Pig farmer-turned-TV-personality Jimmy Doherty knows a thing or two about artisanal food, but now he wants to hear about yours. The foodie farmer talks about the Flavours Of The Neighbourhood competition and why owning a farm isn’t as romantic as it sounds
Farmer, entrepreneur and TV presenter, Jimmy Doherty has proved himself to be far more than a one-trick pony, winning a well-deserved place in the nation’s hearts since his trials and tribulations setting up Jimmy’s Farm were first documented on screens back in 2004.
Since then, he’s appeared in a string of programmes and had success with countless foodie projects, but he’s the first to admit that none of it would be possible without his hard-working wife, Michaela.
“It helps having an understanding wife, who’s prepared to run the business when you’re not there,” he says with a laugh.
Next up, he’s heading on a mission to discover the nation’s greatest artisanal foods, as part of a competition called Flavours Of The Neighbourhood, run by Hotel Indigo, a celebration of the best of British bakers, gourmet burgers, coffee makers and butchers.
And today, he’s hung up his wellies to call for last-minute entrants to upload pictures of their produce to the hotel chain’s Facebook page by February 15, and to get the general public voting for their favourites from February 16-23.
“After that, it’s up to me and the other judges to visit them and nominate the winner,” says Doherty, who turns 40 this spring.
“The food culture in Britain has really changed, with farmers’ markets here to stay,” he adds. “Now you’re seeing supermarkets catching up and copying local food areas, which is a good thing. And we need our food diversity, because that’s where all the inspiration and ideas for new products come up.”
There’s a £1,000 cash prize up for grabs, plus a professional photo shoot of the produce, which, says Doherty, is “worth its weight in gold”.
And he should know, having put in the hard graft to make his farm a roaring success. What started as a few rare breed pigs on some scrubland in Sussex, has grown to include an award-winning restaurant, butterfly house and wedding venue.
“Our business grew organically,” he says, smiling at the pun. “Out of necessity, it became lots of different things. We started off by having a number of pigs, and then opening a shop twice a week, and then three, four times and now every day.
“Our field kitchen has become a full restaurant, and then people came to see the animals, so you have the farm park. Then people asked about getting married at the farm, so we’re doing 30 weddings this year.”
Here’s one of Jimmy Doherty’s recipes to try at home...
Confit duck salad
75g cashew nuts
4 duck legs
120g smoked duck breast
4 duck eggs
50g sesame seeds
45g fig marmalade
400g micro leaves
1tbsp hollandaise sauce
Balsamic jus for drizzling (optional)
Confit the duck legs until they are brown on both sides. This means slow cook in fig marmalade, sesame seeds, pomegranates (save some seeds for garnishing) and mustard, for around two to two-and-a-half hours, in an oven heated to 150C - the meat should end up very soft and falling off the bone.
Roast the cashew nuts until they reach a golden colour. Create your melon balls (if you don’t have a baller, you can use a spoon) and mould into ball-shapes with the honey.
To serve, thinly slice the duck breast and arrange on your plate, with the micro leaves at the side. Then, arrange the duck legs into a ring at the side.
Poach the duck eggs, then place them on top of the duck legs and spoon the hollandaise sauce on top.
Finally, sprinkle the roasted cashew nuts and remaining pomegranate seeds on top and finish with a drizzle of balsamic jus.