Small beginnings from a domestic farm Kitchen to a modern commercial kitchen in rural Dorset (but still on a farm!)
Having been brought up on a farm here in Dorset, good food and the family all gravitated towards the kitchen. Most likely because there was the lovely aroma of home cooking and cake could be found readily and on tap almost all the time!
So, it is no surprise that food and cooking was a tremendous influence on me from an early age and in fact at the tender age of 8 I started cooking, perhaps even earlier as it is a memorable fact in my family that I cooked my first dinner party for my parents friends at eight years old!
It began as assisted cooking either with my Mother or one of my Grandmother’s who both lived locally and then in a short time I started cooking independently.
You may not realise this, but it is common in farming families because of the very early starts and rare time off that between milkings farmers will take an afternoon snooze for an hour or so.
Why am I telling you this you ask?
Well, that was when my cooking bug would kick in, the cookery books would come out and a mammoth baking session would begin whilst my parents ‘snoozed’!
By the time Mum reappeared in the kitchen I had proudly laid out an array of cakes and biscuits for everyone in the family (including any visiting farm reps or visitors). I can recall always thinking that it had taken hours for me to make it all but within a few hours or even quicker it had all been consumed and all that remained was a few crumbs! I suppose I should see that as a tribute to the fact I had made something delicious. I am not sure Mum felt as passionately about her daughters culinary skills as with my cooking sessions there was also a huge pile of washing up left in the sink, I was not keen on that part of clearing up and if I am totally honest I think my staff would agree even now when Margot cooks she create a whirlwind kind of effect….. in my defence,I can produce a tremendous amount in a short time!
It wasn’t just cooking activities I did whilst Mum and Dad slept, I also would take off in the tractor across the fields- don’t worry I never crashed. Farming life back then was just like that, I truly loved driving the tractor and the sense of mobility and freedom it gave me living in such a rural area. As I got older and with ‘L’ plates I could also take to the road to get about as well to maybe go to the village shop for ingredients or to visit my older sister and nephews in the neighbouring village. My two nephews thought it was wonderful when their Aunty rocked up in the tractor and could take them for rides!
In fact as a baby, I rode with my Dad in the tractor just to give my Mum some rest as allegedly I would not tolerate being with anyone else and so would cry and scream endlessly but once in the tractor on Dad’s lap, well I would sleep contentedly whilst he got on with the rolling or chain harrowing or whatever tractor work needed to be done!
On the rare occasion my parents would have time off or go away, my Grandparents were enlisted to look after us. This meant a great cooking marathon for me with my Grandmother and would normally involve some delicious traditional British dishes such as Beef stew and dumplings (a personal favourite of mine) or cottage pie or a lovely savoury meat or fish pie.
All three of my Grandmothers were fabulous cooks, yes I do mean three as my Father was adopted and we got to know his natural Mother so I inherently ended up with three Grandmothers and three Grandfathers! (Christmas and birthdays were fab!).
My Grandmother on my Mother’s side, Nanny Goff as she was known was an amazing cook and in actual fact worked in service during the war cooking for a Doctor and his family in Maiden Newton. It is Nanny Goff’s scone recipe for scones that I inherited in fact and that we still use today when you order a cream tea from us.
Although nowadays we aren’t cooking on an electric Belling cooker like my Nan had, we have an all singing, all dancing commercial cooker that is capable of cooking 200 scones an hour – that is if we can make them that fast as we do make them traditionally still by hand not machine.
I love that I can use old proven recipes and transfer them into a modern commercial kitchen set up and still have the same success rates.
The mix of the old and the new I think is what deep roots me in my heritage here in Dorset. Nowadays I am an established business here in Stalbridge but my past comes with me and definitely influences my style of cooking and love of Dorset into the future. I feel as though I bring prospective from the land to the plate/ table and now in my hampers as well. This gives me the immense sense of pride I feel every time I pack a box to mail out. I can account for all the provenance that goes into each hamper.
I like to think that the person on the receiving end can sense the heart and soul that is packed into each cream tea box we make….hopefully that is what gives what we offer something much more special than our competitors. We really care about our cream tea hampers from the time of ordering through to its arrival.
As they say, the proof is in the eating……