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Postcard from the edge by Niamh

Blaggers' Banquet

And, so we did it. We cooked for people, we fed them, we got a lot of them drunk, and we gave them lots of stuff. Goodie bags, auction prizes, raffle prizes were all distributed. There was laughter in the air, and lots of alcohol. We remembered the loo roll and the napkins. We didn’t burn Hawksmoor down.

BB-email_02

Of course, I always knew we could do it. Even on Tuesday night when I woke in the middle of the night in the middle of an intense anxiety dream about buffaloes. Yes, buffaloes. When in Ireland, my mother asked, what could you possibly be texting about? I told her buffaloes.

Oh, yes, they were a feature, those Laverstoke Park Farm buffaloes ever present in my brain, jostling for room with Sipsmith Gin & Vodka, Donald Russell Meat, and lots of veg from Abel & Cole and Riverford. Wrestling with the goodie bags, Chapel Down Pinot Reserve, Curious Brew Beers and fighting with the Lahloo Tea, the Maldon Salt and the Halen Mon. All characters in the nightly soap opera playing out in my tired brain. All in the name of the blaggers’ banquet and that wonderful charity Action Against Hunger.

Rolling up with my wheels that Sunday morning, I unloaded my cargo at Hawksmoor: Maldon Sea Salt Season Boxes, a slab of Guinness and two bottles of Smirnoff Vodka. Where to park? Nothing to fear, my wheels are more compact than a smart car, and I parked them out the back in the private room. Wrists sore from all of the steering on that manic journey down. What kind of car is this? No car, my friends, I have a wheelie suitcase.

I surveyed the scene. Carnage. Organised carnage though. Lots of fruit and veg, lots of beer and cider, wine a go-go. MEAT, lots of that, some stock on the hob, some meat stewing, some lovely smells creeping out of the kitchen. Prep were frantically peeling and slicing, goodie bags were being stuffed maniacally. Everyone was busy, most were smiling and things were getting done.

Our first visitor was a wonderful man from Cornwall (Fish for Thought), delivering his precious and supremely fresh monkfish. He had travelled 5 hours and had 5 hours to go to get home. He didn’t even stop for tea.

Fish Man

Next to unravel the deliveries, or the absent ones at least. Where was the Laverstoke Park Farm buffalo mozarella? In Green & Red you say? Where’s the bread? In St Johns? Scurry, collect, dispatch and prepare.

Our next visitor was Sam Bompass of Bompass & Parr, jelly architect extraordinaire, delivering his boob jellies. Made of plum and rose, with 24 carat gold nipples, we were very excited about these. Unleash the boobs we roared. And so we did. We had a brief lesson in in freeing without destroying, and went on our merry way.

Blaggers Banquet Preparation74

Half an hour left! Time to gather front of house, organise the tables and split the room into sections. Time to set up the band. The Chapel Down Pinot Reserve 2004, nicely chilled, was ready to be poured. The canapes ready and waiting. The kitchen were busy, organised and focussed. Everything was in hand.

Blaggers' Banquet

5 minutes left! Are we ready? A few bits left to do. The band have started playing, Denise and Douglas are ready to pour. Name tags have been distributed by Krista, although mine soon after abandoned, as it had an affinity for my hair and the floor.

Blaggers' Banquet

The guests are here! We’re giddy. What to do? Music is playing, they’re drinking and eating. The bar staff are shaking and making.

6.20pm. Time to seat the guests. Dinner will be served at 6.30pm. So far, so smooth. We seem to be pulling it off.

Blaggers' Banquet

The food starts to come out. The monkfish tartare is one of the prettiest starters I’ve ever seen, and it gets to the tables so quickly. We’re monitoring two missing guests and looking for the pescetarian. Everyone else is happy.

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The pescetarian arrives. Oh! There’s two. Off I scuttle to the kitchen with my news and back on the floor. The band finish and indulge in some blaggertinis, they’ve deserved them.

Time for the main course, nay three main courses for hungry hedonists we are and we love our food. Grilled buffalo steaks with bearnaise sauce (Laverstoke Park), Winter Beef Stew and Lamb hotpot (Donald Russell).

Blaggers' Banquet

While the eat, we start to organise the raffle and the auction. Auctioneer extraordinaire, Tim Hayward, blogger at the Guardian and mastermind behind much lauded new food magazine, Fire & Knives, steps forward and we start. Prizes a go go, almost something for everyone. We’re having fun. Time for a break and dessert, and the auction.

Blaggers Banquet Event 1.91

The auction is so much fun, but I can no longer manage the floor. Lesson learned for next year, but everyone does so well. A couple of blips, we’ve only 20 jellies and two tables miss out. Troubleshoot! Let’s make them a new cocktail, a boobtini, and exclusive just for them with gold leaf at the top. They’re happy and so am I.

Blaggers' Banquet

Time for the cheese, and the fruit, the tea and the coffee. Time for the clean up, the trips home and for everyone to wind down. A sneaky martini for some, I am one of that number. I am very hungry, I have hardly eaten all day!

BlaggersBanquetKavey-0040

The guests are happy and we’ve raised a lot of money for Action Against Hunger. We couldn’t have asked for more. Our first time would never be perfect, but the kitchen blaggers, magnificently led by Sig,  really pulled the rabbit out of the hat. The bar staff were superb, the front of house elegant, the behind the scenes the best, dutifully doing all of the unglamorous work that noone else wanted to do. Everyone did a wonderful job.

Particular and very big thanks to everyone who donated and everyone at Hawksmoor. We did a good thing, I think! The auction continues online, a new item (or two!) every day for a month, and it’s all great stuff. Get bidding. Make your xmas shopping fun.

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The photos, like all things at the banquet, were truly collabarative. Particular thanks to non-blagger, photographer Carmen Valino for the first 6 photographs (excluding the fish man from Billy) and to Kavey, Ailbhe and Mark for the others.

BlaggersBanquet – Action Against Hunger Auction Details by A Girl Has to Eat

The Blaggers’ Banquet took place last Sunday and it was a roaring success, even if I say so myself! Most of us convened at around 11am (I was late as usual) to start prep and cooking duties, and it was really wonderful to see all of us come together for a common charitable cause, not just us bloggers, but all the really kind people who donated food for the dinner and prizes for the auction. The most heartwarming story involved the people from Fish for Thought who drove a 10 hour round trip from Cornwall on the day to deliver monkfish to us for our starter of monkfish and beetroot tartare.

And my hat off to the bloggers who were on kitchen duties – it must have been pretty pressured stuff, cooking a once off menu in a confined kitchen space for about 50 people!

All hands on deck in the kitchen

All hands on deck in the kitchen

I was ‘leek girl’ for part of the day, chopping lots of leeks. Here is a picture of my handy work.

Leeks

Leeks

And then I helped out with various canapé duties. For canapés, we served some lovely pomegranate and goat’s cheese on crispbread with vanilla salt and chives, tomato and mozarella skewers and gougeres.

Pomegranate & goat's cheese canapé

Pomegranate & goat’s cheese canapé

Tomato & mozarell

Tomato & mozarella

As already mentioned, starters was a monkfish and beetroot tartare.

Monkfish & beetroot tartare

Monkfish & beetroot tartare

Mains included buffalo steaks, and lamb and beef stews. Breads were from St John Restaurant.

Buffalo steaks

Buffalo steaks

And desserts included chocolate fondants and Bompass & Parr jellies, followed by a selection of cheeses. All this was washed down with a selection of “Blaggers’ Cocktails”, ales and wines.

Chocolate fondant

Chocolate fondant

Cheeses

Cheeses

So far we have raised over £3,000 for Charity Against Hunger, and hopefully we will raise more money when the auction for all the prizes that we have collected goes live. I will let you know when the auction site is ready for you to visit, so please bid generously.

Finally, thanks to Gekko the hotel recommendations website, from whom I managed to blag an afternoon tea for two at the Ritz worth £85 for the auction.

BlaggersBanquet, The Auction23 Nov 2009 by Krista

Blaggersbanquet

The fun just doesn’t stop! After our awesomely amazing Blaggers’ Banquet dinner and live auction, we’ve got even more foodie prizes to auction off for Action Against Hunger. Here’s what I suggest you do:

Read the awesome write-ups of all the energy and enthusiasm that went into making the Blaggers’ Banquet such a success. I suggest you start with Niamh’s post. And Sig’s post. (Our organizers extraordinaire.) They link to all the other posts. If you still have time after that, maybe take a look at all the photos. And THEN…if you’re STILL dying for more (you know you are), follow the #blaggersbanquet hashtag on Twitter.

The #blaggersbanquet hashtag is key because it will keep you posted on everything that’s happening with our online auction. Yes, there are many many fabulous prizes to be won, and they’re slowly but surely making their way onto eBay, so check back often! Visit the Blaggers’ Banquet page on eBay now!

And hey, if you’ve got something to donate, IT’S NOT TOO LATE! Just drop me a note via my Contact Me page.

BlaggersBanquet: charity begins at Hawksmoor23 Nov 2009 by Ben Bush

Last Sunday’s Blaggers’ Banquet was nothing short of a triumph, and a credit to Sig and Niamh for their all their hard work in taking a group of bloggers with little in common except a certain keenness for food and drink, and turning them into what passed for a halfway respectable restaurant crew. Particular respect to Niamh, who was have a pretty awful time of it in her private life but kept this all to herself and put on the bravest of faces throughout a very busy day and a hectic service.

Veg
My day started, as most of the crew’s seemed to have done, with a hangover: we were all, it seemed, determined to recreate the authentic restaurant worker experience. But after a restorative fry-up and I took myself to Shoreditch to find assorted other bloggers milling around the first of what would be dozens of boxes of blagged goods. I had come rather late to the blagging effort but at the eleventh hour I had persuaded Sillfield Farm to part with a brace of plump chickens and a pound or so of sausages. When the scale of other people’s blagging became clear (20kg of meat from Donald Russell anyone?) this meagre offering was starting to look a bit derisory, and I decided I’d better throw myself into the fray and make myself as useful as possible to make up for my laughable effort.

I was nominally there to reprise the many hours of my youth spent behind bars but there were at least two others already sorting through the crazy amount of blagged booze, so when a call went up from the kitchen for extra volunteers I stepped forward. There followed a brilliant few hours in Hawksmoor’s tiny kitchen, peeling carrots and potatoes, prepping leeks, braving and shaving fingertips on the mandolin and working through two of the three stages of the triple-cooked chips that would eventually grace plates in the evening. Oh, and making parsnip crisps. Who knew chopping veg and deep-frying could be so rewarding?

Bar
As dusk fell it dawned on us that punters would be arriving soon, so a now-full complement of bloggers swung into action clearing away the remaining boxes, transferring copious amounts of treats to the goodie bags our lucky customers would be taking home, polishing wine glasses and laying tables. I met the rest of the bar team and we worked out what drinks we’d be serving. The full list would include champagne, quince champagne cocktails, Sipsmith gin and vodka martinis and obscene amounts of wine and beer. It was about this time that one of our number invented what quickly became known as the Blagger-tini, a surprisingly palatable affair based on vodka, balsamic Galliano and Chegworth Valley apple and raspberry juice, garnished (if you were lucky) with lemon and basil. So much more than the sum of its parts…

Hotpot
After that there was very little time to think… 50-odd paying customers duly arrived – possibly just outnumbering the bloggers – and were treated first to champers, canapes and cocktails and then to a hearty feast that included, among other things, monkfish tartare, Mexican beef stew, Lancashire hotpot, buffalo steaks, boob-shaped jellies, chocolate fondants and stupendous quantities of cheese. From my vantage point at the bar, in between mixing crazy numbers of martinis, it was clear that both the kitchen brigade and the front of house crew were doing a sterling job. Given that very few of them had professional experience this was some achievement and a testament both to the orgnisation and skill of the team leaders and the enthusiasm and commitment of everyone involved.

Tim
After a prize draw and an entertaining auction during which Fire & Knives editor Tim Hayward efficiently turned further blagged goods into a load more money for Action Against Hunger the guests and their goodie bags began to leave. The bloggers all mucked in in an effort to return the restaurant to something close to respectability, and I managed to make myself my first (official) martini of the evening with the last measures of gin… only for one over-efficient bar worker (I’m talking about you, Hayward) to tidy it up.

As for that brace of chickens, it turns out they were vital for both an incredible stock and some delicate canapes made from the skin. The fate of the sausages is less certain but I like to think they fed the early shift at Hawksmoor in the morning.

It was a hell of night and a great effort from everyone involved. And fortunately (for you) there’s still time to get involved. Blagged items and promises are still coming and new items are going up for auction every day. So get yourself to eBay now for some imaginative – and worthy – Christmas shopping.

Check out other accounts and pictures (the ones here are courtesy of Mark) at the official Blaggers’ Banquet blog.

Hollow Legs: The BlaggersBanquet22 Nov 2009 by Lizzie

You may have read about The Blaggers’ Banquet on other blogs, there was a lot of us involved. The brainchild of Niamh of Eat Like a Girl, The Blaggers’ Banquet was conceived after she attended an Action Against Hunger fundraiser, and this was the charity the Banquet was supporting.

The premise was for us bloggers to blag as much free food, wine and beer from suppliers and PRs to serve to 50 people at Hawksmoor, who generously donated their restaurant and kitchen for a day and night’s use. Two weeks before the actual event, I sent out a few emails to PR people and was overwhelmed with the response. I was given a pear-coloured KitchenAid (which is being auctioned online right now), 50 bottles each of Marston’s Pedigree, London Pride and Innis & Gunn beers, as well as Badger Applewood cider. Not a bad haul at all.

When the actual day came, I found myself outside Hawksmoor on a Sunday at 11am. 11am! That’s dedication. I was to be doing prep work and when we went inside we got straight to work sorting out the veg boxes, deciding who did what job. Alex and I were to make gougères, which we flavoured with thyme and chives. Niamh and Sig were on hand to pull us together, organise the chaos and generally run things smoothly. The afternoon plodded along and then suddenly 4pm came around as did a flurry of activity. Canapes were made; Alex and I took it in turns to kill our biceps making the choux pastry and squeezing a greasy piping bag much to our hilarity. Other canapes were crispbreads smeared with a dollop of goats cheese topped with pomegranate seeds, chives and vanilla salt. There were also skewers of tomato, mozarella and basil with a pesto dip.

Photography by Mark N – http://www.foodbymark.com/

The starter, made by Charlie of Eat My Nels, was monkfish and beetroot tartare with a tomato salsa. Fish For Thought drove it from Cornwall that very day, a mammoth 10 hour return journey, ensuring us the freshest fish possible.

The mains were buffalo steaks from Laverstoke Park with Bearnaise sauce. A lamb hotpot and a spiced winter stew, with meat from Donald Russell was made by Neil of The War On Cookbooks.

A gold-dusted chocolate fondant was made by Signe of Scandelicious, with Trish Deseine’s chocolate. Topped with a quenelle of creme fraiche it was rich, fudgy and decadent. To finish off the desserts, wobbling jelly boobs from Bompas and Parr tickled us all. Lastly, cheese from Brockhill Farm, Trethowan’s Dairy, Pong and Barbers 1833 made up the cheeseboard.

The bar staff did a great job of mixing up cocktails to go with the canapes. Freely flowing wines were matched with the dishes by Douglas and Denise, some of which came from the Tejo. After dinner, an auction was held for some brilliantly blagged items, like a hamper from Harrods. I think we’ll all agree that the night was a complete success, pulled off amazingly well by Niamh and Sig, as well as everyone else.

The online auction is still going on, so check back on this page to get bidding on the items.

The BlaggersBanquet: the event22 Nov 2009 by Ailbhe


Well, we did it! The combined efforts of London Food and Drinks Bloggers produced one of the liveliest events in the London food scene. With the generous support of many food and drink producers and retailers, various luxury and consumer brands, not to mention the wonderful people at Hawsmoor Steakhouse, who loaned their lovely restaurant, the first Blaggers’ Banquet has been deemed a success.
Hawksmoor
The idea of the LFDB hosting a charity event was the brainchild of Niamh Shields of eatlikeagirl. Niamh is the creator of the LFDB, a social forum for food and drink bloggers in London. Fresh to the world of blogging I joined the forum in August and this was my first opportunity to meet any of the bloggers. And what a great event to start with.
Niamh suggested to LFDB members her idea of raising funds for Action Against Hunger by creating a pop-up restaurant at an existing restaurant location where the cooks, bar staff and front of house would all be LFDB members. Where all the drink and menu ingredients would be donated. Not only that, she wanted an auction to start on evening and continue for the following few weeks. Simple. We all met at the Draft House in Clapham (while still under refurbishment) where Niamh proceeded to whip everyone into action. Hawksmoor had already offered their restaurant (which showed amazing trust and confidence) and within a very short time frame bloggers were busy blagging. The response was simply fantastic. Donation offers came flooding in and suddenly we knew that this was going to be an incredible experience for all involved.

D-Day, Sunday 15th November, arrived and Hawksmoor was full of bloggers, prepping, cooking, unpacking, stocking, tweeting, polishing and rearranging tables. Goody bags began to stretch at the seams as they were stuffed full of tasty produce, goodies, vouchers, discounts, drinks and information. Produce was delivered (a special thanks for the wonderful Fish for Thought who drove up from Cornwall to deliver the fabulously fresh monkfish then turned around to drive home!!). Raffle and and auction items were identified and stacked. Wines were matched by Denise to compliment the menu devised by the cool kitchen goddess Sig. Sig and the kitchen team of Neil, Charlie and Danny worked tirelessly in the compact kitchen and delicious aromas started to waft out.

Suddenly 5.30pm struck, the first diners arrived and the evening kicked off. Canapés, accompanied by Chapel Down sparkling wine, cocktails and ales appeared and disappeared in a flash. Diners took their seats and the feast began. I won’t go through the menu (others have done so more eloquently here on the Blaggers’ Banquet blog) but you can view the lovely menu above. I will say that the mozzarella from Laverstoke Park, lamb from Donald Russell and the chocolate fondant cake made with chocolate from Trish Deseine were de-lic-ious (I was working so no time for eating, just tastes here and there). Oh, and the cheeses courtesy of Pong’s, Trehowan’s Dairy, Brockhall Farm and the Barbers 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar were lovely too.

Blaggers Banquet Event 1.109
Towards the end of the sumptuous meal, with equally sumptuous wines, the raffle took place and the diners had the joy of even more goodies! Then the auction began and fuelled by the air of generousity which seems to blow through this whole event we had some great items reaching some fantastic prices. All in all the evening raised over £6000 for Action Against Hunger.
Blaggers Banquet Event 1.123
But the really GREAT news is the the Auction is still ongoing.
YES, FOLKS YOU TOO CAN BAG A BARGAIN!
Click through to the Blaggers’ Banquet ebay Auction and start bidding. Each day a new item will be added so you need to keep checking back. Some of the events, courses and items being offered are unique so it’ll be well worth the effort. Plus every day new donations are coming in.
Being foodie bloggers we’re greedy for more success, definitely a case where ‘Greed is Good’. So start being greedy : )
Blaggers Banquet Event 1.81
And finally, I have to say that I had a great time. I worked with Susie and Linda on goodie bags gatherings making sure every guest left with a bursting bag and had an opportunity to meet some of the lovely food bloggers out there. Alexis, Abi, Kavey, Mathilde of the pointy shoes and Billy to mention but a few. And would I do it again next year?
Absolutely yes!
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I had a dream « Mathilde’s Cuisine22 Nov 2009 by mathildescuisine

Giving without expecting anything in return, working numerous hours without counting – nor billing, being involved in a team project without competing against each other, switching off your computer with the satisfaction of having achieved something good.

Should the definition of a perfect world be where all you get for your hard work is a rewarding big smile on people’s faces?

Imagine a world where you don’t go to work just for the sake of work, where your main objective isn’t keeping your boss or client happy and where productivity and stress are pleasant notions.

A utopia, you would think. Let’s call it a dream. A dream that you can make come true. And we did.

On November 15th, based on an idea and the perseverance of Eatlikeagirl, food bloggers organised a Blagger’s Banquet at Hawksmoor to raise funds for Action Against Hunger. During two weeks, bloggers blagged in their spare time and over nights to collect ingredients for the menu and prizes for the auction. On the day itself, the persevering bloggers dedicated their Sunday to cook, serve and entertain the 50 guests who attended this first-of-kind event.

The result? More than £3,000 collected for charity on the night, happy and thankful guests, and a bunch of bloggers tired but proud of their achievement.

So, yes, we can.
Life is not just about money and making our big productive machine of world go round. Life is also about dedicating time to others and lending a hand to deserving causes. We can make this dream come true and we did.

But the dream wouldn’t have been possible without the help of food and wine suppliers, restaurants, PR companies and all the people that provided prizes for the auction.

The dinner wouldn’t have happened without wonderful cooks, terrific barmen and sommeliers, an efficient front-of-house team, queens of goodie-bags, motivated blaggers and generous donators.

But, before all, the event wouldn’t have seen the light without the strength and will of Eatlikeagirl

Bravo, Niamh, du fond du cœur.

I remember that movie about a boy wishing for a better world, where he dreamt of people holding a candle and passing it on.

That night, brands, restaurants, musicians and bloggers combined all their forces for Action Against Hunger.

That night, I got involved in my first ever charity action.

That night, I was proud of the world.

Thank you everybody. You made a dream come true.

It is now your turn to pass it on. Go to auction.

—————

Blaggers Banquet Menu
15 November 2009

Menu conceived by Signe Skaimsgard Johansen with Danny Kingston, Charlie Nelson, Neil Rankin

š Canapés and table nibbles š

Fresh goats’ cheese and pomegranate crispbreads with a salty vanilla twist and fresh chives
(Brockhall Farm, Abel & Cole, Peter’s Yard and Halon Mon)
Buffalo mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil brochettes with a pesto dip
(Laverstoke Park, Abel &Cole and Purely Pesto)
Crispy chicken skin bites (Silfield Farm)
Cheddar Gougeres with thyme (Barbers 1833, Abel & Cole)
Spicy Bar Mix (Munchy Seeds)

The canapés were offered with a choice of the following
(also available throughout the evening from the bar):

Chapel Down Pinot Reserve 2004
Albarino Laga de Bouza 2007 (The Wineaux)
Sipsmith
’s Gin martini
Sipsmith’s Vodka Martini
Sipsmith’s Gin or Vodka and Fevertree tonic
The Blaggertini
(Sipsmith’s vodka, Chegworth Valley Apple and Raspberry juice, Galliano Balsamico)
Cornish Cocktail (Bramley & Gage Quince Liqueur, Chapel Down Sparkling Wine)
Black Velvet (Chapel Down Sparkling Wine and Porter)
Marston’s Pedigree
Innis & Gunn
Fullers London Pride
Daas White

Chapel Down Brut
Chapel Down Porter
Firefly Tonics

Chegworth Valley Apple Juice
Chegworth Valley Apple and Blackberry Juice

š Starter š

Monkfish and beetroot tartare with tomato salsa
(Fish for Thought, Abel & Cole)

Brewery Hill Chardonnay/Viognier 2008 (Naked Wines)

š Main Course š

Grilled buffalo steaks with bearnaise sauce (Laverstoke Park)
Winter Beef Stew (Donald Russell)
Lamb hotpot (Donald Russell)

served with a selection of seasonal vegetables from Riverford organic
and handmade sourdough bread from St John Restaurant

Quinta do Lagoalva 2004 (Casa Leal and Viniportugal)
The Pastor’s Blend Journey’s End 2007

š Dessert š

Golden Chocolate Fondant served with Crème Fraiche
(Trish Deseine, Easy Tasty Magic and Sainsbury’s So Organic)
Titillating Jellies from Bompas & Parr

Lorca Fantasia Malbec 2008 (Naked Wines)
Castello Romitorio Morellino di Scansano 2007 (The Wineaux)

š Cheese š

Barbers 1833 Vintage Cheddar
Brockhall Farm Chive Goats Cheese
Trethowans Dairy
Gorwydd Caerphilly
A selection of deliciously fragrant cheese from Pong’s

Served with Peter’s Yard crispbread and a selection of seasonal fruit from Abel & Cole

Albarino Laga de Bouza 2007 (The Wineaux)

š And…

Coffee from Square Mile with milks from Sainsburysn,
Brockhall Farm and Lahloo Tea
Chocolate truffle by Lahloo tea and Damian Allsop

We also used ingredients throughout the menu donated by the following:
Abel & Cole – herbs
Billingtons
– sugar
Halen Mon – flavoured salts
Hill Farm
– extra virgin rapeseed oil
Maldon Salt – salt and pepper
Riverford Organic – assorted vegetables
Sainsbury’s – all dairy produce except cheeses and goats milk
Silfield Farm – chicken used for stock

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