When it comes to inter county rivalry, there are no greater demagogues than us Tykes (if you live south of Derbyshire this refers to a Yorkshire man, one of God’s own). Seriously, we live in the most beautiful part of the country, with dramatic valleys, windswept dales, golden cornfields and savage stretches of coast. Our food and drink is manna from heaven and the people aren’t too bad either, yes dear parishioners we are truly God’s elect!…or so I thought.
Several billion years ago, cosmic forces conspired to create some kind of paradise several miles south of Gloucester, a land rich in greenery, lofty rocky crags and gentle rolling hills. The people would be jovial, friendly folk who enjoyed nothing more than a flagon of golden cider sat under the trees from which it was grown, and lo they called this little part of Elysium… Somerset!
I have now spent quite a bit of time in Somerset and Bath and I am envious. It pains me to say it but I am so envious of the students at Bath…From a foodie perspective, this region really has so much to offer it is quite incredible:
Somerset is a little bit renowned for its commitment to piggys. Boasting numerous breeds such as Large Blacks, Middle Whites and Kune Kunes, while the world renowned Gloucester Old Spot (a chief component of the renowned Bath Chaps) just sits across the border. When we went out filming the “Taste of Bath” film, I bought some fantastic dark ruby red pork steaks from Cheddar, the likes of which I have found hard to get anywhere else. Fried off with a bit of cider from Thatchers (I am coming to that later) and a handful of superb Cheddar cheese while in the wet and damp of the Cheddar valley, was something of a fitting end to a hard day’s filming. Maybe it’s a bit whimsical but I can picture the pigs in the field eating up the cider apples that they are one day going to be sautéed in, and it makes me bloody content.
If you have ever eaten Cheddar cheese, you have eaten Somerset. I think Cheddar, like a lot of British cheeses can get overlooked sometimes. We automatically think our cheeses are inferior to those of our Gallic and Italian cousins, but news flash mes enfants! The French go nuts for a bit of the West Country favorites, Cheddar, Double Gloucester etc! I remember seeing queues snaking out the door of Globus (huge department store in Geneva) for a few slices of select Cheddar cheese. I have eaten a fair bit of Somerset’s favourite son and have come to the conclusion that the best comes from Twerton Market’s very own Bristol Meat Machine. Though a butchers, I bought a huge block of a local farm’s mature Cheddar (I cannot remember the name, but many of the locals at the market told me it was the best) and it was incredible. Go and see Mark at Twerton Market, he will sort out your cheesy needs.
Somerset/cider, cider/Somerset. It goes hand in hand. We had the pleasure and privilege to film at Thatchers cider where we tried some incredible locally produced ciders. The range of ciders was baffling and extensive, from strong dry ciders to the sweet and moorish Medium Oak Aged Cider (aged in Rum casks which is subtly obvious when you pop the bottle cap). All these refreshing, golden nectars where accompanied by (once again) a vast selection of artisan produced cheddars, pickles and breads, which complimented the drink perfectly.
It seems to me, that when whatever heavenly deity created Earth, he or she decided to give Somerset an abundance of ingredients that all complimented each other nicely. I have listed a few things here, but Somerset is a land rich in culinary diversity all waiting to be explored and enjoyed by inquisitive mouths from further afield. Yorkshire may be Gods own country, but Somerset may just be his pantry?