As a farmer's daughter an invite where the dress code is "wellies recommended" is always going to grab my attention. Such was the requirement for a press event last week at The Store to launch their Open Farm Sunday. I always try to pop in past their farm shop at Foveran when I'm in that neck of the woods to stock up on meaty goodies and keep an eye out for their stall at local farmer's markets particularly if they've got the BBQ fired up. Their range of home produced meat is superb as are their burgers and sausages.
Farming has been in the Booth family for four generations and we were welcomed to the Farm Shop and Cafe by farmer and owner of The Store, Andrew Booth. Over Bacon Rolls and a pot of Tea he gave us a brief introduction to The Store and the format of the day before we all donned our wellies and headed off to the farm to meet the Aberdeen Angus cattle herd.
Andrew spoke passionately about his award winning Aberdeen Angus beef herd and how he champions traditional British cattle breeds and production methods. The cattle spend the summer outdoors eating grass and are wintered indoors on silage and barley. They are sourced from breeders as whole herds of store animals and finished off to The Store's specification. Buying a herd as a whole rather than by weight at the Mart enables a constant source of beef for slaughter as not all the animals mature at the same time. In addition to beef The Store also produce their own lamb and arable crops. Wheat, Barley and Oil Seed Rape plus Oats which head to Hamlyns to become porridge oats or oatmeal. Environmental awareness also features high on the agenda with biomass woodchip dryers and recycled food waste compost.
Back to The Store itself for a tour of the on-site butchery where the beef is aged on the bone for a minimum of 21 days to ensure depth of flavour and tenderness. Because they butcher whole carcases of beef, pork and lamb The Store can offer every conceivable cut of meat from nose to tail. Master Butcher Grant gave us a hands on demo french trimming a beef rib then boning it out to a rolled rib roast. We were all mesmerised with his dexterity at butchers knots. Next it was our turn to get our hands dirty making beef sausages. Cue much hilarity, innuendo and Generation Game laughter. Lets just say its much more difficult than it looks. You can try it for yourself at one of their regular Butchery Masterclasses.
As we sat down for lunch Farmer Both explained that we were to be sampling a selection of smoked and barbecued meats that would be on the menu at their forthcoming Foodie Friday on 29th May. As the platters arrived I cleared a space for them in the middle of the table however what I thought were sharing platters were actually one each. They definitely lived up to the billing of a carnivores dream. Head Chef Tim explained the dishes and sides to us. The Brisket, Rib and Raspberry & Chilli Ketchup were my particular highlights. To Book a table for Foodie Friday call 01358 788083 or email email@example.com. I'd advise starving yourself beforehand as there's also a BBQ's shellfish starter and doughnut and candied bacon desert in addition to what we had.
Before heading for home a wee browse around the farm shop was of course necessary and I stocked up on some Aberdeen Angus Burgers and Ribeye Steaks to accompany my own handmade sausages on the BBQ. Whilst filling my basket with local eggs, beetroot and strawberries. I was also somewhat suspiciously eyeing up an Ox Tongue. Farmer Booth then presented me with it as a challenge. I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth so duly accepted!
The sausages and burgers were fantastic as always served alongside my latest commissioned recipe for Scottish Barley & Salmon Salad with a Whisky & Rapeseed Oil Dressing. The Ribeyes also headed for the BBQ topped with wild garlic butter and were absolutely melt in the mouth. All that was left to tackle was the elephant in the room. Ox Tongue. I tweeted Cookery Author Sue Lawrence to ask for advice and followed her 140 character recommendation
@foodiequine Soak overnte, b to boil, simmer 3-4 hrs wth peppercorns/veg Cool & skin, remove gristle etc. Place weight on top as cools fully— Sue Lawrence (@SueHLawrence) May 21, 2015
The tongue was duly washed and soaked overnight in cold water which I then discarded. I then placed it in a deep pan along with a quartered onion, sliced carrot, a couple of sticks of celery, bay leaves and a handful of peppercorns. Filled up the pan with plenty of cold water, brought it to the boil then turned down and simmered for 3.5 hours. Once cooked I removed it from the pan to cool and then set about peeling off the skin and any ragged and grisly bits. It still looked rather tongue like and bumpy in texture so I removed a further layer before curling it up and placing in a 3 pint pudding bowl. A saucer went on top to press it down followed by weights. (the greaseproof paper is only there as the weights are normally garden ornaments!) I left it in the fridge overnight and it popped easily out of the bowl the next day and sliced up a treat. The colour is much more brown than the supermarket pre-packed pinky/purple tongue. Flavour could best be described as subtle, perhaps I should have spiced up my cooking liquor more. It did however taste fab in a sandwich with plenty of mustard. Still got absolutely loads of it left. Any suggestions?
The Open Farm Sunday event takes place at The Store, Foveran, Aberdeenshire on 7th June from 11am - 3pm. Entry is free and highlights include tractor & trailer rides, farm animals, sheep shearing, a farmers market, hog roast & BBQ. You can even try your hand at sausage making and perhaps buy an Ox Tongue?!
If you're not lucky enough to live in Aberdeenshire check out www.farmsunday.org to find a participating farm near you.