Four Go Wild at River Cottage!

(The BU Team, Photo courtesy of RCHQ)

What do you get if you mix four sustainability professionals, lots of clay and more food than you can eat in a day...all by 11.30am?  A day at River Cottage HQ!

I was lucky enough to spend Tuesday at the AMAZING River Cottage HQ on the Dorset/Devon border, and what a fantastically inspiring day it was.  I went with my team from work as part of a training award we'd won from our Vice Chancellor and I have to say I felt very privileged to be going to River Cottage.  We went on the Build & Bake course where you learn how to build a clay oven and bake bread.  The team at RCHQ also laid on a tour of the farm and all it's sustainability initiatives, it truly was an awesome day. (I'll point out now that this is going to be a long post so if you just want to see the piccies from the day please scroll down!)

Steve Lamb (Head of Events) greeted us upon our arrival, and we walked through the fields down the the beautiful farmhouse.  Due to our small group and the fact that there were other events taking place in the main (read temporary whilst they rebuild their barn post-fire) events area we were lucky enough to be located in the farmhouse and the actual kitchen featured on the TV.  We were introduced to Gill Meller (Head Chef) who had created the most tasty Welsh Rarebit with crackling for our arrival.  Gill would also be teaching us how to make bread and pizza and baking both of these in the kitchens wood-fired oven.  Steve then offered us a warming (or as he described it 'focusing') apple cider brandy before we headed out to start on our clay oven.  Even though it's meant to be spring it pretty much felt like winter outside, but it didn't matter, the stunning view and wonderful surroundings of the River Cottage Farm, and of course Steve's whit and hands-on teaching style soon had us deep in sand and clay! We were also introduced to Jemma who kindly took some photos of our clay building efforts!

(Steve & I wrapping the sand former in wet paper, Photo courtesy of RCHQ)

After all that hard work it was time for another snack of handmade sausages whilst enjoying the view.  By this time it was about 11.30am and I'd already eaten what I would normally eat in an entire day!

(Sausage cigars! Photo courtesy of Amanda Williams)

Back into the warm farmhouse kitchen and we were now in Gills safe hands and learning to make bread.  Gill had kindly measured out all the ingredients for us and all was going well until we noticed someone hadn't put their salt in their mixture....and to this day we still don't know who it was!  After some mixing, and kneading we left the bread to prove and moved onto making pizza.  

(Eyes bigger than our bellies! Photo courtesy of Amanda Williams)

Once we'd baked our pizza we sat down to eat them in the farmhouse dining room, along with some roast potatoes and salad.....needless to say we were all pretty full by this point....and then there was pudding!  Vanilla panna cotta with homemade digestive biscuits and toffee sauce.  At this point my colleagues caved and couldn't manage their biscuits.....needless to say I stepped in to help!  I was so full and it was so cosy sitting by the wood-burner I could have sat there all afternoon!

(Building the brick arch, Photo courtesy of Amanda Williams)

After lunch we shaped our bread and left it to prove a second time whilst we went out to build the arch for our clay oven.  It was at this point that I seem to remember some sand being thrown (Guilty parties shall remain nameless....Steve!) 

(I may have said something to prompt the sand throwing! Photo courtesy of Amanda Williams)

And then it was back to the kitchen to finish and bake our bread.  

(Gill showing us how it's done. Photo courtesy of Amanda Williams)

To round off the day Steve gave us a tour of the farm and we met all the animals and looked at all the sustainability initiatives on site.  We saw the new barn being built to replace the old one which sadly burn down last year, it's going to be amazing.  

(These cuties looked good enough to eat! Photo Courtesy of Amanda Williams)

One final stop off back at the kitchen to collect our bread and thank Gill for his inspiring teachings and it was time to catch the tractor and trailer back up the drive to the car.  

It was such a wonderfully inspiring day, I hadn't baked bread in about a year but the very next day I went out and bought all the things I needed to start again. I also spent the weekend clearing my old abandoned veg patch ready to start growing again. Now I just need to decide if I'm staying in this house long enough to build the clay oven or to wait and see if we are going to move in the near future.

Thanks again to all at River Cottage HQ for such and amazing and fun filled day, especially Steve, Gill, Emma (who kept us topped up with coffee and warmth all day), Lilly and Jemma (for the photos).  It really was a day to remember, I hope to be back one day real soon, and I would recommend it to everyone!

Happy sustainable living my lovelies! xx

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