10 Foods to try on a visit to Dorset
As an ardent foodie as well as traveller, I will seek out quality food wherever I go. If I can find a quality food market I am normally there, and now, having moved into the town of Shaftesbury itself, I regularly look forward to the Sunday markets so I can indulge my adoration of all things locally sourced and produced.
There are so many wonderful small producers in Dorset, it would be an opportunity missed to visit and not try out their produce. There are of course some foods which are synonymous with this end of the UK, then there are some which are completely identifiable with Dorset. Here I have shared with you a little list of the delicacies you may want to try, in no particular order.
1. The Dorset Knob
A definite oddity and truly the daddy of the list. So named as it purportedly resembles a Dorset knob button, it has been a giggle inducing since early 1800’s. The only manufacturer left is Moores Biscuits of Morcombelake. These little delicacies take eight to ten hours to make, three separate bakings and are rolled and shaped by hand. They even have their own festival – Dorset Knob Throwing.
Traditionally eaten with the Dorset Blue Vinney, they are a test on your teeth. I prefer to use them in a clam chowder or similar replacing croutons or crackers (American husband preference for soup).
You can’t come to cider country without trying out a cider, and you’d be absolutely spoiled for choice. I would encourage you to seek out something new and quirky. It’s very easy to find large commercially produced brands in all of the pubs in the area. However, as we all know, something is lost when a company becomes large. I’m not disrespecting the large producers, they have a fine product, but there are so many small artisan producers around it would be a shame not to seek them out.
How about the Dorset Nectar Cider company? not only are the producing award-winning ciders from apples grown in their own orchards, and other local orchards. They are also a family run company with a strong environmental ethic.
Or perhaps the Lulworth Skipper an even smaller producer, pressed on a traditional press, matured in oak barrels and including a mind numbing quantity of thoroughbred apple varieties such as Yarlington Mill, Harry Masters Jersey, Tremletts Bitter, Kingston Black, Dabinett,Stoke Red,Slack M’Girdle, Morgan Sweet, Burrow Hill Early, Ashton Brown Jersey, Major,Warrior, Somerset Redstreak, Porters Perfection,Brown Snout, Golden Bittersweet,Sweet Alford, Bulmers Norman,Royal Somerset, Crimson King, Michelin, Chisel Jersey,Coates Jersey, Taylors.
Don’t be smooth talked by your cider either, I’ve seen it put even the most ardent drinker on their back in no time, this stuff is potent!
This company found their way to my heart almost instantly and you can read about that here.
Half way through 2017 and they have already won some amazing awards including 2 Bronzes, 2 Silvers and the Gold for the British arm of the International Chocolate Awards 6 International awards from the Academy of Chocolate and 5 gongs and ‘Judge’s Favourite’ from the International Chocolate Salon.
If you are a chocolate lover, and even if you’re not, I defy you not to find something amongst their ingenious and delicious products. This is an up and coming company with a fabulous ethic and an amazing product.
If you have never had a glass of mead, you have never lived. This stunning drink traditionally created by fermenting honey with water can be found all around Dorset. The last bottle I bought was actually from a National Trust shop, and delicious it was too. Very alcoholic, but deceptively so, it is a sweet and luxurious drink, something akin to a liquor. Do not be fooled, all meads are not created equal, and some mead mimics use wine and add honey as a flavouring at the end. Sacrilege!
There are a number of producers in the county and most quality products can be found at delicatessen and foodie markets throughout the year. Lyme Bay Winery are probably one of the most well-known producers, their award-winning meads are fermented, blended and aged on site using our secret blends of honey to create rich, floral and pungent flavours. Another favourite is the Marshwood Vale Cider Company, whos produce featured in our Frome Food market post.
As a Northerner born and bred I know a thing or two about pies. Having lived only a few miles from the British pie capital Wigan I am a self-confessed connoisseur. And whilst I have still been unable to locate a meat and potato pie whilst living here (and lament regularly about that fact), there are a number of wonderful pie producers in the County.
If you want responsibly sourced, hand made, stuffed to the gunnels pies, then you must seek out Bournemouth Pies anything from Steak and cheese to Chicken, mushroom and cider. Very regional. Be warned, they serve pies with mash down here, not chips and gravy, but then again, you can’t have everything.
Another one of my Instagram pals, Woodbridge Farm have resurrected the 300 year old recipe and are now the only producers of artisan Dorset Blue Vinny cheese in the county. Using pasteurised milk from their herd of Holstein-Friesian dairy cows, they have been making this cheese on the farm for over 35 years.
Thankfully their methods have changed slightly, as traditionally the blue veins were encouraged by dragging a mouldy horse harnesses through the milk before adding the rennet or storing the cheese on damp hessian bags or even next to mouldy boots.
A heritage cheese, Dorset Blue has been awarded Protected Geographical Status, ensuring only cheese originating from Dorset may use the name, putting it in the same category as Stilton.
A blue cheese made after the cream has been skimmed from the milk it is lower in fat and crumbles a lot more easily than its counterparts. Described as Piquant, peppery, with a mild to strong flavour.
The Dorset Shellfish company, established in 2011 and family run, all the shellfish and fish they sell are caught ethically. They’re little fishing boat is moored in the beautiful Weymouth harbour and goes out to catch early morning on most days (weather permitting). If you love shellfish then their classic crab cakes are a winner, a ‘taste of the west’ GOLD award winner to be precise. A crab cake stuffed with crab and no fillers, they are a treat. These little beauties can be found at many food markets and their itinerary is published on their website. If you miss them, you can always buy online.
Made from impeccable Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes grown on Poundbury Farm in Dorchester. The South facing vineyard is growing on geologically similar land to that in the Champagne region. This exclusive sparkling wine is champagne in all but name, with fine bubbles and a pale straw finish.
There are limited bottles available and they are bound to be snapped up quickly, if you fancy grabbing yourself an English elite wine we know that the Dorset Wine Company have a few available.
9. Dorset Apple Cake
There is no one producer who excels at this recipe. It surely is a regional recipe, and has been reproduced by the likes of Delia Smith and Mary Berry. There are probably as many ways to make this as there are cooks in Dorset. However, if you get the opportunity to take afternoon tea, or just visit a local bakery, you are sure to come across this delicacy. There is even a version made with Dorset Tea.
Where better to try an apple laden cake than a county that is synonymous with apples?
I can confess that I am rather partial to cured meats. If there is the opportunity to have a charcuterie platter as a starter, I’m there. A product you would ordinarily associate with more far flung climes such as Spain and Italy, Dorset has it’s own master producers. Smoking meats, popularised by the ever wonderful Hugh Fearnley-Whitttingstall and other visionary chefs, has become somewhat of a small pastime for the more adventurous.
The Real Cure use locally sourced meats to produce a product a little different than your average salami. Combining unique flavours and foraged food to produce unusual products which include wild deer meat. So, for the truly carnivorous, paleo or just plain greedy, a plated selection of their products, teamed with local cheeses, olives and artisan breads is a delicious evening platter for the patio.