For the love of Lancashire food and drink

Cartford Inn

Cartford Inn - Credit: Archant

Our food editor, Emma Mayoh, tells us what she loves about food and drink in Lancashire and the Lake District

A stunning steak tartare dish from Moor Hall

A stunning steak tartare dish from Moor Hall - Credit: n/a

Lancashire food is the best. Call me biased – and I’d argue as the food editor of Lancashire Life I should be – but it doesn’t alter the fact it is the truth. I’ll make no apologies for it, either. Whether it’s the asparagus pulled from the sandy soils of Formby’s sand dunes, shrimps landed in Morecambe Bay or beef reared to the highest organic standards in Gisburn, this is food at its finest. We’re lucky to have chefs, too, who not only appreciate what they have on their doorstep – they are in the lucky position that local really is best – but they have the skills to make these fabulous ingredients shine on the plate.

Across our county from these chefs at the top of the culinary tree to the small independents, these are the people tirelessly banging the drum and flying the red rose flag for food from the county. It’s something we’ve been proud to do as a magazine, too, over our more than 70 year history.

In recent years Michelin have decorated the area our magazine covers with 12 Michelin stars, Mark Birchall’s Moor Hall in Aughton has been named the best restaurant in the country and more recently The Cartford Inn at Little Eccleston has been named Pub of the Year. Add to that a healthy pile of accolades for Lancashire venues from the much-lauded Top 50 Gastropubs list and you start to get the idea.

Consider Stosie Madi, a pioneering chef who truly makes the most of every ingredient at her disposal. A keen forager, she turns them into many excellent dishes including the type of pie – I’d recommend the hogget – you’d remember it on your death bed. There is Lisa Goodwin-Allen, now running the kitchens at the home of Lancashire hospitality, Northcote, and those unsung heroes like Dominique Ashford, the supremely talented chef cooking up stellar seasonal food in her gorgeous bed and breakfast, Dale House, in the remote Forest of Bowland.

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The humble hotpot, too, once a one-pot meal for workers during the Industrial Revolution, was catapulted to culinary stardom by former Northcote supremo Nigel Haworth. Such is the importance of one of our most famous dishes, it became the subject of an academic study. Food matters here.

It’s a fact that has now come to the attention of people outside our borders. Lancashire restaurants, pubs and food retailers are now regular features on the food and travel pages of the weekend broadsheets. It wasn’t too long ago these same pages were sadly lacking the presence of a business with a Lancashire postcode. But it seems now the efforts of our wonderful hospitality industry are being recognised and celebrated for the reasons we have long treasured them for.

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Speaking to a chef recently, they told me they were keen to shake the idea always sewn into their story that they spent time in his early career at Heston Blumenthal’s coveted Fat Duck in Bray. It didn’t mean he wasn’t proud of the achievement but he was prouder of the more recent gains he had made in taking his gorgeous Lancashire country inn to the dizzy heights of culinary achievement. And quite right too.

There have been more challenges thrown at our hospitality industry this year because of the dreaded Covid-19, which makes the attention all the sweeter. Restaurateurs, farmers, producers and food retailers pivoted so admirably fast not only for the survival of their own businesses but also to look after the communities in which they are based.

Some cooked for the NHS, some delivered to the vulnerable and shielded, and others just survived and helped us survive by keeping us fed. While we have happily shared these actions and achievements in the pages of Lancashire Life, it also comes as no surprise. This is a group of people who not only know how to take care of people in the best of times but bring food joy to those in the worst.

We’ve always been proud to bang the drum for our hospitality heroes and we’ll continue to do so in print and online. But in a time when it is so crucially important, and the future of our beloved hospitality industry is under pressure, let’s all bang that drum even louder. Yes, it may mean we have to share our treasured places with those only just discovering the delights of our food and drink scene but these places, producers and people are just too good to keep to ourselves. Long may they continue to capture the spotlight.

Want more food news, reviews and great foodie features? You’ll find them in our special food issue, a celebration of the county’s food and drink, or you can visit our wesbite for more inspiration.