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Norfolk celebrates its 'bootiful' foods

Food from Norfolk - such as Colman's English mustard, Cromer crabs, and even Norfolk Lavender - has earned a national and international reputation.

And the Norfolk Food and Drinks Festival held at Holkham Hall this summer will celebrate all that is best about food grown, reared, caught, made or sold in north Norfolk.

Colman's is one of the oldest existing food brands producing mustard from Norwich since 1858. It stopped its mustard production in Norwich city centre only last year (2018). But it's name still lives on in the city today - and in the royal household.

Colman's mustard was granted the Royal Warrant as manufacturers of mustard to Queen Victoria in 1866. Her Majesty's household still uses Colman's today.

And although Colman's will leave the city, work has begun on building a processing plant outside Norwich to keep part of Colman's Mustard production in Norfolk.

Another dish, the sea vegetable Samphire - which can be found on the Blakeney saltmarshes and tidal flats - has won an equal national reputation. And you can walk along the shoreline and taste it for nothing.

Samphire, sometimes know as sea asparagus, has won its place on the tables of Britain’s finest restaurants. 

Its bright green stems are succulent and salty when plucked and eaten on its stalk as you take a stroll down by Blakeney's creek. Simply steamed and served with butter, it makes a fine addition to any meal or a great and nourishing starter on its own.

Cromer crabs have also won a national reputation and are recognised in law. They must have a shell span of 115mm as the legal minimum to be caught. 

Cromer crabs are smaller than any other UK crab but they have a distinctive pie-crust shell which is renowned for packing in the flavour. Pop in to Weston’s fish shop in Westgate, Blakeney, and try a dressed crab probably caught that day not very far from here. Or venture to Cookie's Crab Shop on the green at Salthouse which has been selling quality shellfish for over three generations. Cookie's is more than just a shellfish shop, it serves a selection of platters, salads, and sandwiches which can be eaten inside, in the garden overlooking the salt marshes, or taken away. Norfolk is also known for its mussels from Brancaster - on the Norfolk coast west of Blakeney - and cockles from Stiffkey known as Stewkey blues.

Norfolk lavender to garnish your roast lamb, line flower borders, or to use its oils to relieve stress is grown at Snettisham further west near Hunstanton. Founded in 1932, with 100 acres of lavender under cultivation, Norfolk Lavender runs tours of its fields and distillery with talks on the various uses of the plant, its flowers and its by-products.

But it was the 1980s television adverts of Norfolk-born Bernard Matthews which also helped put the county on the national food map. The ads featured the Norfolk farmer and millionaire Bernard Matthews from Great Witchingham using his catchphrase ‘They’re bootiful’ to change his Norfolk turkeys from an annual Christmas treat to an everyday meat to be enjoyed by everyone.   

'Norfolk does different' is the county's motto. And it does different in the food stakes too. Take Norfolk treacle tart which is made with black treacle and flavoured with lemon. Or Norfolk bread pudding - also known as Nelson slices - which contain bread, dried fruit, lemon rind, marmalade and, of course, rum.

Catherine Temple is a well-established Norfolk cheese-maker who makes a range of cheeses under the brand Mrs Temple's Cheese which are designed to offer a complete Norfolk cheeseboard.  

Binham Blue is East Anglia's answer to the rash of blue cheeses found on supermarket shelves. It is a soft blue-veined cheese made with the other cheeses on the family farm in Wighton - just seven miles from Blakeney - from the milk of Catherine and her husband Stephen's herd of Brown Swiss cows.

Norfolk farmers also produce more mint than anywhere in Britain. The reason is industrial - huge supplies of mint are required by Colmans to make their jars of mint sauce and the demand created a local supply chain. 

These delights and more can be sampled at the Norfolk Food and Drinks Festival at Holkham Hall on Saturday August 31 and Sunday September 1, 2019.

A bicycle holds bunches of samphire for sale in a box strapped to its back wheel.
Samphire is one of the range of foods grown or made in Norfolk

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