There has been little to complain about on the weather front this week.
It’s been virtually wall-to-wall sunshine, and even along the region’s coastal fringes where the sea breeze can take the edge off temperatures, it’s been pleasantly warm.
With May only just around the corner, Nature bursting into life, and the longer days, we can all hopefully look forward to a long, hot summer ahead.
Chef Andrew Rowbotham’s Durham Gin Summer Cup Trifle is the perfect accompaniment to a sunny day.
Devised as one of 14 recipes from chefs working in County Durham and Northumberland celebrating their respective areas and the fresh, local food on their doorsteps, Andrew’s trifle is fruity, light and unusual, utilising as it does Cotherstone Cheese for the custard.
Cotherstone is a semi-hard, lemony tasting cheese made in Teesdale that is a cross between Wensleydale and Swaledale.
The village of Cotherstone is one of the places you can visit on four Tasty Trails that take in some of County Durham and Northumberland’s most scenic and gastronomically inspiring countryside.
The recipes – which we are featuring fortnightly in Journal Taste – go hand-in-hand with the trails, which are free to download from both the This is Durham and Visit Northumberland websites.
They have been produced as part of a Northern Lands initiative funded by DEFRA with the aim of encouraging food tourism in the two areas. You can choose from Weardale and the Derwent Valley, the North Northumberland Coast and the South West of the county, and In and Around Teesdale, where Andrew’s recipe hails from.
Andrew runs The Crown at Mickleton near Barnard Castle and is passionate about using and promoting local food – he has worked with schools, helping pupils understand the connection between what they eat and the area’s producers.
Indeed, he was voted the North East’s Local Food Hero in 2012 in a national competition.
He is the creator of the Barney Banger, which was born from Radio 4’s ‘The Town is the Menu’ project. The sausage – which is on The Crown’s menu and can be bought locally – draws on the areas historic links to Richard III with wild boar evolving into modern pork and a nod towards the fact that Teesdale is home to the second largest juniper forest in the UK.
There’s steaks’ from Bishop Auckland butcher Joe Simpson, fish from Hodgson at Hartlepool, local game, real ales, Moody Baker bread from Barnard Castle, homemade black pudding and, of course, North East cheeses, including Cotherstone.
That’s not to mention an impressive selection of homemade, seasonal desserts.
If Andrew’s unusual Durham Gin Summer Cup Trifle hits the spot, you know where to head for more of the same.
Durham Gin Summer Cup Trifle with Cotherstone Cheese Custard
Created by Andrew Rowbotham and served at The Crown at Mickleton
For the sponge layer:
285g Madeira cake
For the jelly:
450ml juice from fresh berries, finely strained
(We use frozen blackcurrants, raspberries, redcurrants, blueberries in equal quantities)
125g caster sugar
50ml Durham Distillery Summer Cup Gin
200g assorted fresh berries
4 leaves bronze gelatine
For the crème patisserie:
1 vanilla pod, split down the middle and seeds scraped out
100g caster sugar
4 free-range eggs, yolks only
80g Cotherstone cheese, crumbled
400ml double cream
50g chocolate for shaving
1 orange, zest only
Trim the brown outer layer from the Madeira cake, cut into 1cm thick slices and place a slice in the bottom of each individual serving tumbler.
Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water.
In a pan, add the sugar to the berry juice and heat until boiling. Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly and add the Summer Cup.
Squeeze the excess water from the gelatine leaves, and then add to the warm berry juice, stirring to ensure that it dissolves completely. Pass through a fine sieve into a pouring jug. Set the jelly mix aside to cool.
Arrange a selection of the fresh berries on top of the Madeira cake, reserving some for garnishing later.
Once the jelly mix has cooled slightly pour into the glass tumbler until it covers the berries, then refrigerate.
To make the crème patisserie, pour the milk into a pan, add the split vanilla pod and its seeds. Bring the milk mixture to the boil, and then remove from the heat.
Whisk together the sugar, egg yolks and cornflour in a large bowl.
Pour a little of the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Whisk in the rest of the hot milk until well combined, and then return to the pan.
Cook the mixture over a gentle heat, stirring continuously, until it becomes thick as it just comes to the boil.
Remove the pan from the heat, add the Cotherstone cheese and whisk through until melted and thoroughly combined.
Now pass the mixture through a sieve into a clean bowl.
Allow the crème patisserie to cool slightly. Once the jelly has set in the tumblers, cover with the crème patisserie and refrigerate until cold and set.
Whip the cream until thick - do not over whip – and pipe or spread over the trifle.
To serve top with shaved chocolate and orange zest.
Why not continue the gastronomic journey through the region by downloading the food trails from either www.thisisdurham.com/food-and-drink/Tasty-Trails or www.visitnorthumberland.com/eat/food-trails . Alternatively, you can pick one up from a Tourist Information Centre. And look out for the next regional recipe in Journal Taste on April 25.