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More than Worcestershire Sauce: the Flavour of a Fruit-Growing County

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The famous old county of Worcestershire lies at the intersection between the West Country, the picturesque scenery of Cotswolds, the industrial areas of the West Midlands and the border with Wales, and it is this varied heritage, together with the variety of agricultural environments that can be found in the county that have given it such a fascinating culinary history.

At the heart of Worcestershire you will find a fertile lowland plain, which is drained by the rivers Avon and Severn, as well as by their tributaries, the Teme and the Stour. In the west the county of Worcestershire borders Herefordshire, and in the south west, touches on the Forest of Dean. To the south is the neighbouring county of Gloucestershire, and this region is known for its clay soil that is ideal for both market gardening and fruit orchards. To the south east lie the Cotswolds, while the north of Worcestershire borders on the heart of industrial England.

In prehistoric times, this part of England was heavily wooded and as a result it has produced fewer sites of prehistoric settlement than many other counties, although exceptions exist, most notably the Iron Age earthworks discovered among the Malvern and Bredon Hills.

The Romans settled in the county, mainly around the town of Worcester, and after they departed, Worcestershire was occupied by the Anglo-Saxon Hwicce tribe. The tribe eventually created its own diocese, based on Worcester, which over the decades developed into a crucial trade and military hub between Wales and England, as well as one of England’s most important ecclesiastical bases. Eventually, it was absorbed into the Mercian kingdom and was the scene of prolonged conflict between the Danish invaders and the Anglo-Saxons.

During the Middle Ages, monastic life was central to Worcestershire, which included as many as thirteen monastic establishments by the 13th century. The monks of Evesham and Pershore may have been responsible for starting the traditions of growing flowers, fruits and vegetables in the fertile Vale of Evesham. At one point, the church owned more than half the land in the county, which helps to explain why landed aristocracy was not as entrenched in the county as it was in some regions.

To this day, Worcestershire is known for its heritage of architecture dating from the Middle Ages, which include the ruins of Benedictine abbeys in both Pershore and Evesham, along with a remarkably well-preserved priory church in Malvern, while Worcester Cathedral, which was completed in the 14th century, draws visitors to the city from all over the UK and beyond.  

Worcestershire has had its share of English history. Two of England’s most important battles were fought in the county. In 1265, at Evesham, Simon de Montfort was killed by the forces of Edward who then became Edward 1, and it was at Worcester in 1651 that a Parliamentary army commanded by Oliver Cromwell defeated the Scottish army that supported Charles II, ending the Civil War.

Up until the 17th century, the city of Worcester and much of the south of the county were responsible for its prosperity, thanks to the production of wool and woollen cloth, but coal and iron had long been mined in the north, and as the new canals and then railways opened up the region, the northern borders of Worcestershire were affected by some of the dramatic change of the Industrial Revolution.

Although there are several large commuter populations in the north of Worcestershire, and some light industry in Redditch, Kidderminster and Worcester, the county has a flourishing agricultural sector. Fruit and vegetables are grown throughout the south, together with cereals and dairy. Fruit canning, cider production and milk processing are also widespread, and there is a thriving farmers market and farm shop sector, along with artisanal producers of beer, cheese and wine, all of which exemplify the diversity and richness of Worcestershire’s culinary heritage.  

Vale of Evesham Asparagus

The south of Worcestershire is famous for its fruit and vegetables, and Vale of Evesham asparagus is among its main exports. Grown exclusively in this area, and produced only between April and July, this sough after vegetable is shaped like a spear and can be harvested at lengths of up to 22 cm. It can be eaten raw, when it has a brittle, crunchy texture, but it is particularly tasty when cooked. The vegetable is so important in Worcestershire that there is an annual festival, called Asparafest, held every June, in order to celebrate the Asparagus harvest.

St Oswald Cheese

St Oswald is a traditional English cheese made in Broadway, in the Cotswolds. This tasty product is made using cow’s milk and is left to age for as long as three months. The result is a cheese that has a sticky rind but underneath is soft and supple. St Oswald has an array of pungent aromas and rich, full flavours, including a strong hint of onions. As the cheese ages, the flavours become stronger, and this is a perfect food to match with a full-bodied red wine.

Worcestershire Plums

Over the last few decades, Worcestershire has become famous for its plums and the Vale of Evesham in particular is synonymous with plum growing. Several plum varieties originated in the county, including the Pershore plum. It came from a chance seedling found in Tyddersley Wood near Pershore around 1871 and went on be a widely propagated plum, admired for its hardiness and disease resistance.

It is oval in shape with a very firm, dry, yellow flesh that has an almost mealy texture and is ideal for cooking, jam making, canning, pies and tarts. At one time it was the main plum of the jam and canning industries around Evesham. It has a short shelf life, but is well worth seeking out.

Double Worcester Cheese

Double Worcester is basically a Worcestershire version of the famous Double Gloucester but with a fresh taste of its own. This cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk together with annatto and is usually aged for up to seven months. Underneath the hard natural rind, the cheese has a firm and flaky texture and it has an array of complex flavours including citrus and nuts. Double Worcester has become a big favourite in England and won a silver medal at the 2001 British Cheese Awards.

Malvern Cheese

This is a traditional English cheese made in the Severn Valley close to Malvern. It is made using raw sheep’s milk and has a texture that is semi-hard and dry, that stays creamy and dense on the palate, with a mix of intriguing sweet, herbaceous flavours. Generally aged for up to four months, it has a relatively high fat content, so is best eaten sparingly, but is delicious grilled or grated over salads and pastas, and won a silver medal at the British Cheese Awards back in 1997.

Worcestershire Sauce

Perhaps Worcestershire’s most famous export, Worcestershire sauce is a pungent and savoury sauce that is made mainly from anchovies fermented in vinegar. To this base is added a range of other ingredients, including chili, garlic, sugar, onions and salt. It was created in Worcester by chemists John Wheeley Lea and William Perrins who were asked by Lord Sandys, the Governor of Bengal, to produce a recipe he brought back from India. Their attempt to recreate the sauce was regarded as a failure and the results were kept in a cellar, but when they subsequently tasted it, they were amazed at the distinctive flavour and began selling it in 1837.

To this day, the precise recipe remains a secret, but bottles are sold all over the world, and the sauce is used in everything from Bolognese sauce to Bloody Mary cocktails.

Worcester Pearmain

England is known for its many varieties of apples and Worcestershire is home to many orchards and fruit varieties. One of the county’s most popular apple varieties is the Worcester Pearmain. This is an early season apple that was cultivated by a Mr. Hale of Swanpool, back in 1874. It was once the most popular of the early autumn harvest apples in England and is still popular today.

Used widely in apple breeding, this red fruit has a taste that is almost strawberry-like and its smooth, sweet taste makes it perfect for eating fresh or for use in stewed apple recipes, while the trees also produce beautiful blossoms. The Worcester Pearmain earned national recognition in 1993 when it was granted the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.  

Malvern Gold Cider

The proud orchard heritage of Worcestershire has led to a thriving cider industry, and the county has created one cider in particular that has been enjoyed around the world. Malvern Gold, created by the Malvern Cider Company, which owns an orchard at Crumpton Oaks Farm, to the north of the town, won first prize at the World Cider Awards in 2019. A medium-dry style of cider, produced from a combination of Yarlington Mill, Dabinett and Three Counties apples, it offers lots of depth and flavour and is completely organic, made without the use of any artificial ingredients.

The Dairy Farm of England: Devon’s Food Heritage

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The county of Devon is both one of the oldest counties in England, and also one of its biggest, geographically speaking. The territory is believed to have been one of the first parts of the country to be settled after the end of the last Ice Age. The area of Dartmoor contains some of the oldest buildings in England with more than 500 Neolithic sites, making it a crucial county for archaeologists and those interested in understanding more about England’s history.

Devon probably got its name from translations of the name of the most numerous Celtic tribe in the area, the Dumnonii, or ‘deep valley dwellers’ and after the Roman invasion, it was regarded as one of the most important territories in this part of the Empire. The Romans stayed in Devon for 300 years, and after they departed, it formed part of the Kingdom of Dumnonia, which lasted until the Anglo Saxons secured control of the area by the late 9th century.

Alfred the Great took steps to fortify the county to protect it against Viking raids, and over the next few centuries, the county was the scene of many battles and raids from the French as rival Norman and Plantagenet monarchs and nobles fought for territory. Throughout, Devon has sustained itself largely through sea trade, mining and rural activities, although during the 20th and 21st century it has also developed a thriving tourist trade, drawing visitors from all over the UK and the world.

Devon is famous for its mariners, particularly those of the Elizabethan era, including Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake, thanks to the port of Plymouth. It was at Plymouth that Drake famously continued to play bowls after the Spanish Armada had been sighted and this was also the port from where the Mayflower set sail, bound for the New World.

Along with the long history of sea trade, Devon has also been sustained by its ample deposits of lead, silver, manganese, iron ore and copper, all of which have attracted miners and prospectors over the centuries, though these had largely been worked by the end of the 19th century.

The backbone of the county’s culture, however, has long been its dairy industry. Devon’s low lying pastures in combination with its mild year-round climate ensures that the fields and meadows in this area are rich grasses, high in nutrients, which in turn ensures that the quality of the milk that is produced by local herds is of the highest quality. The result is that Devon can claim to be the dairy capital of England, with a range of tasty dairy products becoming popular nationwide.

As well as the thriving dairy industry, Devon also has a long tradition of growing seasonal berries, which are usually in strong demand by supermarkets, all of which helps to preserve the heritage of fruit farming in the county. The traditional Devon approach to farming also means that crops and produce grown in this part of the world have a reputation for wholesomeness and great flavour.

Not surprisingly, then, Devon’s food festival calendar is among the most popular and busiest in England. Exeter Food Festival is one of the largest in the county, held in April every year. It is an ideal venue for showing off the best of local foods and you can often find celebrity chefs travelling down to Devon to take part. There is also a host of smaller festivals worth visiting, including the Clovelly Herring Festival, the Sausage and Cider Festival in Honiton and South Devon Crab Month.

The county of Devon is home to some of the tastiest and best loved foods in England, with a strong dairy flavour. To help you get started on exploring this county’s culinary heritage, here are some of the most interesting dishes and food products to look out for.

Harbourne Blue

The fascinating dairy tradition of Devon has led to a rich variety of cheeses and one of the most loved is Harbourne Blue. Produced close to Totnes, it is made from pasteurized goat’s milk, and has a remarkably distinctive natural rind along with a delightful crumbly texture, which often reveals pale light blue veining. This tasty cheese is also known for its floral aromas, and for its intriguing variety of flavour, that appears to vary with the seasons. A real luxury cheese, Harbourne Blue is quite a treat and is often best savoured with a glass of port or Sauternes.

Vulscombe

This is another popular Devon cheese that comes from the Tiverton region. A rindless cheese, like Harbourne Blue, it is made using pasteurized goat’s milk and it has a creamy, soft texture, a herby aroma and a mild taste that offers a hint of spice. Interestingly, although it is available in a plain version, Vulscombe can also be found in a variety of flavours, including versions that are flavoured with herbs and garlic, sun-dried tomatoes or black peppercorns. And all the herbs used to make the cheese are picked from local gardens.  

Ticklemore

Ticklemore may be the most famous of Devon cheese. Made in the south of the county, by Ticklemore Dairy, it is a semi-hard goat’s milk cheese, with a pleasant and natural white rind that surrounds a crumbly, open, though firm-textured cheese. The cheese is hand-pressed into a colander, which leaves it with the shape of a squashed sphere. It is then dry salted and allowed to mature for a full ten weeks, with the result being a delightfully fragrant cheese that gives off a mild and grassy aroma, along with complex flavours of herbs, lemon and mushrooms.

Beenleigh Blue

Another product of the Ticklemore Cheese Dairy, this tasty blue cheese is made from pasteurized sheep’s milk and is based on a Roquefort recipe. Produced between the months of January and July using the milk of Dorset-Friesland sheep, it is then matured for a full six months.

The result is a striking cheese with a white, grey, and blue rind, which has a dense, smooth, crumbly yet moist texture, with nutty aromas and flavours that are both salty and spicy and with a hint of burned caramel. A perfect luxury cheese, it goes well with port, mead or a glass of merlot.

Hog’s Pudding

This is certainly one of the more unusual delicacies to be found in English cuisine. Hog’s Pudding is a sausage-like dish that features a strong spicy flavour thanks to the use of a variety of herbs and spices that include basil, garlic, cumin, and black pepper. The sausage is traditionally made from pork meat or offal, along with pork fat, bread, suet, pearl barley or oatmeal. The ingredients are stuffed into an ox gut casing, and the sausage fried, although it is sometimes oven-baked.  

Curworthy

Curworthy is another popular cheese originating from Devon, where it has been crafted at the Stockbeare Farm since the late 1980s. This cheese is made using cow’s milk and it has a natural rind as well as a fresh aroma and a creamy, supple texture, complemented by buttery flavours.

When it is aged, the cheese takes on even more flavour and mellowness, and the good news for fans of this cheese is that there is a range of Curworthy types, the most popular of which is called Devon Oke. The cheeses can all be found in specialist cheese shops and local farmers markets.

Devonshire Custard

Of the multiple dairy-related products that come from Devon, among the most popular and enduring is Devonshire Custard. A famous Devonshire brand, Ambrosia, was set up in Lifton and although this is now part of a major food producing corporation, the custard is still made at the same village creamery that was built in 1917. Unlike traditional custard, which came to England via France in the Middle Ages, Devonshire custard does not use eggs. Instead, it is made using fresh clotted cream and  cornflour with the result being a versatile consistency and a delicious buttery flavour.

Devonshire Split

Devonshire split is a long established form of sweet bun that originates in the county. The buns are traditionally made from a combination of flour, salt, sugar, yeast, butter, along with milk or cream. Once the dough has been made, it is divided into small round buns that are then baked until the crust of the buns becomes pale and golden.

The buns are often rubbed with butter as well as icing sugar and the result is a bread that is light and slightly sweet. Devonshire splits are traditionally split and filled with clotted cream and jam.

Devonshire Cream Tea

As any visitor to Devon will tell you, no trip to this part of the world is complete without trying one of the region’s famous Cream Teas. The story of the Cream Tea indicates that it goes back to the Benedictine monks of Tavistock Abbey. Following the defeat of the Vikings in A.D 987, the local monks employed a team of builders and craftsmen to carry out the extensive rebuilding work on the Abbey. The work was difficult, and the weather was hot, and the monks made a snack of bread, Devonshire clotted cream and raspberry jam to enable the workers to maintain their energy.

The combination proved hugely popular and has been enjoyed by millions of visitors to the region. Scones are the usual basis for the cream tea, though Devonshire Splits (see above) are also a popular Cream Tea option.  

Deep Fried Cheeses

This popular Devon specialty brings together the two areas of food the county is most known for: fresh berries and dairy produce. It can be produced using a variety of cheeses but typically it is made from one ounce portions of a number of different cheeses, which are then coated in a mixture of flour, egg and breadcrumbs. The coated cheeses are deep fried until they are crisp on the outside, while retaining their shape inside. The dish is usually accompanied by a gooseberry sauce which creates a delicious contrast between the creamy cheese and tangy berry flavours.

A Roman Heritage: The Food of Cheshire

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Cheshire may be one of the smaller counties in England, but it is renowned as one of the most beautiful and it has a long history as one of the most important areas in the nation.

Effectively sandwiched between the West Midlands and the industrial hub of the south Lancashire and Manchester region, Cheshire has sometimes been overlooked, but this proud county has a distinguished history, which goes all the way back to the time of the Roman occupation.

Although the Romans left their mark in many locations around England, their presence in this part of the west of England produced some of the most remarkable structures and ancient history. The Romans were in occupation of the county of Cheshire for almost 400 years, from 70 AD, and while they were there, they founded one of their most important settlements, the town and fort of Deva Victrix, which is now known as Chester.

Following the departure of the Romans, Cheshire came under the control of Mercia, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom, but it was also subject to invasions from the Welsh and the Vikings, before it was finally occupied, together with the rest of the country by the Normans in the years after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Cheshire was later to play a key role in the English Civil War, when it was a Royalist stronghold, but the most profound changes came with the Industrial Revolution. The rise of new industries and forms of manufacturing led many farm workers moved north to the industrial centres of Manchester and Lancashire. These changes were offset to an extent by the arrival of the canals and then the railways that linked Cheshire with the Midlands and the North West.

This fascinating combination of influences, has helped to shape this predominantly rural county, that has long been known both for its dairy farming and salt mining. The county has developed a rich and fascinating culinary history, that enables it to stand out from its neighbours, and that is still celebrated with an array of food and drink festivals to this day, including the Chester Food and Drink Festival, held at Easter, the International Cheese Awards, the Nantwich Show and food festivals based in Arley Hall, Congleton and Tatton Park. But if your knowledge of Cheshire food is lacking, here are a handful of the dishes and food products that have helped to shape Cheshire’s cuisine:

Cheshire Cheese

It would not be possible to talk about Cheshire and not mention perhaps its most famous culinary production. Cheshire Cheese has been such a fixture of English cuisine that its fans can justifiably claim it to be the oldest cheese produced in England. Although the earliest recorded mention of this cheese comes in the Domesday Book of 1086, there is evidence to suggest that it pre-dates the rule of William the Conqueror. Some historians even believe that it was the Romans who first began to produce cheese in and around the county’s famous salt marsh hot spots. The theory is that the curd made from the milk of cows grazing in the area took on a rich flavour due to the salt.

Cheshire Cheese is a pleasant, attractive looking product, of a pale colour, with a delightful nutty and intense taste, which also packs a healthy dose of salt. Matured over eight weeks, this distinctive cheese is eaten all over England and it is also widely exported. In fact, it has the distinction of being one of the few English food products to have become popular in France.

The Cheshire Pork Pye

As a mainly rural county, Cheshire has been able to retain many of its old food customs, which includes the fascinating Cheshire Pork ‘Pye’. Everyone is familiar with the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie, a dish that has earned European recognition, but the Cheshire Pork Pye can claim to be an even older creation. It has the familiar appearance of the pork pie, but has a tasty filling consisting of prime pork loin, white wine, pepper, nutmeg and sugar.

The Cheshire Pork ‘Pye’ by tradition, is related to an original Roman dish which may have been called ‘cust’. It seems that cust uses a treated meat that is cased in a combination of oil and paste, which is then cooked slowly, retaining the moisture of the meat inside. The Cheshire ‘Pye’ traditionally involves shortcrust pastry and is usually served with garden peas for a cheap but wholesome and filling meal.

Chester Pudding


The story of the Chester Pudding is relatively complicated, as there are two separate dishes made in the county that bear this name. The most commonly known Chester Pudding, and the oldest, is a version of a steamed suet pudding, which is believed to predate its rival for the name by as much as 200 years. This Chester Pudding is a relatively simple dessert, which is made with breadcrumbs and suet but what helps it to stand out is that it includes blackcurrant jam. It was a staple dish for many years, as the simple ingredients made for a cheap and yet filling and tasty meal.

The later Chester Pudding is an invention of the Victorian era. This is a meringue-based dessert, with a shortcrust pastry base and a filling of sugar, butter, egg and ground almonds, with the meringue topping finished with a milk glaze to produce a golden-brown finish. Some prefer one type of Chester Pudding to the other, but both are worthy of a place in the English food Hall of Fame!

Rabbit Brawn

From traditional Cheshire recipes with plenty of modern appeal to one that might not be for everyone. Rabbit Brawn is not as widely eaten these days as it once was, although it retains a fascination for food connoisseurs. In essence, this is a meat stew, made with a simple recipe, from rabbit meat and pigs trotters, with some allspice thrown in.

What makes this stew stand out is the fact that traditionally, the rabbit was cooked whole, before being deboned and then added. The pigs trotters were also boiled before being added, producing a thick and distinctive stew, often served with home grown Cheshire potatoes and whichever vegetables were available at the time.

Cheshire Soup

Cheshire Soup is distinct from the common types of broths associated with other counties of England and was mainly regarded as a meal for the poor. The stew-like soup was based around vegetables, meat offal, oatmeal and tripe, and the mixture would then be reheated with cheese curdled into the pot, in order to thicken out the soup, making it more filling.

The tradition of adding cheese may also predate the widespread use of meat-curing and salting that began in the late 18th century, as a way to disguise the spoiled taste of the meat, and the ready availability of cheese in the county made it a good option. This may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is a distinctive and memorable dish.

Cheshire Ice Cream

Given Cheshire’s heritage as a dairy county, it is no surprise to find that there is a proud tradition of ice cream in the county. Cheshire ice cream is popular throughout the region, and there are a wide variety of Cheshire ice cream makers and attractions, including the Cheshire Ice Cream Adventure Park at the Ice Cream Farm. No summer trip to Cheshire is complete without sampling the local ice cream, and Cheshire ice cream makers supply restaurants and shops throughout England.

The Rich Variety of Lancashire Foods

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The north of England is arguably defined by the twin dominant counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire, occupying either side of the Pennines, apparently great rivals, yet sharing many aspects that have defined England throughout the centuries.

Lancashire can claim to be both one of the most notable of English counties, yet also one of the youngest of the historical county areas. In fact, at the time of the Domesday Book, compiled on the orders of William the Conqueror in 1086, Lancashire wasn’t even mentioned.

This had changed by the end of the 12th century, by which point there was a clearly recognisable county of Lancashire, and the region has gone on to become one of the most important parts of England, most notably for its rich industrial and cultural heritage.

The area that we know as Lancashire was originally occupied by the Brigantine tribes of Celts, and at one time, during which it also included the settlements of Manchester and Liverpool, it was one of the biggest counties in England. It also became one of the most significant parts of the country when the third Duke of Lancashire, Henry Bolingbroke, seized the English throne in 1399, becoming Henry IV. In the period that followed, the red rose symbol of Lancashire was opposed to the white rose of Yorkshire in that bloody passage of English history known as the War of the Roses.

Always associated with trade, Lancashire dramatically increased its power and wealth during the first half of the industrial revolution, when the towns and cities located in the south of the county became thriving hubs of industry, most notably thanks to the thriving cotton trade, but also due to the extensive sea-going links that had always made the region a trading hub, an aspect of the county’s history that grew rapidly after the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894.

By the second half of the 20th century, Lancashire had become the most populous geographical county in England. Parts of the county were hit hard by the decline in heavy industry that characterised this period, but in the 21st century, many areas have been rejuvenated with new industries and with a greater recognition of the cultural heritage of the urban areas, particularly around Manchester, which rivals Liverpool in its musical history.  

The county has always been a remarkably diverse melting pot of influences, with its ports bringing goods, people and ideas from all over the world, while at the same time, Irish, Scottish and Welsh immigrants have brought their own cultural influences to enrich the area.

The result has been a rich and thriving tradition in the areas of art, music and food. The gastronomic delights of Lancashire obviously owe a great deal to the industrial heritage of the county, as well as to the northern regions, whose contributions in terms of livestock and fishing are distinct. The result is a range of distinctively Lancastrian dishes and food products capable of satisfying any taste. Here are some of the best for your consideration:

Butter Pie

This may not sound like a particularly healthy dish, but you shouldn’t take the name too literally! The butter pie is popular throughout the county of Lancashire, but particularly around Chorley and Preston. It is actually made from thin-sliced potato, onions and butter along with a pinch of black pepper and is wrapped in a pastry case. As is the case with another famous Lancashire dish, hotpot, butter pie is often served along with a side of pickled red cabbage.

The origins of the butter pie are not entirely clear, but it is possible that it may have been created by the county’s large Catholic population. There is a centuries-old tradition of abstaining from eating red meat every Friday, so local Catholics would be seeking alternative dishes by the end of the week. This tradition may have given us the fish supper and could also have produced the Butter Pie, which for obvious reasons was sometimes known as the Catholic Pie or the Friday Pie.  

Lancashire Hotpot

Perhaps one of the most famous dishes in Lancashire, in fact, one of England’s most distinctive contributions to culinary diversity, is the Lancashire hotpot. The ingredients for this hearty dish are simple. It is made up of lamb or mutton, onions and potatoes, but the combination makes for a warming and wholesome product. The dish originated in Lancashire, and not surprisingly, got its name from the pot that it is traditionally cooked in.

Different regions of the county will add other vegetables, such as carrots or leeks, but the key similarity in all these varieties is the thin slicing of potatoes that go over the top of the meat and onions. The result is a wonderfully tasty dish that is perfect for cold winter nights.

Eccles Cakes

The Eccles cake, you won’t be surprised to discover, earned its name from the town of Eccles. It is a sweet cake, that is made from crumbly pastry and usually filled with currants or raisins, although sometimes other types of dried fruit are used. Although the origins of the Eccles cake remain unfortunately obscure, we do know that a man named James Birch was the first to put the cakes on sale, back in 1793, and they have proved hugely popular ever since. Eccles cakes are easy to make, and extremely tasty, and make for an ideal snack at tea time or as part of a picnic lunch.

Black Peas

Another traditional Lancashire dish, this developed from the availability of large quantities of black peas, traditionally eaten on or around Bonfire Night. This tasty recipe uses the purple podded peas that are usually left to dry on the pea plant. Once shrivelled up, the peas are then picked and packaged, before being left to soak. They can then be cooked and the result is a dish that has some similarities to mushy peas and is usually served with a simple dressing of salt and malt vinegar.

Manchester Tart

Lancashire cuisine has plenty to offer if you have a sweet tooth and the Manchester Tart is a particularly tasty example of the Lancashire fondness for confectionary. It is believed that they were invented during the Victorian era and have a distinctive appearance. Manchester Tarts are made from shortcrust pastry, to which is added a custard filling, followed by raspberry jam, coconut flakes and a Maraschino cherry, though there are other variations, including one that uses cream, that have proven equally popular. A tasty tea-time treat, they are quite messy to eat, so are best served formally.

Courting Cake

Among the stranger traditions of England that have found their way into our cuisine is the Courting Cake. A Courting Cake is a sponge cake, though it usually has a firmer texture than a standard Victoria sponge and is quite similar to a shortbread texture. It was usually filled with strawberries and cream and then presented by a woman to her fiancé, as a token of their love. Courting Cake proved to be a big success and is still eaten today, and the good news is that you don’t need to be engaged to the baker to get your hands on a slice!

Morecombe Bay Shrimp

Morecambe Bay Shrimp are distinctively small, brown shrimp, that have a striking colouring, and a mild, almost sweet taste. They are caught in amongst the shallow waters, sands and mud flats of Morecambe Bay on the Lancashire coast. Sometimes they can be bought already cooked in the shell, but they are most often sold ‘potted’ which means they are boiled in sea water, shelled and then preserved in spiced, clarified butter. Usually they are served cold with thin toast.

The history of shrimping in Morecambe Bay goes all the way back to the 18th century, but the technique of preserving the shrimp in this way for sea journeys is said to date from Tudor times. The shrimping industry grew in the 19th century as the new railways enabled the product to be distributed around the country, and Morecambe Bay shrimps enjoyed another boost in popularity in the early 1930’s when they became fashionable with wealthy London diners.

The Jewel of the East: Norfolk’s Rich Culinary Tradition

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Head east in England and you will come across some fascinating regions, one of the most interesting of which is the ancient county of Norfolk.  

To many people, Norfolk is the bulge on the map of England that marks the easterly most counties of the country, but it is a land with a distinctive history that has made a significant contribution both to the cultural and the culinary history of the nation.  

The history of the county is evident in the huge array of Stone Age and Bronze Age sites such as flint mines, long barrows and round barrows, all of which have been uncovered in the region, testifying to the likely importance of Norfolk in the prehistory of England. The region was settled by a number of tribes, most notably the Celtic Iceni, who arrived in Norfolk from the European continent.

Subsequent invasions by the Romans, the Saxons and the Danes left their mark on the county, particularly those of the Danes. Norfolk was a tempting target for the sea raiders from across the North Sea due to its location, its plentiful riverways and fertile soil and as a result, the county spent many years as part of the Danish kingdom in England, the Danelaw.

By 1086, the time of the Domesday Book, Norfolk had become a thriving centre of agriculture, largely due to the success of the wool trade. That status was maintained during what we know as the Medieval period, and the agricultural heritage of the county, which was also known for its barley, wheat, sugar beets, oats, peas and beans, have left a rich and enduring culinary legacy, enhanced by the impressive variety of seafood drawn from the Norfolk coast. Here are some of the most distinctive and tasty Norfolk foods that are worth exploring.  

Cromer Crab

There’s no doubt about the most popular Norfolk food, and the one that rightly comes first in our list. Cromer crabs are Norfolk’s most famous food product, as synonymous with the county as the Cornish pasty is with Cornwall. These distinctive crabs have a reputation for being particularly tasty because they thrive in the unique combination of chalk reef and shallow waters that can be found all along the coast of the county.  

In principle, Cromer crabs are the same as any of the other types of brown crab that are caught all around the coast of England, but their superior taste has been recognised in law. In fact, the rules relating to the categorization of the Cromer crab are strict. A Cromer crab must have a minimum legal shell span of 115 millimetres, which makes it smaller than any other crab caught in English waters .

Cromer crab meat is both tasty and healthy, being packed with Omega-3 and having very little fat. Available from April onwards every year, it is often eaten simply with black pepper, a twist of lemon juice and a sprinkle of smoked paprika on buttered brown bread, though it is sometimes also served with avocado or cucumber.

Black Turkeys

Norfolk is also well known for its famous flocks of black turkeys. These are most popularly eaten at Christmas, but the lean, versatile and healthy meat that they provide is an ideal food for any time of the year.

Historically, Norfolk has in fact been the leading poultry producer in England, mainly as the birds are able to feed on grain that is left over from the plentiful local arable harvest. At one time, geese were the main poultry livestock, but from the early 16th Century, when Spanish explorers first returned from Mexico bringing with them these strange, jet black birds, turkeys have been taking over. The fertile and flat plains of the county made the ideal habitat for these distinctive birds to thrive in and the turkey has long since replaced the goose as our favourite winter feast.

Norfolk Asparagus

Asparagus is a delicate and seasonal vegetable that has been held in high regard since the Romans first came to England. Asparagus is technically just the young shoots of a cultivated lily plant, and can be difficult to grow, but is considered to be one of vegetable world’s most luxurious treats.

The light soil in the Norfolk region makes for perfect asparagus growing conditions and if you drive around the county, you will soon find plenty of roadside stalls and farm shops that sell these delicious shoots. Norfolk asparagus is also greatly in demand in the food industry and features in the dishes of many of the country’s top restaurants and other eateries.

Norfolk Cheeses

Many English counties have their own speciality cheeses and Norfolk is no exception. The county can produces an impressive array of cheeses to sample. One of the best is Binham Blue, a soft blue-veined cheese that is produced at the Copys Green Farm at Wighton with milk from two herds: the Chalk Farm herd of Holstein Friesians and the Copys Green herd of Swiss Browns. You should also look out for Copys Cloud, which has a fluffy white rind and soft centre; the delicious fresh curd cheese known as Wighton and Warham, which is a semi-soft cheese that is available in a variety of flavours.

Brancaster Mussels

Another seafood delicacy, the clean harbour waters that can be found in the coastal town of Brancaster Staithe on the Norfolk coast ensure that this area is an ideal place to find shellfish. Brancaster mussels are collected at a stage while they’re young and are then moved to beds in the local tidal creeks, where they can mature before being harvested. Enjoyed from September through to April, Brancaster mussels are a tasty treat that is eaten throughout England.  

Marsh Samphire

Marsh samphire is sometimes known by the name of ‘sea asparagus’, and it thrives in the tidal salt marshes and creeks that are characteristic of the North Norfolk coast. This curious plant actually looks like a small cactus, though without the tricky spines, and it has a fresh crunch when you first bite into it, along with a distinctive taste. Best served steamed and eaten with butter, it has a salty, delicious flavour and is one of the treats of any trip to Norfolk.

Kippers

Kippers have long been considered a national dish, and their origins lie in Norfolk. Back in 1850 a local fisherman brought in a huge catch of herring in Yarmouth, one of the major towns of Norfolk. After selling some of his enormous haul, he was at a loss what to do with the remainder of the fish, so he split them and hung them in a hut that was kept warm with oak chippings. The result was a rich and tasty smoked food, and the rest is history. The delicious smoky taste of kippers has gone on to be a feature of many breakfasts. Look out too for the ‘bloater’, a whole fish, which is smoked in the same style, but over a shorter period.

Norfolk Beer

Beer has always been an important part of Norfolk cuisine, with some breweries and beer making facilities in the county dating back to the 16th century. At one time, many famous English breweries including names such as Bullards, Steward and Patteson, Morgans, and Youngs Crawshay and Youngs were based in the Norfolk area, and although there was a decline in the late 20th century as bigger companies monopolised the industry, the recent resurgence in artisan brewing has produced a new generation of brewery operations in the county.

In fact there are over 40 breweries in the Norfolk area and a higher concentration of microbreweries than in almost any other part of the world. There are countless food and drink festivals throughout  Norfolk that will give you the chance to try the fantastic variety of Norfolk beer, including the famous Fine Ale in the Fine City festival, which is held at St Andrews Hall, Norwich, in the early summer.

Beautiful Scenery and Tasty Dishes: The Best of Dorset

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Dorset can claim to be one of the oldest of English counties, and has a long and proud legacy as the site of multiple important events in English history. Evidence of this heritage can be found throughout the county. Dorset features plenty of examples of burial mounds some of which go back as far as the Early Bronze Age.

Up until the arrival of the Romans, the region now known as Dorset was dominated by the Celtic tribe the Durotriges, who emphasised their dominance by building over 27 hill forts, including the impressive Maiden Castle, which can still be found near Dorchester.

The Romans subsequently left their mark on the county, with many important buildings, including the Roman House in Dorchester, but when they left England, it was the turn of the Saxons to shape the county of Dorset. Their early rural settlements in fact determined the layout of the county, and Dorset later saw one of the most significant battles in English history, when King Alfred, the king of Wessex, defeated the Vikings, with the help of a storm, in Swanage Bay.

The Norman conquest also had an impact on the region, most notably due to the construction of a series of Norman castles, including surviving examples of their architecture that stand at Corfe and Sherborne. The historic legacy of Dorset is underlined by the fact that most of the county’s current towns and villages had a mention in the Norman Domesday Book of 1086, which was famously written to provide the new king, William, with a complete inventory of the land he had conquered.  

In the early years following the Norman invasion, the county drew considerable wealth from the wool trade, which was associated with Dorset’s many monasteries, initially. These centres of learning and craft were appropriated by Henry VIII when he declared the foundation of the Church of England but Dorset’s prominent role in the wool trade continued.

The county subsequently played an important role in the English Civil War, although it was divided between Parliament and King, while the Monmouth Rebellion, which followed the ascension of King James II also took place largely in this region. Smuggling also played a role in the economy of the county in this time, with the Dorset coast providing access to smugglers, traders and even pirates.

Dorset missed out on the Industrial Revolution, with the result that the county was less wealthy than many neighbouring regions, but this also helped to ensure that it has retained its rural nature, enabling it to become a fashionable tourist destination, with tourism increasingly taking on a significant place in the Dorset economy.

Naturally, this rich and varied history has had a fascinating influence on the county’s culture, including its food. Many towns across Dorset host food and drink festivals throughout the year including the popular Dorset Seafood Festival, which takes place in Weymouth every July. Here are some of the most delicious and enduring examples of classic Dorset food.

Dorset Blue Vinney

Dorset Blue Vinney (sometimes known as Vinny) is a traditional crumbly cheese that is widely known across the south west of England. The name drives from a Dorset term related to the old word “vinew”, which means ‘to become mouldy’, although some traditions suggest that ‘vinny’ is in fact a corruption of ‘veiny’ as a reference to the blue veins that run throughout the cheese. The cheese fell out of production for a while but was revived in the 1980s thanks to the efforts of Woodbridge Farm, and it has now earned the distinction of European Union Protected Geographical Status.

Dorset Apple Cake

The county of Dorset is well known for its apple cake, which is a delicious sweet cake often made with a range of different spices including cinnamon. Dorset Apple Cake appears on the menu of every tearoom in the county. It was traditionally considered a useful way of using up the plentiful supply of autumn apples produced by the county’s orchards and is often served with a hearty dollop of clotted cream or custard.

Leakers Bakery in Bridport is one of the county’s best known bakeries, with a proud tradition of baking going back to the 18th century and produces some of the county’s best apple cakes. It has been known as Leakers since just before the First World War, when Master Baker G.S. Leaker took over the premises, and the business was then continued by his son John, who set up the current ovens back in the 1940s. The bakery is still family owned, and to this day, produces Dorset Apple Cake using traditional ovens.

Dorset Jugged Steak

Jugging is an unusual method for the slow cooking of meat which has the effect of retaining the meat flavours while adding in the taste of a variety of other ingredients. This traditional Dorset dish was often prepared to be eaten on days when the fair visited the county, as it is durable enough to keep until after the fair goers returned home. Real Jugged Steak is a relatively rare dish to find these days, but is well worth seeking out as it is a tasty and distinctive Dorset treat..

Portland Pudding

This popular dish is sometimes known as Royal Pudding. It’s an indulgent dessert that is a legacy of the county’s links with royalty, and in particular, with King George III, who regularly visited the county and was said to love the food on the tied island of Portland.

The King was a frequent visitor to the Royal Portland Arms, where he took a liking to a particular pudding that had been devised by a local cook. The Portland Pudding is a rich dessert produced with dried fruit and candied peel that can be eaten both hot or cold.

Dorset Knobs

Dorset Knobs are one of the county’s most famous dishes. They are made from bread dough which is mixed with extra sugar and butter, before being rolled out and shaped by hand and then baked three times. Once cooked, they have a crumbly texture, which has been likened to dry stale bread or rusks, and as they are so hard, it is traditional to eat them by first soaking them in tea.

They got their name thanks to their resemblance to Dorset knob buttons or doorknobs and are typically only made during the winter months of January and February.

A favourite of famous writer Thomas Hardy, Dorset knobs are sometimes eaten with cheese, particularly the Dorset Blue Vinney, although the traditional methods of producing the Dorset Knob are time consuming. The process includes three separate bakings and can take up to ten hours. They have become such a settled part of the county’s heritage that every year on the first Sunday in May, there is a Dorset Knob throwing competition!

Dorset Sea Food

Dorset is particularly famous for its delicious range of seafood. The county is fortunate to have a long stretch of coastline and that has always meant a steady supply of local fish. The seafood heritage of the county is celebrated every year with the Dorset Seafood Festival, which is held in Weymouth, and which brings visitors from all over the world. It is possible to find a huge variety of local seafood dishes, but two of the most popular are mackerel baked in cider and haddock casserole.

Portland Lamb

Portland sheep are a breed that is local to Dorset, although at the time of writing there are only about 20 registered flocks in the county. Tradition has it that the original Portland sheep swam ashore to Portland Bill after the sinking of the Spanish Armada.

At one time these sheep were common all over Dorset, and although the breed came close to extinction in the 1970s, it has survived and multiplied thanks to the work of dedicated breeders and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Unlike most sheep breeds whose ewes usually produce twins, the Portland ewe gives birth to just one lamb per season, and they take longer to mature, which has made them less popular among some farmers, though Portland Lamb has a sought-after taste.

Yorkshire’s Food Heritage

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As a nation, England is relatively small, but this island packs a wealth of regional variation into its landmass, which ranges from accents and music to language, history, and cultural traditions.

Another key distinction between the various parts of England can be found in the array of dishes and food products that the island produces. Each region and indeed, each county has its own culinary traditions, and it is not surprising that one of the most distinctive regions of the country can offer us an array of local foods that have a unique and attractive flavour.

Yorkshire is the largest county in England. Technically, Yorkshire is made up of four counties, North, South, West and East Yorkshire, which between them cover an enormous area roughly east of the Pennines, from Sheffield in the south to Richmond in the north, and from the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales right across to the town of Scarborough and the city of Hull on the east coast.

Some of the countryside in Yorkshire is spectacular, and the Dales and the Yorkshire Moors are two of the largest National Parks in the country, while the region offers a huge diversity of economies, ecology, culture and forms of industry.

The county has been shaped by a variety of influences. The once-forested region was settled by a Celtic tribe, known as the Brigantines, before the arrival of the Romans, and there is a strong Viking influence throughout the region, which dates from the Viking occupation from the mid 9th century onwards. Yorkshire was also a thriving hub of the Industrial Revolution, with coal mining, steel production, wool and cloth manufacture all contributing to an economic upheaval that transformed huge areas of the county forever. And in the second half of the 20th century, increasing immigration to the county brought a new range of cultural influences to the mix of Yorkshire life.  

That long and varied history has inevitably led to the development of a unique variety of culinary contributions. And the sheer size of the county means that there is always plenty for the discerning foodie to choose from. In fact, the Yorkshire food and drink sector includes more than 1,100 companies of all sizes, employing over 50,000 people and producing a fascinating selection of much-loved food products, some of which are popular all over the world. To help you explore the best of Yorkshire, here are the highlights of Yorkshire’s contribution to English cuisine:

Yorkshire Pudding

We could hardly mention Yorkshire without discussing one Yorkshire food that has become ubiquitous. The Yorkshire Pudding is a dish that has travelled the globe, spreading the name of Yorkshire to many different cultures.

The Yorkshire Pudding may be a simple dish, which is made from nothing more complicated than eggs, flour and milk, but it is important to remember that a genuine Yorkshire-made Yorkshire pudding is a cut above the sometimes generic versions you may find in your local supermarket. The beauty of the Yorkshire Pudding is that it is such a flexible dinner option.

Typically, the Yorkshire Pudding is eaten with a roast dinner, either as a small addition to the plate, or as a larger base for the whole dinner. But its versatility means that it can also be the basis for all kinds of savoury snacks, while some even see it as a dessert, served with jam or golden syrup. Few dishes have achieved such widespread success as the humble Yorkshire pud.

Yorkshire Curd Tart

Out of all the tasty dishes to emerge from the county of Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Curd Tart is one that deserves a much wider appreciation. Surprisingly little known outside the county, this is a delicious delicacy with a history that can be traced all the way back to the 1750s. By tradition, the Yorkshire Curd Tart was baked for the celebration of Whitsuntide, or Pentecost, in May, a day that was marked by fairs throughout the county.

It is made from Yorkshire curd cheese, with just a hint of added lemon curd to give it an extra citrus edge and is served throughout the tea rooms and coffee shops of Yorkshire, and in some select establishments in the surrounding counties. These days the Yorkshire Curd Tart is eaten all the year round, and it’s sweet and refreshing combination of flavours makes it the perfect alternative if you’re looking for something different or more sophisticated than a cheesecake.

Wensleydale Cheese

First made in the Yorkshire village of Wensleydale, Wensleydale cheese has earned widespread admiration both for its subtle taste and crumbly texture. It is believed that the cheese was first made by Cistercian monks in the valley of Wensleydale in the 12th century, and it wasn’t made on a large scale until 1897. Nowadays, Wensleydale is produced throughout the county and is so distinctive and popular that it has earned European Union Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, putting it in the same distinguished category as the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie and the Cornish Pasty.

Chilli Jam

Some of the most famous Yorkshire foods are backed by centuries of tradition, but the thriving Yorkshire food sector has shown the ability to regularly produce new classics, and Chilli Jam is a perfect example. A fascinating alternative to traditional fruit-based jam, it was produced by chef Simon Barrett, who perfected the recipe over many years. The result is a tasty and award-winning jam that has since inspired a range of other creations including Mango Bhutney and Jammonaise.

Forced Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a simple fruit, but it has a versatility and richness that has made it a favourite for centuries, and Yorkshire represents the pinnacle of English rhubarb growing: the so-called Rhubarb Triangle, a roughly nine-square mile area that is located between Morley, Wakefield, and Rothwell known for its production of forced rhubarb; a version of the fruit that is both sweeter and more fragrant than regular rhubarb. Yorkshire can certainly lay claim to being the capital of rhubarb, in fact at one point in its history, the county of West Yorkshire produced 90 per cent of the world’s rhubarb production.

The significance of the region’s rhubarb industry is celebrated every year in the Wakefield Festival of Food, Drink and Rhubarb, which is held in late February. This is a rhubarb-lovers delight, and showcases everything from rhubarb gifts and souvenirs to entire rhubarb-themed menus.

Yorkshire Parkin

England is known for its celebration of cakes, biscuits and sweet treats, and another high profile Yorkshire contribution to that history is the Parkin cake. This is a classic local sweet treat that is believed to have been created during the Industrial Revolution. Traditionally eaten on Bonfire Night, November 5, Parkin was first made in the West Riding of Yorkshire, from a recipe that employs flour, butter, oatmeal, ginger and black treacle, although there are other variations on the basic recipe, including an East Yorkshire version, which produces more of a biscuit-style texture.

Whichever version of Parkin you favour it is the perfect hearty, filling food for a cold winter, and ideal served either with butter or eaten at tea time, with a cup of rich Yorkshire tea.

Yorkshire Beer

English beer brewing goes back many centuries, but there are few counties of the UK where the brewing industry has flourished as well as it has in Yorkshire. Indeed, there are many towns in Yorkshire primarily associated with the brewing industry. One example is the market town of Tadcaster in North Yorkshire, which is home to no fewer than three thriving breweries: John Smith’s, Samuel Smith’s and Molson Coors Tower Brewery.

Another small town, Masham, in North Yorkshire, is closely associated with the art of brewing beer and has the distinction of being home to two internationally known breweries: Theakstons and Black Sheep Brewery. In fact, these breweries are run by members of the same family. The Black Sheep title may hint at a family feud or the town’s history as a major sheep market, while Theakston’s Old Peculiar, one of England’s favourites ales, has a fascinating etymological basis. During the medieval period, the Archbishop of York designated the parish of Masham as a ‘Peculier’ which meant that it could govern its own affairs, a decision that could partly have been made so that church officials could avoid taking the dangerous journey up to Masham.

Henderson’s Relish

While Worcestershire Sauce may have its supporters throughout England, Yorkshire folk have their own version of distinctive brown condiment in Henderson’s Relish,

This spicy sauce was developed in Sheffield at some point in the 19th century, and like its Worcestershire equivalent, is a tasty and versatile kitchen additive. It has an astonishing range of potential uses, from sauces for meats to marinades and soups. And although it has some obvious similarities to the more southerly sauce, Henderson’s Relish has a distinctly warming flavour that adds depth and heartiness to a variety of dishes.

Seafood and Scones: The pick of Cornwall’s culinary heritage

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Cornwall is the most remote of English counties and this has led to the development of a distinctive local culture. Its eastern boundary, on the River Tamar, is some 200 miles from London and it’s most westerly town, Penzance, is a further 80 miles away, close to Land’s End, considered the traditional southwestern extreme of the British Isles.

As a result, the Duchy of Cornwall has more in common with Wales, Brittany, Ireland and Scotland than it does with England, thanks to its Celtic history, and Cornish, like Welsh, Gaelic and Breton, is a far older language than English, deriving from Celtic origins.

The spectacular coastal landscape of the county is its main attraction for visitors now, although the increasing pressures of tourism have taken their toll and long stretches of the coast are now owned by the National Trust or under similar protection from commercial development.

Metal ores, particularly tin, attracted prehistoric settlers to the area from the earliest times and there is plenty of evidence of early human activity in the county, including stone relics such as megalithic dolmens, monoliths, and circles. Subsequently, Roman and Saxon settlement in England caused a migration of Celtic Christians to Cornwall, where they went on to resist the Saxon advance for 500 years, only accepting Saxon control during the 10th century.

Following the Norman Conquest, the region was shaped into an earldom and since 1337 they have had a distinctive category, considered to belong to the eldest son of the English sovereign, who is given the title of Duke of Cornwall.

Throughout its history, rural resources have provided a base for the economy, and have sustained the county despite the decline of mining activity. The landscape is ideally arranged for rural endeavours. The valleys provide excellent pasture for dairy cattle, and the moorland has large areas for rough grazing. Market gardening is an important factor in the sheltered coastal districts, as the mild winter encourages the cultivation of delicate and early crops. Tourism also provides a major source of income, especially along the coast, where many of the small fishing ports including St Ives, New Quay, and Polperro have become busy resorts. Many of the county’s coastal towns, most notably, Fowey and Penzance are working ports.

Cornwall has long been associated with a rich seafaring and fishing tradition, and the Duchy has also provided some of the most popular and distinctive culinary contributions to English food.

Cornish Pasty

One of the most famous of all English foods, the Cornish pasty, is one of a handful to earn recognition with Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in 2011. It is the archetype of a number of similar pasties known around the country that served as a convenient and filling way for agricultural workers and miners to get daily nutrition while working. The traditional pasty is made from minced or diced beef, along with diced onion, potato and swede, and is seasoned with pepper. The thick pastry had the advantage of keeping the ingredients warm for longer, and these delicious products were usually eaten from end to end while wrapped in muslin or cloth by hard working tin miners.

Cornish Pilchards

At one time, pilchards were at the heart of the Cornish economy and even those who aren’t fans of this small, oily fish, will appreciate their importance. In the 18th and 19th centuries in Cornwall, those who weren’t employed in a mine were likely to be involved in the pilchard industry. Pilchard fishing led to the development of those famous Cornish fishing villages that have so defined the county in the last two centuries, including Mousehole, Mevagissey, Polperro and St Ives.

The heyday of the pilchard industry is gone, but these days, often rebranded as the Cornish sardine, the pilchard has become a delicacy, found in upmarket supermarkets around the country, and grilled pilchards are a tasty and nutritious food enjoyed widely across England.

Stargazy Pie

It would be impossible to mention Cornwall without dwelling on this famous, or, depending on your opinion, infamous version of a fish pie. This pie was made possible by the plentiful supply of pilchards in the county, which are then baked with potatoes and eggs in a pastry crust. This produces a tasty enough dish, but the most distinctive aspect of this pie is in the way it is presented. The heads of the fish are left to poke through the crust, as though they were ‘gazing at the stars’.

Tradition suggests that the recipe dates back to the 16th century to the village of Mousehole and was created in honour of a local fisherman, who set off into treacherous seas one winter’s day, at a time when the storms had been so bad that no-one had been able to catch any fish, which had left the community close to starvation. The fisherman, Tom Bawcock, came back with enough fish to feed the whole village. These were supposedly baked in one huge pie, and the pilchard heads sticking out of the crust represented a celebration of the return of the fish.

Saffron bun

Sometimes described as the Cornish tea treat or the Revel bun, the Saffron bun has some similarities to the tea cakes eaten across England, in that it includes currants, but the addition of saffron is distinctive. This is one of the world’s most expensive spices so would seem to be an unusual addition, and no-one is quite sure how it came to be used in this bun, but one explanation is that it was first acquired in ancient times from the travelling Phoenicians who travelled to England to trade tin. Whatever its origin, the saffron bun has become known as a quirky Cornish treat.

Cornish Meaderies

Cornwall wasn’t famous for creating mead, which is made from fermented honey and water, although the Cornish version does make for a sweet and heady brew. But the Duchy can claim to have created the meadery, which can best be described as a medieval themed restaurant, where food is served to customers on wooden plates and eating with your fingers is compulsory. Naturally, there is plenty of Cornish mead on offer, together with the equally tasty and potent Cornish blackberry wine!

Cornish Hevva Cake

Sometimes known as the Cornish heavy cake this is a traditional Cornish cake that is made from a  generous mix of lard, flour, butter, milk, sugar and raisins. Another food from the height of the pilchard industry, this cake was considered a way to commemorate a successful catch.

As part of the industry, a local man would be employed as a ‘huer’ whose job was to remain on the cliff top and act as a lookout for shoals of pilchard. If he spotted them, he had to shout “Hevva, hevva!”, which means “here they are!” in Cornish. He would direct the fleet by arm waving and when the pilchards had been landed, the village would celebrate with hevva cakes. By tradition, these cakes feature a criss-cross pattern, which represent fishermen’s nets.

Cornish Cream Tea

The cream tea has become famous as a Cornish product, although there is fierce dispute in the south-west over its precise heritage, with many in neighbouring Devon claiming the honour.

The basis of the cream tea is the fresh scone, which is split in half, then spread with strawberry jam followed by a scoop of clotted cream and is best served with a pot of tea. The Cornish cream tea has become popular with holidaymakers and across England, and while it is similar in most respects to the Devon cream tea, the Cornish cream tea strictly follows a jam-first approach, while the Devon cream tea involves spreading the cream first.

Newlyn crab

Crabs are caught widely around the coasts of Cornwall, but those landed in Newlyn, near Penzance, have the reputation for being the best. Both types of crab meat, the white, which is found in the crab’s claws and the brown, are widely enjoyed. The white meat is used in seafood dishes, while the brown is popular for soups and broths. All types of crab cuisine are popular on the Cornish coast, but there are few more enjoyable eating experiences than a bowl of crab soup or a crab sandwich in Newlyn.

Yarg Cheese

Cornwall is the location for over 50 varieties of cheese, but the most famous of them all is undoubtedly the Yarg. It is believed that the recipe was first created in the 13th century, but it was revived in the 1960s by a married couple, the Grays, who supposedly gave it their name, spelt backwards. This is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese which has some similarities to Caerphilly, but a major distinction is that this cheese is wrapped in nettles, which eventually produce an edible rind, though the stings are removed by freezing the leaves.

Cornish Fairings

The Cornish fairing has the distinction of being the traditional biscuit of Cornwall. It has something in common with the ginger nut, though less crunchy and much more buttery. Originally, fairings were eaten across England and earned their name thanks to being a popular treat at fairs, but the efforts of Cornish baker John Cooper Furniss, ensured the Cornish version become nationally dominant and now the traditional Cornish fairing is one of the most delicious of Cornwall’s culinary treats.

Try a Taste of Derbyshire

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You won’t find many more beautiful English counties than the county of Derbyshire, which has everything a tourist could want, from wild moorlands and lovely hills to picturesque valleys and rugged mountain hikes. The area is dominated by the Peak District National Park, which effectively marks the southern edge of the Pennines, and the dramatic scenery of the county has attracted travellers, ramblers and other tourists for centuries.

It is a county that has a long and proud history, as evidenced by the variety of prehistoric remains discovered in the territory, including a Paleolithic site at Cresswell Crags and a remarkable early Bronze Age circle of flat stones located near Youlgreave.

During the Roman occupation, Derbyshire was considered an important region as the invaders set up a military network of roads and forts throughout the county. They also founded the spa town of Aquae Arnemetiae, which has now become known as Burton.

Following the departure of the Romans, Derbyshire became an important territory in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, but the region was also partially occupied by the Danes, who took control of Repton, which was an important Mercian religious centre. In fact, it was the Danes who founded the first ever borough of Derby.

For most of its history, Derbyshire was consisted a pastoral county, with some small scale mining and quarrying, although it was the site of considerable lead deposits, first discovered and mined systematically by the Romans, which were in big demand during the Middle Ages.

But with the coming of the Industrial Revolution, Derbyshire became a major hub of activity, particularly in the east of the county, where iron ore deposits were exploited on a huge scale throughout the eighteenth century. Derbyshire was actually the site of the first modern factory in the country, a silk mill, which was built in the city of Derby in 1717. Cromford in Derby was also the site of the first water-powered cotton-spinning mill, unveiled by Sir Richard Arkwright in 1771.

The valleys of Derbyshire went on to become important sites for textile mills, and all of the eastern and southern coalfields were intensively exploited, ensuring that the towns of Chesterfield, Bolsover, Alfreton, and Ilkeston became trading and cultural hubs.

This industrial heartland declined in the 20th century, although the county retains a role as an important engineering centre, and a leading producer of limestone. And as industry has declined, tourism has become increasingly important. The rich and fertile countryside is a big attraction, and the county also boasts a variety of stunning and architecturally important buildings, including the great houses at Haddon, Hardwick, Chatsworth, Bolsover, Sudbury, and Sutton Scarsdale, along with its share of tourist-friendly picturesque villages and hamlets.

That distinctive blending of agricultural and industrial heritage has led to a unique and homely tradition of cuisine. Here are some of Derbyshire’s most famous contributions to the food of England.

Bakewell Pudding

No visit to the county of Derbyshire would be complete without trying the famous local dessert, Bakewell Pudding. This sweet treat has been savoured and enjoyed in the Peak District market town of Bakewell as well as throughout England since it was invented in the 1860s.

The story of the origins of this dish, which consists of a set almond and egg custard on top of a layer of strawberry jam, in a crunchy, butter puff pastry case, lie in a misunderstanding between the owner of the White Horse Inn and her cook. A group of wealthy visitors had asked for a strawberry tart, but the cook mistakenly spread the egg mixture onto the top of the jam, rather than into the pastry itself, creating a distinctive and delicious pudding, that was keenly taken up by locals.

To this day, you will find a shop baking hand-made Bakewell Puddings to the original recipe in the town, and the dish has proven to be an enduring and hearty dessert throughout England.

Ashbourne Gingerbread

Spicy and warming, gingerbread has a special place in English food culture and the town of Ashbourne has a proud history of producing some of England’s finest gingerbread. According to local legend, the recipe for this delicacy was taken from French prisoners of war who were held captive in the town during the Napoleonic Wars. In fact, one tradition even suggests that it came from the chef of a French general.

Ashbourne Gingerbread makes a delicious treat and is often given as a gift. It is sold throughout Derbyshire, but the best place to buy it is at the timber-framed Gingerbread Shop in the town, which may date back as far as the 15th century.

Hartington Stilton

Stilton is one of England’s most famous cheeses, but it has a complicated history. Though the association with the Cambridgeshire village of Stilton is obvious, the cheese long ago became associated with the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. In fact, officially Stilton can only be made in those counties, and has earned protected status through the European Union, one of only a handful of English products to earn that label.

Derbyshire has its own take on Stilton, thanks to the efforts of the small Peak District village of Hartington, which at one point in its history, was responsible for a quarter of the world’s supply of Stilton. The history of cheese making in Hartington goes back to the 1870s. Local cheese production was halted in 2009, but was relaunched by a team of dedicated enthusiasts and local business people who established the Hartington Creamery in 2012. The relaunched cheese making operation has since won awards for its range of cheeses, but the Stilton remains its most popular product.

Produced through allowing air inside the cheese during the maturation process, the distinctively blue-veined cheese has a crumbly, yet soft and salty flavour, and is usually the star of any cheeseboard, though it is also available in a white version, that is often combined with fruit.

Derbyshire Oatcakes

A local Derbyshire delicacy that has been around since the 17th century, Derbyshire Oatcakes are best described as a cross between a crumpet and a pancake. They are round, soft and considerably thicker than the form of oatcake found in neighbouring Staffordshire.


As the name indicates, Derbyshire Oatcakes are made with oats that are grown on the harsh Pennine landscape, which are then combined with flour, salt, water and yeast to produce a wholesome and versatile baked snack. They are widely made throughout Derbyshire and are an ideal food for combined with sweet and savoury items as a tea time or lunch treat.

Derbyshire Fidgety Pie

Harvest time has always been the most important part of the rural calendar, and the Derbyshire Fidgety Pie reflects the legacy of the county’s agricultural past. This hearty dish was created in South Derbyshire, where it was traditionally made to use up the apples that were left over from the autumn harvest. It combines potatoes, apples, bacon and onions, which are then topped with shortcrust pastry, creating a delicious meal. It is believed that the pie’s name came from the word ‘fitchet’, which is the name for the five-sided dish that the pie was originally cooked in.


Buxton Pudding

The Bakewell Pudding isn’t the only Derbyshire contribution to the English tradition of homely, warming desserts. The Old Buxton Pudding Company of Furness Vale has won many awards for its modern take on the traditional Buxton Pudding. This recipe comes from the early 19th century, and consists of a sweet pastry base, which is then topped with raspberry jam and a sponge cake layer. The dessert is usually eaten warm with either custard or cream.

Thor Cake

Few English cakes have a more interesting name, but the title of this dish doesn’t derive from the famous Norse god. The name is believed to have come from the Old English word ‘theorf’, which can be translated as ‘plain’ or ‘unprocessed’. Thor Cakes are made with a blend of oats, spices, black treacle and dried fruit, producing a hearty and distinctive tea time snack. The Thor Cake is typically associated with the autumn, and was often served on Bonfire Night or Halloween.

Gloucestershire’s Fine English Cuisine

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Of all the old historic counties of England, Gloucestershire is one of our most famous and historically, has been an extremely important territory, lying as it does at the border between England and Wales and including one of the country’s most significant ports, Bristol.

The River Severn dominates the geography and topography of the county, dividing it from north to south, as it flows out from the county of Worcestershire before passing through the low-lying Vale of Gloucester. To the west of the Severn is found the high country of the area of the Forest of Dean, while the eastern edge of the river vale merges with the famous and picturesque Cotswolds, home of some of England’s most idyllic villages and tourist attractions.

This part of the country has long been considered important, and there is plentiful evidence of prehistoric activity in Gloucestershire, in the form of the fascination and widespread burial mounds. At the time of the Roman occupation of Britain, both Cirencester and Gloucester were considered significant towns and the area boasted an array of villas and military camps. After the Romans left, Gloucestershire was conquered by the Saxon Hwicca tribe, who forced out the native Britons, and the county eventually became part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

Gloucestershire endured a significantly troubled history throughout the Medieval era and into the 17th century. It was the scene of many battles for the English crown and against the Welsh, as testified by the many major Norman castles in the region, including Berkeley, Bristol and Gloucester. It also came to be a key territory during the English Civil War.

Economically, the county’s fortunes were initially founded on the 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 ironworking and coal mining in the Forest of Dean during the Industrial Revolution, although not on the scale of that in the Midlands and the north, and the last mine in the area was closed in 1965.

To this date, agriculture remains the most important form of land use despite the fact that the traditional Cotswolds’ sheep farming industry has been greatly reduced and largely replaced by arable and cattle farming. In the north east of Gloucestershire, there are considerable holdings of fruit orchards, where the county forms part of the apple and pear growing heartland of the nation. Gloucester and Cheltenham are also significant areas of employment, and Bristol remains a major city, though it is no longer included within the geographical county of Gloucestershire.

The combination of arable, sheep and cattle farming with the county’s traditions of fruit processing and the thriving trade of the sea and the River Severn has produced a distinctive Gloucestershire cuisine, though the county is arguably most famous for its range of delicious cheeses. Here are some of the most notable Gloucestershire delicacies:

Traditional Gloucestershire Old Spot Pork

One of the county’s most famous agricultural contributions is the Old Spot breed of pigs. The pork from Old Spot pigs is considered superior to other, more conventionally produced pork, thanks to its higher tenderness, increased juiciness and strong flavour. It is sold throughout Gloucestershire and beyond and can be obtained in cuts ranging from legs and chops to shoulders and sausages. The key to the flavour of traditionally farmed Old Spot is that fact that these pigs are born and reared only in natural and organic environments in the Gloucestershire region.

Double Gloucester

Double Gloucester is arguably the county’s most famous product, a cheese that is produced with full fat cow’s milk that is drawn from the cream from one night’s milking and from the following day’s milking. This may be the reason for the name, although Double Gloucester cheeses are also traditionally twice the height of Single Gloucester cheeses, so that might also explain the ‘double’ element.

The texture of this cheese is buttery and smooth when young, but it is usually aged for at least four months, during which time the rind and overall texture develop a distinctive hardness. This is what enables locals to use rounds of the cheese for the famous Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling event! Double Gloucester is a remarkably tasty cheese, made even more distinctive by the use of annatto extract to provide that famous colour, and it produces a flavour that is rich, nutty and even citrusy.

Gloucestershire Perry and Cider

Perry is a distinctively English drink, produced by fermenting the juice of pressed, local perry pears although a proportion of cider apple juice is also permitted, while cider is also a local speciality.

Gloucestershire ciders cover the full spectrum from sweet and medium sweet to dry and bitter, while the county’s perries, by contrast, have a soft, almost floral taste, and tend to be paler. Local cider and perry is made only from locally grown fruit, and along with Herefordshire and Worcestershire, the county is a major apple and pear growing centre.

Gloucestershire Squab Pie

There is a long tradition in many English counties of using scraps of food to make filling meals and Gloucestershire Squab Pie is a perfect example. The county has long been associated with the traditions of sheep farming, while 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, and the desire to make the meat last led to this delicious recipe that involves using mutton or lamb leftovers and combining them with onions, potatoes, swedes and apples in a pastry case.

Cerney Pyramid

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

Hereford Hop

Despite the name, Hereford Hop is a cheese that is actually produced in Dymock in Gloucestershire. It was created in the late 1980s by Charles Martell, who also produces the famous Stinking Bishop (see below). This cheese is made using either raw or pasteurized cow’s milk and is easy to recognise as it is typically rolled in toasted hops. The resulting texture is both firm and creamy, and it has a strong, yeasty scent, as well as a slightly bitter aftertaste, thanks to the presence of the hops. It makes for a delightful pairing with a glass of ale and some rustic bread.

Stinking Bishop

This soft, pungent cheese dates back to 1972 and is produced using the milk of the rare Gloucester breed of cow, although it is sometimes combined with the milk from Friesian cattle. The cheese rind is then 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 strong flavours. It is perfect for spreading on crackers and had a burst of popularity back in 2005 when it was featured in the Wallace & Gromit move, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.