Hix Reports | June
Truffles, wasabi and burrata: Just three of a growing number of surprising foods you can find on British shores if you know where to look, says Mark Hix…
Think British produce and what do you think? I expect wasabi and sparkling wine aren’t top of your list. Neither are burrata, chilies or tea. But, with duties and import costs rising, a growing number of savvy UK farmers and producers have spotted the gaps in the market, and have started producing more exotic wares here to avoid importing at huge costs. British cheesemakers have been doing it for years, and making cheese just as well, if not better, than some of their more traditional European counterparts.
We’re producing great sparkling wines now (parts of southern England have a similar climate to the Champagne region). Just in Dorset alone, we have three great sparkling wines: Furleigh Estate; Castlewood; and The Lyme Bay Winery. We also have Hambledon Classic and Premiere Cuvées on our list at Hix Oyster and Chop House in Clerkenwell, which are so good I’m seriously considering only stocking Champagne on request.
You can grow wasabi in Dorset too. Jon Old runs the Wasabi Company there, supplying restaurants with the fresh roots which can be grated in front of the customer – believe me, the flavor is incomparable to the bright green stuff in a tube. Claudio Sarfati produces burrata and mozzarella in Wiltshire using organic cow’s milk – and, for me, his Wiltshire De Luca Burrata is the finest UK attempt so far. And best of all, it can be on your plate within 36 hours, or even sooner, unlike the Italian stuff that needs to make it through customs before it gets to your plate.
Elsewhere, you’ll find chilies grown in Devon, tea at the Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall. And there’s another curious ingredient I’m particularly fond of: English truffles. Believe it or not, a few hundred years ago it was quite usual to eat English truffles, but today there are only a few people who know where to find them, and most of them remain tight-lipped on the subject (understandably so!) My advice: if you ever get the chance to try one of these home-grown treasures, don’t pass it up.