Last autumn Journal Taste reported on the launch of four unique food trails aimed at encouraging people to take a fresh new look at County Durham and Northumberland’s rich cultural, historical and geographical offerings.
Now visitors are being given the chance to take a taste of the two counties home with them.
A series of mouth-watering recipes championing the two areas have been pulled together by the group behind the tasty trails.
Featuring chefs working at cafes, restaurants, hotels and bed and breakfasts in Durham and Northumberland, their aim is to encourage people to not only eat in the natural beauty of the North East, but to fall in love with the plethora of high quality local produce and eateries this region has to offer.
There are 14 recipes in total chosen from scores submitted for consideration by a panel of North East food experts – which included top North East chef Kenny Atkinson of Newcastle’s acclaimed House of Tides restaurant – as best representing the culinary treats on offer.
They include some well-known names like Rhian Cradock of the multi-award winning The Feathers Inn at Hedley on the Hill near Stocksfield in the Tyne Valley – the Good Pub Guide’s County Dining Pub of the Year 2015 – with his wild mushrooms with Allendale Brewery Black Grouse Porter on toast, to some less obvious choices such as Cameron Gordon’s locally-inspired ‘breakfast in the box’ served at The Chatterbox Café at St John’s Chapel in the heart of Weardale.
But what all 14 recipes – which we will be featuring in Journal Taste over the coming weeks - have in common is that they not only celebrate all that’s best about both Durham and Northumberland, but take the diner on a delicious gastronomic journey.
The recipes, like the food trails, are the brainchild of the Northern Lands initiative, a special food tourism project set up to promote local produce with the aim of attracting more visitors, encouraging them to stay longer and hopefully inspiring them to experience the uniqueness of some of the UK’s finest scenery, from the rolling hills and moorlands of the west to the dramatic cliffs and sweeping sandy beaches of the east.
The project is led by Visit County Durham and funded by DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) with partners including Northumberland and Durham County Councils, the North Pennines and Northumberland Coast AONB’s, Northumberland National Park Authority and Northumberland Tourism.
With visitors already known to spend around 50% of their money on food and drink while in the region, Northern Lands believes there is further scope for good local producers and eateries to showcase their culinary skills to food and drink enthusiasts.
Early signs would suggest the food trails – which can be downloaded from the Durham and Northumberland tourism websites or picked up at Tourist Information Centres – have been well received.
The recipes, says Elaine Scott, senior executive product development at Visit County Durham, were a natural progression.
“We had very good feedback on the Tasty Trails that were launched recently to encourage visitors to try out local produce from around the protected landscapes in Durham and Northumberland.
“Showcasing these recipes is another great way of highlighting local produce as well as local talent. Some recipes are traditional classics using great local produce with a twist, and others reveal how local chefs can be creative with just a couple of local ingredients.
“A simple English breakfast with good local sausages and eggs at a bed and breakfast is all part of the local cultural experience for the visitor. Imagine following that up with a delicious local seafood salad or beef and ale pie for lunch, and then an afternoon tea within a picturesque setting.
“If there’s room for more later then a great meal with an interesting local pudding, or just enjoying a local ale, can finish the day nicely. It is all about creating a distinctive and memorable experience for visitors.”
And visitors don’t have to be those from outside the region. Day trippers wanting to explore their own region and sample its gastronomic delights are just as important.
Dave Hunter has just started as head chef at the celebrated Rose and Crown coaching inn at Romaldkirk near Barnard Castle in rural Upper Teesdale.
Born and raised at Gainford on the banks of the River Tees – where he still lives – he has just joined the team at the Rose and Crown after 14 years at the period country house hotel, Headlam Hall, near Barnard Castle.
He is a passionate advocate of seasonal, local produce and suppliers. The latter is the main reason he devised his recipe for pan fried loin of Joe Simpson Herdwick mutton, chosen as one of the 14 it is hoped will tempt foodies’ palates.
“I’ve been working with Joe at Simpsons Butchers for about 14 years now. He has his own abattoir, three shops around the area and breeds and kills his own Herdwick sheep.
“The meat is hung properly, it’s traceable and has very few food miles.
“Mutton is still a very under-rated meat. I don’t know why as I think the lamb these days is killed too young and has no flavour. But mutton is a beautiful cut and has bags of flavour.
“And for me it offers a true taste of this area. Absolutely, I believe here in Upper Teesdale we produce the best mutton there is. It is important that we showcase and educate people about what is out there.”
Dave, 38, says the food in the North East is “getting better and better, and places like the Raby Hunt with its Michelin star can only help. People need to see these things and see what’s on offer.
“That’s what makes the food trails and these recipes so important. There are so many good walks and attractions to see and if you can finish off with a good meal or take a memory home in the form of these recipes, then that’s fantastic.”
Dave’s recipe is featured on these pages for you to try at home, along with Rhian Cradock’s mushrooms on toast with a difference. Both are ‘winter warmer’ dishes that will hopefully help to chase away the January blues and inspire you to take a fresh look at our beautiful and bountiful region.
Look out for the other 12 County Durham and Northumberland-inspired Northern Lands recipes in Journal Taste over the coming weeks. The four Tasty Trails can be downloaded from www.thisisdurham.com/eat/food-trails
Local Wild mushrooms with Black Grouse Porter on toast
Created by Rhian Cradock and served at The Feathers Inn, Stocksfield, Northumberland
Ingredients (Serves two):
500g Wild mushrooms, a mixture of beefy ceps, field mushrooms and hedgehog mushrooms
1 shallot, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely diced
3 large sprigs parsley, chopped
Large splash Allendale Black Grouse Porter
100g unsalted butter
Salt and Pepper
Toast, hot buttered
Roughly chop or tear up the mushrooms brushing off any dirt.
Heat a large heavy based frying pan, place half the butter in the hot pan and allow to foam.
Add all the mushrooms - they will release a lot of moisture as they start to fry. Allow this to evaporate and continue frying until they start to brown.
Season generously with salt and pepper, add the shallot and garlic and mix.
When the mushrooms are browned to your liking, add the porter and allow it to evaporate by half. Then season to taste.
Add a knob of butter, parsley and a squeeze of lemon.
Pile the mushroom mixture onto hot buttered toast and serve immediately.
Pan fried loin of Joe Simpson Herdwick mutton with braised shoulder, mutton and rosemary sausage, mutton pancetta, fondant potato, savoy cabbage and a mint jus
Created by Dave Hunter and served at The Rose and Crown, Romaldkirk
For the Mutton loin (Serves four):
1kg mutton loin
1tbsp olive oil
Cut all the fat, skin and sinew off the loin leaving only the eye of the meat.
Wrap tightly in cling film to form a cylinder and chill in the fridge.
Heat some olive oil in a sauté pan, fry the loin until coloured on all sides.
Add a knob of butter and cook for five minutes until medium rare.
Leave to rest for five minutes.
For the Mutton shoulder:
2.5kg approximately shoulder of mutton on the bone
Large bunch rosemary
1 lemon, zest and juice
Black pepper to taste
8 banana shallots, halved
2 garlic bulbs, halved
750ml red wine
6 mint leaves shredded
Seal the mutton in a hot pan until deep golden brown.
Add to the pan the lemon zest, black pepper, rosemary, the shallots, in half lengthways, and the garlic bulbs, cut in half around the middle.
Pour the bottle of red wine into the pan, and top up with water to cover the meat.
Now seal the top of the dish with a layer of baking parchment followed by tin foil. Put the tray in a pre-heated oven at 140C for at least six hours.
After six hours or so, remove the lid and strain off the juices.
Over a high heat, reduce the liquor, season and add mint. Reserve the liquor to serve as the mint jus.
When the shoulder has cooled a little, pick all the meat off the bone, season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Lay several pieces of cling film on your bench and place the shoulder meat on it and roll into a tight cylinder then chill in the fridge.
The mutton and rosemary sausages and mutton pancetta are made to a closely guarded secret recipe; these elements will need to be sampled at a visit to The Rose and Crown.
For the Fondant potato:
150 g butter
75ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed lightly
2-3 sprigs thyme, fresh
Sea salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
Peel and cut the potatoes into barrel shapes using a cookie cutter.
Heat the butter over a medium heat in a saucepan. When the butter is foaming, add the potatoes and fry for about 5 to 6 minutes until deep golden brown on one side.
Turn over the potatoes and cook for a further 5 to 6 minutes, or until golden-brown on both sides
Carefully pour the stock into the pan, and then add the crushed garlic cloves and thyme sprigs. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat until the stock is simmering. Simmer the potatoes until tender, then remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and keep warm.
For the Savoy cabbage:
1 Savoy cabbage, cored and shredded
110g smoked streaky bacon, derinded and chopped
85ml dry white wine
2tbsp parsley, fresh, chopped
2tsp fennel seeds
2tbsp crème fraîche
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the bacon and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the cabbage and mix all together. Add the wine and season well. Cover and cook gently for 10 minutes until the cabbage is tender.
Stir in the fennel seeds, parsley and crème fraîche and serve.
To Serve the Dish:
Carve the loin into slices and place on top of a pile of cabbage.
Place the mutton shoulder on the side of the plate with pancetta on top.
Cut the sausage in half and arrange on either side of the fondant potato next to the shoulder and the sauce.