Loaf wins an award!

tom + sourdough
Photo by Jane Baker / greensnapperphotography.com

Well, I had the honour today of making the winners list for the inaugural MAD’s (McComb Awards for Dining) brummie food awards in the Birmingham Post. Amazingly, I shared a page with such brummie foodie greats as Glynn Purnell, Luke Tipping, and Richard Turner. Not only that, but I seemingly had a whole category named after me, winning the ‘best outdoor-cooked eggs and muffin’ category. You can see the whole article by clicking here or see below for the full text of the mention:

Tom Baker, Cotteridge

Food evangelist, founder member of Birmingham-based LOAF social enterprise and self-taught cook, Tom Baker combines a democratic, culinary zeal with down-to-earth rustic cooking. Yes, like his surname, he is a baker – and an outstanding one at that. One of my food highlights was sharing freshly cooked muffins with the man, topped with fried eggs, all cooked in his adobe-style wood-fired earth oven. Dining alfresco in Cotteridge has never been so good.

Well that just about tops off a fantastic 2009 for me and I hope I can retain the tile in 2010! Tom.

Gift Vouchers now available

presentJust a quick note to tell you about two ways you can purchase Loaf gift vouchers for your loved one’s this Christmas! Firstly, Loaf director Tom Baker (that’s me!) is a registered bread making teacher on the excellent School of Everything website, and is one of only a handful of teachers chosen to take part in their Christmas gift scheme. You can purchase a day on one of Loaf’s ‘Bread: back to basics’ by visiting the gift’s section. It’s also worth hunting around for other interesting teachers on their too – you could buy a knitting lesson, photography tuition, or even a twitter masterclass!

Secondly, you can now purchase Loaf Cookery School gift vouchers direct from us. They are sold in multiples of £10, or if you want to buy a place on a specific course, a personalised voucher can be created especially for you’re loved one. Find out more on the new gift voucher page by clicking here.

An Urban Orchard for Kingstanding

prepare appleTwo inner city areas are to be transformed on Saturday 5th December when Erdington Artist in Residence Eleanor Hoad creates two unusual urban orchards. The orchards are unusual because winners of an Urban Orchard Competition have individually named each tree. Eleanor invited local people to enter the competition to dedicate a fruit tree to someone important to them. Nearly 100 people entered and these were narrowed down to 10 winning entries which range from the personal: Molly Wrights entry ‘my grandmother Violet Wright: I would like a part of her to be with me here in Erdington even though she is in Jamaica’ to the inspirational: Donna Gray’s entry ‘Charles Darwin: for the discovery of Evolution’.

The orchards will include cherry, apple and pear trees. The first trees will be planted at Kingstanding Leisure Centre between 11am and 12pm on Saturday 5th December as part of the BBC’s Breathing Places, Tree O’clock attempt to break the world record for the most trees planted in one hour.  Five more trees will then be planted in containers in the Central Square in Erdington from 1pm. The fruit trees will each have a plaque installed with the winning names. Some of the ten winners will be helping to plant their trees and all will receive a certificate.

The Urban Orchard is part of the ‘Prepare’ project run by Artist in Residence Eleanor Hoad and her volunteers. Eleanor has set up the scheme to make use of fruit growing in the city that would otherwise go to waste. Traveling by bike, spotting fruit trees overhanging walls and fences Eleanor has harvested hundreds of apples, pears and damsons from the Erdington and Kingstanding area. The second stage of the project is to plant more fruit trees and celebrate them.

Eleanor Hoad Artist in Residence said “The competition entries were so moving, they really showed how much value people place on trees as a way of remembering a loved one; through a tree a persons memory can live on. Planting fruit trees in the city is just one way we can rethink how unused patches of land can be utilised and used to produce food. Even the smallest patch can become an abundant source of fresh organic fruit and vegetables with a little thought”

For more information, contact Eleanor  at eleanorhoad@hotmail.com

Loaf Community Bakery

breadThe new year brings big news for loaf – we are launching Birmingham’s first community supported bakery. What the heck is a community supported bakery I hear you ask? The idea is simple, and it’s borrowed from the American community supported agriculture (CSA) model. Each month you ‘subscribe’ to a farm (or in this case, a bakery), giving a set amount of money upfront. Because of your monthly investment and commitment to the farm (bakery), the farmer (baker) has a guaranteed income and so can invest in equipment, tools, supplies, labour etc, in order to repay your investment with an agreed amount of produce every week. The farmer (baker) gets some security and a leg-up in surviving against the industrial food system, and you get wholesome produce, produced responsibly and sustainably, at a fair price.

Loaf Community Bakery will be launching in January 2010, and will provide bread to a limited number of monthly subscribers. Some of our bread may also be available at a local retail outlet for those who don’t want to commit to subscribing. However for the immediate future this will be a very limited scheme, we’ll take up to about 20 subscribers who’ll need to be able to collect their weekly loaf from Cotteridge, South Birmingham, although we will look at an additional pick-up point depending on demand. The bread will be mainly, but not exclusively sourdough, and mainly made with UK-grown organic wheat and rye flour. There’ll definitely be a white sourdough loaf and a 100% rye (which is almost impossible to find these days, especially fresh). Over the next few weeks, we’ll be asking you on here and on twitter how Loaf Community Bakery can best serve you – what day, time, price, variety etc. In the meantime if you have any thoughts or questions please leave them in the comments section below, or send an email to tom@loafonline.co.uk.

If you’ve read this far, why not answer this poll:

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Still time to respond to our last poll too:

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Week One at Loaf Cookery School

pasta courseWell last week saw Loaf’s first week of doing business. We started on Thursday evening with a ‘Handmade Pasta’ workshop. Five people came along (six is our maximum class size), and by the end of the evening had successfully mastered kneading, rolling, and shaping fresh egg pasta, and made three classy sauces to accompany their handiwork. Alongside a nice Chianti, we enjoyed seasonal vegetable tortellini with a butter and blue cheese sauce, paperdelle puttanesca, and taglietelli carbonara. Oh and we made some orechiette with the scraps and a quick gnocchi demo. Phew, it was a lot of fun and the talented students picked up the techniques extremely quickly, without even using a pasta machine!

Saturday saw the first full day ‘Bread:back to basics’ course, and it was a sell out. We had a fabulous day, and produced some great breads.

bread course

Despite the weather we were dashing in and out to the earth oven to bake our white and multigrain loaves, in which we had earlier made our own pizza’s for lunch and fougasse to show off! We covered a couple of different kneading techniques and made some stunning ciabatta’s too. We covered the principles of sourdough baking, and I’ll be seeing some of the students next year when I do a Friday eve/Saturday morning ‘simply sourdough’ course – should be great fun! We finished off making brioche dough, and each student left with a bit of dough to refrigerate overnight, and bake at home. Check out this review of the day on the No Love Sincerer blog, and see our upcoming courses here.
All in all a great first week, knackering stuff though!

Local Fruit and Veg delivered to your door

sns034Just a quick post to highlight the latest exciting addition to our local food directory – Barrow Boy. Barrow Boy are a great new service operating in the Moseley and Kings Heath area, that deliver fresh fruit and vegetables directly to your door. The friendly face of Barrow Boy is Pauline Findlay, who collects class 1 produce daily from Birmingham wholesale market, much of which is grown locally (especially the veg), and drops it off (in her Morris Minor) to you at your convenience. She even gives 15 minute time slots so you don’t have to stay in! There is a huge amount of choice, and the quality and prices are reportedly amazing. You can find out more on the Barrow Boy website or by calling 0121 777 0344. Please mention Loaf when you get in touch.

Loaf Needs YOU!

cabbageLoaf has recently got through to the second stage of an application to the National Lottery Local Food Grants scheme, for our application to fund a local food campaign in Birmingham. This is great news, but we haven’t got the cash yet, there’s a lot of work to do before that happens.

My hope is that the little funding that we’ve applied for will kickstart a social movement around local food in Birmingham. I’m convinced there is people out there who care about food, and want to do something about it. If that’s you then I’d love you to be more involved – I want to get together a campaign group who will bring drive, enthusiasm, and action to help kickstart this campaign. If you want to get involved please send me an email to tom@loafonline.co.uk. I envisage meeting up once every month or two to share ideas, plan stuff, and of course, eat and drink local refreshments! When there’s a few people involved I will set a meeting date for end of November / beginning of December. If you don’t want to come to a meeting but want to support the campaign in another way, get in touch too!

Loaf hits the headlines – part 2

bham mailWe’ve been featured in the local papers again, this time in the Birmingham Mail. We were on the front page of the Mail’s Food and Drink section on Thursday 29th October, with another half-page inside that section. It’s all good stuff, and the earth oven features a bit more prominently in the print version, and there’s a bigger photo on the online version too – you can read all about it here.

Loaf hits the headlines – part 2

bham mailWe’ve been featured in the local papers again, this time in the Birmingham Mail. We were on the front page of the Mail’s Food and Drink section on Thursday 29th October, with another half-page inside that section. It’s all good stuff, and the earth oven features a bit more prominently in the print version, and there’s a bigger photo on the online version too – you can read all about it here.

Green Drinks and Real Bread

real breadIn less than a weeks time I make my speaking debut representing Loaf, where I have the pleasure of ranting about my favourite subject, food, at Birmingham’s inaugural ‘Green Drinks‘ event. I am titling my talk ‘bread and the environment: towards a greener loaf’.  The event takes place at Locanta Resaurant in the Jewellery Quarter, from 6.30pm on Tuesday 3rd November. Full details at the bottom of the post.

I have a strict 10 minute time limit to introduce the topic, and my job is to spark off some lively debate. I’ll be talking about the problems with manufactured bread from the big bakeries to set the scene, logoand be profiling some alternative ways in which we can get our daily loaf, hopefully slightly ‘greener’. I’ll be talking about Sustain’s Real Bread Campaign too, which you can sign up to here if you haven’t already.

Green Drinks is a loose international network encouraging people who live in a certain locality, and who work or are interested in environmental issues, to meet up once a month to debate, network, drink, eat, and socialise. There are over 600 green drinks groups across the world. Find out more at www.greendrinks.org. Birmingham’s Green Drinks is being organised by Malcolm Currie of Globally Local. Here are the details:

Date: Tuesday 3rd November. Time: 6.30 for 7pm

Venue: Locanta Restaurant, 31 Ludgate Hill, St Pauls Square, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham B3 1EH

Other stuff: You can eat in the restaurant whilst we talk, or just come for a drink. Ekran, our host, will be putting on some tasty fare, and I’ll be bringing a couple of loaves of sourdough for you to try if you never have before. It’d be helpful for Malcolm to know numbers beforehand, so if you’re thinking of coming along, drop him an email at dmc@globallylocal.net.