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Cooking up county fare with Taste of the County chefs

THE Journal Taste of the County will again serve up a fabulous feast on Bank Holiday Monday.

THE Journal Taste of the County will again serve up a fabulous feast on Bank Holiday Monday.

Among those you’ll meet at the event – part of the Northumberland County Show – are a host of well-known chefs.

They include a culinary double act – making its debut on the day – who will tantalise taste buds in a special kitchen supplied by The Cookery Theatre.

Vicky Turnbull, Newcastle

The owner of Wheatberry, a street food venture specialising in vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free food who used to be head chef at what was the Grafton House Hotel in Durham.

Enjoy everything in moderation, she advises.

Vicky admires the dedication and innovation of the region’s artisan producers and recommends Hutchinson’s fruit and vegetable shop in Stanhope Street, Newcastle.

“Fantastic fruit, vegetables and herbs and a great cultural melting pot,” she enthuses.

She is supporting The Journal’s Taste of the County, she says, because “it’s a fantastic showcase for all the wonderful produce from the region – a foodie’s delight”.

She is looking forward to introducing visitors to some tasty gluten free recipes.

The Journal’s Taste of the County will be showcasing Wheatberry’s range of gluten-free salads and wraps, including cauliflower couscous and tabbouli, chickpea and chive pancakes and gluten free tortillas.

When to see Vicky: 11am

Kirsty Cruickshank, Ovingham, and Karen Wilkin, Seahouses

Kirsty is a seafood preparation, knife skills and cookery teacher, while Karen is director of Swallow Fish in Seahouses, one of celebrity chef Rick Stein’s original food heroes.

From 2003-7, Kirsty owned Cruickshank’s fishmongers in Hexham Market Place. Last month, she set up For the Love of Fish, offering master classes on buying, preparing and cooking seafood.

Karen originally worked as a fabric buyer and then a designer for Berghaus. She married Patrick Wilkin, of Swallow Fish, in 1991 and the couple took over the family business in 1999. Explaining her food philosophy, Kirsty says: “Less is more. There’s no need to overcomplicate things.” Karen advises to keep things local and remember the heritage you are born with.

Enthusing about North East food and drink, Kirsty says : “The quality is outstanding – and inexpensive compared to the rest of the country.”

Karen adds freshness, saying: “Swallow Fish’s motto is ‘straight from sea to you in 24 hours’.”

Kirsty recommends Taylor Seafood, of North Shields, Swallow Fish (naturally) and JA Stobo & Son Greengrocers in Corbridge. Karen goes for the fishing boats in Seahouses.

Both reckon the North East landscape plays its part. “Rolling hills (cattle and sheep), clean rivers (wild salmon and sea trout), well-managed land (game), fresh, cold seawater (crab, lobster and langoustine), miles of hedgerows and woodlands (foraging) – we have it all,” says Kirsty.

According to Karen: “Our food is majestic like our landscape.”

The pair hope to gain a lot from Monday’s event, with Kirsty saying people need to relearn lost kitchen skills and Karen suggesting people need to know more about fish.

Hopefully, says Kirsty, people will fall in love a bit more with North East food after paying them a visit. “I hope they will leave with a smile on their faces and a bag of goodies,” adds Karen.

When to see Kirsty and Karen: 12pm

Simon Walsh, Newcastle

The executive head chef at Close House Hotel, Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, has oodles of experience and has worked for the iconic Roux brothers. He recommends careful shopping, saying: “If you have outstanding ingredients cooking is easy.”

In the North East, he says: “There are lots of exciting food festivals appearing across the region, more artisan suppliers than we have ever had, farmers are diversifying and the restaurant scene is booming.

“It’s all on the up.”

He recommends The Northumberland Cheese Company, Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes, JD Hall butchers in Corbridge and North Country Growers at Vallum.

“They are all very passionate about what they do and they produce outstanding, quality ingredients.”

He is supporting Taste of the County “because it is a massive event and I get to showcase some of the wonderful produce we have here in Northumberland”.

For visitors he will be cooking spring lamb with Northumberland goat’s curd, asparagus and forced pea shoots.

When to see Simon: 1pm

Gabor Pustzai, Newcastle

Recently, the head chef at the Duke of Wellington Inn, Newton, Northumberland, was made North East Chef of the Year at the North East Culinary Trade Association (NECTA) Salon Culinaire event in Newcastle.

Originally from Hungary, he has previously worked at some of the region’s best restaurants.

Traditional food given a modern twist with seasonal and local ingredients sums up his approach.

Asked to name the best of the North East food and drink, he offers Newcastle Brown Ale, pies and stews.

He recommends JD Hall Butchers, Corbridge, because their meat is always seasonal, fresh and very good quality.

As for the local landscape, he says: “Northumberland is primarily a rural county and farming plays a major part in the area’s food, from supplying vegetables to meat and grain.”

He hopes visitors to Taste of the County will seize the chance to taste recipes cooked by local chefs with local produce. He will be offering North Sea scallops with a cucumber relish and sea herbs.

When to see Gabor: 2pm

Andrew Laurie, Newcastle

Head chef at Barluga, Morpeth, Andrew also worked at Pierre Victoire in London and Edinburgh, McCoy’s Rooftop at the Baltic, Gateshead, Seaham Hall and The Cherry Tree in Jesmond.

He says the best thing about North East food and drink is its diverse choice of restaurants.

Currently, he says, he is developing a private “chef for hire” business, while also preparing to open another Barluga in Sheffield.

On Monday, he is looking forward to promoting the region’s produce to local people.

He’s keeping his complete Taste of the County offering a surprise but says the starter will include goat’s cheese, asparagus, beetroot and ice cream.

When to see Andrew: 3pm

Click here for a list of exhibitors


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