The year of Covid-19

Well it wouldn’t be right to not do a blog about this very surreal year we have had, the year of toilet roll wars, virtual quizzes, face masks, being 2 metres apart, queing to get into a supermarket, not being able to get a home delivery slot, cancelled weddings and events, no fans in stadiums, but thankfully no shortage on cheese – phew!!

Who would have thought that a virus would have caused so much disruption to this year and still continues to 9 months on!
For us as a business we have been very fortunate to be able to remain open, with our amazing suppliers carrying on supplying us throughout this year, the staff have worked extremely hard, put in some long hours to ensure that all of our Customers orders have been met throughout the busiest times of this year.

We are very lucky that we supply the farm shops, delis, local convenient stores , garages, butchers and cafes which have remained opened during this pandemic, more and more people have started to and continue to shop local which is so important in these times to support the smaller businesses.

For us in the grand scheme of things this year has actually been a very successful one and one we definitely wont forget, we’d really like to share our achievements from this year and we strongly believe that we are going to go from strength to strength as a business in 2021 with more exciting things to come.

Lets rewind back to January 2020 and start with our building work that has taken place.

January 2020 – Time for an extension

In January 2020 work began on the extension which has given us a much larger fridge and warehouse area another production room, and above this area we now have 2 offices, kitchen/staff room, male and female toilets (no more sharing!) and a waiting area with a new entrance and staircase which will give us access directly from the car park.

We are very nearly there with the work, the car park area needs completing and signage for the building needs to be done but the majority is now in place and is really was something that needed doing, we would have struggled to remain open during this pandemic if we didn’t have the extra space we have got now, Christmas last year our fridge space was over flowing, so this year it has been much easier to manage (although still rather full!)

We were planning to have an open day this year but due to Covid-19 and building works this hasn’t been able to happen, but this is something in the pipeline hopefully for next year so look out for news on this maybe mid/late 2021?

Orchardlea Occasion Foods and Westcountry Olives

This year we have launched 2 Sister Businesses which if you don’t already know about you will  hopefully see crop up on social media now.

Orchardlea Occasion Foods launched in January this year just before Covid-19 came along, the idea is to supply local high quality buffet food for weddings, parties and events of any size.

We launched the Facebook page and website, had weddings, parties and events booked in the diary but none of them have been able to go ahead and everything is currently postponed until next year.

We have like many other companies diversified and been doing some hampers this year instead, which have been a lot of cheese hampers and smaller adapted versions of our buffet packages (Devon Picnic package for instance)
For Father’s Day we did a couple of Pub lunch hampers which were incredibly popular, we did over 60 in the end so we may do these again next year.

Visit www.orchardleaoccasionfoods.co.uk for more details and there is also a Facebook and Instagram page.

Westcountry Olives was an idea of Tim’s (my Father in Law) who owns the business with Liam (my Husband) his desire is to produce and subsequently eat great tasting olives and to experiment with new flavour combinations. The olives are sourced from around the Mediterranean and they are mixed using Bell and Loxton Oils another local company also based in Devon.

Will created the website and is currently working on the branding to have some new and much better packaging in the near future, he manages the Social Media, correspondence and any orders that are made. Will joined us earlier in the year and is another Family Member to our ever growing Family business!
We sell Westcountry Olives to our Wholesale Customers which are sold in 200g Retail packs and we also do larger bulk packets – 1kg for example. We currently have 14 flavours and are always thinking of new flavour combinations.

As well as wholesale our olives are also available to purchase online via the website www.westcountryolives.co.uk Instagram shop and even on ebay!It was really exciting to finally launch our very own brand of olives and we think that 2021 is going to be a very exciting year for us and our Olive’s! We will have a complete brand design once the new packaging has been done which will really compliment the olives and make this a brand to remember!

New Van designs and branding (Orchardlea Foods)

We will be completely re branding to Orchardlea Foods in the very near future once we have time to get the website finished. The company has been known as Isca Foods for around 30 years but ever since we took on the retail/pre pack side under Orchardlea we have wanted to re brand to Orchardlea Foods but like everything with a small business it all takes time.

We have had 2 of our new vans re designed using Orchardlea Foods, we are really pleased with the design and they certainly stand out in the crowd.

We are hoping this year to have a new website up and running, and hopefully some new systems in place including order forms online, and a much improved invoice system so we can really get the business running more smoothly this is really needed more than ever as the business is growing all the time and we have had taken on alot of new customers this year which is great we just don’t want to let customers down, actually the complete opposite we want to be the best we can be!

New Staff 

We have 20 employees now, of which 5 are new just this year!

I (Hannah, Liam’s Wife) joined in January this year, I had previously worked as a Civil Servant for 12 years at Exeter Crown and County Court but after our 2 girls and in need of a change I felt it was time to join Liam and the Isca team!

As above the plan was to pursue Orchardlea Occasion Foods but instead I helped for quite a while picking orders when we were in the heat of the first lockdown.
I now am still doing Orchardlea Occasion Foods aswell as covering Bethany whilst she is on maternity leave, you have probably spoken to me on the phone (thank you for your patience with me if you have!)

Followed shortly by Will who is the Step Brother to Liam (who runs the business) Will had to unfortunately cut his travelling trip short due to covid-19, when he returned he had no job to go back to so came to join us! It was only going to be a short term job but I think we have probably stolen Will for long term (hopefully anyway) he started off helping in the cutting room and out as a delivery driver to help cover the routes whilst we were in the first lockdown, he then started to come into his own by taking on design work and our websites he had done a lot of this in his previous job so we are very grateful for his knowledge.

Will is also the designer and Manages Westcontry Olives, he is doing a sterling job and will be pushing the olives forward when we return to work next week.

Andy then joined us, his role is in one of the production rooms slicing meats such as hams, cured meats and then packing them into retail size packs, he also does any bulk orders of meats that are required too.

We then employed Dan, he was employed to work through the busy summer period and as we are getting busier needed an extra staff member to pick orders, he has since become the face and voice of Westcountry Olives you may have seen him on the Westcountry Olives social media platforms! Dan is a actually a budding Actor who is waiting for his big break, so we know we haven’t got him for that long which is a real shame he is a real hard worker and a really lovely chap.

We have just employed Bea who is helping us with our banking one day a week to try and keep on top of it, as we get busier and gain more customers the banking becomes a much bigger job which needs more attention so this is a massive help while Bethany is on maternity leave. Bea is also going to be helping with getting some new systems in place, and with the bank reconcile too which is always a hard job.

Going forward into 2021 we have got the car park area and signage to do, we are also going to be making use of some roof space for more storage which is next on the agenda, a hard push for Westcountry Olives to our Wholesale customers, general public and to the Restaurant/pub trade and new packaging to finish the branding to come this year too.

We are possibly going to be adding some more products to our Olive range, more to come on this later in the year.

New and up to date systems will be put in place to assist in running the business more smoothly and getting how we work up to speed and up to date with modern technology, a new website and an online order system.

It is safe to say we have got a busy year ahead, hopefully with not too much more disruption from dreaded Coronavirus!

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English Breakfast Day 2020

English Breakfast Day takes place on December 2nd every year and is celebrated by millions of people internationally. It was originally started in 1975 to support the history and heritage of the English Breakfast.

The tradition of the full English breakfast is one that is regularly enjoyed in all four corners of the earth. In the United Kingdom, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the full English Breakfast is making a roaring comeback and is now more popular than at any time since the 1960’s.

We have got a wide selection of the main event of a English breakfast, for the meat lovers we stock Brookes smoked, un smoked, back and streaky bacon which comes in both 454g retail packages and 2.27 catering packs.
We also have English smoked, un smoked, streaky, dry cured and mis shapes which is all packed into retail sized packs in house by our staff in the cutting rooms.

We sell the best sausages around – WF Chinns based in Crediton, Devon, and have worked closely with them for many years. With so many flavours to choose from as well as Gluten Free! We love Chinn’s sausages in our household, sausage and mash is always a winner and the chipolatas in particular are firm favourites with our 2 little girls.

If you like black pudding with your English breakfast, we stock Bury Black and white pudding and Gluten Free is also available. We also slice and pack larger black pudding sticks and pack into retail sizes perfect for selling in Farm shops, Community Shops, Convenience stores and Deli’s.

We have also got halloumi for the vegetarians out there, I for one love abit of grilled halloumi with my fry up!

With every English breakfast an English brew is needed, we stock Devonshire tea Classic Breakfast and Earl Grey Boxes of 6 x 20 tea bags and also in catering size boxes.

We have also got Littlestone’s Coffee whole and ground beans, signature blend and decaf they come in 225g bags.

https://www.englishbreakfastsociety.com/english-breakfast-day.html# back baconchinns

#Englishbreakfastday

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Westcountry Olives

We are excited to introduce our newest venture West Country Olives, we are now over a month into launching this exciting new brand of olives and it is going from strength to strength.

With a slight delay in launching due to waiting on packaging and then a global pandemic, it is really exciting to be able to finally introduce everyone to this new brand of olives which we think has got a really exciting future.

Regular customers should have received some samples a few weeks ago now as we move from the hugely popular Cornish Olive Stall range to our own West Country Olives. We are in the process of new designs for the packaging and I know alot of feedback has been that the olives taste really good but the packaging isn’t the best, we totally agree and are currently working on this and will be moving to new packaging next year at some point (hopefully with less delays than this year!)

This is all very new for us and we only want to make things better, so all feedback positive and negative is always appreciated.

The 175g packs of Olives are produced and carefully packed on site we use the award winning Bell and Loxton Oils and the best olives available from around the Mediterranean.

We also sell Bell and Loxton Oils in both 250ml and 500ml sizes, the flavours they come in are Original rapeseed, Basil and Garlic.

Olives in packaging and Bell and Loxton Oils

The pouches are vacuumed of oxygen and then gas flushed, giving the olives a long shelf life. This also means that they are able to be stored at ambient temperatures.

Rosemary & Garlic in packagingHarissa Glazed Packaging[11064]Hand-Stuffed Garlic Packaging[11063]

There are now 14 flavours which include – Classic blend, Kalamata, Hand-Stuffed Garlic, Hot Chilli (Very Hot!) , Nocellara Del Belice, Picante Pimento, Rosemary & Garlic, Green Pitted, Harissa Glazed, Hand-Stuffed Jalapeno, Garlic and Chilli, Orange and Coriander, Lemon and Thyme and one more flavour which is being launched tomorrow – follow Westcountry Olives on social media for more details!

We are always experimenting with new flavours and welcome ideas for flavour combinations.

We also can supply larger bulk quantities such as 1 kilo bags, which are perfect for catering, deli’s, the pub trade and much more, the opportunities are endless.

As well as being available to our Wholesale Customers our Olives are also available to purchase via the website www.westcountryolives.co.uk/ Instagram Shop and even on ebay! They can be posted to anywhere in the UK via royal mail.

One of our most popular ways of purchasing is our 3 piece bundle mix and match, pick your favourite 3 flavours for just £9.99, link below for the Westcountry Olives shop.

https://westcountryolives.co.uk/shop/

You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram, please give us a like/follow  and spread the word about these fantastic new olives links below –

https://www.facebook.com/WestCountryOlives/

https://www.instagram.com/westcountryolives/

 

Preparing Garic and Chilli olives

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4 Ways to use Natural Yogurt

We love the versatility of natural yogurt but even we know that when faced with a pot of plain natural yogurt many people just don’t know what to do with it – breakfast granola aside! Below we list our 4 favourite ways of using this fantastic ingredient alongside some tasty recipes to try for yourself.

sutton lucy cream (2)Before we start though here are some of the varieties of yogurt we currently stock: from Langage Farm we have the low fat natural yogurt made using Jersey and Guernsey cows milk available in 450g pots and from Sutton Lucy we have the creamy, full fat natural yogurt available in 500g pots. We can also stock the Langage Farm 0% fat Greek Yogurt available in 450g pots, although this product does require a pre-order.

Marinade
A marinade is one of our favourite ways of using natural yogurt, it has been a staple part of cuisines around the world for centuries and is now becoming more popular in the UK. Often the recipes only require minimal marinating so are perfect for quick and easy midweek dinners with maximum flavour and there are lots of recipes to try from this delicious spicy yogurt chicken to this yogurt and turmeric fish curry.

yogurt salmon (2)Topping
Topping a dish with natural yogurt adds a lovely creamy texture to dishes and serves as a ‘cooler’ for slightly spicy meals. The addition of natural yogurt works really well with meat and fish like this Moroccan style meatball dish with cumin and we can personally attest to the flavour of this Persian inspired spiced salmon recipe from chef Sabrina Ghayour.

Dip
Natural or Greek yogurt lends itself well to making quick and tasty dips that can be ready in minutes and elevate a midweek dinner or snack to new heights. From this classic Greek Tzatziki best served with crispy fried courgettes to this cooling raita which perfectly compliments a traditional Indian banquet there are dips to suit almost everything!

lemon and blueberry (2)Baking
Of course we couldn’t miss baking off of this list! Yogurt is great to use in baking because of it’s acidity which reacts well with baking soda and it’s natural tangy-ness which keeps the bake balanced. We absolutely love this recipe for lemon and blueberry cake made using Greek yogurt and this chocolate muffin recipe is perfect for chocolate lovers!

Tried any of these recipes using our natural or Greek yogurt? Tag us in your creations via our social media pages below!

Image credit by Sally’s Baking Addiction available via https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/lemon-berry-yogurt-cake/.

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Cheese Showcase: Danish Blue

Castello have been producing their signature cheeses since 1893 with varieties including traditional, regional recipes as well as their own unique crafted cheeses.

Danish Blue is a sharp and salty cheese with a soft and creamy texture. Originally the cheese was made using goat’s milk to traditional French recipes resulting in a similar profile to Roquefort however the Danish cheesemakers wanted a more mild and balanced flavour better suited to sensitive palates and so the switch to cow’s milk was made. In appearance the Danish Blue is pale, creamy off-white with distinctive blue veins throughout.

This cheese is available in 130g retail packs as well as whole wheels and other catering sizes. Click here for more info.

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Summer Holidays 2020

One of the things we love most about summer holidays abroad is discovering the local cuisine: taking in the aromas and strange sights and sounds of a foreign food market and leisurely perusing restaurant menus before deciding on where to spend the evening. However unfortunately due to the circumstances most of us won’t be travelling to our favourite exotic destinations this summer and instead we’re stuck here.

thai greenWhether you are ‘staycationing’ at home or opting for a British break why not bring the sunshine flavours of a holiday to you? We’re thinking the fresh salads of Greece full of plump olives, juicy tomatoes and salty feta, the intense heat of an authentic Thai curry and the rich luxurious-ness of traditional  French cuisine with Coq au Vin or Beef Bourguignon.

What flavours or meals do you associate with summer? Comment below or tag us in your staycation foodie inspiration via our social media pages.

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It’s Afternoon Tea Week!

Is there anything more quintessentially British than Afternoon Tea Week?

Afternoon tea was introduced to England in 1840 by the seventh Duchess of Bedford who felt that the period of time between lunch and dinner was too long. She began to ask for a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake to be served at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and soon began inviting friends to join her – the fashionable social event of afternoon tea was born.

Traditional afternoon tea consists of dainty finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, miniature cakes and sweet pastries with loose leaf tea. However modern afternoon teas can include more exotic flavours like samosas and filo pastry parcels and are also often served with fizz to mark a celebratory occasion.

smoked_salmonWe stock a range of items suitable for producing your own afternoon tea at home including sandwich fillings such as smoked salmon and cream cheese – a personal favourite and sliced ham and Cheddar cheese with a Devon chutney from Waterhouse Fayre (we like the simple Devon Apple chutney). We also stock the accompaniments to a classic Devon cream tea including fresh clotted cream from Langage Farm and delicious strawberry jam from Waterhouse Fayre.

afternoon tea hamperEarlier this year our sister company Orchardlea Occasion Foods launched their range of hampers including a Sweet & Savoury Afternoon Tea Hamper. All hampers can be bespoke but in general this one contains a Chunk of Devon sausage roll and traditional pasty, Burts hand cooked crisps, 2 homemade plain scones, 2 homemade chocolate brownies, a jar of Waterhouse Fayre jam, a pot of Langage Farm clotted cream and a box of Devonshire Tea teabags.
For more info on this and their other hampers visit: http://www.orchardleaoccasionfoods.co.uk/gift-hampers/

Let us know how you’re celebrating Afternoon Tea Week via our social media pages below!

Feature image by Tea & Tittle Tattle via https://www.teaandtittletattle.co.uk/vintage-high-teas.html

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Cheese & Chutney Pairings

Cheeseboards are often seen as a festive treat however they can be enjoyed throughout the year especially on these long summer evenings. We’ve written previous blogs on what cheeses to put on a cheeseboard but for this one we are focusing on the best chutneys to pair with which cheeses to really bring out the best flavours in both products. The chutneys we recommend are from Waterhouse Fayre, a jam and chutney producer based on the outskirts of Tiverton.

Haystack Tasty Cheddar with Devon Ale Chutney
This cheddar from Barber’s Farmhouse Cheesemakers is deliciously strong with a sharp depth of flavour and delightfully crumbly texture. For such a strong cheese we recommend the Devon Ale chutney, this bestselling chutney is packed full of flavour and really holds up to the robustness of the cheddar. Made using local devon aleapples and onions together with ale from the Red Rock Brewery near Teignmouth, this is a truly Devonian product and makes a fantastic pairing to cheddar.

Tuxford & Tebbutt Stilton with Whortleberry Chutney
The classic Tuxford & Tebbutt Stilton is rich and creamy with a deliciously tangy finish combined with a soft, melt-in-the-mouth texture. This is one of our favourite cheeses and we struggled to match a chutney that didn’t detract from the wonderful flavour. Eventually we decided on this one with whortleberries. Whortleberry is the Devonian name for wild blueberries and this chutney really is a celebration of the fruit and the lovely, not overly sweet flavour perfectly compliments the tangy-ness of the Stilton.

Cornish Brie with Mango Chutney
This Brie from Trevarrian Creamery is mild and creamy with a smooth, buttery texture. We know that cranberries are the traditional accompaniment to Brie but we thought we would mix things up a bit and instead recommend this fruity Mango chutney. Made using chunks of ripe mango with fresh garlic and ginger mango briethis chutney certainly packs a punch and is a refreshing match for the creamy Brie.

Ticklemore Goat with Red Onion Marmalade
The Ticklemore Goat from Sharpham Cheese is smooth and light with a subtle lemony flavour and soft, crumbly texture. Goats cheese is another of our favourites so we didn’t want to overwhelm the delicate flavour and sometimes the classic pairings simply cannot be bettered. This Red Onion Marmalade is delightfully sweet which contrasts with the tangy flavour from the goats cheese – truly a match made in heaven.

Click here to view the full range of Waterhouse Fayre chutneys as well as their delicious jams.

Got another cheese pairing recommendation? Let us know via our social media pages below!

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Cheese Showcase: Smoked Cheese

It’s blue skies and sunshine out there today and BBQ season is well underway. We’re getting into the spirit with our cheese showcase this week – smoked cheese.

The precise origins of smoked cheese are unknown however as with some of the best things it is thought to have been discovered by accident. Most food historians agree that an ancient cheesemonger kept their product close to a wood burning fire and noticed that it gave the cheese a distinct smoky flavour and the much loved smoked cheese was born.
Today there are many ways of smoking cheese from traditional wood fires to modern smokers and the futuristic method of ‘liquid smoke’ being incorporated in the cheese-making process. The intensity of the heat and the variety of wooden chips used both have an impact on the overall smokiness imparted into the cheese. Below we’ve listed some of our favourite smoked cheeses from local favourites to much loved classics.

Quicke’s Smoked
This smoked mature cheddar originates as Quicke’s well flavoured mature Cheddar. Matured for 12-15 months it is then naturally cold smoked over oak chips from trees grown on the Quicke’s estate for up to four hours, during which time the cheese develops a subtle, smoky flavour. This cheese is available in both catering 1.2kg blocks and 150g retail packs.

Dorset Red
The Dorset Red from Ford Farm Cheesemakers is a smooth cheese enriched with natural annatto for a distinct deep amber colour. Made to their traditional Cheddar recipe the cheese is then cold smoked over oak chips overnight leaving a mellow, smoky flavour and soft texture. This cheese is available in 1.2kg blocks and 150g retail packs.

Oak Smoked
This traditional smoked Cheddar from Carron Lodge is cold smoked for up to 24 hours over oak chippings resulting in a delicate smoked flavour and rich golden colour. It is available in 1.kg blocks and 150g retail packs.

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The ‘New Normal’

vanThe last few months have been, to use the word of the moment, unprecedented. We are proud to have been able to continue to supply our customers throughout the pandemic and our staff have been working incredibly hard to make this possible. Below we look at the ‘new normal’ for Isca Foods.

Back in March we began seeing the effects of panic buying as customers who wouldn’t normally use their local community or farm shop began relying heavily on them when supermarkets had low stock levels. Shopping locally and supporting local businesses and producers is our central ethos and, while we regret that the support needed came in this way, we are glad that more people than ever are discovering their own local shop. We hope that once this is over, these new found customers will continue to support their local businesses rather than reverting back to the supermarket.cheriton fitz

With many people self isolating and unable to visit supermarkets we began home deliveries. This started with our MD Liam and his wife Hannah leafleting in their local area after discovering the demand their neighbours were experiencing and spring-boarded from there. We added this to the routes our vans would be doing day to day and developed a separate price list for private deliveries. Our team boxed up these orders as normal and our drivers delivered them to the doorstep of customers. This demand has eased somewhat in recent weeks as supermarkets have put in safety measures and orchardlea (2)social distancing rules however at a time when local people were struggling we like to think that we helped to make a difference.

Our sister company Orchardlea Occasion Foods (run by the aforementioned Hannah) recently launched their range of delicious hampers. Prior to the outbreak the business focused on providing food for all occasions and events from weddings and christenings to birthday parties and business lunches. However from mid March many of these events were cancelled or postponed and as a result Hannah decided to diversify the business and added bespoke hampers to their portfolio. These can be pub lunch hamperdelivered to yourself as a well deserved treat or as a gift for a much missed loved one during lock down. The new ‘Pub Lunch’ hamper has just been added to the range which can include: Bays Brewery beer, Sandford Orchard cider or Sandford Orchard fresh pressed apple juice, a selection of West Country cheeses, Cradoc’s savoury biscuits, Waterhouse Fayre chutney, Chunk of Devon pasty, Burts crisps, Cornish Olive Stall olives, pork scratchings, pork pie and a selection of sliced meats as well as anything else that takes your fancy from pub lunch hamper 2our own range of products. Hampers are bespoke and put together to order so can be truly personalised to yours or the intended recipients favourites. Visit their Facebook page or website for more info.

This is a strange time for all of us and like many businesses we are adapting to ever changing customer needs and requirements. There is always more that can be done to make things easier for everyone, but we like to think that we have made a good start.

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