Ernest Journal - Humble Pie

A feature looking at the curious history of pies - the humble beginnings, the fillings of the past and the pies we left behind. 

"Huddled in their houses, bellies rumbling, staring at cupboards that ran dry days ago, the villagers of the Cornish village of Mousehole are losing hope. Rain whips against their houses and the wind howls through the streets, but the storm is showing no sign of relenting. Facing the turbulent, crashing waves that stretch as far as the eye can see, local fisherman Tom Bawcock readies his boat, taking a final look back at his village before heading into the churning waters. The tale of a fisherman braving the stormy sea in the 16th century to save his village from starvation is a famous one in a small corner of Cornwall. But the truth of the tale seems less important than the legacy it left behind: stargazy pie. Fish, usually sardines or herring, are laid with their heads sticking up through the pastry. This seemingly decorative placement was, like many culinary decisions, borne of a practical need; the fish heads would not be eaten and so covering them in pastry was deemed wasteful, but removing the heads would have allowed the flavourful oils to escape."

Excerpt from the Ernest Journal, Issue 7, March 2018, Words only

Waterfront - Winter Birding

A series of seven articles featuring winter birding opportunities on waterways across the country.

"It may be cold outside, but the countryside is flourishing with life. Winter and early spring is one of the best times of year to see birds on and around our waterways, so it’s the ideal opportunity to wrap up warm and grab your binoculars. While the change in seasons sees some of our favourite birds leave for warmer climes, it also draws large numbers of different species to our shores, attracted by our relatively mild climate, as well as enticing year-round residents into new locations and habitats.

The elusive bittern, a relative of the heron, was almost lost in the UK. Declining need for cut reed during the 19th century meant much of its traditional habitat was lost and numbers plummeted. But thanks to a dedicated conservation effort to restore reedbeds, numbers are once more on the rise and there are now an estimated 160 male bitterns in the UK."

Excerpt from Waterfront, March 2018, Words only

Sustainable Food Trust - Eating Your Values - 5 questions to ask your fishmonger


The second in a series looking at how people can eat in a way more aligned with their values. Co-written with Joe Wheatcroft from Source Food Hall.

"Buying sustainably sourced fish is a priority for many people, but what ‘sustainable’ means in this context is incredibly complicated to navigate, with few clear ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. While the meat we eat comes from a few different species that can be identified and certified relatively easily, fish is a much more complex matter. There are a huge number of different species and each comes with their own sourcing issues and challenges. Buying your fish from a fishmonger gives you an opportunity to learn more about these challenges and ask questions about the seasonality and sourcing of the fish you’re buying."

Excerpt from Sustainable Food Trust, February 2018, Words


Sustainable Food Trust - Eating Your Values - 5 questions to ask in a restaurant

The first in a series looking at how people can eat in a way more aligned with their values. Co-written with Joe Wheatcroft from Source Food Hall.

"When it comes to asking questions in a restaurant, many of us are fearful of being seen as fussy or awkward customers. But by speaking up and asking for information about provenance and the ethics of ingredients, we make these issues important; if you don’t ask questions, the owners and chefs won’t know that these matters concern their customers.

While front of house staff aren’t usually directly involved in sourcing, it may inspire restaurants and cafes to engage all their staff in these issues so they are prepared to respond to questions and trained accordingly. So how do you make sure the food you’re eating when out is aligned with your values? And what are the main issues surrounding sourcing in restaurants?"

Excerpt from Sustainable Food Trust, March 2018, Words

Countryfile Magazine - Hello, Old Bean!

Feature on the rise, fall and rise again of the fava or field bean. Focuses on Hodmedod, a company who are working with British farmers to reintroduce UK grown pulses into our diets. 

"“The world is but a hill of beans,” so begins Ken Albala’s book dedicated to beans. “Nearly every place on earth has its own native species and nearly every culture has depended on beans.” At the mention of a British variety, however, most people think of baked beans – navy beans stewed in thick, sweet, tomato sauce. But despite a can being sold every 17 seconds, centuries before the advent of Heinz’s 57 varieties there was another bean that dominated the British diet. Thanks to one company who are championing its revival, the reign of the fava bean might not yet be over."

Excerpt from Countryfile Magazine, February 2018 (issue 134), words only.

Sustainable Food Trust - Eating Your Values - 5 questions to ask your butcher

The first in a series looking at how people can eat in a way more aligned with their values. Co-written with Joe Wheatcroft from Source Food Hall.

"Many of us would like to shop ethically and in line with our values when it comes to buying meat. But while this might sound like a simple thing to do, in practice it can be a complicated web of labels, terminology and increasing confusion. While a certification label will tell you certain things about the meat you are considering buying, if you go to a local butcher rather than your local supermarket, you can dig deeper into the issues.

We’ve come up with some questions that can help you to find the information you need. As consumers, we are often nervous about asking questions in shops, but the more questions we ask, the more butchers and retailers will realise that these issues are important to their customers.  It’s an opportunity for us to help businesses create change from within the system."

Excerpt from Sustainable Food Trust, January 2018, Words and photographs

Sustainable Food Trust - Eating Local in Bristol: Working together

The third in a series looking at eating locally in Bristol, focusing on the networks and collaborations that set Bristol apart. 

"With agricultural land prices rocketing over the last five years, one of the main challenges for new producers is gaining access to affordable and secure land. A great example of the kind of creative partnerships that happen in the city can be found at Feed Bristol, an Avon Wildlife Trust site that focuses on demonstrating ecological food production practices. Along with the educational side of the project, the site also hosts several growing operations including Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm Sims Hill Shared Harvest, salad producers Edible Futures, and Upcycled Mushrooms. “There’s a lot of challenges facing new start-ups,” Matt Cracknell, project manager at Feed Bristol explains, pointing out the investment needed to get businesses, that are not significant income generators, off the ground. By allowing new businesses to offer in-kind support to the site rather than paying rent for the land, they reduce key overhead costs. One of their growers, Humphrey Lloyd from Edible Futures, describes the value of the arrangement: “Working here, you benefit from a system of shared infrastructure that helps get around the costs that inhibit many new entrant growers. It’s also a social place to work, so you rarely get the lonely field blues often associated with farming.”"

Excerpt from Sustainable Food Trust, September 2017, Words and photographs

Sustainable Food Trust - Eating Local in Bristol: From farm to table

The second in a series looking at local food in Bristol, this time focusing on the different routes to market for producers.

"Restaurants face many challenges in their sourcing; chefs often demand high quality and consistency in their produce and struggle to plan far enough ahead to work with small-scale producers. Why would a restaurant choose to go that extra mile when it comes to local produce, and how can they form direct relationships with local producers? Birch, in Southville, grow around half of their vegetables themselves on a smallholding in Whitchurch, with most of the rest of their produce sourced directly from local farms, including sides of pork from Mary Holbrook at Sleight Farm, that they butcher themselves. Owner and chef Sam Leach describes why sourcing locally is important to them; “We have to think about re-localising the food system. It’s a huge challenge but all you can do is pick your thing and do it well. We try to grow as much as we can in our plot, and then support other people who are doing things we think are good.” "

Excerpt from Sustainable Food Trust, September 2017, Words and photographs. 

Sustainable Food Trust - Eating Local In Bristol: What is produced and where?

The first in a series of three articles looking at what local food is produced around the city and highlighting some of the best examples. 

"With falling prices in the dairy industrymore than half the dairy farms in the South West closed between 2002 and 2016. Supporting local farms has never seemed more vital, but how have farms in the area adapted? “For us, cheese making is all about farming – you have to be an entrepreneur to survive!” Hugh Padfield from Park Farm, points out. After the reforms in the 1980s that allowed farmers to retain some of the milk they produced, his father tried his hand at artisan cheese making and now the Bath Soft Cheese Company uses just over half the milk produced on the farm, around 550,000 litres a year, for making cheese. Looking around, there’s lots of other examples of creative dairy businesses in the region: Brown Cow Organics yoghurt, Marshfield Farm and Chews Moos ice cream, and a number of other farm-based cheesemakers such as Trethowan’s Dairy and Godminster."

Excerpt from Sustainable Food Trust, August 2017. Words and Photographs.

Waterfront - Ups and Downs

Looking at the challenges of elevation on canals and the different innovative approaches that have been taken to address this.

"In the mid-18th century, James Brindley changed the world of canal construction forever, armed with a large round of Cheshire cheese. Faced with the challenge of crossing the River Irwell in Lancashire, he knew he had to convince Parliament that his new structure was the way forward.  Apparently, Brindley demonstrated the unconventional idea of carrying one body of water above another by dividing the cheese into two equal halves, to represent the semicircular arches, and then laying a rectangular object over the top to show how the the river would flow below the aqueduct and the canal would flow above (as told in Memoir of James Brindley, John Weale, 1844). Although dismissed by many for his proposed ‘castle in the sky’, Brindley won them around and the Barton Aqueduct (opened 17 July 1761) went on to become the first navigable aqueduct in the country, and remained a pioneering structure until the use of cast iron allowed more ambitious projects to be built. In 1805, Thomas Telford completed the 307-metre Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal, which is today the longest navigable aqueduct in the UK. At 38 metres, it’s also the highest in the world. The construction of the ‘Ponty’ included some unorthodox methods: oxblood was mixed into the mortar (it was believed to strengthen a building) and supposedly the cast iron joints were caulked with flannel dipped in boiling sugar, before being sealed with lead."

Excerpt from Waterfront, August 2017, Words only.