Thursday, 18 August 2011

Maddocks Farm Organics

    A good chef can spot a top ingredient at 100 yards.  The first time I found myself at Cullompton’s Farmers’ market, I zeroed in on these fantastic and vibrant salad bags.  It speaks volumes that before Jan agreed to supply the hotel I worked at the time, she secretly came and check if I was worthy!  Thus began a long and fruitful relationship and friendship with one of Devon’s top producers.  Salad leaves can often be such an oversight in a restaurant.  And, lord knows, the supermarkets don’t shine on this one.  Hand on heart, I can state that these are the best tasting, freshest and most diverse range of leaves, lettuces, herbs and edible flowers that I have encountered.
    The story began ten years ago for Jan and Stuart, (her professional philatelist husband/farmhand.) and it is one shared by many.  London dwellers, the pitter patter of little feet, too many glasses of wine whilst watching River Cottage and an ache for The Good Life.  Well, the Billingtons are case in point for what a slow and steady plan, hard graft and total commitment to quality and detail can reap.  The irony of the situation is, of course, you actually end up with less down time than back in the big smoke.  When does the watering, weeding and planting stop?  Their stunning ‘plantation’ on the edges of Kentisbeare is a little slice of heaven with listed farm house, acres of greenery, duck pond and their fab ‘The Haybarn’ holiday let.

    Certified Organic, Jan has a lot to say on the topic and we have had many a heated discussion about the whole matter.  Essentially we agree.  There are so many misleading food buzz words out there.  Someone does something good and right and then the marketers and money men grasp hold in grubby hands.  Organic to Jan is an ideal not just a soil sample and relevant certificate.  Jan states, ‘Organic should be about quality, freshness, integrity and miles.  A thought to the environment around you, cause and effect.  It isn’t just about supplying what people want or what was ordered, it is about providing what is best on the day.’  Maddocks Farm delivers goods that are picked that morning.  Period.  The salad bags aren’t pumped full of nitrogen, the leaves aren’t washed in a chlorine solution.  When you buy lettuces or leaves that are ‘just picked’ they will last five days in the fridge without unwanted and artificial aids.  Force Jan to sit down a moment over a cup of tea and she can wax lyrical.  ‘When all is dewy and a bit foggy in the morning, when I go out and survey the crops, it’s about intuition.  An innate sense of what is at its very peak of perfection.  Those are the lovelies that find their way into the bags that day.’  When I see the obsessive attention Jan puts into each leaf, I coin a new term.  Organically Certifiable.  Respect.  

    Dare I wade into the organic debate?  Are fresh picked, non-organic yet naturally grown vegetables from just down the road better than fancy wrapped organic product at your local hypermarket?  Probably.  Taste the food.  Let your tongue make decisions rather than packaging, food trends, ad words or price.  Remember, we are lucky down here.  The South West has little issue with poor animal welfare, pesticides or chemicals.  The U.K. is one of the safest places on the planet to buy food due to past crimes and hard lessons learnt.
    Meanwhile, back at the ranch.  Never mind the backache, the never ending days and the soiled hands, it is the weather that poses the most difficult challenge.  Climate change is pretty bloody obvious when snow starts ravaging this little island and you have the driest and hottest spring on record.  Luckily, Maddocks Farm have their own bore hole for watering and reams of fleece to blanket the crops saved most of it during the odd -15 degree night.  With the summer months now upon us the team is full steam ahead.  Everything in bloom, Jan and her lieutenant Mandy Christie start early and finish late to ensure all is picked, washed, bagged and delivered.  Much of Jan’s business is to Posh Nosh, one of the South West’s top event caterers and weddings are in full swing.  The edible flowers are a real favourite for these dos and add class and colour to festive functions.  For my own use, I use a tailor made, uber colourful and herby mix for the Southernhay House Salad and a mix of green lettuces for a simpler side dish.  The flowers are also fab for spicy and aromatic compound butters that jazz up any vegetable, grilled fish or meat dishes.  Now is the time for courgette flowers which I like to stuff with a scallop mix, dip in tempura and fry.  Jan and I came up with this great Pimm’s jelly utilizing her ginger mint and borage flowers which we showcased a la demo in the Dart’s Farm Tent at the Exeter Food Festival.  It’s all about relationships, obsessive individuals and the cross pollination of enthusiasm and ideas.  Keep the faith and lead the way Jan.
    Details of where you can purchase, eat and learn about all things Maddocks Farm can be found at-  

Pimm's Jelly with Jan's borage flowers

As seen in Devon Life magazine July 2011

1 comment:

  1. The Pimm's Jelly looks so beautiful. Love the borage flowers!