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The brilliant food and drink producers of Berkshire

PUBLISHED: 14:40 21 March 2014 | UPDATED: 14:40 21 March 2014

Delicious Barkham Blue

Delicious Barkham Blue

Archant

We like to hunt down the best, and so Claire Pitcher and Maureen McLean set out to find some of our county’s tastiest food and drinks

Brewed in Berkshire

You may recognise these two gents as they recently appeared on Channel 4’s Grand Designs. Former magazine editor Michael and marketing consultant Phil run Two Cocks Brewery. They swapped life in the West End for West Berkshire in 2009, buying 40 idyllic acres: “Our aim was to produce delicious foods with identifiable provenance, with a focus on rare breeds. With no farming experience it was a very steep learning curve,” admits Phil.

“In 2010 we were exploring diversification ideas. We had a borehole sunk and by sheer coincidence Michael came across wild hops in the hedgerows opposite the borehole. So the idea to start a micro-brewery was born – and 10 months later we were selling our first brew!

“The last 18 months have been pretty hectic. We quadrupled the size of our brewing capacity, won a host of awards for our beers, we’ve been shortlisted for a prestigious packaging award and we’ve built a house that’s been featured on Grand Designs.”

Phil and Michael aren’t stopping there: “We’ve got some exciting new brews in the pipeline, including a lager, and are hoping to expand our bottle distribution beyond Berkshire.”

And do they have any regrets about leaving the bright lights to settle in Newbury? “Absolutely not; we work with the animals every day, and doing that in a place with such amazing views is a real joy.”

Phil and Michael’s favourite producers: Tutts Clump Cider and Cocochoux’s celebration cakes.

For more details about Two Cocks visit twococksbrewery.com or call 01635 47351.

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Champion cheeses

Coming from a farming background Two Hoots Cheese owner Sandy had an interest in keeping animals which was rekindled when in 1988 along with her husband Andy and daughter Nia the family moved to Three Mile Cross near Reading. First came a few chickens, followed by pigmy goats, a pony, two calves and finally, their son Liam.

Having outgrown the small paddock, they moved onto a smallholding with 30 acres near Hook. The animals flourished with the addition of goats, rare breed cattle, sheep, horses and a pet pig. As well as running a children’s mobile farm, Sandy helped her cousin Anne from Village Maid Cheese in Riseley with turning cheeses in the maturing rooms.

After attending a cheese festival, Sandy came across an old book of cheese recipes in a bookshop. This spurred her into making a white rind brie type cheese, Barkham Brie, which went on to win prizes at the World and British Cheese Awards.

Sandy had always wanted to make a blue cheese from Channel Island milk (like her dad used to milk) so after months of tests Barkham Blue was born. This proved to be extremely popular and within months Barkham Blue won Best New Cheese at the 2003 World Cheese Awards followed by gold at the British Cheese Awards.

Sandy says: “The best part of our business is the wonderful feedback we receive from people. It’s also very rewarding to receive so many awards. However good you think your product is, it’s great to hear what the judges think, too. It makes the late nights and early mornings worth it.”

Sandy’s favourite food producers: J& S Rook Butchers in Holyport, Maidenhead.

Discover where you can buy Two Hoots award winning cheeses by visiting their website at twohootscheese.co.uk or call 0118 9760401.

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Freshly baked

Baking was always Tony Manley’s ambition and at the age of 13 he met Andrew Shepherd, then owner of Shepherd’s Bakery in Chieveley: “After a week of work experience I continued to work at the bakery at weekends and school holidays. After leaving school I went full time there, moving up the ranks to bakery manager. In 1999 we had the opportunity to buy the business. We have been running the bakery for 15 years, delivering to a 40 mile radius from Chieveley.

“Although the types of customer may change, our process and traditional method of baking remains largely the same. I love being able to introduce our gorgeous breads and rolls to new customers who are always amazed and excited by the taste and smell of ‘real bread’, and how well it keeps.”

It seems there is always a place for a village baker and Tony and his team have certainly risen to the challenges. “We’re very busy in the planning stages of applying to build a purpose built bakery in Chieveley. This will help secure our future and continue to do more of what we do best, bake!”

Anthony’s favourite local eateries: Chieveley’s Red Lion pub and the Fox Inn in the neighbouring village of Peasmore.

Visit Shepherd’s Bakery’s website at www.shepherdsbakery.co.uk or call 01635 548600.

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More than just game

It’s hard to imagine producing over 50 different flavours of sausage – but Vicar’s Game in Ashampstead regularly make over two tonnes a day. And it’s not just sausages; they also sell beef, pork, lamb, bacon and game. Alan Hayward bought the business back in 1973 and has kept true to his local roots: “Most of our ‘fame’ is very local to the Newbury area. We’re fortunate to be in an area that’s prolific in wild game. As well as the 200,000 pheasant and partridge we get from sporting estates, we also have rabbit, hare and roe deer.

“We only buy quality animals and everything about them must be 100 per cent. That’s a principle we follow right through the process. We have total control of every piece of meat that comes in and the end result is that we can quickly turn round an order to supply restaurants and the public,” says Alan. Find their farm shop online at www.vicarsgame.co.uk or call 01635 579662.

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Sweet like fudge

Marsden’s Confectionery was set up in 2001 by Alex Marsden-Smedley in Chaddleworth on the edge of the Downs. Family run, their award winning fudge and chocolate truffles are handmade. “All our fudge and truffles are made in small batches, therefore maintaining the highest quality. I take great pride in producing confectionery that is unique and delicious,” says Alex.

“I first started making fudge at the age of 14 as presents for family and friends. When I was living and working in London I got so fed up with buying very expensive chocolate truffles to give as presents and, having trained as a Cordon Bleu Cook, I thought I would try and make some of my own.”

Marsden’s now supply some 30 shops in Berkshire and surrounding counties. Their fudge is sold everywhere from delis to farm shops as well as at country markets and fairs. Order direct or find stockists at www.marsdensfudge.co.uk, call 01488 638288.

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Perfectly preserved

Susie Kensett has been creating fruit preserves for more than 16 years. Based in Hermitage, Susie’s Preserves won gold at the World’s Original Marmalade Festival in 2011 which saw her Clementine marmalade beat thousands to claim the prestigious prize of being stocked in Fortnum and Mason for a year.

Susie tries to source local ingredients for her jams, jellies, marmalades and pickled onions, which is apparent in her real ale marmalade made with Good Old Boy ale from West Berkshire Brewery. “Everything is made in small batches in normal-sized jam pans as you would at home, as you get a better flavour that way, so I multi-task very well, producing thousands of jars a week,” says Susie.

Find her preserves across the county including Reading’s Museum of English Rural Life and The Herb Farm, in Sonning Common. She also sells at Beale Boat Show in June and the Berkshire County Show in September. Order preserves online at www.susiespreserves.co.uk or call 07909 995353.

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The bees’ knees

This is a great county for honey and we really like this one – from The Farm Shop at Hare Hatch Sheeplands, a stone’s throw from Twyford just off the A4. Keep looking after our local bee colonies, readers. See www.harehatchsheeplands.co.uk, tel 0118 970 4696.

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Copas at Cookham

It’s not just turkeys, you know, that Copas at Cookham have a name for. Their accompaniments are delicious. You’ll find Copas products at great outlets such as Hare Hatch Sheeplands, Twyford; Dopson Butchers in Crowthorne high Street; J & S Rook of Holyport; Fielder’s Farmshop at Wickcroft Farm, Pangbourne Road, Theale; and Tastes Delicatessen in Eton High Street. See www.copasturkeys.co.uk.

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Binghams Brewery

Binghams Brewery at Ruscombe produces quality cask ales across the spectrum. Buy the treats from their Brewery Shop, or at Hare Hatch Sheeplands, the Marlow and Henley branches of Spirited Wines, and Westholme Stores, Goring On Thames. Try them in pubs such as the Bell Inn in Waltham St Lawrence, Bird in Hand at Knowl Hill, Ruscombe’s Buratta’s at the Royal Oak, Waler Arms in Sindlesham, Barkham’s Ye Olde Leathern Bottel, and the Castle Inn at Hurst. See www.binghams.co.uk.

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David and Oliver

David and Oliver produce superb soups and sauces at their Hampstead Norreys, Yattendon operation. You’ll find them all over the place, include Ascot’s Budgens (Maloney’s), Emmer Green Budgens, Fielders Farm Shop in Theale, Hare Hatch Sheeplands, Twyford, and Saddleback Farm Shop of Newbury. See www.davidandoliver.co.uk.

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