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A taste of Italy in deepest Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 10:48 23 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:24 20 February 2013

A taste of Italy in deepest Suffolk

A taste of Italy in deepest Suffolk

Richard Bryson starts our look at alfresco summer food by highlighting the work of a specialist cook promoting the best of Italian cuisine in deepest Suffolk

Richard Bryson starts our look at alfresco summer food by highlighting the work of a specialist cook promoting the best of Italian cuisine in deepest Suffolk



We like to celebrate the best of locally produced food on these pages but our heads were turned when we learnt of a Suffolk woman producing delicious Italian dishes. Whats not to like about healthy delicacies from the land of Ferrari, Prada and the Azzuri?
In any event Honor Townsend, the creative source behind creative sauces (her Buxhall-based Italian food business Simply Sugo is named after the Italian word for sauce) uses many Suffolk ingredients. Despite what some well known brands contain, authentic Italian sauces are not usually full of all kinds of herbs . . . theyre really quite simply put together, explains Honor, whose years of living in Umbria and Tuscany have inspired her to fly the flag for Italian cooking in our part of the world.
Consequently her home-made sauces are the product of Honors know-how from watching Italian cooks who all use locally grown vegetables, locally reared meats and the appropriate herbs to compliment each dish.
Among a very tempting array of sauces her Aglio, Olio, Peperoncino contains lots of sauteed garlic, chilli and extra virgin olive oil while her Salsicce features Italian gluten-free sausages, tomato, red wine, rosemary and bay leaves.
Ah, you might say, Italian gluten free sausages are not a Suffolk ingredient. But thats where Honor gets a little help from a London and web based company called Nifeislife as well as Gastronomica, a specialist importer run by Italians who only supply the best carefully sourced Italian products.
I can get the most amazing pancetta from them, any Italian cheese and really high quality ham. People often think of Parma ham as being the big speciality meat but there are some really tasty, darker, v v hand-cured hams that should be tried too.
If you want local then Proctors sausages, based in Suffolk, also make gluten free sausages which are delicious.
The sauces (which may soon be available to buy at local outlets as well as through Honor directly) are just one part of this talented chefs business. She trained at Pru Leiths Leith School of Food and Wine in 1986 under Lesley Waters and was a pastry chef at Bibendum where she learned much from the celebrated chef Simon Hopkinson and Philip Howard (The Square).
Stir in her experiences as a private chef in South Africa, Australia and America, and her years as head chef at Palazzo Terranova, her familys and the first boutique hotel in Umbria, which they sold in order to move back to their Suffolk roots, and you have someone used to tackling all kinds of catering challenges.
Thats just as well since Honor often has to motor around East Anglia and London to serve her dinner party clientele. I can cook anything and tailor menus to suit individual needs. I love making home-made breads using the local Marriages wonderful flour (EADT Suffolk can vouch for the foccacia being delicious), wood-fired pizzas, lasagnes, canapes, antipasta and dolci, says Honor who adds they do lunches, dinners, drinks parties, weddings and home delivery. Their dinner party meals can range from 25 to 50 per person, depending on the number of courses and ingredients.
The other day we prepared and served foccacia, followed by fresh asparagus, sourced from Middleton Farm Shop, with poached eggs and pancetta. To follow we did the most delicious grilled and sliced rib of beef (Bistecca Fiorentina as it is known in Italy) with Dauphinoise potatoes and then a dessert of real Italian Tiramisu.
Her assistant Bella, is, like Honor, a single mum, and the two work well as a team. She is fantastic as my front of house and we also have a washer-up so that when we offer our services we can leave a kitchen spotless, says Honor.
Sometimes not knowing where you are going to be cooking presents a test. There are a lot of Agas in Suffolk and they are not easy to cook everything on, but I always manage somehow! If v
v needs be I bring my own gas grill and I am always well prepared. Some stress is good as it just fires more passion and heightens energy levels!
Looking out from her kitchen at her recently built pizza oven and barbecue area, you can tell Honor is looking forward to some outdoor cooking. This time of year I love cooking with spring vegetables and serving up plates of anti pasti with something interesting for everyone. Risottos are also one of my favourites, especially prawn, rocket and lemon.
Certainly there are no pretensions with Honor. Im a passionate cook but not one who thinks she knows it all. Mine is simple cooking using the best ingredients available to create simply delicious food, she says. Despite her modesty a food critic writing in House and Garden magazine described her food as fabulous and added: It convinced us that either an Italian grandmother or Giorgio Locatelli himself was presiding in the kitchen.
And if you stay at nearby Buxhall Coach House (a cottage in the grounds of a stunning Georgian house at Buxhall Vale, surrounded by 40 acres of gardens and orchards - which Honors mother Sarah has sympathetically restored) there is obviously an excellent chef close at hand! Honor also does cooking lessons on request for a maximum of four people, or can even cook you a dinner party in the dining room of Buxhall Vale itself.


Buxhall Coach House can be found on www.chicretreats.com
For more information on Simply Sugo, based in Buxhall call 01449 736370 or go to the website www.simplysugo.com



Sugo piccante di salsiccia, rosmarino e pomodoro


(Sausage, rosemary and tomato sauce
with chilli and cream)


5 all meat Italian gluten free sausages (or high percentage pork bangers), skins removed and rougholy chopped
Small handful fresh rosemary, chopped
2 red onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
Chilli to taste, salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
Good pinch of nutmeg
2 glasses red wine
2 small tins chopped Italian tomatoes
Double or whipping cream to add at end to taste


Saut the sausage with the chopped onion in a good splash of olive oil. Add the garlic, rosemary, chilli, bay leaves and nutmeg.
When the sausage is browned a little, add the red wine and allow to bubble for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes.
Allow sauce to simmer very gently for about 40 mins, adding a little more wine or water if necessary so it doesnt get too dry. Check seasoning.
Lastly, add the cream and a little more chopped fresh rosemary and simmer for a few minutes.
Best served with penne pasta cooked al dente and grated parmesan cheese.



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