Is there no end to Yorkshire’s foodie talents? I’ve just spent a very happy time trawling through a veritable feast of food producers to see who has landed themselves the gourmet version of the Oscars, an epicurean equivalent of the Booker Prize.
Yes, the Great Taste Awards for 2015 have now been made. And foodie folk from Yorkshire have done very well, thank you very much, picking up nearly 100 Great Taste stars between them.
We’ve all seen them haven’t we – featured on the distinctive round logo that any food or drink producer worth their salt covets for their product because to be awarded even one star can well and truly put you on the gourmet map.
This year’s awards have come at a time when a little cheesemonger’s shop in the Yorkshire Dales has been named as one of the top ten cheese shops, not just in Britain or Europe, but the world.
The Courtyard Dairy housed in a converted farm building on the A65 near Settle is run by Andy Swinscoe, who at the ripe old age of 30 has turned his fabulous cheese cave into one of the world’s leading food destinations.
That’s no mean feat for a lad and his lass Kathy who only opened the shop three years ago. But in that short space of time he’s been recognised as a – if not the – leading expert on British cheeses, which have seen a huge revival in the past 20 years, to the extent that they now more than hold their own on the world cheese stage.
In Yorkshire alone we produce around 80 different varieties and in the county’s foodie circles it’s an open secret that one or two Frenchmen who came over for the Tour de France last year said our cheeses are better than those produced back home.
No doubt if they’d dared to voice such thoughts on their own soil they would have slung into the modern day equivalent of the bastille and made to eat cake…
Back in the land of the Great Taste Awards, more than 400 judges from all over the world came together on 49 judging days between March and July to taste around 10,000 products submitted by nerve-wrackingly hopeful food and drink producers.
Standards are very tough for only 31 per cent of entries receive a Great Taste accolade with just 130 foods receiving the highest and most coveted rating of three stars. To win three stars means that the judges have unanimously decided that the food is ‘absolutely exquisite’ and just has to be tasted, so put it in your shopping trolley right now…
If you see two stars while you’re browsing your local quality food store it means the product is ‘outstanding’ so put that in your trolley too, while one star tells you the food or drink that bears it is simply delicious. So you’d be as well to put that in your trolley as well…
So who are among the Yorkshire gourmet stars this year? Four Yorkshire producers have picked up the coveted three star award – more of them in a bit – while an incredible 14 have landed two stars each. They include:
- Justin Staal from Long Riston near Beverley for his wonderful smoked haddock
- Louise and Jeremy Holmes of Yummy Yorkshire at Denby Dale for their delectable black treacle and amaretti ice cream
- ProperMaid hand made cakes from Lindley near Huddersfield for their delicious courgette and lime cake.
- Cedar Barn farm shop near Pickering for their richly satisfying stew and dumplings dish, and Keelham farm shop near Skipton for their locally sourced lamb chops
- Arthur Haigh butchers from Dalton, near Thirsk for Doreen’s unctuous black pudding
- Metcalfe’s beef and pork butcher of Cleckheaton for their traditionally home-cured middle bacon
- Fruity Tipples of Holmfirth for their strawberry vodka
Some great taste award winners are of no surprise because they consistently turn out top notch food – Shepherds Purse Cheeses from Thirsk have again picked up a host of stars for a number of their delectable cheeses, including two stars for Olde York, as has Wold Top Brewery up on the Yorkshire Wolds for their beers including two stars for their Headland Red brew, along with St Helen’s Farm at Seaton Ross for a range of their goats’ milk products including two stars for their butter.
Other tasty accolades go to Sarah Puckett, who makes 2,000 jars of pickles and chutneys a week in her Victorian terrace kitchen in York, and has picked up a star each for three products in her range, while Ampleforth Abbey has picked up a star each for the still and sparkling cider produced there and York Coffee Emporium a star for their breakfast tea, proving that their teas are every bit as good as their coffees.
Charcuterie producer Carl Slingsby from Greedy Little Pig in West Yorkshire landed three stars for his fiocco (cured from the rear leg of the pig), as did Love Brownies from Ilkley for their gluten free brownie product, and James and Amy Roberts from Kilnsey Park in the Dales for their smoked duck breast. All should quite rightly be doing handstands with delight, with Carl adding in a back flip for good measure for picking up an additional two star award for his pancetta. But for me, the David in the gourmet Goliath in this year’s awards is the ‘other’ less well known Wensleydale creamery in Hawes where cheesemaker Iona Hill has picked up not only a three star award for her unpasteurised Wensleydale and two stars for her goat curd with a further two stars for her mature natural rind goats’ cheese, but a staggering 12 stars in total for a range of her fabulous Ribblesdale cheeses.
Which no doubt are taking pride of place in Andy Swinscoe’s world leading cheese shop over the hills near Settle. Aren’t we the lucky ones?