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Fishcakes and Allsorts: Food from the Steel City

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Sheffield is one of the most distinctive industrial cities in the UK, famous for its steel, but it also has a unique culinary history that is worth exploring.

The city is based in the county of South Yorkshire. It was first founded as an Anglo Saxon village, at which point it was little more than a small clearing in the forest, and it is remarkable to think that it has since expanded to become the fourth largest city in England.

The name of the city comes from the words ‘Sheaf’ which is the name of the river that passes through the city and ‘feld’ meaning field. For much of its history, Sheffield remained little more than a small town or large village, but that began to chance with the Industrial Revolution and the connection of the settlement with the canal network that enabled the transportation of goods across the country.

The rapid growth of population in the city led to a change in its status. In 1843, it became a borough and improvements were gradually made to the town’s sanitation, health and education systems. It was eventually recognised as a city in 1893, though alongside its grand cathedral and city architecture, Sheffield still retains some of the features of a market town, including daily markets.

Sheffield was one of the leading industrial cities in England and is still known as the Steel City across the UK and around the world. This link between Sheffield and steel began in the 1740s when Benjamin Huntsman, a clock maker, came up with a new form of crucible steel processing that produced a better quality of steel than had previously been available. Huntsman’s process remained dominant until 1856 when Henry Bessemer invented the Bessemer converter, but production of crucible steel continued for special uses, as it was a higher quality than the Bessemer steel.

Also in the mid 1700s, Thomas Boulsover invented a technique for fusing a sheet of silver onto a copper ingot which produced a new form of silver plating that was known as Sheffield Plate. Originally this new plate was used for making silver buttons. Then in 1751 Joseph Hancock, who had previously worked as apprentice to Boulsover’s friend Thomas Mitchell, used it make kitchen and tableware and went on to build one of the earliest factories in England, in Sheffield. As late as 1912, Sheffield was still leading the way when Harry Brearley created stainless steel.

One of the results of these innovations was Sheffield’s reputation for producing cutlery, leading to huge experts of cutlery and utensils all over the world.

Although Sheffield, along with many other northern cities, suffered from the decline in the UK’s manufacturing industries after the Second World War, it has continued to be a significant producer of steel, adapting to new technologies and new demands. The city has also developed a reputation as a cultural centre, and a number of food producers based in Sheffield have firmly established themselves as English institutions. Here is just a sample of the taste of Sheffield:

Henderson’s Relish

Henderson’s Relish is a famous condiment that is still produced in Sheffield. It has some similarities to the equally famous Worcestershire Sauce, though it contains no anchovies. It is made from a combination of water, sugar and spirit vinegar with a selection of spices and colouring.

Henry Henderson started making sauce towards the end of the 19th century. Until 2013, Henderson’s Relish was still being made within a half mile of the location of the production of the first ever bottle. Known locally as ‘Hendos’ it is a versatile addition to a wide range of dishes.

Sheffield Fishcake

The principle of coating a piece of fish in breadcrumbs is well known in English culinary circles, but one distinctively Sheffield take on this dish is the Sheffield Fishcake. This consists of two large slices of potato, with minced fish, usually Haddock or Cod in between. The whole sandwich is then battered and deep fried for a carb-heavy but delicious dish. Sheffield Fishcakes are often served on a bun or with mushy peas and a dash of Henderson’s.

Sheffield Honey Company

The Sheffield Honey Company has won awards for the quality of their premium local English honey and their wider range of beeswax products. Their range includes delicious Blossom, Soft Set, Borage, Blueberry, Bell Heather and Ling Heather honey available in different sizes. The company has become so successful that they are the bulk supplier to restaurants, bakeries and the brewing industry as well as offering a wide range of honey-themed gifts.

Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts

Bassett’s are one of the most famous sweet producers in the UK, but arguably their most popular product was made by accident. In 1899, Charlie Thompson, one of Bassett’s sales representatives, was said to have tripped over and dropped an entire tray of samples he was showing to a client, with the result that the sweets became jumbled up .The client expressed an interest in the accidental combinations and Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts were born.

They proved to be an instant hit and later inspired the creation of the company’s mascot, Bertie Bassett, who has featured in the branding of the sweets since the 1920s. The sweets have been so popular that Bassett’s have also released two varieties of Allsorts that do not feature any liquorice:  Fruit Allsorts and Dessert Allsorts. They’ve also released a brand of Red Allsorts, with fruit-flavoured liquorice, which have been relaunched since their original appearance in the 1990s.

Abbeydale Brewery

Sheffield can claim to be the real ale capital of the UK and is home to some of the most talented and popular artisan brewers, including Kelham Island Brewery and The Sheffield Brewery Company.

Abbeydale is another of these Sheffield breweries that has grown rapidly. Founded in 1996, they have expanded on their original pale and hop-dominated products to meet the demands of the ever-changing beer industry. They now produce more than 880 casks per week across as many as fifteen different ranges, including their popular local brew Moonshine, which has won numerous awards, and their famous Brewers Emporium range.

Dixon’s Sweets

Henry Dixon started his Sheffield-based company in 1885 with the aim of producing high quality traditional boiled sweets. The sweets are still made by hand and using recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. A Sheffield food producer with a proud local heritage, their latest packaging shows the very first workforce outside Henry Dixon’s original Sheffield factory. Dixon’s are particularly well known for their rock, and their Mint rock is especially popular.

Cream Sherry and Clark’s Pies: Bristol’s Rich Food History

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As an island, the UK has more than its share of sea ports, all of which have developed their own unique identities, as well as making substantial contributions to English culture.

One of the most famous of English ports is Bristol. The biggest city of the south west of England, Bristol was first recognised as a town in 1155 and within a century it had taken on significance as a port, thanks partially to significant improvements in the harbour, which took place in 1247, when the river Frome was diverted to the west, and a stone bridge constructed at the confluence of the Avon.

During the reign of Edward III (1327–77) Bristol took on greater significance as a port, importing raw wool from Ireland along with manufactured woollen cloth, which it then sold to Spain and Portugal in return for sherry and port wine. This steadily growing trade meant that by the 16th century Bristol had become a major port, as well as a key manufacturing town, and a distribution centre for both overseas and inland trade.

Its ideal position also meant the city also played a notable part in maritime history. It was from Bristol that John Cabot sailed in 1497 on his famous voyage to North America. This maritime significance was recognised in 1552 when the Society of Merchant Venturers was incorporated in the city.

During the later 17th and the 18th centuries Bristol began to prosper as a processing centre for the vast quantities of sugar and tobacco imported from Britain’s colonies in the Americas, to whom it supplied in return textiles, pottery, glass, and other manufactured goods.

The importation of Jamaican sugar combined with the trade in cacao from West Africa was responsible for the growth of the famous sugar houses of Bristol as well as the development of a thriving chocolate manufacturing business.

The 19th century saw significant challenges to Bristol’s maritime and trade pre-eminence. The rise of the Lancashire cotton industry combined with the natural limitation on shipping created by the Avon Gorge below Clifton, led to the loss of a great deal of Bristol’s trade to Liverpool.

This relative economic decline was followed by the destruction of a large part of the city centre as a result of bombing during the Second World War. But out of this destruction, the city reinvented itself. Post-war reconstruction included a number of significant buildings, while the Royal Portbury Dock increased the capacity and versatility of the city’s maritime trade.

Bristol now imports an astonishing range of goods including refined petroleum products, animal foodstuffs, and forest products, while the city exports a variety of manufactured goods from the West Midlands, most notably automobiles, tractors, and machinery.

Traditional local industries, include the refining of sugar, cocoa and chocolate making, wine bottling, porcelain, pottery making and the production of the fine glass known as Bristol Blue have continued, while there is also a notable aircraft design and construction industry in the city. Bristol’s position as the major trade and cultural hub of the south west was strengthened by the construction of the Severn Bridge to the north of the city, along with the completion of the M4 motorway to south Wales.

This position as the major city of the south west has meant that Bristol has long been the point of sale for some of the many ranges of food and drink produced in nearby Somerset, as well as Devon, Cornwall and Gloucestershire. These home grown food delights, combined with the proliferation of global trade through the city have turned Bristol into one of the most interesting culinary locations in England, complete with a flourishing catering and restaurant industry.

Cider

If there is one thing that the south west of England is known for, it is cider! The orchards and cider making bases of Somerset are renowned all over the world for producing an astonishing array of high quality cider and perry and naturally Bristol was the ideal location for cider makers, merchants and farmers to sell and export their wares. The result has been that Bristol is the most cider-friendly city in England. It is famous for its bewildering number of cider merchants and cider bars, where you can sample everything from refined award-winning ciders to ultra strong scrumpy and delicate perry.

Bath Buns

Okay, so Bath isn’t Bristol, but as with the cider making industry, Bristol benefitted from its close proximity to Bath, which meant many Bath food producers, including their bakers, sent their wares to the city for sale. The Bath bun is a sweet roll made from a milk-based yeast dough with crushed sugar sprinkled on top after the baking process is finished. The range of ingredients used has varied from lumps of sugar to candied fruit peel, currants, raisins or sultanas.

Originally, the bun was made with a rich butter and egg dough, which was then smothered in caraway seeds and multiple sugar layers. But in the middle of the 19th century, the recipe changed to a heavier, fruit-filled version, which proved to be extremely popular in Victorian England.

Mothering Buns

Mothering buns are a speciality of Bristol, and are traditionally made by local bakers the day before Mothering Sunday. The significance of the day is that in English tradition, the Christian Lent fast was relaxed for this one occasion, allowing people to treat themselves to foods that were normally off limits to those who were fasting. Originally, the buns were decorated with caraway or aniseed, but these toppings have been replaced by hundreds and thousands are used.

Cream Sherry

In the late 17th century, sweetened Oloroso sherry was hugely popular in England and was known as milk sherry or Bristol Milk, due to the fact that the majority of the sherry trade to England was passing through the port of Bristol. The city became known for mixing different types of wines together, to produce a sweet, smooth mixture.

Bristol Milk was already established as a generic form of drink, but in the 1860s, John Harvey, a wine maker, whose father had started his business in 1796, created a new, richer blend that was deemed to be superior to Bristol Milk, and naturally became known as Cream Sherry.

The sherry is a blend of Amontillado, Oloroso and Fino sherries, combined with an element of Pedro Ximenez, to produce a darker, richer and smoother sherry than the original Bristol Milk. To emphasise its Bristolian origins, Harvey’s Bristol Cream is still sold in traditional ‘Blue Bristol’ bottles.

Clark’s Pie

Originally developed in Wales, the Clark’s Pie has become associated with the city of Bristol, and is one of the most distinctive of local foods. The exact recipe used in the pie filling is a closely guarded secret, although it includes beef, vegetables and gravy.

The Clark’s pie stands out from the competition as it boasts a pastry that is thick enough not to require a foil tray when it is sold, and the thickness of the pastry also means that the pie can be picked up and eaten without knife and fork. Every pie is stamped with the word CLARPIE into the pastry and it is the ideal football or rugby match food.

The Clifton Sausage

Among its many links with the food industry, Bristol is known for its variety of pork products and one of the most famous expressions of this tradition is the Clifton Sausage. This restaurant opening in 2002 and has built up a strong following in the local area and across England, thanks to their spectacular array of sausage varieties. At any one time, there are six on the menu, including such delights as Gloucester Old Spot pork, lamb, mint and apricot, beef and Butcombe ale and even reindeer and cranberry. The sausages are served with either mash or champ, which is mash combined with chopped spring onion as well as onion gravy for the ultimate English comfort food.

Pikelets and Balti: The Unique Mix of Birmingham’s Culinary Heritage

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Birmingham is officially the UK’s second city, and its position at the heart of England has made it a bustling hub for trade, industry and culture throughout the centuries.

The original village of Birmingham gained its first market charter in 1166, but it wasn’t until the 14th century that it became known as a settlement of any significance. Its lack of river transport had cut it off from maritime contact, which was an important driver for growth in the medieval period, and this delayed the growth of Birmingham from a small manufacturing town to a large city until towards the end of the 18th century.

The Industrial Revolution changed Birmingham’s fortunes dramatically. Although the revolution had begun to the west, in Ironbridge, Shropshire and then the Black Country, it was Birmingham that was to become the heart of England’s industrial growth. It’s population grew from 15,000 in the late 17th century to 70,000 a century later. The city itself established flourishing metal and gun-making trades alongside a thriving jewellery business, but it was also a place where great minds could meet.

The engineers James Watt (who invented the steam engine) and Matthew Boulton along with steam engine development pioneer, William Murdock, lived in Birmingham, along with the chemist Joseph Priestley and printer John Baskerville. Their inventions and ideas helped to drive Birmingham’s growth, while Boulton’s Soho Manufactory, which was most notable for developing the steam engine for industrial use, became famous throughout Europe.

Like many industrial areas, Birmingham was slow to earn Parliamentary recognition, and wasn’t able to send MPs to the House of Commons until the Reform Act of 1832. In 1838, the city was incorporated and in the same year, rail links to Liverpool and London were completed.

Another important stage in Birmingham’s history came during the term of Mayor of rich local industrialist Joseph Chamberlain. He took over in 1873 and in a three year spell, he launched many important reforms, including schemes for redeveloping the city centre.

The city subsequently became a pioneer in a variety of new initiatives, including town-planning schemes, one-way-traffic experiments and municipal airports. The effects of the Second World War left Birmingham devastated, but over the years, the ruins and the remaining slums were removed and replaced with tall blocks of apartments and office buildings. A new inner ring road system, a rebuilt central train station, and new shopping and commercial hubs helped to transform the city.

To this day, Birmingham remains the chief centre of England’s light and medium industry and has been described as “the city of 1,001 different trades.” The key to its economic success has always been the diversity of its industrial base, though in recent years, the city has also developed as a financial and service industry hub, as well as strengthening its cultural credentials.

Birmingham has developed a distinctive range of dishes that reflect the dramatic changes that have swept over the city, and these deserve to be recognised today.

Pikelets

Pikelets are an extremely popular snack in Birmingham, where they can serve as a pick-me-up when getting home from work or a fast and tasty breakfast.

A pikelet and a crumpet are actually two different things, locals use the word pikelets for both. Bakery experts say that the thick, spongy versions, made inside metal rings and with lots of holes in the top are crumpets, while the thinner type, produced by just dropping the batter straight into the pan are pikelets. Yeast in the dough causes the bubbles in crumpets, while ‘true’ pikelets have no bubbles, but both are enjoyed throughout Birmingham and the Black Country.

Balti

Arguably the most famous Birmingham dish, the Balti is a form of curry cooked and served in a two-handled steel bowl, which almost always comes with an accompaniment of naan bread to scoop up the spicy contents. The dish was invented by Mohammed Arif at his restaurant, Adil’s, using what he described as an exotic collection of herbs and spices distinctively blended in the style of Northern Kashmir. The Balti proved to be so popular that a number of Indian restaurants opened in the same part of the city, a region now known as the Balti Triangle.

Birmingham Soup

Bad harvests in the late 18th century led to a food shortage and industrial pioneer Matthew Boulton, who lived at Soho House in Handsworth, created a nutritious broth for his starving workers, made with stewed beef and vegetables and served up with a slice of bread. Modern versions are more upmarket and take longer to prepare, often served with pikelets and foie gras butter.

Brummie Bacon Cakes

These distinctive snacks are effectively savoury scones that have had cheese and crispy bacon added. Tomato ketchup and Worcestershire sauce combined with milk are also often used to give an extra tanginess. This Birmingham recipe, which was apparently rediscovered in an old Women’s Institute cookery book, can be eaten hot or cold, either sliced in half and spread with butter, or served up for for breakfast with fried eggs and tomatoes.

Lambswool

Lambswool is a sweet, spicy punch with baked apples that was drunk in other areas, but was particularly popular in Birmingham. The name is said to derive from an ancient Celtic celebration known as La Mas Ubhal, the Day of the Apple, which was a November ritual held under the oldest fruit tree in the orchard, though it could also be linked to Lammas, the old Saxon word for the harvest festival. The drink is also known as wassail and was part of the Christmas custom of wassailing, when people sang songs and offered the drink in exchange for gifts.

Originally, the drink was made with ale, rather than cider, as well as baked apple, nutmeg, ginger and brown sugar. The drink was also associated with St Clement’s Day, which was a Christian festival on November 23 for the patron saint of blacksmiths.

Frumenty

On Mother’s Day, many local workers and staff were given a day off and would visit their mothers with a Simnel cake, which was a light fruit cake topped with balls of marzipan. In return they were treated to a bowl of frumenty, one of the oldest known dishes in England. Frumentum is latin for ‘grain’ and this meal consisted of a porridge of boiled wheat with various other ingredients, including milk, sugar, eggs, almonds, currants and plums, making for a glorious dish of comfort food.

Pork Scratchings

These savoury pub snacks were likely first created in Birmingham and the Black Country, when working class families would keep pigs, and they date back to the times when no part of the pig was wasted. These highly-salted, deep-fried pig-skin snacks are not exactly a health food, but their taste and texure make them irresistible snacks with a pint or two.

Bread and Dripping

No working class Birmingham childhood was complete without the delight of a piece of white bread that was dipped in the Sunday roast meat pan before being sprinkled with salt and pepper. Bread spread with dripping (beef fat collected from the roasting tray and chilled in the fridge) has been a staple food since it began to be popular during the period of wartime rationing. The food fell out of favour during the 1970s and 1980s, but it is making something of a comeback in the 20th century.

Scouse and Wet Nelly: The Foods of Liverpool

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Liverpool is not the largest city in England, but it is one of the best known. The name of the city comes from the old English words for muddy water and creek or pool, and it has gone through a number of different spellings before the current version was settled upon. The pool in question refers to an inlet that no longer exists, while the muddy aspect may have referred to the fact that the waterway was full of weeds such as liverwort.

The city’s history really begins in 1207 when the borough or Livpul was established under King John, and by 1235, Liverpool had its own castle. Early on, there were just seven streets in the city, all of which survive to this day, and the place remained a relatively unimportant settlement until it began to play a significant role in transatlantic trade during the 18th century.

There was a sinister aspect to this expanding wealth in that Liverpool played a major part in the slave trade, and this sad history is commemorated at the International Slavery Museum based in the city.

Liverpool was the site of the first ever commercial wet dock in England, built on the River Mersey in 1715. It was originally able to accommodate up to 100 ships. In 1737, Canning Dock was added, but the most significant addition came in 1846 with the opening of the Albert Dock, which transformed the way that the port of Liverpool operated, enabling it to fully capitalise on the vast quantities of trade that were passing through the city. In fact, by the time the Albert Dock was opened, it was estimated that as much as 40% of all global trade was going through Liverpool.

The growing wealth of the city was reflected in widespread construction and the founding of some famous buildings including the Congregational Church, the neoclassical St George’s Hall and the 1836 unveiling of Lime Street Station. Another famous Liverpool building, Albion House, is also known as being the previous home of the White Star Line, the registered owners of the ill-fated RMS Titanic.

Many Liverpudlians worked on the various cruise ships that set sail from Liverpool and this brought many cultural influences to the city, particularly from places such as the USA and Jamaica. Beginning  in the late 1860s many Chinese migrants first arrived in Liverpool, mainly as a result of the employment of Chinese seamen by the Blue Funnel Shipping Line. This created strong links between the cities of Shanghai, Hong Kong and Liverpool, with the importation of silk, cotton and tea bringing more trade to the city, and helping to bring a unique cultural diversity to the area.

Liverpool suffered some of the most widespread damage during the Second World War as the Luftwaffe targeted this important trade and industrial hub. It is estimated that as many as 2,700 people were killed during these bombing raids and the damage was widespread.

The effects of this damage, plus the declining economic situation, as other ports and global locations began to compete more effectively, meant that Liverpool suffered an economic decline, but in place of its role as a trade hub, the city became known as a centre for culture, thanks to the thriving music and cultural scene that developed throughout the 1950s and 1960s, leading to arguably the city’s most successful and famous export, the Beatles. Liverpool’s cultural and industrial history has led to it being recognised as a World Heritage site, and these days, it is one of the most vibrant places in England.

Not surprisingly, this bustling port has developed a unique cuisine, informed by the various influences that have affected the city over the centuries. Here are some of the most famous and popular culinary contributions made by the city of Liverpool:

Scouse

The most famous of Liverpool’s foods, scouse is so popular in the area, that the name has become a nickname for people from Liverpool and for their local dialect. Scouse is a rich meat stew, usually made using mutton or beef along with thick-cut vegetables. It isn’t related to the various other regional English stews or hot pots and is actually believed to originate from a Norwegian recipe that was brought to the city by travelling seamen. Many pubs in the city serve fresh scouse, often served with pickled beetroot or cabbage as well as a slice of bread.

Wet Nelly

This unusually named treat is a delicious dessert that was originally devised as a way of making use of leftover bread. Similar to the well known bread and butter pudding, Wet Nelly is a great standby recipe if you want something sweet at the end of a meal. The basis of the dish is scraps of stale bread and cakes that are left to soak in water before being mixed with spices, sugar, dried fruit and eggs. The finished dish is usually served with custard, but cream or ice-cream work just as well.

Everton mints

Also sometimes known as humbugs, these small hard-boiled sweets have their origin in the part of the city known as Everton. They are usually peppermint-flavoured and are traditionally brown with white stripes, and can be found in many convenience stores or specialist sweet shops.

Bubble and Squeak

This is a relatively well known dish throughout England, but it is most popular in Liverpool, where it is a regular feature of family dinners. It is traditionally a way of using up any vegetable leftovers following a Sunday roast, and usually has a potato base. All the ingredients are chopped up and cooked up in a frying pan, with the name of the dish deriving from the sounds coming from the pan as the meal is cooked. Bubble and squeak is versatile enough to be eaten at any time of day.

Potted Shrimp

Potted shrimp is a distinctive seafood dish, made from small prawns which have been clarified in a flavoured butter, before being put into a small jar. The butter is usually flavoured with nutmeg, although sometimes cayenne pepper is used, and the dish is normally served spread on fresh bread or toast. Shrimps are plentiful off the coast of Liverpool, and they were traditionally preserved this  way to allow for surplus stocks to be stored for times when catches were less fruitful. J

Liverpool Gin

As a busy maritime city, gin used to be extremely popular in the docks of Liverpool. It was a favourite tipple for both sailors and their wives, due to its high alcohol content and its reported health benefits. The trade of unusual herbs and spices through the city also meant that Liverpool Gin developed a unique flavour. Although gin production in Liverpool halted for many years when the city went into economic decline, there is now a new distillery producing gin based on original recipes and many bars in the city now serve gin cocktails that are a throwback to Liverpool’s maritime heritage.

Pea Whack

A Liverpool take on pea soup, Pea Whack is a hearty and warming dish, that features a ham bone,

split peas, carrots, onions, garlic and celery. The peas are soaked overnight, then added to a pot of water along with the other ingredients, brought to the boil and then simmered low for a few hours. The final step is to remove the ham bone and add the trimmed meat to the pot.

Salt and Pepper Chips

Liverpool is home to one of the oldest and largest Chinese communities in Europe and salt and pepper chips is the expression of that link. The dish is made using traditional chip shop chips that are then mixed with onions, peppers and chillies before being tossed together with a blend of spices. The dish is believed to originate during the 1990s, but is now a firm favourite across Liverpool.

Stotties and Floddies: Explore Geordie cuisine

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Newcastle upon Tyne, more commonly known simply as Newcastle, is one of the most distinctive of English cities. The largest major city in the far north of the country, Newcastle was founded on the banks of the River Tyne, when it was merely a Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall. At that point, it was known as Pons Aelius, getting its name from the Emperor Hadrian’s family title.

The next incarnation of Newcastle was as ‘Monkchester’ in the centuries following the departure of the Romans and it became part of the powerful Anglo Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria. It didn’t earn the name Newcastle until the time of the Normans.

When the son of William the Conqueror, Robert, returned from beating the Scots in 1080, he stayed in Monkchester, and has a wooden castle built there to fortify the main crossing of the Tyne. The area then earned the name Novum Castellum, meaning ‘New Castle’. The castle remains to this day, although the Castle Keep was built by Henry II between 1172-1177 and the main gatehouse, known as the Black Gate, was built by Henry III between 1247-1250.

Newcastle remained a strong points of resistance to the Scots during the Middle Ages, and at the same time, it began to flourish as a key part of the wool trade. By 1400, the town had its own Mayor and sheriff, and despite the decline of the wool trade during the 1500s and 1600s, Newcastle continued to thrive, thanks to coal.

A Royal Act of 1530 decreed that all coal exports in the North East of the country had to be shipped from Newcastle quayside, which enabled Newcastle to prosper as a regional centre for trade. Although the town suffered for its support of King Charles I during the Civil War, it was able to resume its strong trade position during the years after the Restoration and exports of iron, slate and glass led the continuing growth of the town.

By the 1800s, Newcastle had its own bank, and a thriving printing industry, with the Newcastle Gazette and the Newcastle Courant being the first newspapers in circulation in northern England. The town was also well placed to thrive during the Industrial Revolution. Between 1750 and 1850, numerous heavy industries were established in the area, most notably the building of ships and steam trains. There was a huge influx of people, with the population passing the 250,000 mark by 1911, just 29 years after Newcastle was awarded city status.

That industrial strength waned throughout the second half of the twentieth century as overseas competition and a decline in manufacturing hit the town hard. But in recent decades, it has been able to reinvent itself as a cultural centre and home to new and innovative commercial enterprises.

Like many of England’s industrial heartlands, Newcastle has generated a distinctive cuisine, rooted in the popularity of warming and hearty food that kept people nourished during long cold winters. To help you get a taste of Newcastle food, here are some of the city’s most famous dishes:

Stotties

If you’ve never tried a stottie, imagine a bread bun but on an epic scale and you’ve got a good idea of what it looks like. Usually, a stottie will measure around 12 inches across and nearly two inches thick, and provides a stodgy bread texture. It is named after the local  word ‘’stott’ which means to bounce and was so called because the ideal stottie should bounce if you drop it. This is a versatile food that can be stuffed with a range of fillings, though one of the most popular is ham and pease pudding.

Singin’ Hinnies

Singin’ hinnies have some similarities to scones , whereas scones are baked, singin’ hinnies are cooked on a griddle pan. Usually made with flour, milk, baking powder, butter, lard, salt and currants, the whole mixture is rolled into a fatty dough before being fried. The singin’ part of its name apparently comes from the sizzling sound the fatty ingredients make as they cook. This is the ultimate in Newcastle comfort food and is particularly tasty served with jam and vanilla ice cream.

Craster Kippers

Considered by many of the best chefs to be the finest kippers in all of England, Craster kippers are North Sea herring that are marinated in brine and cured over smouldering oak and whitewood in a smokehouse for as long as 16 hours. As their name suggests, Craster kippers originate from the small fishing village of the same name on the Northumberland coast. The kippers can be bought from the original Craster smokehouse or sampled in the Craster Seafood Restaurant.

Tyneside Floddies

A particularly breakfast-friendly food, Tyneside floddies are potato cakes that are similar to rosti or hash browns and traditionally made from grated potato, finely chopped onion and a bit of chopped streaky bacon. When combined with sausages and eggs they make for a distinctive Newcastle take on the full English breakfast, although you can also find more ‘up market’ floddies served in the city’s restaurants, with more elaborate accompaniments such as duck and spinach.

Pease Pudding

Pease pudding is arguably the most significant of the cannot be underestimated. Usually made by boiling split yellow peas with a joint of ham before then draining and mashing the whole into a hummus-like paste, pease pudding has even been referred to as ‘Geordie caviar’.

As mentioned above, it is often paired with ham and stuffed in a stottie but it also goes well with the saveloy sausage, a combination that was so iconic, it earned a mention by the hungry orphans in the musical version of Oliver Twist. It can be bought throughout the city.

Pan Haggerty

The best way to describe this dish is as a Newcastle take on the French dish potato Dauphinoise. It is a deliciously filling recipe consisting of layers of potato, onions and cheese cooked until perfectly crispy. There are plenty of different takes on this delicacy, including some recipes that suggest  adding carrots, cabbage or bacon. It’s just as delicious as it sounds and a dish sure to keep your cockles warm during the arctic North East winters.

Saveloy Dip

The saveloy dip is a form of sausage sandwich but on a grander scale! It starts with a bread bun sliced in half and dipped in gravy which is then spread with a generous layer of pease pudding before the addition of a saveloy sausage, a drop of mustard and a dollop of sage and onion stuffing.

Lindisfarne Oysters

Lindisfarne oysters date back to the late 14th century when monks first set up oyster beds in the waters off Holy Island. Since 1953, they’ve been farmed on the shores of the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve and can be tasted at fishmongers shops and restaurants throughout the area.

Black Pudding and Eccles Cake: The delights of Manchester food

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The city of Manchester is one of the most distinctive and vibrant in England, rivalling Birmingham as one of the biggest cultural, economic and social hubs outside London.

The Manchester area, known as Greater Manchester, was originally founded on a plain that was comprised of glacier debris and river gravel, enclosed by the Pennines to the east and the spurs of Rossendale to the north. The area was also known for its substantial coal deposits, which played a part in Manchester’s astonishing Victorian economic growth.

Most of the city itself is in the county of Lancashire, but Greater Manchester also includes some of the area towards the south of the River Mersey, in Cheshire. It is the biggest metropolitan area in the north of England, and was once the powerhouse of the industrial revolution.

In fact, the city was something of a prototype and could claim to be the first of the new rising generation of huge industrial cities that were created in western Europe as a result of the changes in industry that swept the continent. In 1717, Manchester had been just a market town of 10,000 people, but by 1851, the Manchester textile industries had grown so fast that the city had expanded to become a commercial and manufacturing centre, with over 300,000 inhabitants, from which the populations were already spilling out and urbanising other areas.

By the start of the 20th century, the growth had linked Manchester itself with the series of cotton manufacturing towns that surrounded it, including Oldham, Bolton and Rochdale, making Manchester one of the first conurbations or metropolitan areas in Europe.

By 1911 the city had a population of 2,350,000, but over the next few decades, the rate of growth slowed as other nations in the world caught up. The textiles trade began to be less profitable, due to foreign competition and changing technology and by the 1970s and 1980s, Greater Manchester was struggling. In recent years, the city has reinvented itself as a cultural centre, with a strong musical and creative tradition, and the position of Mayor of Manchester has become one of the most significant political posts in England.

The industrial cuisine of English towns and cities is one of the most remarkable aspects of our culinary heritage, and the Greater Manchester region has made a major contribution to the genre of hearty and carb-heavy dishes that typify this era of food.

Black Pudding

This is a delicacy that originates from Bury, now part of the Greater Manchester region. Black pudding is a dark sausage that is made from pig’s blood along with other ingredients such as barley, oats and suet. It is possible to buy black pudding in a hot boiled at many local markets in the area, or it can be eaten, with malt vinegar, as a takeaway snack, and for many English people, a slice of black pudding is a crucial component in the perfect English breakfast.

Lancashire Hotpot

It may have Lancashire in the name, but this hotpot is heavily associated with Manchester thanks to its connections with the famous Manchester-based soap opera Coronation Street. It is possibly the most well known of the dishes on this list, enjoyed in many locations outside the city.

The traditional Lancashire Hotpot is made using lamb or mutton, onions and stock and is then topped with sliced potatoes before it is cooked slowly at a low heat, until the potatoes on top go crispy. It’s the perfect dish for a cold wet Manchester autumn day!

Eccles Cake

The Eccles Cake has a history that dates back to the 1600s and at one point, they were even banned by the English government, under Oliver Cromwell, as some believed they had pagan associations.

The cake itself is made from a rich sugary puff pastry shell encasing a mix of currants and raisins, making a delightful sweet treat that can serve as a snack or an afternoon tea option. They are less engagingly known as ‘fly cakes’ as the dark interior of the pie are thought to look like squashed flies! The Eccles cake is one of the city’s most successful exports, and they are sold all over the world. You can also find more ‘up market’ versions of the cake in some Manchester restaurants.

Manchester Tart

This is a traditional English baked tart, which is made from a shortcrust pastry shell, which is spread with raspberry jam, then covered with a custard filling and finally topped with flakes of coconut. It was once common as a school dinner dessert, although has declined outside Manchester and there is some room for debate over the precise combination of the ingredients. Like the Eccles cake, this dessert has also been reinvented by some of Manchester’s best chefs as a stylish dessert.

Pasty barm

This is a Manchester food that is not for the faint hearted, or for those who are trying to cut down on the carbs! Hailing originally from Bolton, it consists of a floured bread roll (which is referred to as a barm cake in Manchester) which is then filled with a meat and potato pasty.

Butter Pie

Also sometimes known as Friday pie, it is said the butter pie was originally created by Catholics who would not eat meat on Fridays and so swapped butter for beef. This simple but tasty pie, that relies on just a handful of ingredients: potato, butter, onion, salt and pepper, is now a Manchester classic, and while it may not win any prizes for its looks, it is perhaps the ultimate in comfort food.

Parched peas

Produced from the purple podded pea which is first soaked overnight and then simmered to produce a type of mushy pea dish, parched peas are also sometimes known as black peas or maple peas. Parched peas are popular throughout the Greater Manchester area and are particularly associated with Bonfire Night. Usually served with plenty of vinegar, you can buy Parched peas at markets throughout the Manchester area and they sometimes make an appearance in city restaurants.

Rag Pudding

This is one of the most distinctive of Manchester dishes. It is made from a dollop of diced and minced beef and onion gravy, which is wrapped in suet and then hand-folded before being traditionally cooked in a ‘rag’ or muslin cloth, which gives it a distinctive shape as well as its name. It was created in Oldham, but has become a popular dish throughout the Greater Manchester region, and it is particularly popular in the many chip shops in the area.

Small but packing a tasty punch: the culinary highlights of Rutland

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The county of Rutland in the East Midlands doesn’t get the attention of some of its bigger neighbours. Wedged into the eastern central area of England, bordered by Lincolnshire,

Leicestershire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, is in fact the smallest county in England.

In ancient times the area now known as Rutland was sparsely populated with oak woodland, but the area saw an important Roman settlement at Great Casterton. What we would recognise as Rutland was settled by the Angles and Saxons in the 5th and 6th centuries, but under the Normans, the north-western part of the county of Rutland was regarded as a part of Nottinghamshire while the south-eastern part was assigned to Northamptonshire.

By 1159, the county had earned recognition in its own right, and later became the site of two of the first and most famous public schools: Oakham and Uppingham, in two of the main towns of the county. Oakham, in fact, is regarded as the county capital.

Rutland is known as a rural upland area. It contains many villages along with the aforementioned historic market towns of Oakham and Uppingham.

Besides its famous school, Oakham is also known for its large 14th-century church and 12th-century castle that is regarded as one of the finest examples of late Norman domestic architecture. The county boasts many other fine old churches and houses, the high quality of which is largely down to the local sandstone beds, which make for excellent building stone.

Agriculture forms the heart of the Rutland economy, but in recent decades there has been an increase in light industrial enterprises, such as electrical products, cement and clothing. The county is also notable for hosting the largest reservoir in the United Kingdom. Rutland Water, which covers more than 3,000 acres was created in the 1970s to serve the growing urban centres of Northamptonshire and Peterborough and has become a tourist attraction in its own right, with thousands of visitors flocking to the area for fishing, birdwatching and boating.

Rutland’s location at the heart of the English rural region means that it has developed a long history of culinary expertise and to this day there are many local producers helping to uphold the reputation of this county.

Blue Aurora Blueberry Wine

Blue Aurora blueberry wine has its origins at Lutton Farm; a family run farm, just outside the picturesque town of Oundle. The farm is owned by the Long family who have developed a thriving soft fruit production, with more than 45 hectares given over to growing blueberries.

The farm produces 500 tonnes of blueberries every year, but as is usually the case with soft fruit, around 15-20% of the crop fails the grading process, so the Long family developed a side-line. By sending their excess blueberries to a local winery, they were able to develop a range of blueberry wines. There are currently three Blue Aurora vintages: Dusk, Midnight and Ice, all of which are made from 100% English blueberries.

Jimmy’s Rutland Smokehouse

The Smokehouse was created at the Kings Arms pub in Wing, when a glut of trout and the question of how to preserve them led to the launching of a new range of smoked produce.

Smoking is one of the most traditional ways of preserving foods and the methods used at the Kings Arms are the original smoking techniques, though the real secret is ensuring that they only start with the very best of local produce.

All of the products are prepared and smoked onsite, using locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. The range includes an astonishing variety including venison salami, pigeon breasts and goose bacon. There is also salted Rutland Trout, along with smoked hams, bacons and other meats, and this Rutland producer is fast earning a reputation as one of England’s finest smoked goods makers.

Sloeberry Spirits

Sloeberry Spirits produce high quality bottles of fruity spirits including their flagship product Melton Mowbray Sloe Gin, Whisky and Wild Damson, Vodka and Blackberry and Gin and Raspberry. The Melton Sloe Gin and the Gin and Raspberry have proven to be so successful that they have also won Gold Stars in the UK Great Taste Awards.

Hambleton Bakery

Hambleton Bakery earned the accolade of Britain’s Best Bakery in an ITV1 competition that aired in November and December 2012. Its team of local bakers makes traditional, artisan bread and pastries, which are sold in five outlets, including the main base in Exton. Hambleton have expanded to supply wholesalers and other retail outlets throughout England.

Rutland Organics

Rutland Organics hold a license from the Soil Association to produce organic free range poultry, including turkeys, chickens, cockerels and geese and eggs. They also produce venison and lamb and have recently expanded their operation to include breeding their own rare-breed pigs. All their stock is organic and there is an overriding focus on animal welfare. In addition, all of the feed they use is certified as organic and they supplement the feed with their own organic cereal.

June’s Farm

June’s farm is a free range, rare breed, micro farm that specialises in providing high quality meat boxes. They keep their own traditional pig species, which are raised outside so they are able to root, forage and wallow whenever they want. T

The pigs are able to shelter in arks to avoid the worst of the mid- day sun or the winter winds. The sheep they keep are Ryeland sheep, known as one of the oldest English sheep breeds. They were originally kept by the monks of Leominster in Herefordshire 700 years ago who grazed them on the rye pastures, and the result is great tasting meat.

The cattle at June’s farm are Belted Galloways, a breed that can be traced back as far as the 1800’s. They are fed mainly on pure pasture so are slow to grow which means that the final taste of the beef is particularly delicious. In fact, grass fed beef has been shown to produce more Omega 3 and other unsaturated fats and a lower level of saturated fat than grain fed beef. As a micro-producer their meat boxes are only available at certain times of year, when they are in high demand.  

Whissendine Windmill

This remarkable operation is one of England’s few remaining fully operational nineteenth-century windmills which has towered over the village of Whissendine since it was built in 1809.

The fully restored and working mill produces more flour types than you most people know exist: including plain, strong white, wholemeal and organic stone ground flour, bread and pastry flour, spelt and barley flour, ryemeal and oatmeal flour and a bran mix that can be used as feed for pigs, chickens and horses! Whissendine supplies many local pubs, restaurants and food producers, including the famous Hambleton Bakery, which appears earlier on our list.

A deep draught of English beer types

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It is not controversial to say that England is a nation of beer drinkers. Our culture has long and deep links with the production of fermented hops drinking, with all of its rituals, associations and social implications.

Over the centuries, some of the finer points of the differences in types of beer have been lost. These days, for example, beer and ale are interchangeable words, but this was not always the case. In fact, ale was originally a drink made with malted barley, and flavoured with herbs and spices but without hops, while beer was the word for a malted barley drink with added hops for a refreshing bitterness, consumed widely in continental Europe.

The first evidence of hopped beer being drunk in England was around 1362 when the drink was imported from Amsterdam into Great Yarmouth. By 1412, there was evidence that beer made from imported hops was being made in Colchester. 

It was a while before the domestic cultivation of hops began, but in 1520, the first examples of hops were planted in Kent.  Ale brewing and drinking continued to be popular among English people, and both beer and ale were enjoyed as distinctive drinks. Eventually though, perhaps by the 18th century, hopped beer had begun to dominate, and gradually, the distinctions between ale and beer were forgotten.

The increasing influence of England overseas from the 17th century and the country’s vast trading network led to the spreading in demand for beer and introduced it to parts of the world that had never previously tried it.

Much of this spreading of beer was accidental and not entirely a trading practice. Ships carried beer on long journeys as a source of drinking water and as daily rations to keep the crew happy. In fact, the preference for beer over drinking water in English society made a lot of sense in the centuries before effective public sanitation, as the alcohol in the beer killed most of the harmful bacteria to be 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 Variety of the English Scone

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Few baked products are more synonymous with England than the scone. In fact, scones have connections with all of the nations of the UK, and with the Republic of Ireland. They may even have originated in Scotland.

The first known reference to scones in print, dating from 1513, was made by a Scottish poet. That suggests that the scone was already long established, though we can’t be sure by when. But this reference does at least give us some indication of the age of the scone as a popular food.

Scones may have derived from the ancient Welsh tradition of cooking small round yeast cakes or leavened breads on bakestones, and later with griddles. One theory is that the name ‘scone’ may have come from the Stone or ‘Scone’ of Destiny, which was a large stone upon which Scottish kings sat when they were crowned. In fact, the Abbey of Scone can still be found, upriver from Perth, although the Stone of Destiny itself has been removed to Westminster Abbey.

Other potential origins for the scone are the Gaelic word ‘sgonn’ which means a shapeless mass or large mouthful; the Dutch ‘schoonbrot’, which refers to a fine white bread; and the closely-related German word ‘sconbrot’, which means fine or beautiful bread.

We think that originally, scones were made with oats, then shaped into a large round, scored into four or six wedges and griddle-baked over an open fire. Later on, they were cooked on a stovetop.

With the advent of oven baking, the round of dough was sliced into wedges and the scones were baked individually. Today’s scones are essentially quick breads, made with wheat flour, sugar, baking powder or baking soda, butter, milk and eggs, and baked in the oven, usually in round shapes.

The recipe produces a hard, dry texture, and the traditional English scone may feature raisins or currants, though are sometimes plain, relying on the addition of jam, preserves, lemon curd or honey for extra flavour, as well of course, the traditional clotted cream. Over the years, the scone has been developed as bakers have experimented with cranberries, dates, nuts, orange rind, chocolate morsels and other flavours, and these more exotic scones are often best enjoyed on their own.

In England, plain or currant scones are traditionally served with afternoon tea. First, the scones are spread with jam and then topped with a dollop of clotted cream, or the other way round, depending on whether you favour the Cornish or the Devon method.

But the vast range of choices out there means that you can find scones of every size and flavour. The ingenious modern bakers of England are turning out chocolate scones, buttermilk scones, treacle scones flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar, along with glazed scones and savoury sconesg. The sweet versions are still best enjoyed at brunch or afternoon tea, while savoury scones are more versatile. And the flexibility of the scone means that it can be enjoyed whole, filled, or simply sliced down the middle.

There is nothing quite like an English scone and to whet your appetite, here is just a selection of the scone varieties that you can find today:

Ploughman’s Scones

Originating in Warwickshire, in the heart of the country, these scones are based around the traditional Ploughman’s Lunch, of cheese and pickles. The savoury Ploughman’s scone can feature a number of ingredients, but one of the most popular varieties is essentially a cheese scone, with cubes of apple, chopped pickled onion, and lots of additional Cheddar added to produce a whole meal in one scone!

Carrot and Coriander

The flavours of carrot and coriander are known to go well together and have worked particularly well in a variety of soups and broths. But these two ingredients naturally work well in a savoury scone, which can either have an element of cheese, or can simply rely on the natural flavours of the two main ingredients, producing a scone that is both spicy and refreshing.

Chocolate Orange

The combination of chocolate and orange is not for everyone, but bringing the sweetness and bitterness of chocolate together with the zest of orange can produce a delicious sweet scone that is perfect served as a dessert or an afternoon tea option, requiring no accompaniment.

Stollen

The marzipan Christmas bread, Stollen, is a luxurious winter treat, and it works surprisingly well when combined with the classic scone recipe. Care has to be taken when making a stollen scone to avoid excessive heaviness in the final product, but when well made, the Stollen scone combines the richness of Stollen with the lightness of the scone for a perfect winter dessert.

Horseradish

Another niche form of scone, this savoury version won’t appeal to everyone, but it makes an ideal hors d’ouvres. The hot, spicy and peppery flavours of the horseradish are balanced by the mild softness of the scone texture, for a classy and memorable scone variation.

Pesto and Chorizo

Remaining in the genre of savoury scones, this take on Mediterranean cuisine brings the distinctive flavours of Italian pesto and Spanish chorizo together to make a perfect savoury treat that is perfect for eating at any time of day, as a snack or part of a bigger meal.

Sun-Dried Tomato

The rich flavours of sun dried tomatoes work delightfully when combined with the traditional savoury mildness of the cheese scone. There are many varieties of these scones available, and by altering the cheese used, many different flavours can be created. This type of scone also sometimes benefits from a dash of chilli and a sprinkling of herbs, for a fragrant and tasty snack.

Apricot, Blueberry and Ginger

These three ingredients may not sound like they’d make an ideal combination, but the result is a remarkable and memorable scone flavour. The fruity twang of blueberry and apricot are the perfect foils for the ginger flavour, and these rich and fruity scones are the perfect upgrade on the classic English tea snack.

Exploring the English Love of Bread.

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In recent years, there has been a trend to cut down on the amount of carbs that we eat. In fact, it has been estimated that as many as one in ten people in the UK try to avoid gluten in their diet.

And yet, despite the rise of the gluten-free wrap, the innovation of the ‘high protein sandwich’ and the decline of the sliced white loaf, bread has never really gone away. In fact, you could argue that the comfort of a typical English loaf is hard-wired into our national psyche.

Names like Warburtons and Hovis continue to dominate the lists of most popular English brands and bread remains a national obsession, from those persistent debates on the correct names for a bread roll (is it bap, barm cake or oven-bottom?) to the correct way to serve, and indeed, to eat, a bacond sandwich, the English have a deep and abiding affection for bread, healthy or not.

That relationship with bread is underlined by the extent to which bread is at the heart of many of our most popular meals and treats, from the breakfast toast thick with salted butter to that perennial favourite, bread and butter pudding. We love bread so much that we’ve even found a place for the blandest form of bread, the white processed loaf, as the ideal basis of a bacon sandwich.

Back in 2019, the British Sandwich Association found that we eat an impressive 11.5 billion sandwiches every year. The selling of pre-packaged sandwiches is worth an astonishing £8 billion every year and they continue to be popular almost regardless of the quality. Everyone in England it seems has a strong opinion on how to make the best sandwich.

At the upmarket end of the scale, bread coinossieurs may opt for a bacon butty at a top quality restaurant or fine sausage sandwiches employing the best of English sausages and artisanal breads. There has even been a trend for high end restaurants to serve their homebread bread along with cultured butter as a complete meal course in itself.

This love affair with bread has not always led to the best quality. Our affection for the fluffy white and brown stuff sometimes doesn’t translate into a push for better bread products. The ubiquitous processed white loaf, while in decline, is still a staple of supermarket shelves. There has been a rise in the range of ‘artisanal’ breads offered by supermarkets, but many of these are but pale imitations of the real thing, which should be made using simply flour, salt, water and traditional yeasts.

The good news is that in recent years, there has been a growth of such bakeries all over England. From the likes of Pollen, Trove and Lovingly Artisan in the Manchester region to the wide range of bakeries in London, bread lovers are able to enjoy a fascinating variety of products. So to help promote and further the cause of truly great artisanal breads, here is our guide to some of the best artisanal bakers around at the moment:

Lovingly Artisan

Run by Aidan Monks, this Kendal-based bakery, which has an outlet at Altrincham market, was the winner of several deserved awards during 2019 and is a real star among the current crop of artisanal English bakeries. Their signature loaves are made from heritage grains that employ a double fermentation process and a distinctive sourdough starter that Monks himself created. The range of breads on offer from Lovingly Artisan includes a five-grain rye and a sourdough loaf that is made using einkorn, one of the oldest grains available. They are also well known for their mature cheddar and chilli loaf, which won a Gold Medal at the World Bread Awards 2016.

Talgarth Mill

While most artisan bakeries will be happy to tell you about the specialist flours that they use, there aren’t many around that can say they actually produce their own flour, but that’s not the case at Talgarth Mill, where every loaf is made using wholemeal flour derived from their community-run, water-powered flour mill. The flour itself has won numerous Great Taste Awards and is used in a bewildering variety of loaves, which range from spelt and sourdough to malted granary and sesame rye, and their Bara brith bread is not to be missed.

Paul Rhodes

 
Even if you’ve never had the chance to visit Paul Rhodes bakery in Greenwich, there’s a good chance you will have tried his bread. Rhodes produces a vast range of artisan loaves serving hundreds of cafes, Michelin-starred restaurants, delis and hotel groups thoughout the capital. The bakery uses local ingredients and excels across the board, with its crusty baguettes and pain de campagne loaves particularly memorable, along with the famous fig, apricot and rosemary sourdough. 

Karaway

Based in Stratford, London, traditional rye breads from the Baltics and Russia are the main focus at Karaway. The bakery is a multiple winner at the Great Taste Awards and one of the great features of their products is that each of their rye loaves has its own unique starter. Some are matured for as long as 48 hours while others are made with a pre-fermentation technique called scalding, which results in a moister, slightly sweeter bread. There are so many great loaves to choose from with this bakery, but look out for the Lithuanian scalded rye, which won three stars at the Great Taste Awards 2017.

The Dusty Knuckle Bakery

Another London-based bakery, this time in Dalston, the Dusty Knuckle started life in a shipping container in a car park. Now based in a much bigger premises, although still on the same car park, the bakery turns out handcrafted sourdough loaves with thick dark crusts, such as the wonderful soft potato sourdough, ogether with tasty cakes and pastries. Even more impressive is its social employment programme, which gives training to young people who struggled to find employment.

Fabrique

Based in Hoxton in London, this fashionable Swedish bakery now has a number of locations around the capital, but first opened for business in a railway arch in Hoxton in 2012. The original location is still where most of the baking takes place and this remains the best place to go for cinnamon buns and fresh Scandinavian loaves. True to its Nordic origins, the focus here is on dark rye breads, but there are also some pectacular sourdoughs and traditional tin loaves such as the delightful ‘Mr Toast’. Look out for the spectacular rye and cranberry loaf.

Hart’s Bakery

This part of Bristol is always full of the scent of freshly baked bread produced by Hart’s Bakery. Instead of baking only one batch early in the morning, the bakers at Hart’s work throughout the day, which means warm loaves are sold straight from the oven. And those loaves are pretty spectacular. Hart’s range features a malted wheat and sunflower, along with a weekly changing baker’s special that is available each Friday. Of the many superb loaves on offer, the 100% rye sourdough tin loaf, with its thick crust and dense dough is one of the best.

Baltic Bakehouse

Based in Liverpool, the Baltic Bakehouse keeps things simple. Their focus is on producing everyday loaves, which are made by hand with the best ingredients. Their humble philosophy doesn’t mean that the bread making process is simple, however. Their bread undergoes a a 10-hour fermentation and features a mix of flours to give the signature Baltic Wild sourdough loaf the perfect tangy flavour and chewy texture. The Baltic Best, which features a crisp golden crust, is also worth a look and represents the perfect base for a BLT or cheese toastie.

Pollen

This famous modern English bakery started out in a railway arch underneath Manchester Piccadilly station in 2017, but has since moved to a new cafe space in New Islington Marina in 2018 in order to cope with the growing demand for their bread. All of Pollen’s sourdough loaves feature naturally occurring yeasts and are slow fermented durin a 28 hours period, permitting flavour and nutrients to develop. One of their most popular loaves is the oat porridge loaf which involves the addition of porridge oats to the dough to create a creamy texture and flavour.