Essex huffer

meals in fields

During harvest, meals become moveable feasts both in location and timing. At regular intervals through the day, empty flasks and cold boxes are dumped on the shelf in the grain store to be replenished.

Food has to withstand the rigours of bumping up and down on tractors as they rush down rough tracks and be easily pulled from the cold box and eaten while waiting for the next load. It has to be chunky and filling; indeed, glancing in the cold boxes you might be forgiven for thinking that you’d slipped back a few decades. I might start off with imaginative offerings but I soon fall back on old fashioned foods like Scotch Eggs, slabs of fruit cake and hefty huffers, firmly compressed to hold in the fillings.

Everyone seems to like something sweet in their cold box, even if they normally declare an aversion to puddings and cakes. One of Celia’s Butterscotch Bars* is always a hit and this year I’ve fiddled with the recipe a little to create a Harvest Bar packed with extra fruit and nuts, which I pack for the late evening shift when everyone needs a little extra oomph.

Sometimes I use a mixture of plain and milk chocolate chips, sometimes just plain. The nuts tend to be a combination of whatever packets are started; last time I used 100g pecans and 40g almonds but I’ve also used walnuts, Brazil nuts and unsalted cashews.

Harvest Bars

harvest bars recipe

  • 250g butter
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teasp vanilla extract
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 200g chocolate chips
  • 140g roughly chopped nuts – such as pecans, walnuts, almonds
  • 100g raisins

Blend together the butter and sugar, beat in the egg and vanilla extract.

Stir in the remaining ingredients and spread out evenly in a baking tin approximately 30 x 21 cms that you’ve lined with baking parchment.

Cook for about 45 minutes at 150C fan oven for firm bars or ten minutes less if you want squidgy bars. In the AGA – 10 minutes in the roasting oven with the cold shelf in and then 50 minutes in the simmering oven.

Leave to cool in the tin and then cut into bars or squares.

Are you a follower of recipes or do you tweak and alter? Some people get very upset when someone changes their recipe, which I find hard to understand.

Also, any suggestions for slightly more exciting meals to take to the fields would be more than welcomed (especially by those eating them).

*Such is the popularity of Celia’s Butterscotch Bars that I have passed on the recipe to many others and one of my sons has declared that they are on his list of “Last Supper” foods.


harvest 2014

combine harvester in great forest field

combining wheat in Great Forest field

 

Harvest is now in full swing. The first of the wheat was combined over the weekend and today it’s being loaded into lorries to be taken to the central co-operative grain store. Larger, more efficient machinery means that the combine can cut four times the acreage in a day than we cut ten years ago so that the combine is now working here for days at a time, rather than weeks. These days are spread over a few weeks and in the gap until the rest of the wheat ripens, the hedges and verges around the already harvested fields will be cut back and cultivations will begin for next year’s crops.

 

 

 
If you listen to The Archers, you may be under the impression that during harvest farmers have time to sit in the pub having a pint with their leisurely meal. If only. All too often, lunch and supper are eaten on tractors as drivers wait on the field headland watching for the flashing light on the combine to indicate that the tank is full and signal to them to drive alongside so that it can unload into the trailer. Balanced meals with at least  five a day fruit and vegetables are cast aside in favour of food that can be eaten one-handed while driving across a rough field without making hands sticky and can rattle around in the tractor cab all day without turning to mush. Beautifully presented bento boxes decoratively laid out with delicate fish and salads are definitely not on the menu. Instead, solid, old-fashioned food seems to fit the bill and some days as I pack up pork pies with a tomato and a hard-boiled egg, it seems like stepping back thirty years and needs only a bottle of fizzy pop or ginger beer to complete the picture.

 

 

packing raspberry crumble cake for evening cold boxes

packing raspberry crumble cake for evening cold boxes

 
Soft Essex huffers are more popular than chewy sourdough and while the raspberries are plentiful, I’ve been making Raspberry Crumble cake to slip into evening coldboxes when energy and concentration levels dip. Slightly sharp, juicy raspberries contrast with chunks of white chocolate, flaked almonds and a buttery crumble topping to make a cake that can be cut into sizeable chunks and won’t fall apart like a delicate sponge cake.

Click here for the Raspberry Crumble cake recipe.

Click here to find out how to make Essex Huffers