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Fresh produce from the Brecks

Norfolk's top foods

While you're here, you might come across our county biscuits, Fair Buttons or Norfolk Gingers. You might find a bakery that does a Norfolk treacle tart, made with black treacle and flavoured with lemon, or Norfolk bread pudding, otherwise known as Nelson slices, which has dried fruit, lemon rind, marmalade and, of course, rum mixed in with the bread. You might even find a restaurant serving Norfolk 'dumplins'. But those things are as rare as an unhappy child on a sunny Norfolk beach in summer.

Here are some ingredients more readily available, just as traditional to the county, and which are a must-have if you're spending any time here if you want to say you've truly eaten Norfolk food…

Cromer crab

Cromer crab

It had to be in pole position – it's as distinctively Norfolk as pasties are to Cornwall and champagne to northern France. The reason they're so good is that Cromer crabs thrive in the shallow waters of the unique chalk reef just off the coast, producing the sweetest, meatiest crustaceans.

Theoretically Cromer crabs are the same brown crabs that are caught all around the coast of Britain. In practice everyone knows they are unique. The special nature of a Cromer crab isn't a matter of opinion, it's recognised in law. The minimum legal shell span of Cromer crab (115mm) is smaller than any other UK crab – Cromer crabs, with their 'pie crust' shells, really are little bombs of flavour!

Cromer crab is revered by foodies, brimming as it is with a high proportion of white meat. It's also very healthy, full of brain-boosting Omega-3 and low in fat. Eat with a little black pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of smoked paprika on buttered brown bread, with mayo, cucumber or avocado. They're usually available from around April.

There's also a Crab and Lobster festival each May in Cromer and Sheringham. Oh yes, did we mention the lobsters...

Norfolk's chalk reef



Otherwise known as 'sea asparagus', it thrives in our tidal salt marshes, and is FAB-UUUU-LOUS steamed and eaten with butter. If you're here in Spring, the asparagus is simply stunning too and you can often find it sold from trailers in countryside lay-bys. Both are usually best in May.

Brancaster mussels

Fresh, local mussels
They're big blighters, tender and juicy. Collected when they're young, they're then moved to lays (beds) in the tidal creeks and left to mature nicely before harvesting. You think the French have the monopoly on cracking moules et frites? Don’t you believe it.

Stiffkey cockles

Stiffkey cockles
Also known as Stewkey Blues on account of their colour, a pale lavender to dark grey-blue, that comes from their habitat a few inches under the mud and sand. They're still harvested with short-handled, broad rakes and nets. Traditionally the cockles are steamed, put in soups and pies, or boiled and eaten with vinegar and pepper.


Norfolk cheese
Nothing like a Binham Blue, a soft blue veined cheese made by the redoubtable Mrs Temple of Copys Green Farm at Wighton using milk from the Chalk Farm herd of Holstein Friesians and the Copys Green herd of Swiss Browns. Once you get a taste for that (and you will), move on to her Copys Cloud, with a fluffy white rind and melting centre; Wighton, a fresh curd cheese; the hard, matured Walsingham; a supple mountain-type called Wells Alpine; or Warham, a semi-soft available in mustard, tomato and herb, or cumin flavours.

Norfolk black turkey

Norfolk black turkeys
Yes, it really is 'bootiful', and it's not just for Christmas either. Lean, healthy and versatile, it's a great food for any time of the year. Norfolk historically leads Britain in poultry production because the birds can feed on grain left over from the rich arable harvest. Geese used to dominate but, in the early 16th Century, Spanish explorers returned from Mexico with some strange, jet black creatures that became known as turkeys. The fertile, flat plains of Norfolk were the perfect place for these birds to thrive and they were soon challenging geese as our favourite winter feast.


Pheasant in the Brecks
This is a specialty of the Brecks - no wonder, with all those forests and high grass - and usually refers to wild animals and birds that are hunted and eaten. Look out for venison, pheasants and pigeon on pub and restaurant menus, or cook it for yourselves.


Colman's mustard
If you're here in Spring you'll see fields swathed in yellow. Much of it will be rape, grown for oil, but a lot of it will also be mustard. Norfolk is, as everyone knows, the home of Colman's Mustard. In the early 19th Century, Jeremiah Colman took the idea of milling mustard and turned it into an industry. A former flour miller, he blended both brown and white mustard seed to create a strong English mustard. By the 1880s more than two thousand people were working at the Norwich factory, with another 4,000 earning their living directly through the company.


Norfolk mint
The vast majority of mint grown agriculturally in the UK is done in Norfolk and a lot of it is taken by Colman's. To ensure it's fresh the farms are no more than seven miles away from the Carrow Road works. In the 1970s, hundreds of varieties were tested to find the right species to create the perfect jar of mint sauce. The winner was a plant found tucked away in someone’s back garden in the village of Brundall on the Norfolk Broads. Harvesting starts in late May and continues until the end of September or the first week in October.


Norfolk beer

Norfolk produces the best malting barley in the country and the best is grown in north Norfolk where the salty sea frets, high fields and warm climate make ideal growing conditions. The barley is turned into gorgeous, thirst-quenching real ale. Norfolk also has the most microbreweries of any county in the country - bet you didn't know that. Order a foaming flagon and toast those wonderful brewers and barley farmers!

Beer and brewing in Norfolk

And let's not forget... whisky!

Whisky barrels at St George's Distillery

St George's Distillery at East Harling was the first whisky distillery in England for 100 years and since 2006 has been producing award-winning whisky that has gained a worldwide reputation! There are daily tours... and tastings. Hic!

St George's Distillery

And here's one more you won't beet...

Half of all the sugar in the UK comes from sugar beet - and most of that starts life in Norfolk. Cantley, the first sugar beet factory in the UK, opened in 1912 and by the 1930s the British Government was actively encouraging the production of homegrown sugar. Norfolk had the farming skills, the soil and the incredible transport network of the Norfolk Broads to help put British sugar on British tables.

Now it’s an industry worth £800 million a year making a major contribution to Britain’s economy. And it wouldn’t happen were it not for the British navy blockading Napoleon’s ships in the Caribbean and preventing transport of sugar cane. The French, having a sweet tooth, had to find an alternative – sugar beet. Et voila!

And if you're going to the seaside...

Fish and chips
Then you must have fish and chips! It would be rude not to. You can find excellent chippies across the county, particularly at the seaside. Watch out for any dive bombing seagulls hoping to steal a thick wedge of potato. In Great Yarmouth and Norwich we recommend market place chips, with lots of vinegar and salt. Hey, you're on vacation! And the donuts on Great Yarmouth seafront, freshly-made while you wait, are particularly good. Try eating them without licking your lips... it's impossible!

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