East of England Co-Op’s New Christmas Range
A couple of weeks ago, the lovely folk at the East of England Co-Op invited Roots and Toots to its offices at the beautiful setting of Wherstead Park, for a special preview of Christmas and a taste of some of East Anglia’s finest produce.
From mouth-watering Cranberry and Turkey Scotch Eggs from Wolff-Evans, to the delicious Bah Humbug Christmas ale from Mauldons Brewery, Christmas certainly came very early for me this year.
It was quite an exciting event for local producers too, because this is the first year the East of England Co-Op has included predominantly local produce within this, its biggest Christmas food range to date. It was so good to meet several of the local producers, all of whom were excited to be listed as part of the range. It was so refreshing to hear many of them singing the praises of their partnership with this retailer.
Now I know that some of the bigger supermarket retailers have improved the way they operate, but largely it’s fair to say, that local producers and small food businesses tend to get a raw deal with the larger retailers. Not with Co-Op. Its Sourced Locally team has had a proven impact in helping local farmers and rural businesses to build a more sustainable future. I discovered that more than three-quarters of the producers working with the EoE Co-Op had improved their financial performance and many have expanded or introduced new products as a result. Since Sourced Locally launched in 2007, the East of England Co-Op has put over £25 million back into the regional economy and has helped to create more than 300 new local jobs.
Here were just some of the highlights from the Christmas tasting and things to look out for in-store over the coming weeks. Available this week until mid-November.
1) Suffolk Gold – £14.88 per kg. Produced by Hamish Johnston Fine Cheeses in Suffolk. A rich, creamy, smooth and nutty flavour. This cheese was absolutely lovely paired with the sesame-seed crackers from Scottish producer Stag.
2) Quiche from Hollybush Farm Produce – £2.59 per quiche. I was in pie heaven with their perfectly flaky pastry and light and creamy filling. Not a greasy napkin in sight! Ingredients are all sourced from East Anglia, from its flour in the pastry to the fresh beef and pork – all hand prepared and cooked daily. Vegetarian options available.
3) Scarlett & Mustard’s Leftover Curry Sauce: £3.99. What can I say? This is an oil-free sauce bursting with tangy, fruity, spicy flavours. I’m hopping to feature more about this particular product soon. It’s a gourmet version of coronation sauce, but not just good on leftover turkey, it peps up any leftover chicken and is great stirred through warm rice and peas, drizzled over left-over roast potatoes or as a dressing for salads, hams and cheese.
4) Stoke Farm Orchards – Suffolk Spiced Apple – £2.49. This small Suffolk orchard has become internationally renowned for its award-winning Appletree Hill brand of juices. Its Suffolk Spiced Apple is beautiful served chilled or preferably warm. A wonderful alternative to mulled wine – I can picture slurping a glass of this Christmas morning whilst opening presents.
6) Christmas Mallow Whirls: £1.79 for 2. In 1976, self-taught chocolatiers, Mike and Avril Briggs opened the ‘smallest chocolate factory in the UK’ in Hadleigh. And I’m glad they did. Forget everything you know about a Walnut Whip, these wonderful whirls by Hadleigh Maid are from a different world. Creamy, smooth milk chocolate that’s not too sweet or rich and filled with a cloud-like, light mallow that’s nothing like the centre of a Walnut Whip. A bargain at twice the price!
7) Finest Spiced Ginger – £3.89. If the spiced apple drink I mentioned previously is perfect in the day, this spicy number would do nicely by night. James White Drinks has been making brilliant non-alcoholic juices and cordials for more than 20 years. Delicious served with a splash of whisky as a Ginger Mac!
There were so many wonderful suppliers at the event and I’m only sorry I couldn’t mention everyone here but the best thing to do, is check them all out in one place, at one of the EoE Co-Op stores. Other suppliers worth a mention were Lane Farm Country Foods who produce the sausage meat for Delia Online Pork, Sage & Onion Sausage Meat, Coles Puddings – Classic Christmas Puddings, Fairfields Farm and their turkey with sage & onion crisps, Wolff Evans & Sons scotch eggs and Dan Hull’s parfaits and terrines.
A big thanks to the team for inviting me along, I rolled home to Norfolk with a full and festive belly.
The above products are available in East of England Co-Op Stores in Essex, Norfolk & Suffolk. For more information go to www.eastofengland.coop