Category Archives: Local food
Gloucestershire lies close to the Welsh border with the River Severn flowing through it and the Cotswolds to the east and the Forest of Dean to the southwest. Food production from this county has always been prolific, from lamb and pork to elvers and eels to cheese and pickles. Today, the food industry in the county is thriving and varied.
The award-winning Severn & Wye Smokery is one of the finest fish markets in the country. It sells a whole host of seasonal British and international fish as well as shellfish and the smokery’s own smoked haddock and kippers. After a three-year renovation project, Severn & Wye Smokery opened The Barn in October 2017. The former derelict outbuildings have been transformed into a foodie destination. This now encompasses a restaurant, bar, fish market, deli, gift shop and café.
Initially starting with smoked wild salmon and smoked eel from the rivers Severn and Wye, the business has grown to produce a full range of smoked fish products. So popular is the product range that the company sends weekly shipments to Italy, Germany, Greece, Dubai, Bahrain and France. The production techniques and smoking processes are still very traditional with grading, filleting, curing and cutting still mostly done by hand.
If you are looking for something a bit more exotic, TruffleHunter is the UK’s leading supplier of fresh truffles and truffle products. Located in the Cotswolds, the company produces truffle oils, minced truffles, truffle salt, truffle honey, truffle mustard and truffle mayonnaise. It sources truffles from the finest truffle regions across Europe, as well as from Somerset and Wiltshire.
Trufflehunter began in the UK in 2010 and today supplies restaurants throughout the UK and much further afield. The main markets are the UK, Germany, USA, Japan, Singapore and India. All truffle products are produced in small handmade batches in the Cotswold factory.
Mustard Through the Ages
An artisan product that was featured in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, is Tewkesbury mustard. The Tewkesbury Mustard Company is now the only true producer continuing a tradition that dates back to the 16th century. The product range is hand-made in a small kitchen in Tewkesbury. Legend has it that Tewkesbury Mustard Balls covered in gold leaf were presented to Henry VIII when he visited Tewkesbury in 1535.
Renowned for their excellence since medieval times, these balls were sent all over the country. The ingredients are simply local grown mustard seed, mixed with an infusion of horseradish. This is steeped in water, milk, cider or cider vinegar until it was workable. Now, Tewkesbury mustard is still as popular as ever.
Specialising in porridge and couscous, Wolfys is the brainchild of Kitchen Garden Foods, traditional preserve makers. It was launched in the summer of 2013 after a challenge to find a hot, filling and tasty snack for a festival caterer. Each pot of Wolfys has another little pot hidden under the lid. This is jam, marmalade or honey in the porridge and chutney or relish in the couscous. Everything is made by hand in Stroud. Everything is vegetarian and the couscous is vegan.
Gloucestershire food producers prove that in our region there is a wealth of local suppliers of all types of food. And those producers also supply internationally such is their quality.
The headlines are currently dominated by Brexit, the snowy weather, the great American stand-off and the Oscars. But what is making the headlines in the world of food and drink?
There is a greater call of allergen labelling following the death of a schoolgirl from an unlabelled baguette. Proposals unveiled by environment secretary Michael Gove would see all prepackaged food labelled to help the UK’s two million food allergy sufferers decide whether they can safely eat it.
There are celebrations down in Devon as a popular fish and chip shop has been crowned as the best chippy in the UK. Krispies Fish & Chips in Exmouth has “battered its way to the top” winning the coveted award as UK’s best fish and chip shop at the National Fish and Chip Awards 2019, organised by Seafish. Krispie’s is owned and operated by husband and wife team Kelly and Tim Barnes, offering “true excellence in the fish and chip industry” with factors such as “sustainability, menu innovation, catering for special dietary requirements, customer service and marketing activity” all part of the judging process.
It’s also been getting spicy down in Devon with the humble ketchup being the focus of attention. The South Devon Chilli Farm has been listening to market research and is giving fans their signature chilli twist to the UK’s favourite condiment. Three new delicious chilli ketchups – cool jalapeno, smoky chipotle and hot habanero –have been added to the range as an alternative to the tomato option. Presented in a smart glass bottle, the range is suitable for vegetarian, vegan and gluten free diets and contains no artificial ingredients or preservatives.
Over in Taunton, the newly-introduced ‘bleeding’ vegan burger has been a new year triumph for TGI Friday. The completely meat-free burger, which was one of the most talked about burgers in the USA last year, is high in protein and has zero cholesterol. As well as beetroot, which gives it the iconic bleed, the flame-grilled burger is made from coconut oil, mushrooms, herbs, plant proteins, and spices.
Terry McDowell, TGI Fridays’ head chef, said: “Friday’s flame-grilled, hand-crafted burgers are one of the most popular dishes on our menu and now everyone can enjoy their legendary taste, whether they are vegan, vegetarian, trying to cut down on meat, or anything in between!”
Over in Wales, the Welsh government has just published a consultation considering a range of proposals to encourage people to change their eating habits and be more active. As well as banning energy drinks to under-16s, other measures in the ‘Healthy Weight, Healthy Wales’ include “restrictions on the positioning of products in stores, restrictions on the amount of marketing of certain products in stores, restrictions on promotions and discounting of certain products in stores, mandatory calorie labelling for food purchased and eaten outside of the home.” If you want to be heard then respond to the consultation.
And staying in Wales, following the huge success of the inaugural event in in 2017, BlasCymru / TasteWales returns March 20 and 21 2019. The show will bring together buyers, producers and food industry professionals for this signature international food and drink trade event and conference, held once again at the world-class Celtic Manor Resort.
Tradition plays a major role in choosing Christmas food. At some point before the big day, we decide where and when to do The Big Shop. And it’s a major event in the calendar. Whether it’s off to one of the high street supermarkets or down to the local butcher for the Christmas turkey.
But tastes change significantly: more and more people, especially younger members of the family are making life choices. Some become vegans or vegetarians, some are gluten or lactose intolerant, others demand free range…so as a commercial buyer, where do you source your Christmas turkey?
Turkey All Round
Wherever you are in South West England and South Wales, there is an easy way to find your closest turkey farm by using the NFU finder . Just enter your postcode and set the range. The list of local farms pops up for you to contact like Harts in Gloucestershire
If you are near Exeter, Rosamondford Turkey Farm provides traditional, naturally reared Devon turkeys. The turkeys roam the pastures and are fed on the finest locally produced ingredients. All turkeys are dry-plucked and hand finished to avoiding bruising or marking of the bird. All birds are grown, prepared and supplied on the farm premises. They are only fed a natural cereal and vegetable protein diet without additives or animal proteins. The flavour comes from dense meat and natural marbling.
In South Devon is Scobbiscombe Farm, a National Trust owned farm in Kingston. The turkeys have been specially bred to grow slowly. The farm also supplies the ‘TINY’ breed of turkey. This is a smaller bird without compromising on the importance of rearing to full maturity.
As a member of the Traditional Farmfresh Turkey Association, assurance is provided of the highest quality turkey and the highest standards in welfare, traditional methods and hygiene. As far as the turkeys go their welfare is identical to that of birds reared on well−run organic enterprises. The turkeys arrive as day-old chicks at the end of June each year and are carefully reared under heat lamps until 5-6 weeks of age. They are fed on a proprietary turkey food which is supplemented with home-grown cereals from 10 weeks of age and they live until approximately 23 weeks of age twice the age that many supermarket turkeys will live.
Organic turkey is available in many places but if you are catering in Wales, there is the award-winning organic and free range poultry from Capestone Organic Poultry Ltd . Today the business is run by Justin Scale, the fifth generation to farm at Capestone with all poultry reared, produced and processed on site.
Traditional organic farming methods and working with nature produce a slower-growing bird, reared and produced from slow growing bronze strains. The turkeys have constant daytime access to lush organic pastures on which they are free to roam and forage from four weeks of age.
Don’t Forget the Sprouts
Just space to mention fruit and veg: from fruit to vegetables and from dairy to salads, Milfords supplies a vast area in the south west supplying loose and pre-packed fruit across Devon, Dorchester and Somerset locally from the West Country whenever possible.
In Wales, Peter Broughton Cardiff, is one of Wales’ largest independent fresh fruit and vegetable suppliers. Their fleet of refrigerated trucks, trailers and vans are ready to distribute food, offering exceptional freshness and quality. From kale to carrots, from swede to purple sprouting broccoli, everything is catered for!
Wherever you get your Christmas turkey, it’s still not too late to source locally.
We may moan about the cost of living and in particular, the cost of food but a report commissioned from data research company Euromonitor shows that in the UK, in fact, we are better off than most of the world.
On average, Britons spend 8% of their total household expenditure on food eaten at home. Only America and Singapore spend less. In context, Nigerians spend 59% of their household budget on food to be eaten at home with Greeks spending 16%.
What is more, UK food consumption is the cheapest in Western Europe at 8% less than the EU average. We are spending less on food than our grandparents ever did! While housing and leisure costs have doubled in the past 60 years, the amount of household income spent on food has more than halved.
Why is this? There are many reasons, notably technology, loyalty and discounters.
Constantly advancing technology has led to food production becoming more efficient with the mechanisation of farming and speeding up of production. Transportation, storage and distribution have also improved considerably. UK trade between other countries also plays a major role. The UK currently imports about half of all its food simply because it works out cheaper to do it that way.
Nowadays, people shop around. There is very little loyalty to brands or stores and large weekly shops have given way to more frequent shopping. Discounters such as Aldi and Lidl and Jack’s are also key to the shopping routine. The former two stores have 13% of the UK’s grocery market.
Are there any threats to this state of affairs? Of course there are. The weather is a variable as always. Take 2018 as a classic example. Huge storms (remember the Beast from the East?) followed by a summer of scorching heat have wreaked havoc on crops with increased prices in supermarkets. For example, between March and July the wholesale cost of carrots rose by 80% and wheat by 20%.
Then there is the reliance on imported food. Here we must mention Brexit which has already caused the fall of the pound against the euro and the dollar, and trade disputes. Marmitegate led to Tesco temporarily dropping Unilever products when the manufacturer increased its prices. An update on the sales of Vegemite over this period is currently not available.
According to Lord Price, Conservative trade minister, a no-deal Brexit will lead to “a pretty significant increase in the cost of fruit and veg, the cost of meat and the cost of dairy products“. We will see.
Finally, our global tastes and habits are changing. There is much more demand for fresh produce rather than processed food. The vegetarian/vegan movement is extremely popular and there are more calls for organic food. Countries like China (a massive population) are becoming more affluent and making different choices when it comes to food.
It seems that the low cost of food in the UK may not be long lasting. Manufacturers and food producers will have to keep their eyes and ears open. They will need to be amenable to diversification and innovation to keep prices as low as possible through the coming uncertainty of variables such as Brexit and the weather.
Mince pies have been spotted in the shops and some stores have already set up their Christmas stock. Light yoghurt has been removed from WeightWatchers no-sin list. The oldest cheese in the world has been found in Egypt dating back 3,200 years.
Meanwhile closer to home, it has been revealed that South West food and drink exports have reached £838m which is very good news for the region.
Unsurprisingly, seafood has been the biggest export at £176m with dairy products the second most popular at £147m. Oil seeds and oleaginous fruits, including nuts and olives, showed the largest increase of any food and drink product, up 26% to £17m. This represents an increase year on year of 8.7%.
South West Triumphs
Paul Shand, head of exports in the South West for the Department for International Trade, said: “South West food and drink producers are rapidly developing a reputation around the world for their high quality food and drink.” It goes to show that the food and drink industry is thriving and despite the uncertain economic background, people are still demanding quality food from reputable sources.
In Wales, there are also a few pats on the back with Welsh food and drink businesses triumphing in this year’s Great Taste awards, proving once again that food and drink from Wales has a deserved reputation for quality and taste. A whopping 153 products from Wales, from independent artisan producers to larger distributors, were recognised in the awards, with 110 Welsh products achieving one star, 31 getting two stars and 12 being deemed worthy of the three-stars accolade.
Described as the Oscars of the culinary world, Great Taste is organised by the Guild of Fine Food and is the acknowledged benchmark for fine food and drink. Among the winners were Forte’s Ice Cream’s mascarpone and caramelised fig ice cream and organic Zambian forest honey from Tropical Forest Products. The latter was the first company to import organic honey and beeswax from Africa, nowadays importing honey and beeswax from forest beekeepers in Zambia, Ethiopia and Cameroon. Apart from the delicious flavour, the company’s development work makes a change to the livelihoods of beekeepers and their families, and ensures the continued protection of the forest by the local communities who benefit from them.
Forte’s finds the purest and finest ingredients in the world and use them to produce the best ice cream, sorbet and frozen yoghurt available. This has led to the creation of over 35 flavours of ice creams, sorbets and frozen yoghurts all made with fresh milk, double cream and only the finest ingredients.
Finally, a Somerset restaurant has been named the best in the whole of the South West, a nice surprise for the restaurant during its 25th year. The New Farm Restaurant in South Petherton stormed to two major awards: Best South West Restaurant and No 1 Place to Go – the latter being the biggest award of the night.
John Sheaves, chief executive of organisers, Taste of the West, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the response from the South West’s food and drink industry to our awards programme this year. These awards underpin our core values and strengthen our regional brand, a brand which is attracting considerable interest from new markets.”
In the week of Anglo-French scallop wars beginning again with lapsed agreements and nothing to replace them; the next in AC Services series of food under threat. Our focus is on cod and the need for co-operation for mutual benefit by protecting fish stocks.
Since 2006, the cod levels in the North Sea have been causing alarm to a variety of organisations. These range from the fishermen catching their livelihood, to the sustainable brigade worried about responsible farming levels. And then there’s the government concerned about revenue.
However, since last year, North Sea cod is now sustainable and can be eaten with a “clear conscience”, according to The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) which has given this great British fish its “blue tick” label. This shows that North Sea cod caught by English and Scottish fishermen is not only sustainable but fully traceable.
Cod Depletion Levels
Here’s a little bit of fishy history. By 2006, anxiety began to grow about the stock levels in the North Sea which were at historically low levels. Levels had actually fallen to a mere 44,000 tonnes. This was a dramatic fall from the 200-300,000 tonnes witnessed in the 1960s and early 1970s. Obviously these figures cannot be exact. No one is entirely sure how many fish there are but the estimates are as scientifically accurate as possible.
This news called for a collaboration between the fishing industry, government and scientific research enterprises. They pulled together to recover the stocks to a level which saw North Sea cod reach the gold standard of full MSC certification.
The causes of this fall in levels were multiple. Pressure from European fisheries resulted in high takes of haddock, cod, whiting and saithe caught in the North Sea causing over-exploitation beyond a sustainable level until the 2000s. As a result, cod in particular was at risk of falling outside safe biological limits.
Subsequently, the European Union and Norway initiated the ‘Cod Recovery Plan’. This plan included measures to control and reduce the fishing effort, as well as introducing restrictions on catches of cod and other stocks. Other measures included new nets and closing spawning areas to fishing, modified fishing gear, catch controls, well-managed fishing practices. The fishing industry worked closely with the Scottish government and the EU Fisheries Council on the recovery plan.
Want Plenty of More Fish in the Sea?
The stocks have to be independently assessed before they can be given the MSC blue tick. If you can see the mark, the cod is guaranteed to come from a sustainable source and by choosing fish with that label, buyers and customer are helping to protect future stocks.
There are some who believe that overfishing and endangered stocks is a myth: people in Newfoundland, Canada believed it too until 1992 when the cod fishing industry came to a sudden stop with no cod appearing at the start of the fishing season. Overfishing caused by fisheries mismanagement was the main cause for this disaster.
We have made the decision to leave the EU and to withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention. These currently allow foreign vessels to fish within six and 12 nautical miles of UK coastline. No one knows what this means in terms of North Sea fishing management. But by everyone pulling together, crises can be identified and averted. So next time you buy fish including cod, look for the blue tick so we can all win.
Tradition states that local resources offered a diet to Wiltshire pigs that gave their flesh special flavour. This is supposed to be acorns from the plentiful oak forests nearby or imported molasses.
In its heyday, Wiltshire in the 19th century had a far superior cheese-making heritage than Somerset although cheese-making died out almost completely after the 2nd World War. But today both counties have some great complementary food producers.
Today, however, there are many food producers and artisans who supply the county with fantastic food, from bread to cakes to pies and cured meats. Lovett Pies has a popular regional following, with the owners claiming that the pies are meticulously designed with well-balanced fillings encased in homemade shortcrust pastry. The ingredients are all sourced to bring out the very best flavours, with recipes such as beef, bellringer ale and Bath blue cheese to puy lentil, Welsh rarebit and kale. Vegetarian options include sweet potato, goats cheese, squash, spinach and plum chutney.
The Somerset Charcuterie uses traditional artisan methods with a Somerset twist with owners, Andy and James having been hobby charcutiers for several years. Over a pint of cider at a local lawn-mower race, the idea for a quality British Charcuterie business was conceived. Today, the friends have a range of products that follow traditional Spanish, French and Italian methods but are adapted to the British market. Everything is handmade to preserve the artisan texture, flavours and look.
Cheese and Pickle
White Row Farm’s motto is ‘from crop to shop’. This farm deli stocks cheeses such as Bath soft cheese, Wyfe of Bath, Cheddar Gorge cheese, Bath blue, sheep’s milk cheese, organic cheese, goats cheese, quince jelly, Snowdonia cheese, Wookey Hole Cave aged cheddar. It also stocks meats and cured meats such as sliced White Row ham, chorizos, cured sausages and homemade terrines.
Finally, if you are looking for a pickle, then look no further than Wiltshire’s Rosie’s Relish and Pickle. We all like a bit of relish to accompany our pies and cheese and Rosie has a range of interesting flavours that perfectly suit any food. All chutneys, pickles, relish and preserves are all handmade in small batches using traditional and innovative recipes. Bread and Butter Pickle comprises sliced cucumber and onion in a spiced vinegar, delicious when added to a salad or sandwich and suitable for vegans.
Look out for AC Services next blog on local food producers in our region to help catering businesses with local sourcing and ideas.
Let’s talk about coffee, the favourite drink for all age groups. There is no getting away from the fact that coffee drinking has expanded exponentially over the past decade. Coffee franchises, independent sellers and street vendors on virtually every high street corner now cater for our coffee time.
Today, the trend is not so much the product taste, but the product provenance. And this is making a difference in the economic fortunes of less affluent coffee-producing countries.
Coffee Time History Lesson
Coffee cultivation and trade began on the Arabian Peninsula in the 15th century. By the 17th century, had made its way to Europe. Today, the ideal conditions for coffee trees are found along the Equatorial zone called The Bean Belt . Coffee now grows in around 50 countries in the world from the USA to Mexico to East Africa and Asia. Good coffee beans depend on plant variety, soil chemistry, the weather and even the precise altitude at which the coffee grows.
Instant coffee represents by far the biggest share of the global coffee market. As with any coffee, it needs to be roasted relatively near to the end consumer so that it maintains its taste until it is actually drunk.
Ethical Coffee Trends
There is a growing call for ethical coffee, with an increasing number of consumers willing to pay more for ethically sourced coffee. The argument is that ethical sourcing benefits everyone from the farmers who grow the beans to the cafes selling the beverage.
Contemporary consumers are more interested in the provenance of the coffee beans. which has a direct influence upon their choice of coffee. According to statistics from the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo), “smarter processing, branding and marketing makes a huge difference to growers and their communities”.
And with baristas armed with knowledge about the provenance of what they are serving, consumers are making the choice to help struggling individual farmers in less affluent countries. This trend means that farmers in the developing world are getting a better share in the global value chain.
For this trend to continue, we should look to the Continent for a different approach to coffee drinking. Takeaway coffees are the norm for busy people on the go but in some European countries, this is not necessarily the most popular way to enjoy a cup of coffee. Take Italy for example. The majority of Italians prefer their local coffee shop rather than a coffee to go for these very good reasons.
Firstly, it takes no time at all to walk into a coffee shop, order a coffee and drink it. Downing a freshly brewed espresso shot takes a matter of seconds and the coffee is fresh, readily available and tasty. Secondly, drinking coffee has become a ritualistic break. Those on the go can take a moment to recover, regenerate their batteries. And above all enjoy a quiet moment to enjoy the coffee. And finally, Italians do not like their coffee so hot that it burns the mouth. They prefer coffee served cooled down at the right temperature, so it can be drunk immediately.
The Cloud on the Horizon
For the third year running consumption has outstripped production. So far the good years have provided a buffer but this cannot last.
As Dr Tim Schilling, director of the World Coffee Research institute, an organisation funded by the global coffee industry, says: “The supply of high-quality coffee is severely threatened by climate change, diseases and pests, land pressure, and labour shortages – and demand for these coffees is rising every year“. In some coffee areas, temperatures have already risen enough to begin having quality impacts, he adds.
In the future production areas in Ethopia could be halved and Brazil reduced to a third of today’s. This can only mean that new varieties will come to the fore and the taste of coffee will change. So the next coffee time, ask where the beans come from and then enjoy the moment.
The Bath Bun, sprinkled with sugar and coloured with saffron is as famous as the doughy Sally Lunn Cake, piping hot with lashes of cream. The Bath Oliver cracker biscuit goes nicely with Bath Chaps. These are pigs cheeks or lower jaws salted and smoked then boiled and coated in breadcrumbs.
But it is the Cheddar brand that has been a favourite for centuries. When poor imitations started to crop up by the 18th century, stringent rules were put down to protect it.
Cheddar is the most popular type of cheese in the UK. Its accounts for 51% of the country’s £1.9 billion annual cheese market. It is also the second-most popular cheese in the US (behind mozzarella).
Not Just Cheddar
The first cheese made at Willet Farm near Taunton was a sheep’s milk cheese. This was shortly followed by the product after which the company is named and which is the flagship of the business; Exmoor Blue. Made from Jersey cows’ milk, it was the forerunner of the range of cheeses now produced on the site of the farm.
All cheeses, including Somerset Blue, Partridge’s Blue and Buffalo, are handmade to traditional recipes and methods using only the milk from local herds. To the milk is added vegetarian rennet, starter cultures, penicillin roqueforti (which gives the characteristic blue tang as the cheese is matured) and salt. Exmoor Blue has been awarded Protected Geographical Indication status. This ensures that the cheese is made to specified standards using local milk from within the designated area.
Honey and Vegetables
Honey, the natural sweet nectar is also produced in quantity in Somerset. Sedgemoor Honey is situated on the outskirts of Taunton. It produces the finest Somerset honey available through local shops, farm shops and National Trust outlets.
From two hives on the back garden in the 1970s, owner Chris Harries now runs 300 colonies of bees. Divided between 20 apiaries, they forage for nectar in the fields and hedgerows of Somerset. During the summer months many of the hives are relocated to changing nectar flows. This includes the purple heather of Exmoor, with its distinctive aroma and flavour. As well as providing a much desired pollination service for local farmers and growers, the company also rears queen bees and nucleus colonies for sale to other beekeepers.
Stoneage Organics specialises in organically grown produce. In addition to a farm in Oake, the family run business also has a farm near Bishop’s Lydeard. This has been fully organic since 1st January 2001, where the majority of the growing is now done.
Stoneage has been growing organic vegetables since 1988 and introduced the Vegetable Box Scheme in 1993. Each week, a selection of fresh, seasonal produce is packed into three sizes of box. Potatoes and carrots appear virtually every week, and onions most weeks. The remainder of the box is made up of various items depending on the time of year from aubergines, Brussels sprouts, beetroot, broad and runner beans, cauliflower, celery, chard, Chinese leaves, courgettes, fennel, pak choi, parsley, parsnips, peppers, radish, spinach, squash and more!
There are many more local food producers in Somerset that need a shout out. So no doubt the AC Services series will feature some more soon.