25 essential Sussex foods you need to try
- Credit: Archant
From ethical chocolate and banoffee pie to Selsey lobster, how many of these local products and ingredients have you sampled?
Our endlessly versatile national fruit has a number of Sussex cultivars, from the Edmund Jupp, first grown in the Horsham area, to the old Sussex Forge which hails from East Grinstead. Middle Farm near Lewes is the premier destination for the apple-addicted, especially at this time of year.
Their Cider Barn holds the National Collection of Cider and Perry where you can choose from more than 100, as well as apple liqueurs and flavoured spirits. An apple-pressing service is available in autumn.
Though it seems like the kind of dessert dreamt up in an American diner, the banoffee pie actually has its origins in bucolic Jevington, East Sussex at The Hungry Monk restaurant.
Owner Nigel Mackenzie and head chef Ian Dowding based it upon a recipe for coffee caramel the latter had picked up stateside, and perfected it with the addition of bananas. The recipe’s fame grew to the extent that Nestle printed it on the side of their condensed milk cans and The Hungry Monk cookbook sold more than 100,000 copies in 1974.
Here in Sussex we are blessed with some excellent cheeses, from High Weald Dairy’s delicious Brighton Blue through Goodwood’s Charlton to Sussex Charmer, a hard cheese similar to parmesan from Bookham Harrison.
The latter has its own Milk Churn Café where you can sample such simple delights as Charmer on toast. The Hungry Guest in Petworth, Cowdray Farm Shop near Midhurst and Cheese Please in Lewes have excellent and extensive cheese counters.
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Dark Star Brewery
Born in the cellar of Brighton’s Evening Star pub in 1994, this brewery now boasts much more extensive premises at Partridge Green, near Horsham, where they make more than 25 different beers each year.
The brewery shop is open Thursday-Saturday and brewery tours run every Saturday, although these have been temporarily suspended due to the pandemic. We recommend the Creme Brulee for the novelty, though the Session IPA is a bit more, erm, sessionable.
Add a Masterchef flourish to your cooking with locally grown edible flowers. Organic, regenerative Aweside Farm sells seasonal boxes including borage, calendula and cornflower, having started their farming journey on an allotment in London.
They moved onto the land at the start of this year and having seen the restaurant market disappear during lockdown, are now selling flowers online too.
At The Linseed Farm in Barns Green near Horsham, siblings Durwin Banks and Wendy Dorkins grow and press linseed, which comes from flax flowers.
The benefits of linseed are myriad, with the farm’s cold-pressed, small batch linseed oil containing 60 per cent Omega 3, which contributes to the maintenance of healthy cholestrol levels. You can also buy the product in the form of capsules, skincare and muesli ingredients.
Horsham was once a prolific producer of gingerbread, with makers throughout the town adding their own distinctive stamp to their products with wooden moulds. Percy Bysshe Shelley, who grew up near the town, wrote to an aunt in 1803 requesting some Horsham gingerbread.
In 2013 the Horsham Gingerbread Bakehouse launched to revive the town’s gingerbread industry and the products, many of which are naturally gluten-free proved very popular.
Very much a local institution in its hometown of Lewes and beyond, Harvey’s is the oldest independent brewery in Sussex, being family-owned since 1790.
With six core cask ales, a seasonal ale for each month of the year, plus a range of keg beers, there’s surely something for even the most reluctant beer-drinker here. Brewery tours and tastings are available on request, but no applications are being taken at present.
Indian tonic water
There’s still no finer companion for gin - and now’s the time to look beyond Gordon’s and Schweppes because we have a host of locally made alternatives.
To complement your Brighton Gin, Worthing Gin, Chilgrove Gin or Blackdown Sussex Dry Gin, try a sugar-free tonic from Gallybird based in Golden Cross, East Sussex. There’s a classic Indian tonic water and a botanical blend, both of which are sweetened with stevia.
Sussex wines get a lot of attention, but the same sunny conditions that favour the vines make our climate well-suited to growing other fruits. There are some fabulous juices being produced right here in Sussex, one of our favourites being Wobblegate.
The Bolney-based orchard is based on the family farm which has been growing fruit for 30 years. There’s a variety of (apple-based) flavours, our pick being the Apple and Pear.
The benefits or fermented food are well-documented and Susana Perez tapped into the zeitgeist by launching her own brand, Susana and Daughters, using milk from the Cowdray Estate.
She says that, as well as being packed with gut-friendly bacteria, kefir is full of calcium, vitamins and minerals.
Another star in the firmament of Sussex cheeses is Lord London, a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese which was served at the wedding breakfast of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, no less.
Its distinctive bell shape and clean, citrus taste make it ideal for a cheeseboard. Producer Alsop & Walker recommend eating it straight from the fridge.
The Chichester-based chocolate company celebrated its 20th anniversary in August and continues to go from strength to strength.
From one shop in Brighton, Montezuma’s now has six shops all over the south of England as well as national stockists from John Lewis and Waitrose to Sainsbury’s and Holland and Barrett. All the brand’s packaging is now 100 per cent recyclable and they have developed a vegan option, Like No Udder.
The family business behind Nutbourne Nursery takes tomatoes seriously, having been in the business of growing heritage, insecticide-free tomatoes for 40 years.
Owner Gary Griffiths now grows 25 different varieties, many of which they sell in mixed boxes with great colour variation - think yellows, oranges, striped greens and of course bright red. A million miles from pallid supermarket fruits, these are delicious unadorned and straight from the vine.
Jacqueline Barleycorn of the Great British Porridge Company secured a £60,000 cash boost by from Dragon’s Den’s Tej Lalvani following her appearance on the BBC2 show.
The brand produces premium vegan, gluten and dairy-free instant porridges in a range of flavours which are now widely available including in supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
Slindon Pumpkins is a seasonal institution, with the late Ralph Upton establishing the annual display, with a mural formed out of pumpkins or different colours and sizes.
Marvellous in jams, jellies and other preserves such as the Spanish paste membrillo. Henfield-based Iberica imports authentically Spanish food and sells at farmers’ markets including Hove, Shoreham-by-Sea, Worthing, Hassocks and Cuckfield.
You can also order membrillo and a range of other products through their website.
Just one of our impressive roster of English wine producers, Rathfinny aims to export around half of its Sussex Sparkling wines to overseas markets - including traditional wine-producing countries.
Other local vineyards include Bolney, Nyetimber, Breaky Bottom, Ridgeview, Tinwood, Bluebell - we’d recommend trying them all!
The beautiful West Sussex seaside town of Selsey is famed for its seafood, particularly its crab and lobster which can be found on many local restaurant menus.
For the freshest possible fare, head to the beach itself where, just off the beach where the fishmermen launch their boats, you’ll find suppliers selling their produce. Try one of the delicious-looking platters from Potters (24 hours’ notice required), a family business regularly updating its prices according to market costs.
Trenchmore Farm beef
This mixed farm near Cowfold rears Sussex Wagyu cattle who are mostly grass fed, but who also enjoy brewer’s grains from Hepworth Brewery, some pressed linseed cake from Flax Farm and the occasional treat of apple pomace from the farm’s own cider press!
You can buy the high-quality dry-aged beef and Silly Moo Cider through their website and from local stockists.
Umami flavour refers to the unique savoury taste found in Japanese cuisine, especially for dishes like broths and cooked meats.
Japanese food manufacturer Kikkoman is based in Burgess Hill and they have an enormous range of products allowing you to create the umami taste from the comfort of your kitchen.
You may have seen rose veal featured on Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast which outlined the many welfare strides which have been made in veal production.
Rose veal is being hailed as a solution to challenges faced by dairy farmers, such as how to humanely address the problem of what to do with male calves. Charlie Hughes of Charlie’s Farm Shop in Bury is raising rose veal, with the Friesian bulls reared humanely and fed on milk for up to eight months. The shop itself is also wonderful and well worth a visit.
Most Sussex beaches in heavily populated areas have seafood stalls where you can buy treats such as cockles and mussels in vinegar. Whelks, which are molluscs with a pointy shell, are another firm favourite.
Plaw Hatch Farm is a biodynamic business producing dairy, poultry, sheep, pigs and arable.
Uniting traditional processes with modern food hygiene standards is key, as is sustainability - for example the cows’ manure fertilises the arable fields and the chickens and pigs eat by-products from cheese-making. All of their dairy products are unpasteurised except for the halloumi and their delicious yoghurt.
Zari is a highly acclaimed restaurant in Crawley reflecting the cuisine of many different regions of India.
There is a very comprehensive vegan menu (sampled by local Romesh Ranganathan), plus regular masterclasses with their long-serving head chef.