Setting up a new bakery

Claire Rolland has attended courses at the School – here she talks about her experience of setting-up a new bakery on Anglesey.

Pumpkin Seed Bakery – It’s been a long journey and it’s not over yet…

I had hoped that by the time this article was due I would have lots of photos of happy customers stood next to baskets of fresh bread but as you will see the journey has only really just begun. Having decided in 2013 to take redundancy and move to Anglesey I was keen to channel my energy into something different and see if there was an opportunity to couple my passion for baking with bringing something positive to the local community. Anglesey has fabulous local produce, cheese, meat, seafood, fruit & veg but there was a lack of a traditional bakery hence the Pumpkin Seed Bakery was born.

Claire with her new oven

I spent the summer of 2013 visiting and working in bakeries to build up experience in the UK and France, that coupled with a couple of excellent courses at The School Artisan Food & The Bertinet Kitchen stood me in good stead to get going. I also started to canvass local opinion as to where people bought bread, what they bought, what they were missing and where the community thought the best location would be. The response was overwhelming, one event where I took a “Tasting Table” for two days yielded over 500 feedback forms completed and 400 email addresses of people wanting to be informed when we opened. There was almost a desperation for a good bakery making real bread, perhaps offering courses and getting involved with community groups and schools, the bread revolution was alive and well in Anglesey and just waiting for someone to get it started.

Everything seemed set but this is where it gets interesting.

Initially it seemed there was a lot of help available, local government grants, help from the

Pumpkin Seed Bakery should be open for Easter

bank, help with employing staff, it seemed everything was there in place to help encourage local business but as you can from the pictures it’s not quite that straightforward. We started discussion with both bank and local government bodies in Oct last year and the various grants and loans are just starting to come through. The government grants are great but if you apply you cannot order, reserve or take delivery of anything they will help fund until they approve your application which takes months. I fell foul of this with my oven and mixer, the oven had to come through the shop window so we had a specific time we had to take delivery when the shop work was happening. This was three days before I got approval for the grant, I explained but to no avail, they removed these two very expensive items from my grant! The Banks require more information, guarantees and securities than you would think possible. I haven’t even mentioned 3 Phase Power, we started talking to EON in October last year, the supply is outside the shop but has cost £5,000 to connect and we still don’t have a switch on date!!!!

Having mentioned all of the above the thing that has kept us going and kept us believing is the incredible support we have had from other business on Menai High Street and all the people who stop me or pop into the shop whilst I am cleaning and want to know when we will open, they seem as excited as me and it means a lot.

I hope by the next issue we will have photos of smiling customers and the Campaign for Real Bread will have well and truly arrived on this beautiful little Island in the north west corner of Wales.

Claire Rolland

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The best birthday present ever

Nick Lawford came on one of the School’s Curing and Smoking courses – he was so impressed he wanted to share his experience…

A few months ago a beautiful and generous combination of loved ones presented me with what can only be described as the BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER: a day learning about how to cure and smoke meat at the School of Artisan Food in north Nottinghamshire (

Duck - before and after salting

I’ve made a handful of attempts at producing charcuterie over the years, with varying degrees of success.  Air-dried salami (inspired by this article by Tim Hayward: did not go well.  In fact it went rotten.  A trip to New York – and, specifically, two visits to Katz’s Delicatessen (once with friends, the second time a solo visit – just me, alone with a massive sandwich, in love) – embedded an obsession with pastrami.  My fridge is now no stranger to a hunk of beef, bathing patiently in a tub of brine.   

This, however, was an opportunity to really learn about these age-old techniques of preserving and flavouring meat, to have a go at things I’d only ever day-dreamed about. 

The School is based on the very grand Welbeck Estate – amidst beautiful parkland and a whole community of food and creativity: a farm, an art gallery, a 12th century abbey, a farm shop, a dairy, artists workshops, a bakehouse…  The School itself is housed in the beautiful former stables block, which dates back to 1870.  We were welcomed with coffee and bacon sandwiches before a quick look round the school, which specialises in baking, dairy and, where I found myself, the butchery department.

Finished products

There were seven of us meat geeks in all – three more enthusiastic home cooks like me, a couple of farmers and a Guardian journalist (who went on to write this excellent piece: 

The course leaders, Chris and Rich, slapped half a pig down in front of us.  From its nose to its tail, we got to know that fine animal that day.  Both Chris and Rich have huge experience in the meat industry as well as passion and enthusiasm for artisan butchery.  They stressed the importance of using good quality meats when curing and smoking.

Learning about meat provenance and watching master butchers chop up a pig is all well and good, but I wanted to get stuck in, so I was first with my hand in the air when Chris asked for a volunteer to mix up the first of our recipes of the day: Smoked Countryman’s Sausage.  I washed my hands, rolled up my sleeves and enthusiastically massaged together the sausage mixture – a mix of diced pork, pork mince, pork fat, salt, garlic powder, black pepper and mustard seeds.  The group then took it in turns to feed the mixture through the huge industrial sausage maker, filling up the hog casings and making neat meaty horseshoes.  These were then pricked and would ordinarily have been allowed to dry for 2-3 hours.  We skipped that step, though, and just put them straight into Chris’s smoking cabinet to be hot smoked at 85 – 90 degrees for about 2 hours.  Also into the smoker went a pork tenderloin which had been cured for half an hour in a mixture of salt, Demerara sugar, juniper berries, shredded bay leaves and black peppercorns. 

We then paused for lunch.  Which was incredible.  I tried to take a photo of the buffet but I was shaking with excitement so it didn‘t come out very well.  Pressed beef, marmalade ham, cured ox tongue, pigeon & venison terrine, pork pie, scotch egg, plus pates, quiches, a range of lip-smacking salads, home-made breads and cheeses – all produced on site.  It was magical.  Bliss. 

The morning had been pretty good fun and the lunch was mind-blowing, but it still didn’t prepare me for the excitements of the afternoon, which was hands on and action-packed.

We started by carefully boning and skinning hunks of pork belly.  These were then rubbed in a sugar/salt mix and vacuum-packed to take home and cure in the fridge, eventually becoming streaky bacon.  Part of the joy of the day was that it kept on giving even after you’d gone home…half of the stuff we took away wasn’t ready for days or weeks afterwards.  Curing meat certainly teaches patience. 

Throughout the day Chris had a few pots simmering away in the background – one a vat with pork hocks and trotters, another with an ox tongue, all of which had previously been in brine for a week.  Not for the first time I found myself daydreaming about having a fridge at home just for brining stuff.  A weird dream. 

Eventually two lucky volunteers were picked to assemble a ham hock terrine – a carefully built construction of the beautifully tender succulent shredded meat, sweet pickled gherkins, finely chopped celery and a few ladles of the stock that the meat had been bubbling away in all afternoon.  The ox tongue too was skinned and pressed into a bowl, weighed down and chilled.  This one was a revelation when we eventually ate it – rich, delicious, melt-in-the-mouth meaty goodness.


Also in my bag to take home was a chunk of silverside of beef (it wasn’t an entirely pork-filled day), which we trimmed, cut into strips and rubbed in salt.  This then had some wine added, at home, before being dried, rubbed in a spice mix and hung to dry, to make the South African delicacy biltong.  We were told that this would take up to 10 days.  I didn’t really have a suitable cool, dark and airy place to hang mine, so rigged them up in the oven instead, where I left them for several days.  My wonderful girlfriend did a good job of not being bothered that the fridge was now full of half-cured meat and the oven was out of action for 10 days because it was home to some slowly drying beef. 

As it turned out my oven method wasn’t actually ideal, I think it was lacking a crucial flow of air – after about 4 days I realised that my biltong was going mouldy.  I didn’t panic, however (well, not too much), as Chris had told us that white mould is actually okay.  It’s black mould that we should fear.  I bravely mopped off the white mould with some vinegar and decided to speed up the drying process, leaving them in a very low oven overnight.  They didn’t turn out too badly in the end – chewy, spicy, meaty snacks.  Plus no-one got botulism, which is always something worth celebrating.

The last of the meaty treats was truly amazing and subsequently I’ve done it a couple of times at home and you should do it too: Duck Proscuitto.  It is what the name suggests – a duck breast cured to become a kind of sweet, cured ham.  It’s flipping awesome. 

As Chris made very clear, when you’re home curing you don’t want to start out trying to make a Jamón Ibérico.  You’re going to be disappointed.  And someone might get botulism.  Start out with Duck Proscuitto instead.

Duck Proscuitto

Rinse and dry a 170-180g duck breast.  Put a one inch bed of salt in a plastic container (like one you’d get from a Chinese restaurant), lay the duck on top and cover it with another layer of salt.  Leave this in the fridge for two days.

Mix together 2g of ground coriander, 2g ground fennel seeds and 2g ground black pepper.  Remove the duck from its salty bed, rinse it with white wine vinegar and then with water.  Pat it dry and then rub the spice mixture over it.

Wrap the duck breast in cheesecloth, tie it up at both ends and hang it in the fridge.  The duck needs to cure until it feels “firm but not dry”, which takes about 2 weeks, less for smaller breasts. 

When it’s ready, slice it thinly and enjoy.  Perhaps in a salad, or on toast with a dollop of fruity chutney.  Or perhaps just on its own with a  glass of red wine.  It’s bloody delicious.

The next available Smoking & Curing course takes place on 28 April at the School of Artisan Food:  I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

With huge thanks to Chris, Rich and everyone at the School of Artisan Food.  And to Kayleigh, my parents, her parents, sister and family, who all made it happen for me.


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Half term holiday delights

Jack O’Donnell, at age 13 is one of our youngest students. Jack came on one of our teenager’s pizza making courses and he’s written a blog about his experience. Jack now does a regular monthly blog about his baking and cookery exploits…

Jack with hot cross buns


It was great to see some teenager’s cooking sessions on at Half Term so I got myself booked in.

First I went on the preserve making course which consisted of making lime curd and lemon curd. They both tasted absolutly amazing! The sweet yet tangyness of the curds was divine and smooth on the tongue. I then booked in on a scone making course. It was brilliant making our own dough. The finished product was soft yet not stodgy scones – with the added bonus that they contained chocolate chips! As we learnt dough making skills I deccided to put my skills to work and make cinnamon hot cross buns for Easter. The recipe said to glaze the golden brown tarts with apricot jam. However we didn’t have this in the house so I put my mind to work and decided to glaze them with a light layer of scrumptious lemon curd made at the School of Artisan Food’s preserving course.
Have a great Easter everyone!



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Food for Health


Our first Food for Health course was held during 8-9 March. Read a review of the course…

I was, in fact, apprehensive about the weekend. When I had heard Sheila Dillon talking on The Food Programme about how little nutritional advice there was out there for people following a cancer diagnosis and treatment, this had struck a chord. A bit of research and a lot of luck led me to Kelly McCabe, a dietician (dieticians are registered to practice in the NHS after rigorous training) of such knowledge, compassion and lightness of touch that her weekend with us flew by in a cloud of information, laughter, good food and discussion.

Kelly brought along her colleague Veronica Mai Dick and a stack of helpfully printed out information. We were a mixed bunch of course participants, all of whom had had cancers of various different types, all of us eager to get real information. Some of us were shy and some of us were bouncy, but the group somehow gelled and everybody’s different experience was respected.

The shape of the two days was that Kelly and Veronica went through a structured presentation of the nutritional and lifestyle guidelines unpicking the best ways to eat and exercise after cancer. If that sounds dry and goody goody nothing could have been further from the case. Kelly took every question seriously and explained things that we had never had the opportunity to ask during treatment. Who knew that you could take too many anti-oxidants? Who knew exactly what an anti-oxidant is? We learned about our fatigue and how to beat it, muscle composition, what to eat if your taste is altered by treatment, how to avoid the pitfalls of too much choice in the supermarket, how two Brazil nuts a day really are protective for prostate cancer and how to read food ‘research’ articles with an educated and sceptical eye. We walked in the school’s beautiful grounds, we cooked up delicious and healthy food, we realised that you don’t have to be good at science to understand the basic information about inflammatory processes, and that we can make small changes that will give us a better chance of living healthily.

This is a brilliant course for anybody post cancer; doctors, carers, friends and relations as well as the person who has had cancer. The great luxury is to have the time to think with, ask questions to and learn from such informed and responsible and practitioners.

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Jack’s favourite recipes

Jack O’Donnell, at age 13 is one of our youngest students. Jack came on one of our teenager’s pizza making courses and he’s written a blog about his experience. Jack now does a regular monthly blog about his baking and cookery exploits…

This month I’d like to share a couple of my favourite recipes with you…..the first one I have named “Cuckney Croquettes” and I first made it for a cooking competition at school a couple of years ago.
Cuckney Croquettes
225g breadcrumbs
150g Wensleydale cheese crumbled
1 small leek – finely chopped
1tsp mustard powder
2 medium eggs
milk if needed
put 150g breadcrumbs in a bowl with the cheese, leek spoon of herbs – season to taste
beat the mustard and eggs together and add half the egg mixture to the breadcrumbs and cheese
combine together – add milk if needed
shape into sausage shapes
put the remaining breadcrumbs on a plate
dip each “sausage” into the egg and coat with the breadcrumbs
put in the fridge for 30 mins
the croquettes can be fried or oven baked
serve with a crisp green salad and balsamic dressing
as an alternative add some sun dried tomatoes before you make the breadcrumbs and a few chopped ones with the cheese mixture
delicious as a starter or a light lunch

White Chocolate Creme Brulee

568ml pot double cream
100g  white chocolate, broken into pieces
1 vanilla pod, split or 1 tsp vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
2 tbsp golden caster sugar, plus extra for topping

I love making this purely and simply so I can use my blowtorch!  But it does taste good also.

Heat the cream, chocolate and vanilla pod in a pan until the chocolate has melted. Take off the heat and allow to infuse for 10 mins, scraping the pod seeds into the cream. If using the vanilla extract, add straight away. Heat oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3.

Beat yolks and sugar until pale. Stir in the chocolate cream. Strain into a jug and pour into ramekins. Place in a deep roasting tray and pour boiling water halfway up the sides. Bake for 15-20 mins until just set with a wobbly centre. Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hrs.

 To serve, sprinkle some sugar on top of the brûlées and caramelise with a blowtorch or briefly under a hot grill. Leave caramel to harden, then serve.

 I like to serve this with raspberries or summer fruits -  just to balance out all the calories! For even more luxury these can be marinated in alcohol;)!

 (Source BCC Good Food website)



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My love affair with cooking

Jack O’Donnell, at age 13 is one of our youngest students.  Jack came on one of our teenager’s pizza making courses and he’s written a blog about his experience. Jack now does a regular monthly blog about his baking and cookery exploits…

As many of you will be celebrating St Valentine’s Day in February, I thought I’d talk about what I love about cooking. I don’t know how I got into cooking exactly – I think I was influenced by watching the numerous cooking programmes on the TV and then just decided to try out my own recipes.

Even if it goes wrong, I have enjoyed the experience of trying out different flavours to create a new recipe.  If I am trying a new recipe, I usually follow the basic method but then add my own “twist” to it to create a different flavour.  Sometimes it works, sometimes not, but my tip is never to be afraid to try.

More recently, I’ve gone with my mum to local suppliers to choose meat and vegetables – I like finding out where the food is sourced and in Nottinghamshire there are some excellent producers.  My favourite vegetable to cook with is potatoes – for instance spicy wedges, mustard mash, potato salad and of course the old favourite, Shepherd’s Pie.  They are the basis for many winter-warming food dishes.

I am taking Food Technology GCSE, and this involves planning nutrition, special dietary requirements, questionnaires and final meal planning design in a big project.  We are working on smaller aspects of this at the moment: eg cooked chilled meals.

Hope you enjoy some nice romantic meals out…or even better, home-cooked meals by your loved ones!


PS “I did get the blowtorch!” (see December’s blog)

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Broken but not defeated..


Jack cooks up his meal for the competition

Jack’s food is ready for the judges

Jack O’Donnell, at age 13 is one of our youngest students.  Jack came on one of our teenager’s pizza making courses and he’s written a blog about his experience. Jack now does a regular monthly blog about his baking and cookery exploits…

What a hectic week!

On Tuesday 26th November 2013 I competed in the Shirebrook Rotary Club Young Chef of the Year Competition.

I had been looking forward to it for goodness knows how long!

Until Sunday, two days before…. I was at Mansfield Rugby Club having a weekly training session with the lads when it all went horribly wrong. I was running in the last minute of training and caught my finger in my shorts pocket and sadly broke my finger at the joint.  Ouch! After seeing stars I was taken to A&E where my worst fears were confirmed – it was broken! …potentially no cooking competition, no band concert, no tennis….sadly home work was OK as it was my left hand!!

But of course this put my hopes of winning the cooking contest down. On the other hand I kept my head up high went out and tried my best and had a great day out after my school and the organisers agreed I could still take part.

Prior to the competition, we had to choose a starter and main/main and dessert for two people and all for under a tenner!  We had to write our budget, quantities and method and also a design of how our table settings would look.

My starter was my own speciality: “Cuckney Croquettes” – Wensleydale cheese and leeks in a crispy bread-crumb case served with a rocket and tomato salad, drizzled with oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.  Then for the main – filling fluffy gnocchi in a spicy tomato sauce with chorizo sausage.  Again served with a delicious side-salad.  I went for a bistro-style table setting with blue checked table-cloth and candles.

Unfortunately I didn’t get placed but was told my food tasted great! Over all a fantastic day out even if I didn’t get the result I was looking for!



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Learning from one’s mistakes…

Jack WhitingJack O’Donnell, at age 13 is one of our youngest students.  Jack came on one of our teenager’s pizza making courses and he’s written a blog about his experience. Jack now does a regular monthly blog about his baking and cookery exploits…

2013 comes to a close, I thought I’d share with you some of my culinary successes and (ahem!) not so successful recipes of this year!

For Christmas I was given a burger press so every Friday for weeks it was a not so healthy burger and chips (home-made mind!) – we had spicy chilli burgers, cheesy-stuffed burgers, lamb burgers – yum yum!

Then for my birthday in May my Aunty brought me a mortar and pestle so my family endured (“enjoyed”) salsa with everything!  We had fahitas, the burgers got re-invented again, fahitas, burgers again all with my delicious home-made salsa.  I like experiementing with different flavours so I added a dash of chilli flakes one week, basil the next, coriander etc.

I also had a pizza stone so was keen on trying it out, therefore I made pizza bases for a meal with friends who came to visit. I decided to make a lasagne accompanied by home-made garlic-cheesy bread and caramelised pizza bread.  The food looked perfect but as we tucked in we all began to look around and smirk…. The caramelised pizza tasted incredibly sweet……I checked the quantities on the recipe and realised that instead of using 1/2 cup of sugar…..I’d used 1 1/2 cups!!!!!  Hopefully this is a good lesson learnt for when I do my GCSEs….READ THE INSTRUCTIONS.

On another ocasion I thought I’d be really adventurous and make a baked alaska.  My sister is the Victoria Sponge Queen so I persuaded her to make the cake base and I set to work whisking the egg whites, whisking the egg whites, whisking the egg whites.  They wouldn’t peak and ended up just a watery soggy mess.  “Google” came to the rescue as to why this was happening and I tried again… another 2 eggs and lots of sugar…careful not to get any yolk in it – yet another “clean” bowl out of the cupboard and more mess over all the kitchen sides.  Bit more gentle on the whisking this time…..still all to no avail.  Oh well, had to improvise – cut the cake into nice shapes, few rasperries on the side and dollop of creme fraiche and dessert for all – phew!  Needless to say I still haven’t tried anymore recipes which use meringues!

I am secretly hoping for a blow-torch for Christmas this year then I can really get to work!  Will let you know if Santa is kind to me.

Happy New Year and Happy Cooking in 2014.

Next month…hear how I got on at the Rotary Club Young Chef of the Year Competition


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Jack’s blog






Jack O’Donnell, at age 13 is one of our youngest students.  Jack came on one of our teenager’s pizza making courses and he’s written a blog about his experience. We’ve invited Jack to do a regular monthly blog for us so watch out for the next instalment – he could be the next Emmanuel Hadjiandreou!

My Mum and I first heard about the children’s cookery courses which the School of Artisan Food were running when we visited their marquee at the Clumber Festival of Food and Drink in September.  I’d been hoping that the School would be able to offer courses for my age-group for a while, so when we got home I signed up straight away for the “Teenager’s Pizza Making Course”.

The School of Artisan Food is situated in a stunning location on the Welbeck Estate. When I first arrived my nose tingled with the smell of freshly made bread which the Welbeck Bake-house had just made.  I was really excited about what was to come!  We were taken through to the students’ modern classroom where Sally made us feel welcome.  I was shown to a work-station and Sally explained every step of the dough-making process to the class.  I enjoyed every last second of my afternoon and my family particularly enjoyed eating my wares!

I’ve since made the “overnight dough” again, using it to make Pizza and also Calzone (folded pizza).  The recipe is great fun to make and you can experiment with all sorts of toppings and fillings to suit your taste.  (Don’t forget to clear away afterwards though otherwise it winds the oldies up!)

Can’t wait until the next course!

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School wins national award

We’re delighted to announce that we’ve won the Best Large Professional Development category in the 2013 British Cookery School Awards! 

The School reached the finals after beating off competition from over 200 cookery schools and were shortlisted alongside Ashburton Cookery School, Edinburgh School of Food and Wine and Edinburgh New Town Cookery School. 

Our award’s submission focused on the School’s Advanced Diploma, which is now in its fourth year. Almost 50 aspiring artisans have trained in the fields of baking, cheesemaking, butchery and charcuterie. The majority of our graduates have either set-up their own artisan businesses and or are employed within an artisan enterprise.

We were also selected as a finalist in the Specialist Cookery School category, which was won by The Bertinet Kitchen. Congratulations to The Bertinet and all  the cookery schools who excelled in their own individual categories.


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