Philippa James - Oakdene Farm and reminiscing about Keith Floyd

PUBLISHED: 19:40 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:17 20 February 2013

Philippa with Jane Richardson at Oakdene Farm

Philippa with Jane Richardson at Oakdene Farm

Cookery editor Philippa James visits a Kirkham farm shop where marvellous meat is a labour of love and recalls the evening spent with late TV chef Keith Floyd

When a woman admits to you that her Yorkshire puddings just sit, completely flat, in the tin like 'malevolent little goblins' and that her first attempt at curing a ham baked in flour, many moons ago, resulted in her having to ask her husband for a crow-bar to open the end result, you do wonder how Jane Richardson made the leap to winning gold at the foodie 'Oscars', the Great Taste Awards.

Jane, from Oakdene Farm at Greenhalgh near Kirkham, is actually a great cook. As well as selling top class pork, Jane dry cures the most scrumptious bacon, including her maple smoked; she makes the most marvellous meaty burgers and sausages and she produces a delicious pancetta.

I wondered how this ex-civil servant had got, first into pig farming, then taken the brave step of learning to produce such delicious products. Jane met her husband, a life-long farmer, Phil, and initially they reared pigs at his home, Oakdene Farm.

'We decided to diversify in 2001 because we were sick of having all the work and the investment and therefore all the risk for little financial return,' Jane said.

'When we saw what the supermarkets were charging for pork and poor-quality bacon products, we decided to start selling top quality stuff direct to the public.'

Sadly Phil, who had been ill for several years, died almost two years ago but, in spite of everything, Jane always has a cheery word and the most beaming of smiles. She admits, though, that the reaction of a small minority of her customers was a shock.

Rather than supporting her, at a time when she most needed it, some stopped calling in. Times like this can bring awkwardness, with people not really knowing what to say, but Jane was astonished at a couple of comments from customers who thought she would have been more 'upset'.

'If crying could have brought Phil back, he'd have walked through the door a thousand times,' she said. 'But customers don't want to see a miserable face, they come in for a laugh. You put on a smile and just get on with it, don't you?

'Some people thought the business would have shut, they never thought I had the skills to produce the products, they presumed Phil did it all.'

Oakdene now has a new website - www.oakdenefarmshop.co.uk - where products, information, recipes and news are regularly updated.

It is British Sausage Week from November 2-8, where funds will be raised for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Dales Butchers, in Kirkby Lonsdale, who celebrate their 10th anniversary and will be featured next month, are donating money for every kilo of sausage they sell.

Memories of Floyd on form
It was with sadness that I mark the death of Keith Floyd, a man who never failed to inspire many of us, and a man who talked of the regionality of our food, long before it became trendy.

I was privileged to spend an evening with Keith in 2007 where I had been tasked with looking after him. Things started badly; Keith met me, fiddling with his bow tie and muttering that he wasn't happy with the man-made replacement, after a woman had taken his silk one as a souvenir the night before.

After my shoes had ended up being whisked away in a car, I had my own sartorial concerns; meeting my culinary 'hero', wearing white, hotel leisure club, mules. I told Mr Floyd what had happened; he stopped grumbling, his face broke into a beaming smile and he took my hand and said: 'Philippa, call me Floydie.'

Before his speech we sat in the residents' bar and when my shoes arrived Keith directed that I put them on, further requesting that I gave him a twirl. He raised his pinched finger and thumb into the air and pronounced that it was 'perfection' and that I looked like Tinkerbell, not something that I ever believe shall be said of me again.

Cabin fever was setting in and Keith, who was prone to stage nerves, asked: 'Right, Philippa, where are you taking me?' I was aware that there was only an hour now until the speech; the young bar tender suggested a local hostelry, adding nervously, 'but it is karaoke night.'

I shared the news with Keith; completely undeterred he slung back the contents of his glass and gaily tripped across the dampening, autumnal grass, moving his head, in flamboyant Mick Jagger fashion singing 'I can't get noooooo...oooo, sat...isfaction'
I finally said 'goodnight' to Keith, who was still entertaining guests, back in the hotel bar, at 4.30 the next morning.

And I now bid adieu to this charming man; inspirational and iconic, television celebrity cook, bon viveur, raconteur and restaurateur, or, as Floydie might have summed it up 'Gastronaught!'



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