The Original Buxton Pudding Company - bringing Great Taste to the nation
PUBLISHED: 09:07 13 May 2015 | UPDATED: 20:49 23 October 2015
Meet Dom McCall and Alan Hibbert of the multi Great Taste award-winning Original Buxton Pudding Company in Furness Vale
Created with love and inspiration, mixed with emotion and packaged with pride, The Original Buxton Pudding is a unique twist on a traditional theme.
It all began in 2012 when partners Dom McCall and Alan Hibbert were proprietors of a coffee shop in Buxton. A friend’s mother gave them an old recipe she had found for Buxton Pudding with a request for them to try making it.
‘Probably dating back to the 1700s, the recipe was somewhat frugal on ingredients, a bit of a “left-over’s special” and not very nice,’ said Alan, ‘but with a tweak and after tinkering about with the quantities, we adapted it to suit 21st century taste buds.’
This sparked an interest in old recipes and the search began to find more by delving deep amongst the shelves at Scriveners second-hand bookstore in town, as well as trawling eBay for old cookery books.
An 1849 handwritten recipe book was a chance internet purchase. A bit tatty around the edges and containing barely legible spidery handwriting, it was written by the cook to a Lady Rouse. Almost like reading a foreign language it was a challenge to decipher, but eventually the code was cracked. Finding a recipe for ‘16 gallons of champagne cocktail’ was evidence that Lady Rouse must have had a grand estate, whilst over the page was a cure for cholera! Some instructions were hard to follow – ‘leave in the fire for 7 hours’ required a rethink – but before long new desserts were added to the range. The Lord Mayor’s Pudding was another interesting find, a sort of all-year-round Christmas pud.
‘One of the coffee shop’s regular customers, now a good friend of ours, persuaded the Chatsworth Farm Shop to buy into our idea,’ added Dom. ‘This amazing opportunity to supply them with puddings and desserts has literally opened up doors and changed our lives.’
Cassell’s Household Cookery book of 1913 listed several ‘old’ recipes including ‘Chatsworth Pudding’, a snippet of history surprisingly unknown to the archivist at Chatsworth House. This rather bizarre blend of ingredients that you would never dream of putting together includes tapioca pearls, but the result is a very decadent and delicious dessert which is now part of the Buxton Pudding Company line-up on sale at the namesake Farm Shop. ‘When Her Majesty the Queen visited Chatsworth last year, she was given a hamper of Derbyshire produce including a Buxton Pudding, which we hope she and Prince Phillip enjoyed back at Buckingham Palace.’
Derbyshire seems to have a wealth of unique local recipes, resulting in Alan and Dom being filmed for ITV’s ‘Country House Sunday’, presented by the late Lynda Bellingham. The programme researchers wanted recipes that were both unique and peculiar to a region. Filmed at The Lavender Tearooms in Bakewell, it featured Alan’s Thor Cakes, his variation on Ashbourne Gingerbread and the now famous Buxton Pudding.
With so many interests and not enough time to do everything, Alan and Dom decided to close the coffee shop and set up a commercial kitchen in an old mill building on Calico Lane at Furness Vale. They could then follow their hearts and expand their range of quality puddings, calling the new venture the Original Buxton Pudding Company.
It was here that I called in for a visit, walking into an aroma of baked happiness amid a chaos of shiny stainless steel.
The business currently has a permanent workforce of three with a few part-time workers when demand is high. Alan has always been involved in catering. His flair is for desserts and anything sweet, something he learnt from helping his mother as a child. Theresa Derbyshire is the other full-time cook whilst Dom, who has a background in graphic design, sorts out branding, packaging, marketing and deliveries.
‘It can get very busy at times,’ Alan commented while extracting a tray of puddings from the oven as Teresa efficiently cracked a few dozen eggs into a bowl ready for the next batch of baking. ‘Our run up to Christmas 2014 was manic. We made 5,500 festive puddings but it didn’t put us off eating one on Christmas Day. Orders are already coming in for next year!’
There is no production line as such, everything is made to order and delivered as quickly as possible. It is very much hands-on and occasionally hands-in – dishes are created with energy and love, adding life to every pot and dish!
Quality control is paramount and there is no compromise on the ingredients. ‘We wouldn’t sell anything that we wouldn’t eat ourselves. We might not be the cheapest, but by charging more we can afford to use the best. We are passionate about our products and feel that we should go the extra mile to build up trust with our customers. Although we try to source locally it is not always possible – Derbyshire is not known for its home grown sultanas.’
‘We only sell to high end farm shops and delis, no supermarkets. As well as the prestigious Chatsworth Farm Shop our puddings and desserts are stocked by Harvey Nichols in Manchester.’
During the warm summer of 2013 the demand for hot puddings waned a little so Alan created his ‘Grab & Go’ range of cold fruity desserts. Being a small firm allows them to be inventive. Having no complicated mechanical or computerised processes to change also makes it simpler to try something new. While Alan and Theresa get to work on new recipes, Dom is busy designing the packaging and within a couple of weeks new creations can be out on the shelves.
‘We don’t generally sell direct to the public as we are loyal to our stockists,’ said Dom, ‘but we occasionally post out to areas where there are no local suppliers. We can also provide catering size portions for hotels and restaurants.
‘Sometimes we get special requests. Westmorland Services in Cumbria, a renowned family run enterprise, wanted their own special fruitcake so we adapted an old recipe using damsons and damson gin brought down from the Lake District. The Moorland Pudding was also created specially for Tebay Services using bilberries or winberries, depending on which name you know them by.’
Dom and Alan are thrilled that both of these creations now fly off the shelves and give hearty cheer to those heading up and down the M6.
Alan is currently working on a new cake for Chatsworth. Fermenting within a huge glass jar like a Rumtopf in the corner of the kitchen was a mixture of plums, bramley apples, sugar and brandy. Eventually maturing into plum brandy this will be used together with the alcohol-soaked fruit to make a scrumptious boozy fruit cake.
Dom and Alan are keen to create an awareness of the ingredients in all prepared food and for consumers to question what they eat. Although challenged by the comfort of eating familiar dishes, perhaps on occasion we might be bold and take up a ‘sample and be pleasantly surprised’ approach to trying something different.
As the old adage states – the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Alan and Dom’s strict ethos is paying dividends as the Buxton Pudding Company has picked up a string of accreditations including 18 Great Taste awards from the Guild of Fine Foods. From 10,000 entries in 2014 they were one of only 153 companies to be awarded a 3-star rating, given for their extremely delicious custard. It is made with cream from Beardhall Farm across the river – from the kitchen window they can see the cows grazing! The cows are milked in the evening, the cream is delivered the next morning and by lunchtime it can be custard. As well as a 3-star taste award the Buxton Pudding Company deserves gold stars for freshness and minimum food miles.
An exciting recent development was the arrival of a letter from Liz Truss, Secretary of State for DEFRA inviting Dom and Alan to Downing Street. Unknown to them a mystery shopper-type assessment of their business had been carried out over a previous six-month period. The Buxton Pudding Company was chosen as one of the ‘#50 Food Stars’ championed by DEFRA to celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship in a small business as well as to promote the future of UK food and drink. A countrywide competition, they were the only representatives from Derbyshire and one of only seven from the Midlands to be chosen. It was a fantastic opportunity to network with other businesses and to attend workshops and presentations by Justin King the former CEO of Sainsbury’s and Lord Young, advisor to the Prime Minister. A small display of their products in No 11 received welcome attention from both buyers and dignitaries. ‘The whole day was an exciting experience,’ said Alan who was still glowing with pride, as well as heat from the oven – having just loaded up another tray.
Plans for the future of the Buxton Pudding Company are for more of the same. Dom and Alan want to carry on being different and creative putting their own stamp on old recipes. The business will have to expand, but they promise it will never be a conveyor belt of puddings. Rather than investing in machinery, the guys want to take on more cooks in order to retain their high standards of quality. On this occasion though ‘too many cooks’ certainly won’t ‘spoil the broth’!
Buxton Pudding Company will have trade stands at the Chatsworth Country Fair (4th–6th September) and Buxton Food Fair (10th–11th October) as well as taster events at Chatsworth Farm Shop. www.buxtonpuddingcompany.co.uk