Field to fork - Cream of the crop

By Richard Fox

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Clotted cream, Agriculture

Cream of the crop
Cream of the crop
Richard Fox continues PubChef's focus on how pubs are using the produce of local suppliers with a visit to an asparagus and a clotted cream producer....

Richard Fox continues PubChef's focus on how pubs are using the produce of local suppliers with a visit to an asparagus and a clotted cream producer.

Yet another gastronomic working tour of the Yorkshire countryside is looming, and with new season English asparagus and traditionally made, organic clotted cream on the menu, I'm forced to reflect on a degree of good fortune on the career front.

Indeed, whether you're producer/farmer, writer or chef, just to be within arm's reach of such epicurean delights is a privilege and an experience. English asparagus is, without question, the finest in the world. And rather cruelly, its season is probably the shortest of any produce I can think of - about six weeks between mid-May and the end of June. As far as the clotted cream goes, those traditionalists in the south west of England claim it can't be made anywhere else - well that's got to be a claim worth checking out. As if doing the menu in reverse, our first port of call is the cream. When we arrive, Sue Gaudy's place is already a hive of local activity, with visitors that include a farming neighbour and the local vicar.

All these comings and goings are taken in the true jovial manner one would expect from a Cornish-bred, Yorkshire farmermarrying kind of woman. Her self-effacing, happy-go-lucky manner certainly belies an unerring dedication to perfection. Facts and figures relating to the relative nitrogen-retaining properties of grass and clover in the context of organic farming are tossed around with the ease and assurance of someone truly at home with their subject. As we chat away about the seasonal variations of butterfat in milk, Sue is applying swathes of clotted cream to the home-made strawberry jam on the home-made scones and invites me to sample the produce. Conversation comes to a halt.

My eyes close, my head swims and I need to sit down. The strange noises I appear to be emitting bring me quickly back to earth. Fortunately Sue saves me further embarrassment by explaining that her clotted cream is now universally referred to as orgasmic rather than organic and there's no need for an apology. Having consumed what should be regarded as a fatal dose of clotted cream, we leave the farm via the happiest bunch of workers I've ever seen. After a considerable drive and a wellearned snooze, we finally pull into the pristine car park that serves Mathew Machin's farm shop and café. This is farming diversity at its best. I can think of a number of highstreet retailers who would do well to take a leaf out of the Machin school of shop-front presentation.

The place is immaculate. The adjacent chicken enclosure houses a coup, which is more Swedish log cabin than chicken shed - I reckon those eggs will make a fine hollandaise to go with my asparagus. The wicker basket full of firm green stalks of freshly-cut rhubarb that adorns the farm shop entrance, confirms my choice of dessert. Proprietor and chief grower, Mathew leads us round to the asparagus field at the back of the shop. I have to confess; I've never seen asparagus before in its natural habitat - now I really understand the premium pricing attached to it. These green-tipped bundles of goodness are hand sown and hand-picked. This is a vegetable with the human touch and with the green fingers of Mathew at the cutting edge, it couldn't be in safer hands.

In addition, the sandy Mediterraneanstyle soil of this part of Yorkshire is like luxury divan bed to asparagus. It only remains for me now to see how this artisan produce is utilised in a pub food environment. A couple of days later, I head off with the girlfriend to the General Tarlton, a pub and restaurant situated on a scenic country road somewhere between Knarsborough and Boroughbridge. This outlet is a textbook study in embracing local quality produce, and the buzzing atmosphere in the bar two minutes after opening time just confirms our feeling of confidence for what we are about to receive. And our starter of Mathew Machin's asparagus is certainly awe-inspiring.

Simply blanched and topped with a Guinea fowl egg and hollandaise, it's a master class in letting the ingredients do the talking. After a stupendous main course of slow cooked, locally reared, rarebreed belly pork, it was time for the encore of Sue's clotted cream. Her love and passion was not wasted, as it adorned a sandwich of carrot cake filled with apple compote - an inspired twist on a classic theme. After devouring all three courses, I was able to reflect on how the passion and endeavour of a few can be so richly rewarded by a restaurant kitchen for the benefit of a very fortunate clientele.


Ballon Tree Asparagus Tel: 01759 373023​ Yorkshire Organic Clotted Cream Tel: 01609 882297​ Moorsfresh (distributors of the above) Tel: 01751 477888​ The General Tarlton Boroughbridge Road Knaresborough Tel: 01423 340 284

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