This was a fantastic weekend at All Hallows Farmhouse in Dorset. Two days expertly taught by Karen, packed with a chance to practice a range of writing styles and also have the most beautiful food. She is a very experienced editor, now in charge of Delicious, market leader in the foodie magazine market.
As we arrived we were greeted by Lisa Osman who owns the All Hallows farmhouse and cookery school and is herself a talented cook and writer. She had prepared a splendid supper, which set the tone for creative and stylish food throughout the weekend.
Karen Barnes was there on the first evening. Her warm and friendly personality made us feel at ease over supper and full of anticipation for the next two days challenges and learning from her expertise.
As we settled down in the bright and spacious work room and as everyone introduced themselves, we realized that we were there for a multitude of reasons. Three of the more experienced food writers and bloggers attending to gain specialist tips were expert food blogger Eb, food photographer Maria who had come all the way from Norway to participate and John who is a part time writer and promoter of West Dorset food . A television producer and keen foodie, a delicatessen owner, a cake orientated blogger, a student gourmet blogger and myself made up the rest of the students .
The sun shone outside but we were fully focused on the day ahead, looking forward to finding out the different techniques and secrets of good food writing. We anticipated seeing a food demonstration from Lisa and writing it up, doing some personal food pieces and finding out our passions and strengths.
Karen started with a quote from Ruth Reichal ” your truth can be useful to people ” which validated the need for writers to write.
She reminded us that it was important to become a food writer for your own enjoyment and to work out what you believed. We looked at a variety of samples of food writers, tried to identify them and work out what it was that we liked and made their writing effective. Then we moved on to writing our own short biographical pieces which we read out and had feedback on.
Next Lisa demonstrated how to make marscapone and we wrote this up in a strict word and time limit. We were then rewarded with lunch featuring her beautiful rolled Parmesan souffle filled with marscapone and garnished with chive flowers.
The sample piece that I wrote follows:
Soft creamy curds of mascarpone are speedily simple to create with a little pre-planning. We discovered how to do this on a food-writing course in All Hallows farmhouse kitchen, with the autumn sunlight filtering through the apple trees.
The correct type of cream is important; it needs to be double cream with sufficient butterfat to separate out so use any good quality supermarket cream. Tartaric acid is the only other ingredient needed, derived from grape and banana skins – now you know why they taste so bitter. Wine making suppliers sell it, or buy on line, but do not substitute with cream of tartar, as this will not work properly.
Find a saucepan without rivets or a double boiler, wash with cold then hot soapy water finally rinsing with hot water thoroughly sterilizing the pan. Organise a digital or clean cooking thermometer and a new muslin cloth, J- cloth, or a clean tea towel folded in four lining a colander or sieve over a bowl.
In the saucepan heat the cream gently to 85°C without separating, and then use ¼ teaspoon or a two-fingered pinch of tartaric acid to spit the cream off the heat, stirring with a clean spatula. The curds start to separate so pour into the cloth and let it drip and cool. The creamy, soft mascarpone stores in a clean bowl in the fridge for up to three days.
Use as the basis for a mushroom, butternut squash and pine nut risotto, or for a seductive dessert.
Dr Sue Bailey (250 words)
Next we saw chai tea made as a demonstration with an enthusiastic description of the history and characteristics of the spices by Ross from Dorset Herbals a local producer and one time biochemist. After this we wrote up the demonstration as an article or a PR piece which we read out and had critiqued.
A break then followed to look round the gardens and I discovered the walled kitchen garden where I found the chickens. We then had time to do some more writing before a supper of clove studded baked ham seasoned with wide ranging chat about food.
The next day more work on recipe writing, food blogging, pitching to magazines and finding our writing and blogging voice followed plus a multitude of amazing tips . An intense but superb weekend and well worth it. I almost feel tempted to go again!
See All Hallows website for this years late summer food writing weekend.