I recently received a wonderful artisan food hamper from The Portly Grocer, a Knutsford-based company who work to support Britain’s finest artisans. Always one to support local businesses, I was delighted to learn that they wanted to send me some of their offerings to try, so I didn’t hesitate to get stuck in.
The hamper itself was packed full of goods – from Prince & Sons Tea Co. Jasmine Pearls tea bags to an array of Spice Entice Spice Kits (Thai Green Curry, Jamaican Jerk and Rogan Josh to be precise). Also packed in was the most delightful array of C&B CHOCOLATE BISCUITS, which really went down a treat with a cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon and on a dull Tuesday in the office. I can also now say I’ve tried Wild Boar Game Pâté (delicious), and that Aubergine and Basil Paste is sooo the new pesto and if you haven’t tried it, you should… It’s heavenly.
The Portly Grocer is a husband and wife team who operate an online fine food & drinks business specialising in new up-and-coming, mainly British artisan foods. They started nearly 12 months ago and aim to help small food producers launch their products and provide free business advice. They also don’t charge the producers to sell on their (lovely) website. Whatsmore, they have a rather wonderful story that dates back to 1884, which explains how and why they came to be in the business of sourcing and selling fine food products. If you fancy a nice little read, find the full story here.
Artisan Food Hampers
When the box promptly arrived, I was first impressed by the sheer range of goodies inside. Other things it contained included Amaretto flavoured ground coffee, luxury breakfast granola, a salad dressing vinaigrette, some chutneys and a range of rather ‘grown up’ crackers made by Cartwright & Butler. So to save this being the longest blog post in the world, here’s my thoughts on a few key products.
Spice Entice Thai Green Curry
This little spice kit promised ‘lovingly selected herbs and spices with a recipe to make a delicious dish of Thai Green Curry, to serve four’. The shopping list was quite long, but luckily I had most of it in; soy sauce, fish sauce, stock, coconut milk, palm sugar… that sort of thing, plus some fresh ingredients like garlic, onions, birds-eye chillies, veg, and chicken. I was surprised not to see fresh ginger on the shopping list for this curry, but not all green curry pastes contain it. As I had some monkfish in I was eager to use, I substituted this for the chicken. I would highly recommend this, just reduce the cooking time a little to suit the fish instead.
The recipe was really easy to follow, you do need a blender to whizz up all the ingredients for the paste (it perhaps should say that on the outer packaging) but that’s my only gripe as it was quick, simple, nutritious and delicious. Just how I like it.
Mellow Yellow Classic Vinaigrette
Apologies for the photo of the half empty bottle, but I think that goes to show how much I am enjoying this item! The main ingredient is Rapeseed oil so it’s lighter than olive oil dressings, which it really nice. And very convenient for my ‘health kick’. It’s scent and flavour is tangy as you would expect from a classic vinaigrette, and it seems to have the perfect balance of oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, herbs and seasoning. Below I have served it with a simple couscous salad with baby spinach and cherry tomatoes. Very easy to put together for a working lunch and absolutely maximum flavour with very little effort.
Olive Branch Aubergine & Basil Paste
This stuff came as a real surprise as it was wrapped so beautifully, which is part of the service if you wish, complete with cute personalised labels! At first I was a little unsure of what to make of it. Was it a pesto, a dip, a sauce? Turns out it’s all three… Such a versatile little jar of deliciousness. So far I have used it as a dip with the Cartwright & Butler Linseed and Sesame Flatbreads which worked really well. I’ve also used it in a simple pasta dish, instead of pesto and it made a really creamy, yummy sauce to coat the pasta.
Sweet Treats – Breakfast Granola and Chocolate Biscuits
Other highlights were these delicious sweeter items in the hamper. Sensible Dave’s Strawberry Granola with White Chocolate shavings is a real delight. I wouldn’t eat this on a regular basis for breakfast, but, on a Saturday morning after being good all week it’s the perfect treat and much quicker to put together than a bacon sarnie!
The Chocolate Oat Crumbles were also a firm favourite. Beautifully rich and creamy chocolate, and the biscuits were buttery and crumbly and very, very morrish. The wafers and dark chocolate and lemon varieties were also lovely, but the oat crumbles stole the show for sure.
Packaging & Attention to Detail
As The Portly Grocer’s story dates back to fine foods during the 1920’s, they are keen to replicate the attention to detail of that era; by hand-wrapping each product in luxury brown paper, and tying each one with twine in a vintage style. I must admit, the products look as good as they taste and it really makes it clear you’ve got something special on your hands.
Overall, I am really impressed with The Portly Grocer’s range of products, packaging and the service in general. Their website is also beautifully simple and very easy to navigate. It also has a lovely blog and some fantastic recipes ideas. They seemingly sell products to suit everyone – teas and biscuits for Grandma, Curry Kits for Dad’s and a huge array of everyday products that are bound to jazz-up your experience in the kitchen, all whilst supporting independent artisans – the ethos at the very heart of what they do.
If you’re looking for a gift idea for literally any type of person and for any occasion – then I would highly recommend you give these guys a whirl!