Proper Blog

Locally Sauced? Not Just Worcester

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Did you know that Worcester isn’t the only county to boast its own sauce? Lea & Perrins have an impressive pedigree, but the company is now owned by food giant Heinz. Oddly we couldn’t find any small-scale producers making Worcestershire sauce in Worcester (know of any? Please tell us). What we did find, though, are loads of tasty sauces made by small artisan producers from several other counties:

Cumberland Sauce

This sauce doesn’t have a very British origin, since it was named for the Duke of Cumberland, who was German. However it became closely associated with Cumberland, now part of Cumbria.

Cumberland SauceImage (c) The Hawkshead Relish Company

An original recipe stated it was “a port-wine based sauce, for accompanying boar’s head”, but don’t worry if you’ve run out of boar’s head (happens to us all) – it’s just as delicious with Cumberland sausages and game dishes. It’s widely available and made all over the UK, but our pick is from The Hawkshead Relish Company, as they’re based in Cumbria and make theirs with damson wine. Delicious.

Dorsetshire Sauce

Although described as “similar” to Worcestershire Sauce, it’s certainly not to be confused with it, because this sauce has won the rare accolade of three gold stars at the Great Taste Awards.

Dorsetshire SauceImage (c) From Dorset With Love

Described as a “unique, piquant” sauce, it’s also suitable for vegetarians, vegans and is gluten free. It’s made in small batches by From Dorset With Love, and keeps selling out – so if you want some, best to seek it out in Dorset or keep checking their website to place an order. It’s even got its own Twitter feed, too, where you can find the latest stockists.

Inverness Sauce

“A blend of redcurrants, orange, port and lemon”, this tangy sauce will go really well with other fine Scottish produce, such as smoked venison, game or baked hams. It would probably accompany everything on the table at a Scottish Christmas dinner.

Image of Highland Wineries Inverness Sauce 227gImage (c) Fine Scottish Hampers / Highland Wineries

It’s made by Highland Wineries from an old Highland family recipe. They also stock a number of liqueurs, fruit wines and the famous Moniack Mead, so why just stop at one type of sauce?

Lancashire Sauce

This milder sauce is oil-free and made without emulsifiers, so a bit like a good dressing, you have to shake the bottle before using it.

Lancashire Sauce BottlesImage (c) Entwistles of Ramsbottom

Lancashire sauce was created by and has stayed in the Entwistle family for the last four generations. It’s not just available in Lancashire, though – the list of stockists throughout the UK keeps growing. Unsurprisingly, it’s a fine addition to Lancashire cheese on toast, and is also a featured flavour of Fiddler’s Lancashire Crisps.

Nairnshire Sauce

The Rose Cottage Kitchen are famed for their award-winning marmalade, preserves, and other treats like Scottish Tablet. They’re also the creators of Nairnshire Sauce, a “fruity sauce with a wee kick”. Why Nairnshire? Well, “This is based on Cumberland sauce, but we wouldn’t name anything after that Duke in the Highlands, so it’s named after our county.” A truly Scottish sauce!

Nottinghamshire Sauce

We like the Sauce Shop. Founders Pam and James started the company because “we decided a) our fridge was very full of sauce and b) we spent too much money on sauce.” You can’t spend enough on their Nottinghamshire sauce, though. It’s completely unlike any other sauce listed here:

Image (c) Sauce Shop

It has a unique taste too, offered to please all the “brown sauce haters” and is their take on mushroom ketchup. In fact, it goes well with anything you’d normally dollop ketchup (or brown sauce) on. Sauce Shop also make a variety of other tasty sauces currently available in and around Nottinghamshire, but keep an eye on their website for online sales serving the rest of the country soon.

Baron Pouget’s Oxford Sauce

Brown sauce lovers rejoice, as this as been hailed as “what a potent brown sauce should taste like”. The potency refers to the extra chili kick, caused by mistaking how much chili was needed in the recipe, but it was soon discovered that the fiery aspect actually improved the sauce.

IMG_9863Image (c) Oxford Fine Food

Baron Robert Pouget of the Oxford Fine Food Co. created the sauce in 2000 to celebrate the Millennium, but its popularity means it’s here to stay. He describes it as “pretty hot”, owing to the aforementioned chili accident, so if you like a bit of heat that is different to traditional hot sauces, this is for you. Check Oxford Fine Food’s website for their list of stockists.

Yorkshire Sauce (Henderson’s Relish)

South Yorkshire folk have been enjoying Hendersons Relish (or “Hendo’s”, as it’s affectionately called) for decades. These days ‘Yorkshire’s best kept secret’ really isn’t a secret any more, as more people are discovering this tasty, highly spiced sauce.

Image (c) Henderson’s Relish

It’s been made by Henderson’s in Sheffield for over 100 years, making it one of the classic British sauces that has stood the test of time.The official website even has odes to the Relish, poems and celebrity fan stories. It inspires fanatic devotees all over the country, not just in Yorkshire, and is also a flavour of Yorkshire Crisps.

Look out for our next blog on the last remaining proper flour mills across the UK…

February 25, 2015 |

The Best Turkey Breeds to Buy for Christmas

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Lady gnawing on a Christmas turkeyTurkey like it used to taste – so good, why bother sharing it?

The turkey is the centrepiece of any traditional Christmas Day feast, and ten million of them will be eaten in Britain on 25 December. If you’ve never tried a heritage breed turkey, slowly raised with love and care by experts then you might just be missing out on the best Christmas dinner ever. If your turkey is rubbish then no amount of beautifully sauteed carrots or goose-fat roasties can save you (more on the side dishes coming soon). Locally produced, farm-reared turkeys taste infinitely better than their intensively-reared counterparts. They are juicy and succulent, tasting like a proper turkey with a slightly gamey flavour rather than the dry, tasteless meat that needs to be drowned in gravy before you can choke it down. Oh, we’ve all been there.

Even if you can’t find a local turkey near you (be sure to search Proper Snap for one), many of the nation’s best turkey farms will deliver an oven-ready bird in an insulated coolbox to you in plenty of time for Christmas, no matter where you live, so there’s no excuse. Next question is – which turkey breed should you buy, and where from? Here’s our quick guide to the best turkey breeds for Christmas:

Broad or High Breasted White

This is the turkey breed most commonly seen on our tables at Christmas. It has the largest breast (good value if you have a big gathering) and its white feathers mean that it looks very presentable when plucked and roasted. If you’ve always bought a supermarket or intensively-reared turkey and don’t want to stray too far from what you’re used to at Christmas, there’s no reason for you to buy another breed. All you have to do differently is to source your turkey from a local or expert farm who produce delicious turkeys, tending to them in a way that means the birds are stress-free and raised to a high welfare standard. Try Copas Turkeys in Berkshire or Temple Farm in Essex to get the tastiest White turkeys (as well as other breeds, cuts and joints).

Norfolk Bronze

The Norfolk Bronze is known for its slightly gamey flavour and firm, moist, textured meat. So much so, it’s become quite popular and many supermarkets are now stocking them as their “premium” turkey. However, just because it’s labelled as a Norfolk Bronze doesn’t always mean it’s been traditionally reared, so try to source your turkey from a reputable supplier who specialises in this breed. And no, you don’t have to live in Norfolk. Kelly Turkey Farms in Essex are one of the most famous names in the world of the Norfolk Bronze. Also try Morton’s Traditional Taste (yes, in Norfolk) for Norfolk Bronze whole turkeys, crowns and more.

Norfolk Black

The Norfolk Black used to be the eating turkey of choice centuries ago, but fell out of favour because people didn’t like the  appearance of the tiny black feathers sometimes found remaining on a plucked bird. Now folk have realised hey, it’s a turkey, of course it had feathers (if it didn’t, worry), and taste is the most important consideration. The Norfolk Black is a smaller-breasted bird with the most gamey flavour and a fine-textured meat. Get yours from Peele’s in Norfolk who have specialised in the Black Turkey for generations, or Banyards Hall, also in Norfolk and specialists in this breed.

Bourbon Red

One of the most difficult breeds to get hold of, the Bourbon Red is a rarer heritage breed known for its moist, almost nutty meat, small breast and particularly gamey-flavoured legs. There are few suppliers, including Fortnum’s who source them from Peach Croft Farm in Oxfordshire. Peele’s (as mentioned above) may also be able to provide a Bourbon Red, but contact them first.

One additional advantage of buying from a small supplier is that they will be happy to advise you on the best way to cook a particular kind of turkey. The turkey will usually come with its own special cooking instructions, but if you have any doubts or queries, give your supplier a ring and they will usually gladly help you out, wanting you to get the best out of your Christmas dinner. Just don’t forget the home-made giblet gravy – complementing the moist meat instead of compensating for it.

Coming soon on the Proper Blog: The best Christmas side dishes, puddings, cakes and more…

December 1, 2014 |

Bonfire Night: Seasonal Ales

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A safe and happy bonfire night to you all! 

To warm you up as you stand the required safe distance from the fire, we’ve found three seasonal beers brewed especially for the occasion:

Bonfire Boy (5.8% ABV, brewed by Harveys in Sussex)
Tasting Notes: “A strong ale, brewed to an original gravity of 1066°, Bonfire Boy has a subtle smoky character. Highly roasted Malts are used during the production of this beer to give a slightly burnt quality and a hint of smoke.”

Available through many pubs in the South East, Harvey’s Bonfire Boy is a tribute to the emergency services and Firemen who attended a fire at the brewery in 1996. We’ll drink to that.

Bonfire Toffee (4.3% ABV, brewed by Cains in Merseyside)
Tasting Notes: “Dark and delicious, this intriguing ale is brewed with a blend of chocolate and premium ale malts, the finest Kentish hops and has a hint of toffee.”

Available at several Liverpool pubs, including the famous Brewery Tap.

Bonfire Brew (5.4% ABV, brewed by Wood’s in Shropshire)
Tasting Notes: “This flavoursome winter ale will tantalise & excite your taste buds like the fireworks your eyes may be about to witness. Enjoy the thrill while the malty flavours colour your palate.”

Available at selected pubs in Shropshire, or online via Wood’s website.

Or if you fancy something non-alcoholic, you could try the Mulled Winter Punch from Belvoir Fruit Farms in Lincolnshire, and perhaps save some for Christmas, too. Cheers!

November 5, 2014 |

Bonfire Night: Where to buy Parkin, Cinder Toffee, Treacle Toffee and Toffee Apples

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Bonfire Night (or Plot Night, as it’s known in some counties) is almost here:

November 5th has come and gone
But thoughts of it still linger
I held a banger in my hand
Has anyone seen my finger?

The only banger you should have in your hand is a luxury hot dog (or the more traditional pie ‘n’ peas). To finish with a bang though, you really should grab some traditional bonfire sweet treats:

Parkin

Not something you do with your car – this is a sweet, sticky, dense, ginger and treacle based cake from Northern England. Sounds good already, doesn’t it? Traditionally eaten on bonfire night, it should be bought (or made) a few days before as proper parkin benefits from a few days maturation, like the best Christmas cakes. It gets stickier with age (“if you can get it off your teeth in ten minutes, it’s too young” commented one parkin expert) and even more delicious, if you can keep it in a tin that long.

There’s one leading producer of parkin (“Seriously Good Yorkshire Parkin” to give it its official name) and that’s Lottie Shaw’s of West Yorkshire. They also sell Parkin biscuits and parkin flapjacks – ideal for sharing around the fire. If you get hopelessly addicted, you can order a Christmas hamper, too.

Treacle Toffee / Bonfire Toffee / Cinder Toffee

Probably the reason all dentists are booked up throughout November, treacle toffee (also known as bonfire toffee) is a traditional hard toffee made from butter, treacle and other goodness and is cooked in copper pans. Since toffee is one of the things we’re very good at in Britain you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing where to buy it.

Fortnum & Mason have probably been selling toffee longer than most, so they’ve had lots of practise in finding the best treacle toffee. Their butter and treacle toffee is also smashed with a hammer in the traditional way, meaning big chunks for you, small ones for the kids. Right?

Friars, based in Keswick, will sell you their treacle or cinder toffee direct from their high street shop or also online for delivery. It’s made in Cumbria and is slightly softer than other versions of treacle toffee if you prefer it that way.

Cocoa Artisan, based in Derbyshire, have special seasonal cinder toffee and bonfire toffee. They’re both covered generously in Belgian chocolate, so if you want decadence, this is for you!

Toffee Apples

Forget those slightly bruised versions covered in cheap chocolate. Look at this. Just look at it.

Image (c) The Toffee Apple Company

Now THAT is a toffee apple, and the Essex-based Toffee Apple Company specialise in a variety of them, all covered in their luxury caramel that apparently takes 3 hours to make. And probably 3 minutes to eat.

If you want to throw caution to the wind and not even eat an apple (these are all treats, remember) then the Artisan Kitchen have come up with something that sounds like the crack cocaine of bonfire treats – Toffee Apple Jam. Made with locally sourced apples and winner of a Taste of the West silver award, they suggest dolloping it on rice pudding. A great idea for dessert at any bonfire party and one of many things to get your teeth into on 5th November.

November 1, 2014 |
(c) Proper Snap 2014