sow it, grow it, eat it! by Annette Gibbons


Annette Gibbons OBE is renowned as a champion of real Cumbrian food. She hosts Cumbria’s Fine Dining Club and also enjoys her organic vegetable garden.

Lessons I've learned this growing season! A gorgeous little wren found its way into the greenhouse this week.

That keeping the greenhouse door ajar helps air flow and prevents mould. Tiny little wrens find a way in.

Erratic watering of tomatoes makes the fruit split. Many have been made into sauce with olive oil, garlic and thyme, whilst others are used in salads with mint and parsley.

The more time I spend in the greenhouse, the better the crop. I've loved cutting off lower leaves and creating air flow around the tomato plants. I end up smelling of fresh picked fruit, more greenhouse than Givenchy.

The less time I spend in the fruit cage of raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, cherries, gooseberries and blueberries, the more weeds grow and prevent me from cropping. Spiders love disorder.

Courgettes need TLC. I thought I’d planted them in lots of good compost but had to administer a dose of Epsom Salts to perk them up. The round Nice courgette has done best of all.

Biggest lesson of all is that slugs are thriving. For the first time, I have a number of sweetheart cabbage grown to maturity. I couldn’t understand why they suddenly appeared to be ravaged. What could it be? Pigeons? Some other birds? Mice, no, flipping slugs! The slugs had infiltrated each and every beautiful little cabbage. I’ve spent hours, digging them up, throwing slugs to hens and cleaning each, layer by layer to be kept in the bottom of the fridge until needed, for crunchy coleslaw. Quickly cooked buttered cabbage and then, delicious bubble and squeak but we’ve had to eat it all in a week.

Here we are in September and there's lots to do to preserve the rest of the harvest.

Sweet pickled cucumbers, gherkins and courgettes are bottled and maturing - I’m coping with the temptation of tasting too soon. Runner beans have been sautéed with onions and garlic and frozen. Apples are threatening to fall any minute and brambles are lush and fat. Must be time for chutneys and jellies, sauces and puddings.

Don’t forget that Apple Day is celebrated each year at Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby and this year, it’s Sunday 8th October from 11.00am to 4.30pm. Always a wonderful day.

Do you enjoy eating out but can’t decide where to go and what to choose?

Annette’s popular Dining Club visits Cumbrian eateries where the evening is planned for you. If you’ve just moved to the area and would like to meet new people who also enjoy good food and wine this is a perfect night out. Long standing locals are welcome too! Ring 01900 881356 to request a newsletter by post or email to have one sent directly to you.

We support businesses in Cumbria, especially those recovering from flood damage.


The cheese business was started by Judy Bell back in the ’80s, when she started making sheep’s milk cheese - she received a bit of stick for it back then as you milked cows not sheep! She pressed on, built herself a new milking parlour and taught herself to milk sheep. At this stage, she had never even milked

Did anyone catch us on the recent Yorkshire Dales and The Lakes programme on More4 recently? Barbon and its Churchmouse were featured extensively in the first episode, so you can now put a face, however disappointing that may be, to yours truly! They always say TV puts five pounds on you but as I was pictured, flamboyantly (and corpulently) sashaying into the shop, in a village now subsumed into the Yorkshire Dales National Park, I was moved to curse the Yorkshire Cheese Makers who helped get me into this frame, once described by an old friend as ‘American Healthy’ - a phrase I would still more happily use than ‘rotund’, as it seems so much more aspirational. I speak of the wonderful Shepherds Purse Dairy of Thirsk, North Yorkshire.

a cow! Olde Yorke was her first success, a fresh and mild, extremely creamy cheese which is a delight. Slightly similar but with a firmer texture and a delicious salty tang running through it is their Yorkshire Fettle - the name eventually had to be changed from the original Yorkshire Feta after ten years of furious wrangling with the Greek authorities although they ended up with a far better name in the end anyway!

Probably the dairy's most well-known cheese is Yorkshire Blue, a cow’s milk cheese this one, soft, marvellously creamy and so moreish when thickly spread onto oatcakes. Judy's daughters Katy and Caroline have recently started to take control of the business and in 2003, came up with an unusual addition to the range, Katy's White Lavender. As the name would suggest, this delicate soft white cheese is infused with Yorkshire lavender lending it a distinctive aroma and taste quite of its own. The most recent innovation is Harrogate Blue created in 2012, an orange-hued blue cheese with a decadent blue tang, perfect for your autumn cheese board!

John Natlacen, Owner

Well here we are at the beginning of autumn, I can’t believe it has arrived so soon! So, to celebrate a good friend has supplied an ideal recipé for a raspberry and fig cake which sounds delicious!

Rasberry and Fig Cake

You will need for the cake: 100g butter (softened). You will also need a little extra to grease the cake tin 150g golden caster sugar 125g plain flour 75g ground almonds - the fresher the better! 2 large eggs 100g natural yogurt 175g raspberries 7 large figs 30g flaked almonds 1 teaspoon of baking powder ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

For the topping: 50g flour 25g butter - from the fridge and cut into cubes 35g soft light brown sugar

Heat the oven to 160˚C fan/180˚C/Gas mark 4. While you wait, grease and line a 20cm (8 inch) springform cake tin, with the extra butter and baking parchment.

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and

fluffy. In another bowl lightly beat the 2 large eggs. Add the egg a little at a time to the mixture, beating well each time. Add the vanilla extract and beat again. Sift the plain flour into the mixture, adding the ground almonds and baking powder. Now, fold in one large tablespoon of flour into your batter mixture. Then add the rest of the flour, alternating with the yogurt, a tablespoon at a time.

Make the topping by rubbing the 50g of flour and 25g of butter together with your fingertips until you have a lovely crumbly mixture. Now stir in the sugar.

Cut the stalks off the figs. Halve four of them and chop the rest. Stir in the chopped figs and approximately a third of the raspberries to the batter. Scoop this into your prepared cake tin. Lay your halved figs on top and scatter on half of the raspberries you have left, along with the crumble topping. Then add the rest of the rasps and all the flaked almonds.

Bake in the oven for 75 minutes or until the skewer test comes out clean. Best to check after an hour! Leave in the tin for 15 minutes to cool then run a butter/palette knife around the edge. Carefully unclasp the surround and remove the base and parchment. Slide the cake onto a plate and serve on its own or with cream/crème fraîche... enjoy!


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