Countess of York: On track for afternoon tea

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Inside the Countess of York

Going to the cafe and the gift shop has become as much a part of a museum visit as enjoying the collections themselves but the National Railway Museum has gone one better – a tearoom you might want to visit with the added bonus of trip to see its remarkable collection.

The Countess of York is a charming tearoom inside a beautifully restored railway carriage with decor that evokes a bygone era.

It’s only offering is afternoon tea – but it’s a tea worth travelling for.

The traditional tiered serving of finger sandwiches, scones and fancies proves plenty to while away the time.

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Tea?

Unusually there’s also a mini soup course – currently a warming and spicy butternut squash for the autumn which, together with the warm scone, is a welcome rise in temperature.

The sweet collection includes a light creme brûlée as well as a tantalising macaroon.

And the selection of teas on offer is second to none. I sampled a robust South African estate tea and a light and perfumed China rose tea.

Both served in solid silver pots and at just the right temperature. In a world where the coffee drinker is king, this place elevates the tea drinker to be queen.
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With the uniformed waitress rushing through the carriage to serve everything or offer advice, it’s easy to forget that this is a train that’s going nowhere – sometimes you’ll need to take a quick check out of the window just to be sure that you’re not travelling down the tracks.

The afternoon tea is served each day between 12pm and 4pm. and costs £19.95 (children £14.50) or £27.50 with champagne. A visit to the tearoom includes free parking, and of course, the museum with its outstanding collection of locomotives is available for a gentle stroll after tea.

Countess of York is situated between Great Hall and Station Hall in the Museum’s South Gardens.

Autumn Afternoon tea menu by Sarah Hartley

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Tackling North East food poverty with innovation

ediblegivingIt’s often said that hardship provides the spark for innovation so maybe that’s why these two food developments have come about in the North East just now.

During tough times, taking a fresh approach to people getting fed is something that has become as necessary as it is shameful for the UK in 2015.

I came across these two initiatives at an event held in County Durham to showcase local social entrepreneurs and they both attempt to answer that very real need in their local communities.

The first is EdibleGiving.org. The idea is to map all the places that those of us fortunate to have enough food can go to donate some of it for people who haven’t.

Developer Gregory Marler explains his thinking on the site.

I know a few local charities, but if I’m away from home where do I give the food, and what if local details change? I wanted to solve this by creating a UK-wide or international map, and I wanted different organisations to be able to use their own systems to keep the shared map updated.

It’s up and running and people are invited to help add more locations.

Logo-transparent1-e1428586248839Second is The Magic Hat Cafe, a series of pop-up eateries with a difference – the difference being that all the food served up would otherwise have been destined for the rubbish dump.

As well as helping cut down on food waste, the resulting food has to be an ever-changing menu to be able to cope with the available produce and the cafe leaves it up to the diner to decide how much to pay for the meal.

You can find out where Newcastle’s Magic Hat Cafe will be popping up next in the city at the events section of its website here.

Recipe: Lamb chops cooked with dill

turkishAs it’s well-known that I love cooking and cookbooks, and so I am fortunate to be given interesting publications from time to time. Including one called simply Turkish Cookery which can be an inspiring start to finding a new recipe.

There’s only one problem, the 1992 book from Net Turistik has its own style of English to work around. The pictures of the food always look very authentic Turkish food even if the names of the dishes may be lost in translation – how do you fancy an egg dish called woman’s thigh for example?

As you’d expect, there’s a good number of lamb (mutton) dishes and a recipe for ‘meat with bones cut from the loin’ caught my eye as it included pairing the meat with dill. More usually associated with fish, dill is a lovely soft herb and, hoping that this wasn’t simply a mistake, I was interested to see how it went with the new season lamb.

A quick google search revealed that this combination is quite common in other parts of the world including Sweden where lamb, lemon and dill seems popular. So, translating ‘3 salads’ to handfuls of baby spinach, and adding in some potato to make this a one pot dish – I cam up with a whole new recipe.

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Lamb with dill

You can see the full recipe at my Farmers’ Choice page here.

Welcoming the under the white horse blog

whitehorseWelcome to the latest addition to the Northern food bloggers map Under the white horse by Iona Crawford Topp in Oldstead, North Yorkshire.

The blog’s been up and running since December and covers cooking and growing food. And she sounds like a very sensible young woman too judging by her, introduction on the site:

Gin gin gin gin!!! I swear, whatever your ailment, a gin and tonic will sort you out. (no Gordon’s please)
The source of a thing is very important to me. I believe that in this age, there is very little excuse for serving or using badly sourced produce. Better for the world, your conscience and your mouth!

You can visit her site at, Under the white horse or follow on Twitter @undrthewhthrse.

* If you belong on the map – drop me a line in the comments or by email to foodiesarahATme.com and tell me a little about your blog. A link back to the map would be appreciated as well.

Migration, food and culture – a tale of two countries

The connection between a country’s culture, economy and its food is widely accepted, with the arrival of immigrants introducing new cuisines to their adopted homelands and changing global economic realities leading to new habits and realities.

So I was interested to read two very different takes on the issues this prompts by journalists writing from very different backgrounds and locations for this month’s Contributoria* issue and I thought them worth sharing with you here too.

In South Africa, Kim Harrisberg looked at the experiences of a Palestinian family arriving in the country and starting a business with a taste of home while Aurora Percannella takes a look at how the economic crisis in Europe is leading jobless youngsters to re-invent the food on offer.

I think they both detail experiences which in many ways relate to what we see happening here in the UK. The snippets below include links to read the articles in full.

In King Arabic Sandwiches: a taste of Palestine in Johannesburg Kim presents a touching portral of life in a new land where food briedges cutural difference.

Inside, maroon tiles cover the floor, jars filled with an assortment of Middle Eastern delicacies cover the shelves, Palestinian flags hang from the walls and pastries of different sizes greet you at the counter. The smell is rich and spicy, with the sounds of sizzling falafel being fried in the kitchen, and little girls whispering behind a curtain that leads to the back of the restaurant.

I am here to interview Mohammad Sultan and his wife Hanan Ahmed, refugees who fled Gaza just over a year ago to build a new life. I have so many questions involving politics, food, family and chance, and many of them involve my identity in relation to theirs. The questions swirl around my head like mosquitoes, but before I can ask them, Mohammad and Hanan place a glass of purple hibiscus juice in front of me and a warm, pickle-filled, hummus-infused falafel, wrapped and ready to be devoured. “First,” says Mohammad, smiling, “you eat. Then, we talk.”

In Food entrepreneurialism in Italy: mixing tradition and innovation to tackle the crisis Aurora finds a willingness to move away from the much revered Italian traditions to face up to the changing realities of life there.

“We live in an era where the typical restaurant where you pay 20 or 30 € for a meal struggles to survive,” explains Fabrizio, the 30-something entrepreneur who, in 2013, started his own successful food business in one of the cosy, often-crowded squares of Torino city centre. “People can’t afford to spend that much anymore, so we’ve focused on giving our customers a great quality meal for about 10-12 €.”

And in order to do that, these food entrepreneurs simplified the concept of eating out by going back to what their land had to offer, and simultaneously drawing inspiration from what their travels abroad had taught them.

Take Fabrizio’s business, for example. His restaurant – though it isn’t really a restaurant, just a simple place to sit down and eat – serves burgers and chips. Now, this wouldn’t probably sound too phenomenal to anyone coming from the rest of the planet. In Torino, however, it proved difficult to find a good quality burger until very recently. In fact, it was hard to even find a mediocre quality burger, limiting the options to McDonald’s or…McDonald’s.

* Disclosure – I’m editor and co-founder of the independent jorunalism network Contributoria.com where these articles were first published.

Recipe: Venison and beetroot casserole

IMG_0284A healthy and warming dish for a cold night. It’s lighter and leaner than using beef but the recipe works just as well with beef although may take slightly longer to cook and require fat skimming off the top at the final stage before serving.The beetroot will bleed into the sauce, giving everything a rosy tint. Serve this with lots of mash potato and some greens but would be just as good with some crusty bread.

The full recipe is at my Farmers’ Choice page here.