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Each year we sponsor our own Golden Fork Award, in partnership with the Great Taste Awards. The award is voted for by you, so thanks for voting! You’ll recognise the black and gold logo for these awards, which represents outstanding food and drink, and supports small artisan producers in many ways.
These awards guarantee something quite special and give a huge boost to the producers. In each issue of Woman & Home’s Feel Good Food, we celebrate the great producers who go that extra mile to give us wonderful food and drink. In 2016, over 400 judges tasted 10,000 products completely blind, to narrow it down to only 141 products that won three stars. You’ll recognise the distinctive black and gold logo, a true sign of excellence.
Have a read of all of our 2017 finalists below to decide who you think should win and let us know by voting using the link below.
Perry’s has been making award-winning craft ciders since 1920, when William Churchill acquired the family farm and started making cider as a sideline to his blacksmith business. The company was taken over by Henry and Bert Perry, his nephews, and then passed on to Henry’s wife, Marguerite, and sons, John and Andrew, after Bert and Henry’s deaths.
The ciders are still fermented using the same method, and two hydraulic presses, installed in the 50s, are used. These presses have squeezed more than seven million pints of cider each.
Fast-forward to today and the company is still run by the Perry family, with George, John’s son, taking over the day-to-day running of the company and cider production. John and Marguerite are still actively involved in Perry’s and the cider industry as a whole, with John overseeing the business.
Perry’s aim is the same as it has been for the past 90 years – to produce the very best Somerset Ciders with 100% apple juice, and with as little intervention and nasty ingredients as possible.
George Perry explains: ‘We also strive to push the boundaries of craft cider – producing free-thinking ciders with depth of flavour using only the simplest and purest of means. We currently have more than 24 acres of orchards producing in excess of 180 tonnes of apples each year. The remaining apples we press are sourced from local farms. We love orchards so much we’re recently planted out another 11 acres. You will find us in many good independent off licences, pubs, restaurants, delis and farm shops – mostly across the South West. However, we also deliver nationwide.’
Perry’s gained three Great Taste gold stars for its Redstreak cider.
Fiona Houston (left) and Xa Milne met in their children’s school playground. One day, the conversation turned to foraging, and they decided to go and discover Scotland’s wild foods. It resulted in their cookbook and guide, Seaweed and Eat It. Fiona and Xa then turned their attention to native seaweeds. By 2011, the Mara brand was born.
Mara means ‘the sea’ in Gaelic and the two women began to produce seaweed seasonings. The products and recipes are all available online, as well as in stores, including Harrods and M&S. The three seaweeds are dulse, kombu and shony, which are air-dried to keep colour, flavour and nutrients, and then milled into flakes.
Seaweed is a powerhouse of nutrients and is one of the best sources of iodine you can find. It’s also a natural source of calcium, iron, fibre and protein. One of the latest additions to the range is the delicious furikake, a blend of dulse flakes with chilli and black and white sesame seeds, which is delicious sprinkled over stir-fries and salads.
Xa has also produced another book, The Seaweed Cookbook: Superfood Recipes from the Sea. Mara won three Great Taste gold stars for its Applewood Smoked Dulse.
The Cornish Duck Company
Terras Farm has been in Roger’s family for five generations. Roger and Tanya Olver started rearing ducks 11 years ago, when they created the first commercial duck farm in Cornwall. ‘After much research and development, we now have our own unique breed of duck, the Terras Farm. It has good fat to meat ratio, sturdy legs, steady growth and exceptional flavour, and is fast becoming a nationally recognised brand,’ says Tanya.
‘The ducks are reared on non-GM and non-medicated food, and the only food miles that takes place is the delivery to your door. We strongly believe that duck should be reared in small free-range units where they are dispatched on site. This allows us to stay hands on and keep smaller flocks, and not lose touch with the basic animal husbandry and farming aspect of the business. By having all the elements of production in-house, our products remain fully traceable and keeps our carbon footprint and impact on the environment to a minimum,’ explains Tanya.
“Our duck has won many awards over the years. In 2016, we entered The Great Taste Awards for the first time and received two stars for our Duck Breast and our Gluten Free Duck Burger, and three stars for our Whole Duck, which was super, as it’s our core product. To top it off, we were judged as one of the Top 50 Foods, an achievement we are very proud of. It makes all the hard work worthwhile. ‘The Great Taste judges were impressed with our Free Range Whole Cornish Duck, saying it had moist skin, firm meat and a ‘sweet nutty and buttery flavour’.”
Their produce has also been endorsed by two-Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines, MBE, who said, ‘Their ducks are simply the best I have ever tasted.’
Tanya adds, ‘We trade at both Truro and Helston farmers’ markets, and our duck can be found in restaurants and hotels throughout Cornwall and on our website.’
Bringing delicious, different and exciting meats to people’s plates in their homes and in restaurants is what Alternative Meats is all about. The company was started in 2001 by Rachel and Jeanette, whose experience was in the British Ostrich Industry, and this interest in unusual meat inspired them to set up their own business.
The company began by specialising in British ostrich meat and then the range was extended to wild boar from Cornwall and wild game, with birds from local shoots in Shropshire and Cheshire. The variety of meat they offer continues to expand as customers seek out more unusual products. The exotic product list has now been extended and to create its Deliciously Different British Range, which includes rose veal from Mount Grace Farm in Yorkshire, Welsh wagyu beef from Montgomeryshire, goat from Cheshire, venison from Scotland and native and rare breed beef, pork and mutton from Yorkshire. Where possible, products are sourced from within the British Isles. But due to repeated requests for even more exotic produce, including crocodile, buffalo, kangaroo, springbok and zebra, the company has had to source from overseas.
Over the past few years, the company has supplied celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal, and Michelin-starred chef Gareth Ward. Alternative Meats won three Great Taste stars for its Welsh Wagyu Beef Short Ribs.
After more than 30 years making speciality condiments and introducing wholegrain mustards to the UK, Guy Tullberg is confident that no one is making better tasting or better quality products than Tracklements. Strong believers in British fair trade, Tracklements are committed to supporting British Farmers and growers. Its fresh English horseradish root is sourced from East Anglia.
Tracklements knows that using the best ingredients, plenty of time and care, combined with a lifetime’s experience, makes the best tasting products. Tewkesbury Mustard is one of the most potent in the range, combining as it does the pungency of mustard and the nose-tingling zip of freshly grated English Horseradish.
Tracklements were proud to be awarded the Waitrose Way Championing British award in 2016. Guy Tullberg says, ‘I’m a mustard fan: I’m as happy to eat it spread on toast as I am to pile it on the side of the plate. I cannot conceive of a meal that isn’t improved by a dollop of a Tracklements mustard. We make 11 mustards, but Tewkesbury is my current favourite for rare roast beef.’ The Tewkesbury Mustard was placed in the Top 50 foods in the UK for 2016.
In 2003, Sophie, a sales and marketing professional, was diagnosed with a chronic auto-immune disorder. Her health deteriorated and she decided to leave corporate life to do something for herself.
‘Great idea, but I seriously didn’t have a clue, which is shameful, considering my background,’ she says. Initially, she started out baking cakes, but this proved unsustainable. In 2011, just as she was about to throw the towel in, she hit on the idea of baking her own m’hencha (citrus rosewater and pistachio Moroccan pastry cake), and a year later, was awarded three stars for it.
At present, food festival goers or those living in the Cotswolds and Oxfordshire are most likely to have tried Sophie’s take on this traditional celebration cake. However, looking to the future, Sophie says her strategy is to grow ‘steadily and sustainably, introducing new people to the wonderful flavours of m’hencha and giving them an exotic delight they can tear, share and socialise over’.
Her latest award winner, the orange, cinnamon and date cake, includes almond frangipane with orange zest, cinnamon and dates, wrapped in crisp brick pastry and tightly coiled. It is made by Sophie, by hand, in her micro-bakery in the Cotswolds.
‘I make the product by hand, which even includes hand-grating the orange zest to get the correct texture and the oils from the zest,’ she says.
Besides taking the palate on a journey, this cake promotes a more convivial way of eating. Eaten in the Moorish manner, whereby guests tear a piece from the end of the coil and then pass the cake on, it is a life-affirming experience – which, for Sophie, it truly has been.
Quinlan’s Kerryfish have become famous for providing the very best wild, organic smoked salmon and fresh seafood to customers in Kerry and across the world. the family seafood business, based in Caherciveen, co Kerry on the south West coast of Ireland, was started in 1960 and continues to be managed by Michael Quinlan and his three sons, liam Quinlan, ronan Quinlan and fintan Quinlan.
Since 1960, the company has operated as Kerryfish. Since 2000, the business has expanded and the Fish Shops and Seafood bars are branded under the Quinlan’s name.
They supply the finest sustainable seafood from Ireland’s West coast to customers all over the world. Put simply, this is a family passionate about fish! Their philosophy is to use artisan skills, age-old recipes and the finest fresh ingredients.
Luckily for those of us not living in Kerry, Quinlan’s Kerryfish sell their smoked salmon online.
Saveur Du Maroc
Few companies make their Great Taste debut in as spectacular a fashion as Saveur Du Maroc, which walked away with a three-star accolade for three of its products. two of these made the top 50 and one, orange blossom water, took the Golden fork for best imported food.
Safiyah Dahbi Skali founded the business with her sister, Amina. ‘As a direct result, we’ve had enquiries from distributors all over the world.’ The sisters spent much of their childhood in Morocco, and their familial roots have been crucial to the success of their business model, which involves working with producers to source authentic Moroccan products.
It doesn’t get much more authentic than their aromatic Golden Fork winner… ‘Orange blossom water frames many of life’s special moments in Morocco’, says Safiyah. ‘From hands sprinkled with it prior to serving mint tea at family gatherings, to fountains filled with orange blossom at traditional weddings.’
It is hand-crafted by an artisan producer near Marrakech. The water is prepared by steeping orange blossom heads in fresh spring water and the distillation method ensures the aroma is captured naturally.
‘The lady who produces our orange blossom water is very individualistic, a real character’, says Amina. ‘She and her female co-workers collect the blossom, bring it back to the factory and sing and dance while producing the water in the traditional steamed distillation process.’
Their suppliers who buy into the brand are also supporting economic and social development in local communities and empowering women through employment and regular income. The sisters are currently busy expanding their range to include other Moroccan specialities, such as harissa, preserved lemons, saffron and ras el hanout from the oldest spice merchant in Marrakesh.
Use orange blossom water in teas, cakes, smoothies and salads, or add a splash to a cup of hot water.
Get Funghi is owned by Bengt Saxmark and Deb Hampson. Bengt, from West Sweden, formed his lifelong interest in wild mushrooms when he followed his dad out into the Swedish forests as a lad, and it’s still his favourite place to be. As soon as the funghi start growing, from mid April through to mid November, he’s not happy unless he’s checked at least one of his favourite spots and come home with a bag of something tasty to use in the kitchen.
In 2006, he furthered his knowledge by completing a course at Umeå University in Sweden, which qualifies him as a mushroom ‘consultant’. This training is a thorough grounding in how to educate the public to go out and pick wild mushrooms they know they can then safely eat, and anyone who has been on one of Bengt’s popular fungus forays will be able to confirm that he does exactly that with gusto!
Deb, from northern England, has always loved being outdoors and foraging for nature’s bounty, so when Bengt came along he found a willing student ready to absorb as much mushroom-related information as he could provide. The Swedish way is to start, as you would expect, with beginner’s mushrooms that can safely be picked with 100% certainty, and luckily they include some of the tastiest. Deb began her ‘apprenticeship’ picking easy-to-identify and very delicious Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), and has gradually increased her repertoire over ten years of foraging with Bengt. Her favourite dried wild mushroom is the lovely Winter Chanterelle (Cantharellus tubaeformis), a guaranteed taste sensation with all the flavour of the forest floor in a mouthful, and a little beauty to pick.
in 2015 they entered dried porcini in the Great Taste aAwards for the first time. They won ambient product of the Year as well as receiving 3 stars and being included in the top 50 products.
Jess’s Ladies Organic Farm
Vaughn’s family have been farming at Hardwicke Farm in Gloucestershire for three generations.
Her grandparents moved to the farm from frampton-on-severn in 1955. Her grandfather had been a tank commander in the second World War and when he returned to Britain he bought three cows – named after his tanks, bluebird, Gypsy and Glow-worm. alongside the pigs he kept, and horses that worked the land, the Vaughan family farm was born.
Jess’s dad, Mike, worked alongside and fully took over in 1986, and continued his dad’s tradition of low-input farming. by 2000, Mike decided to get full organic status. The passion for dairy farming passed to Jess and, as a toddler, she remembers sitting in the milking parlour while her parents milked the cows. After university in Aberystwyth, Jess joined in 2002 to work alongside him.
From those three cows, the herd now numbers 80. They are milked every day then the milk is bottled at their own farm dairy so it’s traceable. They know the ‘Ladies’ all by name and they milk them personally to ensure they’re a happy, healthy bunch. Rather than use antibiotics, the herd is treated homeopathically. The milk is not homogenised – the family prefer to leave all its nutrients as nature intended. and because Jess’s Ladies graze on luscious organic pasture, their milk typically contains higher levels of natural omega 3. As well as milk, they also produce single, double and extra-thick cream and yogurt. Many of their ‘Ladies’ are descendants of the original three cows in 1955.
Lyburn farm lies on the northern edge of the New Forest, straddling the river Blackwater, and has been farmed by the Smales family since 1969. The river rises on some of the high ground of the forest and as the heather and gorse gives way to the old ancient oak forest, the countryside falls away sharply towards the north. In the bottom of the valley is the Hamptworth estate, of which Lyburn Farm is part. They began with about 270 acres and 200 cows. Over the years, they have grown to 450 acres, adding organic vegetables and particularly pumpkins. The dairy herd is now down to around 170. But it’s still a family business.
Lyburn produce a variety of cheeses from their own herd of cows. Lyburn Gold is a washed curd cheese, similar to Gouda. Stoney Cross is a little likea French Tomme de Savoie – creamy, nutty, buttery. Lyburn’s Winchester is the Gold, which has been matured for a further nine months, still with a creaminess and wonderfully nutty.
Also known as Old Smales, Old Winchester is a much drier and harder cheese, more reminiscent of an Old Amsterdam with a distinctive nuttiness in flavour. It’s made with vegetarian rennet so this is a great substitute for Parmesan for vegetarians. This cheese won a Super Gold.
Cerney Cheese was started by Lady Isabel Angus. She developed a love of French cheeses while holidaying in France. Her particular favourite was the Valencay type, which she set about producing. The first step was to persuade a local French farmer’s wife to impart the rudiments of cheese-making – not easy with limited language and cheese-making skills! Armed with the basics, Isabel started experimenting, aided by her two trusty goats, Bonnie and Bella. Production and the herd of goats soon grew.
After moving to North Cerney in 1983, a local villager persuaded Isabel to let him sell 12 cheeses. They flew off the shelves. The business grew and moved to Chapel Farm in the village, where the cheeses are still made today to the original recipe.
Cerney Ash is a soft goat’s cheese shaped in a truncated pyramid. It has a subtle flavour with a lemony tang. The flavour deepens with age. It was one of the original goat’s cheeses produced in the UK and remains a firm favourite.
Hannan Meats was crowned Great Taste Supreme Champion in 2012 and had won Best Speciality in Northern Ireland three times, not to mention so many gold stars that even the Great Taste organisers are struggling to keep count. And this year, the company stormed back, taking the Supreme Champion title for the second time.
The entry that blew the judges away was its Glenarm Shorthorn four-rib roast, a rack of ribs that is dry-aged in a Himalayan salt chamber to produce a meltingly mouthwatering and succulent cut. It is the very definition of slow food, starting with the rearing of the beef cattle and ending with a 28 to 45-day stint in a salt chamber.
‘We are very reliant on the 122 farmers who produce Glenarm Shorthorn beef for us. We pay them a premium for rearing the beef exactly the way we want it. After two years, they deliver it to us and we make a substantial difference to it by ageing it properly,’ says managing director Peter Hannan. A tiny detail makes all the difference.
‘The muscle on the top of the rib is called a “cap”. Quite often, we take that off to age the meat, but in this case we left it on to draw out the moisture, so it turns into magnificent golden fat when roasted,’ says Peter. ‘Fat is a glorious thing and we have been misled for a number of years about it. Now people are returning to animal fat.’
FGF Editor Jane Curran, who is one of the judges and sits on the final judging panel, can attest to this extraordinary piece of beef. ‘I would get on a plane to Belfast with an empty suitcase to bring beef from Hannan Meats home. It is truly the best beef I have ever tasted!’
Bermondsey Street Bees
This special award, created to encourage new artisans, is presented to a solo producer or to one whose business is at an early stage. As well as the trophy, the prize includes advice, support and mentoring from relevant professionals and well-established food producers. Dale Gibson realised that the roof of his Victorian sugar warehouse near the Shard, surrounded by parks and rooftop gardens, provided a green environment in the heart of London. After training as a beekeeper, he installed his first hives in 2007.
Urban hives play a crucial role in pollinating gardens and allotments, as well as providing local honey for city-dwellers. From the beginning, Bermondsey Street Honey has been highly sought after, and its complex multi-floral taste has won many awards. It was judged Best Honey in London at the 2011 National Honey Show.
With London’s open spaces diminishing, the firm works with local government and community groups to sponsor and maintain sustainable, bee-friendly planting initiatives. Every hive needs 50kg pollen and 250kg nectar every year just to survive. A Cleaner, Greener, Safer grant from Southwark Council funded Bermondsey Street Bees’ pollinator-friendly planting project in the historic St Mary Magdalen churchyard in SE1. This once-bleak strip of ground was transformed into a lush garden, beautifully maintained by Southwark’s parks team.
In 2012 the firm set up its second apiary, in the Suffolk village of Orford, producing Suffolk Coastal Honey. The bees forage in fields, trees and wild hedgerows to produce this quintessentially English country honey. As with Bermondsey Street Honey, it is raw and unprocessed. It’s a truly inspiring story of how one man’s passion can provoke change in an urban environment, creating something special and delicious in the process.
Dark Woods Coffee
Damian Blackburn definitely knows his beans. Having helped to set up and develop the Grumpy Mule coffee brand, he embarked on another coffee venture two-and-a-half years ago, with fellow coffee gurus Paul Meikle-Janney and Ian Agnew. Under Milk Wood was the first coffee to be developed once the roaster was installed at their converted textile mill in the Colne Valley.
‘It was designed to be our house blend, so it had to be perfect for most coffee shops and restaurants,’ says Damian. ‘The other challenge we set ourselves was
that it had to work both as a stand-alone espresso and blended with steamed milk in lattes, cappuccinos and flat whites. Espresso blends can often be polarising: those that are too traditional in style are too dark and taste flat, against the modern style of lightly roasted, very high-altitude, high-acidity coffee for espresso. We wanted to create a blend that was complex, aromatic and tasty, with balanced acidity.’
Back in 2009, Damian had visited the Kalledevarapura Estate in Karnataka state, India, and he was suitably impressed.
‘It seemed fated that one day I’d get a chance to work with this coffee, and we’re the only UK roasters that do,’ he says.
The estate’s arabica beans are blended with others from Ethiopia and Brazil. The lower-altitude Brazilian and Indian arabica beans are roasted together to develop chocolatey sweetness and a velvety texture. The high-altitude Ethiopian arabica is roasted separately and to a lighter roast character, adding citrusy lift and complexity.
Under Milk Wood is, as Damian puts it, ‘a global team effort’, and winning a Golden Fork was not just a proud moment for Dark Woods Coffee, but also a victory for a rare sourcing approach that relies on good old-fashioned relationship-building.
The Bread Factory
You wouldn’t think that, within a unit on an industrial estate in north-west London, you’d find a team of bakers producing top-notch creations with honest ingredients and age-old techniques.
This unassuming bakery includes royal households, Michelin-starred restaurants and five-star hotels among its clients. However, it also sells into retail, pub and restaurant groups and independent cafés and shops, with the mission of making artisan bread accessible to all.
Eylah Ehrlich is the head of cake and pastry at the Bread Factory. She explains: ‘We want to increase the market for artisan bread, as we believe more people should enjoy it. This is what our customers judge us on and why we work with them to ensure that every product is exactly the way they want it. It’s also why we have created 227 new product lines in the past year and why 39 per cent of our products are bespoke.’
One product – the bakery’s seeded cracker – is attracting particular attention after being awarded the Golden Fork.
‘We wanted to produce a simple cracker that works in both a sweet and a savoury setting. The paper-thin dough provides the perfect base. The crispy, melt-in-your-mouth pastry complements the spices and flavours of the seeds,’ says Eylah.
We’d eat these seeded crackers with some gooey blue cheese – delicious!
Rob is a British Canadian who moved to the UK a few years ago. Surprised and saddened by the lack of real maple syrup available in the UK, they set about creating a company to let us all share the joy of real maple syrup. It’s produced and packed in Canada and it was their Great White North Pure Maple 100% Canada Grade A Golden Delicate Taste that received its well-deserved spot in the
Top 50 Foods. It’s not too sweet but creamy, with hints of vanilla, caramel and nuts.
Rob commented: ‘Our 100% Canadian Maple Syrup only has one ingredient in it, nothing added or taken away. Unlike many other syrup brands, Pure Maple is free
of colourings, artificial flavours and isn’t diluted with cane sugar or corn syrup. This means that our customers experience delicious, real maple syrup every time.’
Also that rather confusing maple syrup grading is simply explained for we non- Canadians: ‘The maple syrup grading system is built on a combination of the flavour and translucence of the syrup. As a general rule of thumb, the lighter maple syrup grades are produced earlier in the harvesting season when the weather is colder, while the darker grades emerge later in the season when it’s warmer. There is no such thing as the ‘best’ maple syrup, just the grade that’s right for you.’ We’ll have pancakes with that!
Owned by husband and wife team, Martin and Emma, Martin’s Meats began its story back in 2003. Both Martin’s father and grandfather were cattle farmers and dealers, so it certainly ran through his veins. Martin was already farming beef, too, but his passion led him to set up his own butchers where he could oversee the whole process of producing high quality rare breed cattle, using traditional methods of ageing the meat, combined with new ideas from America of using pink Himalayan rock salt to produce the best possible tasting meat.
The farm and the abattoir are within a ten-mile radius of each other, demonstrating their passion to keep the process local and the cattle happy. They use traditional breeds such as Aberdeen Angus, Hereford and British Longhorns, our oldest breed of cattle. These traditional breeds are not intensively farmed unlike many continental breeds. Martin’s meat have a succulent, rich flavour, plenty of marbling and a finer grain, which means the beef is wonderfully tender.
Such is their success, they supply many top restaurants and hotels in the local area, and even as far as Jamie’s restaurant in Watergate Bay in Cornwall.
Martin’s Top 50 winner is a Longhorn Topside, aged in a salt chamber for 30 days. The judges commented on its ‘melt-in-the-mouth texture’ and ‘astounding flavour’.
His Longhorn Wing Rib (Sirloin on the bone) was another Top 50 star, along with the Gloucester Old Spot Gammon Steak.
Two Hoots Cheeses
The Two Hoots dairy, near Reading, has won golds and silver at the World Cheese Awards for its three cheeses – Barkham Blue, Baby Barkham and Rosethorn Blue – though perhaps the Barkham Blue is the star, having won Super Gold and Best British Cheese in 2012. The cheese dairy is owned by Sandy and Andy Rose. Sandy’s father had a dairy herd of Guernsey and Jersey cows, and before moving to Barkham, they had a smallholding with rare breed cattle, goats, horses and pigs. At the time, Sandy was helping her cousin in cheese making, who encouraged her to make cheese from her own goat’s milk.
The Rose family took the plunge to move to Barkham and converted the outbuildings into a cheese dairy. Initially they made soft cheese in small batches to sell at local farmers’ markets but eventually Sandy fulfilled her dream of making a blue cheese using Channel Island milk, and Barkham Blue was born.
Barkham Blue has a very distinctive appearance. Made in a 1kg ammonite shaped round, it is covered in a natural mould-ripened rind. The deep yellow cheese has a rich blue taste, smooth buttery texture, without the harshness associated with some blue cheeses. Rosethorn Blue is a soft creamy blue cheese made with Friesian cow’s milk. It is gentle on the palate but becomes stronger and softer with age. It’s mould-ripened with a blue-grey rind. Baby Barkham follows in the footsteps of Barkham Blue but weighs 300g, a perfect addition to your cheeseboard.
Åkesson’s Organic Chocolate
Bertil Åkesson’s list of award-winning organic chocolate just keeps getting bigger. If you don’t think there’s much difference in top quality chocolate made with passion and care, you need to try this chocolate! Bertil’s father was a Swedish diplomat and first worked for the Embassy in Paris in 1945. Years later he moved to Cameroon, where he ran a trading company, until, eventually, he settled in Madagascar in the 1970s after he had taken over mining companies and sisal plantations.
Bertil’s fascination with cocoa and spices began right there in Madagascar, where he learned to manage and develop plantations.
Bertil launched a small and exclusive line of chocolate and fine exotic foods, and today, his plantations in Madagascar, Brazil and Indonesia supply world-famous chocolatiers and chefs. We love his emotive and informative tasting notes, this for one of his many award-winners and one of the Top 50 Foods, the
75% Criollo Cocoa from Madagascar:
‘Certified Organic – The Ambolikapiky Plantation is part of Bertil Åkesson’s 2000ha Bejofo Estate. Located in the Sambirano Valley, in the North-West of Madagascar, the plantation produces since 1920 world-famous aromatic cocoa. Besides 300 tons per year of Madagascar trinitario cocoa, a very limited production of criollo cocoa (2 tons per year) is harvested separately. This chocolate has a very expressive cocoa aroma with subtle fruity-sweet tartness and pleasant flavour notes that evoke citrus and red berries.’
Bertil has a store in London’s Notting Hill, but you can buy this chocolate online, too.
Abergavenny Fine Food Co
In 1981 Pam and Tony Craske made the move to Wales with the vision of living the ‘good life’ on a Welsh hill farm. Within a very short space of time, they realised that making a living from either arable or traditional livestock farming would prove to be very difficult.
Pam decided that the family needed to become more self-sufficient as the farm was so remote, and with that in mind, Tony was sent to the local village market to buy a cow. Clearly somewhat lost in translation, Tony not only returned with a goat instead of a cow, but he returned with six of them.
The family was soon awash with milk and unable to sell it, which led Pam to Abergavenny library where she borrowed a book on cheese making. Forgive the use of the cliché – the rest is history.
The decision to sell their Pant-Ys-Gawn Farm® Welsh goat’s cheese at the local Abergavenny Women’s Institute market was inspired and in a short space of time, the Craskes built a substantial and loyal following for their creamy fresh local cheese. As the following grew, so did the product range, which finally led in 1987 to the formation of Abergavenny Fine Food Co.
Over the following years the business continued to expand and the company moved to new premises in 2007. A devastating fire destroyed the premises in 2015 but they now have a spanking new building, still in Blaenavon.
They have won awards for their goat’s cheese with golden raisins, fresh goat’s cheese with garlic and chives, and their soft goat’s cheese with honey. They are the biggest fresh goat’s cheese producer in the UK, but that has never led to a drop in quality. It’s clean, zingy with a lovely creaminess and acidity.
Couple Allison and Will run Abernethy Butter. The pair live on Allison’s family farm, where they keep 100 sheep. Several years ago, Allison’s father, Norman Kerr, taught Will how to make butter, using a small 1930s churner, which now sits in the corner of their converted mini-factory. Allison worked full-time as a nurse in the local health centre until sales really began to take off and she is now full-time in the business.
Likewise, Will looked after cattle for local farmers. Northern Ireland produces the most yellow butter in the world because cows here are mainly fed green grass, which gives the milk a high carotene content. The Abernethys have two 40-litre churns of pasteurised cream from fresh milk delivered every morning by a dairy farm in Lisburn.
‘Having the cream already separated from the milk takes a lot of the work out of the churning,’ says Will. ‘We use cream because it’s already 40% butter fat – milk’s only 4% butter fat, which would mean it would take an awful lot longer to make.’
Their butter is additive-free and handmade, way different to anything you would find on a supermarket shelf. Top chefs such as Marcus Wareing and Heston Blumenthal serve it on their dining tables; Fortnum & Mason can’t get enough of it to satisfy customer demand. Luckily for the rest of us in the UK and Ireland, we can buy it online, together with dulse (seaweed) butter, salted caramel sauce and a really indulgent fudge. But their Top 50 winner is an extraordinary Smoked Butter. We don’t know the secret of how it is made, though we do know it is smoked over beech and applewood. Use it on a steak, in mashed potato, with mushrooms… it’s subtle yet smoky and adds a new dimension to flavour.
Bramley and Gage
This small family-run business is focused on making the highest quality, great-tasting spirits, gins and liqueurs. In the mid 1980s, Edward Bramley Kain and Penelope Gage began experimenting in the kitchen of their South Devon farmhouse with strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant liqueurs. The fruits came from their fruit farm and the recipes followed a ‘maceration’ method similar to that practised in France.
The liqueurs were a huge success and were soon available in local off-licences, delicatessens and tourist attractions. It was a great opportunity to experiment with different varieties of fruits and, with the large amount of sloes in their hedgerows, it wasn’t long before Bramley’s Sloe Gin made it onto the shelves too.
After ten years of farming soft fruit and making fruit liqueurs, Edward and Penelope sold the farm and moved into a dedicated building with a small bottling line and larger-scale facilities. They still insisted on sourcing the best-quality fruits as locally as possible and concentrated on producing the best liqueurs achievable. Over the years they have won many local, national and international awards, including being in the Top 50 Foods for their Sweet Vermouth and Six O’Clock Gin, which was launched in 2010. This gin is a refined version of the gin Edward had been using for his sloe gin.
Now, over 30 years since the first bottle of liqueur was made, Penelope and Edward’s son, Michael, and daughter Felicity run the business in exactly the
same way – in small batches giving the freshest flavours possible.
Penelope and Edward are notionally retired but Edward still does product development (the Sweet Vermouth is his creation) and Penelope still attends trade and retail shows. The business moved from South Devon to Gloucestershire in 2007.
Hampshire Cheeses is owned by Stacey Hedges and Charlotte Spruce. It was founded in 2005. Stacey, originally from Sydney, had worked part-time in a cheese shop while studying at university and found it inspirational. She then cooked professionally in England. Twenty years later, with an English husband, three young children and living in rural Hampshire, her thoughts returned to that Sydney cheese shop. Stacey began making cheese in her kitchen before it soon became clear that she would need a purpose-built creamery to fulfil her dream.
From the start, Randolph Hodgson, owner of Neal’s Yard dairy, gave her tremendous support and advice. He encouraged her to make a soft cow’s milk cheese with a delicious depth of flavour covered by a delicate, thin rind. In May 2006, Hampshire Cheeses moved into its first tiny creamery and in September of the same year, Tunworth became Britain’s Supreme Champion Cheese at the British Cheese Awards, beating more than 800 other cheeses.
Further success followed in many areas including winning Waitrose’s Small Producer of the Year and a gold medal in the World Cheese Awards.
In 2010, Hampshire Cheeses expanded into a new purpose-built creamery. Today, Charlotte Spruce, who joined the company in 2006, is the head cheese maker and is in charge of production.
Tunworth is still hand-made in small batches from pasteurised cow’s milk. It’s a sweet, nutty cheese, deliciously creamy with a fine, wrinkled rind – at its best on a simple cracker with a decent white Burgundy, we’d say.
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