Review by Collette
Otter Farm ‘Gut Health’ Course with Naomi Devlin
I’ve always had an interest in the workings of the human body – particularly how our diets can affect our health and wellbeing. Yet sadly, I’ve never quite found the time to delve too deeply into the subject. So, when I got the chance to attend one of Naomi Delvin’s informative courses at Otter Farm, I just had to go along and see what I could learn..
My gut health experience started in a rather unusual place. One lazy Sunday I was flicking through the Times when an article caught my eye: Want to achieve perfect skin? It was an article on probiotics. Apparently, if you want healthy, glowing skin, you ought to be considering your gut health – who’d have thought!
I must admit to being a little apprehensive as I drove through the gates of Otter Farm on a rather blustery wet morning in February. However, my apprehension was short lived after receiving a warm welcome from founder Mark Diacono (who braved the elements in order to point me in the direction of a parking space). Otter Farm is indeed very impressive, even on a glum winter’s day. As I glanced around its 17 acres there was no doubting the hard work that has gone into the creation of this wonderful organic site. The farm’s many buildings may be contemporary in appearance, but don’t be fooled, they are in fact built using traditional and eco-friendly methods.
Our classroom for the day was actually located in the Diacono’s lovely family home; complete with a wonderfully equipped kitchen that is perfect for smaller group sessions. We all arrived early, which gave us time to introduce ourselves while we sipped on coffee and nibbled homemade gluten/dairy-free biscuits (which, might I add, were very tasty). At 10am the session started in earnest and Naomi ran us through the day ahead and the techniques she would be teaching us.
We started with a quick tasting session and Naomi explained the importance of the use of bitters. Amongst other things, they stimulate the liver to produce bile and help in the digestion and absorption of the fats we eat. With note pads to hand, we all donned our Otter Farm aprons and followed Naomi’s lead in making our first recipe of the day: take away jars of apple bitters. The whole process was incredibly easy and armed with my newfound knowledge, i’m sure i’d be able to recreate the recipe again at home in a matter of minutes.
Naomi then went on to explain the difference between probiotic and prebiotic – how they work and how they can be used in our day-to-day life. We gained an insight into our gut flora and what it feeds on in order to keep our gut soothed and healthy. Likewise, we also touched on food intolerance, problems revolving around a leaky gut, indigestion and IBS. We all had a bit of giggle when sharing our own health concerns and Naomi was really helpful when it came to answering our questions along the way.
Next we watched a demo on making healthy jelly sweets, designed to help sooth and repair the gut. Made with coconut milk, gelatine, rosewater and one or two other yummy ingredients, again they are incredibly easy to make yourself at home. Although we had to wait until after lunch to sample them, once set, everyone swooped in to give them a try. I can only describe them as being like a creamy Turkish delight – very moorish indeed!
At this point I should probably point out that I’m not gluten or dairy intolerant. I try to eat a diverse range of foods, including some that I know may not be too good for me. Therefore, when it comes down to describing the food we ate, I think I can be pretty honest and unbiased.
Lunch itself was a Black Rice Noodle Bowl, and while it looked like it had been plucked straight out of a health food magazine, it actually tasted amazing. There was a wonderful array of wholesome foods, with each element of the dish working in harmony to help sooth and restore the gut lining and microbiome. We each helped ourselves to the black noodles; bone broth, miso, mushrooms cooked in duck fat, seaweed, tofu, and thinly slices veg, with a ribbon pickle, and chilli flakes.
Between the washing up, making cups of tea, and general kitchen duties, Mark also managed to make us fragrant poached pears with a delightful gluten/dairy-free chocolate brownie, together with coconut milk. I can’t believe that I managed to eat two whole pears after that filling lunch, but they were wonderful!
After our relaxed lunch we went on to make a gluten free pastry base using oats, which we then turned into a pea and leek quiche. Naomi talked us through the ingredients and their benefits, then whilst they baked in the oven, she demonstrated how to make delicious nourishing herbal teas – my favourite of which was a turmeric and rose infusion (it was just lovely).
Our last job of the day was to create some healthy fermented vegetables to take home. Armed with our Kilner Jars, we chopped a selection of organic vegetables into ribbons and followed Naomi’s expert guidance to create our own healthy pickle.
My day at Otter Farm was totally relaxed, fun, and very interesting, If I’m being honest, my lovely classmates were far more clued up then me – not only with the ingredients and how to use them, but many of them had also found ways to improve their quality of life through the use of certain gut healthy foods. Therefore, I think they probably found the course far more useful than I did. However, having said that I have definitely become more motivated to go out and digest (excuse the pun) more information about nutrition and gut health.
Hand on heart, everything I ate at Otter Farm was delicious! At no point did I feel I was missing out by eating gluten/dairy free food and really, the proof was in the pudding. Like so many others, I occasionally suffer with bouts of IBS and I can honestly report that the day after my “Calming The Gut” course with Naomi, I woke up with a knot-free tummy. Yay!
I would definitely recommend a trip to Otter Farm for anyone keen to hone their skills in a relaxed and fun environment. They offer a huge range of courses, from Garden Photography to Beekeeping, so there really is something for everyone.