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The Cuisine of Dorset

The Cuisine of Dorset

Dorset is among the oldest Uk counties, and it has a long and illustrious past as the scene of several significant events in English history. Throughout the county, there is evidence of this ancestry. There are several burial mounds in Dorset, including some that date back to the Early Bronze Age..

Up until the arrival of the Romans, the region now considered to be Dorset was dominated by the Celtic tribe the Durotriges, who enhanced their dominance by building over 27 hill forts, including the impressive Maiden Castle, which you can still see near Dorchester.

The Romans left their imprint on the county with numerous major structures, notably the Roman House in Dorchester, but after they departed England, the Saxons were in charge of shaping Dorset. Their early rural settlements shaped the county’s topography, and Dorset subsequently saw one of the most important wars in English history, when King Alfred, King of Wessex, fought the Vikings in Swanage Bay.

The Norman conquest had an influence on the area, most notably via the building of a succession of Norman castles, some of which are still standing today at Corfe and Sherborne. Many  of Dorset’s existing towns and villages were mentioned in the Norman Domesday Book of 1086, which was originally created to furnish the new king, William, with a thorough inventory of the country he had conquered, which gives an idea of the lasting significance of the area. 

The wool trade, which was first affiliated with Dorset’s numerous monasteries, brought the county a lot of money in the early years after the Norman conquest. When Henry VIII established the Church of England, he confiscated these centres of study and handicraft, but Dorset’s significant position in the wool trade survived.

Following the English Civil War, the county was divided between Parliament and the King, and the Monmouth Rebellion, which followed King James II’s succession, was also mostly fought in this area. The Dorset coast provided access to smugglers, merchants, and even pirates, all of which played a part in the county’s economy and culture at the time.

Dorset missed out on the Industrial Revolution, resulting in a lower level of wealth than many of its neighbours. However, this helped to preserve the county’s rural character, allowing it to become a popular tourist destination, with tourism increasingly playing a significant role in the Dorset economy.

Dorset culture, particularly its cuisine, has been influenced by its rich and diverse past. Throughout the year, several towns in Dorset have food and drink festivals, such as the famed Dorset Seafood Festival, which takes place in Weymouth every July. Here are some of the most delightful and enduring examples of traditional Dorset cuisine.

Badger Beer

Badger Beer has been made in the heart of the Dorset countryside by the family-owned independent brewer Hall & Woodhouse since 1777, making it one of the most well-known beer brands in the UK. The brewery is now managed by the seventh generation of the Woodhouse family, who produce a variety of delicious beers under the Badger brand. 

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 Blue Vinney

Dorset Blue Vinney (sometimes spelled Vinny) is a classic crumbly cheese popular in the south west of England. Although some stories indicate that ‘vinny’ is a corruption of’veiny’ as a reference to the blue veins that run throughout the cheese, the name comes from a Dorset phrase connected to the ancient word “vinew,” which means “to get mouldy.” The cheese went out of production for a period, but because to Woodbridge Farm’s efforts in the 1980s, it was brought back to life, and it now enjoys European Union Protected Geographical Status.

Dorset Apple Cake

The county of Dorset is well-known for its apple cake, a delectable sweet cake baked with a variety of spices, including cinnamon. Every tearoom in the country has Dorset Apple Cake on the menu. It’s generally served with a substantial dollop of clotted cream or custard, and it’s historically thought to be a good way to use up the enormous supply of autumn apples generated by the county’s orchards.

Leakers Bakery in Bridport is one of the country’s most well-known bakeries, with a rich baking legacy dating back to the 18th century and a reputation for producing some of the greatest apple cakes in the area. It has been known as Leakers since shortly before World War I, when Master Baker G.S. Leaker took over the premises, and his son John, who built the present ovens in the 1940s, maintained the company. The bakery still makes Dorset Apple Cake in traditional ovens.

Portland Pudding

Royal Pudding is another name for this beloved delicacy. It’s a decadent dessert that owes its existence to the county’s ties to royalty, particularly King George III, who frequented the county and was believed to like the cuisine on the connected island of Portland.

The King was a regular visitor to the Royal Portland Arms, where he developed a taste for a special pudding created by a local chef. Portland Pudding is a rich dessert made with dried fruit and candied peel that may be served warm or chilled.

Dorset Knobs

Dorset Knobs are  created using bread dough that’s been enriched with additional sugar and butter, then rolled out and shaped by hand before being baked three times. They have a crumbly texture when baked, similar to dry stale bread or rusks, and since they are so hard, it is customary to soak them in tea before eating them.

They get their name from their similarity to Dorset knob buttons or doorknobs, and they’re usually only manufactured in January and February.

A favourite of famed writer Thomas Hardy, they are frequently eaten with cheese, notably the Dorset Blue Vinney. It takes up to 10 hours to make this distinctive dish, which involves three successive bakings. They’ve become so ingrained in the county’s culture that a Dorset Knob throwing competition is held every year on the first Sunday in May!

Dorset Sea Food

Dorset is especially well-known for its delectable seafood. The region is blessed with a vast length of coastline, which has historically ensured a stable supply of local seafood. The Dorset Seafood Festival, which takes place in Weymouth every year and attracts tourists from all over the globe, honours the county’s seafood legacy. There are several local seafood recipes to choose from, but two of the most popular are mackerel cooked in cider and haddock casserole.

Portland Lamb

Portland sheep are a Dorset breed, albeit there are only approximately 20 registered flocks in the county at the time of writing. The first Portland sheep are said to have swum ashore to Portland Bill when the Spanish Armada was sunk.

These sheep were formerly prevalent across Dorset, and despite coming dangerously near to extinction in the 1970s, the breed has thrived because to the efforts of diligent breeders and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. The Portland ewe gives birth to just one lamb every season, unlike other sheep breeds whose ewes frequently deliver twins, and they take longer to develop, which has made them less popular among farmers, despite the fact that Portland Lamb has a sought-after flavour.


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