Charlie Hodson of Hodson and Co Cheese Room With Deli
Norfolk was my childhood home and always felt like a special if unknown place – somewhere that maybe time had forgotten about.
Fast forward 40 years and, as I stand in Hodson and Co and look around at the packed shelves, I am simply in awe of all the marvellous producers that supply my Aylsham shop – they really represent the best of what’s available in the region and I’m proud to call them my friends.
Taking a culinary tour around the region is easy – and rewarding. For a start, head to North Norfolk where you’ll find Walsingham Farms Shop where Sam Bagge and his team have developed the business into a simply beautiful deli and farm shop.
Then there’s Max Inkson, Jack Rushton and Josh Cooper at the Thornham Oyster Co, three great friends who run a real treat in season, and Dr Sally Francis and her amazing saffron farm near Burnham Market – one of Norfolk’s hidden treasures and something that adds a touch of luxury to any dish.
Just over the border in Cambridgeshire is The Fruit Pig Company, owned by Matt Cockin and Grant Harper, who make the most delicious black pudding (and more). It’s beloved by many celebrity chefs and is even sold at Fortnum and Mason which is a real feather in any producer’s cap!
To the south, in the Waveney Valley, is Fen Farm Dairy, run by Jonny and Dulcie Crickmore.They produce the finest Brie, including Baron Bigod, and I particularly enjoy the truffle version. Also look out for St Jude Cheese, produced by Julie Cheyney from the same dairy. My favourites there are St Helena and St Jude.
Nearby is Old Hall Farm, at Woodton, near Bungay, run by Stuart and Rebecca Mayhew, which includes a great farm shop and cafe and, as they are not ones to stand still, they have just launched their own wine, a Sauvignon Blanc. The butchery counter is the star attraction, along with raw milk, butter, yogurt and cream, all produced from the farms own herd of Jersey cows. And they put the welfare of their beasts at the very top of their list of priorities and I really do think that their way of farming is the future of agriculture – more of that another time!
Back in Aylsham is Coxford’s Butchers, run by Johnny Payne and Jason Gibbons, who supply the very best of locally sourced meat. Their support is vital to me and the feeling of community they bring to the town is so important – we are stronger working together, especially in these terrible times.
So, Norfolk a backwater? Not any more! Our artisan produce is of the highest standard, with fans all over the world, and has certainly helped to put the region on the national gourmet map.