Best of British food and drink: Suffolk

Best of British food and drink: Suffolk

“One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad.” This claim came from a former French President, back in 2005. I can’t comment on the overall trustworthiness of the Brits. But I can say with absolute certainty that Jacques Chirac was wrong to slate British cuisine. Today’s British food and drink is a far cry from the heavy stodge served up in the first half of the twentieth century, which earned English food its poor reputation.

These days, traditional flavours have been enhanced with the help of improved cooking methods, and a rise in demand for fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Each British county has its own specialities and delicacies. I’ll begin with Suffolk, a lush, fertile county renowned for its breweries and seafood. A place for foodies, Suffolk boasts the internationally acclaimed Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival, Lavenham Farmers Market, which took a BBC Radio 4 Food & Farming award for being the best food market in Suffolk, and The Suffolk Food Hall on the banks of the River Orwell, which was voted the Countryside Alliance’s Best Local Food Venue in the UK.

With so many local dishes to choose from, it might be difficult to know where to start. Here is some traditional English food you’ll find in Suffolk, to help you begin your culinary journey.

Sausages and ham from Suffolk

Butchers in the racing town of Newmarket make such good sausages that a type of pork sausage is named after the town. Three types, in fact. Musk’s, Powter’s and Eric Tennant Newmarket sausages are made from slightly different recipes. They’re such a local treasure that all three versions bear the Protected Geographical Indicator of Origin – just like Stilton cheese, or Parma ham.

Musk’s Newmarket sausages have been popular with the British monarchy since the beginning of the 20th century. The recipe’s remained the same since Victorian times. Four monarchs have issued Royal Warrants for Musk’s sausages, so they’ve been enjoyed by historic figures with some serious clout. Why not give them a try?

It’s not just Suffolk’s sausages that have been in demand from  royals. Emmett’s of Peasenhall also has a Royal Warrant, and has been serving smoked hams since 1820.

Suffolk seafood

smokehouse in Suffolk

With 50 miles of coastline and a strong tradition of fishing, Suffolk’s a place where you’ll find some of the best fresh seafood in the UK. Try Pinney’s of Orford, a family-run smokehouse that sells award-winning smoked fish and locally grown oysters from nearby Butley Creek. They sell dishes of sole, bass, skate, cod, lobsters, salmon, even eels at their restaurant, the Butley Orford Oysterage.

If you’re staying in a self-catering property and want to cook your own fresh fish, try the fish huts on Aldeburgh beach, where fishermen sell their catch. Or check out Suffolk Food Hall in Wherstead, Ipswich, which has a 7-metre fish counter.

English Wine from Suffolk

Suffolk’s in one of England’s warmest regions. Combine that with global warming, and you have the right conditions for wine production. Vineyards bearing grapes for white, rosé and sparkling wines are most common. Try Gifford’s Hall Vineyard in Hartest, or Wyken Vineyard, whose sparkling wine Moonshine won ‘East Anglian Wine of the Year’ in 2017.

Suffolk Cheese

The original Suffolk cheddar was so hard that some people used to find it inedible. Similar in texture to a Parmesan left out in the air, it’s now extinct. Suffolk cheddar has been replaced by a small but delicious selection of local speciality cheeses. In the village of Creeting St Mary near Stowmarket, artisans at Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses make Suffolk Blue, Suffolk Gold and other seasonal cheeses. They can all be bought in the farm shop, which is open for a few hours a week.

Church Farm at Friston near Aldeburgh is home to a family of Buxlow cheeses: Blue, Paigle and Wonmill. The cows at this farm milk themselves, using revolutionary methods involving a microchip in their ears.

Beer brewed in Suffolk

Suffolk’s great for beer-lovers. It’s easy to find pubs with sea views in the county’s coastal towns and villages. So you can enjoy some good pub grub and a cold beer with the sound of waves in the background. Or squeeze into The Nutshell in Bury St Edmonds, Britain’s smallest pub measuring just 15ft by 7ft. Brewery pubs also sell the best real ale. Try the Triangle Tavern in Lowestoft, where Green Jack’s range of beers is sold.

Many micro- and full-sized breweries offer tours to visitors. Most sell delicious beer and ale for you to take away and enjoy in your holiday home. If you’re thinking of finding a base to enjoy all this delicious Suffolk food and drink, check out the selection of self-catering accommodation on the Suffolk Secrets website. Imagine yourself sitting in comfort, enjoying, say, a delicate craft beer from Calvors in Ipswich…….

You can do a tasting tour at Greene King Brewery in Bury St Edmonds, or go behind the scenes at the Adnams Sole Bay Brewery in Southwold. Its sister organisation, the Adnams Copper House Distillery, is also open to the public for gin tours. And the spectacular St Peter’s Brewery, a few miles outside Bungay, is set in picturesque buildings surrounded by a moat.

Traditional English fish and chips

Old fashioned fish and chip shop in Suffolk

Fish and chips is the archetypal English cuisine. Suffolk has ‘chippies’ in bucketloads, where you can buy a slice of white fish in batter along with golden fries drenched in salt and vinegar. The more adventurous might like to accompany their fish and chips with a pot of mushy peas, or a pickled egg. The Aldeburgh Fish & Chip Shop has been described as the best chippy in the world. But don’t rely on that verdict. There’s also The Fish Dish in Felixstowe, the Sole Bay Fish Company in Southwold, and many more…..

Cakes and desserts from Suffolk

Afternoon tea is served at several establishments across the county. Try the Swan at Lavenham, or Tuddenham Mill. Specialities to look out for include Suffolk harvest cake, a version of ‘lardy cake’ traditionally made using lard, dried fruit and spices. Ipswich almond pudding is a creamy milk pudding made with ground almonds and egg. And then, of course, there’s all the ice cream that comes with seaside towns…..

 

Have you tried any traditional Suffolk dishes? Please tell us about them in the comments below!

For more on Suffolk, read these blog posts:

Places to visit in Suffolk if you love literature

Family-friendly places to enjoy nature in Suffolk

 

This is a collaborative post. All views are my own.

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