We all love pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, but one day a year seems a little stingy! If you fancy a few more different ones...

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.

The days are getting longer. I can always tell when my hens start laying again and I notice the sun setting a little closer. Such a time for optimism I think.

Thank heavens for the end of winter and those green shoots of spring. I started tomato and cucumber seeds off last month and now’s the tricky bit in attempting to fatten them up while they grow fast and spindly reaching for the light. Luckily, tomato plants will send out shoots from their main stem, so I shall have to find some tall pots to put them in until they are ready for their main growing pots in the greenhouse.

The key to organic gardening is to enrich the soil with nutrient rich compost to give your plants the best growing medium. I shall be adding to each of my vegetable raised beds some of last year’s well-rotted compost whilst asking my friendly farmer for some of their mature midden. The better the soil, the greater the crop. There are still brassicas growing, providing us with spouting broccoli, chard, spinach and two different kales. These deserve a top dressing now to help their spring growth. I’ve made a note of advice which I intend to take, removing the stem and stump of overwintered brassicas when they’ve finished, giving us great winter green and burying them deep in the bowels of the compost heap. This apparently will kill off any whitefly or aphids which could transfer to new growing plants. I’m touching wood as I say this but living by the sea affords me greater protection from a lot of pests. I think it’s probably the salt wind but I’m happy to help it along.

I’m itching to get going in the garden now, am super-excited at the prospect of our own nutritious vegetables as soon as possible, so my next step is to warm up a little bit of a bed by covering with black plastic - better to reuse the stuff! Then I can really get going with the first of the outdoor seeds such as leeks, hardy lettuces, herbs, parsnips and Pak Choi, the list could be endless.

If you can’t grow your own, Cockermouth Food Assembly invites you to buy lots of local food, cheese, meat, venison, preserves, vegetables included, once a week. Pick up point is the Swan on Kirkgate on a Friday evening. Orders are dealt with online.

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.


Normandy has always been well known for its soft, unctuous cheeses - think Camembert, Livarot or Pont l'Eveque - due to both its cool yet humid climate and the lush richness of the milk from the Normandy breed of cow. Hailing from the tiny, picturesque town of Neufchâtel in the Haute Normandy region, Pays de Bray, the cheese has been made there for over five hundred years. It was

Bacon pancakes - serves 2 (2 pancakes each). 2 eggs | 5 to 7 tablespoons of milk | 150g self- raising flour | 2 tablespoons of caster sugar teaspoon of salt | Vegetable oil for shallow frying Pack of smoked bacon (150g) | 4 tablespoons of golden syrup | Course ground black pepper |

In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar and salt. In another bowl whisk together the eggs and milk. Make a well in the centre of the flour mix and add the whisked egg. Beat to form a smooth, thick batter. Leave to stand for 5 minutes.

Grill your smoked bacon and drain on kitchen paper.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan. CAREFULLY place large spoonfuls of batter in to the oil and cook for 2 minutes until golden brown. Remove onto a serving plate and top with bacon. Drizzle over the syrup, sprinkle with the black pepper and serve.

Austrian raisin pancakes - pictured above. Popular for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Serves 6.

90g raisins | 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier

liqueur | 100g plain flour | 25g caster sugar Pinch of salt | 2 large eggs (separated) 200ml milk | Grated zest of 1 orange 20g butter | 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Soak the raisins in the Grand Marnier for a few hours.

In a bowl mix the flour, caster sugar and the pinch of salt. Add the egg yolks and approximately 50ml of the milk. Whisk together. Pour in the rest of the milk and whisk again until smooth. Stir in the orange zest, soaked raisins and any remaining liqueur. Beat until thick and smooth.

Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the batter.

Heat the butter and vegetable oil in a frying pan. Add a small ladleful of batter into the frying pan. Make sure you have some of the raisins from the bottom of the mix!

Cook for 2 minutes on each side. Keep warm in a low oven until you have at least 12 pancakes. Serve with maple or golden syrup and vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy again and again!

I've just returned from the Tatton Park Wedding Show following a weekend ‘showing off’ our beautiful Cheese Wedding Cakes. The one thing people comment on more than any other, apart from my lurid taste in shirts, are the lovely little Heart-Shaped Brie’s that adorn our cakes. These look they were designed by committee just to fit in with the burgeoning Wedding Industry but no, they have been around for hundreds of years, so this issue we look at the adorably cute Neufchâtel cheese.

not originally heart-shaped, but legend has it that during the Hundred Years War of 1337 - 1453 some of the dairy maids of the town fell in love with their English occupiers and started to mold the cheese into its distinctive shape to be given as gifts. However pretty the cheese undeniably is, as always, it’s got to come down to taste and here it certainly doesn't disappoint! Too often these days, Brie’s - and it must be said usually the British ones can be creamy but insipid, lacking in any depth of flavour. Not here - Neufchâtel is not shy on taste, with a salty, sharp and decidedly mushroomy aroma and flavour. The texture is slightly crumbly and there is a slight graininess on the palate but don't let that put you off, it is still a soft creamy treat.

I trust the romantic folk of Cockermouth have stocked up on a Neufchâtel this year and presented it to a loved one this Valentine’s Day with a nice bottle of fizz but if not, don't worry there's always next year - five hundred years on, it still makes a lovely gift even if you're not a French milk maid!

John Natlacen, Owner

ISSUE 423 | 22 FEBRUARY 2018 | 48

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