Review: Hillside Speciality Foods

One thing that you may have noticed is that I love cheese.  When Hillside Speciality Foods kindly invited me to their kitchen to learn more about their products for cheese, I couldn't resist!

Hillside Speciality Foods is run by 2 brothers, Jay and Will Allan.  Jay learnt his trade as a chef in top restaurants and 5 years ago decided to use his skills to create a range of fruit pastes for a local cheese supplier Country Cheese. With the popularity of the products he made, Jay teamed up with his brother, Will, and Hillside Speciality Foods was born.  Their kitchen has resided in Marsh Barton for 4 years and the business is continuing to grow.  It was evident from my visit that the company is built on passion and a love of great food. Hillside is another company that prides themselves on using local, fresh ingredients to make their delicious products.

One of their specialities is Quinces fruit paste.  The quince is a small, deciduous tree that bears a pome fruit.  Once cooked the fruit is edible, and delicious!  Hillside hand make the fruit paste from whole
fruits, sourced from the local Boyce fruit farm, which help the pastes retain their rich colour and floral flavour from the quince, unlike the products you can buy in the mass market.

Hillside also create a range of relishes, pickles, chutneys, and savoury biscuits, and many of their products are award winners!  Their biscuits are all handmade, and cut to a variety of different shapes and sizes, making them the perfect accompaniment for your cheese board.  You can also find these biscuits in pride of place on the deli counter in Harrods!

Hillside also supplied the London 2012 Olympics hospitality with their cheese board condiments!

They have also teamed up with a local wood producers to create the perfect cheese board gift set.

Perfect for cheese lovers, like me (hint hint!)

Will kindly gave me a selection of their products to try. I had some Quickes Cheese to accompany my cheeseboard, and will be writing all about this wonderful cheese in a future post!

I will start with the basis of every good cheese board; the biscuits. I had some of each of their varieties, Original Oatmeal Crunch Biscuits, Oat & Seed Crunch Biscuits, and Pink Peppercorn Crunch Biscuits.

Original Oatmeal Crunch Biscuits
A perfect oaty biscuit with interesting textures, flavours and colours.  While it has flavour, it isn't too overpowering and is perfect to showcase any fine cheese.  I used a mild cheddar with this biscuit at it really allowed the flavour of the cheese to shine through, while providing a perfect crispy crunch to go with it. They are made with local wholemeal flour. A coarse oatmeal is combined with porridge oats which gives a contrast in texture. Hillside use Devon farm butter and Cornish Sea Salt.

Oat & Seed Crunch Biscuits
As tasty as the original but with the added flavour and texture of poppy, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds. This biscuit has a bit more of it's own sweetness and flavour, making it a great accompaniment with any cheese. Each batch of these are hand rolled in small batches, giving them the little bit extra love and attention, and it shines through in the taste!

Pink Peppercorn Crunch Biscuits
Now these are something special.  They are packed full of that amazing salt and pepper taste; I found that first you got the salt, and then the lush pepper aftertaste. The strong taste in these biscuits really enhances any cheese, and I tried them with mild, mature and vintage cheddar, all equally delicious.  These really give you something extra and a new depth of flavour for your cheese board.

We have the cheese, and we have the biscuits- now for the accompaniments!  I had the task of trying out the Quinces Fruit paste, Plum and Port Paste, Sharpham Red Wine orange and Cranberry paste, Celery Pickle, Pear Apple & Herb Chutney and Spiced Orchard Fruit Chutney.  A tough job, but it was all in the name of research, and if I have to eat tasty cheese and gorgeous chutneys for the good of my blog, then I'll do it!

Quinces Fruit Paste
This was a strong fruity taste, but also a floral note from the quince.  You can really taste that nothing artificial has gone into this.  The sweetness goes so nicely with the mild cheese, but I found myself eating small chunks of it on its own!  I think you could also use this to go with meats, such as a roast lamb or a pork.

Plum and Port Paste
I have to say, I think this was my favourite!  Such a rich deep flavour from the port mixed with the sweetness of the plums, This worked so so well with some goats cheese.  I have always loved something sweet with goats cheese, but this paste just brought something else!  This would also taste amazing with a blue cheese. Will told me that it also works perfectly to finish of a sauce to serve with meats, such as a plum sauce for duck. I think it would taste nice with game meats as well.

Sharpham Red Wine Orange and Cranberry
The moment I tasted this it reminded me of Christmas.  The mixture of flavours of the wine orange and cranberry was similar to that of a mulled wine, and had an instantly warming quality. It has a definite spice that shines through the sweetness and depth of the wine flavours.  As the name suggests it is made from Sharpham Wine from Sharpham Vineyard and cheese makers in Totnes, Again Hillside have drawn from local produce. This comes with recommendations to try it with a Sharpham Brie.  The taste of this instantly makes me want to try their wine!

Celery Pickle
I was unsure as to whether I would like this as I have never been a fan of the stringiness of celery.  The celery in this has been cooked down long enough to loose that stringiness and because the skin is left on it still keeps it's shape.  The flavours are very clean and fresh, and it turns out that this is a perfect flavour to go with my mild cheddar cheese.

Pear Apple & Herb Chutney 
Another one of my favourites (how many am I allowed?) This is deliciously sweet, spicy and herby. This went really well with my soft goats cheese as well as all 3 of the different maturity cheese I tried.   It has a lovely aromatic smell and in short, tastes amazing.  Sadly there was a very unfortunate accident and this jar got dropped on the floor smashing into many pieces.  I was tempted to eat it even though there were bits of glass in, that's how good it was! RIP Pear Apple & Herb Chutney, you will be missed.

Spiced Orchard Fruit Chutney
In all honesty this was my least favourite, but still delicious. It is filled with warming, punchy spices and sweet orchard fruits such as plums, apples and pears.  A strong flavour that is designed to accompany a blue or strong flavoured cheddar, such as my vintage cheddar. It has a smooth finish but good sized chunks of the different fruits throughout.

Hillside Speciality Foods are available in the Real Food Store, Quicks Cheese, Country Cheese in Topsham.  As well as Harrods and many more.  You can find Hillside online here

L x

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