Four fantastic days at Otter Farm


If you saw the Grand Designs episode featuring Otter Farm, you'll already know something about the beautiful rural retreat and cookery school crowdfunded and built by award winning food writer Mark Diacono and his wife Candida. I know something about the joy and pain of building your own house, but to attempt something on the scale of a cookery school is either madness or genius! Mark has a delightful mix of both, an enthusiastic springer spaniel of a chap, who will definitely get you enthused about pretty much anything you can think of. He is also a grower of forgotten food, exotic fruit and makes wine from vines that stretch away from the cookery school towards the horizon. There are kiwis, sweet cicely, chocolate vines, Japanese wineberries and Vietnamese coriander, orchards of pecans, quince, almonds, Szechuan pepper and apricots, as well as a forest garden, a vineyard and a perennial garden.

I currently teach four day courses at Otter Farm and they are a fantastic opportunity to share what I know with smaller groups than I usually teach. I love the intimacy of a small group that gives everyone the chance for a little spontaneity and some personal interaction. The Otter Farm course programme features luminaries such as Diana Henry, Rachel Roddy, Gill Meller and Catherine Phipps - so say that I am thrilled to be included is a massive understatement. If you're interested in the courses outlined below, head over to Otter Farm to book - if you become a member there's money off and you can also do the courses as two dayers, for a full Naomi immersion.

Gluten Free Everyday focuses on the wholesome, delicious bakes that make week day meals a joy. The stuff you miss when you're gluten free. We make sourdough bread (gluten free of course), shortcrust pastry, buckwheat pasta for our lunch of homemade lasagne, moreish linseed crackers a a couple of little savoury tarts that you can take home for supper (they won't last the journey). Through the day I explain the flours that we use and answer questions about being gluten free. dairy free and egg free options are available if they are necessary for health reasons.

Gluten Free Celebration is all about party food! we'll make some light and tender olive or walnut bread, I'll demonstrate a genoise sponge and make it into a delicious cream filled, ganache topped gateau that we can slice into later. For lunch we'll make our own thin, crispy pizzas and eat them with some delicious salads from Mark's kitchen. After lunch, we will make a Yorkshire pudding batter and turn it into toad in the hole, (or roast veg in the hole) and make gyoza dumplings using our own handmade dumpling wrappers, which we will cook into some delicious pot stickers for you to taste before you head home with your fresh baked bread and toad in the hole. Dishes can be made dairy free if necessary for health reasons, but not all dishes can be made egg free.

Food for a Happy Gut (Calm) is a day based on my forthcoming book of the same name (check it out and pre-order here!). This is a day to soothe troubled digestion and learn about how your gut works and why it can be sensitive. Although Rome wasn't built in a day, I will give you tips and pointers  so that you can start eating in a way that calms, heals and restores comfortable digestion. We start the day by tasting some digestive bitters, that stimulate the liver to work better before making a jar to take home and mature. I'll demonstrate some delicious jelly sweets that are a medicinal treat for soothing inflamed tums. We'll make our own ramen bowl for lunch with bone broth, noodles, fermented pickles and other anti-inflammatory delights. After lunch we'll make a simple gluten free oat pastry and turn it into a delicious savoury tart using seasonal ingredients. Our tea break is an opportunity to taste some anti-inflammatory herb teas (not the kind that promise a fruit bowl and taste of dishwater) and our jelly sweets. For our last session of the day we look at some fermented food that is easily digested and a few probiotic drinks. Finally, we'll make a jar of fermented vegetables for you to take home and allow to gently bubble for a few days before adding to meals.

Food for a Happy Gut (Nourish) is the second day based on my book (check it out and pre-order here!). It's a day for feeding up your microbes and growing a thriving microbiome. We'll start the day by making a quick pickle to eat with our lunch and we'll find out all about what your gut loves and what it doesn't. Next we'll make a jar of spicy, nutty, anti-inflammatory dukkah to sprinkle over our lunch (and take home). We make our own fibre packed prebiotic, probiotic, anti-inflammatory lunch, with wholegrains, pulses, pickles, creamy labneh, bitter leaves, roast roots and gut soothing spices. It's a feast for the eyes as well as the tum! I'll demonstrate a wickedly luscious dessert that contains beans and then we'll finish up by making a making a fermented pickle that is full of prebiotics (food for your microbes) and probiotics (good microbes) for you to take home and allow to bubble gently until it is tangy and marvellous.