I’m on holiday for a couple of weeks, and I have been very fortunate to recruit a guest blogger this week! If you are a regular reader of the blog then you may remember posts of a local foodie find I stumbled across last summer – The Wee Croft Shop, which is less than a mile from our own house! I’ve been able to have a few foodie adventures with Elizabeth who runs the seasonal croft shop where she lives, as well as her year round business – Capability Brown’s. See the below links for some posts to give you an idea of Elizabeth’s business and delicious home baked goods.
Elizabeth’s baking is free from artificial colours, flavours, preservatives and additives. She uses locally sourced (where possible) ingredients and always tries to use what is in season. She also tries to leave as little a footprint on the environment as possible.
Elizabeth and her husband are striving for a lifestyle and business that is based on permaculture but she knows there is a little way to go to achieve this totally. When this is achieved, it will mean that they are self sustaining, (which is different to being self sufficient which is important to them), but their major interest concerns their impact and footprint everywhere.
What this means to you as a customer of Capability Brown’s is that you will never get strawberries in February, but you will only ever get produce that is made with care, lots of love, and never anything artificial. Of course Elizabeth cannot source all local ingredients. She uses Billingtons unrefined sugars, and buys in some flour, although she does use flour from the Golspie Mill based in the north highlands.CB HQ are now also at full production with their eggs from their lovely free range happy hens, and lots of customers have actually met the little ladies.
Elizabeth also makes jams, marmalades, preserves and chutneys to be used in her baking, as well as drying other fruits to be used in things like granola and porridge bars.
She makes a wide range of cakes, bakes, puddings, bannocks and breads and is a member of The Real Bread Campaign. For now though – I’ll hand over to Elizabeth to introduce herself properly!
My love of food and baking started when I was very small. Believe it or not I was a very fussy eater. I lived at home with my parents, my big sister and my paternal Grandfather. He was a good old fashioned baker, and used to make lots of things like bannocks on top of the girdle, (in the North of Scotland we call it a girdle, not a griddle or a skillet)!
I left school at 15 with very few qualifications and was told by my parents if you choose to leave school, you need to work…and work is what I did. I did everything from bar work, waitressing,office work, cleaning, and being a nanny. I also had a job when I was about 18 in a lovely little cafe and worked in the kitchen and learnt loads from a lovely lady called Jasmine. Both Jasmine and my Grandad remain two of my inspirations.
One thing led to another and I ended up working at BT back in the early 1990s, working in their call centre. I then stumbled into a career of training new recruits and seemed to be quite good at it. After several years, I got offered a job in Maidenhead with the company now known as 3 as one of their Training Managers, and spent a year there before moving to Glasgow where I would stay for 6 years. After several jobs and positions later and moving all over the country, and a great career of working as an Organisational Development Consultant, I made the decision to move back to my beloved Highlands.
I moved to the small village of Portmahomack and got some work in the local pub and cafe and regained my love affair with food. I never really lost it, I just spent several years not having the time to enjoy it. I then met my husband in May 2010, married in August 2011 and started my business in September 2011. I knew I wanted to work with food and baking seemed like a good idea.
The name of my business is courtesy of my sister, whose words were…”you are capable at most things, what about Capability Browns?”. I loved it, it was different, it was unique and it meant even if I changed my mind and wanted to garden for a living, then I could keep my company name.
After being in business for years, I knew that running my own business wouldn’t be easy so decided to give myself 3 years to try and make it work, which is the advice I would have given all those managers and directors I had worked with in my previous life. Turns out, its not so easy to take your own advice and I nearly gave up a few times.
It is only really in my 4th year of business that I have realised that I gave myself good advice and that it would actually take 3 years to feel like you have a business worth running.
It never gets any easier, you are constantly trying to reinvent yourself, keep your customers interested, and come up with new ideas. You are also always comparing yourself to other similar companies. It is more than a full time job, it is rubbish pay, it plays havoc with your social life and your sleep….BUT I wouldn’t change a thing. I love my work, I love my customers, I love where I live and most of all I still LOVE baking. If that ever changes, that’s the time to stop but I cant see that happening any time soon.
The photo I have attached is of me at my first event in September 2011 at the International Sheepdog trials. And to reflect on how far I have come, my post on Thursday will be on my experience attending and exhibiting at the BBC Good Food Show in Glasgow last October where I was invited to be one of their Good Food Champions.