Celebrating the best in county food and drinks

Duncan Farrington is presented with his Local Food Hero Award
Duncan Farrington is presented with his Local Food Hero Award

Anyone who thinks this week’s BBC Great British Bake Off was the most competitive culinary event, has obviously never been to the Carlsberg UK Northamptonshire Food & Drink Awards.

Now in its fifth year, the successes of this year’s hotly contested event were announced at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate last week, creating proud and deserving winners from across the county.

The winners were: The Apothocoffee Shop in Earls Barton (Independent Cafe/Tea Room of the Year); The Rose & Crown, Yardley Hastings (Booker Food Pub); Oundle Mill (Restaurant of the Year); Cold Eating Chicken and Ham Pie, by Elliott’s Kitchen in Towcester (Artisan Local Product); 1833 India Pale Ale by Hart Family Brewers in Wellingborough (Artisan Local Drink); Farrington’s Mellow Yellow Garlic Mayonnaise (New Local Product); Harrington Dry Gin by Warner Edwards Distillery in Harrington (New Local Drink); Duncan Farrington of Farrington Oils, Hargrave (Local Food Hero); Nadir Hussain of Sedgebrook Hall, Chapel Brampton (Spice Chef of the Year); Lee Gaskins of The Terrace Restaurant at Highgate House, Creaton (Aspire Chef of the Year); and Laura Gibbins of The World’s End, Ecton (Young Chef Of The Year).

Categories supported by the Chronicle & Echo were Community Pub of the Year, won by The Olde England in Ketterinng Road, Northampton (Town award) and The George and Dragon, in Chacombe (Rural award).

Paul Hepworth, of the Olde England, said he has always tried to attract more unusual groups. The pub not only holds poetry nights but is also the base for a local knitting group as well as a new ‘living history’ group, called the Blood Axe Vikings.

He said: “We are really pleased and surprised to win the award and would like to thank everyone who voted for us, for the support they have given in the two years since we opened.”

Chris Peverell, who runs The George and Dragon in Chacombe, with John Tipson, said: “We are completely over the moon with our award. We have a fantastic team who have helped us to obtain it. I think it is well deserved and it is great to receive that recognition.

“We are a focal point for the village societies and we provide a place for them to use regularly. We provide a daily service to a few elderly couples in the village, we take them their lunch each day and we support a young girl in the village who bakes our bread for us.”

Duncan Farrington was delighted to come away with two awards. The garlic mayonnaise, he confessed, was a reinvention based on customer feedback.

He said: “We had a garlic mayonnaise three or four years ago and we were getting comments that it wasn’t garlicky enough. We went in fairly conservatively but we knew we needed to make it more garlicky. We thought that would be easy, just increasing the garlic, but it wasn’t. It took a long time to work it out. We used roasted garlic pieces which gives it little bursts of garlic on your tongue.”

Speaking about the Restaurant of the Year category, manager Paul Richardson, from the winning venue, Oundle Mill, said: “It was a great feeling to win this award for the second time against such tough competition and especially after trying to build the business back up following the floods last year. The award goes to the whole team as only their hard work and passion for what they do made this possible.”

Of those who conquered nerves to win through, the family team behind The Apothocoffee Shop in Earls Barton were a good example.

Taking part in a bake-off, Anna Jeyes was asked to come up with a scone and a signature cake.

Anna’s mum, Georgina, who is part of the team, said: “Everyone had done a cream tea but we did a savoury cheese scone with chutney. We served that with a sliver of cheese and some local apple juice. Then we did a lemon polenta cake and that is slightly unusual because it is gluten free.

“We did not expect to win as everyone looked so professional, but it was really good, we had an exciting day.”

Another winner was Rob Hart, of Hart Family Brewers, in Wellingborough. He clinched the title of Artisan Local Drink of the Year with his 1833 India Pale Ale, over Hoggleys Brewery in Litchborough, which won silver with its Indian Summer IPA, and Nene Valley Brewery, in Oundle, which won bronze for Nene Valley Bitter.

Rob said: “In terms of basic recipe it is one of the simplest beers, with 100 per cent British malted barley, but because it is a high gravity beer we knew what would really make it would be that extended ageing.”

One of the biggest cheers of the night went to gin-makers Warner Edwards Distillery, of Harrington, owned by Tom Warner and Sion Edwards.

Tom said: “We were over the moon. We now sell across Bristol, Gloucester, at Fortnum and Mason and Harvey Nichols. We are so busy we probably need to take someone on to help now. We researched everything thoroughly before we started and there was a lot of hard work involved. It is now a seven-days-a-week operation.”

Lee Gaskins, of Highgate House, in Creaton, picked up the Chef of the Year crown. He said: “I’m incredibly proud. What an honour to hold this title for the county for the second time. It has been a pleasure taking part in the awards, meeting some great chefs and judges and cooking with some of Northamptonshire’s finest produce.”

Elliotts Kitchen, in Towcester, had a very successful time at this year’s awards as not only did the venue’s Cold Eating Chicken and Ham Pie clinch the Artisan Local Product of the Year title, but its sticky toffee pudding also came runner-up.

Director Pamela Grattan said: “We do a range of ready meals using meat from our butchers and we do a traditional pork pie and chicken and ham pie as well as a lot of puddings and desserts. We are making Christmas puddings at the moment.

“I have developed a range of recipes over my time here and the chicken and ham pie stemmed from a covered pork pie which Elliotts did years ago. I came in and reinvented the recipe.

“It is all made in a traditional manner with hot water pastry and Heygates flour.”