You won’t want to eat imported cherries after eating freshly picked local Sussex / Kent border fruit. Plump and sweet with the density and juiciness that you find when things haven’t been sitting in supermarket chillers for a week or more.
Not just sweet tasting, the deep red colour of the fruit is due to antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which may help lower cholesterol and triglycerides. It’s also been suggested that cherries can be helpful for sleep as they naturally contain melatonin which may help regulate the internal body clock.
So, we are going to make full use of these during our #eatsussex August. The recipes below aren’t making use of all local ingredients, but we will take the basis of these over the month – particularly the creamy cheese, cherry and thyme theme as these flavours are entirely as gorgeous for teatime as they are for entertaining.
How to store cherries
Store unwashed in a fridge and they will keep for up to a week. Don’t store in an airtight container – just cover with a muslin or piece of kitchen roll otherwise condensation will cause them to mould more quickly.
Wash just before serving as otherwise, the moisture will cause them to split.
How to prepare
If you have a cherry pip remover, then all well and good. If not, just twist off the stem and hold the cherry stem side down onto a chopping board (can release some juice). Just press down with the side of a chef’s knife blade and pop out the pip.
Cherry recipes – not just for puddings and pies
Cherries and cheese work as well as quince or apple. This Martha Stewart recipe calls for Robiola cheese but we would prefer to use a soft Sussex variety such as Sussex Slipcote, High Weald Ricotta or Little Sussex. All these are soft, gentle cheeses with just enough of a citrus tang to balance the sweetness of the cherries. And for olive oil, we’d use nothing but Cate and Vasilis’s Mesto from their own grove of trees in Crete.
Cherries are natural partners to herbs as their sweetness balances the fragrant spiciness of many more pungent herbs. So a compote of Cherry, Lemon Balm and Mint is a perfect sweet to savoury addition for eating with a roast, or adding to yoghurt or cream for an instant pudding. Instead of sugar, you could use Brighton and Hove Raw honey for a deeper flavour and texture.
Life as a farmer is a tough game. At the mercy of the elements, the economy, food trends and an uncertain Brexit on the horizon, there are compelling arguments for throwing in the towel and finding a regular job.
To set the record straight though – we are not farmers ourselves. The ‘we’ in Fin and Farm are Nick and Muir who set it up in 2009 and along with Jim, who joined shortly after, and we work with local farms throughout Sussex and West Kent. We bring fresh produce from growers and producers to commercial kitchens such as restaurants, pubs and hotels and home kitchens all along the South coast.
Why we do what we do . . .
The food chain from the farms to the shops is a delicate one, and our job is to work as a bridge to regularly bring fresh produce to urban areas, where it’s more difficult to access. The aim is to reduce the carbon footprint of local food and keep it accessible and affordable for our customers.
So, last year we lost two farms; one to retirement (the land has been converted to a glamping site) and one as income wasn’t sustainable. Naturally, this starts to ring alarm bells, as naturally, our regional farms are an essential feature of our local economy. Without them, access to good daily food and the collective carbon footprint would suffer not to mention our tourism, environment, maintenance of natural sites and local employment. We would sorely miss our diversity and quality of what is on our plate.
Of course, vegetables in the supermarket are relatively cheap because the growers and producers are often paid so poorly and tied into wasteful contracts which direct the bulk of the profit to the retailer. There is little security for the growers and they are left extremely vulnerable if they don’t yield good crops – hence and over-reliance on industrial growing techniques….that is if they are even based regionally – it’s often cheaper to source globally produce that we can easily grow locally.
But you know all of this. There are a ton of reasons to buy locally. But, in our experience, people are driven to the supermarkets not because they don’t care, but generally through lack of time and the demands of a busy life and making ends meet. It’s totally understandable; life can be rushed and stressful and we have a million things to think about.
Of course, it’s easy for us to recommend local produce when we spend so much time on the farms – but with our delivery service – or shopping at supermarkets such as HiSbe in Brighton or our home boxes, honestly, should be as easy as regular shopping habits.
So, what is #EatSussex August?
Even though we eat loads of local food ourselves, we thought we would go a step further and pledge to eat nothing but Sussex produce* throughout August. We want to show that it’s entirely possible to eat healthily, rustle up speedy meals and find interesting food locally and it definitely not be another drain on your already stretched time, imagination and budget. (* see Rules below).
You know though, even though we are really excited by the project, we still had to think carefully ourselves when we were planning. Like many, the thought of careful advance food planning isn’t something high on our agenda (‘fessing up here). we also have our work with our food businesses, a family (GCSE time – yikes), elderly relatives, a dog, our house which we are gutting, and that has to be occasionally cleaned, and somewhere fitting into all of that, a social life!
At home our daily food is usually not particularly complex, fairly quick one or two pots – although we do use loads of fresh ingredients. Healthy eating is high on our agenda so we rely heavily on pulses, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, and lots of bananas, peanut butter and coconut milk and cream.
We already eat probably 75% fresh local veg and fruit and our diet is pretty plant based, on the whole. We aren’t saints though and really enjoy our treats of chocolate, cheese and good wine or cracking open a chilled beer.
Nick eats meat although Muir is veggie, so there isn’t a whole load of meat in the house but Nick does treat himself on occasion to fresh Sussex sausages, chicken and the odd steak.
So, all in all fairly simple – and an exciting challenge. We will be learning to cook fabulous pasta at home with local flour and find fabulous substitutes to wean us away from bananas!
So, here are a few of the basic rules we’ve put together and we hope that you’ll enjoy the upcoming blogs/vlogs about progress and some more info on our growers and suppliers.
All meals to be made from Sussex produce
Can drink locally sourced (sustainably sourced, that is) coffee and blended tea from Edgcumbes near Ford and from MD Tea in Brighton.
Can use locally packed salt and black pepper
Can use locally sourced and sustainably imported spices from local suppliers
We will use locally pressed hemp oil for dressing (as it shouldn’t be heated)
Will use Mesto Olive Oil as Cate and Vasilis live in Brighton and they own the olive grove in Crete. All oil they transport themselves, so the carbon footprint is tiny. For health reasons, we would prefer not to cook with butter for a whole month! Although for taste, we have no objection at all!)
Please feel free to comment with advice, recipes and pointers to anything local that we may not have found on our travels. All advice welcome!
Since Hove Museum has closed it’s cafe doors, we have been on the lookout for a replacement proper Welsh Rarebit. A good Rarebit is not necessarily just posh cheese on toast. It’s a melting combination of whipped cheese, butter and flour with the lightly nutty aftertaste of a dash of beer and served with a crisp, spicy rocket salad. Sometimes served with an additional egg, but that’s just overkill in our book.
I’ll say traditionally a good Rarebit has been made with a salty, mature cheddar, but of course, the dish itself was (is!) a Welsh tradition appropriated by the rest of the UK and Cheshire or Caerphilly cheese is often used. Both Cheshire and Caerphilly cheeses have a slightly citrussy tangy taste, so for us, we prefer something a little more oozy and mildly buttery.
We are very lucky to have THE perfect Rarebit cheese from a local cheesemaker, Rob, from Bookham Harrison over in leafy Funtington, near Chichester meandering at the foot of the South Downs. Sussex Charmer is a punchy hard cheese which is the lovechild of Cheddar and Parmesan (and certified vegetarian) with the gutsiness of a good Parmesan and the creaminess of cheddar.
How to make a perfect Sussex Rarebit
Important note here…the bread is very important. A good thick slab of a wholemeal sourdough is delicious and robust enough to withstand a rich sauce without becoming soggy . But that said, if you prefer white, then just cut it from a good fresh loaf and don’t stint on the thickness of the slice.
Mix the mustard with the beer in the bottom of a small pan to make a paste, then add the butter and about 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce – you can always add more later if you like. Heat gently until the butter has melted.
Mix in the cheese and stir carefully until it has just melted but be careful not to let it boil or burn. Once you have a sauce, season if required, then allow to cool until just slightly warm, being careful the mixture doesn’t cool to be come solid.
Pre-heat the grill to medium-high, and toast the bread on one side and just lightly toast the other. Beat the yolks into the warm cheese until smooth, and then spoon on to the toast and cook until bubbling and golden.
Serve immediately with a spicy leaf salad and some tiny cherry tomatoes to balance the rich flavours.
So, here we go! As Nick and I have decided to eat only locally sourced produce this August, we thought we’d put a few things in place to get ready.
The premise is that we will only eat food sourced locally – but being the UK and Northern Europe, we are a bit short on the odd item. So, with the exception of salt, pepper and essential spices like cinnamon and turmeric, we are using only local produce.
Tea and coffee that is sourced through our local blender – MD Tea and Edgcumbe’s coffee is also allowed, as we honestly could not be trusted to run our business for a whole month without a single drop of tea passing our lips (come on, we’re British – our blood runs 75% tea at least!).
Well, all that said, we thought we’d make own own Worcestershire Sauce, as this is a wonderful ingredient with Welsh Rarebit, soups, stews and drizzled on sardines on toast. ‘Real’ Worcestershire sauce is made with anchovies – which is no good for our vegetarian daughter, so we have opted actually for a gluten-free vegan version in which the main ingredients are sourced locally anyway.
Our version is based on a simple recipe by Martha Stewart, but we have introduced a slightly earthier flavour using Tamari instead of Soy.