Saturday Farm: Dick Strawbridge talks about his new foodie show

The man with the biggest moustache on TV chats about horsemeat, cow pedicures and cooking on his ITV countryside show…

The Scrapheap Challenge and Coast presenter heads off to Gloucestershire, where he grows and cooks his own food, dresses lambs up in jumpers, puts rings in bulls’ noses and meets a man that can identify 120 milking cows by their udders…


How would you sum up Saturday Farm?

We go along to Daylesford, a big 2,400-acre organic farm in the Cotswolds, and we actually help out at the farm. We meet the people, look behind the scenes in the farm and see where food comes from. We see what’s seasonal, do some cooking and then we get to eat it. It is that simple.

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What should we particularly look forward to during the series? 

You should look forward to looking at how we interact with the animals. The bulls are scary, some of the things we do will make you squeamish. And I manage to avoid being pooped on by the cows – there’s a lot of time looking up, waiting for the bottoms to release.

What was it like filming in the Cotswolds?

It’s really quite interesting because the Cotswolds are a couple of hundred metres altitude, which is a couple of degrees cooler than sea level. That really affects what is growing and how people actually manage the farm. When you try to make a television production everybody suddenly realises just how bitterly cold it is. Now we’ve had some sun come out and it’s going to make such a huge difference. A little bit of warmth and it’s a lot of fun, but farming takes place all year round. When I was helping out with the little lambs, the little orphan lambs, we were putting little coats on them. It was too cold and too wet for them to be out in the cold without some sort of protection.

Very cute…

It actually was really cute. It was quite interesting because in the very first programme, Jane helps deliver a lamb. Nature is so phenomenal. Another thing that is very special about this series is the people that we’re actually dealing with – the sheppard Alan and his partner, shepherdess Paula, spend so many hours with the lambs, they sleep next to them to help them and give them every chance, because every single animal is precious to them.

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The farmland and countryside scenes from the show are wonderful to watch. You’ve done lots of travelling for TV recently, what do you never leave home without?

A penknife. I’ll probably get arrested now. But when you’re working on the farm a penknife is invaluable, even if it’s just for scraping something off the table and or cutting twine. On the show we do physical hands-on work. I’ve milked a lot of cows now, I’ve helped give red deer their copper tablets and I’ve put rings in the noses of bulls.

Putting rings in bulls’ noses is not for the squeamish, I imagine?

It’s unusual. I’ll tell you, the noise it makes is a crunchy noise. But it’s done for a very important reason – it’s to control these massive, powerful animals. It made me rather humble because they are so male and huge and dominant. Emperor, the prized stud bull, weighs 1.2 tons, he runs faster than me, and if the ring wasn’t there to control him, he’d be a major nightmare.

Did you have any other bizarre experiences on set?

Even more surreal… grinding cow feet? We did a cow pedicure for some of the rare breeds of cattle – that’s plenty more obscure. Here’s another one for you – I was working with Derrick, who was doing the milking, and he knows all the cows. He can recognise 120 milking cows by their udders. He knows, because he’s delivered each of them and he’s known them for years. Is it a skill? I just told him he should go out more.

Did you learn anything you didn’t already know while doing the show?

Did you know that sheep only have two teats? So what happens if you’ve got triplets? What happens is the littlest, weakest one doesn’t get a teat. If the mother is producing enough milk and is a good mother, they can survive, but if not the third of the triplets needs to find another surrogate. They’re each important to the farm and there is a great level of care for every single one of them.

It is important for famers to know what’s happening with each and every one of their animals, especially with this horsemeat scandal going on…

This farm is organic, which means they don’t use a lot of chemicals and they have a different sort of regimen for rearing the chicken for meat or for the beef, for example, and all of that is really quite important to explain to people how animals get looked after. The scares of horsemeat that come through the industrial process that is processing food, I think make people think. What you’ll see is it starts with the land and on the land are animals; on the land they’re growing food for the animals. They’re growing food for people. They’re growing vegetables for us and I think that it’s great to remind people good British food in season is very hard to beat.

Are you partial to a bit of horse meat?

I have eaten it. I have eaten it in France. It’s a bit lean for me, but I don’t have an issue with it. I just don’t think it’s not meant for our food chain. We have regulations, why would you want to eat it? And if you’re buying a beef burger, I’d expect beef, very very simple. The best way to ensure that – go to a butcher, go to somewhere where you can actually talk to somebody and buy real meat. Everybody thinks “organic meat is expensive!” It is, it is, but you have to find a way of using a cheaper cut or having less meat as part of what you’re doing. In all the dishes I do every day, on every programme I’m very very aware of the cost of the ingredients. Watch the programme, get a notebook and a pencil out and have a go at some of the cooking. If I can do it for goodness sake, it can’t be that difficult.

What nation would you say has the best cuisine?

I’ve spent 20 years in the army and I’m just so fiercely proud of being British. I just think our British cuisine and the different influences we pull together make it special when it comes to food. I have a problem with chicken tikka masala being the national dish even though I was born in Burma. I was born in Burma, so that sort of far-east concept I don’t have a problem with at all, but I think we’re much more about fusion in a way. We use fusion before people talked about fusion, because we bring all these spices into our culture. Cooking is about ingredients. We need more people to go along and buy good produce in season and have a go of cooking with it. I’m an Irishman, you know what’s the best thing you can have? Dig a potato up and put it in some water, boil it, put some butter on it, give it a little mash, and if that doesn’t blow your socks off – I’m afraid to say that you haven’t got a pulse.

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Many chefs rave about our neighbours – the French – do you think they can cook better than us?

No, I think they are more aware of their producers than we are. They are still so fiercely proud of all their cheeses and all of their meat and every town has a market that people shop at. People shop in a different way, they touch, they feel. They’re not going for a uniform shape or size, they’re going for quality of food and I think that’s the one thing we haven’t got ourselves into the correct shopping mentality. Our supermarkets buy shape and colour. Actually we should be going by smell and taste and touch.

What nation do you think has the worst cuisine?

I’m going to say Scandinavia. This is going to get me in a lot of trouble… but I think it’s really quite boring. Putting things in the grind until they rot, which is the old way of doing it and some of the smorgasbord-type foods are quite repetitive. If somebody asked me to live off it, I think I’d rebel. I like variety and the difficulty is the further you go north, you get limited – you get whale blubber at one end, and you go down to the equator you’ll get everything that could possibly grow.

Watch Saturday Farm at 8.25am every Saturday on ITV


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