Sourcing our food
Sun 22 May 2016
Hillary writes ...
Food sourcing is something of a “hot potato” in restaurants, cafés and other food outlets. At Sheldon we are fortunate to have access to several excellent really local suppliers for our kitchens, and it is our policy to buy locally whenever we are able.
Milk and eggs are delivered in the dead of night each Tuesday and Saturday by Chris on behalf of Dunns Dairy, based at Drewsteignton which is 5 miles away on the edge of Dartmoor. The milk is pasteurised but not homogenised, so you have to shake the bottle to disperse the cream (or greedily scoop the top out first …). Fruit and vegetables are delivered by long established Exeter firm of F Milford & Son. They are currently supplying us with rhubarb which was grown less than 12 miles from Sheldon; mushrooms, salads, herbs and many veg are from Devon growers. This is in addition to what we are able to grow and preserve from our own fruit and veg gardens – runner, French and broad beans, leeks, pumpkins, shallots, summer salads, black currants, raspberries, gooseberries, plums and apples. These are used fresh, frozen or in the form of jam or chutney.
As far as meat goes, we rear our own lamb which is then killed and butchered at a Soil Association accredited abattoir 30 minutes’ drive from Sheldon. Their butcher prepares the carcase to our specification, usually either chops with boned and rolled roasting joints, diced for casseroles or as half lamb packs of small joints available for sale. Six miles from Sheldon is a farm shop rejoicing in the apt name of Oinkers. This is where we buy beef and pork that has been reared on local farms, as well as gammon, sausages and the beef/pork/lamb burgers for the open air theatre burger bar. They will make the sausages gluten free and whatever size we ask for.
It’s quite likely we are one of a few retreat houses around the country where game is often on the menu, as we have a very local source of both venison and pheasant! The pheasants appear, in full feather, on the hooks in the cool of the Community Kitchen back porch on Saturday evenings in Winter. Fortunately the venison, which will have been wild shot within 20 miles of Sheldon, arrives prepared and jointed and ready for the freezer. Even the mini tubs of ice cream for the private retreat larder stocks are made in Devon, at Langage Farm near Plymouth.
Our overall food budget for the year is £33,000 (this is for guests, community and events) and we are proud to spend as much of it as possible with local companies. Yes we need Sainsbury's, and the monthly cash and carry delivery for bulky items, but if we can buy local without compromising (in fact, often enhancing) quality, that’s what we do.
Now, pass me my wellies so I can go out and cut the cabbage for tonight’s dinner …