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31 May 2012

A taste of British summer… plus recipe for Strawberries & Cream Sponge

Photo: © childsdesign

Summer has truly arrived when British strawberries are ripe and ready for picking and although they are now available all year round – with foreign countries suppling our needs – you really can’t beat the fruit from our own soil. Reserving them as a seasonal treat makes them so much more special.

Growing your own strawberry plants in your garden is very rewarding and there’s nothing more exciting when lifting up the leaves to find the stems swathed in red juicy jewels. If you’re not much of a gardener or simply lack the space, you can still experience the thrill of the strawberry hunt by visiting one of the many pick your own farms in the area.
When the sun is warm the sweet fragrant smell wafts into the air tempting even the most restrained of individuals to sneak a strawberry into their mouths whilst foraging.

The first berries are not often the sweetest though, they can lack the depth of flavour that the prolonged spells of sun can give them, that said, they are still lovely eaten unadorned. No sugar, no cream, just pure fruit bliss. Plucked straight from the plant whether homegrown or ‘stolen’ they just seem to taste better.
However, dairy produce does create a natural harmony, whether it’s cream, yogurt, creme fraiche or marscapone, you can’t go wrong, but never cook a strawberry unless it was in a jam of course.

Strawberries & Cream Sponge Cake – View recipe

Photo: © childsdesign

We’re buzzing about honey… plus recipe for Zingy Honey Chilli Chicken

Photo: © childsdesign
 Sweet, gooey and scented, it’s easy to become slightly obsessed with honey, well for us anyway. Everywhere we go, we like to pick up a jar of local honey – there’s always a pot to hand in the pantry. The Artisan Food Trail is lucky enough to have Cardona & Son and as well as rearing rare breed pigs in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire they are enthusiatic beekeepers and also run a hive management scheme.

The best place to find good local honey is from your farmer’s market or deli – the label will have the exact address of origin. Decent local honey may not be cheap, but it is the pure unadulterated product likely to carry the signature flavour of our indigenous countryside and even our gardens.
It is truly amazing just how those busy honey bees gather the nectar and turn it into such a seductive food for us to plunder.

Photo: © childsdesign
Generally, bees can fly up to six miles from the hive but one or two is more common if food sources are close by. They collect the pollen and nectar in the spring (when most plants are in flower) and take it back to the hive where they process and store honey in honeycombs to be used as their winter sustenance. Bees make more honey than they actually need and a typical hive can hold up to around 25lb (11kg) surplus.

Depending on the types of plants that the bees forage on, the honey can be either runny and clear or opaque and set. The flowers also impart their unique flavour characteristics too, so honeys can vary considerably from region to region.

As well as spreading it on our toast in the morning, we love using honey in cooking – it is great for baking as it has hygroscopic qualities, meaning that it attracts water, thereby keeping cakes moist for longer.

Apart from the kitchen, honey also has a place in the medicine cabinet too. Its antiseptic properties make it a soother of sore throats and it is even good for the skin when applied externally.
Honey lasts practically for ever too, an explorer found a 2000 year old jar of honey in an Egyptian tomb and said it tasted delicious.

As honey is sweet thoughts normally turn to desserts but we’ve decided against this and used honey in a delicious main course savoury dish instead, to demonstrate the versatility of this gorgeous substance.

Zingy Honey Chilli Chicken (or Pork) – View recipe

Photo: © childsdesign

Introducing the first of our industry experts to The Artisan Food Trail: Dietitian UK

Priya Tew of Dietitian UK
As The Artisan Food Trail continues to grow, we are always looking for ways to add value to our services and to keep spreading good messages about food.
Back in March we were fortunate enough to be invited to Theo Paphitis’s SBS Event which turned out to be a valuable networking opportunity. All attending winners were gathered in one place giving everyone a chance to talk to each other about their businesses and discuss the potential of working together.

We met Priya Tew, a registered dietitian. As a mum and lover of all things foodie she was very interested in what The Artisan Food Trail does and after chatting for a while we could both see there was a good deal of synergy between us.

Anyway the good news is, that as a result of the meeting, Priya will be working with us to provide insightful advice and information. Priya is passionate about helping people to discover good quality food and to show them how healthy eating is not just tasty but vitally important and we look forward to her contribution to The Artisan Food Trail blog.

Priya runs her own nutrition consultancy business, Dietitian UK which allows her to advise people on food, talk about food, cook up new recipes and then eat great food too.
So what else does her work involve? “I don’t just work with individual patients – in fact that is the smallest part of my work – but I work with food companies”, states Priya.
She is the dietitian for a couple of companies and in this capacity she writes blog posts, articles, advises on their products and labelling and answers questions from customers.
Priya adds, “Having a quote from a dietitian means you have a quote from a true food expert that can be used to promote your product, their reputation is linked to you.
Dietitians have a legally protected title which means you can rest assured that they practise correctly, otherwise they can have their title removed. All the advice they give has to be evidence based, backed up by sound science.”

In the past she has been involved in PR campaigns for big brands, written meals plans and nutritional literature used to promote new products and worked on roadshows, given talks and even served breakfast at the European Parliament to promote certain cereals.

How does Priya see her approach fitting in with The Artisan Food Trail? “Local produce, quality ingredients and supporting UK producers are high up my list of priorities too. We have some amazing products in the UK that need shouting about. I can help do this.”

As well as being a professional, Priya is also a mum and values the importance of family mealtimes, she says, “As a mum I’m always conscious of what I feed my family and I can often be found in the kitchen playing around with new ingredients or combining old favourites in tempting ways. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, that’s just the joy of cooking!”

Priya will be looking through the current producers on the Artisan Food Trail website and doing some blog posts in the next few months which we’re sure will inspire you.

In the meantime please visit www.Dietitianuk.co.uk

28 May 2012

Say hello to yellow or why you should buy extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil

If you’re out in the countryside at the moment it is hard not to notice fields full of vivid yellow flowers. Brighter than a workman’s high visibility vest this humble crop of oilseed rape is gradually becoming more popular as a fine foodstuff.

The oil extracted from the seeds was once used in the 19th century as a lubricant for steam engines and hardly suitable for little else as the high levels of glucosinolates made it too bitter to be palatable for animals let alone humans.
Since then varieties have been bred to reduce the glucosinolates and now it is possible to make an oil which is fast becoming an essential item for the cook.

Although vast amounts of rape are grown commercially for animal feed and margarine production, many farmers are diversifying to add value to their oilseed rape crop. Much of the seed is crushed and mixed with solvents to extract the oil – you will find this as vegetable cooking oil – but many producers have found that by cold pressing and filtering the oil results in a wonderfully superior extra virgin product.

Having less than half the saturated fat of olive oil and being a good source of Omega 3 and 6, it’s a good choice for the health conscious. It's burn point is a lot higher too which means it can be heated to higher temperatures than olive oil making it better for frying and roasting.
There have been discussions in The Artisan Food Trail office about starting a campaign to promote extra virgin rapeseed oil as Britain’s answer to olive oil. Rapeseed oil does not taste the same as olive oil – it is unique and nutty in character – but it is really something quite special. If you buy it not only are you getting all and more of the benefits of olive oil, you will be supporting our British farmers.

The oil is good in all types of cooking 
and can be used in place of olive oil
At present we have two extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil producers on The Artisan Food Trail – Yare Valley Oils both of whom grow their own rapeseed and press it on the farm.

Over time we hope to add more rapeseed oil producers to the trail to represent all areas of the UK. Interestingly like olive oil, we have noticed, that depending on where the oilseed is grown, the flavour and aroma varies. It is obvious that terrain, soil, climate etc add certain characteristics to the final product. 
No two are the same. 

25 May 2012

Be in the know with our industry experts

© The Artisan Food Trail / Lisa Childs

Over the coming weeks and months we’ll be introducing various industry experts that will be sharing their knowledge with The Artisan Food Trail.
Not only will they be offering advice to help our producers in running their businesses but also information that will be helpful to consumers too by getting the facts and figures correct and exploding the myths and misnomers.

We’re looking forward to working with these informative and interesting people and hope that you will find the forthcoming blog articles useful as well as entertaining.

22 May 2012

Egg Roast (Mutta Roast)

Photo: © childsdesign

We insist you try this recipe from Absolute Indian. It is very simple to make and really delicious. Although you might think there are rather a lot of onions for 2-3 people, don't worry as they cook and reduce to a soft melting consistency.

The spicing is subtle and nicely balanced – you could adjust the amount of chilli to your personal taste if you're not accustomed to the heat. Although fresh curry leaves are not always easy to find, you could use dried, but we find the fresh ones give Indian dishes that nutty authentic flavour and they look better too.
We used fresh tomatoes which we peeled and chopped before adding, but you could use tinned tomatoes.

This dish is normally served as a breakfast dish in Kerala alongside Appam (similar to a thick pancake and made from ground rice and coconut) However, it can also be served as an accompaniment to other Kerala curries.

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, halved
  • 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 medium onions, finely sliced
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 75g chopped tomatoes
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp garam masala

Heat the oil in a shallow non-stick pan. When hot, add the mustard seeds and fry for 2 seconds (they should sizzle immediately on contact with the oil). Reduce to a medium/low heat and fry the onions for 5 minutes to soften. (Bear in mind you do not want to brown them) Add the ginger, garlic and curry leaves and fry for a further 3-4 minutes.
Combine the tomatoes, turmeric, chilli and black pepper into the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes until the oil begins to separate from the masala. Season with salt and garam masala and then gently add the eggs. Mix well to warm through the eggs, being careful not to crush them.
Serve with fresh, warm pooris and pickle.

Hints & Tips
A simple way to split boiled eggs in half is to use a piece of thread lengthways across he egg – this gives you a clean cut without crumbling any part of the yolk or white.
This dish can also be served as a starter or canapé. Simply top the warm, halved eggs with small mounds of the onion masala and serve. However, no more than 1 egg per person or you may find your guests stuffed before dinner!

21 May 2012

Flavours of 2012 Food & Drink Festival: 26th – 27th May 2012

Taking place at Henham Park near Southwold, Suffolk, Flavours of 2012 will provide visitors an experience of different flavours and textures, enjoying eating and drinking along with entertainment, all in the laid back atmosphere of a walled garden.
Enjoy the local producers area, the demos by professional chefs and wander round the farmers market style area taking in the relaxed ambiance.

This year, Flavours of 2012 food and drink festival brings together many fantastic exhibitors, and a line up of innovative and interactive programmes on cooking and eating.

Artisan Food Trail producers confirmed as taking part are:

Alder Tree
Award winning ices are handmade on their fruit farm in Suffolk to a traditional family recipe. Made with only fruit, cream and sugar, they are naturally delicious.

The Artisan Smokehouse
A small family run and owned smokehouse on the Suffolk coast producing award-winning smoked food, made in small quantities to ensure quality and freshness.

Breckland Orchard
Award winning ‘Posh Pop’. Produced with passion and available throughout the UK.

Honeysuckle Cakes
Bespoke celebration cake design based on your ideas and requests. Locally sourced ingredients used wherever possible with the addition of Hannah's homemade jam in the filling of your special cake.

For more information about the event visit the website flavoursof2012.co.uk

18 May 2012

Testimonials for The Artisan Food Trail

Hiding your light under a bushel is probably not the best thing for your business. Although we wouldn't consider ourselves to be major trumpet blowers, we thought it high time we exposed the testimonials given to us by members of The Artisan Food Trail.
To read the nice things they've said take a look at the page on our website here

16 May 2012

The Red Cat Partnership sponsors new category in the 2012 Norfolk Food and Drink Awards

The 2012 EDP Norfolk Food and Drink Awards are an annual celebration of the cream of the county's food and drink suppliers and service people. The RedCat Partnership have been involved for the past few years, principally in judging and providing an award for the 'Battle of the Bangers.'

This year they have suggested a new category for the main awards, and that the subject is food safety and are pleased to announce their sponsorship of the Exceptional Food Safety Management Award.

If your business would like to nominate itself, or indeed you know a business worthy of the Exceptional Food Safety Management Award, there is more information on the Awards homepage here. You can submit your nomination on-line and you need to get your nominations in by 1st June 2012.

Director, Sarah Daniels says,

"The criteria we're looking to judge 

against are a stretch, but that's what competition is about."

Criteria with this Award are:
  • An ability to demonstrate top level management commitment to food safety
  • An engagement with staff, to demonstrate their commitment too, and that they share desire to produce safe food
  • A training programme for staff. This should be a little more than the "health and hygiene" certificate every three years. The RedCat Partnership is looking for an organised training schedule, with training delivered at different levels for different staff, planned refresher training, etc, and, of course, recorded.
  • Keeping up-to-date. Sometimes things come along like the E. coli scare in Germany (and the need to avoid sprouting seeds from Egypt), and the revised Food Standards Agency guidance on E. coli control. It has to be seen that entrants keep themselves up to date, in the know and react to these issues.
  • Obviously, food safety management systems need to be in place. A basic entry requirement, this can easily be demonstrated with your 'Score-on-the-door' (or 'star rating', if you're a caterer) or BRC/SALSA accreditation (if you're a manufacturer). If neither of these is applicable to you, e.g. for some smaller artisan food producers, or your local Council don't provide a rating, food safety management systems will be looked at.
  • Finally, Sara says they're always keen to listen to anything else that you think makes the entrant stand out in keeping our food safe. After all, it's one of the few things we all have in common...the need for safe, nutritious food.

To enter your nomination online visit www.2012foodanddrinkawards.co.uk

For more information about The RedCat Partnership visit their page on The Artisan Food Trail here

If you'd like to nominate food businesses for other awards, the 2012 EDP Norfolk Food and Awards also include the following categories:

Food and Drink Hero
Best Drink Producer
Best Family Dining
Best Food Sustainability Initiative
Best Independent Food and Drink Retailer
Best Plough to Plate Champion
Best Restaurant Experience
Best School Food Project
Chef of the Year
Coast Award
Outstanding Achievement Award
Excellence in Agriculture Award
The Pride of Norfolk Award

The Artisan Food Trail has members in Norfolk…
Hint 1
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14 May 2012

The Artisan Food Trail featured in The Green Parent magazine

Click image for larger version
The Artisan Food Trail has been attracting some welcome attention recently and we're pleased that we've been featured in the June/July issue of The Green Parent magazine.

Catherine Mack, has written a lovely piece about The Artisan Food Trail, highlighting the importance of buying locally sourced food when taking a holiday. In her regular column on green travel she also mentions AFT member Cardona & Son, the family-run producer of rare breed pork.

Catherine sums up,
"The site is just one year old, but growing as quickly as our summer vegetables. Methinks this one will just keep self-seeding its way to sustainable perfection."

Being in The Green Parent is just the start of our media presence, so expect to be seeing The Artisan Food Trail appearing in more places soon.

The Green Parent is available to purchase through WH Smiths, M&S, Waitrose, Sainsburys, Boots, newsagents and health food stores.

You can follow Catherine on Twitter @catherinemack and her blog ethicaltraveller.co.uk

11 May 2012

A social community for chocolate lovers

Subscribers to Mortimer Chocolate Company's newsletter will already know that they have been busy getting to grips with social media and branching out into the realms of Twitter.

They already engage with their appreciators through Facebook and now Mortimer Chocolate Company are creating a social community for chocolate lovers called ChocolateFriends.com, where you can join them to share your recipes, find out about chocolate events going on, add your own events and comment on what is new.

The interactive website is being built at the moment and will be up and running very soon.
In the meantime you can follow Chocolate Friends on Twitter @chocfriends

To find out more about Mortimer Chocolate Company visit their page on The Artisan Food Trail here

10 May 2012

Letchworth Food & Garden Festival: 19th – 20th May 2012

Just a stone's throw from The Artisan Food Trail's headquarters, the Letchworth Food & Garden Festival will be taking place in the world's first garden city over the weekend of 19th – 20th May 2012.

Artisan Food Trail producers confirmed as taking part are:

Cardona & Son
A small and family run producer of the loveliest and tastiest rare breed pork - on menus in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire pubs.

Breckland Orchard
Award winning ‘Posh Pop’. Produced with passion and available throughout the UK.

Award winning food from Norfolk smallholding.
Gary Rhodes said their rare breed sausages were the best he's ever tasted and Giles Coren gave their pork pies 10/10.

Edible Ornamentals
Situated in Chawston, Bedfordshire where market gardens are abundant and growing delicious vegetables is simply a way of life. Passionate, slightly obsessive chilli growers.

To find out more about the festival please refer to our May event listings page here

The Essex Food Show: 12th – 13th May 2012

This year The Essex Food Shows are moving to the exciting new venue of Crowne Plaza Resort Colchester, Five Lakes.

The Crowne Plaza Resort Colchester, Five Lakes is a much bigger venue, providing more space for exhibitors, hard parking for over 900 cars, plus the benefit of all the superb on-site restaurants, bars and leisure facilities of the resort.

This year's events will, as usual, be promoting a superb range of food, drinks, and kitchen accessories in the specialised event arena, with lots of quality caterers as well as the ever popular range of garden plants and furniture. All of the indoor stalls will be sited in the huge exhibition arena, while outside stalls will be sited adjacent to the arena within an attractive grassed area.

All the popular regular exhibitors will be there along with many new producers. The Essex Food Show have made a special effort to showcase as many high quality local producers as possible, with the majority of the producers having a 'taste before you buy' policy.

Among the exhibitors taking part you will find the following 
Artisan Food Trail members:

Award winning food from Norfolk smallholding. 
Gary Rhodes said their rare breed sausages were the best he's ever tasted and Giles Coren gave their pork pies 10/10.

The Artisan Smokehouse
A small family run and owned smokehouse on the Suffolk coast producing award-winning smoked food, made in small quantities to ensure quality and freshness!

This is a great opportunity to check out a vast range of really good food and drink not usually available in your local supermarket. Rare breed meat producers, game, speciality sausages, smoked foods, fresh fruit and vegetables, pickles, preserves and sauces, cakes, chocolates, locally brewed beers and cider, plus a wide selection of wines, spirits and lots, lots more.

For more information about the event visit the website: www.theessexfoodshow.co.uk

8 May 2012

Website is given a brand new look for The Artisan Smokehouse

Finally we can announce that The Artisan Smokehouse has given their website a make-over.
The site redesign is clearly set out enabling an easy online purchasing experience. There are sections for various food categories including The Artisan Smokehouse's popular range of hampers.

As well as telling their story, the owners, Tim and Gillian Matthews keep you informed of their latest news and forthcoming events they'll be attending. To help you to be more adventurous when consuming their smoked products, simple yet mouth-watering recipes will keep you coming back for more.

Take a look around the new website and maybe be tempted to buy something too.

You can also find out more about The Artisan Smokehouse on The Artisan Food Trail here