With desserts, or ‘afters’ as I call them, it’s all about the seasonality of produce, but, because we’re in Yorkshire, a great deal of them include lashings of cream and milk, which isn’t good for counting calories but is great for spoiling yourself. One of the greatest ingredients I use in the winter months is from Yorkshire; forced rhubarb, produced in the so-called ‘Yorkshire triangle’. These much sought-after, grown-by-candlelight, tender and succulent pink stems of rhubarb taste fantastic and have recently been granted the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. In autumn and winter, we have an abundance of orchard fruits in our garden, including everything from apples and pears to Victoria plums, but it’s a great day for me when the first local strawberries appear, not just because they’re followed by the arrival of an abundance of raspberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants, but it’s the first sign that summer has finally arrived.
A lot of our dairy products are produced at a locally-run farm, St. Quintin’s Creamery in Harpham, by Sarah and Peter Burdass. They have had livestock on their farm for years and then more recently decided to build a modern dairy and supply milk and cream produced from their own herd. The process of setting up a modern dairy isn’t easy but they’ve achieved their goal with a lot of hard work and investment. I love the strapline on their bottles, which says ‘so fresh it’s almost embarrassing’. When starting off, Sarah would send through samples of cream asking for my opinion. At first it wasn’t perfect, not having enough butter or fat content, but now it’s an absolutely fantastic product.
One of my cheese suppliers is Jacquie Broadhead of Epicures Larder, based on her farm in Wold Newton on the Yorkshire Wolds. Jacquie is a real down-to-earth lass who set up her farm single-handedly a few years ago. She has a small herd of rare-breed cows that she looks after, milks, and then she makes the cheese herself. She produces several different cheeses that are great artisan products, similar to French cheese. My favourite is the ‘Wold Blimey’, a small, creamy and strong blue-rinded cheese, but she also makes fantastic mozzarella that’s so fresh because she makes it to order and delivers it to us the same day. She sells her cheese mostly at farmers’ markets with a small amount going to trade. What personifies a local producer such as Jacquie is that, when I call her to place an order, her mother often answers the phone and when I ask, ‘Can I speak to Jacquie please?’, she replies in a strong Yorkshire dialect, ‘She’s not here at the moment, she’s out on t’tractor!’ You don’t get quite the same response when you phone telesales at a large producer.