Those of you who already follow me on social media will have been unable to avoid my zealous use of the #BlogCampRiverCottage hashtag over the last week or so. That’s because I was invited by Foodies 100 to attend a blog camp at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage HQ which took place last Wednesday. It was an amazing day spent networking with fellow food bloggers and learning some essential skills which will hopefully improve my posts here at Supper in the Suburbs.
I went armed with my trusty camera so it’s probably no surprise that I took hundreds (that’s right, hundreds!) of photos throughout the day. You’ll be pleased to know that I’ll just be sharing the highlights here (though check out Facebook for more!)
Without further a’do, here’s my run down of what happened at #BlogCampRiverCottage.
On Wednesday morning I woke up in Lyme Regis to the sound of the sea and sunshine pouring through my curtains. Jon and I had decided to use the blog camp it as a bit of an excuse for a mini-break so we had been staying in at the Lyme Townhouse in Dorset for a few days. With strict instructions to arrive at River Cottage HQ for 9 am, it was an early start for me and I begrudgingly dragged myself out of bed. The cobwebs were, however, soon shaken off by a rather rocky tractor ride down to the River Cottage Farm. I wasn’t tucked up in a comfy bed any more.
Once we were all gathered inside the yurt on site, perched on hay bales topped with sheepskin rugs, we were given a run down of the day. The food bloggers were split into 3 groups and we’d rotate around the different activities happening that day. I was to start at the food styling workshop with Capture by Lucy, before heading on a tour of River Cottage with head gardener Will. We’d then all stop for a delicious two course lunch cooked by the team at River Cottage, before heading back to our workshops (soda bread and butter making for me). The day was to then end with more networking before taking the rickety tractor back up to civilisation.
We tucked into some delicious pastries, omelette bites, tea, coffee and fruit juice, had a quick natter then set off on our first workshop of the day.
Food Styling workshop
I was pretty excited that I got to start the day with a food styling workshop. I’ve loved photography since I was a teenager and have huge piles of photo albums documenting my younger years. I also did a photography course alongside my art GCSE at school and have been hooked since.
Despite this, I am still very much a novice and am still getting to grips with my DSLR. What I find incredibly difficult however is the styling of a food photograph. I spend hours wandering around charity shops and searching online for pretty props, but when I come to use them in photographs I’m often at a loss.
Our teacher for the day was Lucy from Capture by Lucy who has made a career out of food photography. She gave some incredibly invaluable tips about the use of triangles, embracing negative space and finding your own style.
Finding a style is perhaps the most important thing for me both in terms of the photography on this site and the writing. I often look to some of my favourite writers and photographers for inspiration and while that’s a great place to start, it’s important to use that inspiration and put your own stamp on it. Right now I am loving high contrast, saturated photos. What do you think? Are they working for you?
Lucy was a fantastic tutor and I the food styling workshop was definitely the highlight of my day!
The River Cottage Tour
After concentrating hard and scribbling away in my notebook for the first half of the morning it was nice to go for a wander around the River Cottage HQ grounds.
River Cottage is 90 acre small holding with roughly 30 sheep, 26 pigs, 20 cows and countless chicken, guinea fowl and more! It’s certified organic so you can guarantee there are no nasties used on any of the fruit, veggies or in the production of their meat. Everything produced on site is butchered, prepared and cooked on site too – they even have their own bees to make honey. Forget worrying about food miles here, the food travels mere metres!
Despite wanting to stick about in London for a while yet, the set-up at River Cottage is pretty much my dream. If I could pick up their kitchen garden and plonk it on to the back of one of the two bed terraced houses down the road I would be in heaven. OK, so that’s not going to happen but I did find the walk around HQ incredibly inspiring and got lots of tips for when we do eventually get a kitchen garden.
For example, did you know that the raspberry variety “all gold” not only taste fantastic, but, the birds don’t see them as ripe so you lose a lot less to cheeky birds plucking them off of the bush when you are not watching. I know which variety I’ll be planting in my garden…
After we’d worked up a bit of an appetite, wandering round the farm and snapping photos here there and everywhere, we were treated to a fantastic two course lunch.
Everyone gathered back in the barn around the long banquet style tables, sharing the photos they’d taken that morning and discussing hints and tips. It was a hilarious sight when lunch was eventually served as iphones, DSLRs and point and shoots emerged from under the table and everyone began snapping away, ready to tweet, instagram and Facebook lunch. We are a funny breed…
Lunch was beef ragu stuffed ravioli on a bed of vegetables, and sticky corn on the cob, followed by fennel meringue, coffee ice cream with salted caramel, honey roast damsons and oat crumble. I felt quite honoured to be eating such a fantastic meal where all of the ingredients had been grown and nurtured here at River Cottage HQ.
Bread and Butter Workshop
It was hard to drag us away from the table once lunch was over but eventually we all went back to our separate workshops for the last session of the day. My group joined head chef Gill Mellor in the cookery school kitchen to learn how to make butter from just 500ml of double cream which we would serve alongside a herby blackberry and apple soda bread.
I have made butter once before (though somewhat by accident…). I hadn’t, however, made butter with edible flowers before!
The soda bread was just as quick and easy to make as the butter. Stuffed with apples, fennel, cheddar and blackberries we’d foraged ourselves from the farm the soda bread was a real hearty loaf that was packed full of flavours. Jon’s face lit up as I hopped off of the tractor at the end of the day and he saw me walking towards to car with the warm loaf in my hands.
It was such a fun day. Everyone was so happy and it was refreshing to be at a networking event where people were so happy to share tips, tricks, advice and compliments. River Cottage is such an uplifting place and I think it rubbed off on us all!
If you want to read more about #BlogCampRiverCottage then find out more here.