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Lincolnshire’s Rural Cuisine

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Lincolnshire, one of England’s largest counties, lacks the affluence of some of the country’s main industrial heartlands, and the tourism industries of Devon, Cornwall, and Norfolk, but it is one of our most typically English regions, with a great culinary legacy.

Lincolnshire stretches from the North Sea coast to the Wash, from the Humber estuary to the Wash. Lincoln Edge, a limestone ridge in the west of the county where the city of Lincoln is located, and the Wolds, a region of chalk hills, are the two primary upland areas in the county. The Lincoln Marshes, which stretch all the way to the Fens, have famously been the site of land reclamation and draining since the Roman era.

The region’s dry upland slopes provided good habitation grounds in prehistoric times, and the county had a healthy population long before the Romans arrived, including a prehistoric salt industry on the shore of the territory.  When the Romans invaded England, they constructed extensively in the area, including Ermine Street, which is famous as one of England’s main traditional roads. The road followed the line of Lincoln Edge and connected to another Roman roadway, Fosse Way, in the vital strategic county capital of Lincoln.

Following the Romans’ withdrawal, Lincolnshire remained a significant territory. The realm of Lindsey was founded by the Anglo-Saxons, and there was afterwards a major Danish influence. The Danes effectively created two of the county’s contemporary boroughs, Lincoln and Stamford, as well as other villages, and left their mark on the area in many ways.

During the Middle Ages, Lincolnshire’s numerous abbeys, cathedrals, and monasteries underlined the county’s prosperity, which was derived from both the lucrative trade in wool and the expansion of agriculture. It was this agricultural heritage, expanded by the ongoing drainage of the fens, that enabled Lincolnshire to prosper despite being located outside the main transport network during the transformative years of the Industrial Revolution.

At that time, the county focused on its agricultural and processing industries and that proved to be a successful strategy. Indeed, to this date, Lincolnshire remains one of England’s leading agricultural areas. The county produces as much as a fifth of England’s sugar beet, more than 10% of its potato crop and almost a third of our most popular field vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, peas, broccoli, kale and onions.

Modern Lincolnshire is known for its fresh vegetables, farmers’ markets, food festivals, and farm stores, and the county’s rich and varied culinary traditions have resulted in some delectable and memorable food products. Here are some of the popular foods most closely associated with the county. ere Here i

The Lincolnshire Sausage

The Lincolnshire sausage, arguably the most renowned food product to come out of Lincoln, is a distinctive local delicacy cooked with the herb sage, which gives it a more delicate and aromatic flavour than many other regional English sausages.

Lincolnshire Sausages are great for breakfast or a sausage sandwich, but their substantial meat content also works well in casseroles and bolognaise sauces. Lincolnshire sausages are more flavourful than regular sausages and are best cooked in an oven rather than fried in a pan.

Lincolnshire Poacher Cheese

Another local speciality is the Lincolnshire Poacher, an unusual cheese made by a single cheesemaker near Alford. It’s a firm cheese that resembles a normal West Country Cheddar in texture and flavour, but with additional sweetness and overtones of nuts and fruits.

Poacher is now available in mature and smoked varieties, and it is still a popular choice for dinner tables around the county. In the county seat of Lincoln, there is even a specialised cheese society shop and café that serves a variety of Lincolnshire Poacher cuisine

Yellowbelly Cheese

Yellowbelly is one of Lincolnshire’s most distinctive food products and it has many similarities to the famed Edam made in the Netherlands. In this case, however, the usual red Edam wax covering is substituted with a bright yellow. This mild cheese has a delicate tang, and the ageing process within the yellow wax results in a delicious and subtle flavour that is widely popular. 

Stuffed Chine

This is an eye-catching dish that is created from the cured neck chine cut of pork that has been stuffed with parsley and other herbs. Herbs including lettuce leaves, nettles, marjoram, thyme, sage, and blackcurrant leaves have all been used to fill the meat and the precise combination varies.

After stuffing,  the dish is boiled or steamed before being served cold. The recipe produces alternate stripes of pork and bright green parsley when cut by hand, providing a memorable and attractive spectacle when served at dinner. 

Making this meal is a true labour of love, as it can take up to five weeks to produce. Rare breed pigs, like Gloucester Old Spot and British Lop, have traditionally been used to make this meal as their shape and fat composition makes them ideal.

Haslet

Haslet is a type of pork meatloaf originally cooked using stale white bread and ground pork, as well as sage, salt, and black pepper. It has long been a Lincolnshire specialty, made by hand slapping the batter until the air is eliminated, then shaping the finished product into ovals and baking till the exterior has caramelised. Designed to be eaten cold and sliced, it’s also delicious as part of an omelette or a sandwich, and it’s a great addition to a picnic when served cold with salad and pickles.

Plumbread

Plum bread is a traditional breakfast or teatime dish from Lincolnshire. Although it is technically a bread, it incorporates dried fruit or raisins, and some variations of the recipe exclude yeast, making it closer to a cake. This delicacy may be found at coffee shops and tea rooms all around the county, and it can also be purchased in shops and farmers markets. It’s traditionally served sliced into thick slices with butter and a slab of Lincolnshire Poacher Cheese on top, but it also goes well with jams and chutneys, and it’s a great addition to a bread pudding.

Lincolnshire Samphire

The salt marshes bordering The Wash have long been harvested for this brilliant green sea vegetable, commonly known as ‘Poor Man’s Asparagus’. It has a crisp texture and a marine flavour and is something of a delicacy, which is best prepared by cooking for a few minutes over boiling water and then serving with melted butter.

Grantham Gingerbread Biscuits

The town of Grantham is famous for its delicious gingerbread biscuits, which have been around since the 1740s. In that decade, William Egglestone maintained a coaching house in the town, which served as a rest and meal stop for travellers.

According to legend, Egglestone was making hard biscuits one day when the ingredients got jumbled up. As a consequence, he produced an unusual biscuit that was so popular that he kept making them. Grantham gingerbread has a peculiar light colour and texture, producing a buttery rusk with a hollow centre, somewhat like honeycomb, and a delectable flavour.

An Island Within an Island: The Taste of the Isle of Wight

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While England is itself part of an island nation, there are numerous smaller islands around the coasts of the British Isles and one of the most notable is the Isle of Wight.

This is among the most immediately recognisable parts of England. It is separated from the mainland by the stretch of sea known as the Solent, and is a distinctively shaped island off the south coast that is roughly 20 miles across. Wight is a popular tourist destination and features a remarkable range of landscape and scenery, ranging from the chalk ridges that make up the backbone of the island to the oak forest of the north. There are also some pleasant river landscapes created by the rivers Yar and Medina that run through the island.

Wight has long been an important settlement in English history. There is plenty of evidence of settler activity on the island during the Early Bronze Age, and it later formed an important part of the Roman territory of Britain when the Emperor Vespasian occupied it in 43 AD. Following the departure of the Romans, the island became part of the Saxon kingdom of Wessex before being occupied by the Danes. It also earned a place in the history books as the site of the imprisonment of King Charles I at the end of the English Civil Wars, and was later the site of a holiday residence of Queen Victoria.

The English climate, while temperate, is often harsh and damp, but the Isle of Wight boasts a mild climate, which has helped it to attract visitors from around the UK. Newport, at the head of the estuary of the Medina, is the capital of the island, but it is arguably the port of Cowes that has a greater claim to fame as it is the island’s main sea faring town and a globally renowned yachting centre.

Wight features many holiday resorts, including the towns of Freshwater, Yarmouth, Ryde, Sandown-Shanklin and Ventnor, and the local economy has diversified over the last hundred years to include aerospace, marine engineering, arable crop farming and various forms of light industry. And, as you might expect, the island’s rich maritime history and it’s geographical separation from the mainland has led to the development of a distinctive culinary tradition.

Crab pasty

Not surprisingly, sea food has played an important part in the cuisine of the Isle of Wight for centuries, but the crab pasty is a tasty dish with a more recent backstory. It was created by a crab fisherman called Jim Wheeler who came up with the idea as a way of incorporating one of the island’s most famous foods into a light and easily transportable picnic meal. The pasty is formed from the best Wight crab meat that is contained inside a light and flaky puff pastry with the result being a delicious and filling lunch food that is perfect for a day at the beach or exploring the countryside.

Black garlic 

Black garlic is one of the island’s most famous food exports. It is produced through the method of cooking garlic bulbs for prolonged periods at low temperatures, which leads to a jet black, sweet and syrupy ingredient with hints of tamarind and balsamic vinegar. Black garlic is often served as a savoury accompaniment but is versatile enough to be part of an ice cream sundae. Black garlic ice cream layered together with chocolate brownie and chocolate sauce is a distinctive but memorable dessert that is popular on the island and with tourists.  

Gallybagger cheese souffle

Twice-baked cheese souffle is a delicacy highly regarded by many food connoisseurs and the Isle of Wight version is a particularly tasty take on the twice baked souffle, made with the local cheese. Gallybagger is a cheese that is quite similar to cheddar and is aged for up to five months on wooden shelves, which helps to create the rind and the distinctive flavour of the cheese. The Royal Hotel at Ventnor is particularly well known for serving delicious Gallybagger souffles with a white onion puree, which should be high on anyone’s list of local delicacies.

Isle of Wight tomatoes

In contrast to most of the rest of England, the Isle of Wight enjoys plenty of sunlight and this makes it the perfect climate in which to grow tomatoes. In fact, tomatoes from the island have a reputation for their rich flavour and the Arreton Valley is known for its many greenhouses featuring row after row with hundreds of tomato plants laden with their crop. You can find many varieties of tomato on Wight, along with some popular dishes, such as yellow gazpacho, which is served with coriander oil.  

Honeycomb doughnuts

Another local tradition is beekeeping and much of the honey made on the island is produced on a small scale not very far removed from the methods of the original bee-keeping monks who lived in the island’s monasteries. Honeycomb is a well known and classic seaside treat, but the dessert makers of Wight have transformed it into an even more indulgent food in the form of honeycomb doughnuts. These are extremely light in texture and feature crunchy local honeycomb as well as a salted honeycomb cream filling, which goes down very well with tourists and locals alike.

Asparagus

The island offers ideal growing conditions for a number of crops, including asparagus, and Wight produces some of the first asparagus to appear in the UK each year, much of it grown in the Arreton Valley. Asparagus is popular throughout the island, thanks to its flavour and low calorie count, and it forms part of the traditional local breakfast, along with toasted local bread and a poached egg. You will find many cafes and restaurants serving asparagus across the island and genuine Wight asparagus should definitely be high on your list of foods to sample.

Beef and Ale Pie

The beef and ale pie is a classic pub dish enjoyed throughout England, and Wight is no exception, with numerous contenders for the crown of the best beef and ale pie on the islands. One of the most renowned local examples is the Taverners Pub in Godshill which is renowned for its pies. They are made using flaky suet pastry and tender local shin of beef that is first braised in house beer and then served up with homemade chips, making the perfect comfort dish.

New potatoes 

The Isle of White has long been known as a major producer of new potatoes, as the warm dry climate allows an earlier start to the growing and harvesting seasons than on the mainland. New potatoes from Wight make an ideal accompaniment to many dishes, either hot or cold, but they tasty enough to be served simply, with a little mint and butter.

Rock samphire 

The island has long been the location for a thriving trade in rock samphire, and during the 19th century, rock samphire was shipped in bulk, contained in casks of seawater from Wight to London, around the end of May. Not to be confused with the more commonly available Marsh Samphire, the Rock Samphire is a coastal grass that provides a hot and spicy flavour, making it an ideal partner for seafood dishes.

The Taste of Leicestershire

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The county of Leicestershire has long been one of the most important parts of England, lying at the heart of the East Midlands region, where cultural influences from the Saxons and the Danes to the Celts and the Romans have mingled.  

The most populated part of Leicestershire is the valley of the River Soar, which cuts north across the county before joining the River Trent. But there is also a significant upland area to the east of the Soar valley, which gives rise to some spectacular views and scenic settings.

To the west you can find the beautiful Charnwood Forest, where some of Britain’s oldest rock formations are exposed, while the forest also borders on the famous Leicestershire coalfield, which was the site of some of the earliest developments in canal and rail transport that helped to fuel the Industrial Revolution, though the mining industry in this part of the world declined in the second half of the last century and was more or less exhausted by the 1980s.

There is considerable evidence, particularly from the Charnwood Forest area, showing that the county was inhabited for many centuries long before the arrival of the Celts. The area was later settled by the Romans, and the county capital of Leicester lies on the remains of a key Roman settlement.

The region was invaded by the Angles in the 6th century, and then became part of the Kingdom of Mercia until the arrival of the Danes, who settled the area and merged with the Anglo-Saxon population. Later the area was under the control of Norman nobles and various religious orders and in 1485 the county was the scene of one of the most important battles in English history, the Battle of Bosworth, that ended the Plantagenet era and saw the rise of the Tudors.

Leicestershire has mainly been associated with agriculture, and with pastoral and livestock production in particular. It has produced a variety of industries, but hosiery has always been of special importance. Framework knitting was introduced to the county in the 1640s, while in the Soar valley, which includes the towns of Leicester and Loughborough, both engineering and the manufacture of machinery have long been important sources of employment and wealth.

This combination of industries and the underlying rural nature of the county have bestowed Leicestershire with an abundance of popular and tasty local foods.

Melton Mowbray Pork Pies

If there is one dish that the county is best known for, it is the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie. One of the most famous food products in England, only pies that have been made within a designated location in or near the Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray can carry the official name. Another requirement is that Melton Mowbray Pork Pies have to be made using uncured pork. If you’re wondering what the fuss is all about, try a genuine Melton Mowbray pie. They are made with a hand-formed crust and feature a much higher meat content than the typical pork pie you might find in a supermarket .

Red Leicester

The main rival to the Melton Mowbray pork pie for distinctive Leicestershire product comes from the region’s most famous cheese product. Originally known as The Leicestershire Cheese, the name was altered to help people distinguish this food from the less popular White Leicester.

Its distinctive red colour came about thanks to the addition of vegetable dyes to the milk that was used to make the cheese in the 1700s, which helped it to stand out from the cheeses of surrounding counties. As with the county’s pork pies, true Red Leicester is a completely different product to the bland cheeses of that name found in some of the nation’s supermarkets.

Stilton

As well as Red Leicester, the county also has a reputation for producing some of the most delicious Stiltons in England. In fact, Leicester has the honour of being one of only three counties officially allowed to produce this distinctive and famous cheese. This striking blue cheese is best enjoyed paired with crisp flavours such as pear or celery, but it is also delicious when crumbled into soup. And if you don’t fancy the original version, you can also find a white version of Stilton that is sometimes made with various fruits to produce tangy and delicious combinations.

Red Windsor

Red Windsor cheese is another traditional English product, produced by the Long Clawson dairy in the Vale of Belvoir. Essentially a cheddar cheese, it is produced from cow’s milk but is then laced with either a red wine from Bordeaux or with a combination of port and brandy. The result is a visually striking marbled look, in addition to a lovely blend of flavours, with the richness of the fortified wine combining with the smooth creaminess of the cheese. Possessing a natural rind, Red Windsor has a firm and crumbly texture and is delicious when eaten with grapes and port.  

Sloe Gin

If you’re looking for something local to wash down your cheese or pork pie, then a glass of Leicestershire Sloe Gin could be just the thing. The drink is made from the wild fruits that grow naturally throughout local hedgerows and is left to infuse for several months. Some of the most popular Sloe Gin is turned out by  Two Birds in the town of Market Harborough. All of this producers’ spirits are made in small batches of 100 bottes and they offer a rich and refreshing tipple.  

Huntsman

Another distinctive Leicestershire cheese that deserves a mention is the Huntsman. Made by Long Clawson Dairy, it is produced from two pasteurised cow’s milk cheeses: Double Gloucester and Stilton. The cheese itself is built like a layer cake with layers of Stilton complemented by Double Gloucester. The finished cheese looks hugely impressive on a cheeseboard and the contrasting textures and tastes create a delicious blend. Huntsman is dense yet creamy, with a sharp and salty edge and a dash of nuttiness. It makes for a versatile cheese that can either be sliced or added to salads, melted on hamburgers or steaks, or simply eaten with bread and grapes as a snack.

The Melton Cheeseboard

If you’re looking for a starting point in exploring the many fascinating cheeses of Leicestershire, the Melton Cheeseboard, a small shop in the heart of Melton Mowbray, is a good option.

The shop showcases over 150 varieties of cheese, including many local options, such as Stiltons from Long Clawson and Cropwell Bishop, Lincolnshire Poacher, Cote Hill Blue and many more. You will also find varieties from further afield including Bath Soft Cheese, Cornish Yarg, Five Mile Town Goats’ Cheese and Ribblesdale Superior.

The shop also stocks a healthy selection of Hambleton Bakery bread, award-winning pork pies from Leeson’s of Oakham, cured meats from Melton Charcuterie, gins from Burleighs Distillery, and yoghurt from Manor Farm of Thrussington. It is the perfect doorway onto the world of Leicestershire cuisine and well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Wander through the Food Garden of England

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Kent has long been one of the most significant regions of England, and has played a major role in English history, agriculture and our food and drink.

The name of the county comes from the ancient Celtic tribe who once occupied the region from the River Thames down to the south coast. Their lands at one time included all of modern Kent along with parts of Surrey, Sussex and even London. To the Romans this tribe was the Cantii or Cantiaci.

Following the departure of the Romans, the county became one of the first to be settled by a new wave of invaders from Germany. The Angles occupied the west of the modern county, and the Jutes claimed the land to the east of the Medway. Kent was also later regarded as a key county by the Normans and they built a variety of castles and other buildings in the years after the Battle of Hastings. Kent was also considered an area of religious significance and the county featured two of the most famous cathedrals in England: Canterbury and Rochester.

Though a bustling centre of military, religious and trade activity, Kent has remained a remarkably beautiful county with an impressive diversity of scenery. In fact, thanks to its strong farming heritage, it has earned the title of Garden of England. It includes coastlines teeming with fish and oysters as well as hop farms, orchards and woods.

Thanks to its mild climate and minimal precipitation during the key growing seasons, Kent was long regarded as the ideal location for the introduction into England of Mediterranean and South American fruits, which first arrived in England during the 1600s. Some of the most popular fruits to flourish from this period were the Kentish Red and Morello Cherry, which were enthusiastically enjoyed by wealthy homes as a rich accompaniment to white meats such as duck and turkey. Kent was also at the forefront of the rise in popularity in fruity jams, some of which earned royal approval.

That farming tradition is still going strong. In fact, the county of Kent has been estimated to supply as much as 40% of England’s organic fruit and vegetables, as well as a large proportion of the hops that fuel microbreweries in Kent and throughout the country.

Cider making also continues to thrive in the county of Kent, and the region provides homegrown apples and pears to supermarkets and other providers throughout the country. And although it is sometimes overshadowed by the success of Kentish beer and cider, the county has a proud tradition of desserts, due in part to the combination of flourishing grain and fruit farms. Kentish food is both rich and homely and has given us some memorable English dishes:

Canterbury Tart

The Canterbury Tart is a fulfilment of the produce of the flourishing orchards of Kent. It is a delicious apple tart made using grated apple and lemon filling, which is then further decorated with sliced apples. The tart has remained popular to this day, although its origins may date back as far as the fourteenth century, as it is said that the recipe for the Canterbury Tart was first written down by Geoffrey Chaucer, the famous author of the Canterbury Tales.

Whitstable Dredgerman’s Breakfast

Whitstable, on the north coast of Kent is home to a thriving fishing community, and has given rise to one of Kent’s most distinctive dishes. The seas off Whitstable were farmed by dredgermen, but the work was known to be tough, and to help them cope with the demands of their job, they often enjoyed a breakfast rich in protein, hence the Whitstable Dredgerman’s Breakfast.

This is a hearty and delicious combination of bacon and succulent local oysters served with thick bread. The oysters were caught locally, as they were a huge part of the Whitstable economy. In fact, these much sought after shellfish can only be found in the seas off this coastal town, and have been highly regarded ever since the Romans first began to harvest them. The Whitstable Oyster Company has been selling oysters since the 1400s, while every year, the Whitstable Oyster Festival is a colourful and memorable celebration enjoyed by locals.

Folkestone Pudding Pie

A good example of the rich tradition of desserts from Kent, the Folkestone Pudding Pie is a hearty and delicious pudding. It is also sometimes called Kentish Pudding Pie or Kent Lent Pie and there is room for plenty of variation in the way that it is made, but the essence of the pie usually remains the same. First a pie crust is used as the base for a rice pudding filling, then sultanas, currants, spices and lemon zest added to the filling and used as a topping for extra flavour.  

Kentish Rarebit 

As mentioned above, Kent is famous for its apple production and at one time, orchards covered vast swathes of the county, supplying huge quantities of the fruit to London and wider throughout England every year. To this day, the apple growing industry continues to thrive, and it makes a contribution to one of Kent’s most distinctive foods.

Kentish Rarebit is a version of Welsh Rarebit, that at one time was enjoyed by the fruit pickers who worked in the Kentish orchards. It is made using a mixture of melted cheese and sliced apple, which is then spread on bread and grilled. For an even more distinctively Kentish taste experience, Kentish Rarebit can be made with a Kentish Huffkin (see below).  

Kentish cherry batter pudding

Another tasty dessert-time treat, the Cherry Batter Pudding has something in common with the well known French dessert, cherry clafoutis. The traditional Kentish Cherry Batter Pudding is made through the addition of cherries to a thick batter that leads to a dessert with a texture almost reminiscent of the Yorkshire pudding. This dessert has its origins in the abundance of cherries that resulted from the activity of tens of thousands of acres of cherry orchards created in the county at the order of King Henry VIII. There are fewer cherry orchards in Kent these days, but this delightful dessert is a tasty legacy of the heyday of the Kent cherry.

Ginger cobnut cake

Cobnuts are a distinctive cultivated version of the hazelnut and at one time they were extremely popular throughout the county. In fact, in 1913 it was estimated that there were more than 7,000 acres of cobnut orchards throughout the county. This recipe is one of the tastiest uses of the cobnut. It is a crumbly-textured dessert, with a nutty flavour that features roasted cobnuts, which helps to bring out their distinctive taste. A blast of ginger contributes both warmth and spice to this lovely dish.  

Huffkins

Every region of England has its version of the humble read roll and Kent is no exception! Huffkins are soft rolls that are traditionally pressed with holes in their centre before the dough is cooked. The Huffkin slow-rise dough features a small amount of lard which helps to produce a fluffy crumb and a golden crust to the roll, which is traditionally wrapped in a cloth after baking to make sure that it doesn’t harden. Huffkins were sometimes eaten for tea with pitted cherries pressed into the hole and remain popular in Kent to this day.

Strawberries 

Kentish strawberries are famous for being some of the best in England, as the fertile soil and temperate climate make for perfect growing conditions. One of the main producers of strawberries, the Hugh Lowe Farms in Mereworth, Kent, have been supplying strawberries to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships for more than 25 years: a competition that coincides with strawberry season and leads to around 35,000 kg of the fruit being consumed every year.

Biddenden Cakes

Biddenden is a village in Kent that is perhaps best known as the home of Eliza and Mary Chulkhurst, the conjoined twins who lived there for 34 years during the early 1100s. When they died, they left land known as the Bread and Cheese Lands, as a way to support the poor. The generosity of the Chulkhurst sisters is remembered in several ways, including the traditional Biddenden Cakes. These are hard biscuits that are made from flour and water in a mould that depicts the two sisters. Traditionally Biddenden Cakes are given to the poor in the area during Easter.

Foods from a Scholarly County

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Cambridgeshire, the home of the famous Cambridge University, has traditionally been considered part of the bigger region of East Anglia, an area of the country that has always been a strong rural storehouse, and a major source of much of the agricultural and other food produce that has sustained England through war and peace over the centuries.

The county was originally defined mainly by the arm of the North Sea that is today known as The Wash. At one time this extended much farther inland than it does currently and it regularly flooded, leaving deposits of silt, peat and clay, which ultimately helped eventually to form the rich and fertile soils that served farmers in the region so well.

The current county of Cambridgeshire includes much of the area of this old inlet, though most of the original Wash has long been drained and reclaimed, forming the flat area known as the Fens, which is dotted with low ridges that were once islands.

One of these islands, the Isle of Ely, was one of the most famous locations in English history, forming the safe hideout of a rebellious English army led by Hereward the Wake, which stood against the invading Norman king William the Conqueror, in the years after the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Cambridgeshire is also partly defined by two major waterways, the Ouse and the Nene, along with a tributary of the Ouse, the Cam. A long process of redirection and embankment at the river basins helped to create even more fertile agricultural land, with cereal crops thriving on the chalky ridges in the east of the county, while vegetables have long grown well in the Fens and the slopes of the various former islands provide ideal locations for fruit growing.

Although the county is known for its agricultural heritage, it does have a manufacturing centre at Peterborough, which expanded a great deal in the second half of the 1900s, thanks to an explosion in population and the development of engineering and light industry. And of course, the city of Cambridge has long been associated with its famous University, which is regarded as one of the world’s foremost centres of education and scholarship.

The land reclamation process in the area actually began as long ago as Roman times, when the invaders first settled in the Cam valley. The region later became the ground on which the Anglo Saxons and the Danes fought for control of England.

The county became notable in the Middle Ages, with the founding of the University of Cambridge, which made the city one of England’s most important intellectual centres, and at the same time, the drainage of the Fens continued to produce new areas of land for cultivation, a process that continued until the mid 1600s. The county also became known for its many architectural achievements, including the impressive cathedral at Ely and the many university buildings in Cambridge.

Above all, however, Cambridgeshire remains a firmly rural location. It lies at the heart of the East Anglian region, which produces the bulk of England’s cereal and vegetable crops, accounting for more than 5,700 million loaves of bread and 2.5 million pints of beer every year!

Not surprisingly, there is a corresponding strong tradition of distinctive Cambridgeshire produce, which is celebrated at numerous farmers markets and festivals, including the Cambridge Beer Festival and the Strawberry Fair of early June. Here is a special selection of some of the foods and produce that have helped to define Cambridgeshire’s culinary reputation.  

Fenland Celery

Celery is widely eaten throughout England vegetable, and Cambridgeshire is known for producing more than its share of this familiar crop, although it is also grown in Suffolk and Norfolk. It is still grown and harvested in the traditional manner, and the crop form this part of the country is considered to be the finest in England, due to the unique Fenland soil structure and the method of growing, which ensures that much of the flavour-packed root is retained. Fenland celery is available from October to December, and is a tasty and versatile vegetable, working well in soups, salads or even drinks.

Cambridge Cheese Company

Cambridgeshire is home to many thriving artisanal food companies and one of the best known is the Cambridge Cheese Company. Set up in 1994, their shop can be found amid the famous old buildings of Cambridge and is full of a selection of the very best of cheeses, with over 200 varieties in stock. For foodies looking for an expertly curated selection of the very best cheeses, all drawn from sustainable and environmentally friendly producers, this is the ideal place to start.

Cambridge College Pudding

Sometimes known simply as College Pudding, this tasty English dessert is traditionally considered to be the first pudding in England to be made by boiled in a cloth. Packed with currants, raisins and candied orange peel, it has long been associated with Cambridge University and has been served up to students at the University since 1617.

Originally, this was a steamed suet pudding of dried fruit, dates, milk, eggs, spice, flour and breadcrumbs that was made in two rounds, which were then sealed together with butter, wrapped in cloth and baked or steamed before being served with a wine sauce. Over the centuries, the recipe has been altered with less spice involved and by the Victorian era, the puddings were usually being baked in ovens instead of being steamed in a pudding cloth.

Cambridge Burnt Cream

Essentially an English variation on the popular crème brulee, this Cambridgeshire classic is believed to have come from Trinity College, part of Cambridge University. It is made by baking a rich vanilla custard which is topped with sugar and burnt until crisp. We can’t be sure when this dish was created, but at some point during the 1800s, it became linked with Trinity College and began to appear in recipe books as ‘Cambridge burnt cream’ or ‘Trinity cream’. To this day the kitchens at Trinity still serve up a rich version of this dessert, which is perfect on a cold winter’s night.

Cambridge Cheese

This is a traditional cheese that is hard to find these days, but is still being made at home by enthusiasts and small producers. It was traditionally made inside a rectangle-shaped mould, roughly the size of a house brick, which was then stood on straw mats, which were woven from harvest straw. Commercial production of the cheese, which has a lovely soft, fresh taste, was hit by restrictions imposed during the Second World War, and it has not recovered commercially, but this is an old English cheese that is long overdue a revival.

Coolship Sour Ale

The extensive cereal farming, particularly in the eastern regions of the county, has given rise to a long established beer industry in Cambridgeshire and today there are numerous breweries continuing the tradition, including Elgood’s Brewery. This brewer operates from the North Brink Brewery in Wisbech, that was built in 1795 and they employ a process and range of equipment dating back to the early 1900s, producing a traditionally flavoursome range of beers.

There is something for every type of beer drinker in the Elgood collection, but one of their most interesting products is the Coolship range. The range consists of three varieties are in the Lambic style, making Elgood one of only a handful of breweries able to produce this form of beer. The beer is cooled in open trays which are known as coolship trays, which enables the growth of wild yeasts and flavours, after which, it is allowed to undergo spontaneous fermentation for up to nine months in special tanks, producing a distinctive sour English beer that is definitely worth checking out.

Cambridgeshire Gummburner

This extra-mature Cheddar-style artisan cheese is produced using unpasteurised cows milk from Holstein cows and actually starts life in Lincolnshire. A traditional Lincolnshire Poacher cheese is barrel aged for an initial period of between two and three years, and is then taken across the border to Cambridgeshire, where it is matured for another two years, adding extra bite and flavour. It is one of the many cheeses sold by the Cambridge Cheese Company (see above).

Cider, Cheeses and Sausages: Enjoy the Cuisine of Gloucestershire

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Many of England’s oldest counties combine a centuries old rural tradition with being an integral par of the nation’s history, and Gloucestershire is a good example.

One of England’s best known counties, lying at the border between England and Wales, Gloucestershire has always been an important location and that importance has been further enhanced by the fact that one of the country’s most significant ports, Bristol, has historically, always been located in the county.

The River Severn, one of England’s most significant waterways, dominates the county, dividing it from north to south. It enters the county from neighbouring Worcestershire and then passes through the low-lying Vale of Gloucester, shaping the local environment. To the west of the river is the Forest of Dean, while the eastern edge of the vale leads to the picturesque Cotswolds, which is home to some of England’s most idyllic villages.

The historical significance of Gloucestershire goes back to the Stone Age, and there is plenty of evidence across the county to indicate prehistoric activity, most notably the widespread and much studied burial mounds. At the time of the Roman occupation of Britain, both Cirencester and Gloucester were significant towns and there was an array of villas and military camps in the area. Following the departure of the Romans, Gloucestershire was conquered by the Saxon Hwicca tribe, who forced out the Britons, and then became part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

The county endured a significantly troubled history throughout the middle ages and into the 17th century. During wartime, Gloucestershire was a key crossroads for campaigns in the south of England and into Wales, and it was the scene of many battles for the English crown and against the Welsh, as indicated by the many major Norman castles in the region, including Berkeley, Bristol and Gloucester. Later, it was a key area during the English Civil War, as both sides fought to occupy Bristol.

Economically, the county had a strong woollen textile industry from the mid-14th right up to the late 18th century, while at the same time Bristol prospered as both a cloth-weaving centre and a major port. There was also some ironworking and coal mining in the Forest of Dean during the Industrial Revolution, although the last of these minds was closed in 1965.

But agriculture has long been the most important economic activity in the county, although the traditional Cotswolds’ sheep farming industry has declined and has in many places been replaced by arable and cattle farming, while in the north east of Gloucestershire, there are also considerable holdings of fruit orchards. Gloucester and Cheltenham represent significant areas of employment, and Bristol remains a major city, though it is no longer included in the geographical county of Gloucestershire in modern maps.

The combination of arable, sheep and cattle farming with fruit processing, as well as the access to the world via a thriving sea trade and the River Severn has produced a distinctive Gloucestershire cuisine, which has something for everyone!

Gloucestershire Perry and Cider

Perry is a distinctively English drink, and is made by fermenting the juice of pressed, local perry pears although a proportion of cider apple juice can also be used. Cider is also a traditional English drink and a local speciality. Gloucestershire ciders offer an impressive range of tastes ranging from sweet and medium sweet to dry and bitter. Perries, by contrast, tend to have a soft, almost floral taste, and are usually much paler. Local cider and perry is made only from locally grown fruit, and along with Herefordshire and Worcestershire, the county is one of England’s biggest apple and pear growers.

Winstones Ice Cream

Based on the edge of a beautiful area of National Trust common land, which is dominated by green pastures, Winstones Ice Cream is the family business of the Winstone family who have been making high quality artisan ice cream in Gloucestershire since 1925.

The Winstones’ operation is now being run by its fourth generation and still produces luxury dairy ice cream handcrafted from only the best local double cream and milk. With the focus firmly on quality, their ice cream is produced in small batches and features a fascinating range of flavours from salted caramel and mint choc chip to Union Jack (blue candyfloss, vanilla and raspberry)

Traditionally Farmed Gloucestershire Old Spot Pork

The Old Spot pig has long been associated with Gloucestershire, and the pork produced from this county is reputedly among the best in the world, thanks to its higher tenderness, increased juiciness and strong flavour. It is sold throughout Gloucestershire and beyond in a variety of cuts ranging from legs and chops to shoulders and sausages, and traditionally farmed Old Spot is born and reared only in natural and organic environments, which also positively influences the flavour.

Double Gloucester

Double Gloucester is the county’s most famous product. It is a globally famous cheese that is produced with full fat cow’s milk made from the cream from one night’s milking and from the following day’s milking. This may be the reason behind the name, although Double Gloucester cheeses are also traditionally twice the height of Single Gloucester cheeses, which may be an alternative explanation.

The texture of this cheese is delightfully buttery and smooth when young, but it is usually aged for at least four months, and over that time, the rind and texture become very hard. This is what enables locals to use rounds of the cheese in the famous Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling event! Double Gloucester is a remarkably tasty cheese, producing a rich and nutty flavour and is coloured with annatto extract to produce that famous colour.

Severn and Wye Smoked Salmon

Severn and Wye Smokery has been run by the Cook family for over 40 years and supplies high quality seafood produced using traditional techniques. The company works with the RSPCA, the Marine Stewardship Council and a range of organic certifiers to ensure that their fish is sourced responsibly. They have also made impressive efforts to increase sustainability, by cutting out the need to use fossil fuels, and installing wastewater purifiers and biomass boilers. Their range of smoked seafood is extremely highly regarded, particularly their delicious smoked salmon.

Cerney Pyramid

This cheese is not as famous as Double Gloucester, but Cerney Pyramid is a delightful modern English product that deserves attention. Created in the Cotswolds, the cheese is roughly similar to Valencay and is shaped into a pyramid, which is then coated with oak ash and sea salt. Made with  raw goat’s milk, Cerney Pyramid can be eaten after one or two weeks, and it provides a fresh flavour and a mild, creamy texture that develops beautifully with age.

Hereford Hop

Despite the name, Hereford Hop is actually made in Dymock in Gloucestershire. It was first made in the late 1980s by Charles Martell and is an unusual cheese produced from either raw or pasteurized cow’s milk and then rolled in toasted hops. The resulting texture is firm and creamy, and it has a strong, yeasty scent, as well as a slightly bitter aftertaste due to the hops, making it a delightful pairing with a glass of ale and some rustic bread.


Stinking Bishop 

This soft, pungent cheese dates back to 1972 and is made from the milk of the rare Gloucester breed of cow, although it is sometimes combined with the milk from Friesian cattle. The cheese rind is  washed with perry made from Stinking Bishop pears, which gives the cheese its strong smell and distinctive brown or pinkish colour. The cheese has a smooth and creamy texture with very strong aromas and memorable flavours. It is perfect for spreading on crackers and enjoyed a moment of global fame in 2005 when it was featured in the movie The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.


Gloucestershire Squab Pie

Many old English food traditions are based around using scraps of food to make filling meals and Gloucestershire Squab Pie is a perfect example. The county has long been associated with sheep farming, and woollen merchants paid for the building of many of Gloucestershire’s beautiful churches, so both lamb and mutton were a common source of meat in the county. In an effort to maximise the longevity of the sustenance, locals created this delicious recipe that involves using mutton or lamb leftovers and combining them with onions, potatoes, swedes and apples in a pastry case.

The Curious Foods of Buckinghamshire

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The south of England is sometimes regarded as an undifferentiated mass of quaint villages, wealthy landowners and heritage sites.

Yet each of the counties in this part of the world has its own culture, history and character, and Buckinghamshire is no expection. Bordering on seven other counties, it has connections with all of them and boasts some spectacular scenery, thanks to the River Thames and the chalky uplands of the Chiltern Hills. A largely rural county until the early 20th century, its proximity to London means that it is also one of the best connected regions in England, with multiple rail and road links.

Lying in such a central position at the heart of the south, Buckinghamshire has inevitably been involved in many of the most important aspects of English history. There is some evidence of settlements in the area dating back to Neolithic times, and by the time of Saxon rule, it had become a prosperous part of the kingdom of Mercia.

That prosperity came at a cost, including the clearance of the heavily forested Chilterns which were largely gone by the early 17th century. In later decades, the county also saw the creation of some of the most beautiful country homes and parks in England, including the Stowe and Cliveden estates.

In the modern era, Buckinghamshire has made a significnat contribution in a number of areas,  including the world renowned Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, which is well known for its treatment of spinal-cord injuries and which has the distinction of hosting the forerunner of the Paralympic Games, the World Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games since 1948.

The Industrial Revolution didn’t have the same dramatic impact on Buckinghamshire that it had elsewhere, although there were printing firms and light manufacturing in the Aylesbury area during the nineteenth century and the town of Wolverton was known for its railway workshops.

Yet in the second half of the twentieth century, the county had an economic boost thanks to the development of the new town of Milton Keynes. This town absorbed some of the smaller towns in the vicinity and developed into a significant economic hub, as well as being the home of the Open University, which was launched in 1971.

Despite these modern changes, however, Buckinghamshire retains a distinctly rural feel and that is reflected in the variety of traditional dishes that the county has become known for.  

Bacon Badgers

Traditional English cuisine is particularly well known for its unusual names and few are stranger than Buckinghamshire’s very own Bacon Badger!

In many ways, this dish is similar to the neighbouring county’s Bedfordshire Clanger, but is an altogether more substantial product. It gets its unusual name from the strangely domed appearance of the finished product which is said to resemble the profile of a badger’s back.

You will be relieved to hear that there are no badgers in the Bacon Badger! The dish is made from a dough that is formed from suet, which is then filled with a mixture of bacon or gammon, potatoes and onions. The whole thing is rolled up and steamed for several hours until it is ready to it. This is a surprisingly versatile dish, and can be eaten warm or cold and as a result, it is ideal for a picnic or summer lunch.  

Grenadier Apples

These days the dominant English cooking apple is the Bramley, but prior to the supermarket era, there was a much wider choice when it came to cookers, and one of the most popular of these was the Grenadier, grown in many places throughout Buckinghamshire, the county where it originated.

The Grenadier, which ripens by the middle of August, was first discovered during the middle of the nineteenth century but fell out of favour commercially as it doesn’t store well and has an unattractive appearance, with a ribbed effect to its surface. But when it comes to producing apple-related recipes, the Grenadier has few equals. It has a subtle, but delicious apple flavour, and is perfect for apple jam or an apple pie or crumble.

It also benefits from being fairly easy to grow in the garden, and is resistant to most apple diseases, making it a popular variety in English gardens. The fact that it is an early ripener means it can be harvested gradually, while the weather is still good, overcoming the fact that it is a relatively poor performer when it comes to storage.  

Buckinghamshire Dumpling

This is another of those English suet-based savoury dishes. The Buckinghamshire Dumpling is essentially a distinctive but tasty pasty that would have been ideal for agricultural workers returning home from a hard day in the fields. 

It is made by rolling out some suet pastry and then piling it with a combination of bacon rashers, onions, and pigs liver, along with seasonings such as sage, parsley and pepper. The pastry is then folded up into a parcel which has to be steamed for up to three hours. Best served hot, it offers a nourishing warmth and rich taste that makes it a firm favourite among meat eaters.

Cherry Turnovers

Buckinghamshire is among other things, famous for its cherry orchards, so it is no surprise to find this cherry dessert speciality hailing from the county.

The turnovers are made using a very light pastry, which is then wrapped around rip and tangy cherries. Cherries tend to peak between July and August and this is a recipe that calls for the freshest fruits that can be found, so is best enjoyed in those months. Cherry turnovers can be eaten warm, with cream or custard, or cold as part of a picnic, and are always popular with guests.

Aylesbury Duck

Aylesbury is the county town of Buckinghamshire and it has been known for its duck rearing since the bird that has taken the town’s name was bred in the early 18th century. In fact, the duck has become so well associated with Aylesbury, that it features on the town crest.

Just 40 miles from the well known meat markets of Smithfield, Aylesbury was the ideal place to raise ducks as they could be easily driven to market without losing condition on the way. The duck was one of the most popular breeds in England, thanks to its fleshy characteristics and its pleasing appearance, and its white feathers were in strong demand for pillow filling.

In terms of its meat, the Aylesbury is less fatty than the Peking duck, which was introduced towards the end of the 19th century, while its flesh is less tough and stringy than some rival breeds. It is also known for laying plenty of eggs, which was another attractive feature for farmers.

The Aylesbury is perfectly suited to a range of traditional British duck dishes. It can be stewed with peas, served with onion sauce, added to a pie, or served with a cherry sauce that helps to complement the fattiness of the meat. In fact one family in the Vale of Aylesbury still rear ducks as their ancestors did, allowing them to feed naturally among their cherry orchards.

Stokenchurch Pie

Stokenchurch Pie is an unusual traditional English dish as it uses macaroni, although pasta was known to English cooks from the Plantagenet era. It is another example of the versatile approach of English cooking, as it can effectively be made with any sort of meat.

The dish is made by lining a layer of pastry with cooked macaroni, followed by chopped meat, hard boiled eggs, and another layer of macaroni and meat. The top is then covered and the pie is backed. Taking its name from the old village of Stokenchurch, it is a carb-heavy dish that is almost a meal in itself!

Staffordshire’s Food History

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Situated at the heart of England, the old county of Staffordshire once made up much of the region of the Midlands that has since become known as the Black Country, where the Industrial Revolution became most strongly established. Yet the county has a much longer history.

You can find traces of both Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements in the county, most notably in the northeast of the county, where visitors are able to explore a range of Neolithic burial mounds. Among the most notable Iron Age hill forts in the county are Castle Ring, which is found on Cannock Chase and Bury Ring, which is near to the county town of Stafford.

Staffordshire was considered to be a vital region by the Romans who built roads through the ancient forests that covered most of the county, and the meeting place of two of their most famous roads, Watling Street and Ryknield Street, became the basis for the City of Lichfield.

Following the retreat of the Romans, the area became important politically as it was at the centre of the Anglo Saxon kingdom of Mercia, and saw much fighting throughout the 10th and 11th centuries, first when the Anglo Saxons sought to repel the invading Danes, and later through a local rebellion against Norman occupiers.

From the eighteenth century onwards, the history of the county is built around industry. In fact, coal and iron were first mined on the upper River Trent and in the area of Cannock Chase as early as the thirteenth century, but it wasn’t until the late eighteenth century that the region developed into an industrial powerhouse. This was the time when the pottery industry in northern Staffordshire rose to fame through the efforts of Josiah Wedgewood and at the same time, the brewing industry based in Burton upon Trent also expanded rapidly.  

Above all, the growing network of canals and railways led to the development of the southern areas of the county, where coal mining, steel mills and other industrial activity thrived throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, making a major contribution to the wealth of England.

But although the county is best known for its proud industrial heritage, it remains largely agricultural, with the dairy farming industry being particularly prominent. The north of the county has been heavily associated with the modern replanting of trees, while the ingenuity and industry of Staffordshire has enabled it to recover from the decline of its heavy industry. This has included making the most of its heritage, particularly in the Potteries region, but there has also been an upsurge of interest in Staffordshire cuisine. The traditional food of this county has plenty in common with the hearty dishes of another famous industrial region, Lancashire, but with an added agricultural twist.  

Staffordshire Oatcakes

The most famous of the Staffordshire food exports, the oatcake is a delicacy that has been part of English cuisine for hundreds of years, but while the production of oatcakes is a tradition passed down through the generations, the history of the dish is shrouded in mystery.

The Staffordshire Oatcake is an unassuming food, with an ordinary looking appearance and texture, but it packs a delicious and hearty punch. Originally popular among pottery workers, who needed a filling food for their meals during their long and arduous working days, Staffordshire Oatcakes are an extremely versatile and popular food, and can be eaten on their own or combined with a variety of fillings or toppings, ranging from jam to bacon and cheese.

Lobby

Life for those who worked in the Staffordshire pottery industry in the Victorian era was tough, and popular foods of the time were based around making the most of what was available. This tradition led to the creation of an unusual dish known as Lobby. Made from the leftovers of meals such as Sunday roasts, Lobby was a type of stew, that used cattle or poultry bones for flavour.

As most families could only buy cheaper offal and gristle cuts of meat, these formed the basis of the stew, and on occasion the dish was also spiced up with a splash of ale. Those who were lucky enough to have a little land of their own where they could grow vegetables, could throw in some fresh carrots or potatoes to add to the mix. Lobby also became popular after the Second World War, when the easing of post war austerity in the 1950s led to a revival of the dish, this time though with the addition of better cuts of beef, as well as Marmite and pearl barley.

Branston Pickle

One of England’s best known food products, and a staple of the Ploughman’s lunch and of countless packed lunches and picnics, Branston Pickle production began in the east Staffordshire town of Branston, during the 1920s.  

The key ingredient for many in the perfect cheddar cheese sandwich, Branston Pickle was created in 1922, and is made from a unique mixture of cauliflower, carrots and swedes, all of which are grown locally, and which are then enhanced with the addition of tomatoes and spices, according to a closely guarded secret recipe. The result is a famous and enduring English preserve.

Staffordshire Yeomanry Pudding


The Staffordshire Yeomanry was a military unit that was originally considered as part of the Queen’s Own Regiment, until the 1970s, when it was amalgamated with the Queen’s Own Mercian Yeomanry.

It is believed that the recipe for Staffordshire Yeomanry Pudding was first created at the height of the Boer War, when civilians in England tried to provide a luxurious welcome-home spread for their returning soldier relations, featuring a variety of cakes. The Staffordshire Yeomanry Pudding is essentially an egg custard tart, which is made of egg custard layered onto jam, which is then encased within pastry, and it has proven popular throughout Staffordshire and beyond. 

Groaty Dick

A recipe that was initially popular in the southern part of Staffordshire, a region later known as the Black Country, Groaty Dick is a strange but tasty concoction, resembling a savoury porridge. It is made using beef, onions, leek and pinhead oats, along with some fried bacon. The whole mixture is then covered with stock and cooked for several hours. It was traditionally served alongside boiled potatoes or bread and it can be a tasty and filling meal on a cold winter’s day.

Staffordshire Cheese

The region’s flourishing dairy farming industry has produced a variety of types of dairy product, and Staffordshire has the distinction of being one of a few English food products to have earned EU protected status, alongside such famous foods as Cornish Pasties and Newcastle Brown Ale.

There is a long tradition of cheese making in the county, which dates back over 700 years, to a time when the moorlands in the north of the county, particularly around Leek, were home to a thriving religious community of monks. Staffordshire Cheese is perhaps best known for its pale appearance and creamy texture, along with a distinctive, strong flavour, and its unique taste is likely to be down to the lush moorland environment where cattle in the county are allowed to graze.

One of the most successful cheeses from the Staffordshire region is Innes Log. Produced in the town of Tamworth, it is produced using raw goat’s milk, which is shaped into a log. The cheese presents with a bloomy rind, though underneath the texture is dense and creamy, while this fresh-smelling cheese also offers grassy and nutty flavours. It has won a number of medals at the British Cheese Awards and is one of the most popular of Midlands Cheeses.

Another Staffordshire cheese worth looking out for is Bosworth. Produced by the Highfields Farm Dairy this cheese is made using raw goat’s milk and is aged for a total of three weeks. In fact there are two versions of this cheese. Bosworth Leaf is wrapped in a chestnut leaf, while Bosworth Ash Log is first rolled in ash and then shaped into a log.

This delicious cheese has a white rind, with a dense and crumbly texture, with an interesting combination of sweet and salty flavours and is distinctive enough to be worth eating on its own.

Food from the Heart of England

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For many overseas visitors, Oxfordshire is the quintessential English county. This picturesque region sits at the centre of the south of England. Consisting of a broad vale, which divides two upland areas, the North Oxfordshire Heights, and the Chiltern Hills, it is located almost entirely within the Thames basin. That famous river runs north-eastward and then southward beyond the city of Oxford, winding slowly in the direction of London, passing through some idyllic English towns.  

The area is notable for many sites of historical significance. Archaeologists have found evidence of Paleolithic and Mesolithic settlements, and you can find a number of Neolithic structures, including the famous Rollright Stones, which are on the border with Warwickshire. The county was an important strategic area for the Romans, and was later settled by the Saxons, who built many settlements in the Thames valley. The county formed part of the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex, and then it fell under the control of the Danes, before the Norman invasion.

By that time, the city of Oxford was already known as a centre of learning, and throughout the medieval period, Oxford was the site of many beautiful and grand buildings, including the famous Iffley Church, just south of the city. During the English Civil War, the county was staunchly Royalist, particularly the cities of Banbury and Oxford, which were both besieged by Parliamentarians.

Although Oxfordshire has undergone a degree of industrialisation, including thriving sites such as Cowley, which is famous for its production of cars, the county has been essentially defined by its agriculture and by its association with learning. It is also famous for its wool production, as well as its dairy herds, and for the produce from a variety of fertile orchards. 

Often described as the ‘Writer’s County’, Oxfordshire has of course been the home to many gifted scholars and writers, including Seamus Heaney, T.S.Elliot and Lewis Carroll.

And it has also earned a reputation for the quality of its dining and cuisine. In fact Oxfordshire can claim several famous food producers, including Frank Cooper, who created the popular Oxford Marmalade, and the baking firm Brown’s of Banbury, who devised the Banbury Cake. Here are some of the highlights of Oxfordshire cuisine:

New College Pudding

This is one of the oldest of Oxfordshire’s dishes. Developed in the 17th century, it is a luxurious old fashioned dessert that retains its popularity with those who live in the county in the 21st century. The original recipe, which started with a mixture of sherry, flour, suet and eggs, has been updated to include nutmeg, candied peel and currants. The dough has to be left to rest for up to 20 minutes before it is shaped into spheres and then shallow fried in butter, which turns the outside brown. Traditionally eaten along with jam, marmalade or butter, these cakes are delightful.  

Frank Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade

The Grand Café that stands on the site of 83, The High, Oxford, is a destination for many curious tourists, who are keen to take a look at the old greengrocer shop of a man called Frank Cooper. His fame was quite unexpected and the credit belongs to his wife Sarah-Jane, who drew up the Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade recipe while experimenting with different techniques. Having made a huge quantity of marmalade, the Coopers sold the excess produce and it proved so popular that by 1900, Frank Cooper had developed a factory. These days, the rich, tart flavour of Frank Cooper’s marmalade can be found across several varieties and is a regular feature of the English breakfast table.

Oxford Artisan Distillery

The Oxford Artisan Distillery is one of the most successful whisky, gin and vodka producing operations in England. Their range of traditionally distilled drinks is made from grains that are grown in organic and sustainable ways. The distilling process is carried out in specially made copper stills, and the result is a range of drinks known for their caramel flavours and malty qualities.

Banbury Cake

Full of delicious mincemeat and wrapped in flaky choux pastry, Banbury Cake is a traditional winter alternative to the standard mince pie, but is much older, perhaps by as much as 400 years. The recipe may have been created during the Crusades as a hearty pudding that could provide a filling meal, yet could also be stored for transport on long journeys. The filling, which features currants, sugar, all spice and lemon rind, was sometimes also flavoured with cinnamon for an extra kick and then wrapped in a round of flaky pastry. The recipe itself was first published in 1615 but it may be derived from the Holy Cakes that were eaten in the Middle East as early as the 7th century.

Hook Norton Brewery

Situated in the Cotswold Hills Hook Norton is an independent family business that takes traditional brewing techniques and combines them with modern innovations to produce a range of real ales that have proven extremely popular. Hook Norton’s full range has won numerous awards, including prizes for its Hooky Gold, Hooky Mild, Haymaker and Flagship brands.

Oxfordshire Sausages

Sometimes known as Oxfordshire Skate, though we cannot be sure why, Oxfordshire Sausages were developed in the 18th century by a butcher called John Nott. His inspiration was to use lean veal and combine it with fatty pork, along with numerous herbs and nutmeg. The sausage meat was then shaped into a ‘C’ shape, using the stomach lining of a Gloucester Old Spot pig, which is thought to add to the texture of the sausage. His recipe was very popular and to this date, Oxfordshire Sausages remain a frequent feature of Oxfordshire farmer’s markets.

Oxford Bishop

A warming winter drink, Oxford Bishop became popular after writer Charles Dickens who featured the drink in A Christmas Carol. It is on occasions compared with mulled wine and is just as rich and strong smelling, though usually served in a steaming mug, with a touch of brandy. The name comes from the purple colour, which is caused by the addition of port, which is similar to the purple of a bishop’s robe. The drink is ideal for cold winter evenings and is often enhanced with allspice berries, lemon rind, cinnamon or cloves.

Cotswold Dumplings

Savoury dumplings that are shaped from balls of dough have long been a part of English cuisine. By tradition, they are formed from a combination of self raising flour and suet, bound together by cold water and seasoned with salt and pepper. But unlike ordinary dumplings, which are dropped into a stew or a soup, Cotswold dumplings are mixed with breadcrumbs and cheese, with the dough rolled in breadcrumbs and then fried. Crunchy and light, these dumplings are a perfect accompaniment to many meals, but are a delicious snack on their own, or served with a salsa or similar sauce.

Faggots, Peas and Birmingham Soup: Savour the West Midlands’ Food Tradition

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Many of the areas of the country that feature on this site have a deep and lasting rural tradition. Yet country life is only part of the English story. Go back 150 years and the heart of England could be found not in the fields and country lanes, but in the factories, furnaces and coal mines of the Midlands, South Wales and North England.

That industrial heritage has shaped England in profound ways and continues to do so to this day. It has also given rise to a distinctive and remarkable range of culinary traditions.

One of the most famous industrial areas of England is the West Midlands. This area encompasses both the Black Country and the Birmingham conurbation, as well as parts of Staffordshire. It was a grim landscape of smoke, soot and fumes, but the industrial activity in this region helped to propel England and the United Kingdom as a whole to the summit of global prosperity.

The West Midlands area, which can roughly be said to include south Staffordshire, the northern parts of Worcestershire and the western districts of Warwickshire, had always been an essential part of England, not least because so many roads and rivers pass through it.

At one time, it was the central territory of the Saxon kingdom of Mercia, a state that at one point was the most powerful Saxon territory of all. Later, as the fortunes of Mercia waned, the West Midlands was split between the English and the Danes, who occupied much of the east of England.

The territory was divided once again during the English civil war, when many of the towns and cities sided with Parliament, particularly in the east, yet rural areas and western towns tended to favour the King, and both armies manoeuvred extensively in the Midlands counties as they sought victory.

Yet the West Midlands is undoubtedly best known for its role in the Industrial Revolution. The shift from rural to industrial economy had many roots, but the most significant early developments took place in the county of Shropshire, at Ironbridge, a famous part of the Midlands, that is now a tourist attraction. As the industrial technology developed, the abundant geological riches of the West Midlands, together with the proximity of major roads, and the River Severn, made it an ideal location for the building and developing of heavy industry, which ranged from coal, gravel and stone mining, to iron working, smelting and ironmongery.  

The precise boundaries of the West Midlands will depend on what context you are using the location in, but they are broadly considered to include two main regions: the Black Country (which was so named due to the heavy smoke that lingered over the whole region as a result of unrestricted industrial production) and Birmingham, which culturally was a very different territory.

As the relevance of heavy industry was reduced during the 20th century, the fortunes of the West Midlands fell. The area has experience hard economic conditions over the years, but in recent decades, new industries including a thriving food and hospitality sector have helped to lead a revival. Part of that revival includes a celebration of the unique food traditions of this vibrant area.

Chitlins

Chitlins is one of many dishes that come from a time when meat was relatively difficult to come by and all parts of an animal were used. In fact, chitlins is short for ‘chitterlings’ or pigs’ intestines. Preparing a dish of Chitlins was a time consuming business, and the smell during cooking is pretty powerful, but the end result is a surprisingly tasty dish, that is often served with onions.

Lambswool

Few English drinks can boast a stranger name than Lambswool. This sweet, spicy punch is produced from baked apples and may come from an old Celtic celebration called La Mas Ubhal, or the Day of the Apple, a November ritual that was held under the oldest tree in an orchard, though there are some suggestions that it may also be linked to Lammas, the Saxon word for the harvest festival. The drink was also part of the Christmas tradition of wassailing, when locals went door to door singing, and giving gifts in exchange for a drink. Lambswool was originally produced with ale, before baked apple, nutmeg, brown sugar and ginger were added to the brew.

Bread and Dripping

A regular feature of working class homes in the West Midlands, Bread and Dripping was nothing more elaborate than the use of a chunk of white bread to soak up the juices of the Sunday roast before being sprinkled with pepper and salt. Bread and Dripping became a popular dish in the Second World War, when rationing was imposed on England. It fell out of favour in the 1970s and 1980s as people were concerned about avoiding animal fats, but has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years.

Balti

Modern Birmingham has become synonymous with the Balti, a form of curry that is cooked and served in a two-handled steel bowl and traditionally served with an accompaniment of naan bread. Although it has clear South Asian origins, the Balti was created in Birmingham by Mohammed Arif, who owned a restaurant called Adil’s. The dish was made using a collection of spices and herbs combined in a traditional Northern Kashmir fashion, and it proved to be so popular that other Balti restaurants sprang up in the Birmingham area, creating the so-called Balti Triangle.

Birmingham Soup

This dish comes from a time when the population of England were dependent on a good harvest for their sustenance. In the late 18th century, a series of bad harvests caused a severe food shortage. In response, Matthew Boulton, one of England’s foremost industrial pioneers, created a broth that was full of nutrients for his workers. The soup was made using vegetables and stewed beef, and then served with bread. The basic recipe has been tweaked over the years, and the modern version involves a long and complicated process, but the end result is a hearty, filling soup.

Pikelets

Pikelets are well known throughout the West Midlands and are an ideal snack or breakfast dish. Technically, there is a difference between a pikelet and a crumpet, and the pikelet is the most popular version in the West Midlands. Made by dropping batter into a pan, pikelets are thinner than crumpets, and they don’t contain the extra baking powder found in the yeast dough of crumpets, so they produce a flatter, more versatile, yet equally tasty option.

Brummie Bacon Cakes

Brummie Bacon Cakes are a relatively obscure West Midlands recipes: savoury scones that feature cheese and crispy bacon. Both tomato ketchup and Worcestershire sauce can be added to the mix, along with milk, to provide extra tanginess. A traditional recipe that was resurrected when it was found in an old cookery book from the Women’s Institute, the Brummie Bacon Cake can be cut in half and eaten with butter at tea time or as part of a hearty English breakfast.

West Midlands Mild

The rise of the artisan brewing industry in recent years has produced a renewed interest in a variety of beer genres, including Bitter, IPA and Lager. But in the West Midlands, Mild has always been the preferred beer. Mild is a low gravity, low alcohol, dark beer that comes in a surprising variety of styles from light thirst quenchers to darker, more subtle flavours. Mild can also be combined with bottled brown ale to create a drink known as Brown and Mild or a Boilermaker.

Frumenty

It was a tradition on Mother’s Day across England for workers and staff to get a day off and visit their mother, taking along what was known as a Simnel cake; a form of light fruit cake topped with balls of marzipan. Tradition had it that in return, they would be given a meal of Frumenty, one of the oldest dishes in England. The word is Latin for ‘grain’ and the dish itself was a form of porridge made from boiled wheat, to which were added a variety of ingredients including sugar, eggs, almonds, plums, currants and milk, making the perfect comfort food.

Pease Pudding

For those who found Frumenty a little too sweet, there was a savoury version, known as Pease Pudding. This was made using peas that had been boiled with bacon or ham, then seasoned with salt and a variety of spices. This was another popular dish in the West Midlands, and often served up on Mother’s Day. It was also sometimes known as Pease Porridge or Pease Pottage.  

Faggots and Peas

Arguably the most famous culinary export from the West Midlands, Faggots and Peas (or ‘pays’ if you’re a local) is definitely a dish that can be described as an ‘acquired taste’. The ingredients are simple, as you’d expect for a dish eaten by impoverished workers in an industrial setting. Pork offal is combined with breadcrumbs, seasoning and onions, before being minced, then shaped into balls and cooked. Faggots are usually served with a rich, meaty gravy, mashed potato and mushy peas.

Pork Scratchings

The humble Pork Scratching, the staple snack in many traditional pubs, are thought to have come from the West Midlands, at a time when it was common for workers to keep a pig or two as an alternative source of food; a remnant of the agricultural heritage that workers brought with them into the cities. It is also a reminder of the importance of the principle that no part of a carcass could be wasted. Highly salted and deep-fried, they go perfectly with a pint or two.

Pigs Trotters

Another dish that will definitely divide opinion is Pigs Trotters. This has long been a classic dish served in the West Midlands and from time to time, it enjoys a revival in the more upmarket restaurants of the region. As well as the nature of the dish, the fact that it needs a long time to prepare can be a deterrent, but at the height of industrial England, this was a warming and filling dish that provided welcome nutrition to hard-pressed workers.

Groaty Dick

An obscure Black Country dish, Groaty Dick is a form of stew made from cereals, beef, onion, leeks, and stock, which is baked together for around 16 hours. Although the end produced wasn’t particularly appetising to look at, the taste was apparently worth the wait. Traditionally, this was a dish eaten in the winter, most commonly on Bonfire Night, and a good way to stave off the cold.