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.

I felt as if I’d missed out on autumn until the sun shone again today. The gales were wintry, bent trees over, tore off leaves and the damage was awful. However, today the sky is bright blue and there’s no wind, hurrah! I can pick sound apples from the trees ready to wrap for storage and my gardening friend has secured the tree.

The wind has given us barrow-loads of windfall apples and pears and I’m attempting to be creative using them. Apples will keep for a week or two but the first windfalls have been made into chutney and jelly, giving the kitchen that October perfume of cider vinegar and spices. The rest, I’m using in puddings, pies, cakes and tarts for the freezer, apple sauce, both savoury and sweet. To boost our immune system, we have a glass shot of freshly-juiced apples and pears with the odd piece of ginger, celery or carrot thrown in. I can just feel the surge of vitamins in my bloodstream! The hens get the sludge, so all’s well in the world.

Pears on the other hand do not store well. They tend to go soft from the inside out very quickly, so I’ve made my annual batch of spiced pear and pepper relish and this weekend there will be a pear and chocolate pudding. Pears are good poached in red wine with spices and my first cook book included Pears in Butterscotch Sauce - yum!

My two Cumbrian cook books are now out of print but I’m pleased to say that Belinda Hill has written a brand new one for Cumbria in aid of Hospice at Home. It’s called ‘At Home in Cumbria’ and showcases fabulous produce and foods in our county. Her recipes give lots of inspirational ideas that made me leap for my pinny!

In between gathering fruits and turning them into chutneys and jellies, there’s still lots to do in the garden. Gathering leaves is one thing. Clearing weeds from beds is another. Preparing said beds with a good layer of compost or mulch for overwintering is important too. Most of all, I must tackle the greenhouse. Although the tomato plants are still producing their harvest, these are becoming rather small and I’ve just noticed whitefly has taken up residence under some leaves.

So, it’ll be a grand clean out

whatever the weather this weekend. I’ve started off some spinach, lettuce and chard, which I hope will give us some winter leaves to supplement our nutrients, so they need a good clean home with lots of light to keep them going.

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.


Well, it is almost that time of year when we celebrate Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot! Even the Beeb is scheduling a new historical drama about it with Kit Harington (he of Game of Thrones fame!). I’m sure it will be one to watch.

If you are having your own bonfire party, how about making some toffee apples - a great blast from the past and sticky fingers too!

Bonfire Night Toffee Apples You will need:

10 Golden Delicious apples - cleaned 350g light brown sugar

2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar 35g unsalted butter

2 tablespoons of golden syrup

For something a little different try stirring in 2 tablespoons of orange extract and 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds into the toffee

To decorate some of the apples: 20g crushed ginger biscuits or even chocolate sprinkles!

In the past wooden skewers were inserted into the apples, but to add a little more security try using forks!

You will need a large baking tray lined with baking parchment. Now to make the toffee...

In to a heavy-based pan add the sugar along with 120ml of cold water and heat gently. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and add the white wine vinegar, butter and golden syrup.

Boil gently for a further 12 minutes until you have reached the soft-crack stage – this is 138°C using a sugar thermometer, but if you haven’t one to hand you can try this test. You will need a cup of cold water. Taking a teaspoon, very carefully take a little of the mixture and drip into the cold water. If it makes threads of toffee that bend slightly before breaking... then it is ready! If not boil for a little longer until you get the right result on the drip test!

Working as quickly as you can, dip the apples into the toffee, turning as you go to coat them. You don’t have to coat completely. Get your children or partner to add the sprinkles, ginger biscuit crumbs or whatever you choose. Place on the baking tray to set. This should take approximately 15 minutes.

Have a great night but stay safe! 19 OCTOBER 2017 ISSUE 419 PAGE 44

The Wensleydale Creamery themselves have recently come up with Blue 16, named after the year they introduced it - well, no-one had told us about it so it was news to me! This is an extremely attractive, orange-hued (as seems to be all the rage these days) firm-textured blue, essentially as far as I can tell their famous Blue Wensleydale but the addition of annatto food colouring lends it a distinctive rich, dark orange tint and gives the cheese a certain nuttiness. 'Twill look lovely on a cheeseboard, or on one of our cheese wedding cakes!

The whole family were invited to the First Annual Yorkshire Dales Cheese Festival over the weekend of 23rd and 24th September at the Wensleydale Creamery, Hawes and what a lovely afternoon we had. It was a delight catching up with a few cheesemakers we already knew, some we had never heard of and being introduced to a few cheeses new to us at the Churchmouse.

I spoke of the Shepherds Purse Dairy from Thirsk last month, lovely to meet up with the ladies and to be reminded how much I love their Bluemin White which we have not stocked for ages, something which we will now address. It is unusual for a blue cheese in that the blue is kept to the edges of the cheese and does not permeate through to the body. Superbly creamy and moreish and so pleased to be reminded of its existence. Less successful for me were the Yorkshire Cheese Pearls submerged in Rapeseed oil which taste, well, exactly how you would expect, tiny balls of soft cheese to taste after they have been sat around in oil for ages - wonderful perhaps when used as mastic, not so great when it comes to mastication.

A final great find was the relatively new Yorkshire Dama Cheese Company but I think this wonderful lady and her inspiring story deserves its own piece, so more on this next issue. Blimey! I know Barbon has just been subsumed into the Yorkshire Dales National Park but that is going to make it three issues in a row where I discuss Yorkshire Cheeses - am I turning into a Yorkshireman by osmosis?

John Natlacen, Owner

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