Meals with a flavour of our wonderful heritage

Allan Bank (picture by Steve Barber)

Pie from Elisabeth Birkett's recipe book (picture by Steve Barber)

First published in Food news The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A CELEBRATION of Cumbria’s edible heritage has been underway this month.

The National Trust has recognised businesses and establishments across the county with a rich and colourful foodie history.

Inspired by the Great British Beak Off, Troutbeck’s Townend farmhouse kitchen house manager Emma Wright stepped back in time and delved into a recipe book from 1699, written by their resident Mary Berry Elisabeth Birkett.

“Cakes then were baked in a wooden hoop, often resting on a layer of sand or flour to prevent the bottom of the cake burning, due to direct contact with the intense heat from the bottom of the oven - no soggy bottoms here!” said Ms Wright.

“There was no baking powder in 1699, so instead the cakes in Elizabeth’s book are all leavened using yeast.

“Elizabeth would have taken her yeast, or barme, from the foam formed on top of fermenting ale. “Beer was still very widely consumed at this time as an alternative to drinking water, so would have been produced in all households.”

And at Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s Near Sawrey bolthole, gardener Pete Tasker has been tending to varieties of vegetables that Beatrix herself would have recognised 100 years ago.

Nearly all of the vegetables grown are heritage varieties, which means they have been in cultivation for 50 years or more and are aptly named Mr Glaskin’s Perpetual and Harrison’s First in the Field – though none amuse more than the dwarf French bean called Nun’s Belly Button.

Temple Sowerby’s Acorn Bank has been celebrating its 170 varieties of traditional apples – thought to be the largest in Cumbria.

It grows Greenup’s Pippin, thought to be one of the oldest varieties which was found in the Keswick garden of shoemakers Clark and Atkinson in the 1700s, and Churn Lid, named by a farmer in the Lyth Valley.

“We think the orchard, as you see it now, has been here since the 1900,” said head gardener Chris Braithwaite. “There’s been a walled garden here since the 1660s, so it’s always been productive and we now have damsons, pears, plums and gooseberries, as well as apples.”

And over in Grasmere, Allan Bank’s newly-installed kitchen café has cleverly brought the original farmhouse kitchen to life - an ideal setting for tasting traditional Borrowdale Tea Bread.

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