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Meet Sue Nelson, The Yorkshire Food Finder

 

Meet Sue Nelson, The Yorkshire Food Finder

 

Welcome to our new Yorkshire food and drink scene blog! Each month we are going to take a look at someone of great influence, and of whom we love their work! Expect a Q&A session and some inside information and a guest recipe!

To kick this off to an amazing start, our guest interviewee this month is Sue Nelson, founder of Yorkshire Food Finder. This amazing venture is all about celebrating the finest food and drink England's largest county has to offer, and they do this by offering guided gourmet food trails, a pop up supper club, private dining, the list goes on!

Settle down and enjoy the read! Ensure a snack is handy – this is going to make you hungry!

Did you have a foodie background, and what shaped your career in food?

Career number 1 was as a journalist, my last job being news editor of the (then) Yorkshire Evening Press in York where I supervised a team of 58 reporters and oversaw news content for 7 editions a day. That was in the days when newspapers were proper newspapers…

Career number 2 was when I then became a poacher turned gamekeeper, joining the railway as a press officer, moving up the ranks to become the regional corporate affairs manager covering an area from the Scottish border to London. I was on the railway during an awful period when there was a spate of multi-fatality rail accidents and by default ended up being the industry’s link to bereaved and injured families. It was pretty stressful (though nothing compared to what the families were going through) and I used to wind down and chill out by cooking. I’ve always cooked but this became a bit more intense, for example, doing ready, steady, cook nights for colleagues who would bring all manner of food for me to concoct into dishes for their supper!

In 2006 I was made redundant from the railway and tinkered about doing a bit of consulting for a while before Yorkshire Food Finder was born. That happened in a traffic jam on the A1. We’d been to see husband Aidan’s mum in Suffolk and had visited a smokehouse where the tour was very desultory and they didn’t make the best of the considerable quality they had to offer. As we fumed on the A1, we reckoned we could do better than that, and that as far as we knew there was nothing like it in Yorkshire. The rest, as they say, is history and that became career number 3!

Top five ingredients you couldn’t live without!

Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil - honestly! I don’t use any other oil. I love its colour, taste and versatility and bang on about it to anyone who will listen.

Any cheese from Yorkshire - there are more than 100 different varieties made in the county covering all cheese types and styles. The county is a real microcosm of any type of cheese you can get anywhere.

You can’t beat a good free range egg from happy chickens. We get ours from Charlotte at Bert’s Barrow near Monk Fryston - you can see her hens roaming around whenever you visit. And it’s the perfect food too. When my son went to university I taught him how to make a proper omelette. If you can do that, I told, him you’ll never starve.

Sand Hutton Asparagus in season. I love it especially because, unlike some other English growers, the Morritts’ grow their asparagus entirely in tune with the weather. They never force it under glass or polytunnels, as that can detrimentally affect the taste and texture, and if the weather’s awful so making it late, all the more reason to use as much of it while you can. The English asparagus season runs from April until June so is a very special time of year. The imported stuff you can get year round just doesn’t cut it.

Chicken, beef or veal stock. I could make my own but why should I when I can get top-notch quality stocks made by Mitch and Jack at TRUEfoods near Ripon? They are so, so good that TRUEfoods are supplying chefs around the world who between them hold some 70 Michelin stars. That’s some accolade.

Most used recipe book – the one with the dog eared pages and chef scribblings! We know amassing them is hugely important to you, but just one!

It has to be Black Pudding & Foie Gras by Andrew Pern, the Michelin-stared chef who runs The Star Inn at Harome, near Helmsley. Having eaten there on a regular basis for almost as long as Andrew’s had the place, there are many favourite dishes featured in the book, which has been a constant source of inspiration to me for its ‘Yorkshireness’ and emphasis on the food available on your doorstep.

Signature Yorkshire dish (yep, just one!)

A version of a smoked haddock mornay I do, using fish from Staal Smokehouse near Beverley (Justin’s smoked products are amazing), Yorkshire Blue cheese from Shepherds Purse Creamery near Thirsk as a key element of the crumb topping, and herbs from Alison Dodd at Herbs Unlimited, also near Thirsk. There’s also Longley Farm cream in there too from Holmfirth, and yes, Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil!

Guilty pleasure!

My cookery book collection. It started with one that somehow never got returned to school in the days when we had domestic science classes, and has now grown to more than 1,500 from around the world. And yes, I do read them, often turning to them for ideas and inspiration. One of the most precious though is my grandmother-in-law’s notebook containing handwritten recipes from the early 1900s, which clearly show that the principles of cooking are the same today as they’ve always been.

Food hero to many, who is yours?

It has to be Andrew Pern. He was doing seasonal and local before it ever became ‘the thing’ but that’s not the only reason why. When we had our lightbulb moment in that traffic jam on the A1, we tentatively approached Andrew to ask him what he thought about our idea to set up guided gourmet food trails around Yorkshire’s artisan producers and his response was to hand us his phone with all his foodie contacts in it and tell us to get cracking. He’s also let me work as one of the brigade in his kitchen to get a real feel for how to use Yorkshire’s food produce, and he’s as supportive today about the Yorkshire Food Finder ethos as he was in the beginning.

Next food trend? Whether its welcomed or not!

We’re seeing some high street food chains in decline and a rise in individual eating places that focus on locally sourced ‘nose to tail, root to shoot’ dining in a relaxed informal atmosphere. Five years ago, York was a food culture desert with a plethora of chain restaurants to satisfy tourists, but now look! The city has become a real food hub showcasing quality local ingredients, and I think that will continue, particularly among those who want to fend off the import of the likes of hormone-injected meat post-Brexit. So, I would hope to see a much more intense focus on British produce because we do it so well. And on the drink front, I think we’re being drowned in gin! The gin bubble will burst sometime soon and the next locally made drink of choice will be vodka - simply because there are so many distilleries that now exist, so it will be a relatively easy transition.

GUEST RECIPE

Yorkshire summer garden salad with Justin Staal’s hot smoked trout, saffron aioli and lavender dressing

Serves: 4 as a main course or 6 as a starter

200g podded peas (400g in their pods)

150g podded broad beans (600g in their pods)

3 ripe plum tomatoes, deseeded and diced

Big bundle of mint, finely chopped

3 shallots

3 tbsp lavender pickle (see below)

3 tbsp extra virgin Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil

Seasoning

For the aioli

Large pinch of saffron

1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 tbsp Yorkshire Mayonnaise

For the lavender pickle*

500ml cold water

250ml cider vinegar

1½ tbsp coarse sea salt

120g caster sugar

6 garlic cloves

3 bay leaves

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tbsp black peppercorns

1 tbsp dried lavender or 2 sprigs fresh lavender

2 packs Justin Staal’s hot smoked trout

Lavender flowers to garnish

  1. First make the aioli. Soak the saffron in the tablespoon of lemon juice then combine with the minced garlic and mayonnaise. Set aside for later.
  2. To make the lavender pickle, put all the ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan, bring to the boil to dissolve the salt and sugar, remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Double pod the broad beans – push the beans out of their pods and place in a bowl. Pour over boiling water and leave to stand for a couple of minutes then refresh in cold water. Split the grey skin with a finger nail or sharp knife and push out the green bean kernel.
  4. Put the prepared broad beans in a pan of boiling water and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the peas and cook for a further minute. Refresh in cold water and allow to cool.
  5. Finely slice the shallots and mix with the lavender pickle. Stand for 5 minutes then add the 3 tablespoons of Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil. Season.
  6. Mix together the beans and peas with the diced plum tomatoes and the mint. Toss in the shallots and lavender pickle with rapeseed oil and mix well.
  7. To serve, place a large pastry cutter or ring (size depends on whether you’re serving it as a starter or main) in the centre of a plate or shallow bowl and spoon some of the salad into it, patting down gently. Lift off the ring – some of the salad will fall gently off the pile but that’s fine.
  8. Flake the Staal hot smoked trout and serve on top of the salad. Serve the aioli on the side in a little pot. Garnish with the lavender flowers.

* The lavender pickle is also excellent for brining vegetables such as onions, carrots, baby turnips. Will keep in the fridge for up to 1 month

 

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