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They say cake always cheers people up and its appeal gave Louise Mackrill an idea last spring. “We had all these eggs and nothing to do,” recalls
Louise. “From that, the idea for The Cake Caravan was born. Like many others, I was concerned for all those poor folks who were alone and isolated during lockdown.”
And so, she baked - and Suffolk county councillor and fellow villager, Mary Evans, (they both live in or close to Stansfield) collected the goodies from the caravan in the garden of Louise’s home, and delivered them (fully socially distanced and wearing PPE), around this most rural pocket of the county, to those who needed them most. She even supplied the hard-working staff at Clare’s pharmacy. It was a great way for her to check in on people and bring smiles to their faces.
The Cake Caravan has been one way for Louise to keep busy and find purpose during a fallow time for her business. And when locals began to pay Louise to bake cakes for them, she got cracking in her kitchen, turning out delicious creations which were then safely collected by hungry and grateful neighbours from the caravan. The cash went towards covering the cost of ingredients for the cakes she continued to bake for the vulnerable in the village during lockdown.
Louise’s bed and breakfast business, and her much fêted pop-up restaurant are inevitably on ice during the current lockdown and continuing restrictions on the hospitality industry, but it has given Louise a chance to reflect on where her love of food and cooking came from. Having shared her wisdom and recipes in the parish magazine month after month
and year after year, her passion for local, traceable, welfare-friendly and seasonal food is very evident.
“Being a farmer’s daughter, we were lucky enough to grow and rear much of our own food,” Louise recalls. “My father was a chicken farmer and as a very young child I was fascinated by the egg and - actually - how much food can be made with eggs.” Louise goes on to praise her mother who is, she says, an excellent
cook. As a child, she loved making things with her mother in the farmhouse kitchen, helping her to assemble all their family meals from scratch, and it was from this experience that she learned the importance of eating local and seasonal fare.
Louise trained as an interpreter and worked for a sugar beet company, translating crop commodity details to Frenchmen whilst standing knee deep in muddy East Anglian fields. But then, with three children under the age of five to look after, Louise realised she needed to work from home and her catering career began to take off. “Initially I made desserts for the Lidgate Star and that
developed into making desserts for weddings and other functions. I was famous for my Pavlovas - lots of eggs of course!” she laughs. “So, although I had no formal training and my skills were gathered at my mother’s knee, the business took off as I was asked to cater for more and more weddings. Eventually, it became my life.”
A few years ago Louise realised that she’d had enough of the long hours and hard physical slog that comes with running a catering business. So, together with husband, Hugh, she developed a new venture that still allowed her to cook in her own kitchen and make good use of the sumptuous fare on their doorstep. They converted an old washhouse next to their home into rustic, but chic bed and breakfast accommodation which, last year when restrictions allowed, was fully booked, with guests enjoying their meals al fresco under the vine-clad terrace.
In 2013, they converted an old storage shed next to their farmhouse into the locally celebrated pop-up restaurant, offering delicious meals around a vast table for up to twenty people. In winter, the barn glitters with fairy lights and candles and in the summer the guests spill outside into the garden. But whether offering convivial Sunday lunches or fun themed evenings, Louise’s passion for showcasing local and seasonal food is always evident. “We grow most of the food I cook and serve. In our garden we grow lots of potatoes, tomatoes, and all the vegetables we need. In the orchard, we have damson, plum and pear, cherry, apples and figs. And we have our own sheep, pigs and hens, so I am particularly drawn to recipes that include lamb, pork and chicken. And eggs, obviously. When we can, we drive to the Norfolk coast and catch our own fish. I love to create menus
Food
A cake crusader
Caroline Fardell reports on a caterer and baking enthusiast who has brought sweet nourishment to the lonely and isolated in her neighbourhood during lockdown
 Thinking of others: Louise Mackrill
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