Monday, 31 October 2011

Guest Blogger: Polly Robinson of Food Safari on British Sausage Week

There’s seems to be a week for everything these days, and believe it or not 31st October - 6th November is the 14th British Sausage Week! Staggeringly over 5 million people eat sauages in the UK every day but very few of us think about what’s gone into them.

Cheap sausages can be made with as little as 30% pork and 20 per cent mechanically recovered meat, a process that sucks it from the bones and mashes it to a slimy paste. Other ingredients include 15% water, 30% cereal rusk plus 5% additives, flavourings, colour, sugar, flavour enhancer and preservatives. That’s to say nothing for the welfare of the pigs.

On Food Safari’s Free Range Pig in a Day we teach people how to make sausages from scratch, starting with a visit to a free range pork farm, Blythburgh Pork. Like home-made bread versus cheap bread, home-made sausages have a much shorter list of ingredients. We use 80-90% pork, a little rusk and water and let people be as creative as they like with other flavours from leek and blue cheese to chili and cumin.

If making your own sausages is a step too far for you, then take time to read the label or better still buy from a butcher who can tell you exactly what’s gone into your banger.

Loopholes in the law allow a sausage filled with imported meat to be labelled British, even if it has only been made or packed in the UK. Look out for the Red Tractor or the RSPCA Freedom Food label as some guarantee of the animal welfare.

What is the difference between organic, free range, outdoor reared and outdoor bred? It’s worth taking a bit of time to understand the labels. The RSPCA and the pork industry are working to standardise these terms and encourage the supermarkets to adopt them, but at the moment there are no clear definitions.

My preference is for Free Range, such as the excellent Blythburgh Pork, which we visit on Food Safari. The pigs are born outside and remain outside with plenty of room to roam, play and forage producing a slower growing more tasty pig.

Outdoor reared pigs are outside for about half their lives before moving indoors or to enclosed pens, they won’t necessarily have access to pasture, but will be kept in an outside pen with plenty of straw bedding. Outdoor Bred is a rather looser term, meaning the piglets are born outdoors but are moved indoors (to unspecified conditions) to be finished after about 4 weeks.

As you tuck into your sausage and mash or toad in the hole in British Sausage Week, it pays to think a little about what’s gone into your sausage.

Polly Robinson is the founder of Food Safari, which offers 'field to fork' experiences in Suffolk ranging from visiting farms or going wild food foraging to off-shore fishing or behind the scenes visits with artisan producers.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Guest Blogger: Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation on Tech4StartUp Britain

Last week was Tech4StartUp Britain Week; a schedule of events where companies, large and small, offered their top tech tips to start ups and growing businesses. Hosted by national campaign, StartUp Britain, topics covered ranged from how to get online, making the most of mobile, and becoming a Twitter pro.


What quickly became clear was how technology that used to be only accessible to large businesses is now being made freely (or at low cost) available to start ups and micro enterprises. At the kick-off event held at Microsoft on Monday, we heard from James Akrigg on how the cloud is enabling small businesses to work how, where and when they want with services on a pay as you go basis that meet most budgets. On Wednesday it was time for Wendy Tan White and Joe White of Moonfruit to demonstrate their newly launched and incredibly impressive Shopbuilder which provides small business owners with a professional presence on the web, including replication to Facebook, for an affordable price. Tools and techniques previously only available to large companies with big budgets are now opening up to the benefit of thousands of start-ups.


The tools and tips demonstrated throughout the week had a clear focus; they were aimed at helping small business owners save time and money. Mark Shaw, the UK’s leading Twitter expert, showed how to use this free tool to promote your business and engage with clients (ie increase sales) and Ural Cebeci of Skype presented on how this global voice over IP tool connects you with partners, suppliers and staff without the need to travel (saving time) and with skype to skype calls being free, it’s a money-saver too. Whether starting or growing, small business owners focus on how to increase revenue, make the most of hours in the day, and keep overheads to a minimum. The majority of the presentations focused on these key needs and I guarantee attendees will be testing out their discoveries this coming week!


During the week I listened to many speakers as well as presenting myself to an event of Country Homes magazine readers interested in starting a business. In promoting tools such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as powerful promotion channels, I was asked the question as to how much time it takes and which the most effective tools to use. This brings me back to a final key theme of Tech4StartUp Britain speakers which was their advice to experiment; it’s quick, easy and cheap to try a number web and social media tools and platforms and work out which ones work best for you.
Let’s embrace the tools being created to improve our business performance and keep minds open to constant experimentation!

With thanks to Arabella Dymoke of The Good Web Guide who was one of our top guest speakers of the week.

Emma Jones is founder of small business support company, Enterprise Nation and co-founder of StartUp Britain

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Should Restaurants Forbid Customers from Taking Photographs of their Food? Our latest blog for The Huffington Post

It used to be considered bad manners to take photographs in a restaurant. Now, it seems like everyone is doing it and some restaurants are beginning to put their foot down.

Recently, an article on the site of Australia's Herald Sun newspaper reported that Grossi Florentino, a smart Melbourne restaurant, had admonished a diner after it spotted her trying to take photographs of her lunch-time tortellini. "If the photographs aren't taken well or aren't taken properly, it can be very misrepresentative," said Guy Grossi, owner of the restaurant, adding, "pictures of half-eaten dishes can be misleading ... and there are other patrons dining, so we are very cautious and sensitive."

He's not the only restaurateur for whom dining photography is a touchy subject. In New York, David Chang of Momofuku Ko in East Village and César Ramirez, chef at Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, have both banned photography in their restaurants and several other New York restaurants, while not quite adopting an out-and-out ban, keep a watchful eye on diners who may become too snap-happy.

But are they right to lay down the law in this way? Is taking photos really offensive to other diners? And does it matter if photos, taken by paying customers and shared online, are less than perfect?

To read the full blog, visit The Huffington Post. And do feel free to share the article on your social media pages, or use the comments section to give your own views on the subject.

Guest Blogger: Mott Green, founder of The Grenada Chocolate Company on Chocolate Week

Here I am in London’s Bonnington Square, my favorite home away from home. Staying with the Coady-Booths, of Rococo Chocolates. Together we are formulating our GROCOCO CRU chocolate bar, made from beans grown on our joint venture farm in Hermitage, St Patricks, Grenada and made into chocolate right there too.

I slipped right through Gatwick with 10 cocoa pods I picked up three hours before I flew out of Grenada on Sunday evening and am looking forward to sharing our chocolate and cocoa pods and stories with the chocolate-loving public at Chocolate Unwrapped this weekend. We will also be launching our two new chocolate bars there, the Salty-Licious (71% dark chocolate with Himalayan salt) and the 100% cocoa bar (surprisingly not bitter and full of flavour!)

The most exciting recent development at The Grenada Chocolate Company is our partnership with The Tres Hombres, a Dutch Brigantine square-rigged, old fashion sailboat with no engine at all. The Tres Hombres moves cargo from Europe to the Caribbean and back sustainably using only the power of the wind. Teaming up with them, we will be moving eight tons of our chocolate bars from Grenada to NYC and the UK, offering North America and Europe the first sustainably delivered chocolate bars, made on the cocoa farm in the deep tropics and brought to market with only wind power!

Because it is a life-long dream for me and to make sure the chocolate remains in perfect condition, I will be taking the whole journey myself from March to May, 2012. Charlie Boxer of Italo is hosting a tasting this Friday afternoon, as well as planning to join as crew on the way back from Grenada with the chocolate shipment. You will be able to follow our movements as we will be putting the journey on our website when we set off… Watch this space!

Mott Green is the founder of The Grenada Chocolate Company

Monday, 3 October 2011

Guest Blogger: David Gilston of Once Was England on 'Yesterday's Best'

Bounding forth from the past into the present, from the refreshingly chilly concrete bunker of the Churchill War Rooms, back into this unseasonally foreign, October sunshine, one bagged the wisp of a thought as it wafted through the rippling green haze of London's St. James's Park. It was this: since time immemorial, ever since our nocky, loin-clothed ancestors scratched their charcoaled fingernails across the musty cave walls of Cheddar Gorge, we Englanders have been driven to record, to pot and to pickle history, our history; for today and tomorrow, for ourselves and Johnny Foreigner.

One deduced that this habit was as English as tuppence, that it should be branded the 'Tiptree Syndrome'and that our nation's most favourite blend is called ‘Nostalgia’; a sugary, thick cut conserve that is each and every Englishman's relish. Instantly recognisable by its sturdy, rose-tinted jar, it is best spread thick when one feels all colly-molly, with its invigorating flavours of better times past. Now is an especially good time to twist open its lid.

These days it would seem, the world is rather fond too of the taste of ‘olde’ and what once was England. This fashion season, from Hoxton to Harajuku, one can see legions of Tricker-booted, Barbour-jacketed young buffers swagging the sidewalks; fellows for whom all things English are now most proper and champion. What a bit of jam!

Dam silly, you might say. I say, it’s a jolly kick up the collective corybungus for those who’ve forgotten from whence they came from. To paraphrase old Winnie, a country that knoweth not its history simply has no future. Here, here.

David Gilston is a British designer and brand developer whose blog Once Was England "harks back to a disappearing age in our history - the time of the gentleman - when people ate faggots and tripe, drove Rolls Royces and Bentleys, had their clothes made with their tailor and holidayed by the sea." Read the full GWG review of his blog.