Dorset is famous for the quality of its food and drink. With fresh seafood in abundance and plenty of local produce, Dorset never disappoints. But there are some dishes that are singular only to Dorset how many have you heard of?
Dorset Apple Cake
The area is well known for its apple cake – a delicious sweet cake often made with spices including cinnamon. It’s on the menu of every tearoom dotted around the county, and must be devoured with a hearty dollop of clotted cream. It’s a perfect way to use those autumnal apples and is superb with lashings of custard.
Leakers Bakery in Bridport has a long tradition of baking going back to the 18th century. Named Leakers since 1914 when Master Baker G.S. Leaker acquired the premises, the business was continued by his son John, who installed the current ovens in the 1940s. John’s daughter Jo still bakes her Dorset Apple Cake for Leakers today in the same brick floored ovens.
Dorset Blue Vinney
Sometimes spelled “vinny” Dorset Blue Vinny is a traditional crumbly cheese the name itself comes from a local Dorset term related to the obsolete word “vinew”, which means to become mouldy. Another explanation has it that “vinny” is a corruption of “veiny”, referring to the blue veins running throughout the cheese. The cheese actually became extinct for a short while before resurging in the 1980’s when Woodbridge Farm in Dorset revived the old recipe, and it is now producing the cheese again.
In his poem “Praise O’ Do’set”, the Dorset poet William Barnes asks,
Woont ye have brown bread a-put ye,
An’ some vinny cheese a-cut ye?
Dorset Blue Cheese has been awarded Protected Geographical Status, ensuring only cheese originating from Dorset may use the name.
Dorset Jugged Steak
Jugging is a method of slow cooking which retains all the flavours of the meat while mingling them with those of the other ingredients. This traditional Dorset dish was often prepared to be eaten on days when the fair came to town as it is good-tempered enough to wait until the revellers came home, although the forcemeat balls (forcemeat is a mixture of ground, lean meat mixed with fat by either grinding, sieving, or pureeing the ingredients and are used in the production of numerous items found in charcuterie; such items include quenelles, sausages, pâtés, terrines, roulades, and galantines ) should not be cooked for too long.
The subject of many a schoolboy snigger up and down the country Dorset Knobs are a hard dry savoury biscuit which is now produced by only a single producer, for a limited time of the year (between January and February) Dorset knobs are typically eaten with cheese, especially Dorset Blue Vinney. Apparently Thomas Hardy loved them. A Dorset knob throwing competition is held in Cattistock every year on the first Sunday in May. The festival also includes such events as Knob Eating, Knob Painting, a Knob & Spoon Race and Guess the weight of the Big Knob.
Portland Pudding (Royal Pudding)
King George III regularly visited Dorset and he loved the food. The National Standard of Literature, Science, Music, Theatricals and the Fine Arts (1838) says: “During the residence of George the Third at Weymouth, his majesty and suite frequently visited the Royal Portland Arms, one of the best houses of entertainment on the island. The landlady’s art of cooking was of a very superior cast, and never failed to afford the highest satisfactions. His majesty’s palate, indeed, was so particularly gratified with a pudding of her composition, that he ordered it to be advertised in the Dorset County Chronicle, and christened it the Royal pudding. It is positively stated, moreover, that, on one occasion, his majesty and suite, having found the taste of the Royal Pudding so exquisite, actually remained at table until a second edition of it was produced, for which they had all reserved a corner.”
Another favourite of King George III and once common all over Dorset, the breed was once one of the rarest in Britain and is still at risk. It nearly became extinct in the 1970s, but has now recovered through efforts of dedicated breeders and the help of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. It is now listed as “at risk”, being a minority breed. Unlike most Ewes who generally give birth to twins the Portland Ewe will only have one offspring at a time. Portland Sheep produce high-quality meat with a fine texture and excellent flavour. The special flavour of the meat is due to the long time it takes for the sheep to mature and need for the meat to be hung for a longer time period in order to enhance the flavour and tenderness. Due to the breed being naturally fine and lean, the meat needs careful butchering to present it at its best.