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Hand-made, organic

 
BY buying local, organic food you can benefit your health, as well as supporting local businesses. Hexham Farmers� Market was recently named the best in the country by the National Farmers Union.

It takes place in the Market Place on the second and fourth Saturday of every month and sells local produce from local producers. The next one takes place on March 22.

All stallholders come from within a 50-mile radius of Hexham, and there are no middlemen or retailers.

Their produce has been reared, grown, baked, pickled, preserved or handmade, in the traditional way with emphasis on care, quality and flavour.

Shopping at Hexham Farmers� Market cuts food miles, and the produce is fresher and of a higher quality. The income generated stays within the local community.

Visiting the market is a friendly experience. You can meet the stallholders who are passionate and proud of the food they produce. They are keen to talk to you, and many offer the opportunity to sample before you buy.

The regulars are always here and other producers join us when their harvest is in season. Stallholders include Joe�s Home Baked Bread, Chain Bridge Honey Farm and Bywell Fish & Game.

On offer is rare-breed pork and beef, organic vegetables and lamb, fresh mussels, hand- smoked game, home-made soups, jams and pickles, fresh bread and pies, herbs, traditionally-made cheeses, hand-made soaps and natural skin care products.

One of the regulars is Weardale Organic Soup Company, which will be offering free taster samples of hot soup and full cups of hot soup with organic spelt bread buns � just the thing on a cold day.

The company began in a small cottage kitchen in the North Pennines three-and-a-half years ago and now these home-made gluten-free soups, made using artisan production methods, have become incredibly popular throughout the region.

The range of mouth-watering soups use vegetables produced within 50 miles of the company�s home, Elm Cottage, with the aim of cutting down on food miles.

Many organically certified vegetables are imported, but by producing the Weardale Local Soups the company is able to support local growers who produce good-quality vegetables, grown without pesticides, right on the doorstep. As much local produce as possible is used from the local organic wholesaler North Country Organics.

The flavours include Cauliflower Cheese Soup, taken from an old Scottish recipe and made using wholegrain honey mustard from Chain Bridge Honey Farm at Horncliffe, near Berwick in Northumberland.

The wholesome and nutritious soup range is now made with local spring-water bottled at source, a further boost to the health benefits of the produce.

Each carton shows a beautiful scenic image of Weardale, including Eastgate, an area hit by the closure of the only large employer in the area, the Lafarge Cement Works.

Last year Christine Peart, the proprietor of Weardale Soup, and her son David had the pleasure of meeting the Countess of Wessex on her visit to the Bowes Museum. The countess was interested in the fact that the business is a cottage industry and picked up a carton to take a closer look at the cottage image on the label.

Christine also recently visited the northern heat of the Great British Village Show, presented by celebrity chef James Martin. James tasted the pumpkin and coconut soup, congratulated Christine on its taste and recommended it in his new book, The Great British Village Show Cookbook.

Today, production has increased beyond all expectations and a whole new product range has developed in line with customer demand for produce suitable for sufferers of Coeliac disease and those who are gluten and wheat intolerant.

The company is licensed with Coeliac UK and now offers vegetarian gluten-free quiches, cheese and fruit scones and biscuits and cup cakes, free from gluten and wheat.

The bakery range now includes gluten-free muffins, which are a real treat and nothing like the heavy commercially available gluten-free cakes you find in the supermarkets.

Why not try the double choc chip, which is made with a gluten-free flour blend? The recipe took 18 months to perfect and is a closely-guarded secret.

Coming next will be gluten-free apple and cherry pies, to be launched at the Wear Valley Food Festival at Auckland Castle on April 12.

For more information, call: (01388) 517384 or email: weardalesoup@aol.com.

If you are looking to introduce more organic food into your diet, North Country Organics is conscious of where its produce comes from, and more importantly, how it is produced and how it affects our environment.

Such is North Country Organic�s passion about its production, that it has recently signed a lease for a Victorian walled garden in Northumberland. The business is set to grow its own vegetables so it knows exactly what has gone into producing them and can provide produce that has travelled fewer than 10 miles to your door.

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+ChefsWorld Tim Capper  
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