All Change

It’s with mixed feelings that I’ve decided to change the future of the Food Exchange. I will no longer run regular monthly events and will aim at running a few a year instead, which will be bigger and better than the monthly ones.

Since starting the events in January this year it has been great to meet so many new people and find out that there are a lot of people passionate about food so close to me in my home town of Colchester. We’ve been lucky enough to have support from some local producers and I’ve certainly learned a lot of great stuff a long the way but the events in their current state just aren’t sustainable for me from a financial and time perspective. I have taken steps to reduce the costs involved by moving from Meetup to Facebook to administer the events and I will see how that goes for any events I do in the future.

Whilst the easy option would be for me to charge members more to attend the events, I don’t feel it would represent good value for money to charge any more than I do now for the schedule that I’m able to provide. The future events are likely to cost more, but will represent value still by going on for longer, having more demos & tastings etc and hopefully having a wider coverage to gather more people.

I will continue to sell at local events in the mean time to keep the Food Exchange in the public eye (and on their tastebuds) and will take those oppurtunities to spread the word about the future events. This is by no means the end, just a new beginning (cheese!). Hopefully you will all support me in this decision and will still be keen to be involved in the bigger events I plan for the future.

It would be great to have everyone join the group on Facebook so I can continue to keep you updated on what is coming up and get your thoughts on a few things:

Thank you to all that have come along and been involved in any way – here’s to the new beginning!


Jams & Chutneys / Caribbean food – August 20th

The next round of events are going to have world themes. Each month will have a different country as the theme. As we need to get the ball rolling though, we will kick things off with another month of Chutneys and Jams. So, for this event members should make two jars of a chutney or a jam to bring along. One will be opened up on the night for members to taste and the other will be for the exchange once someone decides they fancy taking some of yours home.

Anyone that was with us at the first ever event will know that Chutneys and Jams was a real winner and we had some absolute corkers.

September’s exchange will be Caribbean food. So, this month we will have Cicely Sawyer - a caribbean cook coming along to give us an introduction to the caribbean style as well as a demo and tasting. I’m really excited about this one as Caribbean style will be a completely new venture for me and it’ll be great to see the variety in the native food. That should give everyone a few ideas and starting points for what to prepare ready for September’s event on 17th.

So, to summarise, for this event each member should bring two jars of chutney or jam and we will be learning about Caribbean food. Then in September each member should bring two portions of Caribbean food and we will learn about another country’s food.

As usual, it’ll be £3 to come along. I have been struggling to get all the monies in so in a bid to be able to cover my costs a bit more members can now pay online when they RSVP. If this causes any problems then please do let me know.

Slow Dough Bread Recipe

Following on from Jo Wheatley’s Slow Dough Bread demo at our event in June, she has kindly shared her recipe with us for those that are interested in giving it a go.

Makes one ‘large’ loaf i.e c.850g wet weight of dough (roughly a 2lb loaf tin)

500g flour (any combo wholemeal/white etc)
340g warm water (c.20-30g more for wholemeal)
8g salt
5g dried active yeast (or 10g fresh)

  1. Dissolve yeast in a little of the water then add to flour along with rest of the water and salt (if using fresh yeast just crumble it into the bowl).
  2. Mix by hand, turn out and knead for 10 mins (if using electric mixer, c. 3 minutes with dough paddle)
  3. Leave dough in the bowl covered with cloth for 1 hr to prove.
  4. Turn out and gently stretch and fold one way, then the other.
  5. Leave in covered bowl for at least 1 hr (or put in lidded container in fridge if off out for the day/or overnight).
  6. Turn out and ‘pre-shape’ (rotate between cupped hands on non-floured surface to tighten) then rest it 15-20 mins on work top.
  7. Turn over and gently flatten in to a rectangle, about the width of tin. Do the ‘envelope’ fold top half; rotate and do same. Fold top over to bottom, pinch the seam together and with seam beneath, ‘tighten’ the dough on a flour-free surface.
  8. Put into well oiled tin, seam side down. Dust with flour and slash deftly (don’t ‘saw’ into the dough) with serrated knife.
  9. Leave 1 hour to prove (again, if you need to dash out, put in fridge covered with cloth and plastic, to slow proving until you’re ready to bake).
  10. Bake at 220 degrees centigrade for about 35 mins (can put a little water in the bottom of oven to create steam).
  11. Don’t open oven for first 15 mins. Check after 15 minutes, or later, to check it’s not over cooking on top – if browning too much on top, cover with baking tray until finished.
  12. Cool and eat, or freeze when completely cold.

It’s great to be able to picture this recipe alongside Jo’s demo – seeing it first hand really brings it to life.


Pasties & Pies / Chocolate Studio Event – May 21st

Something slightly different for the next event! Hopefully everyone is getting used to the format of the events now where we start off with something to inspire ahead of the next event’s theme and then have the tasting and exchange of the current month’s theme dishes that you bring along.

So, this month on May 21st, we’ll be heading to the Chocolate Studio in Colchester for an hour’s hands-on demo and tasting. We’ll be learning how to temper chocolate properly and hopefully be able to put a few things in to practice for what we make for June’s event (Cakes & Chocolates). There’ll also be opportunities to taste some pure chocolate and learn a bit more about it and its health benefits! This event will be £10pp, which will all go to the Chocolate Studio.

We will still have the tasting and exchange of your pasties and pies once we’ve done the chocolate part so be sure to still bring enough along for tasting and then exchanging!!

For anyone that is unsure of where the Chocolate Studio is, have a look at their location page.

Chocolate and pasties in one event…I’m possibly going to be in heaven!

Look forward to seeing you all,


Feast Anglia, Sunday lunch – at the source

Last night I was contacted by George from Feast Anglia to share his new pop-up Sunday lunch event. Wow – this thing looks good! I wanted to share it with you all as there may well be some interested ones amongst you.

Feast Anglia is a new pop-up Sunday lunch event in Essex promoting the best of East Anglian produce, cooked by innovative and talented chefs right at the source where the food was produced.

George says on his website, “Most of our produce and goods end up in London restaurants and markets these days, so we’ve decided to bring chefs back to the source to cook a great Sunday lunch where it’s grown and made.”

Their first event is on Sunday 27th May at Herons Farm in Coggeshall, home to The Rare Breed Meat Company and will cost you £40 for a full on foodie’s feast cooked by Martin Kroon, head chef at London’s Butlers Wharf Chop House, with the promise of unlimited Bloody Marys and a lunch bag to take home to keep you going right the way through to Monday lunch time!

Anyone interested should check out the menu on their website.

I won’t be at the first one but I certainly plan on going to the next one and getting myself a nice full tummy!

NOW OPEN – Food Exchange Market!

I’m very excited to share the Food Exchange Market with you! Think of it as an online Farmer’s Market. Great produce, from local producers, with minimal food miles – is that not how all food should be?

The Food Exchange Market is made of up local sellers and their produce – you buy through us but it comes directly from the people that make it. They set the prices, they set the terms – fair trading at its best.

We want to reduce the amount of ‘food miles’ wherever possible and prevent your purchase from going 100 miles in the wrong direction to a sorting office before coming back again, so if you’re local to the producer please do consider collecting your order at our next event or local collection and contact them after placing your order to arrange.

If you’ve seen something at one of our events and want to get hold of some, chances are it’s in our Market! Head in to the Market now to see what we’ve got.

If you’d like to apply to sell in our online Market, please get in touch.

Cindy’s Pastry Recipe

Cindy spoke at our last event and her pastry recipe was very in demand. She has kindly obliged and given us the details! Give it a go for your pasties or pies ready for the next event on May 12st.

Ingredients (makes 450g pastry):

450g Plain Flour (use good flour)
115g Trex
115g Stork
285ml Water


  1. Mix together the flour and veg fat by gently working through your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Using a metal knife gradually add the water while moving the knife through the mixture until it becomes a dough. At this stage do not handle too much. The mix has enough water in it when it leaves the sides of the bowl.
  3. Chill for one hour.
  4. Then using more plain flour on a cold surface (such as a worktop) roll as required.

Review of Casseroles & Stews

Great speakers, great people and great grub! A crackin’ night I say.

My Updates

The night kicked off with a few updates from me, as usual! I said a bit about the local food events that we could potentially get a stall at and sell our homemade wares as a group and anyone interested in joining in put their names down on a list to let me know what events they’re interested in potentially doing. For anyone that didn’t get a chance to do it last night , there’s an online version you can fill in too! I’m still looking in to the possibility of getting access to a community kitchen where we can all get together and cook our wares together before selling them – should be a good giggle!

I also reminded the group about submitting the recipes they use for their dishes to me so I can add them to the website and people can use them for their own cooking at home. It’ll give those not lucky enough to bag your dish for an exchange on the night a chance to still taste some of the goodness by cooking it themselves!

My Chorizo & Butterbean Stew in the making

My Chorizo & Butterbean Stew in the making

Chocolate Studio

I’m looking in to doing something slightly different for either the next event or the one after. The theme for June is Cakes & Chocolates and the Chocolate Studio in Colchester has given us the opportunity to hold an event there and for a fee of £10 per person we can do some hands on Chocolate stuff and keep some bits to take home and indulge in. I’m finding out more about this at the moment so watch this space for more details and to let me know if you’d be interested.

Danny, Bennison Farm

Danny Brooks-Steele from Bennison Farm came along to give the group an insight in to Community Supported Agriculture projects and the one he is establishing at Bennison Farm in Great Bentley. Essentially, the project is about getting local veg to people and cutting out the middleman -so, getting your veg straight from the farmer that grows it. The consumer pays a flat monthly fee and in return gets a weekly box of the harvest. Danny is also giving his members the opportunity to get involved on the farm and will be arranging social events such as bonfires & BBQs to bring people together. For more information or to get yourself on the mailing list then drop them an email.

Sally, Colchester Allotment Assoc.

Next up, we had a chat from Sally Young about allotments and home veg patches. She gave some very useful tips about what to do and avoid on your patches aimed at all levels of ability. She took some questions from the group and really encouraged people to give home growing a go as it’s very hard work but also very rewarding! Sally will be doing our updates each month, which is great for the group to get someone with her knowledge that they can *dig* in to! Take a look at their website to find out more about the Colchester Allotment Association.

Cindy, Poppy’s Pastries

As is customary, our last speaker gives the group some inspiration and tips to help them with what they prepare for the next event. So, last night we had Cindy from Poppy Farm in Lawford. Cindy has a small holding and grows her own veg, which she then uses to make her own pasties and pies to sell at local farmer’s markets in the winter months. All the meat she uses in her produce is also locally sourced from within about 20 miles of her home. She shared some of her tips on pasty and encouraged the group to give making your own a go, rather than buy the “Just Roll” variety! Her main tip was to make sure you handle the pastry as little as possible and put it in the fridge for an hour after making it and before using it. Some of the group asked Cindy to share some of her recipes with the them, which she is very kindly happy to do – so watch this space again and I’ll post them up on here. For anyone that missed out, her Scotch Eggs are sublime! The best I’ve tasted.

The Tasting and Exchange

So this is the main part of the evening – the bit it’s all building up for! Members bring along two tubs of a dish they’ve prepared for the event – one is heated up for being tasted and the other is kept to one side ready for the first person to exchange it when they taste and love it! The members bought along some very varied and interesting stews and casseroles – all of which, I can safely say, were delicious! I bagged myself Matt Beales’ Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew. It didn’t last long as I appear to have eaten it already! There were also Beef Stews, a gorgeous Pork Casserole, an Oxtail Stew, a Chorizo & Butterbean Stew amongst others. A great variety as you can see.

Matt Beales' Chicken & Sweet Potato Casserole on my plate!

Matt Beales' Chicken & Sweet Potato Casserole on my plate!

Thank you to everyone that came along – I had a great time and hope to see you all again next time at Pasties and Pies on May 21st! If you are yet to sign up on the Event site (Meetup), it would be great if you could – it enables me to keep you informed and updated via email and also lets you RSVP to events to give me an idea of how many people to expect etc – very useful to me :)

Matt’s Spiced Butternut Squash Chutney

Preperation time required: 20 mins
Cooking time required: 1 hour

Ingredients (Fills 6 x 250ml jars):
1kg butternut squash
2 medium onions
1 Bramley cooking apple
100g golden sultanas
2 red bird’s-eye chillies
275g soft light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 heaped tablespoons minced fresh ginger
625ml white wine vinegar

Preperation/Cooking instructions:
1. Sterilize jars.
2. Peel and deseed the squash, cut into small chunks.
3. Peel and finely chop the onions and apple.
4. Put all ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stir to dissolve the sugar.
5. Simmer on a medium heat for 1 hour, check softness of squash after 45 mins.
6. Spoon into jars, seal lid and leave to cool.

Best left for 2 months to mature. Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Once opened, store in fridge and use within 1 month.

Casseroles & Stews – April 16th

This month’s theme is Casseroles & Stews, so make the most of the last of this chilly weather and make a nice heart warming dish to share!

We will have a talk from Danny Brooks-Steele about a new Community Supported Agriculture project he is starting at Bennison Farm - a very exciting prospect anyone can get involved in and support. Danny has spoken at a couple of other local events recently and gained a lot of interest so should be a good one to hear.

We will also have Sally Young from the Colchester Allotments Association coming along to give us our talk on veg patches as what we can be doing towards growing our own veg this month. We will have someone from the association coming along each month for these talks now so that’s some great knowledge to tap in to!

Of course, we will have someone coming along to give us some inspiration and ideas for next month’s theme, which is Pasties & Pies (YUM!). Cindy from Poppy Farm in Lawford will be giving us a talk on the pasties and pies she makes and sells at markets in the region. Fingers crossed she’ll bring something along for us to get a taste of!

As normal, we’ll have the tasting and exchange of all your home made dishes at the end of the night.

Selling your produce at local food events

One of the things receiving the most positive response from the group was participating in local food events such as Farmer’s Markets and Food Festivals. This would involve members of the group producing some of their own wares and selling them on a Food Exchange stall alongside others from the group.

I’ve been interested in Farmer’s Markets for a while now and would love the opportunity to get involved and sell at an event but I just couldn’t commit to putting the time and money in to producing a whole stall’s worth of stuff to sell, and that’s why this is perfect. Being part of the Food Exchange group means we can get a stall as a group and sell our homemade wares is smaller, more manageable quantities for us people treating this as something other than a business. It seems the members of the group are up for it to – great!

There are costs involved with getting stalls at the various events – those costs would be divided up and shared amongst the sellers and any money you make on what you sell is yours to keep! I can see me getting a bit of a buzz from seeing money come in from my homemade food…

I’ve put a form together to help me gauge interest in the individual events and try and get something up and running. Where it says “Cooking” this means preparing some of your own produce beforehand rather than actually cooking on the stall! If you’d rather not prepare anything but you’d still like to get involved then I’m sure there’ll be room for you to come along and sell other people’s stuff and spread the word about the group.

It has been suggested that instead of all preparing things seperately in our own kitchens for the events that we all get together somewhere in a communal kitchen and spend some time cooking together – a lovely idea that I will try and take forward.