Arvon has been running creative writing courses at Totleigh Barton for forty-five years. In that time some amazing authors have taught here and many have honed their writing skills as students. Arvon is not only about fiction and poetry, we also experiment with other forms of writing such as song writing, screenwriting, comedy writing and, one of my personal favourites, food writing.
In the last few years Sophie Grigson, Yotam Ottolenghi, Peter Gordon, Lindsey Bareham and wine critic Jancis Robinson have all come to Totleigh. This September the course will be taught by Alastair Hendy and Fuchsia Dunlop (whose book, Every Grain of Rice, is an amazing Chinese food cook book).
What makes these weeks so special are the fantastic meals they inspire, all using our local ingredients – fresh fish from Hatherleigh Market, cheeses from Market Cheeses in Holsworthy, seasonal vegetables from Hallwood Farm, and meat from Edward’s Butcher.
Arvon, as a national organisation, has a firm commitment to making our centres as sustainable as possible to minimise impact on the environment and we all source food as locally as we can. Here at Totleigh we are able to bring in the majority of our food from the local area. Sheepwash shop is an invaluable resource, providing a third of our weekly provisions at better prices than the supermarket and, unlike the Co-op, they also bring in the majority of the produce from the local area.
I have become very passionate about the local food in my time in Sheepwash and feel very lucky to have such an array of great produce available at affordable prices. I really enjoy finding new suppliers and sourcing food to add to our menus so I thought I’d share my top ten foodie treats from Devon with readers of the Chronicle:
- Hallwood asparagus. Hallwood Farm produces so many wonderful vegetables at amazingly reasonable prices and they provide more than 50% of Arvon’s weekly supply. There are so many vegetables we love but I have chosen asparagus as the season starts any day now. Delicious on the barbecue with a squeeze of lemon and some grated cheddar, I look forward every year to getting it in our veg bag. Available direct from Hallwood or from Sheepwash shop.
- Quickes Farm goat cheddar. Many people know the softer more acidic goat cheeses that the French prefer, but this is very different to those, and the best cheddar I have ever tasted. It’s rich, creamy and totally delicious. Available at Market Cheeses, Holsworthy.
- The Shebbear Cheese Company cheeses. Sarah and Chris Styles-Power produce a small amount of beautifully crafted artisan cheeses which are only available at the Ruby Country Market in Hatherleigh.
- Westlake Kingston Black cider. This is the best of Westlake’s single variety ciders. Kingston Black only yields small amounts of apples, which means supplies are sadly limited. Try it when you can. Available from Westlake farm direct.
- Vivian’s Honey. This is such wonderfully sweet honey that it is gone in seconds from our shelves. Sheepwash shop often have to ration our supply to make sure there’s enough for other locals. Sold in Harrods and Harvey Nichols, it has to be one of the finest honeys in the country. Available from Sheepwash shop.
- Ruby rib-eye steak from Clannaborough Barton. This farm near Crediton produces amazing Ruby beef with so much marbling and flavour. The steaks are the best I have tasted anywhere in the world. Available from the farm shop near Crediton.
- Edward’s Old English sausages. These sausages are the staple of our weekly bangers and mash, and are delicious roasted with a drizzle of oil – don’t prick them or they’ll dry out in the oven. Available from Edward’s Butcher, Hatherleigh.
- Dunn’s butter. Impossibly thick and salty, I often have to pick up extra packets for our guests who want to take it home, as there simply isn’t butter like it in any supermarkets. Available from Sheepwash shop.
- Bell and Loxton rapeseed oil. Really distinctive flavor, which is rich and nutty, this is cold pressed like the finest olive oils, and made in Kingsbridge. Rapeseed oil has a higher cooking temperature than olive oil, and it makes the best roast potatoes. Available from Waitrose or Hallwood Farm Shop, Okehampton.
- Devon Chilli Farm’s honeycomb chilli chocolate. This may sound like an odd combination, but trust me – it is absolutely delicious, with no lack of chilli heat. Available in the BP/Budgens just off the A30, Okehampton.
And, as a bonus, if you like a spot of foraging, here’s a very tasty seasonal recipe from Totleigh’s current menu:
Wild garlic pesto
- Collect two good handfuls of wild garlic (there are plenty of spots down by the Torridge).
- Add a small handful of parsley, a healthy glug of good olive oil, 60g toasted pine nuts, 60g of parmesan, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and black pepper.
- Blitz together and stir through pasta or serve with a baked salmon fillet.
For more info about Arvon go to http://www.arvonfoundation.org
June 2013 (Summer issue)