A Brief History Of The Perfect Pork Pie

If you live in Norfolk, when anyone mentions pork pies you know they’re likely to be talking about those made by Bray’s Cottage. In 2017, Bray’s celebrates 10 years of trading and so it was an ideal time for me to meet the founder and owner Sarah Pettegree and chat to her about the porky deliciousness of her pies and sausage rolls and also find out a little more about the woman behind the brand.

After a degree at the University of East Anglia, Sarah found employment as a civil servant at the Ministry of Agriculture, working as a humble clerical assistant because “I needed a job”. The job didn’t pay particularly well and there were no career prospects but luckily Sarah later passed a Civil Service promotion board and was offered a role at HMSO (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office) which surprised her seeing as she wasn’t very good at maths: a management accounting job! There was no other offer on the horizon and so Sarah bit the bullet, learned to do the job well and eventually became a qualified Chartered Accountant.

When HMSO was privatised in 1996, Sarah was made redundant and worked in various contract positions for organisations such as Norwich Union and CITB. Thanks to experience gained in her previous job, she was able to train managers on various in-house business management systems. While this meant she was moving away from accountancy, it was also giving her an opportunity to learn how people ran their businesses. At the same time, the television programme “Dragons’ Den” was in its early days and Sarah was interested to watch the start-up process surrounding new business and whether they succeeded or failed.

Sarah had always felt the pull of the countryside and once she realised she no longer wanted to work in Norwich or London, she moved to the Norfolk countryside in 2001 and took time to think about what sort of business would be sustainable. One of her early ideas was to do something using her arty skills – Sarah had studied painting and sculpture at the Open College of Arts – but realised although it would be enjoyable, she would be unlikely to earn a living from it.

Then she thought of something food-related. A friend had a couple of saddleback pigs and the idea of making pork pies was born. Sarah felt that the traditional pork pies that were generally available in supermarkets or even butchers’ shops were all quite “samey”, with no unusual or interesting flavour combinations available.

Sarah’s pies took off and her initial sales – via a website with a mail order facility -resulted in an article being written by the Food Editor of The Sunday Times. Sarah’s first big customer was “The Green Grocer” in Norwich and in 2006, they told Sarah that her pies were their best-selling product (after potatoes). They are still a valued customer today.

 

Here’s Sarah at one of the many Norfolk foodie events she attends – doing what she does best!

 

These days, you can buy Bray’s Cottage “Pies by Post” via the website otherwise you’ll find them only at independent retailers and pubs. During any given week, Brays could be making between 1,000 and 3,000 pork pies and there are seasonal spikes at times like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. You can even buy a pork pie “wedding cake”. A small range of sausage rolls was added to the Brays repertoire when one of Sarah’s retailers mentioned that the ones available elsewhere weren’t particularly good. There are now two sizes of Brays sausage rolls and two flavours: plain and with onion marmalade. Interestingly, the onion marmalade pork pie is Sarah’s best seller. Having tasted it, I can see why!

 

 

Apart from Sarah and her partner Derek (who gave up his music career a few years ago to help with the business), there are 8 members of staff at Brays who are the “bakers and makers” of the pies and sausage rolls. Derek mostly deals with administration, book-keeping and the local deliveries although Sarah pointed out that he can also bake! Sarah now focuses on growing the business, marketing, PR and maintaining a lively presence on social media.

I asked her if there had been any low points in her pork pie career and she said the early days of setting up a small business are very challenging. You have to work really hard and it takes over your life. Now, 10 years on, Sarah said it’s more manageable now there are people to whom she can delegate and she has time to appreciate the rewards: working in a great environment, supplying a product that people love and also having fun along the way.

I asked what the future holds for the Bray’s Cottage brand and Sarah said “more of the same”. She wants to grow the mail order side of the business and link up with more Norfolk and UK wide retailers. At the moment, some of the places in Norfolk where you can buy Brays pork pies are Picnic Fayre in Cley, Back to the Garden in Letheringsett, Walsingham Farm Shop, Henry’s Coffee Store in Cromer and Blakeney Deli.

There are other stockists of Bray’s further afield too e.g. London, the Midlands, Wales and the North of England. A full list of stockists is on the website.

You can find Sarah at Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market on the first Saturday of every month (during the season) and at bigger local Norfolk events including the Aylsham Show and the North Norfolk Food Festival.

And if you want to learn how to make outstanding pork pies yourself, Sarah runs classes in Norwich. Details are on the website but spaces sell out fast.

 

 

Sarah said her life now is so different from when she used to be an accountant and she thrives on the positive comments she receives about Brays’ products. “After all”, she said, “nobody ever told me I’d produced the best spreadsheet they’d ever seen”!

 

http://www.perfectpie.co.uk

 

This article originally appeared on the Norfolk Places website.

A Chat About Chutney with Candi Robertson

IMG_4756 For my first in a series of interviews with some of the best independent food producers in North Norfolk, I had the pleasure of meeting Candi Robertson, the woman behind the “Candi’s Chutney” brand. Having met Candi on a few previous occasions at Farmers’ Markets and foodie events, I was keen to hear how this former head chef ended up making award-winning products from her “chutney barn” in Holt.

Sitting down over a cup of tea with the deliciously warm, fruity smells of chutney wafting in from the kitchen next door, Candi told me that she’d worked as a chef for 22 years and during that time used to make her own small range of chutneys which she sold at local markets. The small profit that she made at these events selling a couple of dozen jars each time funded family holidays and treats for her children. When Candi had to give up working as a chef due to a shoulder problem, she had more time to spend on her own product and in 2012, she had a stand at the two day Holkham Food Festival where the 300 jars she’d taken with her sold out early on the second day. This is when Candi realised that her chutneys had a very promising future.

In the beginning, Candi’s business was home-based but rapid expansion meant that she needed to move into commercial premises in October 2015. During the interview, I had a quick peek in the kitchen and there were four huge pans of parsnip and chilli chutney (her best-selling flavour) on the go, with each pan producing 30 jars of chutney with no preservatives, artificial colours or additives in any of the flavours.

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I was surprised to learn that rather than having a team of kitchen staff, Candi makes the chutney herself so all of the ingredients are hand-prepared, grated, chopped and cooked and then each jar of chutney is hand-filled and hand-labelled. Candi admits it’s a time-consuming process but feels it’s the best way to control quality and ensure the results are consistent. Candi is in the kitchen from Mondays to Fridays and deals with other aspects of the business at weekends – that is, when she’s not attending markets or food festivals.

Currently, there are 186 stockists of Candi’s products in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire including ‘Bakers and Larners’ and ‘Jimmy’s Farm’. Tearooms, pubs and cafes also have Candi’s Chutney on the menu, for example, The Art Café in Glandford, Pensthorpe Natural Park Café and The Crown Hotel in Wells, to name but a few.

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Candi currently only sells her products within East Anglia and takes great pride in sourcing ingredients from local growers and suppliers although certain items such as cassia bark and star anise have to be obtained from further afield. Candi has won several prestigious awards for her chutney and her most recent success was “Best Norfolk Food Producer” in the Muddy Stiletto Awards 2016 and he brand has just been nominated as a Norfolk Food Hero by the Aylsham Show. Three flavours have also won “Great Taste Awards” namely the Parsnip & Chilli Chutney (2013), the Norfolk Crier Onion Marmalade (2014) and the Spiced Carrot Chutney (2015). Also in 2015, Kettle Crisps chose Candi’s Chutney as the winner of their “Business Mentoring Award”. There were also “highly commended” certificates from the “Norfolk Food & Drink Awards” in 2013 and 2014.

 

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Candi has signed up to the “Proudly Norfolk Food & Drink” labelling scheme and the idea is that products with this label stand out on the shelves when lined up with mass produced items. For the consumer, you know that you are supporting genuine local food producers who care passionately about their products.

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I asked whether, given the amount of recognition Candi’s Chutney has received from the food industry, she had plans to expand the business further. Candi replied that although it’s something she’ll have to consider, she’s is concerned that the business could lose its “small family business” element if she grew too much.

If you’d like to learn how to make chutney yourself, Candi has set up a “Chutney Club” where you can find out the secrets of how to make a good chutney, suggested ingredients and a “how to” technique. Contact Candi via her website or speak to her at one of the foodie events she attends if this is something that would interest you.

Candi will be attending the Royal Norfolk Show on 29th And 30th June 2016 so it’s an ideal opportunity to sample her chutneys and take a few jars home.

This is Candi in full sales mode – always with a smile!

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Other upcoming events for Candi are:

Saturday 2nd July 2016 – Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market

Saturday 9th July 2016 – The Norfolk Diet Farmers’ Market

Saturday 16th July 2016 – White House Farm, Norwich PYO

Sunday 17th July 2016 1pm to 5pm – Barnham Broom Village Fete

 

 

 

Candi’s website is: http://www.candischutney.vpweb.co.uk and she’s also on Facebook and Twitter (@candischutney1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A review of Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market, Norfolk

We’ve recently moved to North Norfolk from south London where every month in our small town a ‘Farmers’ Market’ took place, or rather, what a non-country town would class as one anyway. There were usually about 15 stalls and while you could buy cheese, some meat and fish, vegetables and cakes, most of the stallholders were not local and the goods weren’t particularly exciting. The Council wouldn’t allow two stalls to sell similar wares so you didn’t have the option of trying a variety of foodie things from different suppliers which I found a little disappointing.

So when I saw that Creake Abbey in North Creake, Norfolk, holds a monthly Farmers’ Market with over 50 – yes, fifty – food producers in attendance, I simply had to go and have a look. From where I live, this meant a 70 mile round trip but for a morning out where I could indulge my curiosity for all things food-related, it would be worth it. As luck would have it, it was a fine day and the drive there was easy. The traffic in Norfolk is nothing like it was near Croydon!

When I arrived at Creake Abbey on Saturday 7th May, I really didn’t know where to begin browsing as there are some permanent shops on the site, a café, a food hall as well as the various stalls run by the local producers. I felt like a kid in a sweet shop – slightly overwhelmed by the scale of it all but desperate to see as much as I could.

To sum it up and as detailed on the flyers for the market, you could buy: the finest meat and vegetables, pies, pastries, puddings and tartes, fresh juices, cordials, breads and ‘morning goods’, dairy produce, cheese, plants, herbs, beer, chocolate, fudge and more. Many of the stallholders provided tasting samples which is a great idea although my Slimming World leader may have been slightly aghast at the amount of things I had to try!

I can’t list here all the wonderful produce I saw although I’ll give a shout out to the companies whose goods I purchased on the day.

Here is the lovely Candi from “Candi’s Chutney”.

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I love a good chutney or pickle and Candi has come up with some sublime flavours. I had to sample several (ahem) but went away clutching jars of Parsnip & Chilli, Norfolk Nobbly (yes, really!) and a seasonal asparagus chutney. For me, a plus point is that Candi doesn’t fill most of her chutneys with lots of dried fruit as I really don’t like sultanas and raisins. Apparently a new flavour is under development and I’ve been told gin will be involved. Now that is one to watch out for! Candi’s website is: www.candischutney.vpweb.co.uk

I was delighted to find that the Fruit Pig Company sold their own version of an elusive sausage that I’d been hankering after for a while and so I nabbed one of the last packs of ‘merguez’. This is traditionally a red spicy mutton or beef based fresh sausage flavoured with cumin, chilli pepper and other spices and originated from Arab / North African cuisine. I first tasted it when I lived in Paris years ago but sadly you don’t see it much in the UK although you can find it at specialist or ethnic butchers. You can order your porky goodies online including some posh black pudding: www.fruitpigcompany.com

Here is the very friendly, smiley chap I bought the merguez from:

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I met Sarah who produces the most divine “Bray’s Cottage Pork Pies” and I simply had to buy a seasonal special which was pork and wild garlic. I took this home and shared it with my husband – he was a happy man! Both he and I recall the awful mass produced pork pies we used to be given in packed lunches when we went on school trips in the 1970s. Thank goodness there are people like Sarah who have elevated the humble pork pie to superstar status. The ingredients are simple but high quality: North Norfolk outdoor reared pork, a secret blend of herbs and spices and a hot water crust pastry plus other ingredients depending on the season. There is no jelly in the pies so what you taste is pure porky, herby goodness. The website is: http://www.perfectpie.co.uk

I know from personal experience that you can buy Bray’s Cottage pies in places like ‘Back to the Garden’ in Letheringsett, ‘Bakers and Larners’ in Holt and ‘Picnic Fayre’ in Cley but of course the pies are to be found elsewhere too. Here’s Sarah on the stall, which I have to say was looking extremely ‘sold out’ by the time I got there.

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Finally, I didn’t just buy things I could eat – I also found a lovely tea supplier called “Nelson & Norfolk Tea Co” run by Mark Richmond who is based in North Walsham. I purchased a couple of his fruity, caffeine free blends which smelled absolutely wonderful. Mark has over 20 years’ experience in the tea business and his range includes the very popular ‘Norfolk Tea’ (an all-day blend of black teas), ‘Norfolk Earl Grey’, chocolate tea, fruity teas and green teas.

Mark’s website is: www.nelsonandnorfolktea.co.uk

This was the tea stall on the day I visited:

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I chatted with lots of other producers – including ‘Ollands Farm Foods’, ‘Chilli Fundamentals’ and ‘Hands On Preserves’ – but sadly my spending money on the day was limited otherwise I would have bought more goodies. There’s always next time though as the Farmers’ Market is held on the first Saturday of every month (except January). If you are free on Saturday 4th June 2016, I recommend you go along as Creake Abbey definitely holds one of the best Farmers’ Markets that I’ve seen.

The website with all the details is: www.creakeabbey.co.uk

 

 

Disclaimer: I was not asked to write about Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market and the above article represents my impressions on the day. I was not given any freebies or incentivised in any other way in return for a favourable review.

 

 

Beginning Our New Life In Norfolk!

I’m back! After taking the plunge and leaving London in December 2015 to move to the country, we’re now living in our new permanent house in a North Norfolk village. “We” means my husband, Millie the cocker spaniel and me. Our adult children remain living down south, our son in Surrey and our daughter in Hampshire.

And I have to tell you that I’m not the same person that I was in December. Not only do I feel more relaxed and much happier being out of London but I’m currently almost 3 stone lighter than I was when we moved. This is mostly due to the fact that I joined a local Slimming World group in January but also because I haven’t done any baking ‘for pleasure’ at all since we’ve been Norfolk residents. This wasn’t a conscious choice – our temporary accommodation before we moved had a very tiny kitchen and all our possessions were in storage – but it has certainly helped my waistline! However I also don’t have anyone to bake for as most of my cakes were previously eaten by work colleagues and at the moment I don’t have any of those!

There was however some baking that needed to be done. The village where we were living between leaving London and moving to Norfolk held a street party on Sunday 15th May in honour of the Queen’s 90th birthday. The date was mid way between her actual birthday in April and her official one in June and fortunately the weather was good. I ended up making a celebration cake for the event as the organisers thought they had been let down by the person who had promised to make one. On the day, the other person did in fact produce a cake which I have to say, wasn’t quite the all singing, all dancing, ‘showstopper’ they had promised as you can see from this photo.

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My cake was small but perfectly formed which was lucky as I only had a day’s notice to make it. I wanted to make it fit the theme so hence the red, white and blue colour scheme. I even made a little plaque by hand which I was quite chuffed with. Here it is – what do you think?

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The street party was attended by the local MP Norman Lamb who was very friendly and entered into the spirit of the event as you can see from these pictures:

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Norman is obviously a man of good taste as he thought my cake was delightful – I noticed he scoffed a large chunk once it had been cut up!

Anyway, between sorting out the house, baking for the street party and finding employment  (I’ve just got a job with a local hotel chain which will be very different to my previous HR roles) I’m focusing on losing some more weight and getting into shape while not neglecting my blog any more. I have to say that I’ve tried pretty much every diet going and if you love food, I can honestly say that Slimming World is excellent. Decent portions, nothing forbidden and no wretched points to count – what’s not to like?

I’ve really missed writing this blog and I’m glad I can now focus on it again. Watch this space for some tasty recipes, various reviews and of course, some random thoughts.

I’ve set up another blog where I’ll be posting things that are relevant to Norfolk such as local events, local foodie producers and so on. This will be at: www.midlifenorfolkwife.com – have a look in the next few days when it’s up and running.

If you press a button you can ‘follow’ my blog and you’ll receive an email as soon as I’ve posted a new article.

Tracy x

 

 

‘Japanese Food Made Easy’ – A Review

My kitchen cupboards contain an array of sauces and condiments including soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, ketcap manis and even a small bottle of sake. When I make any food classed as ‘Asian’, I tend to randomly throw in some or all of these things in varying quantities until I’m happy with the taste. So for 2016, one of the things on my ‘to-do’ list was buy a book on Japanese cooking and learn how to make some authentic dishes. After a quick Google search and a look on Amazon, I found “Japanese Food Made Easy” by Fiona Uyema.

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Fiona explains in the introduction that she was born in Ireland, studied Japanese at College and lived in Japan for three years, where she met her husband. After the birth of her first child, Fiona started writing a Japanese cooking blog and also taught cookery classes, and demonstrated at food festivals and events in Ireland and then had the opportunity to write a cook book.

The book guides the reader through the basics of Japanese cooking and gives some of Fiona’s favourite traditional recipes (some with a modern twist). I was pleased to see that almost every recipe was accompanied by a full-page photograph. Fiona has also included chapters about Japanese food culture and dining etiquette and a comprehensive list of basic Japanese ingredients. Suggested suppliers and stockists are listed – with website addresses – although these are based in Ireland. There are of course similar suppliers in the UK and elsewhere.

The recipe sections are divided as follows:

Rice

Soups & Salads

Chicken

Beef, Pork & Lamb

Fish & Seafood

Vegetarian

Noodles

Sushi & Sashimi

Desserts & Drinks

Bento Planner.

This book contains a lot of the items I’d eat if I went to a Japanese restaurant e.g. gyoza (dumplings), chicken katsu curry (a Wagamama restaurant staple thaqt’s very popular), tempura, a variety of noodle dishes (I’m really into noodles at the moment) and of course sushi. Fiona shows you how to make a variety of dips, stocks and sauces and as these are the real ‘flavour carriers’ for the dishes, it’s useful to know how to whip these up to keep stored in the fridge.

I’m in temporary accommodation at the moment (we’re in the process of buying a house having relocated from south London to North Norfolk) with only a very small, poorly-equipped kitchen, but I’ve made a few of the sauces e.g. teriyaki, tonkatsu and okonomiyaki and used them to liven up the limited range of food I can currently make.

Here’s my ‘teriyaki rice’ dish using Fiona’s recipe for the sauce:

 

Teriyaki rice

 

And here’s my very substantial ‘miso soup’ using Fiona’s recipe for the stock. I added edamame beans (I buy them fresh in Tesco), rice noodles, mushrooms and spinach.

 

Miso soup

 

I can’t wait to move into our new house and have a fully functioning kitchen again so I can make more of Fiona’s recipes. I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in Japanese food particularly if they have felt a bit daunted by the thought of trying it at home. I have three or four other Japanese cook books written by Japanese authors which are also worth a look but they assume that the reader is more experienced in Asian cookery. Fiona’s book stands out because it takes the fear away!

 

Disclaimer: I purchased the book ‘Japanese Food Made Easy’ and was not asked to write a review for any rewards or incentives. This review represents my honest opinion about Fiona Uyema’s book.

 

Never Say Diet!

My foodie interests are quite wide-ranging and in my time I have tried all sorts of eating regimes including vegetarianism, veganism, raw foodism, high protein and everything in between. Over the last 30 years I’ve been slim (ish) and I’ve been overweight. In fact, I’m on the rather generous side of the “Rubenesque” scale at the moment with the genuine intention of doing something about it this year. As I do every year (oh dear). In 2015 I managed to lose just over 2 stone (30lbs) and to date only 1 of those (stones) has gone back on. So, somewhat unusually, I start a new year lighter than I was at this point 365 days ago. Which is a good thing. But I want to do better.

My downfall as far as diets go is that I absolutely love food and if I’m not eating it, I’m thinking about it, reading about it or writing about it. I love cooking and experimenting with new ingredients and baking makes me feel really good. Unfortunately, with cooking comes eating and that’s my downfall. As a result, I’ve joined various slimming groups over the years including WeightWatchers and Rosemary Conley (RIP that company), and I’ve tried diets like Atkins (lost over 3 stone) and LighterLife (lost almost 7 stone). I’ve realised that all sorts of diets do work – when you stick to them. I get to the point when I feel I’ve done really well and decide I don’t need ‘the diet’ any more …… and I duly go back to my poor eating habits and pile the weight on again. Plus a little bit more for good measure.

In December 2015, I moved with my husband and our dog to North Norfolk to escape our busy, stressful, and traffic fume filled existence in south London and have a better quality of life in the country. We’re staying temporarily in my mum’s former holiday rental cottage on the coast – very “bijou” with a tiny kitchen – while we look for a house to buy. I’m also looking for a job. Lots of changes at one time so not ideal really.

I’ve decided to bite the diet bullet (here I go again) and join a local “Slimming World” group because their Jan/Feb 2016 magazine proudly claims that you can eat the food you love and therefore have decent meals. No sparrow sized portions. How great is that? Apparently, there are also “free foods” that you can eat in unlimited quantities which I’m curious about, seeing as eating food in unlimited quantities is what has made me fat in the first place! I’ll be toddling along to my first meeting on Tuesday 5th January 2016 – watch this space and I’ll report back on how it goes.

So, bearing in mind that I’ll be able to eat proper food while I’m on the Slimming World programme, I’m going to treat myself to some new cookbooks and write reviews of each one I buy. This will be an interesting project seeing as I seem to buy quite a lot (ooops) but I hope it will be helpful for other people who may be struggling with their weight as well as for people who just wonder what the XX cook book may be like.

I want to be able to eat the same food as my husband. I don’t want to be eating celery and lettuce or cutting out any major food groups while he tucks into a hearty chicken or beef dish. I’ll be looking for recipes that are immediately “diet friendly” as well as those I can tweak to make more suitable e.g. by reducing the fat or portion sizes. It has taken me a long time to appreciate that diets are only short-term fixes. If I’m ever going to conquer my 30 year history of yoyo dieting, I have to change my lifestyle once and for all. As we moved to Norfolk to improve our lives, this seems the ideal time to do it. Carpe diem, and all that.

When I buy books, I like to read reviews first but I’m never sure how reliable the ones are that you see on Amazon: there has been the occasional scandal of dodgy reviews posted by an author’s competitors or times when a writer’s friends and family post excessively positive reviews. People that know me appreciate that I’ll be honest and unbiased and also that I won’t be malicious or unkind.

The things I look for in any cook book are:

  1. Are the recipes “do-able” for the average home cook? Too much faffing or fancy / obscure ingredients put me off right away;
  2. Are there decent photographs? We may all know what a lasagne or chocolate cake should look like, but I’d like to know how the dish I’m making at any one time is expected to turn out. I tend not to buy recipe books with a lack of pictures;
  3. Are the instructions clear? Cook books are usually aimed at domestic cooks or people who wish to improve their skills in the kitchen. Too much jargon or vague explanations are not helpful nor are authors who patronise their readers;
  4. Do I want to eat the food or am I buying the book for another reason? This may seem to be a silly question but if you think about it, do we buy the recipe book or do we “buy” the person who’s written it? At the time of writing this piece, I’ve seen a couple of Sunday newspaper supplements and Davina McCall has a recipe book coming out and Bear Grylls – not usually known for his culinary skills – is also publishing a cook book. The extract from the book by Davina frequently refers to her “team of nutritionists” which does make me wonder who created the recipes that she’s selling. Sorry Bear and Davina, your books aren’t going to make my list of purchases this year.
  5. Nutritional information. This could be calories per portion or how much fat, protein or carbohydrate is in a dish. While Slimming World doesn’t work on the basis of calories, I find it helpful to know how much fat a recipe contains as this is something I can change when I make it.

During this year I’ll be reviewing newly published cookbooks by a diverse group of writers, including Anna Jones, Amelia Freer, Ella Woodward, Jamie Oliver, Fiona Uyema, Hemsley & Hemsley, Anya Ladra, and Natasha Corrett. Please be aware that these aren’t “diet books” as such but ones I happen to be interested in anyway that I hope will help me to lose weight while eating rather well.

 

Happy New Year!

 

A Review of The Hoste, Burnham Market, Norfolk

FullSizeRender - Copy (13)Monday 21st December 2015 was a significant date in my diary: it was our 30th wedding anniversary and as such needed to be celebrated in some way. As we’d only moved to Norfolk from London two weeks earlier, we hadn’t had a chance to book anywhere but luckily when I contacted ‘The Hoste’ in Burnham Market, they said they could fit us in. We decided to treat ourselves to lunch there having heard some excellent reviews. Another attraction was the fact that The Hoste is dog friendly, so Millie our well-behaved cocker spaniel came along too.

Although we’d been visiting Norfolk for more than 20 years, I’d never been to Burnham Market before and I was looking forward to browsing the 30+ independent shops and wandering around the green. Unfortunately, as soon as we got out of the car it started to rain heavily and was very windy so we didn’t really have the opportunity to explore “Norfolk’s loveliest village”. This prompted me to reflect that perhaps it wasn’t a brilliant idea to get married in December!

On the positive side, when we entered ‘The Hoste’, it was warm and inviting and the bar was very lively. We walked through to the restaurant and discovered there were two seating areas: one for people with dogs and one for humans on their own. Our waiter led us to a table and Millie curled up and went to sleep under it.

The lunch menu looked very tempting and considering that many people refer to Burnham Market as “Chelsea-on-Sea”, I thought that the prices weren’t unreasonable for what was, after all, a celebration meal.

 

For our first course, I chose roasted woodland mushrooms cooked with garlic, presented on a brioche slice with parmesan and dressed with an aged balsamic vinegar. The mushrooms were chunky, juicy and full of flavour and the parmesan added a delightful savoury tang.

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My husband had a locally smoked cod fishcake made with leeks, potatoes and mustard, which was dressed with a light sauce. He said the fishcake had a firm texture and he could clearly taste all the individual ingredients.

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A very minor criticism of the starters was that they were both topped with rather a large amount of rocket which concealed the dishes underneath it, as you can see from the photographs. With rocket as a garnish, less is definitely more in my opinion as I find its peppery bitterness somewhat overpowering.

For his main course, my husband chose the roasted Norfolk turkey with all the trimmings and I had seared calf’s liver. I don’t usually eat offal but in a good restaurant, calf’s liver can be outstanding so I had my fingers crossed that The Hoste’s chef would do it justice.

The turkey ‘trimmings’ were very good: my husband said the fondant potato melted in his mouth and the chestnut, apple and ginger stuffing made a change from the ubiquitous ‘sage and onion’ that proliferates at this time of year. As for the turkey itself, he said the breast was well cooked but he was a little disappointed by the brown meat (which he’s not fond of anyway) as it was chewy. He left some on the side of his plate and I have to say, it did look rather gristly. I don’t know if restaurants actually cook whole turkeys – as you would expect – or whether breasts and legs come separately but it was a shame that one small element of the bird wasn’t as good as the rest of the dish.

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The calf’s liver was very good and was served with a generous amount of Great Ryburgh bacon (I have heard that the butcher in the village of Great Ryburgh is excellent and that people travel miles for his meat). The creamed potato was smooth and delicious and the accompanying onion gravy and the buttered spinach I’d requested rounded off my main course very nicely.

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Our plates were cleared and as we were debating whether to have a dessert, our waiter appeared with an unexpected plate of petits fours – see the photograph. I think I mentioned it was our wedding anniversary when I booked so it was a lovely gesture that we really appreciated.

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We finally decided we’d share a dessert and we ordered the chocolate fondant with honeycomb and a blood orange sorbet plus two spoons. The dark fondant had a perfectly melted centre which oozed onto the plate when I cut into it. The blood orange sorbet was divine with a sweet sharpness that cut through the richness of the chocolate. This dish elevated the classic chocolate and orange combination to a very high level indeed and served as an excellent finish to our meal.

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The service at The Hoste was excellent – attentive but not intrusive – and we were genuinely touched that someone thought of marking our anniversary in a small way with the presentation of the petits fours. The meal including service came to just under £75, which we felt was acceptable for a special (and filling) anniversary lunch without alcohol.

I’d recommend The Hoste at Burnham Market and would rate it 9/10 for food and ambience and 10/10 for service. It also gets plus points for being dog friendly.

 

www.thehoste.com

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This review reflects my honest opinion of the food my husband and I were served (and paid for) at The Hoste on 21st December 2015. I was not asked to write the review nor did I receive any incentives for doing so.