We all know that local food is fresher, tastier and higher quality than its mass-produced counterpart, and we also know that East Anglia has some of the best locally-produced food in the country; however, for some of us with busy lives and little free time, it can be difficult to purchase this food directly from local producers. We might attend the occasional farmers market on a sunny Saturday or perhaps stumble across a well-stocked bakery on a family day out, but rarely do we commit to regular shopping trips, meaning that these independent producers lose out on a large amount of customers.
Thankfully, the East of England Co-operative are continuing their ‘Sourced Locally’ initiative, which contributes to the regional economy and helps local farmers, bakers, brewers and butchers continue to produce delicious food and drink. Since the scheme launched in 2007, the supermarket has ploughed over £25 million back into our economy and supported the creation of around 400 new jobs within Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex.
Over 2,400 different products from 140 local suppliers are now stocked at East of England Co-operative (imagine all your favourite foods, made with the best ingredients right here in East Anglia, all in one place – convenient, right?), and the EAUX team were able to meet just a few of the brands at their headquarters at Wherstead Park, Ipswich. We sampled a delicious Christmas selection, including hot mulled drinks, pies and delectable desserts – and it’s safe to say that we felt very festive afterwards!
On arrival, we were offered a selection of drinks, including Aspall’s Mulled Cyder, Stoke Farm Orchards’ Spiced Apple Juice and Shawsgate Vineyard’s Vintage Sparkling Rose. Naturally, we tried all three (hey! We’re doing this for your benefit!) and fell in love. The Mulled Cyder tasted like a warm mince pie in a cup, whilst the Spiced Apple Juice was the perfect seasonal blend of apples, orange, cinnamon and mixed spice. We were particularly impressed by the Vintage Sparkling Rose, which is sure to be a crowd-pleaser at any Christmas party.
Moving onto savoury foods, Hollybush Farm Pies and Hamish Johnston Fine Cheeses delivered an explosion of amazing flavour, but we were seriously impressed with the texture and taste of Wolff-Evans & Sons’ Scotch Eggs: the egg was soft-set, and the Dingley Dell Pork was cooked to perfection.
Our gluten-intolerant Designer, Maddi, was particularly impressed with Fairfields Farm’s Turkey-flavoured crisps. Using only natural ingredients, Robert and Laura Strathern grow, harvest, wash and hand-cook the potatoes themselves at Fairfields Farm on the Essex/Suffolk border, creating a very delicious festive snack.
As we had a break from the savoury side of things, a tray of miniature ice cream cones whizzed past, and we managed to grab a few to sample. This was Alder Tree’s Christmas Pudding Ice Cream, which we’re certain would make the perfect topping for hot mince pies!
Talking of mince pies, we couldn’t stop ourselves from trying Leggs Bakery’s legendary luxury versions; with over 120,000 pies sold since last year, we had to see what the fuss what about. Buttery and soft, these mince pies make the perfect sweet snack, served hot or cold. Each once is handmade from scratch using short pastry and as much local produce as possible – no two look the same.
Finally, we finished off with a Christmas Mallow Whirl by Hadleigh Maid, the smallest chocolate factory in the UK. Topped with a thick drop of white chocolate and a sprig of edible holly, these festive whirls are dangerously moreish. We definitely wouldn’t mind finding a box or two in our stockings this year!