Posted by: hencorner | September 29, 2015

Bread Angels

I like bread and butter, I like toast and jam,’*

*The Newbeats

IMG_0447And good job too as we’ve been on a mighty baking-fest these last couple of weeks… Regular readers will know that we’ve been baking our own bread here at Hen Corner for years now, and love to pass on our skills through our series of courses, but recently we’ve significantly stepped up a gear with the flour and yeast. I’ve been following the wonderful world of Jane Mason at Virtuous Bread for quite a while and have marvelled at her army of Bread Angels that aim to bring good real bread to their local communities. Her Bread Angels often bake from home for friends, family and neighbours and also offer classes that enable others to get to grips with the dough and begin to bake for themselves with confidence. I’m thrilled to say that, over the last month along with a couple of friends, I’ve completed my training and am now a new Bread Angel in Brentford! We ran our first course since the training today and were delighted with the selection of bread, both sweet and savoury, that we were able to bake using a couple of simple doughs that can be adapted to create many delicious recipes.

Bread Angels week 1Our time on the Bread Angel training helped us get to grips with both the science and the skill of bread making as we mastered 4-5 types of bread each week. White Farmhouse, Herbed Soda Bread, Dark Rye, Chelsea Buns and Thyme Rolls were the creations of week one with a lovely pizza for lunch. Jane encouraged us to think who might like to buy our bread and set us the challenge of finding a customer that would buy one loaf of bread from us during the week. As a result of a short post on Facebook, I had 3-4 orders – one of which asked if I did mail order! The other homework task was to conduct a controlled comparison trial by making the same loaf of bread with three different brands of flour. One of the three loaves was considerably better than the others, but I need to try that flour again to see if the kneading, proving or baking helped or whether it was the flour alone that made the loaf so lovely.

IMG_0439We were back at the bake school for week two and worked with mainly wholemeal flour, including a Stuffed Spelt Plait, a Date Loaf with Scalded Flour, Bran Dusted Wholemeal Loaf and a wonderful Focaccia for lunch. We told our stories of the homework tasks and started to consider what the next floury steps might be for each of us. As I’d done the course with a close friend, Katie, we were able to plan together and are very excited about our offer of a Micro Bakery to our local community of Brentford. Hen Corner is already registered as a food business with the local authority and with our recent training we are ready to go…

Coming up at the Corner…

Baking Together (Family)Our ‘Micro Bakery’ starts this week! Bread, buns, cakes & focaccia will be baked throughout the day, put your orders in early, and can be collected along with eggs, honey, jam and preserves between 5-7pm.

We are planning this for the first Friday of each month and hope that it’ll be a great start to the weekend!

If you fancy brushing up on your own baking skills, we have a family course, Baking Together, in Half Term where we will be making bread, cakes and pastries

Other News:

  • Sadly, one of our older chickens died last weekend, she’d been very faithful in laying beautiful eggs, and didn’t seem to be ill so hopefully wasn’t in pain
  • Pesky squirrels have eaten all the almonds again, they nibbled a hole in my netted cage!
  • We’ve made two huge jars of Damson Gin and are trying a recipe for green fig jam

Jobs for this week:

  • Paint the new proving baskets with cornflour starch to stop the sour doughs sticking
  • Practise wrapping a loaf of bread in tissue paper – like they do in France!
  • Get the timings right for all the baking for Friday

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

Posted by: hencorner | September 21, 2015

First Class Bees

A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.’*

*Winnie The Pooh

September is always busy on the smallholding; it’s our main harvest time with big tasks such as processing the apples and taking the honey off the hives, alongside the preserving, pickling and liqueur making that utilises the crops both cultivated and foraged for. It’s been a great year for apples this year and, fortunately, we had a fantastic team for Cider Sunday as we processed more apples than ever before, we even did a separate pear pressing which will ferment for perry (nothing sparkles like a Babycham!) and have demijohns of both apple wine and pear wine bubbling away alongside the cider all ready for Christmas. We made a whopping 108 pints of juice for cider/perry and have 12 gallons (over 75 bottles!) of wine on the go…

Our honey has been gathered in and we’ve bottled 50 jars ready to sell with more still on tap. The bees have been tucked up for winter with a treatment for the nasty varroa mite that affects most of the UK colonies and a tub of sugar syrup to help them build up food stores for the colder months. So as the UK bee keeping season comes to an end, how fitting that the Royal Mail are celebrating our pollinating heroes with a special collection of stamps that features six beautiful bees with the first day covers on an envelope printed with a honeybee and stamped with The British Beekeepers Association postmark. As you know, every British stamp has the Queen on it, and whilst a queen bee would have been nice, it would have been contrary to the law that was passed several years ago when the Royal Mail was up for privatisation; long may we have our queen’s head on our stamps and congratulations to Elizabeth II in becoming the longest serving UK monarch earlier this month.

A couple of weeks ago, we were delighted to host creative branding agency BEAR London for their recent Team Away Day, the whole team came to Hen Corner, because as you know ‘BEARs love honey’, and we designed a full day of activities that enabled our guests to get their hands on the honey whilst learning about the craft of bee keeping, making frames for next year’s colonies and inspecting the bees at both the hive and behind glass. We had some lovely feedback and reviews from the team and are planning many more corporate sessions over the coming months, maybe your team at work could come and visit? Or we could host your small group Christmas event?

Coming up at the Corner…

Sara has been busy training as a Bread Angel with Jane Mason from Virtuous Bread and is looking forward to sharing her new skills in both our Bread: Sweet & Savoury course on Tuesday 29th September and as part of our monthly ‘Micro Bakery’. Bread, buns, cakes & pizzettes will be baked throughout the day, put your orders in early, and can be collected along with eggs, honey, jam and preserves between 5-7pm. We are planning this for the first Friday of each month, starting 2nd October, and hope that it’ll be a great start to the weekend!

Other News:

  • We’ve had great write ups on both the Relationology and Chiswick Mum websites and were even quoted in The Sunday Times recently, for all our media news see here
  • Our Pick and Pickle courses were successful again with around 70 jars of preserves made last week!
  • We’ve said goodbye to a couple of our boy chickens as they were getting too noisy in the mornings and spent their days chasing the girls, so we are now down to just 18 chickens

Jobs for this week:

  • Collect orders for my Bread Angel homework, I need to sell a loaf of home made bread
  • Make some Damson Gin in our Fruit Wines and Liqueurs course
  • Slow roast the last of the home grown tomatoes to make a sauce for the pizzettes next week

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

Posted by: hencorner | September 5, 2015

The Best Exotic Marigold Hen Corner…

‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’*
*Mahatma Gandi

QPR South Mumbai Soccer Challenge winners at Hen CornerMany women would aspire to be Wives and Girlfriends of footballers, but this summer we’ve had the privilege to be the full English family to three wonderful boys from humble homes in South Mumbai, India. These delightful youngsters, Sunil Mohan Rathod, Sunil Tulsiram Rathod and Sitaram Nehru Rathod (left to right), all with the same surname though unrelated, were personally chosen by Queen’s Park Rangers FC as the winners of the South Mumbai Junior Soccer Challenge.

And the prize for this competition from QPR? ‘As for the winners, they can now look forward to an unforgettable trip to west London later this season, when the trio will spend two weeks with the R’s Academy, including a visit to Harlington to meet the First Team before watching a live Premier League match at Loftus Road.’ not forgetting two weeks stay at West London’s Hen Corner!

QPR asked us as a family to host them for a fortnight whilst they were training here in London and we were really pleased to partner with them. I ensured that our largest bedroom was prepared with three matching beds for our special guests and began to plan meals that would include new tastes for the boys without being too unfamiliar. Fortunately their English was really good, as none of us speak Hindi, and our own children, James and Macy, learnt more about their backgrounds, homes and school life in India as they welcomed them to join in their games and activities. We soon settled into family life with 5 teenagers at home, which wasn’t a quiet experience, although the boys explained that Mumbai was so much more noisy, especially with the constant car horns that accompanied every vehicle on the streets.

The competition that they had won is really quite significant as Milind Deora (former South Mumbai Member of Parliament) chief patron of the challenge explained, ‘These three most talented kids from south Mumbai, coming from most unassuming schools are the winners amongst 6000 children who participated in the soccer championship.’  The opportunity to welcome these talented boys into our home, that happened to coincide with the BBC’s Indian Season, was a delight, a revelation and lots of fun. We took the opportunity to get to know each of them over English traditions of fish and chips, walks along the Thames and a roast chicken dinner followed by apple crumble.

QPR South Mumbai Soccer Challenge winners eating dinnerChris Ramsey (Head Coach of QPR) went on to explain that “The uniqueness of this event is the fact that the participating schools included municipal schools, government-aided schools and private schools, making it one of the largest community football events in India”.  As this was a fully inclusive competition, anyone could have won be that the child of a Bollywood star, a politician or a seamstress. It was purely coincidental that these three already knew each other as they came from the same community and had mutual friends and, judging from their Facebook posts, I think they had a great time here in London. Between QPR FC and ourselves I think we fed them pretty well, the QPR coaches told me that they’d heard all about my chicken biryani and this picture shows my attempt at chapati dhal, their favourite dish from home, which fortunately went down well with the whole household…
Sara Ward with QPR South Mumbai Soccer Challenge winners with chickensI know this is not a usual blog post, but the experience has had such a positive impact on our family that we wanted to share it, it also explains to local friends why we were special guests in the Directors Box at QPR FC Loftus Road recently and why a QPR minibus has been driving past Griffin Park to stop our home most mornings!

More information on the South Mumbai Junior Soccer Challenge supported by QPR FC can be found by clicking the quotes in this post.

Coming up at the Corner…

We had a great time with our Summer School, but now harvest is here it’s time for Pick and Pickle on 16th & 18th September, Fruit Wines and Liqueurs on 22nd September and Simply Sausages starting next month.


Other News:

  • Hen Corner is now on TripAdvisor! If you’ve ever been to visit or have tasted our produce, please do give us a review…
  • Our Schools Programme has been nominated for the Urban Food Awards  – New Shoots Food Guru looking for a person showing passion and brilliance in passing on cooking or food growing skills to children and other young people
  • We have confirmed our demonstrations for the Lifestyle Theatre at the Country Living Christmas Fair, we’ll be making Christmas Puddings and Hampers at the Business Design Centre, Islington in November

Jobs for this week:

  • Prepare for a big corporate event – Bee Keeping for BEARs (all will be revealed later)
  • Extract the last of this year’s honey harvest and treat the bees for varroa
  • Keep an eye on those boy chicks, they are nice and quiet at the moment – but they will start to crow one day!

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

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