February 22, 2024

From Field to Focaccia

By Dan Clarke, Executive Chef and General Manager

Food and sustainability play an important part in the running of Southend Barns. Our reputation, not only for providing a beautiful wedding day experience, but for crafting the most delicious wedding day menus, is something we are extremely proud of. With this in mind, we are bursting with excitement to let you in on our latest project…

You may be aware that Southend Barns sits within a working farm in the West Sussex countryside. This is something the team and I have used to our advantage for many years, growing lots of our own produce to use in the creation of our delicious dishes. So, we are delighted to announce that we are now baking bread created with wheat grown on our very own farm.

As a chef, and one that makes every endeavour to use local produce and support local suppliers, I feel incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to grow our own wheat. As I stand in the kitchen, mixing our flour with yeast, salt, water, and a splash of olive oil I can look out of the window and see the fields of wheat where our flour originated. You cannot get more local than that!

The wheat we grow on site is then taken to Wildfarmed who turn it into flour which we in turn use in the creation of our Roots bread – including our Focaccia. We use three types of Wildfarmed flour in our kitchens, the strong bread flour, the country style (mixture of brown and white) and the plain flour, all of which are used in our breads and pastries.

One of our most popular breads is our Focaccia. This is made on the day of a wedding, it’s the first job in the morning to get it ready and proving. We then prep the topping. At the moment, our white Focaccia is flavoured with local tomatoes, rosemary, olive oil, salt, pink pepper, sumac and once baked has a splash of basil oil over it – It is wonderful!

Another favourite flavour uses the Wildfarmed country style flour which is rich in flavour and has a real depth to it. We pair this with caraway seeds, garlic and various seeds including sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame. It is then topped with rosemary oil, sea salt and pepper. Our guests love it and the feedback has been wonderful!

“Focaccia can be so bland but not here at Southend Barns, it’s the best I have ever tasted, and I have tasted a few! Love it!”

Who are Wildfarmed?

Set up by former TV presenter George Lamb, Groove Armada’s Andy Cato and financial guru Edd Lees in 2020, Wildfarmed has a network of farms that follow regenerative farming principles to grow wheat. Wildfarmed turn this into flour that is supplied to restaurants and eateries as well as being used by M&S in bakery products. They have also launched their own range of branded bread.

About Southend Farm

Southend Farm has always been at the forefront of sustainable farming methods and it has recently gone through a conversion period to introduce a regenerative system across the whole farm. As a result, the farm will be one of approx 100 across the UK and France to join the Wildfarmed network to grow and provide wheat on a yearly basis.

Regenerative agriculture describes farming and grazing practices that amongst other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity. Resulting in both carbon drawdown, improving the water cycle, enhancing biodiversity in the soil through insect, bacteria and fungi activity and wildlife on the land.

The principles of regenerative farming are:

• No ploughing and as little soil disturbance as possible
• Keeping the soil surface covered as much as possible (no ploughed fields in the winter) so keeping living roots in the soil
• Mixed cropping, for example we will grow our wheat as a mixture of 3 varieties of wheat (selected on their disease resistance) with an understory of white clover which is a legume and will assist with nitrogen fixing
• No use of chemicals (insecticides or fungicides) and a very limited use of artificial fertiliser
• Use of livestock in the rotation system to build up soil fertility
• Encouraging water percolation into the soil

Southend Farm and Wildfarmed is the perfect marriage (excuse the pun). We share the same values and goals, the same ethos and a dedication to producing the very best flour to give chefs and bakers the best product for all their flour kneads (see what I did there!). We are proud to be part of this fantastic initiative by not only growing the wheat but then using the flour made from it within our own homemade bread, which is served here to couples and their guests.

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