A Year in the New Kitchen

| 14th August 2016

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We’ve lived in this house, with hens, at the corner of the street for 8 years now, we bought the house from our friends and when Ruth handed me the keys on the day of completion she made the simple request ‘Share the garden, please share the garden’. We know that we are privileged to have a bigger garden than others in the area and have been delighted to welcome literally hundreds of people to the garden in recent years as we’ve encouraged people to find out more about where their food comes from. As we’ve been producing higher yields of organically grown food year on year in the garden, we’ve been deciding how we could improve the small Victorian kitchen to facilitate hands on cooking experiences for course guests who want to develop their artisan food skills.

Whilst I’d been dreaming for years, the detailed planning began in January ‘15, the old kitchen was taken out in March and the final tiles were grouted by the end of June ‘15 leaving the new kitchen complete and ready for us to cook in.

As regular readers will know, the colour scheme of pastel green, beige and white was chosen to match the variety of eggs that our chickens lay. Then there were a few key features that we wanted to incorporate into the design; a larger fridge that had a separate section for the business, a 3m long work surface (wonderful for making tagliatelle), and finally a huge mirrored splashback above the range cooker to reflect light, allow guests see what we’re cooking and help me check that the children really are doing their homework at the table behind me!

Of course you can

The new kitchen was designed specifically to support our courses which made it to the top of the list of the best courses in London with The Resident magazine. Guests have said that, as our courses are run from our family home, it helps them understand how they can do the same back in their own homes. Our food courses use normal domestic equipment to help guests not only feel at home but also empowered, as they learn in our kitchen, to continue developing their new skills in their own kitchens.

‘Very enjoyable couple of hours learning how to make sausages. Sara is passionate about living sustainably and also very practical. I like how she makes things simple and leaves space for individual creativity.’

Rosanda, TripAdvisor

Each of our courses are based around the seasons of the year and we have some exciting new sessions coming up soon. September finds us celebrating Urban Food Fortnight and preserving with Pick and Pickle on 13th Sep and Fruit Wines and Liqueurs on 20th Sep. In October we have a very special Sourdough Saturday on 15th Oct and we’re making Cheese in a Day again on Nov 1st.

The Accidental Bakery

We really didn’t plan to open a bakery, I promise.
People laugh when I say that we accidentally opened a bakery, but it’s true! Here’s how it happened…

My friend, Katie, and I went on an advanced bread making class to become Bread Angels with Jane Mason of Virtuous Bread. On the way home on the train, I suggested that we could set aside the first Friday in each month to bake together, for our families, and offer any spare loaves for sale to friends on Facebook. This sounded a fun plan, we would get a day together each month doing something that we love and offering to share it with local friends in the community. So the first date came around, Friday 2nd October, and we made a list of what we’d like to bake. We created a Facebook event and invited friends to come and collect our bakes after work. Around 30 people came, spent £380, and said ‘What do you mean once a month? We want this every week’ and so we juggled a few things round in our diaries and have been baking for the community every Friday since! Many months on, we now have an online store for people to place orders and have over 100 customers collecting bread, buns, cakes and treats alongside fresh eggs, homemade preserves, honey and locally grown salads.
Our best sellers are Cinnamon Swirls, New York Bagels and our Sixteen Hour Sourdoughs, and we are delighted that the swirls and sourdoughs have both reached the finals of the Urban Food Awards, fingers crossed for the awards night next month…

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Other News:
  • We had a great time at the London Permaculture Festival and were interviewed by London Live for their lunchtime and evening news shows
  • The Jam and Chutney workshops that we ran for our local Disability Network in Hounslow, went well. We were training them to preserve the wonderful organically grown produce that they are harvesting from their community allotment.
  • It was a privilege, again, to be a ‘Dragon’ for the National Citizen Service: The Challenge hearing young people pitch plans for social action projects to transform their communities
Jobs for the Week:
  • Borrow a Solar Powered Wax Extractor, from my friend Thomas, to collect old beeswax from last year’s hive frames
  • Check out the class schedule for the National Honey Show and decide which categories to enter, I’m thinking honey, wax, comb, cake, biscuits and traditional skep (that’s setting myself up for quite a bit of work isn’t it?)
  • Research options for an outdoor wood fired bread oven, anyone for pizza in the garden?

We’ve really set the new kitchen to task this year, but still have mastering macarons on the ‘to do list’, are there any foodie masterpieces that you would like to get under your belt?

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Paula Thomas 15th August 2016 at 9:41 am

Hi, I love the idea of kitchen table enterprises, and I think what you have achieved is inspirational. Can you elaborate on what courses, certification and local council permission you had to undertake or obtain before you were allowed to sell to the public? Keep up the good work!

Sara Ward 15th August 2016 at 11:58 am

Hi Paula,

Thanks for your encouragement.

To sell food to the public, you need to be registered with your local authority as a food business, you should find more details on your council’s website.

The government document Safer Food Better Business is a really good manual/checklist to ensure that you are producing food safely for your customers.

It’s important that all team members have a Food Hygiene certificate which proves that you’ve successfully completed a training course (either in the classroom or online).

Once registered with your local authority, they should send round an Environmental Health Officer to check your premises & procedures.

Depending on what food you are are producing determines specific guidelines/policies, for example if you are selling jars of preserves, there are certain pieces of info which need to be on the labels, etc.

It’s not as daunting as it may sound and there’s lots of help along the way!

Good luck, Sara 🙂

Farmerswifeandmummy 19th August 2016 at 6:36 pm

I love the way you write and your kitchen sounds wonderful. I had the council round for a hygiene rating and started baking cakes. When I bake for family, it’s fine but once I started baking for other people, everything went wrong and didn’t rise. Back to the drawing board for me 😉

Sara Ward 19th August 2016 at 9:08 pm

Thanks for this Emma,

What do you think has changed between baking for yourself and others?

I don’t expect that you’ve made many changes for the council inspection?

Make a few more cakes for family & friends just to enjoy, maybe the thought of a business/selling your cakes was putting you under pressure?

Looking forward to hearing about some great bakes soon!

Sara x


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