each worth £25, to give away to our Square Food supporters. 

All you have to do is Like Square Food's Facebook page AND share the newsletter (pinned at the top of the Facebook page) and we'll enter your name into a prize draw.  Winners to be announced on 2nd October 2014.  

******* Autumn Masterclass offer - Bring a friend for FREE*********

Thank you and please vote!

Over the last year we have been lucky enough to be the Clifton Lido's good cause; this has included a Bake Off, an overnight swim and a mountain of donated pots and pans that we have distributed to people who didn't have them at home. On top of this we have made some great connections, meeting people from around the city to tell them about the work we do.  These new friendships have brought new volunteers, new partnerships and new opportunities; supporting our mission to teach people from all walks of life to cook good food from scratch.  

A case in point,  Lido member Camilla Kerr kindly nominated us for the Lloyds Bank Community Fund Prize, we were short-listed and are now in with a chance of winning up to £3000 to spend on new knives, pans, bowls and chopping boards for our bespoke teaching kitchen in Knowle.  This is very good news indeed.

YOU can help us win. Simply vote for Square Food Foundation using one (or all) of the following methods: 

Online

Twitter #CommFund DJZ (You must have a Twitter account)

TEXT VOTE DJZ to 61119. Standard text message rates apply

At one of our local Lloyds Bank branches! Ask a member of staff for a token. You do not need to bank with Lloyds to cast a vote in branch.

  • Brislington Branch: BS4 3QA just off Bath Rd on Bloomfield Road behind the Sainsbury’s
  • Knowle Branch: BS4 2PY (Wells Rd, near Broadwalk Shopping Centre)

You can cast your vote NOW using one or ALL of the above methods! Each different method counts as one vote ;-)

At Square Food we consider ourselves lucky to have such good friends and supporters, all part of the Square Food family. Thank you to everyone who contributes, in so many ways - from attending an Masterclass, volunteering your time, donating a computer monitor, raising funds, voting in the above or simply reading this blog.  You are all helping and every single bit makes a difference.

Thanks in advance for your continued support

****** Autumn Masterclass Offer - Bring a Friend For Free *******

pan amnesty

Spread the word. 

Pan Amnesty with Lido - Sept 2013

Taking stock

A well-made stock has the potential to catapult your cooking to the next dimension, simultaneously utilising the vegetable drawer/allotment glut and giving you a warm glowy feeling inside as the summer sun fades into a distant memory.

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This a general guide to all stocks; fish, meat and vegetable

Stock vegetables: The following ingredients are suitable for stock: onions, carrots, celery, leeks, fresh tomatoes – not too much – French bean or other trimmings -  fennel but only in a vegetable or fish stock – thyme, bay, rosemary – but not too much – garlic – always, perhaps asparagus trimmings, pea pods and carrot leaves in the summer.…… Never put the following ingredients in a stock: brassica, starchy vegetables, fines herbes (tarragon, etc.) or any vegetables which haven’t been properly washed or are turning brown. Stocks are best made with an accumulation of carefully looked after, refrigerated vegetable trimmings.

square food curry masterclass for web-4

For a meat stock, roast off the bones (unless they are left over from roast or otherwise cooked meat) and throw them into a pan with the vegetables and enough water to cover well. Bring to a rolling but gentle simmer. You will never get a good stock if you let it boil. As the stock cooks, the fat and other impurities will rise to the surface. Skim them off religiously every so often until the liquid looks clear. You can now either put it in the oven (on the floor of the oven) at about 110oC or gas mark 3 for about 5 hours, or simmer it on top: blip…….blip……blip….. very slow.

For a fish stock, put the washed bones, cleaned heads, fish bits and frames together with vegetables and water as above. Bring to a gentle simmer as above. Skim religiously as above.

A vegetable stock, not having the flavour benefits of meat and fish, needs to contain lots of vegetables. To get a good soup, stock base or risotto stock, I would use two heads of celery, 6 carrots a bulb of garlic and 3 or 4 leeks……

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To strain the stocks: pass through a colander and then through a fine sieve to remove any bits.

Learn to cook the perfect stock and delicious vegetable dishes with Barny: 12 Vegetable Dishes to Change Your Life

******SPECIAL OFFER FOR AUTUMN/WINTER ON ALL ADULT MASTERCLASSES – BRING A FRIEND FOR FREE!*******

Monday 21st July, The first Square Food LinkAge lunch club

We’ve been running Back In The Kitchen cooking club for nearly a year now.  A lively Monday morning “drop in” for over 55’s – full of banter and good honest cooking from scratch. In the beginning it was just Barny, one 'student' and one volunteer. Despite all the posters, tweets and newsletters, no one else turned up. Luckily, Barny isn't easily disheartened and with our friends at LinkAge Bristol on the case, it wasn't long before the word got out and we were soon over-run.

back to the kitchen group

Today, Back in the Kitchen is a buzzing, thriving class, with firm friendships formed, skills learnt/re-learnt, new recipes tried and many meals shared.

“Monday mornings are the highlight of my week – I look forward to cooking so much, it makes me really happy”  Sally*

“I couldn’t boil an egg before I came here.  Now I regularly cook for my wife at home, scones, shepherd’s pie, all sorts” Tom*

“This is an inspiring place, full of good people” John*

 This week we tried something new, we ran a pilot Lunch Club in collaboration with Linkage and our landlords, The Park  This is an exciting development. Firstly it puts our club cooks to the test of “service” (at which they excelled) and secondly it brings new people together to enjoy a home cooked meal.

12 guests. 6 Back in The Kitchen class cooks. A menu of minced beef, new potatoes, summer vegetables and a summer fruit tart. A lovely space provided by The Park. White table cloth, flowers, cooking & service by the Back in the Kitchen class.

'Went like clockwork. There was a sense of this having the potential to become something special. For SFF, LinkAge, The Park and for everyone involved. For it to become a regular event in which to eat great food,  share food experiences and explore ideas for the future; Autumn, for Christmas, at The Park, foraging in the woods…. All ideas welcome.' Barny 

At Square Food, we know food is the great leveller – a simple way of bringing people together, and Monday proved that philosophy a hundred times over. We were delighted to be joined by local Councillor Chris Jackson who generously pushed back a meeting at City Hall to make time for a quick bite.

“Cooked impeccably” lunch club guest

“Excellent food, excellent company” lunch club guest

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All pictures, courtesy of LinkAge

We’re making plans for the Autumn about how to take this forward, and our guinea pigs, ahem - guests, gave glowing praise for both the food and the idea. They especially enjoyed being able to sit down with the cooks who made the meal for them.  Many thanks to our Back In The Kitchen Group for taking up the challenge, and doing so in such a professional manner, and to our new friends who came to enjoy the food and give us their feedback.  As ever, we are indebted to our gallant volunteers, without whom this wouldn't have got off the ground.

We're on the lookout for regular volunteers to support this project. If you think you'd like to give a few hours of your time each week,  please contact Gretchen@squarefoodfoundation.co.uk

And, if you would like to be kept up to date with our plans, or indeed join the Back In The Kitchen Cooking Club please email lucy@squarefoodfoundation.co.uk to register your interest.

The Island Goats

Part Four: Sunday 22nd June 2014 9.30 am  

In the end Pluto didn't come on the boat. Rupert, with his lifeboat team baseball hat on, said a flat no. And that was that. But of course, next to being with Rebecca, Pluto's favourite place is in the boot of her car, in amongst the soft muddle of old tartan blankets. So that's where he stayed for the duration of our swim, no doubt secretly in a state of blissful relief.

And I didn't cook breakfast over a driftwood fire on the island beach either. But I did, for the first time since swimming in the sea here in Ireland, put on a wetsuit; one of those short-sleeved, short-legged ones that make you like like an Edwardian gentleman swimmer but less elegant. If that's possible. Rebecca said I should wear one and she was right. We stood, in our wetsuits on the harbour side, looking over the wall at the sea and at the Island, waiting for Rupert to bring his boat to the harbour entrance. The sea wasn't flat or calm at all. There was a light North Easterly wind. We watched them both, the sea and the wind. They thought they would dance together for us.

I am not going to go into the detail of the swim itself except to say that the first half was strange and deeply unsettling and it was very good to have company. It turns out that Rebecca swam before she walked. If Rebecca swims like a seal, I swim like Charlie Chaplin. It was only after drinking a cup or so of seawater and after Rupert had called from the boat that we were half way there  that I really found myself understanding what being in this kind of water meant and how to not ever imagine you can do better than you are doing. Maybe that goes for most things in life. I am pretty sure that Rebecca could have swum to the Island, done a couple of circuits of it and be sitting on the steps of the jetty writing notes for next year's Ballymaloe Litfest before I had even arrived there if she had been less patient and supportive.

So a huge thanks to you, Rebecca. And to Rupert who, in a paradoxically reassuring way, scooted off to fish for mackerel at one point, his little blue boat bobbing carelessly some 100 metres away.

I would do it again. I am going to do it again. In the end it only took 45 minutes anyway. Nothing really.

So why did I do it, this Lighthouse Island swim which has so preoccupied me over the past couple of weeks? 

I think the reasons have changed. I think they always do when you set out to do something you have never done before. Of course it was about raising money. For SFF and for The RajKSoni Legacy Fund. And I'd like lots of it please. And if you want to sponsor me just go  to Localgiving.com/squarefoodfoundation. I was also doing it to support the marathon swims which happened at Lido on behalf of SFF and at Portishead on behalf of the RKSLF yesterday.  I salute all those swimmers and hope that their day was as wonderful and life-affirming as mine was on Friday.

So I think my real reason for swimming to the Island begins there too; with life itself. Well, three things; life, the soil & cooking.

There are two jetties on the island. The one we arrived at and the one we walked to, over the island, to be picked up again by Rupert. A little way up the steep pathway, we came across a mother goat who had just given birth to two kids. The bloody afterbirth was on the grass, glistening in the sun. I would say the birth had happened while Rebecca and I were in the sea. The mother goat was licking one of the kids which stood blinking and wobbly in the sun, against the grassy bank of the path, in this new world, knowing nothing, not yet even having suckled from its mother. The other kid lay on the pathway. Its neck was crooked sideways and although alive and trembling, its mother was paying it no attention. She knew it wasn't going to survive.

There are 6 or 7 wild goats on the island - well and now there are 8. But not 9. They survive because there is fresh water from a spring to drink and grass and flowers and seaweed to eat. A small community of wild goats getting on with the business of living.

I have put life (and death) bit out of the three things because that's the bit we all recognise. But really the soil comes first. The thing we humans, as the world's most powerful community, are destroying little by little every day. We are not thinking about the soil.

In my last posting I mentioned Craig Sams' talk at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. If you have got this far with me on this journey, then read about Bio-char and its place in sustainable farming systems. By which I mean organic. Because that's more important than Bio-char; Craig himself began his talk with a brief history of the organic movement in the UK, placing its principles at the heart of his case for Biochar.

We have spent the last ten years not talking about organics. It's gone out of fashion. Even the Soil Association is having to be circumspect about it. And for the rest of us? It's too difficult, to expensive, the arguments for it are dubious, it won't feed the world, it's a middle-class Waitrose, colour supplement thing. Most chefs don't give a damn about it. And that alone speaks volumes. And Bristol Green Capital isn't engaged with talking about it either. Not really. It remains on the margins. Now we talk vaguely about sustainability because it's less provocative.

A wilful blindness to the plight of the soil. Don't tell me all the reasons why organics is not the answer to anything or that GM crops just might have the solution, that poor people can't afford organic food and what a romantic middle-class joke the whole notion of small organic farms is. I just can't bear that anymore. What's wrong with romance anyway? We are not feeding the world anyway, we can't ever hope to. Let's talk about the science and real solutions yes, but lets talk about the science of soil itself to start with.

Well, not right now. I just want to tell you where the cooking bit fits in otherwise you will just go to the pub or to sleep with boredom.

So this is where cooking fits in and in particular the notion that we need a culture of food democracy, of good food for all.

I think if more people cook good food from scratch, the soil will become more important in the landscape of their own lives. Whether they live in a city like Bristol or in a village in the heart of Devon. And when you really think about the soil you are thinking about life itself.

And I think the movement towards real cooking, which is already happening, will lead food culture inexorably to the health of the soil and therefore to principles of organic agriculture. We will make the connection.

That's the direction of travel we are on at Square Food Foundation. While I have been away in Ireland, a garden at the back of the cookery school has been made. I imagine the courgettes are being eaten and the tomatoes almost ripe in this amazing weather. A tiny patch of soil, a gesture, you could say. But it makes the connection between what we put in our mouths and where it comes from. And that's a start.

 

Today's the day

Friday 20th 7.15am. Ballymaloe Cookery School Pluto has been very quiet over the last two days. Yesterday, while I was in the kitchen at the cookery school preparing food for dinner last night, he came and put his head through the doorway and stood looking at me. No words passed between us. I continued podding broad beans. And then, after a minute had passed, Pluto turned and slowly walked away. I almost felt sorry for him.

So he is going to go with Rupert on the boat. As I write this Rupert doesn't know. This last minute decision was taken very late last night between Rebecca and myself. Pluto absolutely has to come with us. On our swim to the middle island two days ago, he stood on the beach and howled without ceasing until we arrived back 40 minutes later. Pluto has abandonment issues. I feel I have been to hard on the little fellow now, a little lacking in sensitivity and compassion. So, he will go on the boat with the breakfast ingredients I will pack when I have finished this post.

We can put my slightly less than jolly tone to this final pre-swim post down to nerves. Infact it is a beautiful morning here; the sky is blue, the air still. We are ready. I will be packing a breakfast of eggs, bacon, tomatoes, bread and butter, everything, of course, from the farm and gardens of Ballymaloe. And a frying pan. When we get to the Island, we will find drift wood, make a fire and make breakfast. I guess making coffee is going to be too complicated

I was told last night that an Irish naval frigate has been notified of our swim and will be dropping anchor this morning East of the lighthouse island to keep a watchful eye on us. I didn't know Ireland had a navy.

Last night before the dinner, Craig Sams gave a talk on Biochar. if you don't know what this is, check it out. It was a brilliant talk, a call to arms about the soil. Soil is life and we are destroying it. Organic agriculture with help from Bioachar provide part of the solution to this. Conventional agriculture is doing the opposite. It's as simple as that. It made me realise that even in the world of green thinking, we have largely abandoned the notion of organic. It's time to re-engage with it.

See you later

BH

To The lighthouse: Part three

12.55pm Wednesday 18th June Pluto's revenge. 

It's hard to describe how I am feeling right now. I am resigned  to taking the junior position on this mission.  I am happy that Pluto should receive an honorary professorship at Trinity College Dublin for contributing 'a unique body of knowledge to the study of marine science', or so I read this morning in the Cork Examiner. Some people might have raised an eyebrow or wondered how low a university would stoop to get funding even in these straightened times, but not me; I am all admiration and respect.

And, of course, I am happy to have spent hours into the morning of most nights designing the craft which will transport Pluto to the Island. Even though he has rejected outright my idea of strapping together two small surf boards with seaweed. And has insisted on hand-woven Persian silk for the mast when surely Indian would have done the job nicely and would certainly have been more colourful.

Up to this point and despite all these minor snubs and humiliations, I have managed to play my part with humour and good grace.

But the latest news is almost too much to bear.

Yesterday evening I received a text from Rebecca saying that she and Pluto have appointments in Schull on both Saturday and Sunday and so won't be able to do the swim on either of those days.

'An event I have to do,' said Rebecca vaguely, 'I had forgotten about it….important people to meet on Sunday….just have to do it….

Of course what Rebecca didn't tell me then was that Pluto is in charge of her diary.  And that, on a whim - or for darker reasons I am now realising  - he will change diary entries.

Over vodka at the The Blackbird and with Pluto distracted by the loving attentions of some small children, Rebecca confessed in a trembling whisper that it was indeed Pluto's doing and that she no longer felt her life was her own but could somehow do nothing about it. Such is Pluto's power over Rebecca. It was an emotional moment.

Same day 14.38. The strategic approach.

Napoleon, when faced with similar challenges, as before, say, The Battle Of Austerlitz, would retire to his tent and summon about him his wisest commanders (in this case among them was General Desaix).

Je pense, Napoleon would say brooding darkly, que nous avons un problème.

Mais…. mais -qu'est que c'est la vie sans problemes?

Well, as with Napoleon, we are not going to be defeated. We are now going on Friday morning. Rupert has put back his  friends' wedding till the afternoon. I will train at crack of dawn tomorrow instead of on Thursday evening. The tides won't be in our favour, but what the hell.

And Rebecca is going to stand firm.

We're in the Zeitgeist now, Pluto, old chap. Get used to it.

Before these dramas unfolded, I did another swim out from Paradise cove.The beach was empty of people, the tide midway and the sun shining in a deep blue sky. So beautiful.

I swam to the small orange buoy some 400 metres out to sea. I made myself do it. It was the furthest out I had been. Imagination is not a good companion for such a swim. You want to be thinking about kneading bread or even checking your bank balance, because imagining what's beneath, the 30 metres of water, the seaweed which drags gently against you feet (that's what the buoy is for; to warn boats about the seaweed) is not good. The thought that you might have heart attack or even just cramp and no one would be there. Or that you would find yourself swept out by strong currents you didn't feel at all even a minute ago, so that you are suddenly a mile, not 400 metres, out in the deep ocean, too tired to swim back.

Well here I am, so none of these things happened. Once round the buoy - which I touched briefly to prove I had got there - I swam a few metres inland and then lay on my back looking at the sky and listening to the sea rolling gently beneath me, feeling the ocean holding me . You will never get nearer to heaven than this.

BH

It's me or the dog

For those wondering why Barny's in Ireland instead of Knowle West, he's on a bit of a sabbatical. Not one to miss out, he's supporting Lido's Midsummer Swim in his own special way - by swimming through the sea (and its wildlife) to Ballycotton Lighthouse. However, an unexpected swimming companion threatens to throw Barny's plans awry as he prepares for his challenge... 

Monday afternoon 4.30pm

Off the main Shanagarry beach this time. Low tide again.You have to walk for five minutes to get to the sea's edge and wade the same again to get out of your depth. I swam beyond the reef and into greener colder waters. Only one seagull flying low over the water for company. Someone - the daughter of a former lighthouse keeper - tells me it's going to take 1 hour 40 if i am lucky. She's got to be kidding. Why did I say I would do this thing

And the other problem is Pluto. Pluto is Rebecca's dog. His mission in life, his entire reason for living, is to look after Rebecca. And that means being with her every minute of the day. It's not that he minds other people's attention; at the Blackbird the other evening he wasn't above resting his nose briefly on my lap, but his heart is with Rebecca. Always and at all times. If, say, she picks up a glass of wine or laughs at someone joke, he sits up straight and though feigning a passable nonchalance, is worrying - about a possible accident befalling his beloved mistress. This means Pluto has to come with us. To protect her, he says,  from the shark, to guide her through the strong currents. Which would be fine except that in reality, as opposed to his dreams, Pluto isn't that keen on swimming in the sea. Chasing balls along the shallow sea's edge, yes, but when it comes to the deep dark green waters of the straights of Ballycotton, his loyalty to Rebecca will be reduced to sitting on the end of the harbour and imagining he is Afredo in La Traviata, howling the famous duet Gran Dio, morir si giovane (oh God, to die so young) except that Violetta is two thirds of the way to the Island and not so much at death's door as just moderately weary of both swim and singing dog.

So Rebecca's idea is to build a raft for Pluto and attach it by a rope to her waist. Certainly not my waist. He's not my dog. As much as I love dogs and as much as chivalry runs deep in my veins,  I'll have enough on my plate with the jelly fish. And I am not certain that this raft scheme is the best solution anyway. I have suggested a life jacket for him or at least a small outboard motor on the raft which Pluto can operate with his tail. And with both life jacket and outboard motor, I think Pluto could get into the part; like Russell Crowe in The Commander, pursuing the Frenchies against all the odds.

The thing about all this is that you start off with a simple idea. You see the lighthouse, gauge the distance with an experienced nautical eye, plan the route around the small island between the harbour and the lighthouse and make the decision. Simple. But nothing is simple. It's not the half mile you thought. There are cross currents. You need a boat with someone to skipper it. He needs to known what he is doing, know the waters. Tides, weather, sharks, jellyfish, sting rays, all these complications. And now Pluto.

Yesterday, on the way back along the coast path from my swim near Paradise Cove, I stopped and sat and watched a pair of mating kestrels. I have seen them almost every time I have been there. There they were, sitting on their ledge three quarters of the way up the cliff face. Occasionally the male bird would take off and glide over the cove, land briefly in the grass on the other side and then return, back over the cove to the ledge, to his mate. I wondered what he was doing, whether he was bored of just sitting with her, needed to be in his own space for while or was looking for rabbits. If anyone has any ideas about this, let me know.

Pluto/raft update: R's idea is now is a crate insulated with what she describes as 'the stuff they put in the walls of buildings'. Brilliant. I thought this swim was about me not a dog. Next thing, there will be a hero's welcome at the harbour for Pluto when we return, a flotilla of fishing boats, dogs lining the streets of Ballycotton and the mayor of Cork in attendance at The Blackbird for a reception of biscuits specially prepared by the students of Ballymaloe cookery school and water imported from some special stream high up in the Wicklow mountains.

For more information on Lido Midsummer Swim that takes place this Saturday 21st June  in support of Square Food Foundation, click here

To make a donation to Square Food Foundation, click here.

To find out more about Square Food Foundation, click here

Only basking sharks...

Ballycotton_Lighthouse

With Lido's Midsummer Swim fast approaching, Barny writes from his Ballymaloe hideaway with plans to undertake his own marine challenge that will (almost) mirror this Saturday's Swim, held in support of Square Food Foundation.         

'I thought I would update you all on my planned swim to Ballycotton Lighthouse. The island is about 1.5 miles from Ballycotton harbour. I have someone skippering a small boat to accompany me. He is on the Ballycotton Life Boat Team, knows the waters, and is confident I can do it safely.

The cross currents are manageable and there are only basking sharks* and no jellyfish. Rupert (the skipper) is going to have his harpoon at the ready just in case.

I may have someone called Rebecca swimming with me as well. She runs the literary festival at Ballymaloe and so I thought we could talk about poetry on the way. Shelley springs to mind for some reason. We may have to do it on Sunday 22nd not Saturday. But hopefully Saturday. I will let you know.

And if the weather is really rubbish we will have to cancel. And just to reassure you I am not being silly, I am training - off the rocks up the coast and other places. The water is incredibly warm. Well, not exactly warm but perfectly ok. Not freezing anyway.

The other thing is that as you will see this swim is for two causes; SFF & The RajKSoni Legacy Fund. I will split any sponsorship money 50/50.

Some people at Ballymaloe - including Darina and Tim are going to sponsor me. It would be good to see if I can raise some profile about it back in Bristol. I am going to tweet about it later today. Rebecca is my new twitter helper. If there's anything anyone else can do that would be great. I'll be in touch nearer the time and as things progress.

Barny

*Apparently there are sharks. I thought I was joking.

Volunteering - my Square Food journey

Square Food's first volunteer, Gretchen Doering talks about what it means to volunteer at Square Food Foundation and sheds some light on her own experience.  Having been an onlooker, a volunteer, a teacher, and now operations assistant, I can say with great certainty-we couldn’t do it without them. Some recent feedback from Enthusiast Masterclasses says it all “Superb! Thought the atmosphere was nice and relaxed with the tuition being really easy to follow—help was always available.” “Informal, yet structured.” “I learned a lot but felt comfortable and not under pressure.”

It is the extra pairs of hands that make this lovely atmosphere possible—to do the washing up during a masterclass, fetching the spare colander, getting the fish out of the fridge or the tarts out of the oven means the students and teacher can remain around the table. Having volunteers fill that role also means that the surplus from those courses can go to fund our community cookery courses. And by giving a volunteer a meaningful role, we engage and educate yet another person, building perhaps the best ambassadors for the cookery school.

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I was having an orientation meeting with a new volunteer recently and she said she didn’t expect to be able to step right into one of the really good volunteer roles, she would understand if she had to work her way up.  I believe that all our volunteer roles are good ones—everyone gets to experience a bit of that magic that comes from a Square Food Foundation cookery class. Also, I must say that coming from the small, confined, circular sink of my former flat, I find the two expansive sink basins and drain board overlooking the garden outside a luxury—especially as both of the taps now work and have hot water! There’s something very satisfying about taking off my watch to immerse my arms in hot sudsy water, tackling a pile of dishes and knowing there is delicious, cooked-from-scratch food waiting to be tried.

And it’s not just washing up! If you want to spend one Sunday a month helping children with Downs Syndrome knead dough or stir fry vegetables, we’ve got a place at the table for you. If you want to venture to schools around Bristol to assist with a hands-on workshop or inspiring assembly, let us know. We used to have a volunteer who loved coming in to fold our aprons and iron our tea towels—no joke, and the role is still available! We have volunteers who assist with events and marketing, photographers and graphic design, all lending a hand to make connections, create choice, and change lives.

There is no better way to meet new people and engage in new project then to volunteer. You show up some place new, you have a task at hand to get on with, you’re usually learning something, and working with others usually means having a good time. When I asked Lucy nearly a year ago, why didn’t Square Food Foundation have more volunteers? Because having volunteers takes time—recruitment time, management time, an upfront cost of time that couldn’t be afforded even if there was time savings in the end. Knowing that volunteers can be your best ambassadors, that's when I volunteered to be volunteer coordinator.

Why volunteer? It is tactile, engaging, educational, and it is challenging (anticipating Barny’s next request), and it has the added bonus of tasting some delicious food. Most of our roles don’t ask for a fixed ongoing time commitment, though sometimes those exist, but you should know that you are so appreciated and essential on the days you do commit.

Why at Square Food?

There is a place for everyone here. Barny Haughton was the first person who I ever met from Bristol. He was teaching a class called Culinary Techniques as a visiting professor at the University of Gastronomic Science, and he told his story, of building a cookery school that taught everyone to cook, from the working professionals, the school children, and the disadvantaged—using ingredients from the field to the fork. Half the class was ready to come volunteer on the spot.

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When I moved to Bristol and first caught up with Barny, he invited me to come along the very next day to assist with a class as One25, where I saw what I already knew firsthand: teaching people in all walks of life that no matter who or where you are, cooking from scratch can change your life.  I continued assisting with that class each month in addition to a few Enthusiast Masterclasses, Bristol Area Down Syndrome Support group, and schools groups on and off site. Whether it was assisting off site with a homemade pasta and pesto class with a scouts troop, or pasty lessons in a school hall to over 100 children throughout the day, I saw children engaging with food in a way they perhaps had not before; we were inspiring new cooks and new connections.

Join the conversation. Make connections. Create choice.

Cooking can change your life

Dear Head Teacher

Dear Head Teacher

How to Teach Cooking In Your School

I am writing to you following the brilliantly successful pilot with Victoria Park & Knowle Park schools. And I am inviting you to become part of the most important educational challenge of our time.

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It's about giving children a love for real food and giving them the skills & knowledge to cook delicious healthy food. And critically about giving your teachers the skills & confidence to teach cooking in the class room. Not the same as teaching maths.

It's about how food connects with every other subject on the curriculum. And how it can engage the whole school and the wider school community.

It's about in putting food education  & cooking itself, so long on the margins of our cultural relationship with the food we eat, at the heart of the curriculum. And as important as any of these things is how it answers the question of what kind of a world do we want to live in.

In the old days, children would learn about food how to cook from their parents. But that was three generations ago.

After nearly 20 years of teaching cookery in Bristol I am still teaching grandmothers to make pastry and cook cabbage properly and how tell the difference between a parsnip and a swede.

So now, it's down to schools - particularly Primary Schools because the younger they start the easier it is. Cooking is just another language.

It's not difficult. All it takes is being awake to the world we want to live in.

Not before time, the government has finally realised that we need to teach cooking in schools. I believe this too. I would go further: I believe that we have a moral duty to make this happen and that in not doing so we are failing in our duty of care towards the children in our schools.

Nothing is more important than the food we eat.

This is not a sales pitch. Of course I believe that the programme we are offering Bristol schools is brilliant: simple, designed for purpose and delivered by serious food education practitioners to meet your school's individual needs. I also believe that this programme offers great value for money.

But the reason for this email is to try and engage you and all primary schools in Bristol in the debate. 

Bristol's unique position in the UK's food scene has just been celebrated in the Bristol Food Connections Festival. No city in the world has done anything like this before. Next year, Bristol will be Europe's Green Capital and food will be a central theme to its mandate.

So two things:

One: Sign up for our Autumn programme to train and empower teachers to deliver exciting hands-on food education in line with the changes to the National Curriculum

Two: Get in touch and join the conversation.

Thank you for reading this. If you want to know more about the programmes for schools or the work SFF does, please get in touch.

Have a good summer

Barny

BBC Food Awards - a week on...

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It hardly seems real that the BBC Food Awards was only a week ago and that this time last week, we were up to our necks in washing up, having loaded and unloaded the van three times over, with a barbecue, wood burning oven, 25  tablecloths, two large champagne buckets and of course the leftovers that we had for lunch. It's not easy to put into words how brilliantly unforgettably perfect the evening was. Take a beautiful menu, designed by Barny, add a stunning St. George's Hall and stir in a sunny evening and 150 happy and excited guests and you'll get the measure of how the evening panned out. Oh, and Mary Berry pronounced our carrot cake (made to her recipe) moist and well-baked. Need we say more? The VIPs and finalists, among them Raymond Blanc, Mitch Tonks & Valentine Warner, made their way through a food journey, stopping along the way at different stations. There was the Smokery, serving wafer thin slices of Gigha Smoked Halibut and Lardo cured by Capreolus Fine Foods as well as Peter Rabbit's Carrot Paradise where guests nibbled magical purple, yellow & orange carrots grown by Steven Jack. Onto the Beer & Cheese table, where they sipped Brewdog beer and Thornbridge Pale Ale with Courtyard Dairy Cheese, Harts Bakery bread and Abernethy butter. Then it was out into the garden to wait for wood-fired flatbreads from the oven with charred asparagus, Edge & Son sausages, lamb heart skewers and cups of beef broth. Not forgetting the ceviche made to order, ships biscuits and laverbread pesto.

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No words do it justice but some pictures might help. So check out our photos here, all taken by the talented and generous Sam Gibson who donated his time to help us capture the evening. A triumph. But all made possible by an extraordinary team of volunteers - some who attend our classes (young and old) and others who offered their time and expertise to make it a unique and memorable evening.  Thank you from the Square Food Team.

With just hours to go...

Suddenly, it's no longer weeks or even days until the BBC Food & Farming Awards Dinner but a matter of hours. And with every hour that passes, more ingredients arrive in the Square Food Kitchen sent in from finalists and activity becomes more intensely focused. Barny's in there, directing operations, with Stuart of Seth's Kitchen, Freddy (on loan from the Clifton Lido),  Lewis (borrowed from Flinty Red), Square Food stalwart & Kitchen Manager Seb and the fabulous Michelle who adds glamour and calm to the proceedings and keeps the testosterone levels from going stratospheric.

It's not just the professionals. Students from our Kids Simple Suppers class, our Into the Kitchen workshop and our BADSS class for children with Downs Syndrome have been put to work - squeezing limes, lining tins, baking cakes, peeling vegetables and pickling carrots.

We've taste-tested recipes, experimented with our wood-burning oven and washed up hundreds of pots, pans, spoons and plates. And it's starting to take shape. By the end of the day we'll have the cooking complete and just the final touches to add.

And tomorrow, it's time to gather wild flowers and shells (any suggestions?) for table decorations, to collect the ice, roll the tables up Park street and iron our new Square Food aprons. Then as the evening approaches, we'll brief our amazing army of volunteers about the food and the order of play and meet the team of children who've attended our Kids Simple Suppers workshop in the past and have volunteered to come along on the night to serve the guests. We've had some exciting days at Square Food Foundation but this will take some beating.

For more updates and pictures, follow us on twitter and like us on Facebook

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Radio 4 Food & Farming Awards - Barny's menu

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Sheepwash, Devon, April 2014

I am going to make a supper. From the ingredients and produce of those on the list of finalists for the BBC Food And Farming Awards. The best of British food.

With 7 days to go to the awards ceremony, I think I almost have a menu for this supper. I won’t say it hasn’t given me sleepless nights. I want it to be as wonderful as everything that will go into it, to do justice to those bringing to the kitchen whatever they have grown and made. I want it to echo the celebration, tell the stories, honour the people and the land. I want it to be perfect.

It feels as if everything is on the line. So I thought I’d put myself on the line too - and write about it.

It’s not as if I don’t have the materials to work with. I’ve listened to the judges, I’ve read the blogs, been over the websites and above all, I have spoken to the finalists. I know what they are made of, these people, because it’s in their voices. To them, working with the raw ingredients of food – rearing it, growing it, preparing it, knowing what to do and when  – is an instinctive, everyday thing. But when they talk about it, whether awkwardly and not much, or in minute detail, you also hear love and knowledge.

So now, I have placed my orders. And in less than a few days, things will start to arrive in the kitchen at Square Food Foundation.

From fishmonger, baker, brewer, butcher, cheesemonger, farmer, grower, forager, cook; vegetables, beef, lamb, seafood, cheese, smoked products, cured products, butter, bread, biscuits, honey, wine & beer

From sea and river, from land and farm, from markets, vineyards, orchards, hills and plains

From Somerset, Aberdeen, North Yorkshire, East Sussex, Wirral, Belfast, London, Pembrokeshire, Dorset, County Down, The Hebrides, Avon, Kent, Derbyshire

From the earth around us

You get the idea.

I have a menu. Even though it keeps changing.

I didn’t realise that herrings were out of season. Should have checked. Should have remembered. I can’t do pickled herrings then.

But the menu is beginning to take shape.

Lambs’ hearts, sliced thin, flash fried, with wafer thin pickled red onion, parsley leaves, their livers with sweet-onion compote. Rosemary. Sumac? Do I dare? Or is that a bit last year?

Beef broth, clear deep golden brown, from oxtail & bones.

Crab sandwiches made with Welsh Black Butter

Fish soup, intense, saffron, fishy,

Radishes with County Down butter, crunchy salt.

Carrots five ways: whole roast in the wood-fired oven; falafel with yoghurt; carrot cake; raw carrot with seaweed & spelt; Vichy-style with butter-braised celery

Ox-cheek with the celery

But what else from the garden, from the farmer’s market vegetable stall? New potatoes (Colleen variety) & wet garlic? Spinach, kale? Not much about – and I want to talk about this too.

The hungry gap of late March, April and almost May, is a bittersweet thing for cooks. If you shop and cook with the seasons and what grows around you, you’ll know about this gap. The wait through months of rain and darkness, growing impatient for summer and for peas, broad beans & mint.

Even now, although the days are sunny and even warm, the soil is not yet woken from its winter sleep.

There is of course asparagus - cooked soft, never, never raw; I swear I’d do time in defence of properly cooked asparagus. And we can forage in the woods for wild garlic. For the most part though, we must be inventive with kale and old season potatoes. Perhaps with a lighter touch, in deference to the blossom and the birdsong.

Onto well-cooked kale, you can spoon scrambled eggs, chilli and rosemary. Potatoes, old - even slightly soft and beginning to sprout – can be sliced thick, cooked in hardly any water with a slice of lemon and a bay leaf and transferred to a dish. Then dressed with crème fraiche & pungent rapeseed oil, sprinkled with ground cumin seeds and garlicky fried bread crumbs.

Back to the Food And Farming Awards supper

Nothing needs to be done to the smoked fish and mutton and Dorset coppa and the Lancashire cheeses, except put them on boards and plates, serve them beautifully and make sure the bread is very good.

And the wines, beers & ciders will find their matches

As the day draws nearer, so, I hope, the menu will become clearer.

Last night I dreamt it all went very wrong. It was twilight but not in a nice way. The wood-fired oven wouldn’t light. The award ceremony upstairs went on for ever and the carrots turned grey and limp. The beautiful fish soup split and I was drugged with a strange sleepiness and couldn’t tell people what to do.

It was only a dream.

And when the awards are done, the supper eaten and the tables and chairs all cleared away as if nothing had been there, the festival will begin.

If you don’t know about this festival, then it’s time you found out. It’s a food festival of our time, less about the culinary kings and queens of the flat screen, more about ordinary people, about the food life of a city and of what can happen when a great food idea takes root. It’s going to connect the whole city through food. Check it out

Bristol Food Connections Festival 1-11th May.

Join the Conversation. Make Connections. Create Choice. Cooking can change your life. 

Take a Journey with Better Food

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Bristol's best-loved Independent Food Retailer, the  is hosting a series of food journeys during the Bristol Food Connections Festival. With throngs of people flocking to Bristol's city centre, these lovely days out offer the chance to escape the crowds for a day and experience something different.

Each journey is quite simply an amazing opportunity to see for ourselves where our food comes from and what it takes to produce it.  You'll visit farmers, growers and producers, hear their stories, taste the cheese/beer/bread and meat that they make/rear/grow and learn to cook with it too.

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There are limited places available and everything's included in the ticket price which ranges from £25 for  A Ploughman's Day Out (Saturday 3rd May) with cheese and beer to taste, up to £45 for From Field to Fork (Wed 7th May)  - that includes a butchery demo, cookery workshop and a good lunch at our very own Square Food Foundation. 

Your Daily Bread

(Saturday 10th May) for adults and children takes in a trip to Abbey Farm in Cirencester.

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You'll mill your own wheat and take it home, have a hearty miller's lunch of homemade soup and bread and then travel onto the world-famous Hobbs House Bakery where you'll taste their beautiful bread, have afternoon tea and treat yourself to something from the bakery shop.

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Every ticket holder gets a reusable bag donated by ethical superstar Triodos bank.  Book your tickets today -  escape the festival crowds and take your own food journey with Better Food Company. 

All travel and transport, tastings and meals are included in the ticket price.

http://www.betterfood.co.uk/events/bristol-food-connections-food-journeys/

Cooking up a storm at Bristol Food Connections

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At Square Food, we can hardly contain our excitement around Bristol’s first Food Connections Festival that takes place from 1st-11th May 2014. The festival programme is chock-full of events and activities with barely an hour during the full 10 days when there isn't something to see, cook, eat, watch, listen to or learn. 

For Square Food, this is an exciting time.  To kick off our programme of events, we're cooking dinner for none other than the finalists and VIPs of BBC Radio 4’s Food & Farming Awards. Under Barny's careful guidance, his team of chefs that include students from our Back in the Kitchen workshop, our Kids Simple Suppers workshop and some of our Private Masterclasses, are cooking up a feast to showcase the very best fish, meat, vegetables, cheese, beer, bread and more from the star-studded line up.

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And it doesn't stop there.  Other Square Food activities during the Food Connections Festival include:

Drop in & Bake! Tuesday 6th May at SFF’s teaching kitchen

Open to anyone who fancies learning how to make perfect pizza and the lightest loaves in a friendly, hands-on setting. Classes run throughout the day - come along and learn to make beautiful bread which you'll bake in our outdoor oven.  To book your place, email us at info@squarefoodfoundation.co.uk. Places are free but we ask for a suggested donation of £2.50 per head.

Farm Trail - from field to fork. Wednesday 7th May

A one-day workshop that starts at Fernhill Farm near Compton Martin and ends at SFF’s teaching kitchens. Join SFF and the Better Food Company on a journey from farm to kitchen with information on rearing, shearing, butchery as well as plenty of hands-on cookery.  Book tickets at www.betterfood-sheep.eventbrite.co.uk

Heads Up: Supporting cooking in the National Curriculum, Thursday 8th May, 6pm – 8pm at SFF’s teaching kitchen

To launch our Primary Schools Partnership, Square Food Foundation invites Bristol’s Primary Head Teachers to a twilight session – you’ll hear from two of our partner schools about how Square Food Foundation has helped them understand how they can make September’s School Food Plan work for them.  To book your free place, email us at info@squarefoodfoundation.co.uk

The Park Marketplace & Pizza Cafe, 11am – 4pm, Friday 9th May at The Park, Knowle West

To launch The Marketplace at The Park; SFF and The Park Community Centre are joining forces to bring you an array of locally grown and produced food and crafts from a selection of local traders. Barny will be cooking up a storm in our wood fired oven with bread workshops happening throughout the day. There’ll be food, drink and entertainment as well as plenty of goodies to buy and sample. Join SFF that evening from 6pm for home-made pizza, straight from their outdoor oven and a glass of wine.

The winner is...

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Hot on the heels of Square Food's latest All about Fish Masterclass, the generous and literary crowd at Quadrille Food have given us three spanking new copies of Nathan Outlaw's newest cookbook to give away to Square Food Fans. Titled Nathan Outlaw's Fish Kitchen, it's so new that it's not yet published. But Square Food were offered a lucky sneak preview and boy does it look good. With a foreword from Heston Blumenthal and photography by David Loftus, this is a serious cookbook.

There are over 70 recipes to work your way through, each based around sustainable fish and easy-to-find ingredients. Nathan divides his recipes between cooking techniques - and as such, there are chapters on raw, cured, pickled, smoked, barbecued and more.

With simple instructions and suggestions for the types of fish that are best suited to which cooking method, it's an inspiring, easy-to-follow and above all useful guide to cooking fish. Our favourite recipes include Scallops with hazelnut butter and watercress and a Seafood burger with celeriac and apple salad.

And with all that preamble over and done with, the winners of these beautiful books are:

1. Jon Mason

2. Hilary Long

3. Debbie Cornwell

Congratulations!

And if all that talk of fish has left you raring to pick up your filleting knife, then book onto Square Food Foundation's next All about Fish with Barny Haughton on Saturday, 11th October 2014, 10am - 3pm. BOOK HERE