New Year, Old Me…..just paying more attention to Time and Balance

I rather like January, it is a month filled with family celebrations, lots of birthdays and parties. Britain’s ‘fresh start’ mindset is still clinging on but in reality we are probably now thinking that the comfort foods are definitely calling.

For me, Balance is going to be my key word for 2019, something which needs to apply to all aspects of my life…diet, mood, calendar. Why eat food which makes you miserable, it inevitably leads to overeating and, eventually, failure in whatever healthy path we put ourselves on. January is always diet month. There appears to be two types of dieter, the first fully embraces optimal health, posts images packed with colourful superfoods, understands the nutritional content and feels the buzz…the second tries to mimic ‘normal’ foods with low fat, low calories alternatives…these are the people who claim that potatoes sprayed with oil/water products and baked in the oven are a ‘real treat’ – they are only trying to prove this to themselves. Their diet, which, on the surface is filled with fruit and veg actually contains a lot of junk; fillers, palm oils, sugars. Yes, this is controversial, but subscribing to quality over quantity is manageable…for life.

Having been a member of a well known worldwide slimming club, I can see that only now, after several decades, are they finally coming round to a more holistic approach to diet and lifestyle. It is to be commended, but the number of people who criticise the company for making lean chicken, fish, fruit and pulses ‘free’ foods whilst their old ‘treats’ of cake bars etc ‘cost’ them far more than they ever used to, is quite astounding.

The UK is looking towards a more flexitarian approach to food, quality meat and fish, in smaller portions – with lots of lovely veggies, fruits and pulses…this isn’t really a diet, it’s just common sense. It’s all about engaging our senses…how much more pleasure can one get from a small toasted slice of sourdough spread with organic, cold salted butter and topped with a little rare-breed dry cured bacon, over a huge bowl of cereal drowned in skimmed milk? I know which I would choose, unquestionably.

Time is important, time to eat, time to relax, time to enjoy. Embracing the little things in life; a hot cup of leaf tea, one homemade delectable biscuit or a leisurely Sunday lunch with friends or family. January is a time of hibernation, of Cwtching Up as we say in Wales, of Hygge as favoured by the Danes. Drinking mugs of hot soup around a brazier on a frosty night or a family Pizza making frenzy, all these make us feel warm and comfortable and our worries are abandoned in that moment.

Mindfulness had become something of a craze, rather than something which is essential and natural to each and every one of us. Slowing down is, holistically, good for us,  and so many of us have forgotten how to relax, myself included. Living in the moment can be applied to everything, it creates a healthier mind and in turn a healthier body.

So, this month, you don’t need to subscribe to Dry January or Veganuary or anything ‘on trend’ – if a decent steak or G and T makes you happy, and keeps you in the moment….just enjoy it and leave the baggage and the guilt behind.

Time and Balance is the key.


This little piggy went to market….then into the freezer…..and it was yum!

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This weekend I’ve gone a little bit pork mad. On Friday I took delivery of 1/2 a free-range, rare breed pig from Martha Roberts’ The Decent Company. I was very impressed by the obvious bond she has with her pigs and (so far) I am certainly not disappointed in the quality of the meat.  Rare Breed Pork is quite a bit darker than your usual ‘supermarket’ pork, the fat is creamy and generous and the skin crackles beautifully, the flavour is richer and more old fashioned from when meat tasted like meat.

Martha’s Monmouthshire based smallholding is enchantingly described on her lovely postcards as being high in the hills, and the pictures of her happy sounder (love that word) of swine are a testament to their very ‘decent’ upbringing. I chose 1/2 a pig which is a little over 20 kgs in weight, and costs £160, which when you consider the variety of cuts, is very reasonable. The Pork arrived packed in neat, insulated boxes with lovely little branded cards stashed neatly in a zip lock bag. Within minutes my son had set upon one of the ten packets of sausages and within twenty minutes were sampling some of the nicest sausages I’ve tasted in a long while. They were perfectly seasoned and my 106 year old grandmother, who is staying with us for the week, declared them to, “taste like sausages used to”, which is quite an accolade.

There was an excellent variety of joints, ribs, belly (more on that later), a lovely hock from which I am going to make a pressed parsley terrine, chops not much smaller than my son’s head….the list goes on. We stashed most of it in the freezer, admittedly it does take up most of the freezer….and it’s very likely that within a few weeks we’ll all have grown a curly tail!  Pork is such a versatile meat and you could easily cook a different dish every day for a month and still have dozens of options.

I  have always been a great supporter of the Welsh pig industry. A few years ago I was lucky enough to be invited to a day at Humble by Nature in Monmouthshire, in conjunction with Porc Wales and I learned a great deal about a meat which was very much used in Welsh kitchens. To read more about my experience, click here.

So, this morning, after panicking that I had no bread in the house I knocked up a quick Soda Hedgehog Bread and oven-roasted a few sausages. IMG_0131Served with Tracklement’s Sweet Mustard Ketchup and Proper Tomato Ketchup they went down a treat for Saturday Brunch.

My husband has also decided that now is the time to begin his foray into bacon making and having worked his way through the curing sections of my extensive cookery book library he finally decided to ‘wing it’ a little. The result, which is curing in the refrigerator, is a cider and honey cure with sea salt.

We elected not to use nitrates so we will probably slice and freeze the bacon soon after curing. It is a great ambition of mine to have a proper inglenook fire so that I can hang bacon and hams inside and let the sweet woodsmoke flavour the meat. One day…I keep telling myself. We also made a great slab of crackling with the discarded rind,  which I’ll probably serve alongside bowls of homemade brandied apple sauce with drinks before dinner.

Tomorrow we have guests for Sunday Lunch so I very much looking to sharing this lovely leg joint with them, with all the trimmings of course, and I’m quite sure they’ll all enjoy it as much as I will!

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Daylesford Harvest Festival – Organic in bundles!

I have always been intrigued by the Daylesford brand and have intended on paying them a visit for quite some time. Last weekend, I found the perfect excuse as they were holding their annual Harvest Festival. It was a lovely day out and although the day began a little gloomy, the sun shone on Daylesford.

Without doubt, Daylesford is marketed towards a certain type of person; its shops and ethos have been criticised for being elitist but I found it quite lovely. It is like entering a magical world where nothing is wrong, almost like Marie-Antoinette’s Petit Trianon with its pre-wiped hen’s eggs for collection and its beribboned lambs. Daylesford is geared towards those to aspire to the country life. Everything is exceptional quality and the prices reflect this, however they also reflect the ‘behind the scenes’ effort which goes into the food, products and service offered by Daylesford.

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Owned by Lady Bamford of JCB fame, and located on the Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire border between Stow-on-the-Wold and Moreton-in-Marsh , in the heart of the Cotswolds,  it is one of the most sustainable working farms in the country. Fully organic, Daylesford comprises the working farm, holiday cottages, cookery school, original farm shop, restaurant, cafe, lifestyle shops, spa and nursery. The Daylesford branding is everywhere, which is strangely comforting and provides effortless continuity. Granted, some of the prices (especially in the clothing department) were eye-watering for mere mortals but the food hall was an absolute delight. I was extremely impressed by the chilled cheese room which offers dozens of cheeses including their own Single Gloucester, Double Gloucester, Blue and a Camembert-style cheese, all of which were excellent. The butchery and fish counters were impeccably presented and offered a rich variety of produce, predominantly from the farm (although of course not the fish!)

It being an open day, we enjoyed visiting the animals and learning about the different rare and historic breeds which make up the Daylesford livestock. There were sheepdog trials, cray-fish catching, donkey patting….everything shouted ‘true country living’ (although quite a number of their clientele had driven up from Town and were a little under equipped for the muddy fields!).

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I have to say, Daylesford is ‘well done’, its sister shops in London are stocked with the same superior quality ingredients as the Farm Shop and everything feels fresh and good for you (even the cakes). I didn’t dine in the restaurant as it was extremely full (although I full intend to return soon) but took the opportunity to indulge in a ‘smart’ takeaway – their wood-fired oven was offering glistening mozzarella and salami covered organic pizzas which looked delicious, however we chose the slow-cooked pulled beef with ‘slaw in an organic roll. Eaten in the sunshine with a cold bottle of their own cider it was idyllic, although extremely busy. The day finished with the purchase of a few delicious pastries, made in the on-site bakery; and a bag full of sumptuous cheeses, organic milk and a rather super organic mint jelly.

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Daylesford should be billed as an experience; I’d recommend a weekend away in one of their beautiful holiday cottages (which form the bulk of the original farmhouse) – you’re but a few steps away from a delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner – indulge in a treatment in the spa, sip a coffee on the Cotswold stone terrace or sign up to a masterclass or day course at the cookery school. There is a lot to do but do go with very full pockets, you may need to book up almost a year in advance due to the popularity of the holiday accommodation. All in all, it’s a place to forget about the world, forget about the credit card bill and just indulge.