Set in the relative countryside not far from Sutton Coldfield stands Middleton Hall: a beautiful Tudor property surrounded by walled gardens, orchards, and lakes.
On the last Sunday of every month, it opens its rooms and grounds to an array of local food producers and craftspeople for the Food and Craft Market.
From exotic chillies, to fresh bread, to locally made jams and preserves, there’s typically a good range to choose from, with some familiar faces attending regularly. Here’s my pick of the producers!
Karen in a Jam
The eponymous Karen is a country housewife from Hints, near Tamworth, who makes jams and preserves by her own fair hand. It may appear very WI on the surface, but Karen’s jams have a secret – lots of them contain booze!
Her selection of marmalades are impressive, in Lemon, Gin & Tonic flavour, Bucks Fizz flavour and, my personal favourite, Lime and Cachaca. The flavours are fantastic, giving you plenty of boozy flavour but without that alcoholic burn. Perfect for Sunday brunch! I’ve also used the Lemon, Gin and Tonic in my Gin & Tonic cupcakes.
She also makes savoury preserves, including a Hot Mint Jelly which is divine, with all the freshness of a mint sauce, and an added kick. I love it with roast lamb.
The Curry Man
The Curry Man is a regular at Middleton Hall, and his aromatic curries and snacks always draw a crowd. He’s most famous for his gigantic onion bhajis, pictured below!
Whenever I go to the Food & Craft Market, I always end up getting something. Last time it was a selection of vegetable pakoras that didn’t even make it home, they got eaten in the car! I also tried one of his ready made curries after testing out a free sample. We took home a chicken dhaka, made with a tomato sauce and lots of fresh cumin seeds. The flavour was really delicious, much more like a homemade curry than a takeaway version. The flavours were so fresh, mildly spicy and absolutely gorgeous. I highly recommend trying it.
The Spice Routes
On the subject of spices, another favourite from the market is The Spice Routes and their mind boggling range of chilli products and spices!
If, like me, you like it hot, their Volcanic Vindaloo packs quite the punch! My favourite of their products though, are their selection of dried chillies – particularly the Mexican varieties that can be tricky to get hold of. These dried Ancho chillies have a beautiful, raisiny flavour, and I always add one to my chilli con carne since buying them.
Little Ape Coffee Company
Little Ape Coffee Company were at the Food & Craft Market for the first time last month, with a huge selection of whole bean coffee. From extra strong King Kong coffee, to flavour infused blends.
I picked up a bag of Cherry Bakewell flavour and one of Orange Biscotti, which they ground for me there and then so it was fresh. The Orange Biscotti is absolutely delicious, with a mellow coffee flavour, sweetness and a real hit of orange. The Cherry Bakewell is more subtle but still with a lovely almond note. I’ll definitely be trying more of these next time they’re around!
Honeypot Cottage Artisan Bread
I love bread, in all its shapes, forms and flavours, so its no surprise that one of my favourite producers is one that makes bread. Ruth at Honeypot Cottage makes an array of breads, from traditional baguettes and cottage loaves, to some bold and interesting flavoured creations including Full English Breakfast loaf, Beetroot and Apple bread and even a chocolate loaf.
I took home a cheese and wheat loaf and a walnut loaf, both of which were very tasty on their own, and as an accompaniment to other bits. The walnut loaf in particular was really good, with a strong nutty flavour and soft bread.
The Cheese & Ale Barn
The Cheese & Ale Barn is a permanent fixture across in the Courtyard at Middleton Hall. Small but well stocked, you can pick up local cheeses and an impressive range of local beers, gins and ciders.
Birmingham favourites Two Towers brewery are often available, as are some lesser known varieties. I picked up this Stroud Brewery Alederflower on one trip, which had an amazing elderflower flavour alongside the citrussy pale ale notes. A great find.
Entry to the Middleton Hall Food and Craft Market is just £2 per person, and allows you to explore the whole of the restored property, gardens and nature walk. It’s great for kids, as there’s plenty to learn about the former life of the property, and when the weather is good, the gardens and grounds are really beautiful.
Have you been to Middleton Hall Food and Craft Market? Who are your favourite producers?