A is for alcohol. The taste for real ales is growing, and the North East has no shortage of independent breweries making cask and bottled beers.
Hadrian and Border, Black Paw, Durham, Alnwick, Allendale, High House Farm, Jarrow, Tynebank, Delavals and Wylam Breweries are just some of the names to look out for.
B is for boiled eggs: Easter is traditionally the time you decorate hard-boiled eggs.
Sunny Hill Free Range Eggs at Belford and Lintz Hall Farm near Burnopfield (now merged but still selling under their own names), are two big North brands to look out for.
Many of the region’s farm shops and delicatessens also sell free-range eggs from smaller local suppliers.
C is for cheese: The North boasts a cheese board of award-winning varieties.
The Northumberland Cheese Company at Blagdon produces cows, goats and sheep types available to buy online, from their onsite shop, at farmers’ markets and delicatessens.
Doddington Cheese is based on the Maxwell family farm near Wooler, Northumberland. Using milk from their own herds, they produce a range of very different cheeses from the original Doddington that is somewhere between a Cheddar and a Leicester to the Gouda-style Berwick Edge.
Based in Mordon, County Durham, Parlour Made makes mainly soft cheeses using milk produced on Neil and Carol Peacock’s Village Farm. Buy from Dropswell Farm Shop in Trimdon; Chittocks in Bishop Auckland and Teesdale Game and Poultry, Durham.
D is for dairy: You’ll need some butter for your hot cross buns. And it doesn’t come any better than the delicious, creamy and irresistible organic butter from Acorn Dairy near Darlington, County Durham.
E is for Easter eggs: Treat your loved ones to a handcrafted chocolate egg this year. They may cost more than mass-produced ones, but there’s usually far more to get your teeth into.
Davenport’s Chocolates of North Shields specialises in crafting both innovative and traditional sweet treats.
This year they have introduced two new Easter egg designs – the Vintage Collection rediscovering British flavour classics like coconut marshmallow and raspberry jelly, and Chilli Truffle. Both cost £10 for the standard size and £18 for the large and are filled with exquisite chocolates.
Available from Mmm…Grainger Market, Newcastle, and Tynemouth’s Deli Around the Corner.
Gareth James Chocolatier in Tynemouth is always worth a visit – especially at this time of year when you’ll find the smart shop filled to overflowing not just with delicious handmade truffles, pralines and mouth-watering brownies but opulent Easter eggs that don’t have a luxury price.
Kenspeckle is a traditional Northumbrian word meaning distinctive, and the artisan confectioner which has its home in Lynemouth has produced an equally unique Easter range this year, including half a dozen hollow eggs presented in a standard egg box for £6. Because each is handmade, every egg is different.
Buy them online at www.kenspeckle.co.uk or catch them at the weekend Tynemouth Station market.
F is for flavourings: Boulevard Creative Cuisine specialises in a unique range of smoked oils, salts and peppercorns.
Manufactured in North Shields, choices include smoked garlic and chilli flake salts, black, pink, white and green smoked peppercorns and the oils, which are launching this spring.
Available from Mmm… Grainger Market and Fenwick Food Hall, both Newcastle; Willie White’s in North Shields; Park View Kitchen, Whitley Bay, and www.prideofnorthumbria.com
G is for gluten-free: There’s no need to miss out on Easter treats if you have special dietary needs.
Bishop Auckland-based Gluten Free Food Products makes homemade hot cross buns as well as muffins, quiches and scones and supplies special flours. Buy online at www.glutenfreefoodproducts.co.uk
Meanwhile, Newburn Bakehouse by Warburtons is a range of gluten and wheat-free breads, muffins, teacakes and spiced loaves available from the likes of Asda, The Co-operative, Tesco and Morrisons.
H is for ham: The North East is home to some fantastic pork producers, many of whom sell at the region’s farmers’ markets.
If you haven’t the time to scour the farmers’ markets then pop along to Moorhouse Farm Shop at Stannington, Northumberland, which sells an impressive range of sausages, dry-cured bacon, gammon joints and cooked meats.
Pigs Can Fly Pork is a family-run business based at Cawfields Farm at Haltwhistle, Northumberland. Traditional breed pigs live free-range and stress-free. The pork is butchered on the farm and can be picked up direct, delivered to customers or is available mail order. Go to www.pigscanflypork.co.uk
In County Durham, Broom House Farm at Witton Gilbert sells its own rare breed Saddleback pork via its shop butchery. They can also be found at Durham Saturday market every week.
I is for ice cream: There’s always room for ice cream. Doddington Dairy at Wooler; Wheelbirks and Vallum Farms in the Tyne Valley; Archers of Jesmond and Beckleberry’s are all local producers making award-winning ice creams available to buy through farm shops or direct.
J is for jams: Make Easter Sunday extra special with a proper old-fashioned afternoon tea. JR Jams from Newcastle and Carwinley Preserves from Longtown near Carlisle are two names worth looking out for at farmers’ markets and farm shops across the region.
K is for kids’ cookie mixes: Give the children something creative to do over the Easter holidays by getting them cooking.
Yum Yum Cookie Mixes are sealed bags and jars with all the dry ingredients to make delicious homemade biscuits. The Brilliantly Chocolatey Cookie Jar, £8, with Belgian dark chocolate chips and Mars M&Ms, is a great alternative to an Easter egg.
Available from Fenwick Food Hall, Newcastle.
L is for liqueurs: Try something different on the alcohol front with a bottle of Lindisfarne Mead – a unique alcoholic fortified wine manufactured on Holy Island.
There’s also a range of liqueurs including cherry, wild peach, strawberry and toffee flavours.
Buy direct from the Holy Island shop, via www.lindisfarne-mead.co.uk or from independent wine merchants.
M is for meat: Support your local independent butcher this Easter. All the meat will be fully traceable, usually locally reared, and properly hung and prepared.
The region boasts a multitude of award-winning outlets including R Green and Son of Longframington, Rothbury Family Butchers, Blagdon Farm Shop, Broom Mill Farm at West Auckland, TR Johnson of Wooler, R Carter and Son of Bamburgh, George Payne in Gosforth and Charles Nicholson of Whitley Bay, to name just a few.
N is for North Shields Fish Quay: Good Friday is traditionally the day fish is eaten.
North Shields Fish Quay is home to many traditional seafood businesses selling direct to the public. So why not take a leisurely stroll around this historic area and pick up your Good Friday dinner along the way?
Buying direct is usually cheaper than going to the supermarkets and the fish will be fresh and seasonal.
O is for oysters: Push the boat out and put oysters on your Easter menu. Lindisfarne Oysters on the north Northumberland coast is a family-run business. It produces high-quality Pacific oysters all year round carefully reared in the North Sea. Buy direct from www.lindisfarneoysters.co.uk
P is for puddings: There are scores of fantastic pudding makers. A few of the names to look out for are Alnwick- based The Proof of the Pudding (try their steamed marmalade and lemon sponge offerings), Heatherslaw Bakery from Crookham near Cornhill-on-Tweed (their Border Tart is sublime) and Beckleberry’s of Blaydon’s amazing patisseries (the chocolate torte is a must).
Q is for quiches: If you’re throwing a party over Easter or fancy a light lunch then a homemade quiche from Wallsend-based Gingersnaps would hit the spot.
Find them at Ashington, Blyth and Tynemouth Station markets every week as well as the monthly Morpeth Farmers’ Market, or order direct on 07970 616 702.
Best-sellers are quiche Lorraine, cheese and onion and broccoli.
R is for Rose Lemonade: Hexham-based Fentiman’s sparkling Rose Lemonade is a sophisticated alternative to alcohol.
Made with the juice of real lemons and pure rose otto oil, it has a beautifully refreshing taste and summery aroma. Drink it chilled, Champagne style.
Available from farm shops, delicatessens and major supermarkets.
S is for Simnel cake: The centrepiece of any Easter gathering, Simnel cakes are traditionally decorated with either springtime flowers or toasted marzipan balls representing the 11 faithful apostles.
You’re still in time to order one of Bettys handmade cakes (www.bettys.co.uk). We know they’re based in Yorkshire, but they’re nearly local. Their Simnel cake looks stunning, is baked to a traditional recipe and is packed full of plump vine fruits and seasonal spices.
T is for tea: There’s always time for a refreshing cuppa and the North is well-served with firm’ offering something different.
Harp and Lyre of Gateshead is a family-owned company with three generations of tea heritage. Their signature Assam and Darjeeling blends are available loose or in tea bags.
Buy online at www.harpandlyre.co.uk
Sri Tea from Sunderland has a range of green, black and white teas in alluring flavours, including cinnamon. Go to www.sritea.co.uk to order.
And, of course, there’s Newcastle-based Ringtons which has been supplying fresh coffees and teas directly to consumers via its famous door-to-door deliveries for over a century.
U is for unbleached white flour: Gilchesters Organics’ mill at Stamfordham, Northumberland, gently stone grinds rare breed grains into some of the finest flour you’ll find – ensuring your Easter baking will be as light as a feather.
The range includes wholemeal, rye and spelt as well as unbleached white.
Gilchesters’ flours are available from independent retailers across the North East, including Belsay Village Shop, Corbridge Delicatessen, North Acomb Farm shop near Stocksfield and The Health Warehouse in Darlington.
V is for vegetables: Farm shops like Brocksbushes on the A69 near Corbridge, and many delicatessens across the region have fruit and veg counters selling locally grown and organic produce.
Julian’s Veg from Kelso has also become a familiar face at farmers’ markets and food festivals. He is at Morpeth market every Wednesday.
And Riverford Organics home-delivers seasonal veg boxes. Their North East operation is run by Ian and Gwen Young from Whickham, Gateshead.
Call them on 0191 488 0900.
W is for water biscuits: Carrs Table water biscuits have been around since 1835. And while the firm is now part of the United Biscuits food empire, these ever-popular crackers, available from supermarkets and fine food specialists, are still made in Carlisle.
X is for hot cross buns: OK, X was a bit of a struggle. So hot X buns it is. The mass-produced ones have been in the shops since the new year, but locally made ones are a treat. Ann Cudworth of North Shields-based Dough Works has added Guinness-infused to her repertoire (in honour of her Irish roots).
Get them from Tynemouth’s Deli Around the Corner and Boda Home, Whitley Bay, or direct from Ann at www.doughworks.co.uk
Heatherslaw Bakery’s hot cross buns are available in packs of four from farm shops and delicatessens across the region.
Y is for Yirgacheffe coffee beans: From the Sidamo region of Ethiopia, this coffee available from Pumphreys has a distinctive floral bouquet and rich body.
Buy online at www.pumphreys-coffee.co.uk or pop into the firm’s factory shop in Blaydon.
Z is for Zingy Tomato Salsa: The ideal partner for cheese, especially a strong cheddar, this relish from Coquet Valley Preserves starts off mild before the cayenne pepper kicks in.
Look out for the full range of chutneys and relishes at farmers’ markets or buy direct from www.prideofnorthumbria.com