Thursday, 11 February 2016

Your ultimate A-Z guide to local food and producers

TASTY: Hawkshead Relish Company owners Mark Whitehead and Maria Whitehead with some of the many flavours they produce. JOE RILEY REF: 0504049

A is for Appleby Creamery: Maurice Walton, Alan Mandle and Bob Parmley together have more than 70 years’ experience in the cheesemaking industry. Launching their joint venture was a dream come true for the trio, who head up a small but extremely well-equipped cheese production unit at Appleby. The range includes – Eden Valley organic brie; Eden Ivory (a hard ewes milk cheese); Hootenanny (a goats cheese, as the name implies); Old Applebian (made to an old Westmerian recipe); Black Dub Blue (a creamy blue-veined cheese); Eden Sunset (slightly crumbly, hard-pressed cheese); and award-
winning Cheddar-style Eden Chieftain.

B is for Bedrock Gin: Crafted to capture the ‘spirit of the lakes’, gin lovers will absolutely adore this distinctive gin, made using natural Lake District spring water and botanicals which include juniper, citrus, and 150-year-old oak bark, boasting National Park heritage. The gin was inspired by a conversation in a pub – as is so often the case – between two men from Keswick back in 2007. It has already won a silver award from the Spirits Business. Wonderfully smooth and mellow, the gin is obviously the perfect partner for tonic water. You could even drink it neat over ice – perfect for a summer’s day.

C is for Chilli Fest: If you haven’t already, then make a note in your diary for the third annual Chilli Fest at Levens Hall. The 2010 two day chilli extravaganza takes place on August 14 and 15 in the grounds of the hall, a must for food lovers as well as hot heads. Fast becoming the most sizzling event on the Lake District’s culinary calendar, the Chilli Fest features chilli in all its glorious guises – from chutneys, and curries, to spice blends, jams, and even ice cream! Some stallholders travel from across the UK and beyond, to take part in this fantastic weekend of food.

D is for dates: No sticky toffee pudding would be complete without dates. Origins of the sweet treat are surrounded in mystery – although many swear that the inventor was the late great Francis Coulson of Sharrow Bay fame. Many producers have their own secret recipe – Cartmel Village Sticky Toffee Pudding is among the most successful. But there was much to commend rising star Michael Southcott’s version which helped him scoop the title of Kendal College’s first ever ‘young chef of the year’.

E is for eggs: Thanks to the likes of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver, most people have recognized the importance of buying free range eggs above their battery counterparts. Frank Park’s Lakeland Free Range Egg company from Windermere is one of many local producers. At the Lakes Free-Range Egg Company at Stainton near Penrith, you can even go online to trace your egg code! (

F is for flour: If it’s good enough for Delia … it should most certainly be good enough for you. Carrs of Carlisle not only produces a range of breadmaker flours (wholemeal, brown, white) but a fantastic sauce flour too. Just add a couple of tablespoons to 300ml of milk or water and heat gently while stirring for a smooth, white sauce. Jonathan Dodgson Carr, the son of a Quaker grocer, who founded the company, trekked from Kendal to Carlisle to ‘make something of himself’. His heroic effort is
commemorated in a walk called The Miller’s Way.

G is for Gott: Peter Gott of Sillfield Farm is one of life’s rare breeds – he virtually single-handedly helped put Cumbria on Britain’s food map via London’s Borough Market, where a young Jamie Oliver became one of his most famous customers. He now farms pigs and wild boar at Endmoor in the southern Lake District and has a farm shop selling his famous pies, hams and sausages. If you want to know anything about local food then Peter is the man to ask!

H is for Hawkshead Relish Company: Not only do Mark and Maria Whitehead have a great passion for what they make, but they want to make others passionate about it as well. That’s easy – just taste anything from their fantastic ‘embellish with relish’ range which includes chutneys and relishes, jams and marmalades, mustards, fruit curds and mayos, oils, vinegars and jellies. The company’s trophy cabinet of awards is phenomenal – among them ‘speciality producer of the year’.
The Queen is a fan too after visiting the production unit – housed in a restored barn – on the shores of Esthwaite Water.

I is for ice cream: Made in Kendal, English Lakes Ice Cream and the Windermere Ice Cream Company are pioneers in their field. These innovative ice cream makers create amazing recipes – check out ‘Cheeky
Monkey’ from ELIC (banana and vanilla side by side); and what about ‘wild cherry cheesecake’ from WICC? If you are going to stay cool this summer then eating one of these ice creams is the way to do it!

J is for Jennings: Jennings Brewery was founded in the village of Lorton (between Keswick and Cockermouth) in 1828 by John Jennings. Cockermouth was the ideal base for expansion as it had a larger population with more opportunities to sell beer, and just as importantly the Castle Brewery site had an abundant supply of pure well water. Today, pure Lakeland water is still used for brewing, drawn from the brewery’s own well, and only the finest ingredients are added, including malt made from Maris Otter barley grown in Norfolk, Golding hops from Kent and Fuggles hops from Herefordshire.

K is for Kendal Mint Cake: Kendal Mint Cake was first developed in 1869 by Joseph Wiper, who began producing it in his small Kendal factory. It is thought that the discovery was a mistake, and that Wiper was, in fact, attempting to make clear ‘glacier’ mints.

L is for Lizzie’s Home Made: Lizzie Smith from Dockray near Penrith is the brains behind Lizzie’s Home Made which produces the award-winning Cumbrian Frutta Cotta, or Italian-style cooked fruit. Check out Lizzie’s website ( for some delicious recipes including – Cumbrian Frutta Cotta bread and butter pudding; smoked venison, frutta cotta and rocket salad; and slimmer’s frutta cotta brulee. It is also divine dolloped on a very large portion of the aforementioned ice cream!

M is for Made by Masi: Sandside-based culinary entrepreneur Kaushik Mistry has bagged shelf space in four of the Lake District’s major local food outlets less than six months after launching Made by Masi, his lip-smacking line in Gujarati vegetarian food, which is now on sale at the award-winning farm shops at Low Sizergh Barn and Tebay Services, Greenlands Farm Village, and Holker Foodhall at Cartmel. Kaushik takes the notion of an Indian takeaway to a whole new level.

N is for new: Martin Gott of Holker Farm Dairy is one of the newest and most exciting cheesemakers on the block. The son of Peter (see above), he produces St James, which has already won the Aldridge Award for the ‘Best Unpasteurised Cheese of the Year’. Look out for his cheeses at the Holker Garden festival in June this year. They are also available from Holker Foodhall and other select outlets.

O is for Oriental: Dubbed the ‘caviar of the meat world’, Japanese Wagyu beef is now being reared in Cumbria thanks to the proprietor of the South Lakes Hotel Group, Jonathan Denby, who farms these prized beasts at High Lowscales, his 155-acre spread overlooking the Duddon Estuary.

P is for Protected: The European Union’s Protected Food Name Scheme gives special protection to the best regional and traditional foods. If the application is successful, the traditional Cumberland sausage is likely be the first meat product in the North of England to be protected in this way. In order to be called traditional Cumberland sausages they would have to be made in Cumbria. The sausages would also have to contain at least 80 per cent meat and be left unlinked. The application specifies a number of other key features, including using a mincer with mincing holes that are a minimum of 4.5mm in diameter to ensure a rough-cut texture.

Q is for Queen: Does the Queen enjoy a bacon butty? You bet your bottom dollar she does – as long as the said bacon comes from Richard Woodall of Waberthwaite. One of the oldest family businesses still in existence, it is currently run by 7th and 8th generation family members. The business has long enjoyed a coveted royal seal of approval to supply traditional Cumberland sausage, Cumberland hams and bacon to Her Majesty’s household.

R is for rum: Whitehaven rum is famed the world over – as is its award-winning visitor centre in the heart of Whitehaven, home of Jefferson’s Extra Fine Dark Rum, an impressive marriage of two classic rum styles aged in oak casks to impart a complex balance of flavours.

S is for saltmarsh: More than 3,000 acres of nationally protected saltmarsh is used to support Holker Salt Marsh Lamb. The saltmarsh is inundated by the tide every month and, as a result, very different grasses flourish. These sea grasses produce a very flavoursome lamb which is a delicacy in France. The lamb is naturally very lean. Sheep are removed from the saltmarshes briefly during spring tides but they are keen to return. Whether it is the sea-washed turf they prefer, the lack of fences, sea air or simply the unbeatable views; we’ll never know!

T is for Taste: The Guild of Fine Foods Great Taste Awards are awarded annually to those local food producers who can make the grade with their products. Let’s just say a star denotes success – and in Cumbria there’s a whole galaxy of them! What’s more, the country can also boast the brightest ‘star’ in the universe – Staveley’s More The Artisan Bakery was awarded the Great Taste Awards Supreme Champion in 2009 for its gluten-free ‘Muddees’!

U is for Ultimate: The Kendal-based Ultimate Plum Pudding Company is another Great Taste Award-winning business. Founded more than 20 years ago, its plum puddings grace thousands of Christmas dinner tables every year. But the company has also earned a reputation for its efforts to help people promote worthy causes – more than 1,000 of them over the years, from WaterAid to orphanages, Cancer Research to special schools, greyhounds, barn owls, hospices, churches, village halls, disability groups, sports tours, local transport initiatives, and hundreds of PTAs. The company provides the puddings with the fund-raisers’ own glossy label and then they sell them at a substantial profit.

V is for venison: Back to Holker Hall at Cartmel and there has been a herd of menil fallow deer on the estate for about 300 years. The deer have one of the finest blood lines in the country and this is reflected in the quality of the meat, which is sold through Holker Foodhall.

W is for Westmorland farm shops: In 2003, Westmorland Limited’s award-winning Tebay Services – the only family-owned and run motorway services in the UK – opened two farm shops. The Dunning family and its newest driving force, Sarah Dunning, Westmorland’s chief executive, then achieved another first by opening a butchers at the southbound facility.

X is for x-citing: OK … so we’ve cheated a bit on this one! But let’s face it, when it comes to x-citing local food, Cumbria wins hands down!

Y is for yurt: Next time you visit Low Sizergh Barn farm shop, wander beyond the car park, following the signs for Growing Well. In the distance you will see the yurts which the Growing Well team use as ‘classrooms’ and meeting spaces. This award-winning community-owned organic growing business is based on three core principals – organic growing, mental health support, and horticultural training. To find out more visit

Z is for Zythum: Zythum is a kind of beer … and that’s all the excuse we need to rave about Cumbria’s growing army of micro-breweries. If you want real ale then this is the county to find it, to taste it, and to celebrate centuries-old tradition and fantastic flavours. Let’s all drink to that. Cheers.


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