101 Great Taste Award-winning products from Suffolk and Norfolk you have to try
- Credit: Archant
Hand-rolled truffles, meaty pies, delectable ice creams and more have been named amongst the best of the best in the region this year
Nearly 300 East Anglian products, from jams to gin, have been celebrated this week as winners in the Guild of Fine Food’s Great Taste Awards.
The coveted stars (graded from one to three) were dished out to farmers, bakers, brewers and makers across the width and breadth of the east – with more than 100 items honoured in Suffolk and Norfolk alone.
Expert judges from the industry (who’ve had to navigate social distancing while trying to taste thousands of items this year) blind taste each product for taste, consistency and overall quality before deciding whether to give an award.
One Star denotes the item is just simply delicious.
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Two Stars means judges believe a product is outstanding, with around 15% of entries achieving the status.
While Three Stars are reserved for the extraordinary delights judges say are ‘must buys’. Just 3% of entries achieve this honour, and only three businesses in Suffolk and Norfolk have walked away with Three Stars in 2020 – Tosier for its 70% Tumaco Colombia chocolate, Alder Tree with its Blackcurrant Fruit Cream Ice, and Morton’s Family Farm with its slow-matured Norfolk Black turkeys.
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Here are the products you need to know about this year.
THE BIG WINNERS
Barsham Brewery, Fakenham
The Norfolk brewery has this year picked up eight stars – one each for Pilgrim’s Pale Ale and B.O.B. and two each for Oaks, Norfolk Topper and Stout Robin.
Based on a farm operated by the same family for generations, the brewery uses its own marris Otter barley, malted down the road, blending it with the finest hops from across the world, and pure water drawn from an onsite bore hole.
Of particular note is the Two Star Norfolk Topper – a 3.8% session bitter they say is filled with citrus and floral nuances thanks to the inclusion of New Zealand Green Bullet hops. The brew has picked up numerous industry awards, including being named Champion Beer of East Anglia in 2016. And it’s named after one of the beloved Suffolk Punch horses which worked on the estate over 30 years ago.
Sales manager Jules says: “We are astonished and humbled to have won five Great Taste Awards for our beers. Since we started brewing just over two years ago, our focus has been on creating the best tasting, most drinkable beers possible. Ours beers really are ‘Norfolk born and brewed’ in the very truest sense, and we take huge pride in the journey it takes from grain to glass.”
You can find Barsham beers in shops, bars and pubs throughout East Anglia in bottle and on draught.
Founded in north Suffolk, Hodmedod’s is at the beating pulse (excuse the pun) of the British grain industry. Working with farmers around East Anglia, the business has continued to innovate since its inception in 2012, selling everything from badger beans and carlin peas, to British quinoa.
This year Hodmedod’s has picked up eight Great Taste Award stars. The Organic Marrowfat Pea Flour and Wholegrain Stoneground Organic YQ Flour achieved Two Stars each, while British-Grown Chickpeas, Organic Four-Grain Muesli Base, Wholegrain Naked Barley, and Dark Buckwheat Flour achieved one apiece.
Co-director Josiah Meldrum says he’s “delighted to have our humble but delicious store cupboard foods recognised by the Great Taste judging panel.”
Hadley’s Dairy, Lavenham
While Jane Hadley no longer has the Essex dairy or wholesale operation that were the foundations of her business, she continues to operate the delightful Parlour ice cream shop in medieval Lavenham. Using locally sourced milk and cream and the finest raw natural ingredients in her ice creams and sorbets has proved a winning formula for the foodie, who has racked up more than 130 Great Taste Award stars over the years, as well as a Golden Fork – which are only reserved for a sprinkling of businesses. In 2020 Hadley’s has achieved seven stars, one for her hand-rolled truffles made with Tosier Haiti chocolate, and two each for her hot chocolate (also made with Tosier chocolate), Pink Rhubarb ice cream and Raspberry ice cream.
“It’s quite humbling,” Jane says of the wins, “especially when we are such a small business doing everything ourselves. I’m not wholesaling anymore so I’ve been focussing this year on the shop. I’d been tinkering with the chocolates for a little while. I’d gone on a course with Paul A Young and just hadn’t been able to focus on them until now. I’ve entered them into the Great British Food Awards too, and they got a bronze in the Academy of Chocolate Awards which is a fantastic start. The chocolates give me another product to sell here as the weather cools down.” In 2017 Jane’s hot chocolate, then made with Pump Street Jamaican chocolate, gained her Three Stars. It’s still crafted with Suffolk bean-to-bar chocolate to this day, making it one of the most indulgent in the county. “Deanna’s (of Tosier) Haiti chocolate has wonderful citrus notes which it brings to the drink. When you try single origin chocolate you get all these different flavour profiles and this one is really quite fruity. We top it off with a handmade marshmallow from Yaffle House in Rattlesden. She makes them especially for us and they’re filled with Pump Street chocolate. We get lovely comments.”
Morton’s Family Farm, Skeyton nr Norwich
Rob Morton says he is over-the-moon to have won five stars overall in this year’s Great Taste Awards, gaining One Star for the Heritage Jacob leg of lamb and another for the free-range whole chicken, while achieving the only Three Stars in Norfolk for his traditionally-reared Norfolk Black turkeys, which can be delivered nationwide.
“We’re based here on a small family farm with under 1,000 acres – four brothers and the next generation, my son George. We’ve all had to cut our own cloth, if you like, and I started doing turkeys about 15 to 20 years ago. We’ve always done the Norfolk Black which is the true, traditional breed here, and we will never be massive – we only do 1,000 to 1,200 turkeys a year.”
All turkeys reared on the farm are free-range and, says Rob, have lots more flavour than intensively reared supermarket birds. “I think it’s because they’re such an active bird. They’re running around, flying up into the trees, roosting. That definitely affects the texture of the meat. Norfolk Blacks are different to the Bronze turkeys. They’re longer and look a bit narrower, some might think they look like a poor man’s bird, but they are the best. We rear them all slowly, they’re not pushed on at all, and we give them whole oats to supplement their diet and help them put down that layer of fat which means they’re self-basting when you cook them.”
All turkeys are processed, dry-plucked and hung in cold store for two weeks before being delivered anywhere in the UK to waiting customers. The whole process, Rob says, “lends itself to an award-winning bird. You have to take your time and do the right things.”
The farm is already gearing up for Christmas and as well as turkeys can deliver chicken, geese, smoked products and trimmings such as stuffing and pigs in blankets. “We’re developing smaller breast joints of turkey for smaller gatherings at the moment as well, and turkey sausages.”
Booja Booja, Norwich
Multi-award-winning gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate and ice cream maker Booja Booja is no stranger to stars, having clocked up neayl 50 since launching in 1999. The brand’s beautifully packaged chocolates melt in the mouth, while its ice cream is so creamy, silky and smooth you’d be hard-pushed to tell it apart from its milky competitors.
This year Booja Booja has taken five stars in two categories. The Hazelnut Crunch, Almond Salted Caramel, Stem Ginger and Around Midnight Espresso truffles, and the Chocolate Salted Caramel ice cream each gained One Star.
Head of marketing Simon Middleton says: “When we started we were pioneers in the vegan and organic sector. That marketplace has boomed in the last few years, but we’re proud to have been making great dairy-free treats for more than two decades. There are a lot of people in the sector now, but the Great Taste Awards recognise the superb quality of our products and the fine art of blending minimal natural ingredients to make extraordinary taste experiences, which is our speciality.
“We’re also very proud that we continue to make all of our own products at our Norfolk factory, with a small team of dedicated people.”
Alder Tree, Needham Market
This fruit cream ice (much fruitier than ice cream) started life as a way to diversify on the family farm, which produced oodles of berries.
Since starting up in 2007 Stephany Hardingham has gained numerous Great Taste Awards, including several Three Stars – judges being wowed by her creations, made with 100% British fruit, cream and sugar, and homegrown or hyper-locally sourced fruit.
This year Alder Tree’s Blackcurrant Fruit Cream Ice was one of only two products in East Anglia to be given Three Stars. “We’re absolutely delighted,” Stephany says. “We’ve received Three Stars for several of our other flavours but we’ve never had one for blackcurrant before. It’s one of our best so we’re really pleased. We use local blackcurrants, as they come from DC Williamson in Manningtree. While this time of year is gearing down for ice cream, we find that the Great Taste Awards really do help you find new stockists, because it’s an independent certification. It’s helped us in the past and will definitely help us to find new outlets and to grow in the future.”
In addition to being delicious, Alder Tree fruit cream ices are some of the most sustainably made in the country, having Suffolk Carbon Charter Gold status, and a stringent social responsibility and sustainable procurement policies. Waste is minimal, all paper, plastic, cardboard and glass is recycled, organic waste is composted, and the business generates its own electricity, heat and hot water with solar panels and a biomass boiler.
The Tealady, Norfolk
Lis Walker’s preserves, adorned with the vintage-esque outline of her ‘tealady’ Connie, grace the shelves of farm shops and delis across Norfolk.
They’re made seasonally with the plumpest, most delicious fruit and vegetables she can get her hands on from local growers, and this year The Tealady’s gained four One Star accolades from the GTA’s for its Double Orange Marmalade, Caramelised Onion Chutney, Tomato Chilli Jam and Rhubarb and Fig Chutney.
Lis says: “Since starting my business in late 2016 my ethos has, where possible, always been to buy and gather local fruit and vegetables in season so that my products are deliciously tasty and full of flavour. Using traditional methods, cooking in small batches, each is hand-cut and hand-stirred to reflect a truly homemade product.
I’m delighted that our kitchen skill and attention to detail has been recognised again. However, great taste can only be achieved with top quality ingredients. Three of the awards are for jars that contain amazing Norfolk fruit and vegetables... onions and rhubarb from R G Abrey Farms at Wrentham and tomatoes from Anema’s in Dereham. The final award was for a marmalade using organic Seville oranges from the Ave Maria farm in Seville.”
Deanna Tilston’s journey with chocolate began when health problems meant she had to look closely at her diet and the best foods to nurture her body. So began an adventure which saw Deanna learn from chocolatiers across the world how to source, roast and process single origin cocoa beans, transforming them into artisinal bars, each with their own unique flavour profiles, and no nasty additives or fillers.
The Tumaco Colombia Chocolate with Coffee is one of two products in Suffolk to achieve Three Stars at the 2020 Great Taste Awards. Judges commented it was “a rich and luxurious product” with “a great taste that glides over the palate into a long layered, smoother, moreish finish- how to make a chocolate and coffee lover happy”.
Deanna, who is preparing to move into a new chocolate factory, says: “Internationally only 205 entrants have been awarded Three Stars so it’s a great achievement and testament to the work put in by the whole of our supply chain, from the cocoa and coffee farmers in Colombi, to the commitment from our small team here in Suffolk.”
Stokes Sauces, Rendlesham
Rick Sheepshanks’ saucery truly makes some of the best sauces, relishes, pickles, jams, chutneys and dressing in the UK, taking high quality base ingredients such as rich, ripe tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil and free-range eggs as a jumping point. Recently the brand launched a reduced sugar tomato ketchup, and a series of barbecue sauces - from Cajun to Korean. But awards rolled in at the GTAs for other parts of the collection.
One Star was given to the Seville Orange Marmalade, Chilli Jam, Bloody Mary Tomato Ketchup, Creamed Horseradish, Chipotle Ketchup, Reduced Sugar Tomato Ketchup and Garlic Mayonnaise. While Two Stars were handed over for the Sticky Pickle and Tomato Ketchup.