Where can you find the best meat, fruit and shellfish in the country? Lauren Taylor asks chef James Martin for his recommendations.
Considering the amount of fresh produce we import from all over the world, you’d be forgiven for thinking Britain only farm’s a small variety of ingredients, but there’s more on our doorstep than you might realise.
It’s something TV chef James Martin wants us all to discover, too. He’s just finished an ITV series travelling around the country to find the best food Britain has to offer, and has published an accompanying book, James Martin’s Great British Adventure, featuring 80 recipes using beautiful British ingredients.
So where should we be travelling to in the UK to find the tastiest locally-grown ingredients? These are Martin’s top picks…
1. Langoustines: Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland
“I first went to Strangford Lough about 15 years ago, and I wanted to go back. We pulled the langoustines out of these krill pots, and they were the size of bloody lobsters!
“Normally with langoustines, you cook them for about a minute and a half – these took four and a half minutes. The best langoustines you’ve ever tasted in your life.
“Langoustines used to be used for scampi back in the Seventies because they couldn’t sell it – now it’s a gourmet delicacy. The Ritz uses more langoustines than anybody in London I think, and buying each at £4 a piece. But they’re amazing – one of the true delights of seafood: Fresh langoustine, simply cooked, lemon mayonnaise, boom.”
2. Lamb: Orkney Islands, Scotland
“That’s in a place called North Ronaldsay, absolutely amazing place. There are 50 people who live on the island and two pubs. It’s the only place in the British Isles where you can drive with no tax, no MOT, because there’s no garage. One farmer of a particular lamb there is also the lighthouse keeper, the air traffic controller, the mechanic. So to go up there and see it first-hand was amazing.
“It’s an amazing place, it’s another flight on from the main island on the Orkney mainland. It’s a beautiful part of the world – stunning.”
3. Beef: Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms, mid-Wales
“Head chef Gareth Ward uses Welsh beef, but he matures it in beef fat for 300 days – there’s a timer going in the kitchen so it can be tasted. You’ve got to go there and see it.”
4. Mussels: Lympstone Manor, Exmouth, England
“Michael Caines is famous for being the head chef of a two star Michelin restaurant for 19 years [Gidleigh Park], but he’s just opened a place of his own, Lympstone Manor which sits on the River Exe, a brand new beautiful hotel overlooking the estuary.
“The mussel farmer [there] has got this unique thing that he’s built. It looks bloody odd, like a potato rumbler, in the sea. He goes out and dives for the mussels on the bed and the bottom of the seabed is like a farm, he’s got different fields mapped out. He basically harvests the mussels by putting this machine down and it rumbles the soft sand on the ground, and it pulls the mussels out, without them getting clogged in clay.
“It’s really clever (normally they do mussels on ropes) and because of that, the flavour is amazing.”
5. Halloumi cheese: Isle of Wight
“Normally halloumi is quite rubbery – you can chuck it against a wall. Well this is amazing. Normally it’s made out of sheep’s milk or goat’s milk, but this is made out of cow’s milk. And the colour is yellow – beautiful.
“The best butter and best feta is also made on the Isle of Wight.”
6. Gin: Snowdonia, Wales
“[Forager’s Clogau Reserve Gin]. They produced it for Harry and Meghan’s wedding and make really small batches. One sold on eBay for £2,000! [It was available for £130 originally].
“It uses botanicals from Snowdonia, but is one of the best gins you’ve ever tasted. In the UK now we’ve got millions of gins, all different flavours – but that’s the best.”
7. Raspberries: Strathmore, Scotland
“The best raspberries definitely come from Scotland, without a shadow of a doubt – they’re the size of golf balls! They’re amazing, in this valley between Glasgow and Edinburgh. This valley is the warmest place in Scotland, so it produces the best raspberries in the world – and you wouldn’t think that.”
James Martin’s Great British Adventure: A Celebration Of Great British Food With 80 Fabulous Recipes by James Martin is published by Quadrille, priced £25. Available now.