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From Frying to Roasting, Celebrate the Versatile English Onion

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Onions belong to the genus Allium, which includes around 500 species of plant, although only a handful are edible. But when it comes to staple foods, there are few more important than the onion.

This reliable vegetable, along with garlic and leeks were known to the oldest civilisations on the planet, and there are records of the Ancient Egyptians and the Mesopotamians cooking with onions. Although it has been regarded as a lowly vegetable at various times in history, due to its strong, unrefined taste, its versatility has always won people over. After all, you can cook an onion in pretty much any way you like from baking and boiling to grilling and frying.

The vegetable is thought to have originated in Asia, though it is possible that it grew wild on most continents. Its durability throughout the winter months helped to make it popular to early civilisations, and the Egyptians even went so far as to worship it, believing that its shape and rings were a symbol of eternity. There is even evidence of ornamental onions crafted from solid gold, an honour not conferred on any other vegetable! The Greeks also loved the onion, believing that it improved the health of the blood, while it also became a staple of the Roman Diet.

Throughout the Middle Ages, onions were prescribed for a variety of conditions, from hair loss and snake bites to headaches, and with its dual use as medicine and food, it was not surprising that the onion was one of the crops that the Puritans took to the Americas.

Although the onion is eaten all around the world, England is one of the leading producers of this crop. In fact, there are 10,000 hectares in England given over to the production of onions, mostly in the east of the country, and England also holds the record for producing the world’s biggest onion, grown in Leicestershire, which weighed in at an impressive 18lb 11 ½ oz!

Over the centuries, onion growers have refined their art, producing new varieties, so that we can choose from a bewildering array of onion options. You can find onions grouped by colour, from red and yellow to green, or by shape, ranging from round to slender and taste, from sweet to strong. And now that scientists have confirmed what the doctors of old knew, that onions are an important source of health, helping to block cancer and lower cholesterol, onions are as popular as ever. Here are some of the most popular English onions you are likely to come across.

Alpha

This is one of the best known varieties among professional onion growers and one of many to have been created here in England. This variety produces a characteristic domed, onion, yellow-brown in colour, with a narrow neck and quite a touch skin. A tasty and affordable onion, the Alpha is known to turn dry quicker than some other varieties, but remains popular with chefs across all cuisines.

Jagro

One of the most well-liked onions grown in England, the Jagro is a variety produced through a hybrid of the Stuttgart variety. Its appearance is a semi-globe, and it has a pleasant brown skin, while producing a solid, pungent flavour, making it ideal for cooking.

Setton

Another variation on an earlier crop, the Setton was produced by experimenting with the Sturon variety, and the result is a popular and long-storing vegetable. These onions have a rounded, uniform shape and a light brown skin, and have proven to be excellent cooking onions, as they offer a strong flavour that can enhance most dishes and salads. They are known for their high yields and they can be stored for longer than most competing varieties.

Red Baron

Red onions are eye-catching vegetables, and the Red Baron is one of the best. A late maturing onion, it offers flattish, round bulbs in a distinctive rich dark red colour. The skin is eye catching and the taste is stronger and more pungent than the average onion, making it a perfect addition to salads.

Red Spark

Another popular red onion hybrid which offers uniform, round bulbs with a beautiful red colour. This variety is known for the high quality of its skin and its strong flavour. Like most red onions it can be eaten raw, making it ideal for everything from salads to sandwiches.

Rosanna

There are few more attractive English-grown onions than the Rosanna. This variety is a distinctive and appealing reddish brown, with a semi-globe shaped bulb, and when sliced, it shows off beautiful pink rings. This is a subtle onion, that is less pungent than many comparable varieties, and this subtle taste means that it can be used in sandwiches and cooked dishes alike, while its attractive appearance makes it perfect for eye-catching salads and buffets.

Centro

English onion growers have continued to develop high quality new varieties over the years, and the Centro is a perfect example of the English onion-growing graft. Introduced in 2008, the Centro has proven such a success that it is now exported to more than 16 nations around the world. A versatile golden-brown onion, known for its firmness, storage ability and attractive skin, this is one of the most popular and durable brands of onion grown in England today.

Hybound

Another success of the onion-growing arts, the Hybound is a high yielding variety that was developed from the original Rijnsbuger onion. It produces attractive brown bulbs that present a straw-coloured outer skin that offers plenty of protection. Perfect for most culinary uses, the Hybound has excellent storage qualities, making it ideal for storing in food cupboards and sheds over winter.

From Bean to Cup: England’s Thriving Coffee Roasters

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Coffee is a ubiquitous product in the modern world. Every town and city in England has scores of coffee shops, while our supermarket shelves are packed with varieties and styles of coffee from all over the world, showing the remarkable inventiveness of the human mind when it comes to producing food from the most humble of origins.

But for most of the history of these islands, coffee was an unknown food. It was, after all, the product of a tropical plant grown in lands that were thousands of miles away. Like chocolate, tea, sugar and spices, it was known only to the handful of individuals who were able to venture to distant lands.

That all began to change in the 17th century. That was the era when Europeans first began to discover coffee in significant numbers. The early history of coffee in Europe was a controversial one. At the time, all coffee was imported from Arabia, which proved to be a problem particularly in Italy, where some religious figures said that Christians should not drink it. That soon changed however when the pope tried a cup, and gave it his personal approval.

In England, the coffee house became an increasingly common feature in every city, a place where the wealthy and ambitious could meet and debate, argue, strike deals and even gamble. But as coffee became more widely available, it was taken up keenly by the rest of the population, and the development of instant coffee made it a convenient beverage accessible to all.

Of course, instant coffee is often a pale imitation of the real thing. While other countries in Europe, most notably the Italians and Austrians, developed the fine arts of coffee making, English people had to make do with the mass-produced brown grit in jars served up by major food manufacturers. But by the start of the millennium, that had begun to change, thanks to the arrival of major coffee shop brands such as Starbucks and Costa, which introduced the English to the cappuccino, the latte and the art of the barista, reacquainting us with our historic love of the bean.

This has led to an increasing interest in the coffee-making process. No longer content with jars of the instant stuff, English coffee drinkers have increasingly been turning to making their own brew. The arrival of coffee machines that work with discs or pods was a step in that process, but the ultimate coffee experience involves preparing your own coffee from home, starting from the original bean. This booming business has led to a new and thriving coffee roasting scene with a number of companies serving the increasing demand for roasted beans. Here are five of the best.

Neighbourhood Coffee Roaster

From their Liverpool base, Neighbourhood Coffee Roasters have become one of the leading choices for artisanal specialty coffee for discerning English customers. Their beans are sourced from South America and Africa, and they are available in whole form or ground, according to your preference. They travel to the areas from where they source their beans and speak to those involved in the coffee producing process, as well as ensuring that all beans are ethically sourced.

They roast their beans in small batches, which is the best way of ensuring that the quality of the beans and their individual characteristics are preserved in the finished product.

Origin Coffee

One of the leading coffee bean roasters in England, Origin Coffee source their beans from a wide variety of nations, including Nicaragua, Brazil, Colombia and El Salvador. They work with professional roasting machines which operate in a carefully controlled atmosphere, and they carefully analyse the form, colour and small of the beans, with each roast taking several days until the desired flavour is achieved and the final product deemed good enough to sell.

North Star Coffee Roasters

Situated in Leeds, North Star Coffee Roasters was founded in 2013 and has established itself as one of the country’s top coffee roasting operations. Their extensive organisation, which sources beans from around the world, also extends to a series of courses for baristas, teaching the art of coffee to new generations. North Star’s preference is for specialty grade Arabica coffee beans, but considerable attention to detail goes into choosing the perfect beans, with flavour profile, consistency and cleanliness all important considerations. Like all the best coffee roasting operators, North Star take the trouble to travel to the areas they are importing from. Their coffee beans are purchased while green and fresh and are roasted in small batches, ensuring each variety retains its characteristics.  

Caravan Coffee Roasters

Based in London, Caravan Coffee Roaster are widely regarded in the world of artisan specialty coffee. They take care to select green coffee beans of the very best quality, in a way that is both environmentally friendly and sustainable. The roasting process they use is careful and designed to bring out of the inherent flavours of their beans, an aim that is supported through the use of modern roasting technology. In keeping with their commitment to diversity and supporting local farmers, one of their most popular coffee brands is from a Colombian all-woman coffee-growing co-operative.  

Clifton Coffee Roasters

Situated in Bristol, Clifton Coffee Roasters have become the go-to experts for artisanal speciality coffee beans. Their beans are sourced from a variety of locations, including El Salvador, Colombia, Panama, Brazil and Kenya, through sustainable methods.

The company had a very different beginning, as a seller of espresso machines, but it has since become one of the most reputed coffee roasting operations in England. Their in-house production roastery and their experience of the wider coffee trade enables them to handle every aspect of the process from sourcing to roasting and supply.

Nose to Tail Eating: England’s Offal Heritage

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Among the stranger corners of English cuisine is the history of using those parts of animals that might make us feel a little squeamish to produce tasty, nourishing food.

The correct term for these cuts that tend to make children screw up their faces in horror is offal. This refers to any of the internal organs and entrails of animals, although it also sometimes extends to the extremities of the animal. But our squeamishness about this area of the culinary arts is not justified. In fact, we unwittingly each offal every time we eat a regular sausage or spread certain types of pate on our toast. The traditional reluctance of the English middle classes to embrace these so-called cheaper cuts and dishes, is not replicated around the world.

In fact, in many other European and Asian countries, it is an accepted part of their cuisine that no animal part should be wasted. In recent years, it has become more fashionable for wealthier diners to eat offal dishes, and the nose-to-tail principle, which is less wasteful than traditional meat eating, has also helped to spur this change among those who regular patronise English restaurants.

But for the English working class, offal has always been on the menu. The reality of poverty and deprivation in the cities of the Industrial Revolution meant that no part of an animal could go to waste, leading to an array of uniquely English offal-based dishes, a tradition that was strengthened by the rationing and deprivations of the Second World War.

These days, you can find an enormous variety of offal dishes, many of them drawn from far flung parts of the globe, but there are many traditional English offal recipes that have become a familiar part of our culinary landscape. Here are six of the best.

Faggots

The West Midlands is not well known for its culinary prowess, but faggots represent a significant contribution to English cuisine and were born of the tough conditions that prevailed for most people in the heavily industrialised towns of the Black Country – so-called because of the smoke and soot that blanketed the sky, streets and buildings of this region at the height of the Industrial Revolution.  

Faggots are arguably the dish most easily associated with this region of the country. Faggots are large meatballs, made with pork offal and cheap cuts of meat including heart and liver, all mixed together with herbs and spice to produce an inexpensive, nutritious dish. The unique factor in faggots is the use of stomach membrane on the outside, which helps hold the meat in place.

Traditionally, this is a dish served with mashed potatoes, mushy peas and onion gravy. The dish caught on with the wider population during the Second World War, at a time when meat was particularly scarce and these days you will find faggot varieties all over England.

Devilled Kidneys

A distinctively English dish, devilled kidneys were once a popular form of breakfast for the Victorians, though the dish itself first appeared in England during the 1700s. It has continued to evolve and is now generally eaten as an appetiser or perhaps a light lunch.

The dish is made by frying lamb kidneys in a distinctive spicy sauce that is made with vinegar, mustard, a little Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, and, depending on the recipe, a little fruit jelly. It is served usually with fried sourdough or white bread and garnished with fresh parsley.

Steak and Kidney Pudding

This is another classic English dish and perhaps the best known use of offal. It was a relatively late addition to Victorian cuisine, with the first recipe dated in 1861, but it soon became popular and by the middle of the 20th century, was eaten widely in all sections of society.

The dish consists of a suet pastry that is filled with a mix of diced beef, gravy, along with chunks of lamb or pig kidneys. The pudding is traditionally prepared though a steaming process, which helps to develop the rich flavours associated with this dish. Most often served with mashed potatoes and a selection of vegetables, it is a typically hearty English dish, perfect for cold winter nights.

Oxtail Soup

Another quintessentially English comfort food, Oxtail soup had modest beginnings. It is believed to have originated in the East End of London, among the Huguenots who lived in the Spitalfields are of the city in the seventeenth century.

The dish is effectively a combination of beef tails and vegetable stew, and is typically a rich beefy soup, often enhanced by adding a bottle of stout, which adds more texture, depth and richness to the mix. Proper oxtail soup is the product of using large, tender pieces of meat and a long simmering process, of at least two hours, which ensures a remarkable and heady blend of flavours.

Tripe and Onions

The ultimate test for the offal-phobic, tripe and onions is a popular dish in the north of England, particularly in Yorkshire, although tripe is also well known throughout Lancashire and the West Midlands, those other industrial centres. George Orwell famously described the selling of tripe in his book The Road To Wigan Pier but don’t let you put that off!

Tripe is the lining of a cow’s stomach, but if that sounds a bit too much, it should be pointed out that trip is actually extremely high in protein, while being low in calories. In fact, it is one of the healthier meat dishes you can eat. Served fried with onions, you could definitely say that this is an acquired taste but there are few more authentic working class English dishes.

Pig’s Trotters

Life in the Black Country was tough, with horrendous conditions for those workers who worked in the factories and furnaces that powered the Industrial Revolution. Many of them were first or second generation rural farmworkers who had moved to the city, and the tradition of keeping livestock didn’t completely die. Pigs were a common choice, and you can see evidence of this tradition even to date in the use of stone pig ornaments on walls and buildings from Gornal to Walsall.

Inevitably, hungry factory workers would want to use every part of the animal, hence the development of dishes associated with pig’s feet or trotters. This may seem an unlikely food source, but in fact, this cut of meat is ideal for creating rich stocks and soups, while whole trotters are also the source of many dishes. Trotters have to be cooked for a long period of time, but the result, whether stewed or roasted, is a surprisingly tender and tasty dish.

The Taste of the English Pear

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Pears are often lumped in with apples when English fruit is discussed, but the pear is a distinct and memorable fruit, with a long and proud history of its own.

Originally grown in the Caucasus, it was first cultivated as long as 4000 years ago. The pear was popular with both Ancient Greeks and Romans, who enjoyed it for its flavour and reputed medicinal properties. It was also thought to have aphrodisiac qualities and was consecrated to the Goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

The process by which the pear came to England is not certain, but it was most likely brought here by the Romans, and by the time of the Domesday Book in the late 11th century, there was evidence of old pear trees in the English countryside. In the early days, it seems they were mainly used for cooking rather than eaten raw, but as with many other aspects of agriculture, the pear received new attention from the Victorians, who popularised existing varieties and created new ones. The result is that there are now believed to be more than 1,000 varieties of pear in the world, 700 of which have been developed in the UK, the vast majority of those in England.

So whether you like to eat your pears raw, stew them for dessert or enjoy the unique taste of pear cider or perry, here are just some of the most popular of English pear varieties.

Williams Bon Chretien

This variety of pear is also known as the Bartlett pear in the US, and it dates back to 1765, when it was first discovered at Aldermaston, Berkshire. It was first solid commercially by Richard Williams of Turnham Green near London, who gave it its name officially in 1814.

One of oldest pear varieties in England, it is dumpy looking fruit, with a slight narrowing at the neck and is larger than most pears. It also turns an attractive golden colour when ripe. The flesh is white and the taste is sweet, with a slight element of musk in the fragrance. The Williams is one of the best cooking pears around and in fact provide the majority of the world production of tinned pears.

Williams Bon Chretien

This pear is so famous in Worcestershire, where perry was first made, that it has been incorporated into the heraldry of the county. This is a large cooking pear with rough, dark skin and russet patches. It is also sometimes known as the Warden Pear as it was first recorded as being grown in the Abbey of Warden in Bedfordshire.

The Black Worcester is an excellent stewing fruit, famous for its use in pies or just baked as a dessert. In fact, this pear was so well known that it earned a mention in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale and Bedford’s Michaelmas Fair was famous for its Baked Wardens.

Winter Nelis

A variety best suited to eating over winter, as it remains fresh for several weeks, so if picked in October, it can be stored well into January. It is a bulbous, almost circular shape, and may not be the most attractive of fruits. Much of the skin has a light brown colour, though this turns more yellow when it is fully ripe. A smaller than average fruit, it has creamy flesh and lots of sweetness. It also offers plenty of flavour, particularly if it has been grown in a sheltered, sunny position.

Conference

One of the most popular of the pears grown in England, it was discovered in 1884 by T. Francis Rivers of Sawbridgeworth but earned its name in 1895 at the British Pear Conference.

The shape is instantly recognisable, like a cone, and the fruit is larger than most pears. It may have a number of light brown patches, although this depends on how wet the growing season has been. The skin has a dark green background, but turns yellow when ripe, and this pear has the unusual quality of being edible just before it is fully ripe, when it offers crunch and bite. When fully ripe, the Conference pear is soft and juicy, and one of this pear’s advantages is that it keeps for a long time if it is stored at a cool temperature.

Concorde

This variety is a cross between the Conference and Doyenne Du Comice pears, and is a large fruit, with a long thin neck and a bulbous lower half. When it ripens, it develops into a light green-yellow-brown, sometimes with a pink flush, or with some russet tints. Its dark glossy leaves and pure white flowers make this an attractive fruit to grow, and it tastes as good as it looks, with plenty of aroma, and a smooth, not rough texture, that packs in plenty of juice.

Beth

Another cross variety, this time between Beurre Superfin and Williams, this variety combines the delicious taste and texture of the Beurre Superfin with the ability of the Williams to survive in our climate. The result is a versatile and delicious pear, grown all over England.

It is one of the newer varieties of pear, having been identified as a potential commercial crop in 1938, but not fully released until 1974, when it earned its name. This is a slightly smaller than average fruit with a conical shape and a fairly thick neck. The skin is smooth and thin without any hint of russet, and it has a pleasant green and yellow colour, with a slight pink tinge to it. The Beth has a distinctive taste, making it similar to the traditional French pear, offering smooth, melting flesh, sweetness and juice and with very little crunchy texture.

English Cuisine’s Bitter Breakfast Treat

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The art of preserving fruit in the form of jam is known across Europe and around the world, but England has made a unique contribution to the fruit conserving arts, in the form of marmalade, a form of preserve that is virtually unknown on the continent.

This bitter breakfast spread is not for everyone, although a certain Peruvian bear has certainly given it a boost over the years. And while it isn’t as approachable a breakfast spread as jam, it is distinctively English addition to the breakfast table that we definitely think should be ‘preserved’.

Traditional marmalade is produced from the Seville variety of orange, a relatively small fruit, and known for its bitterness. The name marmalade is believed to derive from ‘marmelos’ a Portuguese word used to describe paste made with quince, that had a similar texture to the food we now know as marmalade. Recipes for various types of jams, some involving oranges, have been found dating from the 16th century, but one of the most significant early examples of marmalade comes from a recipe for ‘a Marmelet of Oranges’ in a book written by Eliza Cholmondeley in 1677.

In the centuries since, the art of marmalade making has been refined and developed almost beyond recognition, leading to an array of varieties. The main distinction between different types of marmalade is between Thick Cut and Thin Cut. In a Thick Cut marmalade, the orange peel used in making the conserve is cut into thick chunks, which produces a tangy, bitter flavour, while Thin Cut is made with finely shredded peel, leading to a softer texture and flavour.

But the variations don’t end there. Flavoured marmalades have long been popular, though these are  frowned upon by purists, who feel that true marmalade should involve only sugar and citrus. Notable flavoured marmalades include those with added spirits, often whisky or Grand Marnier, along with a variety of citrus fruits or additions such as ginger. You can also find Vintage Marmalade, which has been left to mature, generating a richer, denser flavour or Black Marmalade, which is made through the addition of black molasses or brown sugar.

In fact, there is a whole world of tangy breakfast goodness to explore when it comes to English marmalade. Here are some of the best examples of this quintessentially English conserve:

Stokes – Seville Orange Marmalade

This is a popular variety of orange marmalade that is finely cut, packed full of thin strips of Seville orange peel. This marmalade has a beautiful and distinct orange aroma, which is backed up by strong hints of lemons. With its even flavour profile, this marmalade is ideal for those seeking a balanced breakfast treat, as it combines sweetness and acidity in a well-rounded flavour, although those seeking a stronger degree of bitterness may not find this to their taste.

Frank Cooper – Fine Cut Marmalade

This enjoyable, jammy orange marmalade, by Frank Cooper, has a strong bitterness with the ability to pucker mouths and divide opinion. It is, however, a distinctive spread with a zingy orange flavour underling with a mixture of tartness and sweetness and offering an easily spreadable consistency along with plenty of peel. Frank Cooper also produces a splendidly fearsome black marmalade, produced with molasses, that packs plenty of punch.

Tiptree – Orange Medium Cut Marmalade

One of the best-known marmalade producers, Tiptree have developed a medium cut marmalade that has a perfect texture. The spreading ease of this marmalade belies a grainy texture and it also offers a lovely sweet orange aroma, while offering plenty of bite. This is one of the sweeter marmalades around and ideal for those who don’t like too much bitterness.

Tiptree – Orange and Malt Whisky Marmalade

Another marmalade from the Tiptree store, this is a fine cut spread, which features slivers of peel and a clear set preserve that marvellously captures the sunshine of ripe oranges, though it has a mellow hint of whisky for added complexity, making for an indulgent breakfast treat.

The Garden Pantry – Rhubarb, Lime and Mint Marmalade

If you’re a marmalade purist, look away now! It is true that there is no orange in this marmalade, but that didn’t stop it from winning the bronze medal in the 2017 World Marmalade Awards. It is soft and spreadable in its texture, and the fizzy sensation of the rhubarb helps to make this a great morning spread, with a hint of bitterness, a touch of mint and refreshing aftertaste.

Thursday Cottage – Vintage Orange Marmalade

If you’re a fan of Thick Cut Marmalade, this could be the one for you. Thursday Cottage have paced their Vintage Marmalade with dark, thick chunks of peel, yet have produced a marmalade that is surprisingly light, offering a ripe texture and a tangy lingering citrus taste that brings with it a dose of bitterness. This is an old fashioned marmalade that offers a solid middle ground between the sweeter versions and the truly bitter extremes.

Ollands Farm Foods – Norwich Dry Gin and Grapefruit Marmalade

A distinctive flavoured marmalade, this version is made with Bullard’s gin. The spirit has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, but this is one of the more successful attempts to blend it into a marmalade, producing a spread with a clear gin taste. The aroma is pretty pungent, and it works well with the big fruity grapefruit chunks producing a delicious marmalade cocktail.

Peachey’s Preserves – Seville Orange and Chilli Marmalade

The inventiveness of English marmalade makers knows no bounds, and this is a particularly notable take on the traditional preserve. Unusually, the orange peel here has been cut into cubes, rather than added as long shreds, making for an interesting texture. The orange flavour comes through immediately with this marmalade, but it is backed up with just the right amount of chilli warmth.

Savour the Great English Potato

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Yes, we know what you’re thinking. The potato doesn’t originate in England. True, but then, neither does the tea plant, and England has become synonymous with the production and consumption of tea. In fact, English culture has proven to be adept at adapting to new foods and giving them a uniquely English twist, and so it has proven with the potato.

While the potato was not native to these islands, it has been here for many centuries. It was originally found in South America, and brought to Europe in the early 16th century by the Spanish. Italians soon became enthusiastic consumers of potatoes and by the 1580s, the humble spud had made an appearance in most of the major European nations.

The potato came to England around 1586, brought back by colonists sent to Virginia by Sir Walter Raleigh. Initially it was known as ‘potato of Virginia’ to distinguish it from the sweet potato, which had been introduced to Europe much earlier. Sir Walter Raleigh himself was one of the first to plant potatoes, on his Irish estate near Cork, and didn’t become widely known in England until the late 1590s, when they were considered a delicate, expensive dish. In those early days, potatoes were marinated in sugar and wine or baked with marrow and spices.

The potato received a boost in 1633 when the Royal Horticultural Society attempted to popularise their use, and by the late 1600s, they were widely known as a food of the lower classes. This attitude to the potato evolved slowly and by the mid 1700s, the potato was ubiquitous and enjoyed at all levels of society. Potatoes play a key role in many classic English dishes, from the Sunday roast to bangers and mash and fish and chips.

Although the production of potatoes has declined over the last fifty years, England is still one of the most important potato growing nations in the world, and one of the top five biggest producers in Europe, growing an impressive 6.2 million tones of the crop in 2017. The bulk of those potatoes were used in chip production, but the potato is a remarkable plant, with a multiplicity of uses, and is available in a bewildering array of varieties, which range from fluffy to smooth in texture.

King Edward

King Edward potatoes are one of the best known of all varieties available in England. Classed as a fluffy variety, their creamy coloured skin with its light red blushes is easily recognisable, and they have a soft texture that makes them ideal for roast potatoes, jacket potatoes or home made oven chips.

Mayan Gold

Mayan Gold is another fluffy variety, but a lot rarer than King Edwards. Derived from the Phureja potatoes of Peru, Mayan Gold has a rich golden colour and plenty of flavour. Like the King Edward, their texture makes them perfect for chips, baked potatoes and roasties, but they also go well with many Asian dishes.

Rooster

Another well known variety, Rooster potatoes are easily to spot due to their red skin. They have a delightful fluffy yellow flesh and a rich earthy flavour, which makes them well suited to a variety of dishes, particularly chips.

Violetta

A rare but attractive variety, the Violetta has an indigo almost blue skin and flesh. Their texture makes them perfect for all savoury dishes and as well as a distinctive appearance, they have a sweet, memorable flavour, although leaving the skins on is the best way to retain the taste.

Charlotte

This variety has become one of the popular salad potatoes, so called because they have a fresh flavour and durable texture enabling them to be eaten hot or cold. Charlotte potatoes have a creamy skin and a delicate yellow flesh and are relatively small, ideal as part of a hot of cold salad or even roasted whole.

Salad Blue

Dating from 1900, the Salad Blue potato has an oval shape and both the skin and flesh are a deep blue shade. Originally the result of Victorian potato breeding, they have a fluffy textured flesh and a pleasant flavour. Their texture makes them well suited to crisps, novelty chips, and colourful salads, and as with the Violetta, Salad Blues are best cooked with the skins on.

Pink Fir Apple

A variety that dates from the mid-Victorian era, Pink Fir Apple potatoes are long, knobbly and narrow. The skin is a mixture of pink and white, and the flesh is firm. Pink Fir Apples have a distinctive, sought after earthy flavour, and are versatile enough to be steamed, boiled or eaten in salads.

Anya

Another ‘fingerling’ potato, like the Pink Fir Apple ,the Anya has a firm texture and knobbly appearance and offers a nutty flavour. It can be enjoyed roasted boiled or steamed, and eaten hot or cold. It is particularly suited to vegetarian dishes and pairs well with green leafy veg.

Lady Eve Balfour

This variety, named after Lady Eve Balfour, who was one of the early prominent figures of the English organic movement, is a smooth potato with a uniform oval shape, a cream-toned skin and pale tasty flesh. It works well in mash, as well as boiled or in wedges.

Desiree

Another popular smooth-textured variety, Desiree have a firm, creamy tasting flesh so are ideal for smooth mash or for being cooked in a sauce. They are usually large, oval in shape and are widely available from most retailers, recognisable for their light yellow flesh and red skin.

Vivaldi

A distinctive and versatile smooth potato, the Vivaldi has a velvet-like texture and keeps its shape well, making it perfect for boiling or mashing. The mild, sweet flavour is pleasant, and it goes particularly well with fish, chicken or Mediterranean recipes.

Holiday in England and Enjoy our Fabulous Coastal Heritage

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Foreign travel is likely to be an uncertain business this summer, and that means thousands of English families will be thinking about alternative destinations for their annual break. Fortunately, in this country, we are blessed with plenty of holidaying options, thanks to our unique variety of coastal towns and cities, each with its own charm and attractions. To help you in your staycation planning, here are ten of the most attractive seaside towns

St Ives, Cornwall

This is a regular favourite for holiday makers, thanks to the unique climate that gives St Ives the feel of a subtropical oasis tucked away in the corner of England. Here you can enjoy plenty of sunny weather, gorgeous summer evenings and mild temperatures, long into the autumn. Even the flora of St Ives appear to belong to another climate altogether. And besides the spectacular views and inviting temperatures, the town has a vibrant atmosphere, packed with restaurants, cafes and bars.

Deal, Kent

If you’re looking for a beach holiday, you can’t do better than Deal on the south coast. The town offers a huge sandy beach overlooked by beautiful pastel shaded hotels. It is a perfect break from city life, with a redeveloped pier featuring restaurant facilities and a wide, pedestrianised town centre where you can find a variety of antique and bric-a-brac shops selling period furniture, jewellery and curios.

Hastings, East Sussex

One of the most famous towns in England, Hastings offers an expansive sand and shingle beach and some stunning whitewashed Edwardian hotels, as well as a two-layered promenade, and a Victorian pier, making it the archetypal English seaside town. The steep and grassy hillside near the town extends up to a ruined castle which has the distinction of being the first in England to be built by William the Conqueror following the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Given the history associated with the town, this is also the perfect spot for history lovers who can enjoy the experience of Battle Abbey, visit the beautiful Old Town with its stunning architecture, or spend a day enjoying the impressive Hastings Museum and Art Gallery

Shanklin, Isle of Wight

The pretty seaside resort of Shanklin is studded with charming thatched cottages, delightful tea rooms, and a huge selection of gift shops. Brightly coloured beach huts form a colourful line at the top of the soft sands on Shanklin Beach, making this the perfect English seaside town. The Isle of Wight is famous for its cream teas, and there is a fabulous variety of tea rooms in the town serving everything from traditional cream teas to modern Champagne versions.

Cromer, Norfolk

Another traditional seaside resort, Cromer became popular during the Victorian period, and the town is notable for its attractive Victorian architecture, including the famous pier, which is home to Pavilion Theatre, the only remaining end of the pier variety show in England. Many of the independent cafes, bars and restaurants for which Cromer is well known, are family run institutions and are particularly adept at serving delicious local sea food, including the Cromer crab dish.

Salcombe, Devon

Devon is home to some of England’s prettiest towns and Salcombe is one of the most popular. It boasts a picturesque harbour surrounded by an array of pastel-hued buildings. There is a wide variety of beaches to choose from in the Salcombe area, with each being suited to a different type of day out, ranging from North Sands and its popular Winking Prawn café, to the picturesque Sunny Cove. Wildlife lovers are also in for a treat in Salcombe, with numerous walks and wildlife attractions.

Worthing, West Sussex

The iconic fine shingle beach at Worthing offers stunning views and this traditional seaside town also provides a modern twist. A trip to Worthing can involve a strolling along the promenade, a visit to the pier and an ice cream or two, but there are also plenty of unique feature, including an Iron Age fort, a vintage cinema, a range of micro pubs and even a beach hut art studio. The centrepiece of the town is the Worthing Pier, which includes a stunning Art Deco pavilion as well as all of the familiar pier amusements, including arcades. It is no wonder Worthing has twice won Pier of the Year.

Bamburgh, Northumberland

Rugged countryside, dune-ringed beaches, and ancient architecture makes Bamburgh one of England’s top seaside destinations. You can enjoy windswept walks along the north east coast, spend the day looking around Bamburgh Castle, or just enjoy the tranquillity of this secluded seaside location. It is also a perfect destination for bird watchers, as it is home to a vast range of seabirds, from guillemots to puffins, while seals and harbour porpoises can also be spotted.

Whitby, North Yorkshire

Whitby is famous for its ties with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but there is much more to the town than vampires! It offers a stunning beach, a variety of rugged coastal walks, some of the best fish and chips and ice cream you will taste anywhere and a unique layout, which features winding cobbled paths. The town is also known for the imposing Abbey ruins that overlook the harbour, and this atmospheric northern destination has a rich and fascinating history.

Weymouth, Dorset

Weymouth is popular town, well known as a holiday destination, offering safe shallow waters and a beautiful harbour. You can spend hours in Weymouth just admiring the view, from the pastel-shaded houses to the array of fishing trawlers. The immaculate golden beach at Weymouth has won numerous awards and the town itself is part of England’s unique coastal heritage.

Perfect for Holidays: England’s World Beating Tourist Attractions.

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England is among the most popular travel destinations in Europe, offering almost endless possibilities for holidaymakers seeking attractions. This nation is bursting with fascinating cities and rich cultural traditions from prehistoric sites and ancient Roman ruins to centuries-old castles and historic town centres, some of which go back to the Middle Ages. If you’re thinking of an English holiday this year, here are ten of the best attractions you should consider visiting.

Tower of London

We start with one of England’s most iconic tourist destinations. In its long centuries of existence, the Tower has served as prison, palace, treasure vault, menagerie and observatory, and that means an incredible depth of history for visitors to this World Heritage Site. The centrepiece of this destination, on the banks of the River Thames, is the White Tower, which was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror. Here you will find incredible exhibits, such as Line of Kings, which was established in 1652 and features a wonderful display of royal armour.

Other highlights at the Tower include the Crown Jewels exhibition, tours by Yeoman Warders, the Royal Mint, and variety of exhibitions. It’s also a perfect destination for children, thanks to the immersive activities staged there, which also offer an insight into London’s history .

Bath, Somerset

If there is one city in England worth a visit besides London, it would be Bath, in Somerset, one of the country’s most beautiful cities. Famous for the magnificent 2,000-year-old Roman Baths which were built around the city’s rejuvenating hot springs, it is also well known for its honey-coloured Georgian Townhouses, most notably those built on Royal Crescent. As many as 500 of the city’s buildings are considered to be of historical importance, which explains why the whole city has earned World Heritage status. Bath also makes a perfect base to explore some of England’s stunning countryside, including the Mendip Hills and the Avon Valley.  

British Museum, London

Another must-see location in London, the British Museum is one of the world’s top museums, housing over 13 million artifacts from all eras and locations, including Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, the Roman Empire and China. Perhaps the most famous ancient artifacts here are the Elgin Marbles, originally part of the Parthenon in Athens, and the Rosetta Stone. The Ancient Egyptian collection at the British Museum is the largest outside of Cairo, while the hoard of Roman silver known as the Mildenhall Treasure, which was unearthed in Suffolk in 1942, is spectacular. You can also enjoy dining, shopping, guided tours and educational lectures and workshops.

York, Yorkshire

The stunning York Minster is second only in importance within the Church of England to the cathedral at Canterbury. It stands at the heart of historic York, and is surrounded by half-timbered homes, medieval guildhalls, shops and churches. And when you’ve finished exploring the Minster, you can enjoy the beautiful streets of the city, surrounded by three miles of town walls that offer spectacular views over the city. The York National Railway Museum is another popular attraction, and York makes the ideal starting point to explore the stunning scenery of the Yorkshire Dales and Moors.

Chester Zoo, Chester

Based just a mile north of Chester city centre, Chester Zoo is the most visited English attraction outside of London and a perfect family destination. There are over 11,000 animals on this site, representing 400 different species. The zoo also offers award winning landscaped gardens, a handy monorail system and a range of fun activities. You can also take the time to explore the old city walls of Chester, along with its picturesque galleried walkways.

The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds region covers nearly 800 square miles and extends into some of England’s prettiest counties including Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Somerset. The rare limestone grasslands and beech woodlands earned the Cotswolds an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty title, and the area is home to some stunning villages and towns, including Castle Combe, Chipping Norton, and Tetbury. For those who like to explore the countryside, the 102-mile Cotswold Way is a perfect way to enjoy the area, providing stunning views of the Vale of Evesham and the Severn Valley.

Lake District National Park

The Lake District National Park is globally famous, and a delight for walkers. The area includes twelve of England’s largest lakes along with 2,000 miles of pathway to be explored. The region is famous for its many fells, which include the 3210-foot Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. You can also spend time enjoying the small towns and villages of the region, or enjoy a tour boat excursion across Ullswater and Lake Windermere and savour the scenery.

Canterbury Cathedral, Kent

Built at the heart of Canterbury, the Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cradle of English Christianity and home to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Christianity came to Canterbury in 597 when St Augustine became the first bishop of the city. You can embark on a fully guided tour of the cathedral, or even book an overnight stay at the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge. And Canterbury itself offers plenty to enjoy, including shopping, galleries, and numerous attractions focused on the city’s Roman and Medieval heritage, such as the ruins of St. Augustine’s Abbey, and Beaney House.

Eden Project, Cornwall

The Eden Project is an assembly of unique artificial biomes which feature an amazing collection of plants from around the globe. Based in a reclaimed quarry in Cornwall, these stunning botanical gardens complex are based on huge domed greenhouses, each of which houses thousands of varying plant species from tropical and Mediterranean environments. The Eden Project also hosts a variety of arts and music events year-round and offers an on-site hostel and restaurant facilities.

Stonehenge, Wiltshire

Stonehenge, located just ten miles north of Salisbury, is Europe’s most famous prehistoric monument. The site is so popular that you have to buy a timed ticket to guarantee entry. There are a number of exhibitions at the visitor centre, setting the background for the site, explaining the megaliths were erected, and sharing information about the site. After exploring these enormous stones, you can also visit the exhibition of replica Neolithic Houses to see the tools used by the people of the time.

Cast your Net Wider in Search of English Fish

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Being part of an island it is no surprise that England has a strong tradition of seafood cuisine For many centuries we’ve been harvesting from the ocean and finding new ways to edify the bounty of the sea. England is home to some of the world’s best seafood restaurants, and in recent years the efforts of a number of high profile chefs have given a boost to English seafood.

But although England has an admirable seafood tradition, the tastes of English consumers have not always been that adventurous. Salmon, cod and imported tuna have dominated the fish selling market over the last few decades, but there is a wealth of delectable sea food out there to be enjoyed, whether you are eating out or visiting your local fishmonger. Here is just a taste of the treasures to be found in the seas around England right now.

Fish and Chips

Where better to start than with the quintessential English dish. The traditional fish and chip meal first caught on with the English working class in the Victorian era when trawl fishing in the North Sea was at its height and the railways enabled the transportation of fresh fish could be transported to the growing cities and towns. But the tradition of deep frying fish first came to England with Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal in the 17th century. These days, there is a fish and chip shop in every town and village, using a variety of fish, from the traditional haddock and cod to less familiar varieties such as skate, plaice, coley or pollock.

Monkfish

Monkfish is a firm-textured, relatively meaty white fish that looks a little odd with its flat head, tapered body and mottled-brown skin. This is a fish that can feature in a variety of dishes, including cured monkfish with smoked almonds, red peppers and saffron and monkfish curry and monkfish with rice. The flesh of the monkfish is perfect for both pan-frying and barbequing.

Crab

There are several types of crab available in English waters, but the most popular food species is the brown crab, also known as edible crab. It’s the heaviest English crab and has a distinctive reddish-brown shell. About a third of the weight of this crab species is meat, and it is also the species that is used to make ‘dressed crab’ which involves cleaning out the shell and using this as the dish.

Crab is also used in fish cakes, crab sticks and crab paste. The vast majority of brown crabs landed in England are caught by potting, a relatively environmentally friendly form of fishing. Arguably the best English crabs are caught in the Inshore Potting Agreement Area in Devon or Cornwall.

Lemon Sole

Technically the Lemon sole is a flounder. It’s a traditional English fish is with a delicate white flesh and it is usually served fried or grilled, with a light sauce. An alternative serving method involves rolling the fillet around stuffing and then baking or steaming the dish.

Scallops

A relatively expensive but tasty seafood that comes in a variety of sizes. The main varieties you can find in England are small queen scallops and large king scallops. They are usually fried grilled or steamed, but they have to be cooked carefully to retain their delicate flavour. Scallops often go well with salty, hearty flavours such as bacon or chorizo,

Smoked Haddock

Another popular English seafood, smoked haddock is an enhanced fish product that is versatile enough to add to a variety of fish dishes, or served on its own along with vegetables. The base of English smoked haddock is the town of Grimsby, which has a specialised infrastructure for handling every aspect of the catching and smoking process.

Hake

Hake doesn’t look particularly attractive, but it makes thick and tasty fillets. Hake flesh is white, delicate and flaky and is available in a range of cuts. It also has a more distinctive flavour than the similar cod and haddock so makes an excellent choice if you’re trying to widen your fish eating.

Lobsters

English lobsters are in season all through the summer and are caught all around the coasts of England, though the biggest source is Cornwall. Native English lobsters come in a fantastic variety of colours from electric blue to black, though are very expensive out of season.

Cockles

Another traditional English seafood, cockles can be eaten simply by boiling and then seasoning with pepper and vinegar. The cockle has a distinctive rounded shell that is slightly heart shaped, and is in fact part of the family cardidae, which means heart-shaped. They shouldn’t be eaten during their breeding season between March and July and the best cockles come from the Wash.

Mussels

A common bluish-purple mollusc, mussels are available all over the English coast so are cheaper than many other forms of seafood. The shell is longer than it is wide and has an attractive wedge shape. There are many ways to serve mussels, including steaming them with garlic, butter, lemon juice or white wine. A well cooked mussel has a taste that offers a hint of mushroom. From an environmental perspective, look for mussels that are rope grown or hand gathered.  

England’s Proud Apple Heritage

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A quick wander through your local supermarket might suggest that there are only a handful of apple varieties available to the English consumer. Your choice often seems limited to Golden Delicious, Coxes, Granny Smiths and, if you’re feeling adventurous, maybe a Red Delicious. Meanwhile, it seems as though Bramleys have the cooking apple sector all sewn up.

In fact, there is an astonishing number of apple varieties in England. Around 2,000 in fact, and that number is growing all the time as growers experiment with new hybrids. English apple varieties include an incredible diversity of shapes, textures and flavours, from richly aromatic to nutty, from crisp to juicy, from deepest red to fresh green and round to pear-shaped.

Apple growing has been present in England for centuries. We know that some apple varieties were first introduced to these islands by the Romans, but there is some evidence to suggest that apples grew wild here during the Neolithic period.

Whatever the origins of apple growing, however, it was the Victorians who created the apple growing landscape that we see today. It was through the dedication of Victorian gardeners, that we ended up with a variety of apples not seen anywhere else in the world. Many of the popular apples of the Victorian era are not familiar to us today, such as the Pitmaston Pineapple, the Ribston Pippin or the crisp, sweet red apple, Laxton’s Superb while the Alfriston was a large, sharp apple that was perfect for making juices, and the Howgate Wonder was the perfect apple for pies.

The ubiquity of the English apple belies the difficulties associated with growing and storing this crop. Apples are ideally stored in a cold environment, which these days involves a chilled, low-oxygen, low-carbon dioxide, nitrogen-rich atmosphere, effectively putting them into ‘stasis’, preserving their flavour, and in some cases, helping the apple to develop a sweeter taste.

Even harvesting the apples is a complicated business. Each one sold commercially has to be hand selected and picked to ensure optimum ripeness and quality. This process can’t be automated, so the industry depends on thousands of extra harvesting hands every season. And as a crop, apples are extremely sensitive to the weather, so a good summer is vital in producing the best fruits. 

At the moment, around 40% of the apples eaten in England are from native orchards. That sounds like a low figure, but it actually represents a significant increase from 10 years ago, when the level was less than 30% and as growers focus on finding new varieties and incorporating more effective technology, that figure is likely to head past the 50% mark by the end of the decade.

So where can you go to find some of these English apple varieties? Local farmers markets and specialist sellers are a good place to start, but supermarkets are also upping their game in this area.

During apple season, you will often find promotions on English apples, as well as generically labelled apple bags which will feature a different labelled variety each week. To give you some ideas and inspiration for discovering the world of English apples, here’s some of the most sought after varieties.

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.