Last issue, I promised you the story behind a ewes milk cheese unique to us here at Churchmouse Cheese in Barbon.

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 wouldn’t normally call myself violent in any form, but slugs had better watch out. Chilli powder is my preferred line of attack at the moment. Some people scatter slug pellets like sweeties, but I love birds and don’t want them to die just because I can’t cope with a slug or two or twenty-two. I had planted out fleshy pea seedlings too early which was just an invitation for slugs to gorge. It feels so depressing when you’ve nurtured these seeds to small plants, only to be gobbled up before they grow. I really must learn to guard these plants until the last frosts and when they are tougher and no longer succulent is the time to plant out.

After 30 years of gardening organically here by the sea, I still remember a lovely old man who used to visit my garden and sit and watch me work while he dispensed his horticultural wisdom. One word of his wisdom I haven’t forgotten is to change positions/tasks every 20 minutes so that the body doesn’t get stiff or achy. I love a break from kneeling over weeding the raised beds, to cutting back or just walking around the garden with a cuppa.

The good weather yesterday drew me out to prepare my raised beds for squash, courgettes and pumpkin. All these plants like a rich, free draining soil and this year I’m giving them lots of homemade compost, chicken manure pellets (organic ones) plus I spent time and patience digging out soil from the chicken run. What could be better? Soil that has been pecked clean, manured and ready for the taking. My girls thoroughly enjoyed me being in with them, but I could hardly get the fork in before they were jumping on the clods of earth and pecking out worms. I told them off, of course! Those worms are for my garden, they're beneficial to soil. My girls get as many slugs and snails as I can find for them, so they're not deprived. I’m being paid back with gorgeous orange-yolked eggs daily. I might have to make the Christmas cake and freeze it.

Cockermouth Food Assembly as mentioned last month has a telephone contact for more information. 07814 770 906.

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.


Back in 2010, I had Dear Reader, a vivid dream that I made my own cheese; I dreamed it was a sheep's milk brie, rectangular like a small brick, with a small wave imprinted on to the face of the cheese. It was silky-smooth and unctuous, and I even knew its name - Bright Blessed Crest. Quite where all that came from, I have to this day no idea but that was the dream! I promptly forgot all about it until I was having a chat with lovely Maurice from the Appleby Creamery, where I mentioned the idea. "Well, we can make that for you" he confidently assured. "You can do all of that at Appleby? " I ventured. "Sheep's milk brie in a kind of rectangular shape? Well, we've not made a sheep's milk cheese yet but I'm sure we could. You're probably only looking at a thousand pounds to create the rectangular cheese molds." I thought for around three seconds. "Have you got round molds in stock Maurice?" Thus, was born Bright Blessed Crest - admittedly not the original shape I dreamed of but everything else was just as I'd envisaged. Within eight weeks we had our first batch of cheeses, super smooth and moreish, mild and gentle when young maturing to

a rich creaminess when it had aged a little and we were all delighted with the finished product. Just to gauge reaction really, I entered only our second batch of cheeses into the British Cheese Awards, where it was named Best New Cheese in

Britain, not bad for Appleby Creameries second attempt at our brand-new venture!

Lovely Maurice and the wonderful people up at Appleby still make Bright Blessed Crest exclusively for us and you can only buy this from our shop in Barbon. Now winter is behind us and the supply of quality local ewes milk is starting to come through, we should have our little gem back in the counter all throughout the spring and summer. So, if you're heading down the M6 and fancy having a free taste, you know where to come! Lovely with a slightly buttery, unoaked Chardonnay or with a glass or three of Prosecco!

John Natlacen, Owner

Fancy a nice cake to enjoy straight out of the oven (almost!) or next day with a cup of tea or coffee? Great after all that strenuous gardening!

Berry Crumble Traybake Berry filling ingredients

200g frozen berries - could be raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrants or even a mix! 50g caster sugar | 2 tablespoons cornflour

Crumble topping 110g plain flour | 70g unsalted butter cut into small cubes (keep cold) | 30g caster sugar

Crumble topping 220g plain flour | 50g ground almonds | 200g caster sugar | 80g butter (melted) | 40g yoghurt thinned down with 2 tablespoons of milk | 2 eggs | ¾ teaspoon baking powder | ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas 4. Grease and line a rectangular 26cm x 20cm baking tin.

The berry filling. In a saucepan add the fruit with 50ml of water. Bring up to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for a further 2 to 3 minutes.

In a mixing bowl add the caster sugar and cornflour. Add to the simmering fruit. Stir all the time until thick and jammy (usually a further 2-3 minutes). Put aside to cool.

The crumble. In a mixing bowl add the flour and rub in the butter cubes until you have a mix that look like breadcrumbs - no lumps of butter! Stir in the sugar and leave on the side.

The cake. In a large mixing bowl sift in the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Stir in the ground almonds until thoroughly mixed in.

In another bowl beat together the sugar, melted butter, eggs, yoghurt/milk mixture. Add the flour/almond mixture and combine. Don’t over mix this but make sure you have no lumps of flour.

Spoon two-thirds of the mixture into your lined tin. Gently spread out in to the corners. Spoon the cooled fruit mix evenly over the top. Now using your baking skills and a teaspoon, blob the rest of the cake batter evenly over the top of the fruit! This won’t cover all of the cake, but makes little mounds with gaps in between. Sprinkle the crumble mixture into the gaps to cover the fruit.

Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes until the crumble is a lovely golden colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin. Transfer onto a rack using the paper liner. You can cut this and eat whilst still warm with crème fraîche or ice cream.

Give it a go, you know you want to! ISSUE 425 | 26 APRIL 2018 | 46

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