Roll up, roll up!

For the past week the valley has roared with tractors rushing to cultivate, drill and do whatever it takes to keep some moisture in the soil. To celebrate the end of drilling and another week of arrivals (not forgetting my updated list of future calvings in, get this, date order), it's time to feed those tired, hungry farmers!

Today, we're honouring our very own Easter chicks with a family favourite,  Cheesy Yorkshire.

Forget toad-in-the-hole, this is far superior!   And don't worry Marmite-haters, you cannot taste it (trust me), so unless you are allergic to or have a genuine phobia of Marmite, you are not allowed to leave it out.  No excuses!

Cheesy Yorkshire

6oz plain flour, 3 of Lower Dairy Farm's finest eggs*, ~1/4 - 1/2pt milk, 1 onion - diced, 2 tsps chopped sage (mixed herbs if easier), 1/2 tbsp Marmite, cubed cheese - Cheddar is best (British of course)

Dice the onion and brown in a little oil in a cake or roasting pan/ovenproof dish.  Make the batter as for a Yorkshire pudding - combine eggs, flour, milk and beat until the batter "whoops".  Beat in the herbs and Marmite.  Sprinkle cubes of cheddar over the onion and pour over the batter.

Cook at 220oC (G.M.7) until well-risen, cracked and golden.  Don't panic if it doesn't rise or falls flat, some (me) say the denser version is the best!

Delicious hot or cold (excellent picnic food) and particularly good for breakfast - if it lasts that long!

WARNING: Batter may have mesmeric qualities.  People have been found staring at batter - or cooking it with the power of their mind?


* Multiply quantities up or down with 1 egg for every 2oz flour.

Dairy dreams and the USSR...

Back to Essex after a dairy bonanza of a weekend. Kicking off with trimming the feet of Longmoor's finest bull, Max. Humbug proved an excellent lure to get the bull into the foot crush, better than the heifer we ran through first - unfortunately, Max has lost his mojo. I am 98% certain he is actually a bison and not Aberdeen Angus. I am a great naturalist, so the fact I have never actually seen a bison in the flesh should not put you off believing my description.

As we (more I) went dairy mad on the farm, there was unfortunately not as much cheese as expected at a festival of cheese. But still, an excellent selection including Dorset Blue Vinney and Woolsery Cheese.

We love Blue Vinney. Congratulations to my brother-in-law for standing his ground against some vicious elbows and jostling, and rifling through the stand as though he were at a jumble sale, emerging with a monster piece of Blue Vinney. We didn't know he had it in him, but such is the effect of this cheese.

By far and away the best new cheese(s), (unanimously agreed by our panel of four esteemed experts), the entire Woolsery range. Not only the best cheese, but the best goat's cheese, and two of our panel went into this claiming not to like "anything from a goat". So, a fromage revolution unleashed.

Guest expert for our tasting, the man in the "USSR Tour of the West Country" sweatshirt and army combats. Respect.

For now, I've dragged myself away from the beautiful dairy cattle and it's back to Essex and a search for sexed Ayrshire semen to restart the "dairy" part of "Lower Dairy Farm". Top contender right now, Haresfoot Elegant - the name alone screams sophistication, and we've got a lot of that at Lower Dairy Farm.

Our beef cattle are "liquorice allsorts" - predominantly Hereford-Angus with a little experimental or accidental influence. One semen rep had run out of Angus straws when he visited, so persuaded Dad that an Australian Murray Grey was an Angus equivalent. Not knowing anything about this breed, it is always reassuring when you Google it and come up with lots of references to what little psychos they are. Sorry, did I say little, I meant huge, hulking, one of the largest bulls of all cattle breeds, beasts. Fortunately, ours (Murray - because you cannot always come up with an imaginative name) was a massive, but lovely bear of a bullock who I genuinely miss but was also some seriously excellent steak.

The beef herd which today produces such delicious meat was something of an afterthought. In fact, I learnt recently that we only have beef cattle today because when they stopped milking in the 80s, my grandparents were worried they would not have enough to do. Whilst this has worked out beneficially for us, learning this whilst nursing bruises from a particularly extended handling session, my response was not particularly polite.

But, they are lovely cows. For more information and pictures, see the Livestock page of the blog. You can also click onto our website where we're building a gallery of our herd of photogenic stars.