Sally's Review - The Great Lake District Picnic

We all know that the Lake District is a great place for a walk in the country, a laze by a lake or a saunter at a stately home. And what tops off the experience? A leisurely picnic with Cumbrian produce. As you might expect in a farming county, we’re awfully good at food. So get out your cool bag, dust off your hamper and pack a few of our favourite goodies for a fantastic picnic from one of or Lake District Cottages.

Bread – our old-fashioned towns have lots of traditional bakeries for crusty loaves and floury rolls. Try Bryson’s in Keswick.

People from outside the north-west will be unfamiliar with our regional supermarket, Booth’s, which sells plenty of local produce, including a good range of bread, cakes and scones. There are Booth’s branches in Keswick, Kendal and Windermere. This is one of the great benefits of self catering in the Lake District.

Cold meats and fish – Everyone loves the ultimate Cumbrian meat producer, Richard Woodall, including the Queen, who has made them her ‘official supplier’ of Cumberland sausage and hams. They make delicious cooked hams and special smoked hams, and a new cured snack sausage that’s an awful lot like a superior version of those mini salamis much loved by children.

Bessy Beck’s started off making very tasty smoked trout pate with their own fish, but have now branched out into delicious smoked chicken, duck, pheasant and salmon. What a treat!

Cheese – Every time we go to Booth’s in Keswick or Graham’s in Penrith, it seems that there are new varieties of tempting local cheese. Try The Lake District Cheese Company’s award-winning mature cheddars or smoked cheddar. Or push the boat out and look at Appleby Creamery’s organic brie, smoked brie, hard ewe’s milk cheese, and Black Dub Blue.

Cheese comes to life with a touch of chutney. Try Hawkshead Relish’s apple, date & damson chutney, or damson chutney. www.hawksheadrelish.com

Pies – there are many different types of traditional and more imaginative pies in Cumbria, from small, plain, pork ones, to large slicing pies with elaborate patterns of fruit, vegetables and pastry on their tops. We like Burbush’s for the ultimate posh pie – game, pork with caramelised gooseberries, or pork & stilton topped with apple and ginger chutney.

We also like Sillfield Farm’s delicious pies – wild boar, chicken & ham, huntsman (boar, chicken, cranberry and stuffing), pork & apple, and old-fashioned mutton.

If you like a quiche, try the hand-baked quiches made by JJ Graham’s in-house baker, Alan. There’s a different selection every day, depending on Alan’s fancy – cheese & onion, smoked salmon, ham & tomato, mushroom, red pepper, goats’ cheese or mediterranean vegetables. He also makes a cracking homity pie (cheese and potato) and goat’s cheese tart.

The perfect accompaniment to the pie is a dollop of Hawkshead Relish’s gooseberry chutney.

Our picnic would not be complete without a sweet treat or two and something to drink.

Cakes & Biscuits – Bryson’s the baker makes a great selection of Cumbrian favourites, including ‘fly pie’ (sweet pastry with a thick layer of currants), several different types of fruitcake, ginger cake, and ginger shortbread. You can also buy tea breads packed with raisins (delicious with crumbly cheese) and sweet and savoury scones.

Grasmere Gingerbread is famous worldwide, and can still only be bought from the tiny shop by Grasmere Church. You can smell the shop before you can see it – Grasmere Gingerbread is very aromatic, with a secret blend of spices.

Alan at Graham’s is as skilled with cakes as he is with quiches, and makes a small but scrummy selection of cheesecakes, florentines, flapjacks, shortbread and chocolatey slices.

There are lots of jam-makers in the area to top a scone to perfection – try Claire’s Handmade. Many Cumbrians would always go for traditional rum butter on that scone, so why not give it a try? Quigley’s rum butter is our favourite.

If you’re in the Lakes in the late summer months, you will see signs for ‘pick your own’ fruit – usually raspberries and strawberries. Soft fruit fresh from the plant is delicious and so much better value than the supermarket version.

Drinks – Cumbria’s favourite would always be a small brewery’s bottled beer. The Hawkshead Brewery makes a good selection, with Lakeland Gold bitter (CAMRA’s Champion Best Bitter of Cumbria 2009), Red Ale and Lakeland Lager always popular.

Jennings’ Beer has been brewed in Cockermouth for generations, and is now back up and running after the floods. Try their Cumberland Ale or Sneck Lifter bottled beers.

If you’re more of a wine person, we can, amazingly, even provide you with a Cumbrian version. High Cup Wines makes traditional fruit wines from their home-grown elderflowers, damsons, raspberries and rhubarb.

Willow Water is a rather special water. It is sourced from the ‘holy well’ at Cartmel, and thanks to ancient white willow forests, is high in minerals and salicin.

If your picnic hamper is equipped with a flask, we’d recommend Farrer’s teas and coffees.

How about a few after-dinner treats? Cumbria is chock-full of sweet and chocolate makers. Try Ye Olde Friar’s in Keswick for a wide selection of locally-made chocolates, mint cake and traditional sweets.  Kennedy’s in Orton is the ultimate place to go for the best chocolates around or you can try another one of the Queen’s favourites, fudge and toffee from the Penrith Toffee Shop.

You can hunt out your own favourite Lake District specialties at Booth’s in Keswick, Kendal and Windermere, Cranston’s Food Hall on the outskirts of Penrith and Rheged’s ‘Taste’ shop.

There are farmer’s markets in Cockermouth, Egremont, Kendal, Milnthorpe, Orton, Penrith, Pooley Bridge, Sedbergh and Ulverston – see www.madeincumbria.co.uk for dates.

The beauty of cottages in the Lake District, plus whatever is left you can take home and enjoy in your very own Lake District cottage.

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