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Summer is finally here !!!

SUMMER_HEADER

Bacon isn’t just for breakfast !

There is so much more you can do with bacon than you think. Summer is finally here so why not experiment by adding chopped bacon to your salads.

Jazz up your lunchtime’s with this delicious open sandwich, perfect for laid back summer days.

Grilled ciabatta sandwich with caramelised apricots, bacon, mozzarella, green salad

Caramelised Apricots

What you need;

30g/10z butter

1 tbsp brown sugar

100g/3 1/2oz fresh apricots, halved and de-stoned

What you do;

Gently heat the butter and sugar in a pan, when it starts to bubble, add the apricot halves and keep cooking until the sugar and apricots become darker in colour.

Slice the ciabatta roll in half and gently grill until light brown, place on one side.

Fry some slices of streaky bacon and place on top of the ciabatta halves.

Roughly chop some mozzarella over the top of the bacon, add some of the caramelised apricots and re heat under the grill until the mozzarella starts to melt.

Serve on a bed of fresh salad leaves.

 I’ll be coming up with more delicious summer recipe ideas, so watch this space.

Autumn Bacon Casserole

With Autumn upon us it was time to dig out the big stove pot & make a casserole, a bacon casserole naturally, here follows the recipe though the weights & measures are very approximate as the Bacon Wizard I am not, much more a smoosh it in the pan all together making it up as I go along sort of cook, but judging by the second bowls everyone went for here at Bacon Towers the results were all the tastier for it.

 

Ingredients

Serves 4 (It turns out I made enough for 10 so have just tried to dial down the amounts)

 

  • 4 leeks thickly, sliced
  • 1 onion thickly, sliced
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 200gms pearl barley
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1 dollop of butter
  • 1 slosh of olive oil
  • 1 packet bacon snipped into smallish pieces

 

Extras

(I found these in ‘Lady P’s Pantry’)

  • Sea salt
  • Celery salt
  • Fennel seeds
  • Ground cumin

 

Method

In a frying pan heated with the butter and olive oil I fried the bacon- in this case it was one of our flavours in development ‘Jamaican Jerk’- over a medium heat until the fat just started to colour. I then added the leeks, onion and garlic & stir fried for another few minutes.

I then transferred this to the pre-warmed stove pot and added the pearl barley, sweet potato, chicken stock so that it was nearly covered and extras. This simmered for about 45mins with occasional stirring, tasting and adjusted ‘extras’ until the stock had been nearly fully absorbed by the barley.

I popped a lid on it to let it sit for five minutes or so & served up big dollops of it with crusty bread.

To my mind it would have been significantly improved with the afternoon off and a clutch of scrumpy cider, but our accountant’s a devil for wanting accurate information so that idea had to be parked. For now.

Cheers

Hargreaves

 

autum

When is handmade not handmade?

Back before Christmas we launched an advertising campaign on Twitter which featured the phrase “Handmade Bacon”. The response was slightly overwhelming with a myriad of responses:

“How can bacon be handmade?”

“Surely the bacon is pig made”

“How can you make bacon out of hands?”

The list goes on and on, and started a debate whether these points were fair and that we had inaccurately described our process. So for the record we though it only right that we outline the production process from butchery through to packaging.handmade

  1. .

Each loin is handled more than 6 times. For those that don’t know bacon comes from pork, pork comes from pigs, you cannot make our bacon without the process outlined above which is by hand.

We could fully automate our production process and no doubt make it much more efficient until that time comes we are more than happy to say our bacon is handmade, because quite simply it is!

We are open throughout the week so you are more than welcome to come and see for yourselves how Cure & Simple Bacon is made.

Top, Top Artisans?

Oxford English Dictionary, Noun; Artisan “A worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand “.

Words as we know follow fashions and trends like all else in life and the two that I constantly hear bandied about at the moment are ‘Top, Top’ and ‘Artisan’ – technically that’s three words I know – but, as a football and a Liverpool fan ‘Top, Top’ shot into my conscious when Sir Alex Ferguson described Steven Gerrard, in his 2013 Autobiography, as ‘not a top, top player’, which made me bristle a fair bit, as with a maximum of only 198 players on the pitch at any one time in the premier league I would say that anyone securing a regular position in the starting line-up most definitely is a ‘Top, Top’ player, especially when considering the amount of people trying to do exactly that. Having once had a trial at West Ham or Tottenham Hot Spur definitely doesn’t count – did they just have a policy of letting everyone have a go in the ‘80’s?

However, the term ‘Top, Top’ has since become an easy way for pundits, both professional and pub based, to segment the merits of different players and so my question is- will we see the same sort of segmentation for all things labelled ‘Artisan’?

New-Artisan-Economy-logos-1

 

The word’s roots are French from the mid 16th Century and based on the Latin artire, ‘to instruct in the arts’, but in English usage was “often taken as typifying a social class intermediate between property owners and wage labourers’ (OED).

So to be artisanal was an aspiration for the majority of the poor beleaguered work force, as to be employed in a profession that required you to be able to manufacture with a great deal of learning and care in a skilled trade was to really improve your lot in life. No wonder then that in recent years it has become such a popular label in the food industry in order to connote on a product that it is something hand crafted, created with more care and skill than the mass produced, industrial process driven ‘fayre’ that is most commonly retailed. And it really is an industrial process, see Charlie’s article ‘After all a pig is not square’ to understand how they do it.

Labelling a product ‘Artisan’ is now so popular that a quick Google search has revealed that it’s been applied to Domino’s Pizza (who then confusingly say they are not Artisans, but then that actually they might be), Starbucks ‘Breakfast Sandwich’ and Mcdonald’s ‘Artisan Roll’, as well as Gel Nail Polish, Investment Management Services & Injection Moulded Plastics – I kid you not!

And after plastic bankers I doubt there’s a lot left for the term to be applied to, but real Artisans – ‘Top, Top Artisans’ will always be worth searching out as price is what we all pay, value is what we get.

 

Cheers

Stephen

Website development

Fortunately for myself my career up to this point has been immersed in building websites. I originally started out building very small static websites for local provincial retailers over 15 years ago. More recently I was fortunate enough to be let loose on developing web platforms for some of the world’s largest technology and media brands. Along the way many valuable lessons have been learnt, sometimes through skill and dexterity (or so I think), sometimes through luck and perhaps the most important lessons I have learnt has been through failure.

Drawing on these experiences we set about building the website presence for Cure and Simple over the summer of 2013. If you are new to building websites these are the steps we went through to build cureandsimple.com and can be utilised to build your website.

Commercial Specification – are you retailing one-off products, or doing a subscription based model with recurring billing. How do you collect your £££. How you manage the supply chain, are you going to automate this or make this a manual process. This includes fulfilment, stock management and payments. Lots of questions you probably already have the answer for. The purpose of this is that the developers can start to get an idea of what sort of tech / systems they can use. Are we going to build something from scratch or buy something off the shelf?

Flow Chart – What is the journey for the user from finding you, right through the process of seeing your offering to signing up? The below is what a basic flow chart looks like.

workflow-diagram-example-ecommerce

Application Specification – This is what you actual want your website to do this will be a document which outlines every process and requirement, this will be the benchmark for the guys building the platform. Remember to ensure what devices you want your website to be viewed on. Not to include mobile is a very dumb thing to do unless there is a very good reason.

Wireframe Generation – A builder uses architect drawings, a website developer uses wireframes. The link below is the first set of wireframes we used for Cure & Simple, one of the most important aspects to website development is to get this absolutely nailed http://internal.fieldshires.com

Design – The creative aspect of the website development with all the design / graphic elements. Some of the early designs we did not use, are below:

home02

Build – Building the website, now the developers have all the information they can then set about putting the site together.

Test – Make sure the website works it works across and performs how it is expected to across multiple devices and is running on your hosting environment

Launch – Get the website out there

By following this process we managed to get the website launched and taking orders in the very first hours.

In regards to who should do this work for you if you don’t have the required skills, there are three schools of thought. Get a company to do this for you, lots of very good companies out there, get a freelance web developer, where there are also plenty or finally build your own team. The benefits of using a company is that they will have all the required skills to deliver the outline above, however you will be paying a minimum of £500 / day for a web developer through this, as well as all the other associated fees, Account Managers, Project Managers etc. If you are well organised and want to jump in at the deep end then you will be able to secure and experienced web developer for as little as £300 / day, unless you find a real gem you will also potentially need to find additional freelancers to project manage or creative design. If you are going to build your own team this is by far the most expensive but will give you the most flexibility and the ability to make changes and adaptions as you grow remember if you are a dotcom your web site requires constant nurturing and development.

For the technical bits or for those who are intrigued, our site utilises the following technologies: php / MySQL we use Codeigniter which is a PHP MVC framework (unfortunately support for this framework was dropped after the website was developed), not that this will stop the site from running but advice would be to look elsewhere, we hear Cake is very good. Client side nothing revolutionary jQuery and twitter bootstrap for the responsive aspects (responsive design means the design of the website changes depending on device and screen size)

We also have multiple API services running built in Codeigniter that interact with 3rd party applications, including MailChimp for email handling, Royal Mail for deliveries, Chargify for subscription management and our merchant services provider for dealing with credit cards

We use Windows VMs for our hosting, which are managed for us by our friends at Zsah.

We have learnt lots on the way and more than happy to share our experiences with you, simple drop us an email at hello@cureandsimple.com if you want to know more.

Error!

When Charlie suggested that I write an article he also said it would be a good idea to introduce myself as the newest member of the team here at ‘Bacon Towers’.

I am Stephen Hargreaves and joined Cure & Simple at the start of June; I first met Charlie back in 2007 on a freezing cold morning stood in a field as we were trying to catch a loose horse and over the intervening years it became apparent there was much in common between us. We are both country ‘lads’ with backgrounds in agriculture & animal husbandry, we are both passionate about animal welfare & food production, both ‘foodies’, with a desire to create and deliver something unique, but more than this we share the same values and a similar outlook on life.

We also have complimentary skill sets, Charlie developed a professional expertise in software development & brand building, my area of specialism was in finance and more accurately as a professional investor in small & mid-sized companies. A good platform on which to develop a team and build a business we think.

Building our business will inevitably include errors and naturally enough we only want to make each mistake once, so we need to incorporate into our process a system of both recognising & correcting each error and also of ensuring that it won’t be able to happen again or have an impact on other areas of the business.

A simple system, regardless of the type of system, is always the strongest, but as systems grow and become more sophisticated they also become inherently weaker so we need to allow for this and create ‘safeguards’ for failure, either partial or total, as any system that does not prepare for failure is effectively ensuring it – something that engineers know all too well through their study & training and something that the ‘Fathers’ of the European currency would have been well served to have heeded.

404 Error

In doing this the best place to start maybe to follow Henry Ford’s maxim “Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain”. Let’s not invest time assigning blame, but find out what went wrong and build a safeguard into the system to prevent others from making the same mistake.

With this in mind what can we learn from others? For if we only learn from our own mistakes we are condemning ourselves to repeat the mistakes of others; so who can we learn from? Simple logic suggests that those industries where errors are the most catastrophic are likely to have the most comprehensive error reporting and prevention systems –airlines could fit the bill perfectly here and indeed they do have a very robust system of confidential error reporting, which is well highlighted in Peter Bevelin’s book: Seeking Wisdom, From Darwin to Munger

“the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has an Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) for analysing and reporting aviation incidents. FAA utilizes NASA as a third party to receive aviation safety reports. This cooperation invites pilots to report to NASA actual or potential deficiencies involving aviation safety. That NASA is the receiver ensures confidentiality and anonymity of the reporter and all parties involved in an incident. There has been no breach of confidentiality in more than 20 years of the ASRS under NASA management. Pilots who report an incident within ten days have automatic immunity from punishment.” pp163.

Anonymity in a small team is admittedly difficult to achieve. We can however, instil the culture of investigation and remedy, not blame, from the beginning through the design of our own Error log, not just for actual, but also for potential errors in order to consider break points and build in contingency plans. Doing this will allow us to create checklists and simplify procedures to make better decisions and avoid dumb mistakes.

And avoiding the dumb mistake is something we can all strive for!

 

Cheers

After all a pig is not square?

 

This was the reply that came from a question on how we could try and standardise the shape of Cure and Simple bacon. Not that the bacon tastes any different but the all too fussy consumer wants their artisan bacon to look exactly like the supermarket alternative.

The loins from each pig are always different in shape, unsurprisingly, after all no two pigs are identical. The large processors get round this by freezing your bacon down to about -8C, essentially this gives the bacon loin a consistency akin to play dough. This allows the bacon to be pressed into a perfect shape, before slicing. The end result is bacon that is the same size and dimensions slice after slice, the consumer is safe in the knowledge that their bacon will be the same shape day in day out.

For us we do things a little more traditionally, calling on times gone by when people didn’t expect exact dimensions time in time out, and blast chillers didn’t exist. We have to accept that the chump end of the loin is much thicker to the shoulder end. Generally speaking if your Cure and Simple bacon is much more circular in shape, it comes from the chump end. If it is similar in shape to streaky bacon, more rectangular in shape then it comes from the shoulder end. As for the middle it looks more like the bacon you come to expect in the supermarket. In regards to shape their will never be two packs of bacon that look the same, they all taste the same due to the exact recipes we use but shape will always be different.

Cure and Simple Old English - Chump End

Cure and Simple Old English – Chump End

Cure and Simple Old English - Middle

Cure and Simple Old English – Middle

Cure and Simple Old English - Shoulder End

Cure and Simple Old English – Shoulder End

Refreshingly, the Cure and Simple customers have yet to pick up on the difference in shape of their bacon, must be that they also understand that a pig is not square.