This is being written in the Vendée, where the courgettes are growing so quickly that we have to pick them every day and even then the field is littered with discarded marrows that got away from us. The specification (35-50mm diameter) is the source of much mirth; my French is not up to much and I struggle to follow the field banter, but it seems to centre around the women having a more realistic estimate of size. When the courgettes are finished it is onto the bunched carrots; here the jokes are all about “carrottes amoureuses” where two roots have followed the same fissure down through the soil and become entwined. They are the happiest workforce I have ever known. The only other work around here is pulling the guts out of ducks at the local abattoir so perhaps it is not surprising that they seem so happy to be out in the fields.
I travelled down via London and the V&A where, amongst statues, jewels and porcelain, we collected the Observer Best Ethical Online Retailer award to add to the Best Ethical Business and Best Ethical Restaurant we won last year; most gratifying. Thanks to those of you who voted for us.
The yurt-housed Travelling Field Kitchen has been on the road for a month now, first in Hampshire and more recently at Freightliners City Farm in London. The food has been fantastic and the atmosphere harmonious and joyful. Logistically it is as difficult as getting a crusade to Jerusalem, but the contented hubbub of conversation from 80 well-fed diners reminds me why we embarked on this crazy project in the first place. At the end of July we take our yurt to WOMAD (23rd-25th July). As well as running a pared-down version of the restaurant in the mornings, we are sponsoring the Taste the World stage where, after performing on the main stages, musicians from all over the world come to cook, tell stories and play the occasional song to small and intimate audiences before sharing food with them. If, like me, you are a bit crowd phobic, with an eclectic taste in music, I cannot recommend WOMAD highly enough; it is a very civilised experience.
Guy Watson from Riverford in Devon
Gordon Ramsay said he “knew it would be good, but not that good”, Giles Coren described it as “the lunch of his life” and Observer readers voted it the “Best Ethical
inside the yurt
Restaurant”. Under Jane Baxter, the Field Kitchen’s championing of seasonal vegetables, shared dishes and an affordable set menu has turned out to be a phenomenal success. The obvious thing would be to open another restaurant further East, but cash is tight and I hate doing the obvious so we have gone into the woods, cut some ash and fashioned a giant Mongolian-style tent (yurt) and made tables and benches for 80; the Field Kitchen is coming to a field near you this summer.
We are going on the road, complete with a tent-dwelling team of chefs, waiters and pot washers. We will pitch up at Freightliners City Farm in Islington from 10-20th June, Mole End Farm in Kent from 19-29th August and Bristol from 2-12th September, as well as our other sister farms, WOMAD and the Abergavenny Food Festival on the way.
The yurt is a beautiful structure; snug with a woodburning stove for cool evenings but, with removable sides, open enough to enjoy an alfresco lunch should we get a summer. The menu will reflect what is seasonal and growing in the fields around. We are not vegetarian (though there is an option) but often convert even the most avid carnivore to the joy of vegetables. Jane describes her cooking as “gutsy and no nonsense”. Portions are generous and the service relaxed and leisurely. Bring a group of friends and book a table (10) or make up a shared table. We also hope to run cookery classes and workshops. To book, call 0845 367 1155 or 01803 762062.
New website 12th may
Our new-look website is unveiled on Wednesday 12th May. It has been designed to make it easier for you to shop and manage your account. It will also give you a better sense of where and how your veg is grown and more help with using it in the kitchen. Expect more pictures of the farm and of course plenty of recipes. We hope you find it easy to use, but if you get stuck we’ll be manning the phones for longer to help; call us on 0845 600 2311 or 01803 762059.