Category Archives: Food Find of the Week

Food Find of the Week – Isle of Skye Sea Salt

I have to admit to being a huge salt fan, always yearning for a saltier salted caramel… so I was delighted to discover a new producer of sea salt – Isle of Sky Sea Salt.

With the purest Scottish water taken from Loch Snizort on the Isle of Skye, the sun (when it shines!) dries the sea water into delicious irregular salt crystals. Available in fine (great for sprinkling) or premium crystals (perfect for grinders) the salt comes in a beautiful card tube with subtle tartan design, almost like a mini fine whisky tube.

Isle of Skye Sea Salt

The texture is somewhere between the lighter flakes of Maldon Sea Salt and the harder rocks of Cornish Sea Salt. We taste tested against Maldon and found it had a slightly more tangy saltiness to it. Our fish and chips were the perfect vessel to test!

Isle of Skye Salt Crystals

Isle of Skye Salt Crystals

Only available in limited quantities this truly is a rare, artisan food find. Recently confirmed as a BBC Good Food Champion for the Scotland BBC Good Food Show – let’s hope we’ll be able to buy their salt there!

Don’t forget to take a look at my new website www.fabulousfoodfinds.co.uk where you can find this and other producers in my Food Find Directory.

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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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Food Find of the Week – Well Seasoned Spring Pesto

This food find was delivered to my desk and there is no doubt that this is the tastiest thing I’ve eaten in ages! Well Seasoned won a bursary to attend the BBC Good Food Show London last year and I’m so glad to have found them, and that they sent me their latest delicious Spring flavours!

From a brilliant blog based on seasonal food and cooking Well Seasoned was born – versatile pestos/dips that change with the seasons. The new Spring flavours are stunning – wild garlic, basil and mint which was gorgeous in colour and packed full of flavour and roasted spring onion and parsley which was rich and again had an incredible flavour. Both pestos tasted so fresh and not only could you identify the different ingredients by looking at it, but you could taste all the ingredients too – cobnuts, rapeseed oil, cheese and the seasonal additions.

In keeping with the ethos of seasonal and British, Well Seasoned use Kentish cobnuts, extra virgin rapeseed oil and Old Winchester cheese in all of their pestos. The ingredients change with the seasons so back in the Winter (yes I know it seems like we are still there with the bitter cold at the moment!) their flavours were roasted parsnip and thyme and caramelised shallot and rosemary. Take a look at their website to see the other flavours, and be sure to check out their summer flavours when they launch. You can buy from Partridges in London or a box of 6 online for £19.50 + £3.50 postage (don’t worry they freeze really well).

I ate mine at my desk for lunch two days running… on Ryvita thins, with bread, stirred into plain pasta and on its own too! So worthy of being my food find of the week!

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Food Find of the Week – Fortnum and Mason’s Knickerbocker Glory

A visit to Fortnum and Mason is an essential pre-Christmas activity for me. I love the gorgeous Christmas windows, the impressively ornate architecture, the luxury and the unrivalled quality of products and service. I met up with my best friend on Tuesday to do a spot of shopping and to treat ourselves to a special dinner before we went our separate ways for Christmas.

Before I tell you more about my food find of the week, their fabulous Knickerbocker Glory, let me show you some of the Christmassy displays in the shop – I forgot to take pictures of the windows!

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Exclusive Emma Bridgewater Designs

 

I booked a table in the Fountain restaurant, which is on the ground floor of the store. It is beautifully decorated and the service makes you feel very special!

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I really like the ‘Savouries’ section of the menu, which is basically a brunch menu with things like smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, omelette Arnold Bennett and even lobster Benedict, which you can have at any time of day. Isn’t it the height of luxury when you can have brunch for dinner?!

I went for the pan-fried halibut, with tempura cod cheek served with caponata and a creamy sauce. It was delicious, and was even better with their ‘like chip shop chips but more posh’ chips and bread basket.

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And so to the Knickerbocker Glory, which apparently they have been serving since 1955! I’m not surprised it’s still on the menu – it was impressive and soooooo good. With fresh strawberries in sauce at the bottom, layered with the best strawberry ice-cream I’ve ever tasted, fresh vanilla flavoured whipped cream, more strawberry sauce and finally topped with Italian meringue which has been gently toasted on top.

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It wasn’t cheap at £12 but it’s definitely a sharing sized portion! I know it’s not particularly Christmassy but it is the perfect refresher to a posh shopping trip round Fortnum and Mason! Let me know if you have tried before, or if I’ve inspire you to give it a go!

 

 

 

 

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The Dessert Deli Cookbook – Food Find of the Week

My latest food find, which I know really isn’t a food, is Laura Amos’s eagerly anticipated debut recipe book – The Dessert Deli Cook Book. Finally it is on sale and fans of her desserts will now be able to recreate her delicious delights at home. I’m rather excited about being mentioned in the credits – Laura is a great friend and I loved brainstorming ideas, recipes and formats for the book over roast dinners and afternoon ciders!

From her signature chocolate mousse with honeycomb to her fabulous flapjacks there is a great selection of desserts, cakes, treats and a special Christmas section too! Laura gives great tips on ingredients, equipment and tweaking recipes to make them your own. I love the photography which helps to guide on how your finished recipe should look and watch out, it will certainly make your mouth water!

You can either buy directly from Laura at one of her markets (follow her on twitter to find our where she is), get a signed copy from the publishers , find in good book shops, or get a bargain price online from Amazon! I will be certainly be buying a few of these for Christmas presents this year.

Have you got your hands on The Dessert Deli Cook Book yet? If so, have you tried any of the recipes? I can’t wait to get baking!

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Food Find of the Week – Homewood Ewes Milk Cheeses

Another cheesy food find! I went to the brilliant Abergavenny Food Festival last week and amongst all the wonderful producers, I found Homewood Cheeses. I was initially attracted to the feta style pickled ewes cheese, as I’ve been longing for a Greek salad since my holiday to Santorini back in August. So bought that, along with some halloumi, and had a taste of all of their other delicious cheeses.

Homewood Cheeses specialise in unpasteurised, artisan ewes milk cheeses, which they make in Somerset. Along with the feta style cheese they also make a fresh curd/ cream cheese, ricotta, halloumi and their signature semi-hard cheese, Old Demdike. I’m not a goats cheese fan (read why here), so found the Old Demdike a little too ‘farmy’ for me, but I loved the ‘feta style’ and halloumi cheeses. They were also selling cheesecake slices, made from their own curd cheese – they looked delicious.

I made my Greek salad with the slab of pickled ewes cheese placed on top of chopped Isle of Wight tomatoes, cucumber and red onion then drizzled on extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled on wild Calabrian oregano.

Take a look at their website or follow them on twitter @HomewoodCheeses to find out more and where you can buy from them.

 

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