Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Moody Sow

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We’re currently in the middle of a major renovation project at our home in Surrey, so I escaped the chaos and took the children back to my hometown of Cardiff for their half-term break. While we were there we visited Cefn Mably farm park (http://www.cefnmablyfarmpark.com/) – a wonderful children’s farm providing the opportunity for children to feed and handle a variety of friendly animals in an all-weather environment, as much of it is covered over. It also boasts a huge soft-play centre and a café with a good selection of freshly made food. The latest addition to the centre is a farm shop called the Moody Sow, selling fresh, local produce.

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As the name would suggest, their specialty is pigs, which are bred and reared on site. They make their own remarkably tasty sausages (we bought and tasted them!) as well as smoked and cured bacon, and sell a range of other meats that come from trusted local farms. There is also a bakery on site making fresh bread daily for both the shop and restaurant, as well as a wide range of Moody Sow jams, chutneys and preserves, many with rather interesting flavours, such as champagne strawberry jam and lemon curd with lavender. They also stock free-range eggs from a nearby farm and a range of Welsh cheeses.

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The emphasis at the Moody Sow, like many other farm shops, is on quality, reliability, minimal packaging and low carbon footprints. Like buying organically grown foods, this is perhaps an ideal and unfortunately for many of us comes with a rather limiting price tag. Therefore my usual approach to farm shops is to take a quick look around, marvel at the wonderful produce, perhaps pick up a tasty looking preserve as a present and then leave, assuming that it is all far too expensive. However, following the horsemeat saga in the UK, like many others I have become more particular about where I buy our meat. It made me think a bit more about where the meat I buy actually comes from, and what happens before it makes it onto the supermarket shelves.

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Many independent butchers have increased in popularity as a consequence of the horsemeat scandal as many of us are changing the way we shop. A new trend amongst many of my contemporaries seems to be to stock up on the weekly basics online from one of the large supermarkets, then purchase select, fresh produce from local farm shops or farmers markets when they can. This can make the process of buying food an enjoyable part of the weekend that might also involve the children. Talking and getting to know local producers can provide assurance that you are buying quality produce, and establishing relationships with local suppliers can make the whole process more personal.

Our own local village butcher’s shop has a queue stretching down the street on a Saturday morning with people enticed in by weekly offers. The prices now compare favourably with the higher end supermarkets, and it gives you piece of mind to know that the meat has been hand selected by the people who are supplying it. So, why not bypass the meat aisle at the supermarket this week and find out where your local butcher lives, or if there is a nearby farmer’s market. You might find it’s not quite as expensive as you think, or that you are willing to trade quantity over quality. The children might enjoy the old fashioned way of shopping too…just don’t forget to pack your wicker basket!

Pictures were taken from The Moody Sow website and published with permission.

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Get Up and Go Granola!

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I am a huge breakfast fan, so would rather run late than leave the house on an empty tummy! I genuinely wake up looking forward to my first bite of the day, and luckily my children also enjoy a hearty breakfast. I like to indulge in more fancy breakfasts at the weekend, such as making fresh bread and pancakes, but on weekdays it is a more rushed affair, often between pyjama changes and me running about filling school bags! So I tend to keep my cereal cupboard well stocked and a good quality granola is often on my shopping list.

However, I’ve recently been budgeting with my grocery shop and set myself the challenge to reduce my weekly spend. It occurred to me that granola is actually ridiculously easy to make quite cheaply, but seriously over-priced on the supermarket shelves. Also, many of the granolas contain a lot of added sugar and palm oils that come from unsustainable forests. So, I decided to make my own healthier, cheaper and tastier version. I love tons of dried fruit in my granola, my husband likes a nuttier version, whereas the kids love the oats but would rather not have anything else added to it. So I now customize our granola too and am completely addicted to it! I’ve seen my husband nibbling on it as a late evening snack, which I guess beats reaching for the chocolate!

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients
300g of rolled oats
100g Pecans, chopped
50g Flaked almonds
50g Linseed (Flaxseed)
6 tablespoons of good quality maple syrup or maple flavoured agave
2 Tablespoons of Blossom Honey
1 Tablespoon of Cold pressed Rapeseed oil
Two teaspoons of cinnamon

Dried Fruit:
50g Raisins
25g Dried cherries
20g Dried cranberries
50g Pitted Dates, chopped
100g Dried apricots, chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees. Add the honey, agave/maple syrup and rapeseed oil to a large saucepan and heat gently until the syrup and oil is mixed completely. Remove from the heat and then add the oats and nuts to the syrup mixture and stir them together until they are completely coated and glistening. Cover two baking trays with baking parchment and transfer the oat/nut mixture onto this, patting them down to give a relatively flat layer. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and place the trays in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, until the oats and almonds have turned a golden brown. While the oats are cooking, you can weigh out the dried fruit. I use a kitchen scissors to chop the fruit into tiny pieces to ensure you get more of each fruit per spoonful! After roughly 30 minutes, turn off the oven and remove the trays. Use a spatula to loosen the oats and nuts and give them a good shake. Then, if you like a really crunchy granola, return the trays to the oven with the heat off for another 15 minutes as the oven cools. Finally, remove the oats altogether and allow them to cool completely on the tray before mixing together with the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container and enjoy for a healthy start to the day with either milk or yoghurt, or eat handfuls for a late afternoon energy boost!

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Health benefits
Oats are a real super food and are purported to help reduce the risk of numerous diseases, from asthma to heart disease. Importantly they are high in fibre, can help reduce cholesterol, and also release energy for longer periods meaning you should be fuller for longer. Cinnamon has been shown to work as an appetite suppressant and linseed is high in soluble fibre and omega-3 essential fatty acid. Agave syrup is superior to refined sugars as it has a low gycaemic index, so won’t give a high rise in blood sugar. Dried apricots contain vitamin A and are a source of iron, and cherries reportedly contain anti-oxidants as well as beta-carotene and folic acid. There are lots of great benefits from other dried fruits that you could add too, such as banana, mango, blueberries, goji berries and figs, but be careful which brands you buy as some contain added sugars.