Loaf HQ – coming soon in 2012

I just wanted to write a quick blog post before I finish for Christmas to let you know our plans for the New Year. If you follow us on Twitter you’ll know by now that we have signed a contract for a lease on a new premises on our local high street in Stirchley, south Birmingham. This is great news as we’ve been operating from Jane’s and my house for 2 years now, and we’re bursting at the seams!

The property (pictured right) has been recently purchased by Everards the brewer, with the purpose of Loaf being their tenant at the building. the new Loaf HQ will be the first premises established as part of Everards’s ‘Project Artisan’ – an innovative scheme to purchase and then lease out buildings suitable for artisan food and drink businesses that need to expand, initiated by Everards after the success of their project to convert pubs for micro-breweries (Project Willam). Everards investment in the property means that Loaf can take on a bigger and more suitable premises than we otherwise could have done and we are very grateful that they came along when they did. We’re currently waiting on planning permission for the conversion of the premises, and there will then be 2 months of building work to complete. This means we are hoping to be in the new place by late March or April.

What will the new place do?

Loaf has been running a community bakery and cookery school for two years now, and the new premises is primarily an expansion of those – there will be a 12-person cookery school on site (visible from the pavement!), as well as a bakery producing a range of real bread for Stirchley and the surrounding area. They’ll also be a retail space, which Loaf is giving to South Birmingham Food Co-operative to run as a joint space. They will be selling our bread in the shop, alongside store cupboard essentials, wholefoods, and eco cleaning products etc – all ethically sourced and fairly priced.

Bread Bonds

Everards are investing in the refurbishment of the property, which is an enormous help, and means we only need to buy the equipment we need and fit it into the property when we’re handed the keys. We need to raise around £25,000 to kit out the bakery and cookery school. In January we will be doing a ‘bread bond’ issue which we hope will raise the majority of that cash. We are looking for people interested in buying ‘loanstock’ – essentially a £1000 loan to Loaf for 3 years. During the 3 years, bread bond holders will get an interest rate on their loan, which instead of being paid in cash will be paid in the equivalent value in bread. At the end of three years, the bread bond holder get’s their £1000 back. If this is something that might interest you and you’d like to be included in the bond issue or would like more details please email me at tom@loafonline.co.uk – I won’t be answering emails until after the new year, but I’m guessing you’ll be pretty busy too, and i’ll be in touch asap after new year.

There’ll be plenty of updates next year as the project progresses, so keep your eyes peeled to the blog or twitter for all the latest. In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, Peace,


Butchery Course a Roaring Success

IMG_5290Wednesday evening saw Loaf Cookery School’s first butchery course, and an exciting collaboration with local master butcher Steve Rossiter. Steve proved himself to be a natural teacher, and the enthusiastic students warmed to him immediately, and took eagerly to applying the techniques they had learned to produce some stunning dishes. Trying to lead the evening and take decent photographs proved a bit too much for me, however you can see a few shots showing what we did below. We jointed, spatchcocked and butterflied our way through the evening, and ended up with a veritable feast at the end, all washed down with a nice glass of red wine. On the menu was Raz el Hanout tagine chicken legs with minted cous cous, chorizo-stuffed chicken breast wrapped in streaky bacon, spatchcocked poussin with lemon and wild garlic, and chicken liver and wild leaf salad. Sadly I didn’t get any shots of the finished dishes, but I have included a ‘one-I-made-earlier’ photo of the wrapped chicken breast below. One of the most exciting things for me was having a 15-year old lad on the course who is an aspiring young chef looking to study catering at UCB. He was eager to learn, and I was secretly jealous that I wasn’t as in to food at his age as he is – not many 15 year olds know how to butcher a chicken and turn it into fancy, delicious dishes like he does now. Steve and I are keen to do more courses together in the future, so stay peeled to the cookery school page for upcoming dates.

IMG_5263IMG_5267IMG_5281chorizo-stuffed chickenIMG_5283

Breadmaking Photos

Shaping fougasse before it goes into the earth oven.
Shaping fougasse before it goes into the earth oven.

We had another great breadmaking course here on Saturday, with enthusiastic students creating lots of lovely loaves. One of my students took some great photos of the produce, which you can find on this Flickr set. Said student also happens to be the head honcho at School of Everything, which you should definitely check out – did you know they now have 9,000 teachers worldwide teaching anything from maths to martial arts, amazing! The next ‘Bread: back to basics’ course is on the 17th April.

Course Spotlight: Butchery

I’m really excited about some of our upcoming new courses, not least the Butchery workshop that we’re running in collaboration with master butcher Steve Rossiter on the 14th April. Steve is a bit of a local legend around these parts, founding Birmingham’s first organic registered butchers in Mary Vale Rd, Bournville. Steve has agreed to help me run an evening workshop where we explore beak-to-tail butchery of poultry birds, along with some tasty and impressive ways of cooking them.

butchery poultry logo

We’ll start the evening with a whole chicken (one between two). Steve will then teach us how to respectfully joint it, and show us what else we can do with the various joints. Then I’ll take over, and lead us in some fantastic chicken recipes that show off your new found butchery skills and taste amazing too! We’ll be making butterflied chicken breast stuffed with homemade chorizo, chicken Raz al Hanout with minted cous cous, and pan fried chicken livers with a wild green salad. Anything we don’t cook, you get to take home and show off your new skills with!

The first course is on Wednesday 14th April from 6.30pm-9.30pm, and is a snip at just £50, which includes all the ingredients and equipment, course notes, and a full stomach! There’s still a few places available, so email tom@loafonline.co.uk to book your place!

Fingers crossed, we’re going to be able to offer a lamb-in-a-day type butchery experience in the Summer too!

I Love Teaching Bread Making!

chalkboardBread is one of my favourite things in the world. I get a bit obsessive about it sometimes and do rash things like build an earth oven in my back garden or quit my job to set up a community bakery. I also love teaching, which is what I’ve done for the NHS for the last 4 years as a community nutritionist. Starting Loaf Cookery School has been an amazing chance for me to bring these things together, and courses like last Saturday’s Bread: Back to Basics have utterly convinced me that I’m doing the right thing. Not only were they an excellent group of people eager to provide fresh wholesome bread for their households, but one of them secretly left me a little message on the chalkboard that made me smile from ear to ear when my wife discovered it halfway through the evening (see picture). The group went home with armfuls of bread: wood-fired white loaves and sourdough baton’s, wholemeal seeded batch rolls, ciabatta, fougasse, brioche dough, and a belly-full of pizza.  A thoroughly enjoyable day all round I’d say!

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.

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!

Loaf Cookery School – poll results and plans!

bread ovenThanks to everyone who voted in our recent ‘what cookery skills you’d like to learn’ poll. The full results are at the bottom of this post, and they’ve been really helpful for me in planning what courses to start delivering. Coming out top is home brewing (you boozy lot!), near behind is breadmaking, dairy skills, and butchery, closely followed by preserving, british classics, vegetarian cooking, and wildfood. The results seem to have confirmed my hunch that there is a desire to learn forgotten traditional food skills – is this a sign of the recession, or is it just because they’re damn good fun?!

Breadmaking dates are already in the diary, so that’s a relief! There may also be a couple of evening workshops before Christmas too – I’m thinking maybe festive breads, cupcake masterclass, vegetarian Christmas, fresh pasta making – any comments welcome below. I’m also on the hunt for talented co-tutors in brewing, dairy, butchery, and preserving, so we can put together a nice programme for you in 2010. I have a few ideas for tutors, but if you do too, please leave a comment below. The British and vegetarian cooking will certainly feature, probably as evening workshops to start with, and wildfood and cooking will feature too, but probably not until summer 2010.

I’m also thinking about offering vouchers soon, in time for Christmas – what do you think? Make a nice prezzie?

I’ve also been wondering whether ‘Cookery School at Home’ might be an interesting thing to do. You invite a bunch of friends round to your kitchen, we lead an evening of cooking/bread/pasta etc. What do you think? Something you’d go for, or would you rather come to us? Any ideas/comments on the above or generally on the cookery school, are extremely welcome!

Better get ordering the matching aprons…

[poll id=”5″]

Loaf Cookery School – what would you like to learn?

Loaf is gearing up to launch Loaf Cookery School with our first breadmaking course in November, but we’re also hatching plans to offer a wider variety of courses, getting local artisans in to share their oft-forgotten skills with people eager to soak them up. We’d love to know what you’d most like to learn to help us plan for the future, so please take a moment to answer the quick poll below. If you have any other ideas for courses please do leave a comment, we’d love to hear from you.

[poll id=”5″]

Daylesford Organic Cookery School – Exclusive Preview!

daylesford organic cookery schoolBefore any big-media even got their quills inked to review this new foodie destination, Loaf had the privilege to preview the hotly-anticipated Daylesford Organic Cookery School. Through the generosity of an old Uni chum, Loaf managed to wangle itself an invitation to the first trial day of the brand-spanking-new cookery school.

The cookery school has been 9 months in the making and is the brain child of Vladimir Niza, a passionate and extremely talented chef-nutritionist (and said Uni chum), who was senior tutor at the Raymond Blanc Cookery School until recently. Vladimir has expertly directed this project from it’s very inception and has taken care of every detail from floor (Cotswold-stone tiled), to ceiling (oak-beamed), and secured a bunch of sponsorship to boot.

The place is absolutely stunning (this iPhone photo doesn’t do it justice); a converted barn on the Daylesford Estate, adjoining the butchery and fishmonger, and adjacent to the restaurant and farm shop. Loaf saw it when it was an empty shell just 3 months prior: the architect, a co-pupil, threatened to get his own back on Vlad for the last two and a half months of stress in converting it to this! Strung-up onions adorn the walls, and wicker baskets full of herbs and cresses are always at our finger-tips. Infact a lot of the produce we use during the day was grown about 500yds away, as we discover on our lunchtime garden-tour with head gardener Jez. The place is packed with state of the art equipment, and has a nearly-complete library as an entrance lobby (next to the famous Daylesford cheddar maturing room), complete with shelves of normal books, and macbooks for guests to surf the net or do some research.

The food, of course, is stunning too. The twelve of us ‘guests’ pack out the room as Vladimir talks us through the ‘Seasonal Dinner Parties’ programme. We cook, or are demonstrated, gazpacho, salad nicoise, pan fried pollack with chorizo oil and borlottis, bean soup, roast shoulder of lamb, raspberry tart, summer berry crumble, and poached flat peaches. Everything breathes freshness, and the cooking and eating is interwoven with nuggets of Vladimir’s encyclopaedic knowledge – from the nutritional value of eggs to who invented custard (the English of course!). Vladimir is an enthusiastic and inspiring tutor – his eyes literally glint with passion. And for a moment he is able to make you believe that with a little guidance, you too can be a Michelin-starred Chef. Of course you can’t, but who cares, for a day it’s a great feeling!

The cookery school launches on the 17th of September. There’s an exciting programme of courses coming up – everything from Field to Fork to Classic English Cooking to Butchery. Much more information can be found on the cookery school website.