Cumbria is doing a marvellous job of putting itself on the map for the foodies of Britain.
Our local produce is second to none, and we have a number of absolutely fantastic restaurants serving delectable dishes and offering a top class dining experience.
Just this year, two more restaurants have been awarded Michelin stars, taking our total of Michelin-starred restaurants to four – with L’Enclume in Cartmel, The Samling in Ambleside, Forest Side in Grasmere and Gilpin Hotel in Windermere flying the flag for gastronomic success in Cumbria.
But what makes our food so special? Firstly, we probably owe a lot to our phenomenal local produce. Let’s take a look at a few famous foods from our region.
The Cumberland sausage is a form of sausage that originated in Cumberland, now part of Cumbria. The sausage is very long and is sold rolled in a flat, circular coil. It is made using natural ingredients and selected cuts of pork. The meat is typically chopped rather than minced which gives it that distinctive chunky texture, and the sausage contains no added colouring or preservatives, with the seasonings being prepared from a variety of spices and herbs. In March 2011, the “Traditional Cumberland sausage” was granted Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.
Those who have tasted this will know this gingerbread is extraordinary rather than ordinary. Many describe it as an intensely ginger-flavoured shortbread, topped with sandy, sugary, gingery crumbs. It is made to Sarah Nelson secret recipe, dating back to the 1850s. The gingerbread is made in the tiny building which was once the village school, by the entrance to St Oswald’s church in Grasmere. It is only available to buy here, and by mail order.
Kendal mint cake
This has been made by Romneys of Kendal since 1918 and is a sugary, peppermint flavoured sweet treat. According to legend, a Kendal confectioner, who was intending to make glacier mints, took his eye off the cooking pan for a minute and then noticed that the mixture had start to grain and become cloudy instead of clear – the result was Mint Cake. It is popular among climbers and mountaineers as a source of energy. Sir Edmund Hilary and Sidar Tensing even ate the mint cake on top of Everest.
Sticky toffee pudding
Cartmel village shop is famous for its sticky toffee pudding, and their products are available throughout Cumbria and beyond at many retailers, due to its popularity. While the origins of the dessert are considered a mystery, the most widely accepted story is that Francis Coulson developed and served this dessert at his Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel on the shore of Ullswater in 1960.
Salt marsh lamb
This is lamb that has grazed on the salt marshes on the Cartmel peninsula at the edge of Morecambe Bay. They eat the grasses and hers that are wild and are untreated with agricultural chemicals. The salt marsh lamb meat has more flavour than young ‘spring’ lamb and can be bought in different retailers around the area.
Damsons and Damson gin
The Lyth and Winster Valleys between Kendal and Windermere are well known for their damson orchards, the home of the Westmorland Damson, which are used to make various damson products, including Damson gin. There are damsons elsewhere, but the flavour of the smaller Westmorland damson is widely accepted as being second to none.
A traditional recipe of lightly spiced butter with a dash of dark rum, usually served together with Christmas Pudding and mince pies.
It’s no surprise that writing this blog has made us feel a little bit peckish, and we’re incredibly lucky to have these foodie treats right on our doorstep, here in Cumbria. We’d love to know which of these local delights is your favourite – we’re torn between Cumberland sausage and Grasmere gingerbread (the perfect main meal and dessert!) Comment below and tell us which are your favourites.