Three of the Best Farm Shops to Visit this Spring

The weather is improving, Covid restrictions are easing and we’re all itching to get out of the houses we’ve been stuck in for more than a year so what better first step back to normality than a farm shop? Bursting with home grown fruit and vegetables, local cheese and meat counters, home made gifts from small scale producers, onsite cafes with alfresco dining, play areas for the kids and in some cases roaming animals to chase (kidding, obviously), farm shops offer a unique day out full of opportunity. Here we highlight three great local farm shops to visit this spring.

THORNES FARM SHOP

Let’s start with Thornes Farm Shop. Located just outside Crediton Thorne Farm has been owned by Anthony Thorne since 1986 but it wasn’t until the early 90’s, when locals began asking to buy produce directly, that the idea to open a shop arose. Opened in 1992, the shop specialises in home grown fresh produce straight from the fields as well as locally baked bread and pies, meats, local cheeses and chutneys, local wines, spirits and of course cider. Thornes has also become known for its ‘Pick Your Own’ fields where, as the name suggests, customers can pick their own produce to take home – we can’t wait to pick our own strawberries there later this year. Visit https://www.thornesfarmshop.co.uk/ for opening times and more info.

EXE VALLEY FARM SHOP

Exe Valley Farm Shop in Thorverton just outside of Exeter has been owned and run by the May family since 1990. The shop underwent an extensive renovation three years ago when the shop was extended to almost three times the size and a new butchery counter installed as well as refurbishment of the Ruby Red Cafe. The dedicated butchery counter specialises in livestock bred on the farm while the farm shop itself sources a majority of local products from surrounding producers including cheeses, sliced and cured meats and locally smoked fish as well as a variety of dips and salads. All of the farm’s own Ruby Red cattle, beef, lamb, pork and potatoes are also available from the cafe menu which features a range of breakfasts, burgers and jacket potatoes as well as sandwiches and soups – something for even the pickiest eater. There is plenty of outside seating to adhere to current Covid restrictions and plenty of space for the kids to let off some steam, for more info visit https://exevalleyfarmshop.co.uk/ .

HALBERTON COURT FARM SHOP

Halberton Court Farm Shop was originally established in 2001 by the Stevens family selling home grown vegetables from an honesty box at the end of the road. By 2007 the business had expanded dramatically and the time had come to invest in a larger shop and an onsite cafe. Today the farm shop stocks a range of home grown fruit and vegetables as well as locally sourced creams, yogurts and cheeses, fresh meat and pies and pasties as well as locally sourced wines, beer, cider and spirits. Following the slight easing of Covid restrictions Halberton’s onsite cafe The Swans Neck Cafe is now open for takeaway treats to enjoy in the sunny garden (weather permitting of course!), visit http://www.halbertoncourtfarmshop.co.uk/index.htm#top for more info.

These farm shops epitomise one of our core business mantras ‘support local’. With the year we’ve all just experienced it’s more important than ever to support your local small business. Most went above and beyond for their customers both old and new during the lockdown(s) and we hope that many of these new found customers will continue to enjoy the benefits of shopping at their local farm shop.

Facebooktwitterinstagram

Ingredient Showcase: Garlic

We don’t know about you but it certainly feels as though Spring has sprung today, the sun is shining (mostly!), it’s getting warmer and pretty daffodils and bluebells are in abundance everywhere. One foodie staple of spring is wild garlic which at this time of year can be found throughout the country along riversides and woodland. We thought we’d celebrate this humble bulb with a focus on some of the bestselling products containing it starting with cheese.

Lynher Dairies Cornish Yarg is undoubtedly one of our bestselling cheeses but did you know that they also produce a wild garlic variety? The cheese itself is made to the exact same recipe with the only difference being that rather than wrapped in nettles, the Garlic Yarg is wrapped in wild garlic leaves but the difference in flavour is simply staggering. The leaves impart a lovely gentle garlic flavour as well as slightly altering the texture of the cheese, making it firmer and less crumbly than the original. The team at Lynher pick their wild garlic from surrounding Cornish woodland each spring in an extremely limited time frame – normally only from mid-March to the end of April – the leaves are then wrapped around the cheeses and left to mature for up to six months. The Garlic Yarg is available in both whole 1.6kg rounds as well as half moons and retail pre-packs.

West Country Olives are a new addition to our product list with a variety of different flavours available. The garlic olives have already become one of the most popular flavours and with good reason for garlic lovers! These mammoth Halkidiki olives are hand stuffed with whole garlic cloves before being finished with minced garlic and rapeseed oil. These are available in individual 200g resealable pouches as well as 1kg catering packs.

Waterhouse Fayre are producers of a range of bestselling jams and chutneys including a slow roasted garlic chutney. The whole garlic is roasted for a total of four hours before red onion, spices and red wine vinegar is added and these are then cooked together for a further four hours. Anyone who has eaten roasted garlic on its own can atone for the delightful sweetness of flavour that it takes on and this chutney is no exception as it develops a lovely, sweet mellowness. The Waterhouse Fayre chutneys are available in trays of 6x325g jars.

Facebooktwitterinstagram

International Women’s Day – Celebrating the Fantastic Women of Orchardlea Foods!

Today is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. We thought we would celebrate in our own way by pooling together the fantastic women who make this business work.

Tracey is a picker and packer in the picking room downstairs. She has been here for nearly six years and now knows all she could ever want to know about our customer orders! She also drives one of our delivery vans at the end of the week and if your business is anywhere in the Charmouth to East Devon area you’ll probably recognise her.

Hannah joined the business a little over a year ago when Orchardlea Occasion Foods was founded. Established as our sister business supplying buffet food for weddings and parties this sadly had to take a back seat once Covid-19 hit but Hannah didn’t let this stop her. She instead began helping us out in the office, taking orders, inputting invoices and handling our social media accounts. This is going from strength to strength and we are looking forward to showcasing some new ideas this year so watch this space!

Bethany (me – hi!) is responsible for inputting invoices and helps Hannah with the social media side of things as well as this blog. I have worked here for the last four years and the job role has evolved with me. I began in the picking room, as most of our staff tend to, in order to get to know the vast array of products we stock however it’s been four years and some things I’m still not sure on!

Karen is simply a machine. Quite honestly we don’t know how we would manage without her. She is responsible for restocking our cheeses and pre-packaged products including pates, bacon and gala pie. Her knowledge of the products is second to none having previously worked for Orchardlea Foods before moving over to Isca and now we’re back to the name of Orchardlea again!

After an extremely busy year Karen now has some help in the form of Rosie who joined us in 2019.
Rosie also helps with picking orders during busy periods.
Karen and Rosie work well together ensuring that all of pre packed retail products are stocked up ready for picking.

Caroline works in our meat slicing room and is responsible for all of the pre-packed meats including salami, ham and turkey as well as slicing joints of meat for our bulk customers. She also helps out in the picking room during busy periods. Caroline is currently off on the furlough scheme but we look forward to welcoming her back as soon as possible.

Kate now only works for us occasionally but she was once an integral member of our staff working alongside Karen and Tracey in the picking room. She has now set up her own baking business Kate’s Kakes and as part of this bakes scones, brownies and mini cakes for our Orchardlea Occasion Food hampers which soared in popularity due to the lock down last year.
Kate is Tim’s Wife another family member in the Orchardlea team!

Bea is the most recent addition to our team having joined us only a few months ago. Bea now oversees the account side of the business as well as assisting with our social media presence. She will also be helping Hannah with the Orchardlea Occasion Foods side of the business in particular setting up buffets for weddings and parties which will hopefully be able to go ahead in the summer.

Happy International Women’s Day from all the women here at Orchardlea Foods!

Traey - Picker, packer and driver
Bethany holding Kickin Chicken pie
Bethany - Admin
Bea and Hannah - Admin
Karen and Rosie - Cutting and packing
Kate - Worked at Isca for a long time, now a star baker!
Photo of Orchardlea Ladies
Photo from left to right - Hannah, Karen, Tracey, Bea, Bethany
Facebooktwitterinstagram

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/.Facebooktwitterinstagram

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.Facebooktwitterinstagram

We’re Celebrating National Vegetarian Week!

This National Vegetarian Week we are celebrating the humble vegetable: from the new vegetarian and vegan biscuits from Cradoc’s Savoury Biscuits to Olive’s Kitchen’s frozen ready meals to our selection of vegetarian friendly cheeses and Delphi dips and salads, we’ve got everything you’ll need to enjoy National Vegetarian Week!

beetrootCradoc’s Savoury Biscuits
These new savoury biscuits are already proving a hit with our customers. A small, family business based in the Brecon Beacons, Cradoc’s have been baking their crisp biscuits for the last 10 years using only natural ingredients. The majority are suitable for vegans while some contain cheese and are vegetarian friendly. Flavours include Beetroot & Garlic: an attractive dusky pink cracker chilli, ginger and garlicflavoured with fragrant garlic and savoury beetroot with a delightful peppery finish (if you hadn’t guessed this is one of our favourites!), Chilli & Ginger: turmeric crackers with cumin, black pepper and nigella seeds combined with subtle red chillies and bold ginger flavours and Cheddar & Onion Chutney: golden baked crackers with pickled onions and sweet chutney mixed with traditional Cheddar. These are all available in 80g packs with a minimum order of three boxes. Click here to view the whole range.

Olive’s Kitchen Frozen Meals
We love the ease and convenience of a frozen meal and the vegetarian varieties available are both satisfying and tasty whilst being packed full of healthy goodness. Olive’s Kitchen is made up of husband and wife team Charlie and Nikki Allhusen butternut_squash lasagnewho swapped running a successful deli for cooking homemade gourmet meals from their purpose built kitchen in Sherbourne, Dorset. The Butternut Squash lasagne is a classic favourite among both our customers and staff and it’s easy to see why. The roasted butternut squash is sweet and buttery with a creamy ricotta and spinach filling layered with fresh pasta and a tomato and basil sauce and finally topped with mozzarella and parmesan. The Aubergine Parmigiana is full of deliciously rich and more-ish flavours and combines grilled aubergines with a hearty tomato and basil sauce topped with a crisp mozzarella and parmesan crust. These are both available in single 300-320g portions and the whole Olive’s Kitchen range is available to view here.

Cous cousDelphi Dips and Salads
Delphi dips are the perfect accompaniment to a vegetarian feast, we love their Lemon & Coriander houmous with lightly spiced falafel or the red kidney bean salad mixed with peppers and sun-ripened tomatoes with olive oil, mint and mixed herbs for lunch, the crunchy coleslaw as part of a cheese ploughmans and the char-grilled vegetable cous cous as part of a Middle Eastern inspired dinner. Delphi Foods are a family business based in London who began selling specialised foods from Greece and Cyprus in 1960 and evolved into the award-winning brand we know today. Available in individual pots ranging from 160g-200g click here to view the whole Delphi range.

Happy National Vegetarian Week!Facebooktwitterinstagram

National Butchers’ Week

Today is the start of National Butchers’ Week, a celebration of the skills and services of independent butchers throughout the country.
Butchers have traditionally been a town staple along with greengrocers, bakeries and post offices. Today these have mostly been compiled into supermarkets and many towns no longer benefit from the one-to-one interaction with their butcher. In the 1990’s the Meat Trades Journal reported that there were 22,000 butchers in the UK, by 2010 this had dropped to 7,100.
However recent food trends including increased concern over trace-ability and, amid growing climate concerns, the need for quality over quantity in our meat, have resulted in a resurgence in traditional butchers. Below we look at three local butchers and their products.
Established in March 1996 Tim Potter Family Butchers began with just 3 members of staff, today there are 9 including son Christopher and daughter Katie who now runs the Katie’s Pantry part of the business.
Committed to supplying the best quality meats to their customers Tim Potter provide a range of products including traditional beef, lamb and pork joints as well as award-winning sausages and their own seasoned kebabs and BBQ range. They also stock a range of locally sourced cheeses, butters and deli products. The business credits its success on its focus on local produce, fantastic customer service and selling quality meat at realistic prices.

clive downsClive Downs Butchers
Situated in Porlock in Somerset Clive Downs Butchers was established over 20 years ago and has been managed by Derek Weeks, an experienced butcher who has worked in the trade for 40 years, since 2017. Their products include locally sourced lamb, beef and various game as well as handmade sausages including venison with redcurrant and pork with tomato and basil. Clive Downs also supply a number of Chunk of Devon pies such as the Chicken & Bacon and the Steak & Ale.

lloyd maunder exmouth (2)Lloyd Maunder – West Country Family Butchers
The eponymous Lloyd Maunder took over his father’s butchers shop in Witheridge in 1898. He then proceeded to expand the business by selling meat and dairy products to customers in London and became one of the first major suppliers to Sainsbury’s. The first Lloyd Maunder shop opened in 1913 in Tiverton and today there are 14 branded shops throughout the South West. Their product range includes traditional lamb, beef and pork as well as their popular ‘meat for a week’ deals and dinner party selections. Many of the shops now have deli counters serving local artisan cheeses, salads, pies and marinated meats which are proving popular with their customers.

There are many other fantastic family owned butchers that we could have mentioned here and this can only be a sign of the continued success of the traditional butcher. Happy National Butchers’ Week!Facebooktwitterinstagram

The Great West Country Dairy

Cheese has been made in Britain for thousands of years; our moderate climate, year round rain and lush rolling landscape make the country – and more importantly for us the West Country – ideal for dairy farming. As wine is renowned for its ‘terroir’ so cheese develops flavours unique to the grass, soil and climate in/on which the animals graze. In small scale dairies this results in cheeses with different depths of flavour dependent upon these factors which sets them apart from manufactured cheese and production line dairies. In the following blog we explore three West Country dairies and the delicious cheeses that they produce.

The Barber family have been producing their traditional farmhouse cheddar since 1833, making them the world’s oldest surviving cheddar-makers. Daniel Barber began making cheese on Maryland Farm in rural Somerset mainly for his family and farm workers using milk from his own herd of cows. However as demand for the cheese grew more milk was needed and by the 1950’s the family were working with surrounding farms to barbers maturekeep up production.
Today the farm is still very much a family business who have not lost their passion for cheese-making. Time honoured techniques and recipes passed down through the generations combined with modern technology have ensured the longevity of this traditional cheddar. We stock a wide range of Barber’s cheeses including the Vintage Reserve 1833, the Mellow cheddar and the Haystack Tasty as well as their Red Leicester and Double Gloucester cheeses. Click here to view the whole Barber’s lynher dairiesrange.

Lynher Dairies are producers of the award-winning Cornish Yarg cheese. First made in the 1980s on Bodmin Moor by Alan Grey, who found the 17th century recipe for nettle-wrapped cheese in his attic, Yarg is now made by Catherine Mead at their custom built dairy near Truro. Other cheeses include a Garlic Yarg, Stithians cheese and the Cornish Kern which won Supreme Champion at the World Cheese Awards in 2017. The yargrich Cornish milk used in the cheese-making process comes from their own herd of Aryshire cows and is also sourced from nearby farms. This coupled with the cheese-makers’ experience and expertise results in some truly delicious cheeses. We currently stock the classic Yarg and the Garlic version.

Robin Congdon was the original pioneer behind ticklemore cheeseTicklemore Cheese Dairy. In the 1970’s he began reviving the tradition of sheep milking in the UK and, with thirty sheep on a smallholding near Exeter, began producing yogurt and soft cheeses. Soon he and his partner Maurice Ash expanded the business to a larger farm on the banks of the River Dart where the Beenleigh Blue and later Harbourne Blue and Devon Beenleigh3Blue cheeses were developed. The 1980’s were an exciting time for producing speciality cheeses and a larger dairy was built to accommodate new varieties including Ticklemore Goat and Devon Rustic – both of which were given to Sharpham Creamery once production needed to be simplified. We stock their Devon Blue and Beenleigh Blue cheeses.

There are many more dairies and cheeses that we could have mentioned here which proves just how lucky we are to live and work in this beautiful county. The hard work of dairy owners and the expertise of its cheese-makers ensures that the West Country cheese remains a renowned speciality.Facebooktwitterinstagram

Local Producers – Brookes Bacon

Here in Devon we are extremely lucky to have so many fantastic local producers on our doorstep – from artisan cheeses and bespoke blended teas to quality sausages and handmade puddings. In a time when consumers are increasingly concerned with low food miles and the provenance of their food, locality and the ‘shop local’ campaign have never been more apt. With this in mind we are producing a blog series on our local producers and their delicious products, this week focusing on Brookes Bacon.brookesBrookes Bacon began in the mid 1980’s when the company supplied ham, cheese and pre-packed cooked meats to mainly wholesale and catering customers. In 1994 demand for sliced and pre-packed bacon from their customers increased and the business began to focus purely on bacon and gammon products.

smoked streaky baconBased in Dorset, Brookes Bacon are passionate about providing high quality European and British bacon and use modern technologies and the latest equipment to maintain the excellent and consistent quality that their customers expect.

We currently stock a wide range of Brookes bacon including catering packs of both smoked and unsmoked as well as streaky and smoked streaky bacon, all of which are available in individual packs of 2.25kg and cases of four 2.25kg packs. We also stock their back baconretail smoked and unsmoked bacon packs which are available in individual 450g and cases of 15x 450g packs. Their thick-cut gammon steaks are becoming increasingly popular and are available in 450g packs with two gammon steaks per pack and the thickly cut ribfree bacon is another great quality product, it is available in catering 2.25kg packs. Click here to view the full bacon range and discover your new favourite bacon.Facebooktwitterinstagram

Shop Local: Community Shops

Community shops have been on the rise for a number of years; in 1994 there were just 27 registered community shops while in 2016 this number had risen to 348. Community shops are owned and funded by the local community often in rural areas without access to other means of provision. These shops are able to compete with their bigger, nationwide counterparts by focusing on maintaining a loyal customer base, staffing their shops with a mostly volunteer workforce and often providing other community activities including workshops, craft schemes and cafe facilities. Here we explore a few of our local community shops and the work that they do.

ide commIde Community Shop was opened in 2013 following the closure of the village post office. A temporary shop was housed in a portable cabin but after a fundraising effort by local residents, permanent premises were purchased and today the shop is a thriving business. Staffed by 50 volunteers the shop sells a range of locally sourced produce including artisan cheeses, Chunk of Devon pies and pasties and a variety of sliced meats as well as locally made cakes, chocolates and ice creams. Following growing awareness to the dangers of single use plastics the shop has committed to reducing its own plastic waste and in an innovative move  now stock reusable cotton bags made by local residents. These pretty, colourful bags make a refreshing change to flimsy plastic bags and can be used again and again.

Cheriton Fitzpaine Community Shop has similar origins to those just described; in 2016 the owners of the village shop and post office retired and the shop had to close. Local residents became concerned that the loss of the shop as a community hub would be keenly felt and a small group began researching the idea of re-opening. In May 2017 that idea was realised. The community shop is currently housed in a temporary building adjacent to the Methodist Chapel while the cheriton fitznecessary planning permissions and building work continue for permanent premises. The management team focuses on providing the best produce possible for their customers sourced from local producers including bacon, sausages, pies, pasties and savouries, cheese, dips and olives, chocolates, jams and chutneys as well as everyday staples such as bread, eggs and milk. Run by a small army of volunteers the Cheriton Fitzpaine Community Shop has also become a local hub promoting locally run events, displaying public notices and functioning as a place for people to meet.

Otterton’s last convenience shop closed its doors in 2004 despite efforts to try and save it by the local community. In the intervening years residents began canvassing opinion from local residents as to whether to open a community run shop. Over a three year period this group of volunteers hosted fundraising events, scouted for premises and finally obtained planning permission to refurbish the snooker hall and the current otterton commcommunity shop opened in 2014. Staffed by a majority of volunteers the shops mission is to cater to the needs of local people, providing not only everyday staples such as milk, bread and cereal but also locally sourced meat, fish, pies and pasties, wine, beer and liqueurs and frozen, high quality ready meals. The shop is able to compete with its larger, national counterparts by competitive pricing and a focus on local produce.

These three community shops are linked by their stringent sense and love of community; each is run by a group of volunteers willing to give up their time and expertise to the project and provide the best service possible to their local residents. In an era filled with convenience deliveries and big business, we are happy to see these small, local focused shops succeed and wish them all the best of luck for the coming year.Facebooktwitterinstagram