Field-to-Fork: Cambs farmer's wife debuts cookbook
Marrying a South Cambridgeshire arable farmer was an eye-opener for self-confessed urbanite Jenny Jefferies. As she tells Alice Ryan, the experience inspired her debut cookbook, For the Love of the Land, a compilation of recipes and real life stories from farms across the UK
Town and Country
My background isn’t farming; I married a farmer, and with that came a steep learning curve. I moved from an urban area to a rural one and for the first time in my life I was confronted by the reality of farming life and all the hard work that comes with it. I realised that I was very ignorant about where our food came from and, shamefully, had taken all this food and work for granted.
This country way of life was very new to me and I was desperate to connect and make contact with other farmers. So, with a thirst for sharing my story, needing ideas for what on earth to cook for my new family, and exploring the love of our beautiful country, For the Love of the Land came about.
Bridge the Gap
For The Love Of The Land is a real labour of love. It has 40 fantastic farmers all contributing a recipe and a story about what farming means to them.
The aim of the book is to bridge the gap between city and country, food and technology; to educate and inform, to connect and entertain, and to share the dedication of those who produce our food in the words of the farmers themselves.
In the words of Minette Batters, the President of the National Farmers’ Union, who has written the foreword to the book: “Remember that you too are part of the story of great British food.”
Back to the Future
As the landscape of British farming changes, we need to support high-quality food production and understand how farmers can work in harmony with nature to make our eating habits more sustainable.
I hope that this book inspires people to reconnect with the food they buy and eat, encouraging a new understanding of what it takes for our farmers to produce it and the ways they are preserving not just a way of life, but the very land that provides it. Their love of the land is inspiring and should be shared and celebrated.
I wanted to showcase the wonderful food and provenance that our country produces, so variation was key and that was a good starting point. There’s Blackbrook Beef Bolognaise from a traditional lowland farm in Leicestershire; Reestit Mutton Soup by two sisters who run their family farm on Shetland; Pheasant and Asparagus Bake from a family-run game farm in Cambridgeshire; plus sweet treats including Kentish Lavender Shortbread from Castle Farm and a cocktail with edible flowers from Silverton Vineyard and Greens of Devon. Every farmer has a story to tell and the stories just flowed, with a few tears too. Eventually, word got out and a few farmers called me asking me to be in the book.
Shortly after meeting my husband, John, I moved from St. Albans, where they have pavements and I had restaurants on my doorstep, to live with him on his arable farm. Set on the outskirts of a quaint little village in South Cambridgeshire, it’s been in his family for almost a century; my nearest friends and family live approximately 100 miles away and I have to get in a car to drive five miles to the nearest shop.
After marrying in November 2014, we quickly had our first child together. The experience of having a little baby, on my own, during harvest, was often lonely and at times extremely difficult and isolating. The day a baby is born, a mother is born, and as I was adjusting to my new role and supposedly enjoying country life, the idea of my book For The Love Of The Land was born, too.
Food of Love
I have always loved food and enjoy cooking, but with two young children to look after and working for our self-catering cottages on the farm I only have time to turn the oven on - I’m really good at warming things up! I often make pesto pasta and spag bol for the children.
My style is very much chop everything up, the more colourful the better, and chuck it all in a dish. Lamb chops or salmon fillets with veg; simple but delicious. One of my favourite things to do is to eat out with my family and friends at lovely local restaurants like The Willow Tree in Bourn.
If you’re craving something autumnal, I can wholeheartedly recommend The Garlic Farm’s Oak-Smoked Garlic Dauphinoise (page 98) and Cambridgeshire’s Woodview Farm’s Moroccan Roasted Lamb Shank (page 180). Both are delicious!
Way of Life
Being a farmer’s wife definitely has its unique challenges, but it’s a lovely way of life. I think it’s more challenging and exhausting for the actual farmer and I very much admire all the female farmers out there, who don’t get enough credit.
For The Love Of The Land is out now in hardback, published by Meze and priced £22. A proportion of royalties is being donated to the National Literacy Trust. It is available to order at fortheloveoftheland.co.uk . For more information, follow @fortheloveoftheland and @j.l.jefferies on Instagram. Fuller's Hill self-catering holiday cottages can be found at fullershillcottages.co.uk
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More by this authorAlice Ryan