Home Blog

Cuisine from the English Riviera: The Food of Cornwall

0

Cornwall is the most isolated English county, and this may explain why it has developed a culture that is so distinctive. Its eastern border, on the Tamar River, is around 200 miles from London, while its most westerly town, Penzance, is about 80 miles away, close to Land’s End, the traditional southwesternmost point of the British Isles.

As a result of its Celtic heritage, the Duchy of Cornwall shares more in common with Wales, Brittany, Ireland, and Scotland than it does with England, and Cornish, like Welsh, Gaelic, and Breton, is a much older language than English, coming from Celtic roots.

The county’s stunning coastline terrain is now its main draw for visitors, yet increasing tourism pressures have taken their toll, and extensive portions of the coast are either controlled by the National Trust or protected from commercial development in some way.

Prehistoric people were drawn to the area by metal ores, particularly tin, and there is abundant evidence of early human activity in the county, including stone remnants such megalithic dolmens, monoliths, and rings.

As a result of Roman and Saxon colonisation in England, Celtic Christians fled to Cornwall, where they fought the Saxon advance for 500 years, until surrendering to Saxon rule in the 10th century.

The territory was moulded into an earldom during the Norman Conquest, and they have had a distinct category since 1337, regarded to belong to the English sovereign’s eldest son, who is granted the title of Duke of Cornwall.

Rural resources have provided a stable economic foundation for the county throughout its history, notwithstanding the downturn in mining activity. The environment is well-suited to rural pursuits as the valleys are ideal for dairy cattle, while the moorland has plenty of open space for harsh grazing. The mild winters enable the production of delicate and early crops, making market gardening an essential role in the sheltered coastal districts.

Tourism is also a significant source of revenue, particularly along the coast, where many of the little fishing ports, including as St. Ives, Newquay, and Polperro, have developed into popular tourist destinations. Many of the county’s coastal towns are also functioning ports, including Falmouth, Fowey, and Penzance. With it’s long history of seafaring and fishing, Cornwall has contributed some of the most popular and distinctive culinary specialities in English cuisine.

Cornish Pasty

The Cornish pasty, one of the most famous of all English meals, is among just a few to be designated as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) . It is the prototype for a variety of similar pasties that functioned as a handy and filling way for agricultural workers and miners to acquire daily sustenance while working across the country.

The typical pasty is seasoned with pepper and cooked with minced or diced beef, diced onion, potato, and swede. The thick pastry kept the ingredients warm for longer, and hard-working tin miners would devour these delicious pastries during brief breaks in the working day.

Cornish Pilchards

Pilchards were once the lifeblood of the Cornish economy, and even those who aren’t admirers of this little, oily fish will recognise its significance. Those who weren’t working in a mine in Cornwall in the 18th and 19th centuries were likely to be employed in the pilchard industry. Pilchard fishing spawned the famed Cornish fishing communities of Mousehole, Mevagissey, Polperro, and St Ives, which have come to characterise the county over the last two centuries.

The heyday of the pilchard industry is long gone, but the pilchard has evolved into a delicacy, available in luxury stores across the country, and grilled pilchards are a delightful and nutritious snack eaten widely throughout England.

Stargazy Pie

It would be impossible to discuss Cornwall without mentioning this renowned, or infamous, form of a fish pie, depending on your point of view. The abundance of pilchards in the country allowed for the creation of this pie, which is then baked with potatoes and eggs in a pastry shell. This results in a delectable dish, but the most distinguishing feature of this pie is how it is presented. As if they were ‘looking at the stars,’ the heads of the fish are left poking through the crust.

The dish is said to have originated in the 16th century in the village of Mousehole, and was named after a local fisherman who braved the hazardous waters one winter day when the storms were so fierce that no one could catch any fish, leaving the community on the verge of starvation. Tom Bawcock, the fisherman, returned with enough fish to serve the entire community. The pilchard heads protruding out of the crust were supposed to symbolise 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

This classic Cornish cake, also known as the Cornish heavy cake, is created with a large mixture of lard, flour, butter, milk, sugar, and raisins. This cake was often made to honour a successful pilchard catch during the peak of the pilchard industry.

As part of the fishing effort, a local man was hired as a ‘huer,’ whose job was to stay on the cliff top and keep an eye out for pilchard shoals. If he saw them, he had to yell “Hevva, hevva!” in Cornish, which means “here they are!” He’d wave his arms to direct the fishing flotilla, and when the pilchards were landed, the hamlet would celebrate with hevva cakes. These cakes are traditionally decorated with a criss-cross pattern that represents 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

Over 50 different types of cheese are produced in Cornwall, but the Yarg is undoubtedly the most famous. The recipe is thought to have been established in the 13th century, but it was reintroduced in the 1960s by a married couple named the Grays, who allegedly named it after themselves, spelled backwards. This is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese that is similar to Caerphilly, but one notable difference is that it is wrapped in nettles, which make an edible rind once 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.

The Royal County: Berkshire’s Rich Cuisine

0

Many English counties are famous for a specific industry, dish, or historical event, but Berkshire is most recognised for its royal connections. The presence of Windsor Castle, the Royal residence, within the county lines has traditionally associated Berkshire with the nobility, and that reputation has only grown stronger over the ages.

Despite its reputation as a rural area, the county’s terrain is remarkably diverse. Berkshire is shaped and bounded on the eastern end by the Thames and acres of forested terrain, including the famed Windsor Forest. Beautiful chalk downs may be found in the west, rising to nearly 1000 feet in some areas. Because of its proximity to London, the county is served by several railway and road networks and is home to a large number of city commuters.

The county’s importance dates back to prehistoric times, when the Berkshire Downs were home to a number of prehistoric villages, many of which were connected by ridgeways, including those that led to Stonehenge in Wiltshire. The Iron Age Uffington White Horse, a spectacular shape carved into the chalk of the White Horse Hill, is another notable archaeological monument in Berkshire.

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of Iron Age communities in the river valleys to the east of the county, as well as a notable Belgic site at Silchester, which later formed an important stop on the Roman road network that runs through the county.

The major Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex alternately claimed Berkshire in the years after the Romans left, with the latter also having a link to Berkshire through Alfred the Great, the first king of England, who was born in Wantage in 848.

Following their conquest of England, the Normans recognised the importance of the Thames to the economy and strategic position of the country, prompting the construction of the original Windsor Castle, which later became the major residence of the British royal family outside of London. During the Middle Ages, towns like Wallingford and Abingdon flourished, and the famed private school of Eton was founded in Berkshire in the 15th century.

While Berkshire was mostly unaffected by the Industrial Revolution, its proximity to London has always meant that the county has been influenced by events in the capital, which has included the many waves of new urban expansion over the last two centuries. Reading, the county town, was at the heart of much of this development, while Slough, when WWI ended, became an important industrial location. At the same time, a number of towns in the county grew in importance as commuter hubs and high-tech and software development centres.

Despite these changes, the western half of the county has preserved much of its agricultural character, as well as a tradition of horse racing in the Newbury and Lambourne areas. Cereal crops, in particular, constitute a significant component of the county’s economy, and the food industry is thriving, with numerous high-end restaurants showcasing Berkshire cuisine.

Eton Mess

The most well-known of Berkshire’s culinary accomplishments is a delectable summer dessert named for the prestigious public school where it is said to have been invented. According to legend, strawberries, meringue, and a cream pudding were dropped during an Eton vs. Harrow cricket match in the late 1800s, and when the resulting ‘mess’ was swept up, the outcome was an exceedingly tasty and refreshing treat. Whether or not the anecdote is genuine, the Eton Mess has become one of England’s most popular sweet desserts and a classic summer dish.

Windsor Pudding

Windsor Pudding may not be as well-known as Eton Mess, but it has a large following in the United Kingdom. It’s unclear if it got its name because it was cooked in Windsor or because of the Royal connection, but either way, it’s a delightful comfort dish made with breadcrumbs and suet, with diced apple, currants, raisins, sweet wine, and eggs. It takes around three hours to cook the whole thing, and it was originally boiled in a canvas bag before being served with sugar and white wine sauce.

Wigmore Cheese

This delicious, creamy, crumbly cheese is created in Riseley, a little community on the outskirts of Reading. It’s a semi-soft cheese made from unpasteurized ewe’s milk and made using traditional hand-washed curd cheese procedures, with a vegetarian, natural rind as a result.

The curd is handwashed, which reduces whey and lowers acidity, allowing the cheese to maintain its typical smooth texture and mild flavour. Early on, Wigmore can be crumbly, but as it ages, it softens and matures into a velvety texture comparable to Brie, but without the tendency to become runny. Wigmore has received multiple awards at the British Cheese Awards and is delicious when paired with a glass of Burgundy.

Berkshire Faggots

Faggots are one of those ‘acquired taste’ English foods that have been enjoyed by generations of workers across the country. Although the most renowned faggots recipe comes from the West Midlands, Berkshire has its own reputation when it comes to this distinctive dish. Berkshire faggots are produced from pork offcuts that are seasoned with sage, pepper, salt, and chopped onions, moulded into balls, and baked or stewed to provide a nutritious and substantial meal.

Berkshire Bacon Pudding

Berkshire Bacon Pudding, also known as Berkshire Bacon Rolly Poly, is a delectable dish prepared with bacon and onion that is wrapped in suet pastry and steamed. Some cooks choose to add sage for a more complex flavour, but this stodgy yet satisfying pastry dish is typically prepared simply and served as a lunchtime snack.

Barkham Blue

Berkshire is also home to another popular cheese, created by the Two Hoots cheese firm, in addition to the award-winning Wigmore. They make a variety of high-quality cheeses, but their most famous is certainly the Barkham Blue, which they started as a pastime. This is a rich, salty blue cheese that has a devoted following across the country, not just in Berkshire. It has also received a number of honours, including the Best Blue Cheese in the United Kingdom.

Poor Knights of Windsor

This dish, which is comparable to French Toast, has a lengthy history. Although comparable dishes in other parts of Europe have also been dubbed ‘poor knights,’ the origin of its title is unknown. The basic dish is made with white bread that has been soaked in cream and then cooked with eggs and nutmeg till golden and served with milk and sugar. Although a later variation, from the middle of the nineteenth century, proposes eating it with a wine sauce, the first example of this dish came in a cookbook from 1658, which suggested serving it with rosewater, butter, and sugar.

Reading Sauce

Reading Sauce is one of the oddest delicacies in English regional cooking. It was produced by fishmonger James Cocks, who founded his store in Reading in 1789, and is officially known as Cocks’ Reading Sauce.

It’s made in the same style as Worcestershire sauce, but with a unique combination of uncommon ingredients and a completely new flavour. Shallots, walnut pickle, anchovies, and cayenne pepper, as well as chillies, garlic, mushroom, and soy sauce, make for a distinctive taste.

Surprisingly, this combination of ingredients became a household staple in England and throughout the world until falling out of favour in the first half of the twentieth century. It was prominently mentioned in Jules Verne’s 1872 novel Around The World In Eighty Days, in which the protagonist, Phileas Fogg, breakfasts at the Reform Club in London on broiled fish with Reading sauce. Although the sauce is no longer popular, it is nevertheless an important component of Berkshire cuisine.

A Guide to English Beer Types

0

It is not contentious to state that England is a beer-drinking nation. Our culture has old and profound ties to the fermentation and consumption of fermented hops, with all of the associated rituals, associations, and societal ramifications.

Some of the finer aspects of the differences in varieties of beer have been forgotten over the decades. Beer and ale are often used interchangeably nowadays, but this was not always the case. In fact, ale was initially a malted barley drink with herbs and spices but no hops, whereas beer was a malted barley drink with hops that was drunk all over continental Europe.

Hopped beer was first consumed in England in 1362, when it was brought from Amsterdam and served in Great Yarmouth. By 1412, there was evidence that imported hops were being used to make beer in Colchester. But domestic hops cultivation did not begin until 1520, when the first samples were planted in Kent.

English people continued to love ale brewing and drinking, and both beer and ale were regarded as distinct drinks. Eventually, maybe by the 18th century, hopped beer had taken over, and the distinctions between ale and beer were gradually lost.

From the 17th century onwards, England’s growing international power and enormous commerce network increased demand for beer, bringing it to parts of the world that had never tried it before.

Much of the beer distribution was unintentional and not totally commercial. On extended voyages, ships carried beer as a supply of drinking water and daily rations to keep the crew happy. In truth, in the years before efficient public sanitation, the preference for beer over drinking water made a lot of sense in English society, because the alcohol in beer killed most of the hazardous bacteria found in public drinking water.

Beer drinking, and the associated inn and public house culture, slowly became an essential part of English life. For many decades in the 20th century, the beer business was dominated by a few powerful breweries, but all of this changed in 2002, when the Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown made dramatic changes to the taxes on beer duty. 

The result has been an explosion in small, artisanal and craft breweries, and a rainbow of inventive styles and flavours, that has seen England become one of the world’s leading producers of innovative beers, ales, porters and stouts. To help you explore the wonderful world of English beer, here are ten of the most notable styles you are likely to come across:

Bitter

This is a classic English beer style that refers to cask-conditioned ales, popular throughout the English pub landscape. When it comes to style, bitters can be quite versatile and include brews of different colours, strengths, and flavours, but one thing that most bitters have in common is a malty essence, a bite of hop bitterness, light or medium body, and a relatively low alcohol content. Bitter is often graded in ascending order of alcoholic content, from ordinary bitter to best bitter and finally strong or extra special bitter.

Brown ale

This is an old and versatile style of beer whose origins lie in the depths of the English brewing tradition. Back in the Victorian era, the name ‘brown ale’ was used as a generic term that referred to various types of beers made from brown malt. The arrival of pale malt meant that the brown ale style of beer nearly died out completely, although it was revived and began to regain some ground in the 1920s.

Newcastle Brown is perhaps the most famous of the English brown ales, and it formed the foundation of the revival of brown ale, although these days the brown ale name incorporates a variety of different styles and flavours.

Pale ale

Although the name pale ale probably originated in 18th-century England, it was originally mainly used for those brews that were produced with pale barley malt and which were a little lighter than the standard dark and brown beers. It was also used interchangeably with the term bitter, leading to further confusion that continues to this day.

Over the following centuries however, the style developed in new directions that were driven by different brewing practices as well as the choice of hops, leading to a diverse style with a broad range of strength, colour and flavour, though most pale ales are malty, dominated by hops and range in colour from gold to amber. 

India pale ale

India pale ale or IPA is one of the most interesting beer styles with origins that are widely disputed, though it seems that the style developed from the need to transport pale ale brews to distant colonies, particularly India, because the climate there was too hot to brew beer.

IPA was produced by raising alcohol levels and adding more hops, helping to preserve the beer on long journeys. The first reference to India pale ale was noted in the 1830s, though it is likely that the style long predated this period. These days, IPAs are at the heart of the craft beer revolution, particularly in the US.  

Porter 

This is a beer style that was developed in London sometime in the 18th century, although the array of well-balanced and aromatic modern versions has little in common with the original. Porter is a versatile dark ale that is made from dark malted barley along with a hefty helping of hops, leading to roasted, malty flavours and medium bitterness.

Stout

Stout is a top-fermented beer that is usually dark, with a deep, roasted flavour. It is believed that the stout was developed as an adaptation of porter, at some point during the 18th century, when brewers were aiming to produce a stronger and fuller porter.  

This drink is best known for its aromas of roasted barley and roasted malt that can even be reminiscent of coffee, chocolate, or cocoa. Traditional dry stouts can be black or deep brown in colour and are in the medium-light to medium-full range when it comes to body, while being smooth, creamy, and silky with a long dry finish.

Imperial Stout

This stout variant is a strong and opaque dark beer that was first produced in London, but which is also associated with Russia, Baltic countries, and in recent years, with the US. Modern imperial stouts range from deep red to dark brown and are full-bodied, rich, complex, and intense drinks, with flavours that can include roasted malt, dark and dried fruit, chocolate, and coffee. Most varieties will be high in alcohol and bitter hops.  

Sweet stout

This is another variant of stout that is usually brewed with the addition of milk sugar. It is also sometimes known as cream or milk stout, and it emerged in England sometime in the early 1900s. Sweet stouts are usually dark and full-bodied beers that offer grainy malt flavours and aromas, which often hint at coffee and chocolate.

Sweet stouts provide medium hop bitterness, and their malty character is well-balanced with medium to high sweetness. They can make an ideal pairing with chocolate desserts, but they can also work well alongside creamy cheese, spicy dishes, game, and rich sauces. 

Oatmeal stout

This is yet another take on stout, this time with the addition of oatmeal. The style first became popular in England, sometime in the late 19th century. Oatmeal stouts are usually dark and smooth, with a distinct roasted malt character and coffee aromas.

By adding oatmeal, the stout will take on subtle sweetness and sometimes earthy, grainy, and nutty flavour, while the bitterness can vary, but it is usually low to moderate. Oatmeal stouts goes well with roasted meat, rich and spicy sauces, chocolate and caramel.

Barley wine

Despite the name, English barley wine is actually a style of beer that is often considered the ancestor of all beers. It is a strong, rich, and usually moderately hoppy style with pronounced malt flavours, along with aromas of bread, toast, toffee, dried fruit, and molasses.

If aged for longer periods, barley win can take on similar characteristics to port and sherry wines, and though these beers usually have high alcohol content, the alcohol is not usually overpowering as the drink mellows with age. In terms of colour, there is a variety of tones from deep gold and brown to lighter shades. Barley win is typically smooth and velvety in body, with a distinctive taste.  

The Taste of Bedfordshire Food

0

Bedfordshire is one of England’s smallest counties, although it has had a significant impact on the country’s history and cuisine. It borders the counties of Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Northamptonshire, and offers a diversified scenery, ranging from the picturesque rural north to the city of Luton in the south of the county.

Bedfordshire’s history of human settlement goes all the way back to the Bronze Age. Indeed, there is evidence that the Beaker people, who were thought to be immigrants from the eastern Mediterranean region with a highly developed society, settled in what is now Bedfordshire in approximately 1800 BC.

When the Romans arrived in England, they saw the south of Bedfordshire as particularly important, concentrating their construction efforts in the area of Dunstable, which they called Durocobrivae and which went on to become a vital trading hub on the Roman road network.

The area we now know as Bedfordshire was overrun by Saxon and then Danish tribes after the Romans left England, and it was the Danes who eventually created the county town of Bedford, though Bedfordshire didn’t have its own distinct character until the later Saxon period, when it was officially recognised as one of the English shires.

Since then, the county has been characterised by two fundamental aspects: its rural traditions and its proximity to London, making it a suitable location for many of England’s landed aristocracy to call home over the years. This means that although the county is steeped in history and offers a variety of beautiful places to visit, it is only 35 minutes by rail from London. Not surprisingly, the county is considered an ideal destination for day-tripping tourists from the capital.

The county has a museum dedicated to John Bunyan, the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the most important early writers in the English language. It is also known for a 20th century monument. In December 1944, bandleader Glenn Miller took off from RAF Twinwood Farm for his final flight, which ended in tragedy. The location, which is no longer used as an airstrip, now houses the Glenn Miller Museum in the old control tower.

Woburn Abbey, one of England’s most famous stately homes, and Woburn Safari Park are both within driving distance of Bedford. Wrest Park, another noble home, has an annual St George’s Day festival, which takes place in the Park’s exquisite grounds.

In addition, two popular transportation museums are also located in the county. The Shuttleworth Collection houses almost 50 aircraft that depict the evolution of aviation in England and around the world, while the Stondon Transport Museum near Henlow houses a full-scale replica of Captain Cook’s ship, Endeavour.

Although the town of Luton in the county’s south is best known for its history of light industry and connections to London, the county’s north retains much of its old rural character, including the Barton Hills National Nature Reserve, through which runs the Icknield Way, which extends to Norfolk in the north east and Wiltshire in the south west. This agricultural past has resulted in several intriguing Bedfordshire meals as well as a culinary culture that continues to add to England’s unique food collection to this day:

Willow Tree Gin

The artisanal gin boom of the last 15 years has led to some remarkable English takes on the traditional drink and Bedfordshire is home to one of the most distinctive. Willow Tree Gin is produced in the small hamlet of Thorncote Green, created in small batches from a unique selection of botanicals, which includes herbs freshly picked from a family farm. The ingredients are selectively smoked and this handcrafted gin has a delightfully clean finish.

Apple Florentine Pie

This is among the more unusual desserts in English culinary history. It is essentially a dish of apple slices that is combined with lemon and sugar which is then baked under a paste crust. It sounds similar to an apple pie, but there is an interesting twist. Once the pie is cooked, the crust is removed and cut into portions, and hot ale, spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, is then poured over the apple filling. The pastry is then replaced and the dish is served.

It seems likely that the Apple Florentine Pie was a traditional Christmas dish, and there is some evidence that it was enjoyed in the town of Potton in Bedfordshire as early as the late 18th century. Modern versions go without the ritual of the pastry and feature the spiced ale in the original filling mixture, but the end result is still a hearty and warming dessert.

Catterning or Catherine Cakes

Another famous Bedfordshire dish, Catterning Cakes were made in order to celebrate St. Catherine’s Day on the 25th of November, though they are sometimes also known as Catherine Cakes after Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII, who lived in the county.

St Catherine’s day gave rise to the traditions of Catterning, which have some similarity to those of All Souls Day on November 2nd. They were first mentioned in 1730, and involved beggars or children going from door to door singing and asking for cakes and bread, though sometimes the gifts given were beer and apples. The cakes themselves are similar to scones, but are traditionally made in a swirl pattern and contain dried fruit, spices and carraway seeds. Best eaten warm, they are especially delicious on a winter’s afternoon or eaten with a glass of mulled wine.

Humbers Home Made Preserves

Bedfordshire is the base for a number of successful modern food makers, including Humbers Home Made Preserves, which is based in Flitwick. This small family firm was set up in 2007 by Vickie Humber, a jam-making enthusiast. The business has gone from strength to strength and Humbers now supply their range of jams, curds, chutneys and jellies to a range of local delis, hotels and farm shops, as well as visiting dozens of farmers markets to sell their wares. Humbers have won numerous awards and are a modern day English culinary success story.

Bedfordshire Clanger

We could hardly write about the foods of Bedfordshire without mentioning the most famous export from this part of the world, the Bedfordshire Clanger. Bearing some similarities to the Cornish Pasty, the Bedfordshire Clanger is a traditional dish that dates back to the 19th century and began life as a as a boiled suet pudding with a savoury meat filling at one end and a sweet fruit filling at the other.

It was a popular food with agricultural workers of that era, who could take a Clanger out to the fields and eat it cold during the day. The word Clanger has two possible origins. It may refer to the unusual nature of the dish that combines sweet and savoury foods, which may have been considered a culinary ‘clanger’ by some. It could also come from the local dialect, in which the word ‘clang’ means to eat with a voracious appetite.

As for the Clanger filling, the savoury part is usually made of gammon and potatoes, while the sweet part is filled with fruit jam or stewed apples. These days, short crust pastry is employed rather than suet, and there is a pastry partition separating the two halves. Clangers remain popular in Bedfordshire and can be a filling snack that is almost a complete dinner in one dish.

Bevistan Cheeses

Bedfordshire’s cheese industry is well known and packed with local diversity, but one of the most popular local cheesemakers is the Bevistan Dairy, famous for its sheep cheese. They have a range of cheeses, such as the Bevistan Tomme, which is a versatile cheese well suited to eating with biscuits or for use in many dishes. Bevistan Dairy Smoked Cheese is another popular Beviston product, as well as Carlton Sheep Cheese; an artisan semi-soft cheese that is delicious when baked whole.

A Classic English Tipple: The Thriving World of Gin

0

Few alcoholic beverages have a more illustrious history than gin, which has been linked to English culture for centuries. Since it originally became popular in the 18th century, this deceptively simple drink has been the topic of celebration, contempt, and concern, and it is now popular with a new audience in 2021.

The skill of making gin with juniper and alcohol dates back to Roman times, and evidence suggests that a blend of juniper berries and wine was used as a tonic for patients suffering from chest diseases in Solerno, Italy, in the 1050s.

The drink we now know as gin was originally manufactured in a recognisable form by the Dutch in the 16th century, when they began to make a drink with a base of malt wine and juniper berries to mask the wine’s strong flavour. It began as a medicinal tonic, but by the 18th century, it had evolved into an alcoholic beverage. Genever was the name given to the drink produced by the Dutch, but by the time it became popular in England, the term had been abbreviated to ‘gin,’ which was simpler for English tongues to pronounce.

Although the drink caught on to a degree in England, it was not until William of Orange became king, in 1689 that gin started to spread as the drink of choice of the working classes. At the start of his reign, the new king enacted a series of policies aimed at weakening France’s economy, including blockades and high taxes on both wine and Cognac. At the same time, he enacted the Corn Laws, which provided tax benefits to distillers.

The natural outcome was a gin frenzy, with a pint of gin being cheaper than a pint of beer at one point, and the impoverished of England rapidly turning to the drink as their preferred option. When the Thames froze over during the winter, a tradition of ‘gin and gingerbread’ stalls arose in London, and many merchants were able to profit from the fad.

Gin’s popularity grew to the point where the British government was alarmed by the late 1730s. Not only were wide swaths of the populace consuming massive amounts of the drink, but because there was no restriction on the production of gin, distillers were able to get away with using turpentine and sawdust to improve their profits. The first answer was to charge distillers a fee for a licence, but at £50 – equivalent to around £5,800 today – there were few takers.

Gin Lane, a famous artwork by William Hogarth from 1751 that featured some horrifying examples of lives ruined by gin, exemplified the problem’s extent. In the 1740s, frightening reports of parental carelessness and personal tragedies tied to gin began to appear in newspapers, compelling the government to act. The Gin Act of 1751 increased the taxation and duties on spirits while also pushing beer and tea as alternatives.

Gin usage dropped steadily as a result, and by 1830, beer had resumed its place as the more economical beverage, although gin remained a significant and popular form of alcohol and was given a boost in 1830, when Aeneas Coffey devised a revolutionary still that revolutionised spirit distillation, making it easier and less expensive to produce a higher-quality product.

The Royal Navy provided another boost to gin’s fortunes. Because English sailors were frequently compelled to travel into malaria-infested areas of the world, they were given quinine rations to combat the sickness. Unfortunately, quinine had a horrible taste, so Schweppes created an Indian Tonic Water to mix with the medicine to enhance the flavour. However, because London Dry gin was easier to transport than beer, it became popular among sailors, and the traditional gin cocktail was formed from a combination of the two, with limes added to the mix, as the citrus fruit was another staple of the Royal Navy due to its scurvy-fighting abilities.

Gin usage remained stable during the twentieth century, but the classic drink saw a significant boost in the early 2000s when the Labour administration announced tax changes that made brewing and distilling more appealing. Gin manufacturing exploded as a result. Sipsmith received the first formal gin licence since 1820 in 2008, and in the years afterwards, a slew of new distillers have joined the business.

So to mark this most English of drinks, we’ve put together a quick list of some of the most popular and sought after gins available in 2022:

Beefeater London Dry

The original classic London gin, Beefeater is arguably the grandfather of English gin. Distilled in central London, the process still uses traditional copper pot stills and from the distillery’s home in Kennington, it is possible to see into the Oval cricket ground. With plenty of juniper flavour, which is balanced with botanicals, Beefeater is best when mixed with tonic and ice, and rarely goes wrong as a gift, while its widespread availability is also a plus.

Hepple Gin

Chefs are ideally placed when it comes to working with flavour, and this gin benefits from the culinary expertise of its creator. Distilled in the North East, it was founded by the well-known chef and forager, Valentine Warner, and that culinary influence is obvious in a gin that is packed with classic flavour and that is best savoured simply over ice.

Abelforth’s Bathtub Gin

One of the new breed of gins to arrive in England in the past few years, this drink is delicate yet balanced, making it perfect for the beginner. Crafted by Tunbridge Wells based Atom Brands, is made with the Cold Compound process in which six botanicals, including cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, are infused with a base spirit in a copper pot still before being filtered out. The base for the gin is a botanical spirit distilled in pot stills by Langley Distillery in the West Midlands. This traditional process, which takes up to two days to complete, gives the gin its unique bronze tint.

Star Of Bombay London Dry Gin

With its famous blue bottle, Star of Bombay is produced in the stunning surroundings of the Bombay Sapphire distillery at Laverstoke Mill, Hampshire. This gin packs plenty of punch and is high on juniper, coriander and bergamot flavours to add extra intensity to your gin and tonic.

Adnams Copper House Gin

Better known for their beers, Adnams have also developed a fine gin tradition, thanks mainly to the success of Adnams Copper House Gin, which was voted the world’s best at the International Wine and Spirits Competition. The gin is distilled in-house at the Adnams Southwold Distillery using East Anglian malted barley spirit and six carefully chosen botanicals including hibiscus flowers in a handmade copper still before then being purified.

Caspyn Cornish Dry Gin

This was the first gin to be launched by Pocketful of Stones Distillery, which is based in Long Rock near Penzance in Cornwall. The gin is inspired by the Cornish spring and landscape and features botanicals that include hibiscus, gorse and citrus, along with Japanese tea. The gin is distilled in-house in small batches using two copper pot stills and a traditional process. The result is a beautifully fresh and invigorating blend of juniper, floral and citrus flavours.

Tappers Hydropathic Pudding

For gin drinkers who like a touch more flavour and an additional sweetness in their gin, Tappers Hydropathic Pudding is a perfect choice. It is technically known as a ‘fruit cup’, or a gin-based drink that is then flavoured with herbs, spices and fruits. It is essentially the gin version of Pimm’s. Produced in small batches in West Kirby, Merseyside, it’s a perfect drink when mixed with lemonade and is best served cool in the summer but warm in the winter.

Silent Pool Gin

Silent Pool Gin is distilled in-house on a former farm site on the Albury Estate in Surrey. As well as using water drawn from the spring-fed Silent Pool pond that is located next to the distillery, from which the gin takes both its name and the colour of its bottle, this drink feature an impressive 24 botanicals. These include chamomile, rose, elderflower, pear, bergamot and honey. The production of this stunning drink involves two simultaneous macerations with the resulting spirits added to the Holstein copper still that is heated by a wood-fired boiler. This gin is a beautiful mix of lavender, honey and chamomile and is presented in a stunning blue bottle.  

Explore the World of English Cider

0

You may not realise it, but the United Kingdom consumes more cider than any other country on the planet. Cider, along with beer and tea, is undoubtedly one of our culturally defining beverages.

Cider’s popularity has risen and fallen over time. Cider was traditionally regarded a breakfast beverage, and it was once used to pay labourers’ wages. Cider has also had periods when it was less popular than imported beverages like wine and port. Fortunately, cider, like craft lager and beer, has experienced a resurgence in recent years.

According to legend, our cider culture arrived in England with invading troops. The Roman Empire introduced a variety of apple crops as well as cider-making methods. Around 600 CE, monasteries began to plant orchards and manufacture cider as Christianity became the dominant religion. This was for the monks’ consumption as well as for sale to the general public. When the Normans arrived in 1066, they brought with them new tannic apple types that were ideal for cider production. They planted more orchards and even brought cutting-edge pressing technology with them to make the process even more efficient.

Cider truly took off between 1500 and 1800, when the world was experiencing a cold phase. This had far-reaching consequences around the planet, but in England, the reduction in temperatures resulted in the extinction of grapes as the climate became unsuitable. Apples, on the other hand, thrived in the warmer temperatures, resulting in a surge in popularity for cider.

Political upheaval also made it more difficult to obtain wine, since wars with France, Spain, and the Netherlands prevented wine imports. As a result, the upper classes were increasingly interested in a drink that had previously been considered a commoner’s drink. John Evelyn gave a paper on cider to the Royal Society in 1664, claiming that cider may replace wine in our drinking culture. Cider’s popularity grew to the point where King Charles I was reputed to prefer the beverage to wine.

Cider has been used as a form of payment since 1204 CE, when it was first mentioned as a payment to servants at a manor house in Runham, Norfolk. This practise persisted for generations, usually as a means for affluent landowners to compensate their farm labourers. According to some estimates, elite labourers were paid up to eight pints each day. Although the Truck Act of 1887 made this practise illegal, it continued for decades.

Commercial cider production soared over the twentieth century, prompting the establishment of the National Association of Cider Makers in 1920 to represent the sector. Growers began actively managing their orchards to improve yields and produce a consistent product to meet rising consumer demand. A drink could only be labelled ‘cider’ if it included 35 percent juice, which might be from concentrate, according to laws. As a result, natural cider’s flavour began to disappear in the United Kingdom.

However, this has begun to change in recent years. Cider made in small batches from 100 percent juice and fermented naturally is making a comeback. Cider is gluten-free, has a lower alcohol by volume (ABV) than wine, and is frequently sourced and made locally, giving it good environmental credentials.

This resurgence of interest in cider has also rekindled interest in England’s less typical cider-growing regions. The historic cider-growing regions of Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, and Somerset, without a doubt, remain at the heart of the industry. The West Country is famed for its cloudy, strong scrumpy ciders, but it also offers a variety of dry and medium-sweet options. However, many other cider-growing locations, like as Yorkshire and Norfolk, have seen growth, each with its own unique soil and climate requirements. Today there are dozens of high quality cider makers all over the country. Here are some of the most notable examples of modern cider craft.

Kent Cider Yowler

This excellent drink has a mild and delicate apple aroma and a lovely deep amber colour reminiscent of a summer day roaming through Kent’s orchards. The drink’s unique name comes from the historical tradition of wassailing, which was previously widespread in Kent. These rituals were supposed to usher in good spirits and a bumper crop to the orchards. Yowler is a fizzy beverage with a modest fizz that gives added enjoyment to a flavorful drink.

Dunkertons Black Fox

This honey-colored and sparkling cider from the Cotswolds region is extremely refreshing, but it leans sour rather than sweet. The sharpness of the drink helps to cleanse the palette, making it suitable to accompany highly sweet desserts or spicy food. On the tongue, Black Fox is smooth and creamy, with a lot of flavour. It should come as no surprise that the drink has won numerous awards, including a Gold Award in the Taste Of The West competition. This is a cider to savour and enjoy throughout the year.

Hendersons Toffee Apple

This is an unusual but delicious cider from Kent that is impressively sharp and smooth and offers a distinctive taste. The delicate aroma hints at toffee but doesn’t overwhelm the apples, and the blend of sweet and tart that it offers is sheer perfection. The initial smooth sweetness of the drink develops into a lingering sharpness, which has hints of bonfires and autumn days. A thoroughly indulgent cider, this is definitely a drink that goes well with desserts.

Orchards of Husthwaite Galtres Gold Apple Cider

For more than three centuries, Husthwaite has been the main orchard village of North Yorkshire, but in recent years it has been revitalised with the introduction of local apple varieties. It has also become a major centre of fund generation for local community use. This cider offers a cloudy, gentle amber visual impression, while the taste is unusually floral yet smooth and warm at the same time. You will find that this refreshing drink has the perfect balance between sweetness and sharpness.

Lyme Bay Jack Ratt Vintage Dry 2019

This is a classic Devon cider that uses traditional apple varieties such as Dabinett and Kingston black. A full bodied drink, Jack Ratt presents as an extremely clear, rich-gold liquid that possesses a sharp aroma. It is slightly dry yet tingly on the tongue and packs a strong apple taste. Smooth and tangy, this is a highly refreshing cider that is versatile enough to accompany a meal or a night out with friends.

Ampleforth Abbey Cider

This is another traditional North Yorkshire cider, and has a slightly cloudy appearance. The tawny gold liquid in these bottles is produced using the first dessert apples of the season, which features a combination of Discovery, James Grieve and Grenadier for a memorable blend. A bittersweet cider, it hints at dryness along with the sweetness, and although it is relatively strong on the scale of English ciders, it is a light drink with a very silky texture. An impressive palate cleanser, this cider also goes well with food or is ideal as a standalone drink.

Cranborne Chase The Smuggler Dry

This is a typically Dorset cider and offers a lovely combination of sparkle, tartness and sweetness. It is an extremely drinkable, pleasant and refreshing cider that provides a gentle aroma of apples, while the taste of crisp fruit lingers delightfully on the tongue. The sparkle in combination with dryness also makes it ideal as the perfect thirst-quenching drink on a warm summer’s day.

Norfolk Raider Wingman

A still, cloudy cider that comes from Norfolk in the east of England, Wingman is slightly sharp in taste but not excessively so. Made from dessert apples, it offers a smooth initial taste, but when swallowed gives a sensation of sharpness at the back of the mouth, which makes it highly refreshing. Rich and smooth, this cider is full of tangy flavour and is best served slightly chilled.

Lilleys Select

A medium dry, and lightly sparkling cider that is produced in the heart of the Somerset Mendips, Lilleys Select is rusty gold in colour. The aroma and taste of the local apples is strong in this drink, while its light and refreshing taste makes it perfect as a summer drink, especially on hot days. You can really savour the sparkling flavour in every mouthful.

Sandford Orchards Devon Red

Named after the rich, red Devon orchard soil, this cider offers a light, pleasant and refreshing taste experience. The soft, mellow, yellow liquid is packed with the aroma of apples, which evoke the feel of long lazy days in the sunshine. Thirst quenching, this is a bittersweet cider with a tang that stays long in the mouth. Easy to drink either with or without food, it is a delightful and relaxing drink.

Napton Cider No 4

Both slightly cloudy and golden yellow in colour, this refreshing and memorable cider has a tinge of effervescence but retains a pleasing touch of sharpness. Best described as on the dry side of sweet, the apple tang lingers in the mouth for a while, and there is a warm aroma to this flavourful cider, which helps to make it an ideal summer drink, particularly when served with desserts.

The Rich Variety of the English Apple

0

A brief stroll around your local supermarket may give the impression that the English fruit shopper has only a few apple types to choose from. Golden Delicious, Coxes, Granny Smiths, and, if you’re feeling brave, a Red Delicious, appear to be your only options. And when it comes to larger cooking varieties, the famous Bramley appears to have that market cornered.

But this is not a true reflection of the depth of English apple growing. In fact, England has around 2,000 varieties, and the number is steadily increasing as producers experiment with novel hybrids. The shapes, textures, and flavours of English apple cultivars range from intensely aromatic to nutty, from crisp to juicy, from darkest crimson to fresh green, and round to pear-shaped.

For ages, England has been known for its apple production. Although we know that the Romans introduced several apple kinds to these islands, there is evidence that apples grew wild here during the Neolithic period.

Whatever the origins of apple cultivation, the Victorians are responsible for the current apple-growing conditions in the UK. We now have a variety of apples that have never been seen anywhere else in the world thanks to the commitment of Victorian gardeners. Many of the classic Victorian apples are no longer available, such as the Pitmaston Pineapple, Ribston Pippin, or the crisp, sweet red apple, Laxton’s Superb, while the Alfriston was a huge, sharp apple that was ideal for producing juices and the Howgate Wonder was ideal for pies.

The English apple’s widespread availability belies the challenges of growing and storing this fruit. Apples are best stored in a chilly, low-oxygen, low-carbon dioxide, nitrogen-rich environment, which effectively puts them into stasis,’ keeping their flavour and, in some situations, assisting the apple in developing a sweeter taste.

Even gathering the apples is a difficult task. To assure optimal freshness and quality, each one sold commercially must be personally handpicked and harvested. Because this operation cannot be mechanised, the business relies on tens of thousands of extra harvesters each season. And because apples are such a weather-sensitive crop, a good summer is essential for generating the tastiest fruits.

Currently, natural orchards provide roughly 40% of the apples consumed in England. That may appear to be a low percentage, but it represents a considerable improvement from less than 30% just ten years ago, and as producers focus on developing new varieties and adding more effective technology, that figure is anticipated to surpass 50% by the end of the decade.

So, where can you get some of these English apple cultivars? Farmers’ markets and speciality vendors are good places to start, but supermarkets are also getting into the act.

During apple season, you’ll typically see English apple advertisements, as well as generically labelled apple packages with a different designated variety each week. Here are some of the most popular varieties of English apples to give you some ideas and inspiration for exploring the world of English apples.

Red Prince

A natural cross between two other apple varieties: Golden Delicious and Red Jonathon, Red Prince has a rich, deep-red skin and offers crisp, creamy, juicy flesh. This is a relatively tart apple, grown mainly in Herefordshire and Kent, that has a pleasant aroma of roses.  

Evelina

A cross between Cox’s Orange Pippin and Golden Delicious, this is a refreshing, juicy apple that has a sweet flavour and a distinctive red colour. It is ideal for those who aren’t keen on particularly tart apples, as it features a crisp, but sweet flavour and only a little acidity. 

Spartan

A dark, almost purple-skinned apple with white flesh and a crisp texture, the Spartan is a cross between the Yellow Newtown Pippin and McIntosh varieties. It is a sweet variety, although offers plenty of acidity as a balance, and is available in October and November.

Egremont Russet

One of the most distinctive of the specialist varieties, the Egremont Russet has been appearing in supermarkets more each year. It is grown widely throughout England from the North East to the West Country, and is an attractive looking apple, with russet skin and small cream freckles. Available between September and February, it has a sweet and nutty taste.

The Harvey

One of the oldest English apples, dating back as far as 1629, this variety was named after Dr Gabriel Harvey of the University of Cambridge, and at one time was extremely popular throughout East Anglia and the eastern counties of England. A reliable cooking apple, it has an ideal texture that softens perfectly under heat, while providing plenty of sweetness, reducing the need for additional sugar.

Winter Pomeroy

Another excellent cooking apple variety, the Winter Pomeroy is a fairly rare, late-season variety that is on the large side but keeps well over winter. It has a tough, pectin-rich skin that makes it ideal for a number of recipes, including apple butter.

James Grieve

First recorded in 1893, this is a wonderfully flavoured dual-purpose apple. It is sharp when picked off the tree and can make an effective cooking apple but also mellows into a lovely dessert apple.

Worcester Pearmain

Worcestershire is known for its orchards, and this is a popular and tasty apple variety that originated in the county during the 19th century. It is an attractive orange-red fruit with plenty of sweetness and juice along with a distinctive flavour that makes it a favourite with some apple aficionados.

England’s Cake Obsession

0

English food has developed numerous characteristics throughout the years, but our sweet taste is possibly the most well-known. For ages, baking has been strongly identified with England, and English bakers have been particularly imaginative in the construction of cakes for all occasions.

Cake has a long history dating back to ancient times. The original cakes were nothing like the ones we consume today. They were more bread-like and honey-sweetened. Nuts and dried fruits were frequently used as garnishes. The ancient Egyptians, according to food historians, were the first civilisation to demonstrate advanced baking skills. The English term cake dates back to the 13th century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. It is derived from the Old Norse word ‘kaka.’

Originally, fruitcakes and gingerbread were popular among bakers in mediaeval England. These meals have the potential to last for months. According to food historians, the forerunners of current iced cakes were first baked in Europe around the mid-seventeenth century, thanks to technological advancements like the development of reliable ovens, food moulds, and refined sugar.

The original icing was usually a boiling mixture of the finest sugar, egg whites, and flavourings. The cake was iced with this icing and the cake was returned to the oven for a short time. When the icing was removed, it swiftly cooled to form a hard, glossy coating. Cake as we know it today (prepared with extremely refined white flour and baking powder instead of yeast) did not appear until the middle of the nineteenth century.

 During the Middle Ages, what began as a luxury for the wealthy eventually became available to the rest of the people, and now there is an enormous selection of English-flavored cakes, biscuits, and fruit buns. Here are some of the most well-known and well-known cakes made in England and marketed all over the world.

Eccles cake

The Eccles cake This is one of those baked goods in England that splits opinion, but if you like currants or raisins in your cakes, this is the one for you. It was first made in Eccles, Manchester, and is made up of dried fruit wrapped in flaky pastry that is baked till it becomes a solid mass of warmth. It has evolved into a distinctively English cake, getting much of its appeal from its simplicity and from the fact that it was at one time a regular part of the standard English school dinner.

Victoria sponge

Occasionally referred to as a Victoria sandwich, this famous sponge cake comes high on the list of every cake-lover in England. Named in honour of Queen Victoria, the sponge became popular during the 1800s when afternoon tea became an established English tradition. The thick wedges of sponge laced with jam became a firm favourite of the upper and middle classes and there are few more reliable cake contenders in the English baking firmament.

Chelsea bun

The Chelsea bun, which is comparable to the Scandinavian cinnamon buns, was invented in the 1700s at the Chelsea Bun House and has since become a famous teatime confection. The bun, which was baked with cinnamon, lemon peel, allspice, and other aromatic ingredients, was supposedly a favourite of King George II, who was said to walk to the Bun House every morning to buy the buns for himself and the Royal household.

Carrot cake

The use of carrots as a sweetener dates back to the 900s when Arabian chefs are reputed to have used carrots in place of honey to provide sweetness to their desserts. There are versions of carrot cake in many countries, but it grew in popularity in England during the Second World War, when rationing meant sugar and other ingredients were in short supply. Originally, a plain cake, it received a twist in the 1960s with the addition of cream cheese icing, which turned the dessert into the classic tea time favourite that we know today.

Madeira cake

Named for the Portuguese island of Madeira, and for the sweet dessert wine produced in that part of the world, Madeira cake was created to be the ideal accompaniment for dessert wins. But the cake soon became popular in its own right and there are recipes for Madeira cake dating back to the 1700s. The simple, but enticing cake received another boost in popularity when Eliza Acton, one of the most influential of English cooks, included a Madeira cake recipe in her 1845 book, Modern Cookery for Private Families.

Battenberg cake

The Battenberg cake is a much-loved and difficult-to-recreate English delicacy because because of its exquisite colours and intricate recipe. It’s served in a rectangle made out of various coloured cakes that have been sliced, stacked in a checkerboard pattern, and then wrapped in marzipan. It is a stunning spectacle and a true test of the baker’s art when done well. This peculiar English dessert that was originally produced for Princess Victoria and Prince Louis of Battenberg’s wedding.

Scone

Few baked products better convey the cosiness of traditional English life than the warm scone, adorned with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Whether you like your jam on top of your cream or vice versa, it’s the centrepiece of the classic English cream tea. In fact, the scone has its origins in Scotland. The Scottish bannock, a quick and easy to make bread that is grilled over open flame is the predecessor of the scone, which was named after the town where Scottish kings were once crowned. The earliest recorded example of a scone being eaten was in 1513, but in the centuries since, the scone has developed into a quintessentially English teatime treat. 

Sticky toffee pudding

Sticky toffee pudding has a reputation as being one of the most traditional of English cakes, but in fact it is the most modern food on this list. It was created at a hotel in the Lake District in the 1970s, though the original recipe is said to have come from a Mrs Martin, who lived in Lancashire. An intensely sweet sponge, sometimes covered in chopped dates and then baked in golden syrup, may have been inspired by an attempt to create a US-style muffin, but whatever its origins, it has become one of England’s favourite desserts in a short space of time. Usually served with ice cream or custard, it is a modern classic, and likely to remain a firm favourite for a long time to come.

The Best of English Beer

0

The fact that England is a nation of beer and lager drinkers is uncontroversial, and the pub has been at the core of our societies and many of our traditions for generations. In fact, England has been inextricably linked to the manufacture and consumption of fermented hops, which has spawned a plethora of rituals, associations, and social etiquette.

At the same time, the pub has evolved into a hub of social interaction, a vital component of many communities, serving as a place to catch up with friends, unwind, and celebrate.

The English beer landscape has evolved through time, and some old distinctions are no longer relevant, while new beer genres and styles have emerged to fill the void. For example, ale was originally a term used to describe a drink prepared with malted barley that was then flavoured with herbs and spices but included no hops, whereas beer was originally considered a continental European drink created with malted barley and hops to provide a refreshing bitterness.

The first indication of hopped beer being drunk in England, rather than old fashioned ale, dates from the 14th century, when beer was transported from the Netherlands to Great Yarmouth.

It quickly became popular! By 1412, evidence suggests that beer made with imported hops was being manufactured in Colchester, Essex, as the country began to develop a liking for the beverage.

Domestic hops farming took some time to get started, although evidence of the earliest hops plants being cultivated in Kent dates from 1520. At the same time, ale brewing and consumption remained popular in England, and both beer and ale were relished as different beverages; nevertheless, by the 18th century, hopped beer had taken over, and the distinctions between beer and ale had faded.

From the 17th century onwards, England’s expanding global prominence, along with the country’s vast commerce network, resulted in the global spread of beer. Much of this was unintentional, and not all of it was due to commerce. On long voyages, English ships carried beer as a supply of drinking water as well as part of the crew’s daily meals to keep them cheerful.

At the same time, there was even a health rationale for drinking beer in England. When there was no public sanitation, the preference for beer over water made logical. Much of the dangerous bacteria found in public drinking water was eliminated during the brewing process.

Long before the twentieth century, beer drinking and the culture of inns and public houses had become an important part of English life, but by that time, mass production of beer had begun to threaten smaller breweries, a trend that continued throughout the twentieth century as the beer industry was dominated by a few powerful breweries.

That altered in the early twenty-first century, when Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown made significant changes to beer duty duties. As a result, there has been a growth of small, artisanal, and craft brewers, resulting in a rainbow of unique types and flavours, re-establishing England as one of the world’s top beer centres. As the English beer industry recovers from the difficulties of the last few years, here are some of the very best beers to check out in 2022:

Potholer – Cheddar Ales

This golden ale is a perfect representative of the South West of England, and the glorious summers that many English people enjoy in the region. The Cheddar Brewery, based in Somerset, produces some of England’s finest beers and this golden drink is one of the most refreshing you will find. The beer has a light, grainy malt character, while the bitter hops add a slightly fruity and zesty edge, and there is a lovely smooth finish. The perfect beer to go with the best Cheddar cheese.

First Chop Hop – First Chop

For vegans and those who prefer gluten free foods, First Chop are the go-to brand. They are one of England’s most famous vegan and gluten free breweries, and have expanded rapidly from their starting base as a small brewery located under a Manchester railway arch. They initially turned out 400 litres of beer per month, but have now expanded to a third brewhouse, based in Salford, which produces 30,000 litres a week. First Chop Hop is one of their most sought after products and is a   refreshing pale ale that can be enjoyed by vegans and meat-eaters alike.

The Porter – Ansbach and Hodbay

Porter is a style of beer named for its popularity among the street and river porters of London’s in the 18th century and at one time, it was the country’s most popular form of beer. Ansbach and Hobday’s porter is the beer that laid the platform for their success, and it is still at the heart of their range of beers and ales today. This is a carefully brewed black porter, that packs in plenty of rich, roasted malt flavour, along with hints of coffee and chocolate, and a distinctive tang.

Axe Edge – Buxton Brewery

The Midlands has long been regarded as one of the best places to brew beer, thanks to the distinctive qualities of the water in that region, which makes it possible to produce some of the best IPAs and milds that you will find. Within the Midlands, the heart of the brewing industry was Burton-on-Trent, which is perfectly situated just an hour’s drive south of the spa town of Buxton, which is famous for its pure drinking water. The Buxton Brewery have turned out some remarkable beers, including this IPA, which is packed with pine-influenced bitterness, a dash of fresh fruit and a crisp, dry finish. 

Red Top – The Old Dairy Brewery

The East of England is famous for its hop growing, and one of the best examples of the English bitter style comes from this region. Red Top is packed with the flavour of locally grown East Kent Golding, English Cascade and Challenger hops, which give it plenty of bitterness, along with a slight citrus twist, and a dash of sweetness and cream from the underlining malt flavour.

Mary Jane – Ilkley Brewery

Yorkshire has made many fine contributions to the English beer scene, and one of the most popular recent examples is Mary Jane, produced by the Ilkley Brewery. This is a relatively low alcohol pale ale that has become the beer of choice for many drinkers, thanks to easy to drink, soft style, which is full of fruity flavour and a delightful grassy bitterness.

Allendale Wolf – Allendale Brewery

The city of Newcastle is perhaps best known for its famous Brown Ale, although that product is now owned by the Dutch brand Heineken. There are plenty of other contenders to consider from the city, however, including this delightful brown beer from the Allendale Brewery in the west of the city. The malt in the Allendale Wolf is toasty and caramel flavoured, while the Target and Bramling Cross hops bring another dimension of earthy bitterness and fruit.

Mobberly Playback – Mobberly Brewhouse

With Manchester as its centre, the north west’s brewing scene has been one of the most successful in the modern craft ale movement, and among the many fascinating beers to be sampled in this part of the world is Mobberly Playback, an impressive and punchy IPA. This drink is full of fruity and fresh American hops and has a strong malty quality for a mighty overall taste.

Jaipur – Thornbridge

Our final beer is another from the Midlands and is one of the best known of the modern craft beer varieties. Known as one of the world’s best IPAs, Jaipur is produced by Thornbridge of Bakewell in Derbyshire. It has landed over 100 awards around the world, including the prestigious gold medal at the World Beer Awards. Jaipur is a perfect combination of six hop varieties, including Centennial and Cascade and is the archetypal IPA blend of aroma, bitterness and flavour.

The Beauty of Derbyshire Cuisine

0

Derbyshire is one of the most beautiful English counties, with everything a visitor could desire, from wild moorlands and stunning hills to scenic valleys and strenuous mountain excursions. The Peak District National Park, which essentially defines the southern border of the Pennines, dominates the region, and the county’s stunning beauty has attracted visitors, ramblers, and other tourists for generations.

The range of ancient remains unearthed in the region, including a Paleolithic site at Cresswell Crags and a spectacular early Bronze Age circle of flat stones at Youlgreave, demonstrate the county’s long and proud past. Derbyshire was an important territory during the era of Roman rule largely because at that time, the invaders built a military network of roads and forts across the county. They also established the Aquae Arnemetiae spa town, which is today known as Burton.

Derbyshire became a significant area in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia when the Romans left, but the region was also largely inhabited by the Danes, who gained control of Repton, a major Mercian religious centre. In reality, the Danes were the first to establish a borough in Derby.

Derbyshire was mostly a pastoral county with some small-scale mining and quarrying, despite the fact that it was the location of significant lead resources, which were first found and worked systematically by the Romans and were in high demand throughout the Middle Ages. However, when the Industrial Revolution arrived, Derbyshire became a significant centre of activity, notably in the county’s eastern regions, where massive iron ore resources were mined during the eighteenth century.

Most famously, Derbyshire was home to the country’s first modern industry, a silk mill, which opened in the city of Derby in 1717. Sir Richard Arkwright also inaugurated the world’s first water-powered cotton-spinning mill in Cromford, Derby, in 1771.

The Derbyshire valleys were significant locations for textile mills, while the eastern and southern coalfields were heavily exploited, resulting in the cities of Chesterfield, Bolsover, Alfreton, and Ilkeston becoming key economic and cultural centres.

Although the county’s industrial strength faded in the twentieth century, it has remained a significant engineering centre and a top limestone producer. At the same time, tourism has grown more vital as industry has dwindled. The county’s lush and fertile countryside remains a huge draw for people, and it also has a number of beautiful and historically significant structures, such as the great houses at Haddon, Hardwick, Chatsworth, Bolsover, Sudbury, and Sutton Scarsdale, as well as a number of tourist-friendly picturesque villages and hamlets.

This unusual combination of agricultural and industrial roots has resulted in a distinct and homey culinary legacy. Here are some of Derbyshire’s most well-known contributions to English cuisine.

Bakewell Pudding

No trip to Derbyshire would be complete without sampling Bakewell Pudding, the famed local delicacy. Since its invention in the 1860s, this delicious delight has been savoured and relished in the Peak District market town of Bakewell, as well as across England.

The origins of this delicacy, which consists of a set almond and egg custard on top of a layer of strawberry jam in a crispy, butter puff pastry casing, may be traced back to a miscommunication between the White Horse Inn’s owner and her chef. A party of affluent guests had requested a strawberry tart, but the chef made the error of spreading the egg mixture on top of the jam rather than within the crust, resulting in a unique and delectable pudding that was eagerly consumed by locals.

Even today, a store in the town bakes hand-made Bakewell Puddings according to the original recipe, and the delicacy has proved to be a popular and hearty treat across England.

Ashbourne Gingerbread

Gingerbread has a cherished position in English culinary culture thanks to its spicy and comforting flavour, and Ashbourne has a long tradition of creating some of the best gingerbread in the country. The recipe for this delicacy was allegedly obtained from French prisoners of war held captive in the town during the Napoleonic Wars, according to local tradition. Indeed, one myth claims that it even originated with a French general’s cook.

Gingerbread from Ashbourne is a tasty and luxurious sweet that is often presented as a gift. It’s available all around Derbyshire, but the best location to get it is at the town’s timber-framed Gingerbread Shop, which may date back as far as the 15th century.

Hartington Stilton

Stilton is one of England’s most well-known cheeses, although its origins are complicated. Though the cheese has long been linked with the Cambridgeshire hamlet of Stilton, it also has a long history with the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire. In face, these days Stilton can only be created in certain counties and has been granted protected status by the European Union, making it one of just a few English food products to earn that label.

Derbyshire has its own Stilton producer, thanks to the efforts of Hartington, a little Peak District community that once supplied a quarter of the world’s Stilton. Hartington has a long history of cheese production dating back to the 1870s. Local cheese manufacturing had previously halted in 2009, but in 2012, the Hartington Creamery was founded by a group of committed hobbyists and local businesspeople. The revived cheese-making company has subsequently earned honours for its diverse variety of products, although Stilton remains the most popular.

The uniquely blue-veined cheese has a crumbly, but soft and salty flavour, and is normally the highlight of any cheeseboard, though it is also available in a white variety that is often mixed with fruit.

Derbyshire Oatcakes

Derbyshire Oatcakes, a traditional Derbyshire delicacy dating back to the 17th century, are best characterised as a mix between a crumpet and a pancake. They are spherical, soft, and thicker than the oatcakes found in Staffordshire.

Derbyshire Oatcakes, as the name suggests, are created using oats cultivated in the harsh Pennine environment, which are then blended with flour, salt, water, and yeast to create a healthful and flexible baked snack. They’re popular in Derbyshire and in surrounding counties, and they’re a great teatime or lunchtime snack when mixed with sweet and savoury foods.

Thor Cake

Few English cakes have a more intriguing name than this one, but in fact, it isn’t named for the renowned Norse deity. The term is said to be derived from the Old English word ‘theorf,’ which means ‘plain’ or ‘unprocessed.’ Thor Cakes are a substantial and unusual tea time snack created with a combination of oats, spices, black treacle, and dried fruit. The Thor Cake is connected with the autumn season, and it was often served on Bonfire Night or Halloween.

Derbyshire Fidgety Pie

Harvest season has traditionally been a significant element of the rural calender, and the Derbyshire Fidgety Pie symbolises the county’s agricultural heritage.

This substantial recipe originated in South Derbyshire, where it was customarily cooked using leftover apples from the autumn harvest. It’s made with potatoes, apples, bacon, and onions, then covered with shortcrust pastry for a delectable dinner. The term ‘fitchet,’ which is the name for the five-sided dish in which the pie was initially baked, is said to have inspired the pie’s name.

Buxton Pudding

The Bakewell Pudding isn’t the sole Derbyshire contribution to the English dessert tradition of comfort food and dedicated foodies will also be aware of the Buxton Pudding. This classic dish has received a new lease of life in recent years thanks to the contemporary version created by the Old Buxton Pudding Company of Furness Vale, a food producer that has received several honours.

This dish itself dates from the early 1800s and consists of a sweet pastry foundation covered with raspberry jam and then with a layer of sponge cake. Warm custard or cream is generally served with the dessert, making it perfect as either a winter dessert or a picnic favourite.