Towards the end of 2018, I was privileged to join a group of chefs, writers, farmers, archeologists, photographers and filmmakers for Terroir Tuscany. One thing unified us all - food: its provenance, history, politics, production and sustainability.
Hosted by Charlotte Horton of Castello di Potentino, our breathtaking setting, and Arlene Stein of Terroir Hospitality, we spent 7 days learning from each other and local expert producers. We would meet each day after breakfast for talks in the importance of terroir and the power and politics of food today and throughout time, with a particular emphasis on the unique region of the castello, with its history pre-dating Etruscan times.
Charlotte and Arlene had worked immensely hard to curate a programme which enthralled, educated, entertained and moved us all. Talks, discussions, debate and hands-on workshops filled our days, whilst our evenings were spent sharing wonderful, locally-sourced food and the castello’s delicious wine. And as the evenings stretched into night, we would gather in the courtyard, warming ourselves by the open fires as we listened to the sounds of the guitar and marvelled at the star-strewn Tuscan skies.
Every day we learnt from a different expert producer from the region. We made cheese - delicious ricotta and pecorino, - we picked olives and tasted the new season’s oil, we made bread from ancient grains and recipes, we toured the castello’s vineyards and cellars, tasting wonderful local wines, we observed the Teatro Porco, as the local expert butcher prepared an entire pig for meat and charcuterie, we made fresh pasta and foraged wild plants and fungi nestling in the local hillside.
And we ate. Oh, how we ate! Cooks, chefs and restaurateurs were legion amongst us and, each afternoon, a posse of volunteers would gather in the ancient castle kitchen to make the evening meal. Baskets of vegetables and herbs filled the ancient fireplace and an impromptu menu would be devised from that day’s offerings. We shared ideas and knowledge, whilst learning so much under the relaxed tutelage of the some of the world’s most accomplished chefs (peppered with a Michelin star or two). How could it be anything but relaxed, as we prepped vegetables, meat and grain around an ancient table, stone sink in the corner and glass of wine in hand. So many cooks, so much joy and laughter and not a single broth spoiled.
This Terroir was a life-changing opportunity. What we shared and learned touched us all. An awareness of terroir and consideration of what it means should be important to each one of us. Its influence is impossible to overstate and should be paramount to everyone working within the food sector. Terroir is more than just a region of land. It is at the core of every community. It is the history, culture, politics, power, sustainability and the future of food production. It should be at the heart of all we do.
And if we put it at the core of what we do, we all become its ambassadors. We learn, we share, we influence, and we create both the power and will to change.
My week at Castello di Potentino has changed my view of the world and my community. For me, the world has now become smaller and my community so much larger. We gathered under its ancient walls as strangers from disparate parts of the world. We left as friends.
We're delighted to announce an exciting new venture with the fabulous sourdough expert and chef, Hilary Cacchio, Hilary is author of the wonderful Sourdough Suppers, a seasonal guide to eating and savouring your daily sourdough. My heart warmed to her the minute I read the phrase 'serve with a good wedge of sourdough' throughout the book. Although I may have been influenced by the Prune, Armagnac and Honey Ice cream Sandwiches (made with brioche, of course!). Oh my! Hilary spends half the year in France and half the year here in the UK, teaching sourdough baking in London for schools such as Bread Ahead, Divertimenti and, formerly, Leith's.
Our shared passion for food and our love of sourdough has drawn us together and now we're putting our heads together to come up with a wonderful residential bread making course in the heart of the beautiful French countryside. Plans are coming together for October 2019, when we hope to offer a French- inspired baking and cooking course, taking in local markets and mills, to make the most of the fabulous fresh seasonal produce and traditionally milled French flour.
We'll keep you posted with updates, both here and via social media.
In the meantime, feel free to drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to register your interest. There's no commitment at this stage, but those on the mailing list will be first to hear details of the full package once booking is live.
Well, last week was a bit of a whirlwind! After the flurry of publicity following our two Gold Awards in this month’s World Bread Awards, we were invited to join Chris Mann on the Food and Drink Hour at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. Chris, Emma and Heather were wonderfully welcoming and genuinely fascinated by the whole bread-making process. It may have helped that I went armed with a basketful of freshly baked bread and buns. Well, it would have been rude not to and we hate to disappoint. It turns out Emma is quite a big fan of our chocolate brioche buns!
The Food & Drink hour starts about and hour into the show, around the 60 mins mark, if you fancy giving it a listen:
Who knows, with all that enthusiasm for all things baking, maybe one of the team will be joining us in the near future to find out exactly what goes on in one of our workshops.
Whoop de whoop! Having entered some of our favourite loaves into the World Bread Awards last month, we have had to wait until now and the Awards Ceremony to find out how we fared. Having won Bronze, Silver and Gold awards in 2015 & 2016, the pressure was on!
But we did it! Gold for both our Five Seed Sour and our Scandinavian Rye. The former has been a favourite with our customers from the start (and winner of a Great Taste Award) so we thought it was about time we put it into the World Bread Awards. But the latter, our rich, dark, all-rye sourdough, is relatively new and a particular favourite of mine – not only because it’s a bakery staple for breakfast, lunch and tea, but because it took so very long to develop. Endless tweaking finally paid off, when the taste and texture finally met with the bread I’ve been dreaming of (and yes, I dream endlessly about food, both real and yet-to-be created! Don’t we all?).
So, perseverance and patience pays off. We all get there in the end. If you came along the journey with us – thank you. Now sit back, put the kettle on, bring out the butter and jam. It’s time for tea…
We were delighted to be chosen to feature in the new 'Meet the Maker' series, in a short film produced by global website The Culture Trip!
The accompanying article can be found here and you can watch the video below!
This week we were thrilled to receive a portfolio of pictures from the wonderfully talented Naomi Davies. A long admirer of her work, we asked her to draw a selection of our most popular loaves in her inimitable style.
Credit: Naomi Davies (naomidaviesart.co.uk)
Our workshops are run by award-winning sourdough baker Helen Underwood.