Did you know that the art of salmon smoking was actually brought to the UK by immigrants from Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century? Originally the salmon used were imported from the Baltic in barrels of brine, soon however they discovered the magnificent wild fish arriving at Billingsgate market from Scotland every summer. Switching to this native raw material resulted in a much finer product and the art of salmon smoking was born.
Harris Forman founded H Forman and Son in 1905 and they have stuck to his original technique and recipe ever since, through 4 generations. The London cure used in the East End to smoke uses a little salt to preserve the fish and a light oak smoke that brings out the flavour of the delicate raw ingredients. This differs from the traditional Scottish technique that involved a heavier use of smoke and was not so suited to a fish so fine as a wild salmon. Forman's is one of the only salmon smokers to survive the mass cull of smoke houses in London brought on by the onset of salmon farming and the introduction of mass produced smoked salmon from Scotland. The secret was to stick to quality and the high standards that had been the hallmark of the company since 1905.
H. Forman & Son buy the best raw fish. They clean and fillet by hand. They cure in dry rock salt. They don't inject brine to increase weight. They don't over salt to increase shelf life. They never add sugar. They hang out our cured fillets to dry while pure wood smoke permeates the flesh. Hardly anyone else does that. And it is all done in East London, under the watchful eye of Lance Forman, descendant of Harry Forman, who founded the business a century ago.
These days H Forman & Son's salmon is to be found on the tables of some of the world's finest restaurant tables. Customers include The Savoy, Claridges, The River CafÃƒÂ©, Gordon Ramsay and even places as far a field as Wynn Las Vegas and Sandy Lane in Barbados. Through Forman & Field more and more private customers are joining this illustrious list.
The Country Victualler was set up in the early 1970's as husband and wife team, based at Winkburn Hall, Nottinghamshire. Richard Craven-Smith-Milnes continues to personally supervise the family business and their hams, smoked duck and chicken are second to none.
Originally created by a Colonel Dickinson in the small village of Alderton, The Country Victualler is the sole maker of the fine flavoured, naturally moist Alderton Ham. They arrive ready to carve and eat. They contain no added water, no artificial colouring and the finest legs of ham are used. Steamed, then baked with an old-fashioned marmalade glaze to give a tangy edge to the ham's delicate taste, it's a memorable and decorative centrepiece to any gourmet table.
Rick Stein rated the Alderton Ham as essential for Christmas 2005, we are proud to recommend the Country Victualler as our most popular ham producer.
Claire Symington, who started her career as a chef with Prue Leith at Leith's restaurant in London, is one of the leading lights of the British taste revival. The 200 acre Seldom Seen Farm in Leicestershire is where she and husband Robert settled, some 20 years ago, when Claire decided the only way to ensure top quality produce was to produce it herself. Seldom Seen was traditionally a soft fruits farm but that all changed when her husband Robert bought her a pair of Brecon Buff geese called Mac and Mabel, They began producing 3 bird roasts and oven ready geese for friends and family but soon found that the word spread far and wide.
Claire now plays mother goose to over 2,000 honking beauties, all of whom are raised to impeccable free range standards. The geese are slaughtered humanely, dry-plucked because wet-plucking ruins the skin; singed, not waxed, again to preserve the skin; eviscerated by hand, not hot water, which can encourage bacteria; and hung for at least 10 days. The extra effort and care is worth it, believe us.
Seldom Seen are the makers of the 3 Bird Roast: a goose, stuffed with a chicken, stuffed with a pheasant. Each joint is made entirely by hand by Claire's expert team of pluckers, boners and stuffers. By special request she also makes stuffed chickens, ducks and partridges to the same exacting standards.
Our Foie Gras de Canard is supplied by Jeremy Wagg who left his London deli business to escape to the country in Hampshire. He makes every batch of Foie Gras by hand and the results are quite simply stunning. Apart from a few restaurants, he is almost certainly the only maker of 'fresh' foie gras in the UK. He imports the highest quality free range duck livers from small-scale farms in France and marinades the livers in nothing but port and seasoning before cooking. Impeccably produced; tinned varieties don't even come close.
In 1989, Julian Temperley of The Somerset Distillery was granted the first full cider-distilling license in history! Records of cider brandy can be traced back to 1678 so it wasn't before time.
The production of this unique product begins in the autumn. Vintage cider apples, with wonderful names like Dabinett, Kingston Black, Stoke Red, Yarlington Mill and Harry Masters, are gathered, blended, pressed and the juice is then fermented in huge oak vats. After three months the cider is distilled and clear spirit, known as Eau-de-Vie or the 'water of life', is drawn off and trickled into barrels. The barrels play a very important role in the ageing process but it is the apples, the soil and the climate of Somerset which give our Cider Brandy it's unique character, similar but also very different to French Cider Brandy produced in the Calvados region. The barrels are either sherry barrels from Jerez or new oak barrels from Hungary and the Limousin forests of France. In the barrels the spirit slowly gains colour from the oak whilst losing a small amount of alcohol through the wood - 'the angels share'. Finally after gaining depth and mellowing for a number of years it becomes a deliciously smooth Cider Brandy.
Somerset Pomona is a secret blend of juice and cider brandy matured in small oak barrels. It's full bodied with a smooth butterscotch finish. Kingston Black is an aperitif blended from cider brandy and vintage cider apples, best served on ice. "This has got muscles, this has got brawn, this has got a hairy chest; I think it's gorgeous", said Jilly Goolden on tasting it. Steady, girl, one sip at a time!
We’ve tried pork pies all over the country but we keep coming back to Mrs King’s traditional Melton Mowbray pies because the balance between the rich, golden brown pastry, delicately-flavoured jelly and succulent meat is unrivalled. Elizabeth King started her family bakery back in 1853 and the standards she set are maintained today by the Hartland family. They use the original 1853 recipe which starts by making hot water crust pastry, bringing boiling water and lard together then pouring onto strong wheat flour and adding sea salt to taste. It rests overnight then fresh shoulder pork from British pigs provides the fulling and the pies are then baked to perfection. The final addition of scrumptious jelly is made form the juices of slowly simmered trotter stock. Heaven in your hand.
The Wild Meat Company of Suffolk have supplied all our shot game. Established in 1999 by Robert Gooch and Paul Denny with the aim of "taking the muck and mystery out of buying, preparing and eating game", they have gone a long way to succeeding in a short time. Robert has worked in the farming industry all his life and knows many of the farms that harvest the game, while Paul, a gamekeeper's son, is a qualified butcher and an expert in preparing meat for cooking. All The Wild Meat Company game is harvested from their own farm or neighbouring farms and estates in East Anglia. The quality is exceptional, the flavours magnificent and the aromas that pervade the kitchen as you cook utterly beguiling.
The greatest success is borne out of adversity. Despite the widely publicised setbacks suffered by British livestock farmers in recent years there have been some heart-warming success stories. Herdwick Lamb, as supplied by the enterprising Lake District Farmers, a group of Cumbrian farmers who came together after the Foot & Mouth crisis, is certainly one. Herdwick sheep have been native to the Lake District since Viking times. It is a 'primitive' breed that would once have been overlooked because it is neither uniformed nor homogenized. Thankfully, the food revolution means people now appreciate that real food, the best tasting food, is not factory produced or conveniently shaped. It comes from plants and animals that are grown and raised as naturally as possible. For Herdwick sheep that means being able to roam the hills, enjoy the views and wonder where those funny blonde men with horned hats have gone.