Category Archives: Farmers

Award Winning Black Pudding from The Fruit Pig Company

I love black pudding, so when I heard about a local producer winning a rather special award from the French for his fresh blood black pudding, I couldn’t help but find out more. What is Matt Cockin’s The Fruit Pig Company doing so well to win a coveted award from the French? I asked if I could pay him a visit and learn some secrets behind his success, and he was delighted to accept!

Matt Cockin

Matt Cockin sources his pigs from local farms and small holdings that he knows and trusts. I was lucky enough to visit one of the small holdings which is located just outside Wisbech (on the borders of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire) and had a great time with the pigs and getting out in the fresh air!

Now, these pictures are pretty cute, so please do bear in mind that these lovely pigs live a great life and the reality is that they wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the demand of us meat-loving humans wanting to eat them. It’s also important to understand and appreciate that meat was once a live animal and we should all try to buy the best standard of meat we can afford, or perhaps cut down rather than buying lots of cheap, unethically reared meat.

The farm (or I should probably say small holding) owner loves his pigs, and you can tell that they live happy and fulfilling lives.

Matt really knows his pigs but has chosen to stick to what he does best with the butchery and charcuterie making – all the better for us I say!

Matt warned me that his unit probably wouldn’t live up to my expectations of a traditional wooden shack or cottage out in the country – instead I found a functional, spotlessly clean unit in a business park, which ticks all the boxes for what Matt needs to make his delicious black pudding, sausages and other meaty goods.

Most black pudding producers in the UK use dried blood to make their black puddings. It is rare to find a producer using fresh blood, which takes a lot more effort to do. Marc Frederic, a well respected British Charcutier, is an advocate of using fresh blood in black pudding. In fact, when Matt was experimenting with recipes he asked Marc for his opinion – Marc wouldn’t even taste a dried blood version!

So now it gets a little gruesome… but what did you expect from a post about blood pudding?! Matt has to be super quick to collect the blood from his slaughtered pigs – if he’s too late, the blood starts to coagulate and clot, like our own blood would. As soon as possible he must add the oats, so has a great system for doing this (no secrets given away here!) but he does have to get up ridiculously early to do it! It makes him realise why so many producers take the easy option and use dried blood!

By the time I reached the unit, the oats and blood had already been mixed, but the colour was still shockingly vibrant.

Fresh Blood Mix

So, aside from the obviously good fresh blood, what were Matt’s secrets to the success of his award-winning black pudding? Unfortunately somethings have to be kept exactly that – secrets! Matt mixed his added ingredients before I arrived so I couldn’t tell what was in there – clever man! I did take a good snoop at all the ingredients on his shelves though…

Secret Spices

Secret Ingredients

Oatmeal is a key ingredient in their black puddings – as with all blood puddings there needs to be a binding agent, which is usually some kind of grain like barley or rice but in England oats are usually used.

Oatmeal

Fat is also added to the black pudding, which Matt melts down to give an even consistency to the pudding.

Mincing Fat

The mixture is stuffed into black skins and then placed in a water oven to cook through. I didn’t know, but black pudding is actually cooked when you buy it, so all it needs is a warm through, and for me a little bit of crispness!

Black Puddings

The Fruit Pig Company’s black pudding has a flavour and texture that is definitely worth the extra effort that Matt puts in. It almost has a creaminess to it, which adds to the rich, meaty flavour and crumbly texture.

Black Pudding

Every year in the old French market town Morgagne-au-Perche, over 600 black puddings from across the globe are judged by the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Black Pudding. The festival runs over 3 days with the aim of uncovering the very best black puddings in the world. Matt did England proud by bringing back a silver medal – congratulations!

The Fruit Pig Company don’t only do black pudding… they also have a delicious range of flavoured sausages, bacon, meat joints and other charcuterie items too. I asked whether he was doing anything about the pulled pork trend – of course! Matt opened up an upright smoker and lo and behold shelves full of pork joints smoking ready to be sent out to chefs for pulled pork!

Pulled Pork Shoulders Smoking

I think it’s important to support producers that make this kind of effort with their produce – The Fruit Pig Company work hard to produce a quality product and deserve our attention and custom. Luckily if you aren’t local enough to visit the Creake Abbey or Kings Lynn farmers markets then you can buy online from their online butchery.

If you are keen to find out more about black pudding, and the festival organised by the Knights of the Black Pudding, listen to the brilliant Radio 4 Food Programme on the subject.

If you’d like to see more pictures from my farm visit – take a look at my Flickr page.

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Food Find of the Week – Nova Scotia Steak Pie

What better way to celebrate St George’s Day with a classic English pie made by a dedicated Yorkshire farm? Nova Scotia Farm are the ultimate producers – not only do they rear their own meat for their pies and ready meals, but they also produce 90% of the feed for their animals too! Traditional short-crust individual pies, suet crust pies and a range of ready meals are made with the highest quality, well hung Yorkshire beef and are truly delicious.

Nova Scotia Farm can be found in the heart of Yorkshire, where happy families of cattle graze on grass sweetened by naturally filtered water which drains down from the Vale of York. Their natural surroundings and traditional husbandry means the herd is close to organic, just without all the paperwork! Back in 2001 the company were one of the first to start selling their beef nationally online, and from there they started making the pies. As demand increased, Mark and Sally the farmers, focussed more and more on pies and meals as customers looked for more convenient products, that still had the quality they were known for. As the company has grown, they now also use beef from other ‘similarly minded cattle producers’ to keep up with demand. How refreshing it is to find a convenient ‘ready meal’ that is made by a truly passionate artisan, that you can really trust!

If you buy online you can choose either baked or unbaked pies – I went for frozen unbaked pies as I wasn’t sure when I was going to be able to eat them. They arrive in an ice packed box, complete with ‘dishes to dine for’ cooler bag, which I think you get free with your pies if you buy them at a show or festival.

Concise cooking instructions are provided, along with advice to accommodate different types of oven and baking tips if the pie didn’t come out quite right first time.

45 minutes of baking from frozen… what do they say about a watched kettle?! The smells coming from the oven were making my mouth water!

The result was a deliciously golden, steak filled pie with a really tasty, meaty gravy. You can see the hefty chunks of meat in the picture below, which are cooked to a melt in the mouth tenderness, along with the perfect amount of gravy. The pastry is the ideal thickness and crispness, expertly balanced to let the highest quality beef take the limelight. Mark and Sally have collected some rather impressive (and entertaining) testimonials on their website, so you don’t have to take my word for how wonderful they are.

These pies would be perfect for dinner with mash and fresh vegetables or taken on a picnic for a real treat… or just eaten on their own like I did! You can buy them and other beef based dishes from Nova Scotia Farm Produce online and at lots of food shows and festivals across the country. Their ready meals are sold under the brand of ‘Dishes to Dine For’ so keep a look out for both – they certainly are ‘to dine for’!

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BBC Good Food Show London – back and better than ever!

The BBC Good Food Show London was back in the Capital last weekend, and although hard work, was a truly awesome Show! Thanks to all that visited, exhibited and worked to make the show brilliant and better than ever before! In this post I’m giving a few sneaky pre show pictures, a few of my shopping highlights and a run through of the areas that I look after at the shows – where you will find all the lovely, speciality artisan producers!

So to begin… the show in choux! Brand new company Choux London impressed us with this gorgeously edible homage to the BBC Good Food Show, along with their fabulous filled choux buns. My favourites were salted caramel and peanut butter flavours.

I often wonder if visitors know how much work goes into putting our shows together… not just the year building up to the show (we’re already working on the 2013 show!) but in the days before the show opens. Below are a few sneaky pre show insights which might surprise you!

Thursday 1130 – MasterChef Demonstration Pod half way to being built.

Thursday 1300 – Getting our (well, show manager Paul Patterson!) hands dirty cleaning a stand roof! As you can see lots of stands still just empty shells at this stage.

Thursday 1730 – meeting with Custom Creams for a liquid nitrogen powered ice cream making demonstration!

I love show opening – we usually have one of our celebrities open the show by cutting ribbon with giant scissors. Below is James Martin on the Saturday, don’t his white trousers make our pink carpet look bright?!

It’s great to see thousands of food lovers all under one roof, and I must admit, Olympia is definitely my favourite venue in terms of how beautiful the structure is. When the sun goes down there are some amazing colours coming in through that huge domed window!

Here is a bit more about the areas of the show that I look after and am very proud of!

The Producers’ Village

This is our collection of nearly 100 small artisan producers, which we have scoured the country to find – from charcuterie to choux, truffles to turkey, fish to fudge there should have been something to please most foodies!  The smell of aromatic coffee wafts from the Jaccs Gourmet Coffee stand, where you could find all sorts of beans and flavours of coffee. Mortons Turkeys came all the way from North Norfolk (very near my home town!) and were sampling their delicately smoked duck and taking orders for Christmas turkeys at the show – I’m planning to visit the farm when I’m back home for Christmas!

I always make sure I buy some Calabrian (Italian region) delicacies from De Calabria before the end of the show. Giuseppe is a real character, “an arteest” as he would put it, and is a wonderful addition to the show – he brings the most deliciously vibrant green olive oils, wild honey and herbs, n’duja, chilli products, sun-dried tomatoes, cheeses, salamis, even chick peas (I bet you didn’t know they grew like this?!)!

Joe and Sephs launched their gourmet popcorn company at our show 2 years ago and they never cease to amaze me. True to their nick name of the Willy Wonka of the popcorn world, their black pepper, chilli and caramel is magical as you get the caramel first, then a black pepper hit, and then seconds later the chilli starts to build… and then you just want more (and more!). Other flavours include madras curry, brandy butter, goats cheese (not for me but others love it), mince pie and vanilla cheese cake. If you haven’t tried before then you must, you won’t regret it!

I shouldn’t have favourites, but Karantania Deli had to be one of the most attractive stands at the show – a tree decorated with chocolate salami twinkled away between piles of irresistible pastries, breads and cakes and bottles of bubbly, chocolate liqueur and other Slovenian delights. I love it when producers make an effort with their stands like this!

I sometimes come across oyster virgins trying their first at the Shows… love ’em or hate ’em literally thousands get shucked and knocked back at the shows!

David here, from Real Organic Foods, created his company through a passion for food and by noticing a gap in the market for organic foods that actually tasted good. Definitely worth a try!

I was sure to take advantage of the bargain olive oil from Candiasoil – beautiful bottles and delicious single estate oils from Crete, the perfect stocking filler for a foodie!

New to the show this year was The Pelagonia Range – Macedonian mezze products like pumpkin jam, roasted peppers and other delicious dips.

Bursary Winners

Our bursary award winners did us proud and every one of them loved using the show as a springboard to put their products in front of thousands of influential food lovers. We had amazing African sauces from Bim’s Kitchen, savoury seaweed seasonings from Mara Seaweed, delicious drinks from Norfolk Cordials, seasonal pestos from Well Seasoned, hand made and indulgent marshmallows from Patchett’s Confectionery and authentic Indian fresh chutney from the Maha Partnership. Take a look at how they got to the show here.

Good Food Champions!

A brand new addition to the show this year, my way of highlighting some of the most outstanding producers at the shows. This year at London, visitors will have been able to try 2 of the top 50 best foods which were from The Exquisite Range and Momo Cha Fine Teas. I was delighted that Gelupo were there, the gelato sister of famous Italian restaurant Bocca di Lupo – I tried their fresh mint choc chip and dark chocolate sorbets, which were incredible! Pistachio Rosebrought their beautiful range of Indian inspired baked goods. Olive Branch sold their olive oils and intriguing olive oil jam, while next door the Artisan Smokehouse presented their range of smoked fish, meat, cheeses, oils, herbs and spices! Joanna from Edible Ornamentals, another one of our Good Food Champions, giving an interview for the BBC You Tube team:

Now, there are so many other things I could write about here… but I could go on forever! Look out for my highlights of the BBC Good Food Show Winter, which opens at the NEC next week on the 28th November, or perhaps I will see you there?!

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BBC Good Food Show Scotland 2012 – My Highlights

Last weekend I was up in Glasgow for the BBC Good Food Show Scotland. I think most will agree it was one of the best shows yet with a great celebrity chef line up, including the lovely Hairy Bikers, and an even better selection of speciality, artisan and passionate producers from across Scotland, the British Isles and the world!

It’s our London show next week (9th -11th at Olympia) so I’m super busy getting ready for that… but here is a quick run down of my highlights in pictures. Just click on the post title if you can’t see the images!

The show started with a bang as Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry opened the show – after the ribbon was cut thousands of food lovers burst into the show to start their fabulous food experience! It’s a great sight to see, and always gives me goosebumps as the show officially comes to life.

Borders Biscuits were asking visitors to decide whether their new Christmas spiced biscuit should be put into mainstream production. We put our deciding token into the ‘Oh Goodness they’re yummy’ box!

The lovely Kate from Gower Cottage dishing out her amazing brownies…

Whole Foods Market Glasgow were sampling and selling sourdough loaves, giant meringues and Prosecco!

Have you tried Boozeberries liqueurs? Fresh berries inside gorgeous Irish artisan fruit liqueurs… I’m going to be buying some at the London Show for adding something special to sparkling wine at Christmas.

A quick break for delicious fresh cream filled meringues and scones from the Dancing Goat!

Mo and her Cookie Dough! Morag was one of our bursary winners and did a brilliant job of making the most of the opportunity to appear at the show!

Mr Puddledub Buffalo giving out advice on how to cook his fresh buffalo meat.

A quick stop backstage led me to bump into the Hairy Bikers – Si and Dave look great after their dieting and I must say Si looked like a rock star with his skinny jeans!

What is your Christmas meat of choice? A Taste of Galloway were sampling their succulent goose, which is a lovely luxurious way to celebrate at Christmas.

The Champagne Bar was a welcome addition to the show…

We paid a visit to have a well deserved glass of champagne at the end of the day on Saturday – cheers!

We even had a shark!

Only a lucky few of us get to go up and work at our Scotland Show – so the team back in Teddington were delighted that we brought back a range of flavours from the wonderful Ochil Fudge Pantry!

 

I think my highest highlight was walking Mary Berry around the Producers’ Village before the show opened, she was so enthusiastic and interested in the producers and produce!

And now its on to the next one – London is next week, and then our flagship show at the NEC is on the 28th Nov – 2nd Dec. See you there?!

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Dingley Dell Flying Visit at The Victoria

Down on the Dingley Dell farm live some of the luckiest pigs around… they are destined to fly into the hands of some of the most magical chefs in the land! On Wednesday night I had one of the best food experiences of my life – the Dingley Dell Flying Visit at The Victoria.

Dingley Dell supply some of the best chefs, and restaurants, in the country with amazing pork from Suffolk. Mark Hayward’s exciting concept of Flying Feasts brings some of these award-winning, pioneering chefs together, to cook up the most delicious piggy based feasts and to celebrate the glory of the Dingley Dell pig. Not only do you get a wonderful tasting menu, but a complete food experience taking the pig from farm to your fork. I watched a butchery demonstration, video footage of the happy pigs on the farm,  a live video stream directly into the kitchen to watch my food being prepared and then a talk on the dishes from the chefs themselves!

And now for the amazing menu…

Paul Foster – Tuddenham Mill, Suffolk

Pigs trotter carpaccio, charred broccoli, smoked garlic, peanut and burnt onion

Mark Poynton – Alimentum, Cambridge

Pork rillette, braised jowl, acorn praline, pineapple and chickweed

Madeline Bonvini-Hamel and Ross Pike – The British Larder, Suffolk

Crispy pig’s head, ham hock scotch egg, salsify & cauliflower & shallot piccalilli, nasturtium leaves

One more, so you can see how good the scotch egg looks!!

Paul Merrett – The Victoria, London

Asian Dingley Dell Pork: 12 hour belly vindaloo with coconut sambal, jungle style cheeks with soured mango noodles, dim sum with blood orange and fennel

William Curley – Patissier Chocolatier, Richmond

Amedei dark chocolate entremet centred with a smoked bacon caramel served with apricot compote & lemon thyme ice-cream

The tasting menu was absolutely delicious. Highlights for me were the jungle cheeks with mango noodles, crispy pigs head and the salty bacon with the dessert. I loved meeting Mark Hayward, the proud farmer of Dingley Dell pork and all the amazing chefs listed above. Mark and I are putting our heads together to see if we can bring the Flying Feasts to one of the BBC Good Food Shows which would be incredible! Stay tuned!

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