Chef's zero food miles quest

One of the capital's top chefs, Paul Gayler, was invited to cook locally-grown potatoes for three dozen guests at the Elveden estate. The second annual Juliette dinner, which was served in a tent on the estate's cricket pitch, featured potatoes grown just two fields away - so a case of food metres rather than food miles.

One of the capital's top chefs, Paul Gayler, was invited to cook locally-grown potatoes for three dozen guests at the Elveden estate. The second annual Juliette dinner, which was served in a tent on the estate's cricket pitch, featured potatoes grown just two fields away - so a case of food metres rather than food miles. Mr Gayler's team served home-smoked eel with Juliette potato blinis to begin the meal followed by five slices of delicious slow-roasted Gressingham duck and freshly-lifted potatoes. And the potatoes, which were served, straight from the pan were absolutely delightful. The variety's breeder, Gregoire Pascal, of Germicopa, who came over from his base in Brittany, France, was also very impressed by the high standards of English cuisine. And, in a very generous gesture, one of the guests asked the nine-strong culinary team to receive congratulations from the dinners with a toast: “Sante, Chef.”

Blackcurrant specialist adviser John Fiddian, who lives at Hindolveston in North Norfolk, has a great recipe featuring the fruit.

His wife, Valda, has adapted a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe for an ice cream base for fruit addition. Take 500ml double cream, 100g (Silver Spoon) caster sugar, 150ml water, Two egg yolks. Place water and sugar in saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolved then boil until light syrup is obtained, leave to cool for a minute. Place egg yolks in large bowl and whisk. An electric whisk is the best, trickling in syrup as you go, until mixture is thick and mousse like, whisk in cream. Pour into ice cream maker and begin to churn, adding fruit puree of your choice. Try 500g of blackcurrants, with 125g sugar cooked and sieved or 1kg gooseberries, with with splash of water, cooked, with five heads of elderflower plus 125g of sugar, cook until soft and then push through sieve (after removal of elderflower heads). As one of the team advising the 45 blackcurrant growers, who produce Ribena, he also enjoys a splash of the syrup on ice cream.

It was a great idea by March-based MBMG, which is promoting its “Potato Lovers” brand to host a dinner almost next door to a potato field. First, the visiting group of food buyers and caterers was taken to the 50-acre acre field of Juliette, regarded by the French as the highest gourmet salad potato variety. Then, the party were given baskets and forks and invited to dig for their supper.

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The Elveden estate's vegetable manager, Andrew Francis, encouraged the volunteer diggers to put their backs into the task or there wouldn't be enough to go around for dinner. The variety, which is a relative of Charlotte, was certainly tasty. As Mr Francis explained, by planting a high seed rate, the aim is to maintain taste and flavour and not maximum yield although the drought has probably depressed the yield by an estimated three tonnes an acre. However, lifting will start later in August.

Clay pigeon enthusiasts in West Norfolk have raised a total of more than £6,000 for the local branch of Riding for the Disabled over the past few years. And the recent successful competition between two 16-strong teams at the Wallington estate raised a total of £1,250 boosted by British Sugar's match funding from staff at the Wissington factory. No doubt, beet growers in Norfolk, who produce more than a third of the national crop, will be hoping that senior executives at British Sugar get out their cheque book to encourage farmers to stay in the industry. An effective price of £16.50 per tonne in 2010 is not likely to encourage many to stay in the industry and celebrate's Cantley's centenary two years later.

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Norfolk Internal Combustion Engine Society or NICE is planning a new fun event at Bawburgh village hall on Sunday, August 13, between 10am and 4pm. Members and visitors will be welcome to attend this show of bygones, statinary engines, cars, motorcycles, tractors. Entry free. The club is also planning a plough day for vintage models at Waxham Barns on Sunday, October 15. Details from 01493 393571.

One of the landmark churches in Broadland, St Mary's at Haddiscoe, will be open every Sunday afternoon in August when home-made teas will be served between 2pm and 5pm. On August 13, there will be an exhibition of photographs on the theme of “Rural Life in the 21st Century” for visitors to enjoy. Haddiscoe's church is on the A143 and stands on a prominence. It has several unusual features including remains of wall paintings, a rare Norman sculptued figure above the porch and of course, the distinctive round tower and chequered top.

A slightly unfortunate clash of events has been scheduled by the West Norfolk Foxhounds - the annual Terrier Shw and the Hunt Show on Sunday, August 6. The hunt show was a great financial success and will feature classes for affiliated and unaffiliated show jumping as well as fun classes at Marham. Details from Jane Kilham on 01553 631297 or 0771 204 7257. Members of the hunt's suppoeerts' club, are also organising the terrier, lurcher and companion dog show at Mill House Farm, North Elmham, by permission of John Labourchere, starting at 2pm. There are almost 40 classes ranging from puppies to any other variety, child handlers, veterans plus the usual terrier racing. Details from Angela Woods on 01362 684377.

To raise awareness of the Potato Lovers brand, student chefs from nine colleges around the country were challenged by the award-winning chef Paul Gayler, of The Lanesborough, London, to devise a recipe using Juliette potatoes. The prize of £1,000 was in addition to working alongside a top team preparing the annual Juliette dinner. The students were required to submit a recipe for either a starter or main course using the variety. The recipe had to include potatoes as 75pc of the overall composition. The winner was Emilia Strazzanti, of Birmingham College of Food, Tourism & Creative Studies for her “Salad Juliette Potatoes, Mussels and Fennel.” The runners-up were Tomas de la Cruz of Lancaster and Morecambe College and Sam Roth, of Westminster Kingsway College.

Pig farmer's son Alastair (Ally) Butler has been appointed technical sales manager by East Anglia-based creep feeds specialists Tuck Box. After gaining a degree in marketing and supply-chain management at Writtle Agricultural College, in Essex, he worked with Dalehead Foods as a supply-chain manager, responsible for improving communication throughout the pork chain. He then spent three years in London as a sales manager covering the south of England for a potato products manufacturer. He has been putting this sales and end-user knowledge to good use in his father's business, a 2,000 sow outdoor free-range unit, where he helped successfully establish the Blythburgh Free-Range Pork brand. His new role will involve helping pig farmers throughout the UK achieve the genetic potential from their stock through skilful management of early pig nutrition, with the Tuck Box Optimum Protein range and specialist meals used in the Transition and Jetmix feeders. A member of the recently formed 'Young NPA' (National Pig Association), 25-year-old Ally lives in Halesworth, he is also an active member of Diss RFC.

Plant power will be propelling farmers' leader Peter Kendall to his appointments. He has been lent a Saab which runs on biofuel. Mr Kendall has taken delivery of a Saab 9-5 Biopower estate, powered by E85 bioethanol. The flex-fuel car has a carbon dioxide emission level, which can be reduced by as much as 70pc compared to a standard petrol-engine car. The 9-5 model is capable of running on either a high-blend mixture of renewable energy source bioethanol and petrol (E85 fuel), or on pure petrol, without any adjustment required by the driver. Mr Kendall said: “Driving a bioethanol powered vehicle is no different to driving a normal petrol car. But it's great to be able to demonstrate, on the road, the contribution that can be made by agriculture and alternative landuses in terms of reducing the carbon dioxide emissions from road transport.”

When the Massey Harris combine was introduced in the 1950s, it was light years ahead of the binder, recalled Mid-Norfolk farmer Mike Garrod, of Manor Farm, Garveston. The task of shocking up, carting sheaves, stacking, gleaning and threshing gave way to the bagging combine but it was not a clean job. The operator's uniform consisted of a long-sleeved shirt, buttoned at the cuffs and neck, to prevent barley rash, a handkerchief tied over the mouth and nose Wild West style, a pair of ex-WWII pilot's gogles and a cap to keep out the muck. Mr Garrod, a former chairman of the Norfolk Farm Machinery Club, recalled completing eight acres in a hard's day's combining and then finally, the exhausting task of lifting the sacks of corn - 16 stone of barley, 18 stone of wheat on a trailer.

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