November & December food bites

Golden Fork

Golden Fork for local cheese

Shropshire goats’ cheese dairy Brock Hall Farm is celebrating winning a coveted Golden Fork, the Oscar of the food industry. The prestigious award, bestowed during a glittering gala dinner at London’s Royal Garden Hotel in September, is considered the ultimate accolade for food producers. The Very Important Producer Golden Fork award was sponsored by Woman and Home magazine and presented to cheesemaker and business owner Sarah Hampton by editor Jane Curran. The award celebrates producers who ‘go that extra mile to create something special’.

Brock Hall Farm Dairy, near Bridgnorth, has been making goats’ cheese for just five years, but the team have won an astounding array of national and international awards in that time. Mrs Hampton said, “We’re elated for our efforts to be acknowledged in this way.”

Husband and business partner Robert Hampton added, “Out of more than 10,000 food products from all sectors, only 16 have won a Golden Fork tonight and we’re one of them. We’re immensely proud to bring this award back to Shropshire.”

…and for Food Centre

Brock Hall Farm wasn’t the only Shropshire operation to pick up a Golden Fork – Ludlow Food Centre was named Great Taste Shop of the Year during the ceremony. A shortlist of the top 10 shops were visited and mystery shopped by a panel of experts from the Guild of Fine Food, with Ludlow Food Centre deemed the best foodie retail outlet in the UK. Edward Berry of the Centre said, “Our shelves display a fantastic balance between the varieties we create ourselves and the exceptional products from other companies that share our values. My heartfelt thanks to our team and the judges – it’s a brilliant accolade that demonstrates that we offer our customers the very best British food and drink.”

Other county producers were also recognised in the Great Taste Awards, the Golden Forks’ parent awards scheme, with Peters Yard crispbreads earning three stars, while Chilton Liqueurs’ Damson Gin – made using the county’s flagship fruit, the damson prune – picked up two stars. Newport’s Thanks Goodness handmade nut roasts gained a star, as did Wenlock Edge Farm’s back bacon.

Festive food and crafts

A festival at Green Fields in Donnington will bring together a variety of craft and food suppliers in one place to make for hassle-free Christmas gift shopping. Green Fields’ event on the weekend of 5 and 6 December is set to host food and craft stalls from producers including Moyden’s Handmade Cheese, the Tipsy Tart, Masala Magic and Halfpenny Green Vineyard. There will be plenty to occupy youngsters too, with an appearance from the animal experts at Telford’s Exotic Zoo, plus a face painter and a bouncy castle. The event runs from 10am to 4pm on both days, and you can find out more about it at greenfieldsonline.co.uk.

Brewery proud of winning stout

Hobsons Shropshire Stout hasn’t even been around for a year yet, and it’s already picked up an International Beer Award. The smooth dark stout brewed by Cleobury Mortimer’s Hobsons Brewery has been awarded a bronze medal at the 2015 International Beer Challenge. The competition received 630 beers from 30 counties and was judged by UK beer experts including retailers, importers, publicans, brewers, writers and flavour analysts, as well as highly experienced judges. Each was tasted blind by the expert panel and medals were awarded to the exceptional entries.

Kate Pearce of Hobsons said, “We’re very pleased to receive such an acclaimed award for our new stout; credit to our brewers for creating a stand-out beer which impressed the judges against 630 beers from around the world. We’re proud to be showcasing a beer made in Shropshire and promoting the county to an international audience.”

Bridgnorth couple ‘Mex it up’

Vegan foodies Marc and Sarah Nelson were sick of having to order chips every time they were at a festival or outdoor event – so they started their own company. The Bridgnorth pair operate Mex It Up, an open-air stall offering nachos and other Tex-Mex delights – served with the couple’s trademark ‘cheese’ sauce, which is made to a secret recipe and is popular with vegans and non-vegans alike. Sarah told WW!, “One customer said, ‘You must be a witch to make this cheese taste like cheese without cheese!’”

Marc explained, “When we became vegan, it reignited our passion for food, and we chose Tex-Mex for its varied dishes and depth of flavours, which work really well as street food. One man told us that if we could work out how to can our pulled jackfruit dish, we’d make a fortune!”

Fit for a pharaoh

Egyptian-born cook’s Marina Ibrahim’s modern takes on Egyptians classics were a big hit at the Ludlow Food Festival – and she’s now launching her new booklet, Marina’s Egyptian Cookbook – Eat like a Pharaoh. The beautifully designed booklet has been created in collaboration with two of Shropshire’s best creative professionals, food photographer Ashleigh Cadet and graphic designer Matthew Lloyd. The product will be available to download or to purchase as a practical wire-bound printed booklet.

Living in Shropshire’s beautiful food town of Ludlow and having access to fresh produce inspired Marina, who said, “I got involved in cooking during my childhood through the amazing cooking and hosting skills of my aunt Mouneira and I loved the times with my family in Nag Hammadi, near Luxor. I rekindle these great memories and keep them alive with my recipes.”

County cookbook launched

The third Shrewsbury Food Festival earlier this year was another outstanding success by the team behind Ludlow’s already well-established event – and the Festival’s Beth Heath and collaborators Jo Hilditch of British Cassis and food photographers Photopia have released a special cookbook showcasing the county’s fabulous cuisine. Made in Shropshire features recipes from some of the county’s leading chefs, producers and foodies, drawing together 90 delicious dishes in one beautifully photographed volume.

The team are also introducing a new event, Shrewsbury Christmas, which will celebrate the season with a festive wonderland in the heart of the town centre fusing food, crafts, fun and winter magic. With over 70 local producers, Shrewsbury Christmas offers the chance to stock up your shopping bags with everything you need – and hot chocolate and mulled wine will be available to keep your spirits up, with children’s choirs providing a heartwarming soundtrack. The event, set to take place on 12 and 13 December, is supporting Shrewsbury Ark, a safe haven in the heart of the town that provides support for those in need.

Highland chef thinks Jason’s a catch

The Raven in Much Wenlock hit the headlines again as head chef Jason Hodnet competed in The Great British Menu’s Midlands competition. Although he earned the respect of judge Richard Corrigan for his highly original fish dish – which also used beautiful ‘false books’ created by Ludlow Bookbinders – Jason didn’t make it through to the next stage. However, his dishes caught the attention of Jim Cowie (pictured), who runs Captain’s Galley, named the UK’s most sustainable restaurant. Jim was impressed with Jason’s monkfish liver fish dish, saying, “What Jason did was very brave – monkfish liver is a wonderful product, and as Jason said, it’s completely underutilised… yet it’s a prized delicacy in Japan and France.” Jason has been invited to do a night’s cooking up in the outlet in Scrabster, Caithness – the UK’s most northerly mainland county.

From mess to Michelin

Mel and Martin Board have turned a dilapidated Upton Magna pub and barns into a Michelin Guide-listed business. The old Corbett Arms has metamorphosised into The Haughmond, which comprises a brasserie serving traditional British cuisine, a village store, a café, a restaurant named Basil’s – and five en-suite letting rooms.

Mel and Martin spotted the pub’s potential back in 2012 and Mel explained, “We always saw it as a multifaceted business serving and employing the local community. But it’s gone from strength to strength in such a relatively short space of time; we never imagined we’d achieve our five-year plan within 18 months.”

The newest part of the venture, Basil’s, opened on 18 September, and guests were treated to samples from the five-course taster menu with complimentary wine matched by Tanners of Shrewsbury. The outlet is now due to get a listing in 2016’s Michelin guide – but its roots are firmly in its community, with 18 of its staff coming from Upton Magna itself. “Support from the local community has been overwhelming,” said Mel. “We want to thank all our staff and customers for sharing our vision.” For more information, visit thehaughmond.co.uk or call 01743 709918.

Supper club tickles taste buds

Foodie fanatics and novice alike will delight in a culinary journey with Kitchen Thyme, a new supper club service launched by entrepreneur Sabrina Zeif (pictured). The clubs offer cooking courses and private dining experiences to food lovers across the county, with menus featuring flavoursome Cajun-Caribbean dishes.

Born in Trinidad, Sabrina grew up surrounded by food, with a passion for cooking instilled from an early age. She spent time living in New Orleans, Texas and Switzerland, soaking up more flavours and cuisines, before eventually settling in the UK.

Sabrina said, “My family heritage, Trinidadian culture and global experiences play a huge part in the concept of Kitchen Thyme. I want to share my passion and knowledge of Cajun-Caribbean food – mixing the flavours of Chinese, Indian, African, Syrian, Lebanese and Creole cultures – to offer the spirit of the islands in my home county of Shropshire!”

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