Tag Archive: Featured

  • Why British charcuterie was once an everyday food

    By Martin Miller of Loxley’s Larder – producer of charcuterie in the heart of rural Nottinghamshire

    People think we have no tradition of making charcuterie in Britain, but in reality, it was once commonplace. Just about every rural household kept a pig, which represented a lot of meat when it was slaughtered. With no refrigeration or way of keeping meat fresh for more than a couple of weeks, preserving was vital for any rural family who didn’t want to starve over the winter. This meant salting the meat to create bacon and ham as we know them today. However, salting would still only keep the meat edible for a few extra weeks – more was needed to keep farmers going.

    “Hams were huge, salted things that would be hung from the kitchen ceiling, and pieces would be cut off and cooked as needed.”

    Hams were huge, salted things that would be hung from the kitchen ceiling, and pieces would be cut off and cooked as needed. As time went by, the meat would become drier and drier and it is reasonable to assume the household would discover that thin slivers shaved off this dried ham were super tasty. They would also have discovered that adding extra salt to sausages would prevent them from spoiling and in due course, they produced the equivalent of salami.

    Furthermore, we know that the Romans had a version of salami and air-dried hams. It is inconceivable that in the 367 years they occupied England, that knowledge did not get passed on. Also, salt pork and beef was an important part of the sailors’ diet in Nelson’s navy – they fed them at sea for many months. This seafarers’ grub was probably not of the greatest quality but it was charcuterie nevertheless.

    “Many rural traditions were lost in the UK, one being the art of charcuterie making.”

    So what happened? Why did this tradition of charcuterie-making disappear? The industrial revolution came about very quickly and people moved in large numbers from the countryside into towns to work at the factories. A consequence is that the many rural traditions were lost in the UK, one being the art of charcuterie making.

    In recent years this tradition has been revived by small charcuterie producers around the country. British Charcuterie Live has been created to promote British charcuterie through training and annual awards and make it as good as any in the world.

    My business Loxley’s Larder is at the vanguard of this group of charcuterie producers. We are producing our own interpretation of continental charcuterie using high-quality outdoor-reared pork, beef and wild venison.

    To find out more and book yourself onto one of Martin’s new charcuterie-making courses, click here.

    Martin Miller
  • Hambleton Hall’s incredible family tree

    In February 2022, Hambleton Hall near Oakham in Rutland was awarded a Michelin star for the 40th consecutive year – the longest-retained Michelin star in Britain. This is an outstanding achievement. But perhaps more remarkable is Hambleton Hall’s unique talent for finding, developing and unleashing talent.

    Hambleton Hall’s founder & owner, Tim Hart

    Visionary owner Tim Hart, who acquired Hambleton Hall in 1979, and Aaron Patterson, head chef since 1992, have an uncanny knack for launching the careers of brilliant chefs and hospitality pros. Indeed, the Hart – and latterly Patterson – golden touch is so prolific that it’s easy to compile a list of outstanding alumni:

    Aaron Patterson, head chef since 1992

    Nick Gill – Hambleton Hall’s first head chef was hired by Tim Hart in 1980 and stayed for five years. Nick, brother of the late restaurant critic AA Gill, kicked it all off by winning the Michelin star that Hambleton has retained ever since.

    Hambleton Hall’s first head chef, Nick Gill (centre)

    Fiona Cairns – Nick Gill’s pastry chef at Hambleton. Fiona now runs Fiona Cairns Cakes, established in 1992, and she created Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding cake.

    Fiona Cairns with Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding cake

    Gareth Ward – Hambleton Hall for four years. Now head chef & co-owner of Ynyshir near Aberystwyth, Wales – 2 Michelin stars, 5 AA rosettes.

    Gareth Ward, head chef & co-owner of Ynyshir

    Adam Stokes – Hambleton Hall for six years. How owner of Adams in Birmingham, 1 Michelin star.

    Chris Ansell – Joined Hambleton Hall right at the start in the summer of 1980, working with Nick Gill when it first won a Michelin Star. Chris, after stints at top places including Langar Hall and The Olive Branch, is now back in the Hambleton Hall kitchen, working alongside Aaron Patterson.

    Ben Jones – Hambleton Hall for seven years (front of house). Went on to buy The Olive Branch in Clipsham, which he directs and co-owns. The Olive Branch has been named UK Pub of the Year twice by the Good Pub Guide and is the current GQ Pub of the Year.

    Ben Jones, co-owner of The Olive Branch

    Sean Hope – Hambleton Hall for seven years. Opened The Olive Branch with Ben Jones, where he won a Michelin star.

    Matt Weedon – Hambleton Hall for four years. Now head chef at Ellenborough Park in Cheltenham and previously won a Michelin star at Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire.

    James ‘Jocky’ Petrie – Hambleton Hall for three years. Went on to become Heston Blumenthal’s development chef at The Fat Duck. Now working for Gordon Ramsay in the same role.

    James Petrie

    Julian Carter – Hambleton Hall for several years. Now head baker and co-founder, Hambleton Bakery in Rutland, which was named UK Bakery of the Year by ITV.

    Sam Carter – Hambleton Hall for two years. Now head chef and co-owner of the highly-rated Restaurant 22, Cambridge.

    Neil Hitchen – Hambleton Hall for four years. Now runs Hitchen’s Barn in Oakham (Michelin Bib Gourmand).

    Mark Gough – Hambleton Hall for several years. Now head chef at The Finch’s Arms, Hambleton.

    Peter Templehoff – Junior sous chef for 18 months at Hambleton Hall under Aaron Patterson. Now founder and managing director at FYN restaurant, Cape Town.

    Peter Templehoff

    Alan Gleeson – Hambleton Hall for four years. Then worked at the Lucky Onion and now at The Harcourt Arms, Oxfordshire.

    Chris Denney – Hambleton Hall for five years. Opened 108 The Garage in Notting Hill to rave reviews. Now runs Fiend restaurant, also in Notting Hill.

    Beverley Dunkley – Hambleton Hall for several years. Now runs The Chocolate Academy at Barry Callebaut in Birmingham.

    Mark Southon – Hambleton Hall for three years. Moved to Australia and worked at Vue de Monde (formerly Australia’s top restaurant for two years running). Now resident chef for New Zealand morning TV Show, The Café and executive chef at O’Connell St Bistro in Auckland.

    Phil Britten – sous chef at Hambleton Hall when it first won a Michelin Star. Now runs his own cookery school at Wotton Underwood near Oxford.

    There are many more besides and apologies to those missing from the list. In addition, there are other, more indirect ripples of success, which once set in motion from Hambleton Hall, continue to flow outward. There’s not enough room here to list all the talented chefs who learned their trade under Hambleton Hall-trained chefs, but this trio provides a good example – each earned their stripes in Sean Hope’s Olive Branch kitchen:

    Frazer King – head chef and owner of The Red Lion, West Deeping.

    Dan Smith – head chef at The Exeter Arms, Easton on the Hill.

    Jamie Knowles – head chef at The Boot Inn, South Luffenham.

    So, congratulations to Tim, Aaron and the current team, and three cheers for Hambleton Hall and all who’ve sailed in her and will sail in her! May this Rutland legend continue to cast its magnificent shadow across the culinary world for years to come.

    Thanks to Tim Hart, Aaron Patterson, Chris Ansell and Elior Pritchard for their help with creating this article.

  • Share your East Mids tips & win a £50 meal

    We want your East Midlands recommendations – your favourite restaurants, most-treasured pubs, dearest delis and choicest cafes. What’s more, we’re going to bribe you for your intel! Each month, there’s a £50 meal-out up for grabs. Scroll down past the gallery to enter. After you’ve entered, please vote for your favourites below by clicking the ❤️ symbols.

    Send your tips and enter the monthly competition via the form below – please include a food pic, venue pic or selfie taken in the place you’re recommending. We’ll share your recommendations on social media (Facebook, Twitter & Instagram) and they will also help us to choose the next Great Food Awards Shortlist. We’ll announce the winner here and on social media on the last day of every month.

  • How to make Colwick cheese

    Colwick is a soft, fresh cheese from Colwick in Notts. It hadn’t been made commercially for decades but was suddenly reborn in 2014 when Belvoir Ridge Creamery of Eastwell, Leics revived it. Soon after, Jamie Oliver championed it on the telly. But in 2018, when Jane and Alan from Belvoir Ridge Creamery retired, Colwick production ceased.

    However, thanks to this recipe from Rennet & Rind (which students make on Rennet & Rind’s excellent Academy of Cheese course), you can make Colwick at home.

    Perry, one of the tutors on Rennet & Rind’s Academy of Cheese course.

    Perry from Rennet & Rind says: “Making Colwick is a simple enough method, involving the ladling of uncut curd into a cloth-lined mould. The cloth, folded over as the curd drains, produces an unusual concave centre in the cheese. Colwick is intended to be eaten fresh, but historically it was sometimes ripened for a few days in a warm room, allowing yeast to grow on the surface. The cheese has a satisfying acidic, curdy quality and a clean mild flavour.”

    Here’s the recipe.

    • Fresh pasteurised whole cow’s milk – 700ml
    • Starter culture Flora Danica – 1gm (1/3d of tsp)
    • Rennet – 1 drop (0.2ml)
    • Salt – pinch

    Induction hob
    Wooden spoon
    Plastic bowl
    Cheese mould

    Coagulation time: 2 hours
    Draining time: 13-25 hours

    1: Pour the milk into the pan and gently warm to 35-38 °C, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon.
    2: Take off the heat and add the starter culture to the milk and stir. Leave to stand for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to stop the cream from rising to the surface.
    3: Add the rennet and stir thoroughly for 1 minute.
    4: Leave the curd, undisturbed, for 1 hour. The first signs of coagulation should be noticeable after about 10 minutes, however the curd should be left to harden for 50 minutes more.
    5: Line the colander with the cheesecloth.
    6: After 1 hour, ladle the uncut curd, one scoopful at a time, into the cloth-lined colander.
    7: Leave to drain in a warm room of at least 21°C for 1 hour, after which time the curds should have shrunk in the colander.
    8: Fold in the edges of the cheesecloth to release any curd that may be stuck to it and gather together three of the corners of the cheesecloth in one hand, taking care not to damage the curd, and tuck the fourth corner underneath the loop that is formed. This is called a ‘Stilton Knot’. Pull the knot tight to secure the bundle of curd.
    9: Continue to drain the cheese for 12-24 hours. Do not turn them during drainage. The knot can be re-tied taking care not to damage the soft cheese, however, don’t re-tie too often as this can result in a dry cheese.
    10: Test the pH periodically during the drainage time; it should be below 5.00 when the Colwick is unmoulded.
    11: Sprinkle the salt evenly over the surface.

    Eat and enjoy!

  • Recipe: Spiced Pear & Blue Cheese Soup by Paul Watters

    As we move into the colder months, a bowl of hot soup is the perfect lunch or supper. This recipe combines the sweetness of pear with the delicious tanginess of blue cheese. Paul Watters has more than 30 years’ experience in the culinary industry and has worked in some of the most prestigious kitchens in the world.

    75g blue Stilton (rind removed) 
    1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 x 415g tinned pears
    3 potatoes, peeled, rinsed and cubed
    1 onion, diced
    1 carrot, diced
    1 stalk celery, chopped
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    1 litre vegetable/chicken stock
    1/4 teaspoon dried ginger
    1/8 teaspoon cumin
    1 teaspoon curry powder
    1/8 teaspoon dried coriander
    Salt and white pepper to taste
    1/4 cup double cream

    1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan.
    2. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic.
    3. Add the potatoes and spices. Mix well until evenly coated and warmed through.
    4. Take one tin of pears and chop the contents. Add to the pan with the juice. Stir.
    5. Add in stock and cook on a simmer for approx 30 minutes.
    6. Blend with a hand blender until smooth, add cream then season with salt and pepper.
    7. Open the other tin of pears, add the juice to the soup and slice the remaining pears for garnish.
    8. Crumble in the blue cheese and whisk through until it is dissolved.
    9. Transfer soup to heated bowls and place sliced pears on top. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and a drizzle of cream if required.
    10. Serve with warmed bread or croutons.

  • Why are you always so damn positive about places?

    It’s a good question, so we thought we’d try to answer it. Here goes…

    When we have a negative experience at a pub, restaurant or food shop (and we quite often do) we don’t mention it publicly. Instead, we ignore it, move on and do not add it to our recommended network.

    We don’t write about negative experiences for two reasons: first, we don’t want to damage businesses, no matter how disappointing we find them. Second, our time is limited, so we want to spend it writing about the many excellent independent businesses that are out there.

    GFC’s lack of negative reviews does not equate to a lack of critical judgement, or to financial agreements where a business pays us to write nice stuff. Instead, it’s a conscious decision to be positive. And to be clear, no business pays us to receive a positive review. You can’t buy a Great Food Club recommendation – they’re simply not for sale.

    Our criteria are as follows: We only write about businesses that are:

    1) Independent.

    2) Somewhere we’d recommend to a friend.

    3) In the East Midlands.

    We also occasionally remove places from our network if they fall outside our criteria.

    You can find who we recommend here.

  • Great Food Club Awards 2021/22 – The Winners

    The Champions

    Restaurant of the Year – full details
    The Factory Kitchen, Ilkeston, Derbyshire

    Producer of the Year – full details
    Mill Farm, Manthorpe, Lincolnshire

    Shop of the Yearfull details
    The Tiny Bakery, Leicester

    Café of the Yearfull details
    Six Hills Café, Bakery & Pizzeria, Six Hills, Leicestershire

    Street Food Producer of the Year – full details
    Chez Sebastien Artisan Pizza, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

    Food Hero of the Yearfull details
    JB Kitchen, Thurcaston, Leicestershire

    Caterer of the Yearfull details
    Stanley Street, Barnwell, Northamptonshire

    Important information

    How the winners were selected
    We asked GFC’s members and readers to nominate “one independent food/drink business that has brought you most joy over the past 12 months”. Over 5,500 online votes were cast between July 1 and July 31, 2021. The top four vote winners in each category made the shortlist. Multiple votes from individuals were discarded. You can see all shortlisted businesses at the ‘full details’ links under each category listed above.

    Once the shortlist had been created by analysing the public vote, our judges selected the winners.

    The judging process
    To make their decisions, our judges visited or tried the food & drink of every shortlisted business. They ate – anonymously where possible – at all the pubs, cafés and restaurants.

    Ineligible businesses
    Businesses that won GFC awards last year were not eligible to be shortlisted this year. Our aim is to showcase a broad range of independents and by not allowing a single business to win an award two years in a row, we go some way to achieving this aim.

    Click here to see the 2020/21 winners.

  • Chef Q&A: Jacob Robinson, Head Chef at The Factory Kitchen, Ilkeston

    Jacob Robinson has worked with some of the best chefs in the business and his favourite ingredient is a rather surprising one. We managed to catch him for a quick chat…

    Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a chef?
    “I studied Professional Cookery NVQ levels 1 and 2 at Derby College after I’d left school. During the second year at college, I started working part-time at the weekends at the Dovecote Restaurant at Morley Hayes as a Commis Chef. At the end of my second year at college, I began to work full-time at the Dovecote. Around six months later, I completed my level 3 apprenticeship. A further six months later, I was promoted to Chef de Partie.

    A year or so later, I accepted a job offer to join the team at Marcus Wareing’s restaurant in London before heading to Corrigan’s in Mayfair. Then it was back to the Dovecote as Sous Chef for three years, before starting as Head Chef at The Factory Kitchen in October 2019.”

    What is your earliest childhood food memory?
    “My earliest memories are of Christmas and all the food associated with it. That real palpable energy and tension coming from the kitchen really resonated with me. My family started the day with bacon and sausage cobs, then the main event would always be prawn cocktail starter, or a tin of game soup for me and my twin brother, Thomas. I wouldn’t dream of eating that now!

    Then it was, of course, turkey with all the trimmings, then finally a flambéed Christmas pudding. Mum was always mega stressed – there was never enough room on the table. I remember the smell of the crackers being pulled, the posh dinner rolls we only had once a year, and everyone dressed in their new clothes.”

    What is your favourite dish to cook for friends and family?
    “My girlfriend bought me a pizza oven last year for my birthday. Lockdown proved to be the perfect opportunity to get to grips with it. I love the theatre and suspense of cooking pizzas outside, and trying to get the perfect pizza is something I’m enjoying doing. Pizza always goes down well with crowds of people and it’s always a talking point.”

    Who influenced your cooking most?
    “My former head chef and friend Nigel Stuart. He taught me that ultimately, food is to be eaten and enjoyed. Sounds obvious – but I think a lot of chefs these days try too hard and don’t think enough about what the customer actually wants. Nigel constantly reminded me of that and it’s something I always think about now.”

    Is there a chef you admire most?
    “There’s three! Richard Corrigan – he’s an absolutely fantastic man to work for and I loved my time there. He just loves food and hospitality and it’s so infectious. James Cross – chef and owner of Lake Road Kitchen in Ambleside. One of the very few restaurants my girlfriend and I constantly return to. He’s a stellar cook, businessman and leader, and having witnessed this first hand having done a stage there a few years ago, my admiration for him is unwavering. Sabrina Ghayour – I have all her cookbooks and can’t get enough of them, the food is simple and utterly delicious.”

    What is your favourite ingredient and why?
    “Difficult question so I’m just going to have to go with what has come in to my head first, and that would have to be preserved lemon. The depth of flavour, acidity and savoury saltiness they give to all manner of dishes including desserts are hard to replicate.” 

    Do you have a favourite cuisine?
    “Persian/Iranian. Simple, honest, balanced, interesting and utterly delicious.” 

    Do you have a favourite restaurant?
    “Lake Road Kitchen in Ambleside.”

    Jacob’s dishes are always beautifully presented

    Food on a Plate or Slate?
    “Easy – plate. Slates look great for canapés and things like that, but using a knife and fork on a slate goes right through me.”

    Marmite, love or hate?
    “Again, easy. I hate it – incredibly salty.”

    What would your last meal be?
    “If we’re talking from a purely gastronomic perspective, I’d have to go for turbot, roasted on the bone over fire, with baby artichokes, daft amounts of black truffle, and a sauce I learned to make when I was at Corrigan’s – with Jerusalem artichokes and Sauternes wine. But to be brutally honest, for my last meal I’d swap any food on the planet for a roast dinner with my family. A meal is so much more than just the food.”

  • Chef Q&A: Marcel Acostoaie, Private Chef

    Experienced chef Marcel Acostoaie believes in a farm-to-table approach and likes to keep things simple. We caught up with him for a quick chat…

    What is your earliest childhood food memory?
    “Trying not to burn the house down cooking a seven-egg omelette when I was about five!”

    What is your favourite dish to cook for friends and family?
    “A Tom Yum soup with nice fat juicy king prawns.”

    Who influenced your cooking most?
    “I was raised in a family where home cooking was a big thing. Everyone in my family is a great cook so I guess it’s in the blood. I really look up to my uncle; he was a head chef at a mountain resort reserved for top military officers in Romania.”

    Is there a chef you admire most?
    “It would be a mistake not to admire more than one. There are a plethora of great chefs out there and I am trying to pay attention and learn a little from as many as I can.”

    What is your favourite ingredient and why?
    “Salt and pepper – or in a word, seasoning! As a chef, that’s probably the first two ingredients you learn how to use properly and, how important they are in almost every single dish or cooking process. Try cooking without either of the two and the dish, no matter how good looking or expensive it is, will definitely be incomplete. We even add salt or pepper to some desserts as it acts as a flavour enhancer and adds aromatics. These are the “cannot do without” ingredients in every chef’s life. Humble but versatile.”

    Fresh pasta in the making

    Do you have a favourite cuisine?
    “I am more and more attracted by Asian cuisine and its freshness at the moment. Since I started my private chef business I have seen a huge demand for Asian-themed menus from my customers.”

    Do you have a favourite restaurant?
    “Every restaurant that I can learn something from, by trying their food, is my favourite restaurant. I love the hidden little gems; those places that you find on your holiday somewhere and remember for the rest of your life.”

    Food on a Plate or Slate?

    Marmite, love or hate?
    “I love it occasionally but won’t use it in cooking.”

    What would your last meal be?
    “A proper Greek salad! I am easy to please. Organic tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and onion, barrel-aged feta, Kalamata olives, extra virgin olive oil, plenty of oregano – and preferably served on a Mediterranean beach.”

  • Belvoir Castle’s Engine Yard launches farm shop and brasserie

    A long, long time ago there was a very hungry lady. You might even say she was hangry. One day she visited her friend, the fifth Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle near Grantham, and complained that the gap between lunch and dinner was almost unbearable.

    It was the mid-1840s and the lady was Anna Maria Stanhope, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, and this moment was the birth of afternoon tea as the quintessential English activity we now know it to be. We’re not sure how often she visited these friends but she must have made Belvoir Castle an even more popular destination for the nobility – for the scones as much as for the company.

    Today, you don’t need a title to enjoy Belvoir’s delicious treats. The Engine Yard was established in 2018 and is now home to a new farm shop and fine-dining restaurant, further bolstering the estate’s position as a foodie paradise.

    Belvoir Farm Shop joins existing fine food shops The Country Victualler, Jorge Delicatessen and chocolatier Cocoa Amore. The new shop will showcase fresh and organic fruit, vegetables and groceries from the Castle’s own estate and other local producers. This will be run in partnership with Wild Jacks, a local company that has its roots in farming and champions Lincolnshire brands with a heritage in sustainability.

    Emma Manners, the 11th Duchess of Rutland and driving force behind The Engine Yard, said: “We have an abundance of wonderful produce on this estate and with the opening of our new farm shop, it is the perfect opportunity to create a farm to fork offer of locally sourced food and drink. Wild Jacks bring that unique element to help us develop an extra special, premium offering, with their experience in championing local produce.

    “We are always looking to provide more reasons for people to spend a day at The Engine Yard and Castle, and I am delighted that the farm shop will offer options that are not readily available anywhere else in the Vale and further strengthen the food offering across the whole retail village for both the local community and the day visitor.”

    In addition, the upper floor of the Fuel Tank cafe (pictured above) has been transformed into a high-end brasserie. The menu will also feature local and seasonal produce including a selection of Lincolnshire Red steaks. Look out for regular game evenings in the season featuring venison, pheasant, duck and partridge with wine pairings. It’s set to be a place where special occasions are celebrated and wonderful memories created.

    Oh, and by the way, the castle does a pretty good afternoon tea in the Regency-style tearoom and there’s set to be a new outpost in the Engine Yard called ‘The Duchess Parlour’ offering Champagne, oysters and high tea. The seventh Duchess of Bedford might have been a bit of a diva but we doubt even she would find too much to complain about…

    For further information visit www.engineyardbelvoir.com

  • Cambridgeshire Member Offers

    Below is a list of places in Cambridgeshire where GFC members can claim special offers by showing their digital or hard-copy membership card. You get a digital and hard-copy membership card when you join Great Food Club here.

    The Three Hills
    Dean Road, Bartlow, Cambridgeshire, CB21 4PW
    Midweek dinner, bed and breakfast for two (three courses from the a la carte menu and bottle of house wine) for £175. Friday or Saturday: £195. Quote ‘Great Food Club’ when booking and show your membership card.

    T & S Thomas Family Butchers
    17 Old Court Hall, Godmanchester, PE29 2HT
    10% off in the shop. Please show your membership card at the till.

    Upper Deck, Charters, Town Bridge, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, PE1 1FP
    15% off call-and-collect takeaway orders Monday to Thursday. Please mention Great Food Club when ordering and show your membership card.

    36 Cowgate, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, PE1 1NA
    10% off food only during lunchtimes, Tuesday to Sunday. Please show your membership card.

    La Pergola at The Wheatsheaf
    Cambridge Road, Harlton, Cambridgeshire, CB23 1HA
    15% off Tuesday to Friday lunch or dinner. Please mention you are a GFC member when booking and show your membership card.

    Moor Farm Shop
    Moor Farm, Decoy Road, Newborough, Cambridgeshire, PE6 7QD
    5 x 454g (1lb) packs of Red Tractor produced stewing beef or mince for only £15. Please show your membership card in the shop.

    Tilbrook Grange Farm
    Tilbrook Grange, Station Road, Tilbrook, Huntingdon, Cambs, PE28 0JZ
    Spend over £50 and get 10% off. Please show your membership card

  • Chef Q&A: Daniel Cain, head chef at The Palfrey in Derby

    Daniel Cain is head chef at The Palfrey in Derby. We recently enjoyed a brilliant lunch and exceptional service at this city-centre restaurant tucked away in Blacksmith’s Yard, just off Sadler Gate. Daniel brings real passion and skill to his role. We put some quick-fire questions to him…

    What is your earliest childhood food memory?
    “Going round my mamas in the winter for stew, the smell to this day brings my back to being a child.”

    What is your favourite dish to cook for friends and family?
    “Probably a roast – can’t go wrong with a good roast! Prep it all in the morning and have a few drinks while it’s all cooking away.”

    Who influenced your cooking most?
    “I was the first chef in my family, so it would have to be my mama who would make crumbles and obviously the stew!”

    Is there a chef you admire most?
    “Gordon Ramsey was the chef I admired growing up but the chef I admire now is Paul Ainsworth. His food is very simple – just a few ingredients and let them speak for themselves.”

    What is your favourite ingredient and why?
    “That would have to be wild mushrooms because they are so versatile and can be used in so many ways.”

    Do you have a favourite cuisine?
    “Not really. Modern British maybe because there is so much great produce in this country that’s often overlooked.”

    Do you have a favourite restaurant?
    “Paul Ainsworth at No. 6 in Padstow.”

    Food on a plate or slate?

    Marmite, Love or hate?

    What would your last meal be?
    “Probably fish and chips from the coast!”

    Steak at The Palfrey – photo taken during our recent visit.

  • Stamford licks its lips as Orbis comes to town

    Jonathan Spencer is a busy man – he is the owner of both the popular Hoppi Dorri Asian-fusion restaurant in Stamford, south Lincolnshire, and Orbis in Oakham, Rutland. And this month he will open a third venue because Orbis is set to replicate its winning formula in Stamford. We’d seen a buzz building on Facebook and Instagram and managed to catch Jonathan for a quick chat to see what diners can expect from this new restaurant.

    Delicious cocktails await diners at Orbis in Stamford

    Orbis in Oakham opened two months before the first lockdown of 2020 and yet, despite that, it didn’t just survive, it positively thrived and was a finalist in our World Cuisine Restaurant of the Year title. Its focus is simple – international cuisine in the form of small plates, sharing dishes and cocktails, all beautifully presented. It’s also attracted an enthusiastic fan base among the gluten-free community because everything on the menu is gluten-free.

    “Gluten-free isn’t a fad – it affects over one million people in the UK so that’s a huge chunk of the population,” says Jonathan, “for those people, eating anywhere with the risk of cross-contamination is off-limits. I asked the chef which of our ingredients had gluten in and made the decision to replace each one. The coeliac community has a strong connection with each other and they’ve loved what we are doing – it’s been like word of mouth on steroids!”

    Cornflake chicken – yes, it’s a thing!

    As you might expect, bookings for Orbis in Stamford (which is located above Hoppi Dorri) are filling up ahead of the opening and in addition to lunch, dinner and brunch – a bottomless brunch will be available in the future, revealed Jonathan, adding that it’s “one of the most requested things”.

    Diners can take a gourmet trip around the globe from their table – the Taste the World menu includes Moroccan Spiced Duck Breast, Caribbean Jerk Chicken, Kentucky Fried Cauliflower (vegan), Maple Syrup Belly Pork (Jonathan’s personal favourite – “delicious with a melting middle”) and… Cornflake Chicken with Sticky Peanut Butter Mayonnaise. The latter was inspired by a YouTube video Jonathan saw and the mayo accompaniment is so popular in the Oakham restaurant that people often request it to dip their chips in.

    Dessert in a pot or dessert in a glass? So many choices await

    Perfectly crafted cocktails are the proverbial cherry on the top at Orbis – Drumstick Lolly (Grey Goose vodka, creme de cassis, strawberry and vanilla syrup), Tennessee Tornado (Jack Daniels whiskey, ginger beer and lime juice) plus mocktails such as Lincolnshire Countryside (rosemary, lemon, apple and cranberry).

    In Stamford, both Orbis and Hoppi Dorri will continue to operate as two separate restaurants although diners from Hoppi Dorri can enjoy cocktails upstairs at Orbis after 8pm. And while Hoppi Dorri will remain a one-restaurant offering with the introduction of a Chef’s Table with a Tasting Menu, there are already ambitious plans to open further Orbis restaurants.

    Does Jonathan get any sleep? “I don’t need sleep, coffee or Red Bull”, he laughs, “it’s pure passion that’s driving me.”

    Find out more about Orbis in Stamford at: https://www.facebook.com/OrbisStamford

  • Chef Q&A: Jordan Brady, head chef & founder, JB Kitchen Thurcaston

    Jordan Brady is head chef and owner of JB Kitchen Thurcaston in Leicestershire. His cooking skills (not to mention his entrepreneurial get-up-and-go) have wowed many of us during lockdown. He specialises in delivering fresh, restaurant-quality food to your door.

    In the first in a new series of chef Q&As, we put some quick-fire questions to Jordan…

    What’s your earliest childhood food memory?
    “That would be being obsessed by my Nan’s ‘Handesh’ – a Bangladeshi sweet. I always wanted to eat it whether it was cold or hot! I loved it! Either that or learning how to make coleslaw with her – not the actual making of it but her teaching me how to hold a knife, etc.”

    What is your favourite dish to cook for friends and family?
    “I like really spicy food but it doesn’t go down well with my family – they’re all wusses! But I like making a good curry and playing around with how to bring flavours into mild dishes. My go-to is probably my banana curry.”

    Who influenced your cooking most?
    “Heston Blumenthal, Sat Bains and my Nanna Rosa.”

    Is there a chef you admire most?
    “Sat Bains – I like his ethos on food and the way he thinks about food, how flavours work with each other, the way he runs his restaurant (e.g. the treatment of his team with four-day working weeks, etc.) and the way he just concentrates on what he and his team are doing, not about what everyone around him is doing.”

    What is your favourite ingredient and why?
    “Maldon Sea Salt, for sure! There is no comparison. Seasoning is key and this is the best.”

    Do you have a favourite cuisine?
    “This is a hard one. It would probably have to be Turkish and West Indian food.”

    Do you have a favourite restaurant?
    “Yes – my fiancée and I found our favourite restaurant in Seville – Sal Gorda (the Fat Salt). Their food is amazing! They take traditional tapas and put a twist on it. Their menu and service are always impeccable and their food is incredible but decently priced.”

    Food on a plate or slate?
    “On a plate. I do like a board though.”

    Marmite, love or hate?

    What would your last meal be?
    “Curried mutton with rice n peas, dumpling, coleslaw and a can of Ting.”

  • Why we feel upbeat about the future of pubs

    Mark and Becca Churchill run The Greendale Oak in Cuckney near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. Like all British publicans, they’ve had one of the toughest 12 months in living memory. But what stands out when talking to the couple is their positivity about the future. The other thing that’s impossible to miss is their determination to build a business that’s even better than the one they had pre-Covid.

    Mark says: “The lockdowns have been tough, especially the second. We’ve had some low moments, particularly in November and December when everything was so uncertain. But we now feel upbeat and energised about the future. We know there’ll be challenges but we’re ready for them.”

    We’ll find out where their positivity comes from shortly.

    The Greendale Oak is a village pub on the Welbeck Estate in north Nottinghamshire. Mark and Becca have run it for six years and are rightly proud of its food. However, they are also proud to run a ‘proper’ pub – a community hub that welcomes everyone, drinkers and diners. “We love being a village pub and having the relaxed atmosphere that only a pub has. But we also love to give our customers something special – excellent food, drink and service,” says Mark.

    At every turn during this pandemic, The Greendale Oak team have remained positive and tried to deliver a special experience. They began by offering takeaways immediately after the first forced closure in March 2020. “Takeaways helped cashflow and meant we could resist payment breaks,” says Mark. “We wanted to carry on paying outgoings rather than kicking the can down the road and building up debt.”

    They waited six weeks after the permitted summer reopening date before welcoming customers back, spending that time honing the customer experience. “We spoke with fellow Everards business owners and planned everything in detail. And when we finally reopened, customers loved it. Taking the extra prep time was worth it.”

    As autumn arrived and winter started knocking, they hired a clear-top marquee with astroturf floor. They also installed dining pods. Overall, they invested £10,000.

    But not long after setting those up, the tier system arrived, swiftly followed by the bombshell of Lockdown Two. “Suddenly, we realised we weren’t going to be open for Christmas. We employ 68 people across two sites [Mark and Becca also run The Millhouse in Worksop]. Telling our staff that we were closing again was one of the toughest things I’ve had to do. We had no idea what the future held. It was bleak.”

    Despite that pain and the other low moments that followed, Mark and Becca have always looked for positives. Mark says: “During this pandemic, we feel that the public have developed a new empathy for hospitality. Previously, our sector was generally regarded negatively. Media stories about pubs were usually bad. But the past year has flagged up how much everyone loves and needs pubs and restaurants. We all miss the pub, its atmosphere and the interaction it brings.”

    And that’s one of the reasons why Mark and Becca are looking forward to reopening and driving the business forward. The enforced closure has allowed them to reassess why they do what they do, highlighting the joy of pubs and hospitality. It’s given them plenty of pain for sure, but also an exciting, powerful new motivation.

    “The time away has given us space to think,” says Mark. “When we were busy, we were on the treadmill, so we didn’t have any bandwidth. But now we’ve had a chance to plan. We are refreshing our operation to give customers even more reasons to visit. People will want to see something a little different when they come back, so we’re going to offer new drinks styles, exciting new dishes, better service. We can’t wait to get going.”

    Mark continues: “A big reason why we are able to feel positive is down to our business partners, Everards. Their approach to all this is how they approach everything: constantly in contact, always transparent, interested in you and your mental health, and more than fair financially. They did not defer rent payments but cancelled them during the beginning of the pandemic and have been very fair with all rent payments thereafter. That was a massive weight off our shoulders. Everyone is going to reopen with debt, but if we had rent debt too, that would be crushing. Above all that, they care.”

    Thanks to strong support and a positive mindset, Mark and Becca are raring to go. The past 12 months may have delivered many painful moments, but as this duo will attest, you often learn more from the downs than you do from the ups. And because of that, motivation today has never been higher. 

  • How to use our East Midlands alfresco dining & beer garden map

    All being well, outdoor dining spaces will open on April 12. So you may want to use our alfresco and beer garden map of GFC-recommended independents in the East Midlands. Here’s how to use it…

    1) Go to the Guide Page.
    2) Scroll down slightly to find the search form.
    3) Enter your location or postcode into the search box.
    4) Select ‘Alfresco dining or drinking area’ in the ‘All Business Types’ box.

    5) Click ‘Submit’.
    6) Dining and beer gardens at places we recommend near you will appear in order of proximity to your location.

    Our map includes pubs with beautiful outdoor spaces, cafes with Continental-style pavement seating, restaurants with terraces and more.

    You can also our website search function to discover other brilliant East Midlands independents, many of which remain open. Browse our main map here, using the search function.

  • Leicester keeps cooking up plans despite lockdown

    By Leicester editor, Tim Burke

    It’s extraordinary how despite everything, the food and drink industry continues to show its indomitable spirit.  Look, for example, at Leicester’s Clarendon Park which is building its reputation as a foodie destination with several new openings during lockdown.

    Prominent among them is The Verandah, an Anglo-Indian cafe bar, specialising in cocktails featuring spirits and flavours from the sub-continent such as a Hot Toddy made with Amrut Whisky, honey, cinnamon and lemon. Early items on the food menu include Mumbai Melt, a toasted cheese sandwich featuring masala-spiced potato and their own house chutney, and Railway Mutton Curry served tiffin-style. Obviously it’s takeaway only during lockdown but will feature an all-day changing drinks and food menu once we’re all back and running. 

    A few doors up the road in the premises formerly housing Jones’ Bistro is Port & Nata, a  stylish Portuguese cafe opened by siblings Miteche and Grichma Trambaclal. It will feature, naturally enough, port and pasteis de nata, but much more.  Its current takeaway offering includes Portuguese street-food boxes, and when fully open dishes will include bacalhau and the soup caldo verde.

    In the city centre too there are signs that even among the sad raft of closures, people are still positioning themselves for when the punters can come back. There’s great news that the old Anglo Irish Bank building on the edge of St Martins, former home of the much-missed Delilah’s, is to have a new occupant. The people behind Birmingham’s Lasan and Fiesta del Asado restaurants are to open Son Risa, featuring small-plate Argentine food and “high-spirited fun”. Group founder Jabbar Khan said they were attracted by the handsome old  building in a heritage area of the city: “There’s the right mix of people and in that particular area. It doesn’t feel like it’s in the UK at times – it’s just beautiful,” he told the local newspaper. At time of writing a spring opening is still planned.

    Also in St Martin’s, the popular independent Kai, famous for its pancakes and brunches, has plans to open a pizza venue.

  • How to use our East Midlands takeaway & delivery map

    It’s lockdown again. So you may want to use our food & drink delivery & takeaway map of the East Midlands. Here’s how to use it…

    1) Go to the Guide Page.
    2) Scroll down slightly to find the search form.
    3) Enter your location or postcode into the search box.
    4) Select ‘Delivery service’ in the ‘All Business Types’ box.

    5) Click ‘Submit’.
    6) Hey presto, Delivery & Takeaway Services near you will appear in order of proximity to your location.

    Our map includes farm shops providing fresh fruit, meat and vegetables, plus butchers, fishmongers, cheesemongers, producers, wine shops, restaurants and pubs.

    You can also our website search function to discover other brilliant East Midlands independents, many of which remain open. Browse our main map here, using the search function.

  • Stamford’s ‘Whyte Wytch’ to open creamery in Sacrewell’s Artisan Courtyard

    A cheesemaker is to open a creamery at Sacrewell Farm’s new Artisan Courtyard near Wansford in Cambridgeshire. Alison Williamson from Stamford launched Whyte Wytch in 2020 after retiring from her role in IT.

    The white cheese takes six-weeks to mature and there are 100 rounds per batch. A cross between camembert and brie, it can be eaten cold or heated in the oven and has a creamy, nutty texture without being overpowering.

    Alison hopes the first batch will be available from mid-February. She’ll make a new batch every week. The project has been part-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

    She said: “The cheesemaking process is quite complex and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with visitors to Sacrewell.

    “We think it will be the only artisan cheese currently made in Cambridgeshire, which is really exciting. The milk for the cheese is sourced from a farm in Bassingthorpe, so it’s a culmination of local and rural diversification.”

    Alison will join Nene Valley Spirits, Stamford Heavenly Chocolates, Dave the Blacksmith, Nene Coppicing & Crafts, and woodcarver Glyn Mould who already have premises within the Artisan Courtyard. The courtyard is open for visitors to come and browse without paying entry to the farm. Gin and chocolate can be bought directly from the retailers on site.

    Once it has matured, the cheese will be available from Sacrewell’s shop or online via Alison’s website.

    Alison added: “Once we have settled into the site, we are going to look at doing cheesemaking and tasting workshops which will complement the workshops already available on-site at Nene Valley Spirits, Stamford Heavenly Chocolates and Sacrewell’s own blacksmithing courses.”

    Lee Scowen, general manager at Sacrewell, said: “We’re really excited to have Whyte Wytch opening at Sacrewell in the new year. With so many wonderful new start-ups and businesses already on site, the courtyard is fast becoming the rural food and craft hub that we envisioned it to be.”

  • The Olive Branch in Clipsham is UK Pub of the Year, says Good Pub Guide 2021

    Team celebrates ‘brilliant news’ but rues plight of UK pubs and ‘illogical, pub-killing’ restrictions

    The Good Pub Guide 2021 today names The Olive Branch in Clipsham, Rutland, as overall UK Pub of the Year. 

    The Guide says: “In this most difficult of years, we are delighted to award Pub of the Year 2021 to The Olive Branch in Clipsham, Rutland. To compete in the Pub of the Year category a pub has to have unanimous enthusiasm from all readers on all aspects of its business – it has to be top of its game and The Olive Branch is most definitely that. It’s a really special place for a drink, a meal or an overnight stay. It’s a perennially successful inn which attracts a deservedly loyal following from both near and far, and will celebrate its 21st anniversary on December 12.”

    The Olive Branch is a small village pub in England’s smallest county. Three friends bought it in 1999 and, with the help of family and villagers, rescued what was then a closed pub from an uncertain fate. Since then, The Olive Branch has achieved many accolades, including the same Pub of the Year title in 2014.

    Co-founder and MD of The Olive Branch Ben Jones said: “What brilliant news to receive on our 21st anniversary at the end of this incredibly challenging year. We first opened on December 12, 1999, with a village Christmas party. Sadly, this year — due to the government’s illogical, pub-killing restrictions — we will not be able to celebrate safely with locals and villagers.”

    He continued: “A pub is about the whole experience – the beer, the wine, the food and, above all, the atmosphere. Right now, due to Covid and these restrictions, we aren’t really a pub. We aren’t able to welcome all; we aren’t able to enjoy a drink and some local gossip at the bar. However, this award means so much to us because it rewards the whole team at the end of an unbelievably tough year. Every single one of them has played their part in this success.”

    The garden gazebos

    Indeed, The Olive Branch has had to work harder than ever to create the buzz for which it’s known and entertain guests from a distance. 

    Faced with such challenges, The Olive Branch has done its utmost to forge a whole new pub experience. The aim has been to not only meet the regulations but do so in a way that makes customers feel they have enjoyed something unique and memorable. Christened the ‘New Special’ by the team, The Olive Branch experience in 2020 includes luxurious, beautifully dressed, heated garden gazebos, more space, and a choice of service styles and seating areas to give customers control. 

    Each gazebo is individually dressed

    Ben said: “It’s not been easy and each member of the team has had to work longer and harder to cover the extra space, to make customers feel safe and to complete all the appropriate cleaning.”

    An Olive Branch Dish: Lightly cured mackerel, cucumber, oyster, sea buckthorn, crispy rice

    Assessing where the pub industry finds itself at the end of 2020, The Olive Branch MD said: “We’ve been lucky. We are in a rural location near open fields. We have space to socially distance, we have an amazing team and wonderfully loyal and supportive customers. We were nearly full throughout the summer, yet 2020 has still been a battle for survival for us and December will be our worst in 21 years. Many others less fortunate than us will not make it. More help is needed. The £1,000 for wet-led pubs is pitiful and the government must find more support for our industry. Without it, the Good Pub Guide may well be half its size next year and the true local will be extinct.”

    Some of the Olive Branch team

    The Olive Branch Timeline
    December 12, 1999 – Ben Jones, Sean Hope and Marcus Welford open The Olive Branch for the first time. Their idea is to combine top quality food and a relaxed pub setting.
    2002 – The Olive Branch becomes one of the first pubs in the UK to win a Michelin Star.
    2005 – The team buy Beech House – a private dwelling opposite The Olive Branch – and convert it into six luxurious bedrooms, opening it in 2006.
    2012 – Beech House wins a prestigious Good Hotel Guide César Award.
    2014 – The Olive Branch is named UK Pub of the Year by the Good Pub Guide.
    2016 – The Olive Branch opens its allotment and polytunnel, which supply ingredients for the kitchen.
    December, 2020 – The Olive Branch celebrates its 21st birthday and is named UK Pub of the Year by the Good Pub Guide for the second time.

  • The Lighthouse and Boboli in south Leicestershire launch takeaway menus

    The Lighthouse in Kibworth Beauchamp and Boboli in Kibworth Harcourt have launched takeaway menus. You can view The Lighthouse’s takeout menu here and Boboli’s takeout menu here.  

    The restaurants, both owned by Sara and Lino Poli, are recommended by Great Food Club and also offer GFC card-holders 10% off the total bill (exclusions apply, subject to a minimum food spend of £30).

    The Lighthouse offers hot food takeaway Tuesday to Saturday, 5pm-8.30pm.

    Boboli runs its takeout service – both hot food and ‘heat to eat’ – seven days a week.

    To order from The Lighthouse, call 0116 2796260.

    To order from Boboli, call 0116 2793303.

    Boboli’s ‘Heat to Eat’ range can also be ordered online here. Heat to Eat collections are Monday to Saturday 2pm-5pm and 12pm-3pm on Sundays.

    Hot food collections are Monday to Saturday 5pm-8.30pm and Sunday 12pm-3pm.

  • Great Food Club Awards 2020/21 – The Winners

    The Champions

    Fine-Dining Restaurant of the Year – full details & pictures
    Alchemilla, Nottingham
    Last year’s winner: The Hammer & Pincers, Wymeswold, Leics
    2018/19 winner: John’s House, Mountsorrel, Leics

    Casual-Dining Restaurant of the Year – full details & pictures
    Hitchen’s Barn, Oakham, Rutland
    Last year’s winner: House of Feasts, Eye Green, Peterborough, Cambs

    Dining Pub of the Year full details & pictures
    The Stag & Hounds, Burrough on the Hill, Leicestershire
    Last year’s winner: The Wheatsheaf, Greetham, Rutland
    2018/19 winner: The Olive Branch, Clipsham

    World Cuisine Restaurant of the Year full details & pictures
    Kushi-ya, Nottingham
    Last year’s winner: Sanctua, Oadby, Leics

    Classic Pub of the Year full details & pictures
    The Marquis of Granby, Granby, Nottinghamshire
    Last year’s winner: The Black Horse, Aylestone, Leics

    Café of the Year – full details & pictures
    All Mine Cakes by the Lake, Maythorne near Southwell, Nottinghamshire
    Last year’s winner: The Larder, Oakham, Rutland
    2018/19 winner: Kavanagh’s, Oakham

    Food Shop of the Year – full details & pictures
    Welbeck Farm Shop, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire
    Last year’s winner: The Melton Cheeseboard, Melton Mowbray, Leics
    2018/19 winner: Christopher James Deli, Leicester

    Deli of the Year – full details & pictures
    Thrussington’s Village Shop, Thrussington, Leicestershire
    Last year’s winner: The Melton Cheeseboard, Melton Mowbray, Leics
    2018/19 winner: Christopher James Deli, Leicester

    Food Producer of the Year full details & pictures
    Manor Farm Yogurt, Thrussington, Leicestershire
    Last year’s winner: Elms Farm, Costock, Leics
    2018/19 winner: Redhill Farm Free Range Pork, Gainsborough, Lincs

    Drink Producer of the Year – full details & pictures
    Braybrooke Beer Co., Braybrooke, Market Harborough, Northamptonshire
    Last year’s winner: Round Corner Brewing, Melton Mowbray, Leics
    2018/19 winner: Wharf Distillery, Potterspury, Northants

    Farm Shop of the Year – full details & pictures
    Tori & Ben’s Farm Shop, Kings Newton, Derbyshire
    Last year’s winner: Farndon Fields Farm Shop, Market Harborough, Leics
    2018/19 winner: Harker’s Farm Shop, Clipston-on-the-Wolds, Notts

    Bakery of the Year 
    The Bakehouse, Nottingham – full details & pictures
    Last year’s winners: Small Food Bakery, Nottingham (best sourdough) & Hambleton Bakery, Rutland (best cakes)
    2018/19 winner: The Garage Bakehouse, Market Harborough

    Butcher of the Year – full details & pictures
    Best High-Street Butcher: Robin Maycocks, Holloway, Derbyshire
    Best Catering Butcher: Owen Taylors, Alfreton, Derbyshire
    Last year’s winners: The Snobby Butcher, Nottingham (high-street butcher) & Price & Fretwell (catering butcher)

    Private Chef of the Year (new category) – full details & pictures
    Craig Floate, Nottingham

    Street Food Producer of the Year (new category) – full details & pictures
    Smoqued, Swadlincote, Derbyshire

    Food Hero of the Year (new category) – full details & pictures
    March House Farm Shop, Great Dalby, Leicestershire
    Last year’s winner: Pratik Master at Wigston News & Deli in Leicestershire

    Important information

    The judging process
    Our judges visited every shortlisted business where it was possible and deemed necessary. They ate – anonymously where possible – at all the pubs, cafés and restaurants.

    How the shortlist was compiled
    We asked our members and readers to nominate “one independent food/drink business that has brought you most joy over the past 12 months”. Over 6,000 online votes were cast between July 1 and July 31, 2020. The top four vote winners in each category made the shortlist. Multiple votes from individuals were discarded. You can see all shortlisted businesses at the ‘full details’ links under each category above.

    Ineligible businesses
    Businesses that won GFC awards last year were not eligible to be shortlisted this year. Our aim is to showcase a broad range of independents and by not allowing a single business to win an award two years in a row, we go some way to achieving this aim.

    Click here to see the 2019/20 winners.

  • Toffee Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce – and Cidentro Cider

    A sponsored recipe from Cidentro Cider

    Happy autumn! It’s apple-harvest season and cider-makers are busy at work in their orchards. Inspired by all the apples being gathered in, here’s a delicious autumnal recipe for Toffee Apple Cake.

    Try it with Cidentro Cider, which recently won Silver and Bronze Medals at the International Cider Challenge 2020.

    Toffee Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce


    Toffee Apple Cake:
    1 x 500g bag Wright’s Toffee Cake mix
    200ml water 
    4 tblsp veg oil
    1-2 heaped tbsp chopped stem ginger in syrup
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    3 small apples, peeled and cored (kept whole)

    Salted caramel sauce:
    175g light soft brown sugar
    50g butter
    300ml double cream
    Sea salt to taste 
    50ml Calvados (optional but the alcohol will evaporate during cooking)


    1. Heat oven to 180C and line a 2lb loaf tin.
    2. Combine the water and oil in a mixing bowl, add the cake mix and whisk for a couple of minutes.
    3. Add the ginger and cinnamon.
    4. Pour some batter into your loaf tin, then add the apples. Pour the remaining batter over the top of the apples to cover them.
    5. Bake for 60-70 minutes, check it’s done by inserting a skewer into the centre – it’s done when it comes out clean.
    6. Combine the salted caramel ingredients in a saucepan and cook until the butter has melted, then allow to bubble for about a minute.

    To serve:

    Turn out the cake and slice your servings – it’s like a secret apple cake! Serve either warm or cold with a drizzle of the salted caramel sauce over the top. Wash down with a glass of Cidentro Cider.

    Cidentro Cider can be bought from their web-shop

    Recipe by Hazel Paterson on BBC Radio Leicester’s Ben Jackson show.

  • The story behind Leicestershire’s new pop-up tipi pub

    Words, pictures and video by Bobby Twidale

    James Ball, head chef and director of Zest Catering & Events, and Emma Tilley, owner of Bridge House Barn at Kibworth Harcourt, would normally have been booked solid with weddings and events for the entire spring-summer season in 2020. The combination of James’ cuisine and a magical tipi-village in an unspoilt rural setting next to the Grand Union Canal has made their collaboration a top choice for anyone hoping to make their special day truly memorable.

    But with more than 90% of their bookings postponed until 2021, Bobby Twidale chatted with James to find out how they’ve managed to not just survive but actually thrive during the pandemic.

    How did you get into event catering?

    JB – I used to have the Langton Arms in Church Langton where I was the landlord for five years and head chef previous to that for ten years. I used to do a few outside events from the pub, and it was something I enjoyed.

    So it was a natural progression for you?

    JB – Yes. The biggest draw for me was that you are potentially doing something different every week. Anything from weddings to funerals, birthday parties, private dinner parties where we work with the client to create their own menu, barbeques, hog roasts, street food menus, corporate stuff. For me, the whole thing with this trade has been seeing the satisfaction from the customer; people enjoying the food that you’re doing for them.

    What are your values as a business?

    JB – We offer high-end, quality food for a not high-end price. I want everyone to be treated how I would want to be treated. I wouldn’t send something out that I wouldn’t eat myself.

    So business is booming?

    JB – I do a lot of weddings here. Emma and I have built up a good working relationship.

    At least that was the way it was going. We’ve had maybe more than 90% of the weddings wiped out. Luckily, apart from one, every wedding has moved from this year to next… plus everyone else who’s planning to get married next year as well.

    So things are looking good for the future. You didn’t want to just sit back and wait for that to happen, though. You’ve been doing something really interesting here at Bridge House Barn this summer. Tell me a bit about the pop-up pub you and Emma have been running?

    JB – It’s been amazing. We started off doing Sunday lunch. It was July 23 we did the first one. We’ve been full every weekend! We started doing some alternative nights as well. We did a steak night last week, we did a fish and chip night, curry nights, we’re doing paella next week, there’s a special Halloween hog roast. Normally, the tipis go up in April and have to come down by October as they are a temporary structure. Because of the pandemic, the council have said Emma can keep them up until next October. We are looking to do Christmas here as well. Christmas is a new thing for everyone and things [restrictions] might have changed again by then but we’ve put a menu out there and we’re taking tables of six. Let’s carry on and see what happens!

    So has your main focus been here at Bridge House Barn, or has Zest Catering been able to continue to provide for its client-base in any other way?

    JB – When lockdown was first announced, all the pubs jumped on the takeaway bandwagon. I just thought, ‘There are that many people doing it that are better equipped to do it, I’m not going to bother’. Obviously, I didn’t know it was going to be quite as long as it was! After about a month, we decided to do a pie and mash delivery service; focus on one element at a good price. That really took off. Then we started doing a couple of specials that became four specials and three puddings. I did some picnic hampers for Lamport Hall open-air concerts in their gardens. We were delivering afternoon teas through the summer. We’ve had so much positive feedback; lots and lots of people have messaged me.

    And, with such a busy summer, have you been able to plan for the next few months?

    JB – We’re going to relaunch the pies. At the moment we deliver everything fresh. We spend all day Thursday making everything and then we deliver on Friday. That clashes with everything else [if we are not locked down]. We’re either going to change the delivery day or do everything frozen. Last Christmas, I saw a company that were doing prepared Christmas Day dinners and thought, ‘What a good idea’. What better thing than not having to work on Christmas Day? I’m going to get 2 or 3 different menus with deliveries Christmas Eve so on Christmas Day you’ve got nothing to do. I’m working on that this week. I just hope we can cope with it all! You just have to try and diversify a bit!

    With a massive portion of can-do attitude, a dollop of resourcefulness and a dash of luck, James and Emma have shown flexibility during challenging circumstances, adapted and prospered. Hats off to them! James’ food is good, tasty and great value for money, and Bridge House Barn is an idyllic setting that also offers luxury on-site dinner, bed and breakfast accommodation all in a relaxing, Covid-safe environment.

    Find out more here.

  • Price & Fretwell’s ‘NHS Hamper’ raises £525 for Nottinghamshire hospital

    Award-winning catering butcher Price & Fretwell has donated £525 to Kings Mill Hospital in Sutton-in-Ashfield. The money was raised through sales of its ‘Supporting the NHS Hamper’.

    Co-founder Darren Price (pictured above with two nurses from Kings Mill Hospital) said: “We donated the money to Ward 22 of the hospital where my grandmother Elizabeth Fretwell recently passed away after several weeks of amazing care. Elizabeth was a former nurse.”

    Price & Fretwell continues to deliver NHS Hampers to the public from Monday to Saturday to raise more funds.

    To order one, call 01773 591 212 or visit our Price & Fretwell’s Facebook page

  • Burleighs Gin crowdfunding campaign hits £100k target in first week

    But there’s still time to invest…

    Burleighs Gin of Leicestershire has hit its initial crowd-funding target of £100,000 in a single week. However, the distillery is still calling on food and drink lovers to invest after extending the campaign to October 7.

    Burleighs is currently valued at £2.3 million and has so far received more than 120 investments via its Seedrs crowdfunding page, varying from £10 to £50,000+.

    Burleighs plans to diversify its portfolio with the invested funds. Development plans include introducing a non-alcoholic gin and a ready-to-drink gin & tonic.

    Commercial director Sam Watson is delighted by the success of the campaign. He said: “Despite the impact of Covid, 2020 has been a year of great progression for Burleighs Gin. The success of our crowdfunding campaign with Seedrs will now allow us to further drive our growth.”

    Distilled in rural Leicestershire, Burleighs has successfully established itself in the competitive gin market over the last five years with a unique collaborative strategy. Current partners include Leicester City FC, Leicester Tigers RFC and the Marilyn Monroe estate.

    Its latest collaboration is with the Royal British Legion, resulting in the official Poppy Gin. A limited number of bottles can be bought here.

    Burleighs crowdfunding campaign can be viewed here.

  • Crystal Clear Compliance helps food & drink businesses get Covid-secure

    Sponsored post

    Crystal Clear Compliance of Great Easton near Market Harborough works with pubs, restaurants and food shops to help them survive and thrive. Founder Lucy Walsh and her team help independent businesses deal with new post-Covid health & safety and environmental regulations.

    The government requires every business to complete a Covid risk assessment. Crystal Clear Compliance guides you through the process while offering help in other areas.

    Lucy Walsh

    Lucy will help businesses put other health & safety documentation in place and perform risk assessments, too.

    She says: “As people return to work, their roles may have changed, or layouts may have altered. This means risk assessments should be reviewed and updated. We will help them prepare for life in this ‘new normal’.”

    To get in touch with Crystal Clear Compliance, call 07748 860076 or 01536 770249, or email lwalsh@crystalclearcompliance.co.uk.

  • Have you tried Cocoa Amore’s stunning Noir range?

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    Since the beginning of lockdown, Leicestershire’s Cocoa Amore have been rolling out their brand new ‘Noir’ range in sleek black cardboard packaging. The range features a fantastic spectrum of chocolatey treats, from boxes of chocolates, to tins of fondant truffles, to exciting new filled bars.

    For the first time, Cocoa Amore have made their range available for other retailers to sell (so you may have seen them around in your local shops!). To make it easier for you to find Cocoa Amore chocolate, they have added a ‘stockists’ page on their website. Keep an eye out for new ones online and posts through their social media channels


    If you’re yet to discover Cocoa Amore’s NEW Noir Range, take a look…


  • Melton Mowbray’s Round Corner wins three golds at World Beer Awards

    Round Corner Brewing of Melton Mowbray – just two years old and Great Food Club’s current Drink Producer of the Year – has bagged three gold medals at the prestigious 2020 World Beer Awards. The winning performance means it is once again one of the UK’s most accoladed breweries at the awards. Expert panellists awarded the medals after a blind-judging process involving more than 2,200 beers from over 50 countries.

    Hopping Spree, Round Corner’s signature West Coast IPA (6.6% ABV), was one of the winners. The beer also won gold at last year’s European Beer Challenge. Hopping Spree is inspired by the legendary rabble-rousing adventures of the Marquis of Waterford – originator of the phrase “paint the town red” after a big night out in Melton Mowbray!

    Society for the Encouragement of Virtue, Round Corner’s 9.6% ABV rum-barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout, was recognised as the UK’s best Imperial Stout. This beer gains its unmistakable profile from the plantation rum barrels in which it is aged. Society for the Encouragement of Virtue also won Best Label Design.

    Brewer Scott Sharp-Heward said: “These wins make us so proud – decades of brewing knowledge went into crafting these amazing beers.”

    Co-founder Combie Cryan said: “We want to weave as much of the amazing feeling and history of Melton Mowbray and its surrounds as we can into our beers. We’re proud that it’s being noticed.”

    Head brewer & co-founder Colin Paige commented: “Round Corner is a philosophy. It’s about innovation but rooted in a deep belief that real craft beer is about the relentless pursuit of perfection, not jumping on the fad bandwagon.”

    Colin Paige (left) and Combie Cryan, founders of Round Corner Brewing

    About Round Corner Brewery

    Round Corner Brewing is based at a bespoke brewery in the heart of Melton Mowbray’s 1,000-year-old agricultural market. It aims to brew outstanding beers in keeping with the celebrated gastronomy of the region, which is famous for its Stilton and Melton Mowbray pork pies.

  • Melton Mowbray’s Cidentro Cider House stars on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch

    Melton Mowbray cider-maker Cidentro appeared on live TV on August 30 on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch.

    From a live video link in Devon, cider expert Gabe Cook – known as The Ciderologist – chose three ciders.

    He talked about each – Wild Disco by Nightingale Cider, Table Cider by Little Pomona and Rosé Cider by Cidentro. About Cidentro he said: “This is Cidentro’s rosé-style cider from Leicestershire. Again, not necessarily a classic cider-making area but showcasing how there is this real diversity.”

    Gabe told viewers about the new campaign #DiscoverCider which aims to highlight the diversity in cider styles and show that there’s a cider for everyone.

    Tasting in the Sunday Brunch studio were presenters Tim and Simon, together with their guest star Joel Dommett.

    Hiranthi Cook, founder of Cidentro, said: “Thanks to Gabe, Tim and Simon for having us on the show, it was tremendous fun and we were truly honoured.”

    Cidentro’s Rosé is a dry, lightly sparkling, 8.0% ABV rosé cider created from a unique blend of English cider and English pinot noir wine. It’s ideal as an aperitif and pairs beautifully with food. A 75cl bottle costs £9.50. You can order here.