6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Dorset Magazine today click here

Steve Harris: Dorset’s food scene hitting new heights

PUBLISHED: 16:43 08 November 2016 | UPDATED: 16:43 08 November 2016

Mike with one of his wheels of Dorset Blue Vinny - made from a 300 year old recipe he revived in the 1980s

Mike with one of his wheels of Dorset Blue Vinny - made from a 300 year old recipe he revived in the 1980s


From wasabi and knobs to gin and vodka, Dorset has taken its local food scene to delicious new heights and is creating a whole new generation of food and drink heroes

In 1974, five years before he founded BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme, Derek Cooper, presented a television series called A Taste of Britain. The pretext of the show was simple; to travel around the UK tracking down regional food traditions that were in danger of dying out.

Cooper introduces the Dorset edition of the programme stood in Stair Hole at Lulworth Cove, and explains that, here “as in other parts of Britain, it’s extremely difficult to find traditional food.” What I’ve seen and heard of the show seems strangely pessimistic. I know that 1974 was a difficult year in Britain, with the three-day week, IRA bombings and a government in turmoil, but to hear him sound the death knell for regional specialities like Dorset Knobs, when four decades on I have a rather splendid new tin of the things on my bookshelf, just sounds a little bit negative.

As well as those dry savoury biscuits, our instalment of A Taste of Britain focussed on crayfish, truffles, Blue Vinny cheese, and watercress. I’m delighted to report that in the last couple of years I’ve eaten and made radio pieces about the last three of those four. At Woodbridge Farm I met Mike Davies who resurrected a 300 year old recipe for Dorset Blue Vinny cheese in the 1980s. I found truffles at a secret location near Maiden Newton with James Fever and his dog Max. And Jon Old, the heir to his father’s business The Watercress Company, was kind enough to entertain me at their Dorset base just outside Moreton. From what I saw, the traditional food we were warned was dying out in the 1970s is still going strong.

In fact, I’m amazed by the produce being made and grown in the county that is distinctly non-traditional. Jon’s Watercress Company is a great example. Realising that Japanese stem wasabi liked similar conditions to watercress, and eventually could be more profitable, they decided to grow it – and very successfully. In 2012 they became the first European company to sell the delicacy. When I visited them, the King of Sweden, on a trip to Latvia, had just been served fresh Dorset wasabi!

And this dichotomy exists right across the county. Of course we still make excellent beer and cider, but there’s gin being distilled in Christchurch and Southbourne and vodka made from cows milk in Beaminster. We have local farmers producing sensational sausages, but the couple curing goat meat in their back garden in Rampisham are in an award-winning league of their own. You can buy a dazzling range of jams and condiments, including our very own Dorsetshire Sauce. Then there’s the Gillingham company that makes membrillo pastes used by some of Britain’s top chefs. And yes, there are a plethora of tea and coffee blends that enable you to have a Dorset cuppa; but if you fancy getting your caffeine fix from a steaming mug of South American mate, there’s a duo from Shaftesbury who can sort you out.

I’m proud of our county, and I think our relationship with tradition is just right. We continue to excel in the things we’re famous for. But in every town and village there are innovators pushing us forward.

More Dorset food and drink…

Dorset Magazine Food, Drink & Farming Awards 2016 winners - Dorset Magazine Food, Drink and Farming Awards 2016 took place last night in the beautiful surroundings of Lulworth Castle. Here we announce the prestigious winners


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Dorset visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Dorset staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Dorset account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Food & Drink

Friday, March 24, 2017

Whether you’re looking for fine dining, pub food, a romantic meal for 2 or a taste of something from further afield, eating out in Dorset really has something for everyone. Here’s our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Friday, March 10, 2017

A great meal starts with great ingredients, says Loic Gratadoux, Executive Head Chef at the Harbar Bistro. His policy is simple: if food is not fresh and in season, it’s not on the menu

Read more
Friday, February 17, 2017

From farmhouse to country house, tea room to hotel Sue Quinn leaves no crumb untested as she seeks out some of the finest cream teas in the county

Read more
Thursday, January 26, 2017

Food Assemblies offer a cost effective way to buy local produce. Sue Quinn explores this tasty antidote to supermarket shopping that has arrived in Dorset and is spreading fast

Read more
Monday, January 23, 2017

Choose a New Year’s resolution that adds to your life and supports the local economy, says James Warren

Read more
Monday, January 9, 2017

A new innovative locally inspired menu has John Billington’s taste buds dancing with delight

Read more
Friday, December 16, 2016

Gorse, wasabi and watercress, Susanne Masters fills her cocktail shaker with some exciting local spirits that would be a talking point at any festive occasion

Read more
Friday, December 9, 2016

Steve Titman has been at the culinary helm of Summer Lodge, the award-winning country house hotel at Evershot, for the last 12 years. He reveals how his Dorset inspired menus showcase the taste of the ‘star’ local produce

Read more
Monday, December 5, 2016

Having cooked in Marco Pierre White’s fiery kitchen, and worked with a stellar cast of culinary names, you know the menu at Matt Tebbutt’s Schpoons and Forx will be something very special and seasonally inspired

Read more
Thursday, November 10, 2016

With her newly acquired hens happily laying Lisa Osman wants to bake a special ‘thank you’ cake

Read more
Thursday, November 10, 2016

Celebrate Christmas and Great British Game Week (November 21 - November 27) with these delicious recipes and take your taste buds for a walk on the wild side

Read more
Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Gill Meller celebrates everyday seasonal recipes in a new book inspired by the Dorset landscape in which he lives and works

Read more
Tuesday, November 8, 2016

From wasabi and knobs to gin and vodka, Dorset has taken its local food scene to delicious new heights and is creating a whole new generation of food and drink heroes

Read more
Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Drawing on his culinary adventures both here and in the States, Nick St Peter, Executive Head Chef at the Bournemouth Highcliff Marriott, adds a deliciously unexpected twist to classic dishes

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

subscription ad
subscription ad

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Dorset Magazine Application Link

Local Business Directory

Dorset's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search