Talented chef Amanda, a mother of four, baked around a thousand in the first week of November and was delighted to hear celebrity chef Paula McIntyre of ‘Hamely Kitchen’, the hit BBC cookery series, say she would choose her Christmas pudding rather than mix her own!
Paula, the local food champion, says she’d opt for Amanda’s pudding because of its homemade quality and taste “without the hassle”.
Amanda, the entrepreneurial owner of the Jam at the Doorstep farm shop on the family’s dairy holding, also helps husband Arthur milk their 150-strong dairy herd.
“I am passionate about cooking, especially puddings like sticky toffee and, of course the traditional Christmas puddings, on the range in the kitchen at home,” Amanda says. “I’d make Christmas puddings for family, friends and as gifts. Those who tasted the puddings encouraged me to think about making them commercially,” she adds.
Further encouragement for the business came in the shape of UK Great Taste Awards, among the most influential food and drink competitions in the UK, Republic of Ireland and further afield. Amanda gained Great Taste gold stars for her sticky toffee and Christmas puddings.
The recipe for the Christmas pudding is a closely guarded family secret, insists Amanda. Alongside the traditional ingredients such as cherries and other fruit, she admits to adding a touch of Guinness!
“Feedback about the Christmas puddings started me thinking about setting up a small business on the farm at which I could sell these and the jams, curds, salted caramel sauces and chutneys I’d also been making for years,” continues Amanda.
She subsequently decided to set up a small shop in an old stone building in the farmyard. She decided widen the farm shop idea by stocking the shelves with her own products along with food from other local artisan suppliers.
“The level of interest has also encouraged me to extend the existing building for more local products and also to include a kitchen to enable me to step up production of puddings,” she adds.
The extension work on the farm shop is scheduled to be completed by early 2023. Amanda also regularly runs workshops showing participants how to make their own chutneys, jams and curds.
Amanda was helped by the Foodovation Centre at the North West Regional College in Londonderry with guidance on upscaling production of her existing puddings and those planned in the months ahead. Foodovation’s Karen Marren is the technical consultant in food technology at the successful and important food facility.
“Foodovation’s advice and guidance were invaluable,” Amanda continues. “Karen was excellent and contributed to the development of my small business in so many ways and especially on how best to upscale production to meet growing demand.
“Karen also helped me to secure an Innovation Voucher to help fund work at the centre, enabling me to access the large oven and other production facilities there, in particular,” she adds.
Amanda has also been able to access a Rural Development Grant from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs towards the further development of the enterprising business in areas such as fresh milk vending and yoghurt production next year.