I could spend an age looking at hams, sausages and salami, sizing up the interplay of ingredients, craftsmanship, culture and geography that goes to make each unique item. It is not unusual to find me staring wide-eyed in wonderment at an array of charcuterie, muttering under my breath about the possible methods used to get to the final results and mentally working backwards to their original source. I am at my happiest when I am either making cured and smoked food, teaching the methods to our guests or simply sharing and eating it with family and friends.
I have the incurable River Cottage affliction of wanting to know the whole story of an ingredient, all the ins and outs of it, in my bid to unlock the secrets. It is fair to say that I have an unholy reverence for cured produce. River Cottage has this effect on you.
Steven has been involved with River Cottage since the beginning.
As well as teaching, Steven has hosted events, lived at HQ as the resident smallholder and now works on the delivery of events making sure the customer experience is always positive and that the unique culture of River Cottage is maintained
“My role at River Cottage is varied and fun. It comes with some responsibilities; I teach, write, mess about in front of the camera and often find myself at serious gatherings around the world talking about what River Cottage stands for. Surrounded by experts and mavericks, I absorb everything like a sponge. It has been the best apprenticeship possible and has afforded me the best job in the world.”
Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall on Steven
As far as Smoking and Curing is concerned, you’re in very good hands. Steven Lamb is an absolute linchpin of the whole River Cottage operation and has been for a decade.
He and I go back to the early days, when River Cottage HQ was a scrubbed-out cow barn with a second-hand kitchen rammed into a shed next door. He’s shared our learning curve from the off, assisting with our earliest efforts in curing and smoking and building his knowledge through experiment and experience. He is now our go-to guy for all things salty and smoky.
Steven’s knowledge is as broad as it is deep. He currently guides River Cottage visitors through everything from building clay bread ovens to butchering pigs. But it’s as the teacher on our meat curing and smoking courses that he has achieved guru status – with both his River Cottage colleagues and the many hundreds he has taught over the years.
That’s no surprise: quite apart from the fact that his coppa is, hands-down, the best I’ve ever tasted, Steven is relentlessly passionate about this subject. He has a never-ending fascination for charcuterie and salumi, for cures and brines, for the subtle interplay of salt, smoke and time. It’s been a joy to see him pass this passion on to the people he teaches, and I’m thrilled he is now doing the same for readers of his brilliant book.
Steven appears regularly in the TV series and online. He has recently written the River Cottage Handbook on Curing & Smoking. He works closely with Gill Mellor (Head Chef) and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall representing River Cottage both in the UK and abroad.