Living Nature's Way

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall reveals the secrets of growing and cooking organic food
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Indy Lifestyle Online

My wife and I believe that organic meat, vegetables and fruit make the most sound basis for feeding a family. We make exceptions based on various grounds: the lack of an organic alternative, or sheer quality. (For instance, my wife's favourite cheeses). I also support local food producers who may not be organic but are committed to small-scale, low-impact agriculture, and artisan, "no-compromise" food production.

My wife and I believe that organic meat, vegetables and fruit make the most sound basis for feeding a family. We make exceptions based on various grounds: the lack of an organic alternative, or sheer quality. (For instance, my wife's favourite cheeses). I also support local food producers who may not be organic but are committed to small-scale, low-impact agriculture, and artisan, "no-compromise" food production.

My beef, pork and lamb are all home-reared. I freeze a lot of my meat and I also cure my own pork and make salt beef. I'm a huge fan of the old tradition of roasting a joint at the weekend and using up the leftovers as a series of weekday suppers. For that you can't beat a leg or shoulder of lamb, followed by Shepherd's Pie. And when my hens have chicks, I fatten the cockerels for the pot.

We're more or less self-sufficient in vegetables - we're enjoying a spectacular glut of courgettes and squashes, beans, beetroot, summer cabbages, carrots, artichokes, aubergines and tomatoes. My sons were weaned onto simple purées and mashes made from our garden vegetables. We're less organised about winter vegetables, though I have got some good kales, cabbages and sprouts in this year. We'll supplement that with a local box scheme, plus vegetables from our local farm shop, and the fantastic Fivepenny Farm stall in Bridport Market which is held every Saturday.

We also have a young orchard - a dozen or so trees planted just two years ago. But we'll have a fair few apples from it this year. We're not seeking organic certification for our fruit and vegetables because they're not for sale. But they are grown organically.

We always use organic flour - Dove's Farm has a fantastic range covering all baking and bread-making needs. We also have a local farm, Tamarisk, that mill their own wonderful flour.

Most of our chutneys and pickles are home-made - either by me or from local fêtes or farmers' markets. We also buy Biona organic mayonnaise, and Heinz Organic or Meridien ketchup, as well as making our own.

On a recent holiday in the Seychelles we had curried fruit bat, prepared by a local cook. It was delicious - as you might expect of a creature that is fattened up on a diet of mangoes, papaya and breadfruit. Not strictly organic, I guess, as the bats eat a mixture of wild and cultivated fruits. But it was certainly "free range".

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is running cookery courses and other organic food events at the River Cottage headquarters in west Dorset. For details e-mail info@rivercottage.net, or call Katie Rogers on 01308 420020

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