I am not really a breakfast person and there have only been a few occasions that I have fancied a big plate of cooked food before noon. But having grown up in a farming community I do have childhood memories of the men of the family polishing off leftovers of the previous dinner just before heading out into the fields for a hard day’s work.

There was that one occasion that Uncle Antonis insisted that John and I joined him at a kafeneion in Assimi, a small market town in Crete, for boiled goat, beer and raki at ten in the morning! I will never forget that, after the initial reaction of horror and repugnance, both John and I proceeded to devour the goat and knock back the drinks that kept coming courtesy of surrounding groups of farmers doing exactly the same thing. Later, when working in the City, there was the odd occasion when, after an all-nighter of dancing and plate smashing at Elyse or Fantasia bouzouki nightclubs, I would turn up at work via the nearest greasy spoon. In my defence I was in my early 20s and terribly homesick.

Great British Life: Lakeland Farm KitchenLakeland Farm Kitchen (Image: Irini Tzortzoglou)

The last very special cooked breakfast I remember came years later when, for my introduction to the Lake District, John had booked a stay at Miller Howe where the full Cumbrian came accompanied by a glass of claret and the porridge was flavoured with whisky.

Roll on the years and one recent frosty winter Sunday morning, just as I was getting settled to work on my laptop in my warm and cosy bed looking forward to the first Greek coffee of the day, John pulled the quilt off while announcing that a brisk walk and breakfast at Lakeland Farm Kitchen was the order of the day.

We both loved the crisp, bright morning and our quick circle of a walk stopping to photograph the Friesian horses, the sheep and the gleaming frost on the grass and the hedges.

Great British Life: John tucks into his breakfastJohn tucks into his breakfast (Image: Irini Tzortzoglou)

After a quick shower and change, we jumped in the car and made a dash for our cooked breakfast as if our life depended on it. We knew that service started at 10am and ended at midday (so that Sunday lunch could be readied) and hated the risk of missing out. The first thing to greet you when visiting the Lakeland Farm Visitor Centre and Kitchen is the drive up to it. From the A591 at Ings, there are a few hundred yards of beautifully paved road, a nice welcome particularly on an ice cold day and a sign that both thought and financial investment had gone into this project.

The second welcome for us was “good morning” in a loud voice from somewhere above the car park where only grazing sheep were visible. It turned out to be Isaac, the farm owner tending to the animals. Kerrie, his New Zealander wife and 18-year-old Jessica were in charge of the café while young Mason (still only 15 but butchering since the age of 12!) was looking after the meat section, handing over legs of farm reared Herdwick hogget and other joints that no doubt were being rushed to local ovens to be roasted.

Great British Life: Irini makes a purchase from MasonIrini makes a purchase from Mason (Image: Irini Tzortzoglou)

Tyson, 20, was away learning farming practices in New Zealand but I suspect that the whole family are involved in every part of the business, which includes educating groups in aspects of traditional farming life. Choosing what to have was a bit of a challenge. John told me later that he would have killed for a bacon butty but thought this would not be photogenic enough, and I just couldn’t make up my own mind.

I could have had the Farmer’s Extra Large, Farmer’s Full or Farmer’s Small, depending upon how many of each sausage, bacon rasher or egg I fancied. There were other choices on the menu too and a couple of specials on the board. John chose first and went for the Farmer’s Full. For myself, not having built an appetite by ploughing, sowing or harvesting and wanting to photograph alternatives, I ordered the mackerel pate on sourdough topped with poached eggs. I thought this might just leave enough room for pancakes served with stewed apples and berries.

Great British Life: Pancakes with stewed apples and berriesPancakes with stewed apples and berries (Image: Irini Tzortzoglou)

John enjoyed the spicy, peppery black pudding, something he might otherwise just try out of interest and he devoured the sausages impressed by the total absence of visible fatty and grisly bits. Both are made at the farm.

My choice was definitely the right one. The toasted sourdough was light and lacey but with enough density to hold the delightfully flaky and creamy shredded mackerel; the eggs were poached to perfection, runny and creamy.

Being regularly frustrated by the bad execution of simple things, I felt that Shaun the chef deserved to be congratulated. I should have never made that trip into the kitchen though. The sight of the mountain of fluffy, golden towers made of Yorkshire puddings ready to be served at lunch was a torturous temptation. I vowed there and then to return the following Sunday and also on the last Friday of the month for steak night.

As we were getting ready to leave our breakfast table, we saw the first pint of the day being served to a couple behind us who had arrived for lunch. They were not the only ones. Tables had started to fill up and included a large group of local businesspeople who eat there regularly. And this was on a day at a normally quiet time of year.

Great British Life: Sunday lunch ... they'll be backSunday lunch ... they'll be back (Image: Irini Tzortzoglou)

In the midst of a worrying economic climate, the huge challenges facing farmers and hospitality professionals and the doom and gloom dominating the daily conversations the rest of us are having, it is heart-warming to come across families such as the Bensons; working hard, loving what they do and feeling recognised, appreciated and rewarded for their efforts. The family won a Cumbria Business Award for best farm diversification in 2022.

The Lakeland Farm Kitchen is a no-frills, clean, functional space where people come together, very regularly it seems, to enjoy good, honest, hearty food that is a fitting nod to the county’s agricultural past.

Whilst I am the first to sing the praises of all the amazing, high-end eateries of the county, I also find it hugely reassuring to know that farming is very much alive and well and that young people like Mason and Jessica are thriving in their parents’ footsteps whilst providing the rest of us with the kind of food choice that millions of people would envy.

Irini Tzortzoglou was BBC MasterChef Champion 2019 and is renowned for showcasing the dishes and food heritage of her birthplace, Crete. Her first book, Under the Olive Tree, came out in 2020. Irini is an olive oil and honey sommelier, runs culinary retreats and does cooking demonstrations and public speaking. She lives near Cartmel with her husband John. irinicooks.com