As a chef who focuses on Cumbria and it’s food and heritage, the ingredients available to me at certain time of the year can be a little limiting. There is no doubt in my mind that they’re amazing and the family stories and history surrounding each is fascinating, especially to someone who loves all of that kind of thing, but the reality is that there simply just aren’t that many of them at this time of year.
A lot of the dishes served at the restaurant, such as the Arctic charr are without a shadow of a doubt inspired by the history of the ingredient, as opposed to the availability of it at any given time, which ultimately means on occasion we have to source from other parts of the country. To be honest this is probably true of the vast majority of ingredients that we buy; with certain very obvious exceptions including Herdwick, venison, game and cheeses.
Which is why it’s really exciting when a new producer and supplier based in Cumbria emerges, especially when they are creating something that no one else is. What’s more it’s even more of a revelation when that product is plant based and not the normal protein produce the area is famed for.
One such product is Eden Yard cold pressed extra virgin rapeseed oil, which is produced on the Taylor family farm, located at Plumpton near Penrith. They initially started growing rapeseed oil on their farm around four years ago and then selling the oil seed onto dealers. During this time, they started to experiment with the crop themselves, trying to work out how to make good quality cooking oils from their crop. Happily, they figured it out and began selling their oil in December 2021.
In doing so they’ve are pretty unique as they are the only cooking oil producers in Cumbria and the taste of what they are producing is unique too, and that’s largely down to their farm’s very specific soil type and climate.
Eden Yard like many high-quality oil producers use the cold pressed method of extraction. It’s a very traditional way of extracting high quality oils without using heat of chemicals before it’s filtered and bottled.
Rapeseed is small and black, very similar to poppy seeds, with a golden-yellow centre. The oil is locked away in the carbohydrate at the centre of the seed. And the best way to extract this oil is a process called cold pressing. Basically, this involves the seeds being slowly and gently squeezed in a press over a period of time to release the oil from the seeds.
Rapeseed oil has half the saturated fat of olive oil and a high content of vitamin E and healthy omega fatty acids and it’s popular with chefs because it’s fairly versatile and because of its high smoking point.
The way the Taylor’s farm is a key ingredient in the production process too, they grow 400 acres of varied arable crops on free draining fertile sandy soil in an annual rotation on their Red Tractor Assured land. They graze their flock of over 400 breeding sheep across 220 acres of permanent grassland, as well as feeding them on root crops over winter, which introduces valuable organic matter into their arable fields.
Their over-winter stubble fields are planted with nitrogen fixing cover crops, which reduces soil erosion and adds essential nutrients. Alongside this they use minimum tillage planting methods on their oilseed rape fields, which helps improve soil structure and overall health as part of their ongoing sustainable soil management system.
The annual crop planting cycle starts with the little black seeds being planted in August and the resulting green plants being nurtured as they grow during the winter months into spring.
Then in April and May the iconic yellow fields begin to appear as the plants flower, creating incredible scenes of vibrant yellow fields which also handily provide valuable early food sources for bees and other insects.
Then in July and August we harvest the seeds with a combine harvester, which carefully separates the seeds from their pods. The rest of the plant gets used too so absolutely no part is wasted. Straw is baled from the stalks for animal bedding, and left-over seed 'meal' once it’s been pressed and the oil extracted provides a nutrient and protein rich animal feed.
I’m sure you’ll agree that Eden Yard cold press extra virgin rapeseed oil truly represents a sustainable local product that we as a county can be proud of.
The oil is available directly from the farm through their website, or alternatively check out the list of local stockists from whom you can buy it.
Spiced Eden Yard Rapeseed Cake:
240ml Eden yard rapeseed oil
250g plain flour
1 teaspoon 5 splice
1tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
300g granulated sugar, plus about 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
300 ml milk, at room temperature
1 large orange
Preheat the oven to 180 °C. Grease a loaf tin using oil and line with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
Using an electric mixer set on high, beat the sugar, eggs and zest from the orange until thick and fluffy, for about 5 minutes.
With the mixer still running, slowly drizzle in the oil and beat until incorporated, for another 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the milk and orange juice. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smooth the top using an offset spatula and sprinkle the top with about 2 tablespoons sugar.
Bake the cake until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, for approx. 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool for 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to release the sides of the cake from the tin. Invert the cake onto a plate and then flip it back over onto the rack to cool completely.