FARM shops across the region are flying the flag for home-grown produce during British Food Fortnight.
We may be one week into the annual celebration, but local farm shops are urging consumers to eat British all day, every day, not just during the yearly jamboree.
British Food Fortnight this year runs until October 4 and is a chance to celebrate and champion the delicious and diverse range of food and drink that Britain produces.
Local producers are keen to point out that not only are our farm shops a great source of fresh, seasonal goodies, but they also have an important role in the British economy. Buying British safeguards jobs and decreases the reliance on produce from overseas.
Many local farm shops belong to FARMA (the Farmers’ Retail and Markets Association) which acts as a guarantee of quality.
Local FARMA shops have joined forces to enter into the spirit of British Food Fortnight by devising an all-day British menu for Taste readers.
They are keen to emphasise they supply everything needed to eat British for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in between.
FARMA North East chairman Ian Byatt, of Moorhouse Farm Shop, near Stannington, Northumberland, says: “British Food Fortnight is a great opportunity to show that the food produced in our region ranks amongst the best in the country.
“As farmers we ‘live local’ all year round through our farm shop, so it is wonderful to see other food retailers and restaurants focusing on local for the two weeks of British Food Fortnight.”
North East FARMA members include: Blagdon Farm Shop, at the Milkhope Centre, Blagdon in Northumberland; Bradley Burn Farm Shop, near Wolsingham; Brocksbushes Farm Shop, near Stocksfield; Broom House Farm Shop at Witton Gilbert, Durham; Lowfields Farm Shop, in Durham and Moorhouse Farm Shop, near Morpeth.
Most of the produce from FARMA farm shops comes from within a 30-mile radius.
IF you’re a fan of a full English breakfast then farm shops are one of the best starting points for bacon and eggs. Many, such as Broom House, Lowfields, Blagdon Farm Shop and Moorhouse Farm Shop, use their own meat to make bacon and sausages, meat which is traceable, high in quality and low in additives and fillers. While there, stock up on homemade jams, artisan breads and free-range, freshly-laid eggs.
Jane Gray from Broom House uses their own eggs to whip up eggy bread, a favourite treat for daughter Emma after her early-morning swimming lesson.
Jane explains: “Simply crack two fresh Broom House Farm eggs into a bowl and marvel at the colour. Whisk in a little milk. Soak three slices of bread first on one side, then on the other, until good and soggy. Heat up a small knob of butter with a drop of vegetable oil and fry the eggy bread on both sides for a minute or two until golden brown.”
This goes down a treat served with bacon from their own butchery on the farm. During the first week of British food fortnight, the coffee shop served customers their choice of breakfast egg: boiled, fried, scrambled or poached with toast until 11.30am and eggy bread with crispy bacon is on the menu all day.
Jane and husband Mark are passionate about local produce. The Broom House Farm coffee shop only uses meat produced from the farm, along with organic milk, cream and butter from Acorn Dairy in County Durham, organic poultry from Thistleyhaugh in Northumberland, ice-cream and artisan bread from Lanchester.
All the vegetables, salads, apples and soft fruit come from the farm garden and neighbouring growers; eggs also come from the farm supplemented by a neighbour at busy times. Jane explains they make their own jams and chutneys and the honey is made by their own bees.
Jane adds: “Eating British is important if we want our country to maintain some kind of food independence and vital if we want to save the traditional breeds of animal and varieties of fruit and vegetables that are native to the great British landscape.
“Buying British and local in particular also ensures that we can have the most control over the traceability of what we eat, whilst also doing our bit to reduce our carbon footprint.”
IF you are stuck for inspiration on lunch ideas, a trip to Lowfields Farm Shop in Willington is sure to whet appetites.
During British Food Fortnight their typical lunch menu includes treats such as homemade cream of cauliflower and walnut soup, served with English-grown tomato and fresh basil quiche, home-made crunchy coleslaw, sweet Waldorf salad and freshly prepared warm crusty bread with farmhouse butter.
Desserts include seasonal fruit berry salad or refreshing lime and ginger cheesecake and all can be washed down with either locally-produced fresh apple juice or freshly-made lemonade.
Lowfields Home-Made Tomato and Basil Quiche
12 free-range eggs
2-3 home-grown tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
Handful of sweet fresh basil
Small onion, diced
Half tub of Philadelphia cheese
100ml double cream
Sprinkling of Cheddar cheese over top of quiche.
For the pastry:
4oz plain flour
A little water to bind.
Rub together flour and margarine, add water, and roll out into quiche dish. Pour quiche mixture in and bake in oven for 30-40 minutes until golden colour on 160C.
British Food Fortnight also ties in with the turn of the seasons when we start thinking about comforting pies and casseroles.
Blagdon Farm Shop at Blagdon in Northumberland has an award-winning butchery team who are happy to help with advice on recipes and how to cook different cuts of meat.
For a hearty winter warmer, manager Jo Celerier recommends the recipe on the following page.
One-Pot Northumbrian Steak and Kidney Casserole with Herby Dumplings (Serves four)
2lb/1kg prime British skirt of beef, diced large
½ lb/200g British ox kidney, diced small
2 rashers British smoked streaky bacon, diced small
2 small white onions, chopped small
2 sticks of celery, diced large
2 whole carrots, diced large
3 large mushrooms, sliced thick
2 tbsp olive oil
½ bottle red wine
400ml good beef stock
salt and pepper
1½lb/700g dumpling mix
2 tsp thyme
Melt butter and oil in a large casserole pot. Add onions and bacon and soften until brown.
Season the flour with the salt and pepper and lightly coat the beef and kidney and add to pot. Fry until brown.
Add red wine and stock and bring to the boil, stirring continuously, lifting all the sediment off the bottom of the pan.
Add carrots, mushrooms and celery. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180C/gas mark 5 and transfer to oven. Cook for 1½ hours.
Make dumpling mix, adding thyme, and form into two-inch balls.
Place in pot and cook for a further 20 minutes.
Serve with mashed potatoes and seasonal local veg (and the rest of the red wine!).
Jo adds her support to her fellow FARMA members, saying: “We all know that shopping local for our food is not only better for us, as the food is invariably fresher and therefore more nutritious, but that we are also helping support our own local economy and protect local jobs.
“Although supermarkets are stocking more British produce, costs and profit margins will always be of overriding importance.
“We work closely with our producers to secure reasonable prices, and in turn they provide us with things like freshly dug vegetables still covered in morning dew, something the supermarkets just can’t compete with.”
Bradley Burn Farm Shop near Wolsingham is renowned for its Sunday dinners. Owner Chris Stephenson has farmed at Bradley Burn since before he could walk.
The shop was opened to bring their potatoes, which used to be sold from the back door, to a wider audience. They are now sold along with a range of local produce.
Brocksbushes Farm Shop near Stocksfield, Northumberland, has 38 acres of the farm dedicated to their pick-your-own business, now in its 25th year.
The farm’s pick-your-own is still open for blackberry and plum picking. Most of the home baking in the café is sourced from farm produce. Sweet treats include blackberry crumble and plums frangipane.
Owner Caroline Dickinson says: “People may be tempted by cheap imports, but nothing can beat the quality, taste and freshness of local fruit.”
BRITISH FOOD FORTNIGHT
THE eighth British Food Fortnight started on September 19 and runs until October 4.
The event celebrates the delicious and diverse range of food and drink that Britain produces with promotions and tastings in shops, all-British menus in pubs and restaurants, food and cookery lessons and glorious food festivals.
The aim is to:
Make the public – and in particular young people – aware of the food and drink that Britain produces and the many food experiences available.
Increase awareness of the health benefits – and pleasures – of eating quality, fresh, seasonal and regional produce.
Increase food education in schools by encouraging teachers to hold special events during the fortnight.
Encourage producers, retailers, restaurants, pubs and tourism outlets to take a pro-active role in educating the public about the food and drink that their region produces.