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Food and Drink
Celebrity Chefs, including Lesley Waters and Brian Turner, have donated recipes to a book which celebrates the diversity of Dorset produced food. Proceeds from the sale of Eat Dorset will be donated to the NSPCC and two Beaminster charities.
Eat Dorset has been written and researched by Mike Feasey, a food critic, broadcaster and organic food source specialist.
Mike (alias Mike Nosh of the Nosh Brothers) spent some of his childhood on Portland and recently moved back to Dorset after a career as a successful London restaurateur. He decided to return to Dorset on a whim.
He says: "I spent some time camping in the county and sort of fell in love with the scenery all over again."
Mike is just one of a growing number of 'urbanites' who have moved to the countryside in counties like Dorset and have either set up organic farms or become involved in the industry as a whole.
Wimborne Farmers' Market
A guide to local produce
The idea for the book came about while Mike was working as a columnist on The Dorset Magazine. His publisher suggested he write a book helping to direct readers to good local produce.
The result was Eat Dorset - a collection of recipes, rural images and stories from some of the earliest pioneers of organic farming.
Recipes have been donated by celebrity chefs including Lesley Waters, Brian Turner, Sophie Grigson, Valentina Harris and Henrietta Green.
Says Mike: "I think it's very important to show that there's support across the board. Nigella Lawson has endorsed the book by saying it's perfect for the urban armchair dreamer. It's great to get the support of your peers."
'Move the goal posts further on'
The main focus of the book, however, has been to get recipes direct from the food producers themselves and Mike was keen to revolutionise the county cook book market away from a traditionalist approach:
The Purbeck coastline
"I wanted to move the goal posts a little further on. I've used my experience of travelling and got inspiration from all around the world. That's not to say that a good shoulder of pork isn't good just roasted on it it's own with some apple sauce but I think that's very much been done before"
While researching the book Mike was surprised by some of the more unusual produce he discovered being grown in the county:
"One day I was going fishing in West Bexington and I came across a chilli farm - a little bit of exotica on a windswept hillside! Then, having done a bit of investigation, I found out that it was only one of many really quite exotic food producers in the county."
The diversity of products is reflected by the fact that there are lots of different types of soils in Dorset which lend themselves to growing a variety of crops:
"The Isle of Purbeck is quite unique. You've got geological strata there that are very similar to Chablis in France. There's also an overall acidic loam in Dorset which favours things like blueberries."
Mike has developed a lot of respect for the producers involved in the process:
"They're a dedicated bunch and very committed to growing quality produce. They often don't have a holiday and they're very hard working. They are very keen to impart their knowledge."
The book includes many stories about the farmers Mike met on his journey around Dorset - many of which were definite characters:
"I remember Mr Measures, a small holder I met, a charming man, who had a small holding of pumpkins. He had a family member send him some seeds from New England and the display would have put any supermarket to shame! It was amazing. So for a couple of quid I not only tucked a couple of squash under my arm but I had a good hours chat with him and learnt a little bit about his life."
Mike's advice, as an organic food source specialist, to anyone interested in finding good quality local produce is to pop along to their local farmers market:
"It's very beneficial because you're really buying directly off the man who rears it and you can ask the relevant questions about its provenance and how it was bred. If you ask questions it, of course, illuminates the customer but it also helps the farmer get feedback."
Proceeds for the sale of the book are going to the NSPCC and two local charities, one of which is the Beaminster Family Counselling Trust.
Eat Dorset by Michael Feasey, Published by Parnham Press, ISBN: 0-9550712-0-8
last updated: 27/10/07
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