Oil or Nothing

Norfolk’s known for yellow fields of mustard, a coast line full of seafood and farms full of cows, with which the purest of creamy milk makes the best cheeses in the UK. 

But that yellow stuff isn’t always mustard, in-fact 9 out of 10 times its rapeseed – the beautiful crop that makes cold pressed rapeseed oil. It grows particularly well in East Anglia and we have some mighty fine produces of that beautiful yellow sun-kissed oil.

Cold pressed rapeseed oil has 50% less saturated fats than olive oil. But has a flavour that compliments both savoury and sweet dishes. It goes particularly well with Asian foods, as it has a subtle nutty flavour – without the intolerances of nut oils. 

That’s why the Japanese are importing gallons of the stuff, along with British tea and other such goodies. (we don’t even grow tea!!!)

Also known as rape, oilseed or canola and produced all over the world, we produce slightly more than America but Canada and China are the prolific producers. Rapeseed is a bright yellow flowering member of the Brassica family of which mustard, sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage (including kale) are members. 

I taste tested Yare Valley oil, it’s not that I really needed too because I’ve been buying the stuff on and off for years – way back when I first used it to make my Light Carrot Cake, a recipe that featured in my back then weekly EDP recipe column. I’ve always been an advocator of using local ingredients in my recipes,  so Norfolk’s very own Yare Valley oil was an obvious choice – that along with the fact that it has a richer colour than any other rapeseed oil out there. 

Their Rapeseed oil is mechanically pressed and then twice filtered – high in Omega 3 (6 & 9) for cardiovascular health plus a good measure of Vitamin E containing antioxidant & disease fighting property’s – – Yes, oil can be healthy, as long as you’re not drinking it by the pint or even half pint! 

Plus, unlike olive oil which has little micro particles that burn at high temperatures, cold pressed rapeseed oil can stand more of the heat. Not to be mixed up with bog standard supermarket rapeseed oil which has been heat treated defusing the goodness and a whole lot of the taste.

Yare Valley www.yarevalley.com 

make a selection of oils and infusions, some of which I have never tasted before, making taste testing more of a pleasure. 

The basic is fabulous for cooking, dressing and drizzling but they also make a ‘butter’ flavoured oil, which has all the qualities of the standard one with a rich buttery flavour. Amazing for hollandaise, aoli, drizzling and dipping.

The infusions are to die for too – the madras has a curry flavour, great to dip, drizzle or pan fry your Asian delights. 

Truffle oil – – well I’m sold on truffle, but this is the best truffle oil I’ve encounter. The smell is divine, the taste incredible. I love truffle oil drizzled on to cream based soups (especially celeriac), embellished on to pasta, cooked in to ravioli or simply tossed over anything. 

Who wouldn’t want smooth truffle mash – – – well, here’s an idea if you ‘rice’ your potatoes, drizzle on a generous amount of butter oil followed by truffle oil, mix, season to taste and #foodgasum #fact

While I’m at it, here is some information on Yare Valley farm – 

Yare Valley

The Grange




NR14 7AL


01508 538 206

Surlingham is just a 15-minute drive from Norwich City centre they have a farm shop selling not only their oils but their potatoes and all sorts of home grown seasonal crops.

‘Tele Patisserie’ has taken over the café – serving his amazing cakes and bakes along with some authentic Portuguese dishes. I’ve been told the Portuguese soup is amazing. I know the cakes are and I’m a sucker for Natas (Portuguese egg custard tarts, but better than the British ones – layers of crispy puff pastry with creamy smooth egg yellow crème patisserie).

But if you don’t pick up a bottle from the farm shop, Yare Valley are always out there at local trade fares including the Norfolk show, as well as being stocked all over the place including Jarrold’s.

Plus, you can buy on line – oils from £2.99, dressing from £3.75 and infusions from £2.99. Plus, gift packs from £10 (free delivery over £21)


Fancy making a cake with good local oil 

instead of butter ?

Light Carrot Cake

There’s nothing quite like a homemade cake, especially when it’s edging on guilt free. Packed with Autumn Carrots, dried fruit and low in fat and sugar. Made with local rapeseed oil.

Light Carrot Cake 

Makes 8 – 10 slices in a 2 lb loaf tin*

Ingredients – 

2 eggs – large or medium

200 g caster sugar 

125 ml cold pressed rapeseed 

150 g grated carrots (180g un-peeled)

175 g plain flour – sieved with the dry below

1/2-teaspoon cinnamon

Tip teaspoon ground ginger

Tip teaspoon mixed spice (optional)

1/2 teaspoon / 5 g bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon / 5 g baking powder

100 g currants or sultanas


  • Pre -heat an oven gas 4 / 1700c
  • Whisk the eggs and the sugar in a bowl until very light, creamy and pale in colour.
  • Whisk in the oil.
  • Stir in the carrots.
  • Gently stir in the dry ingredients (except currants) until well mixed, but still light and smooth.
  • Lastly stir in the currants.
  • Spoon in to a greased 2 lb loaf tin or other suitable tin. (The cake will rise.)
  • Bake on the middle shelf for 50 – 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the center clean.
  • Cool in the tin for 20 minutes before turning out.

Variations – 

Add 60 g of nuts to the mix like walnuts, almonds or pistachios.

Replace the currants with either sultanas or raisins.

Serve plain, dusted with icing sugar or spread with a cream cheese, icing sugar and lemon frosting. Or replace the lemon juice for lime or orange juice or mango or peach puree.

Or top with cream cheese, icing sugar and finely diced stem ginger with some of the syrup.

By Zena Leech-Calton ©


Thanks to Yare Valley for gifting me some samples.

Pancakes, Pancakes, Pancakes

So, good you need at least three!!!

Pancakes day is on my birthday this year March 5th– which is a bit of a bummer as I like to go out for a proper din din and not make copious amounts of pancakes for all my family to ravish in 20 minutes. 

The family favourite is seafood crepes, a creamy thick cheesy béchamel with salmon, smoked haddock & king prawns topped with a poached egg if I can be bothered. Then we work our way through the pile of thin proper pancakes with banana, maple, lemon, sugar, toffee and vanilla ice-cream – but not always all together. 

Sometimes I make a banana dog like they used to serve in ‘Pizza One Pancakes Too’ – – do you remember my favourite restaurant in Norwich, which is now a Zizzi’s on the corner of Tombland.

 When I was pregnant with my daughter I went for the Norfolk Curried Turkey, with banana Pizza and of course always finished with a banana dog. They used to have a wheel of fortune, it was SPUN before you paid the bill – you got a chance of getting money off or even getting it for free – I never won but I loved that place. We went on the last week and took home a menu – a prized possession, one day to be framed.

The ‘Banana Dog’ was a crepe wrapped around a whole banana, with light brown sugar, drizzled with sauce and served with a scoop of the good stuff

I even found while renovating Lodge Farm a menu from an old independent café called ‘Bill’s’ in Norwich, who also sold pancakes back in the 60’s – 70’s.

There’s all sorts of pancakes, like the Indian Dosa, the Vietnamese crispy rice pancake, the Japanese corn, spring onion and cheese griddles pancake topped with Japanese mayo and seaweed but UK wise you’ll find fluffy American Pancakes, sometimes made with buttermilk, which are also Scotch pancakes – fluffy little round pan-fried cakes made with self-raising flour, hence the fluff! Then the French Crepe, the flat frying pan sized ones made with plain flour, milk and eggs.

The only real pancake place in Norwich now is the amazing ‘Christopher’s Crepes’, a food trailer opposite Patisserie Valerie, just outside the Virgin Lounge. He makes amazing fillings and always cooks them fresh – with a huge following, people rave about him on my cookery courses. He’ll also do events and can cope admirably with any que.

Last night I was invited to ‘Bills’ (not the 70’s one) for a gifted Pancake fest. They’ve just had a fit out and it really does look amazing, cosy and chic. A lot of young lifestyle bloggers and me were sat in the private dining area upstairs. Actually, Mr Fry Up inspector was there, so good to meet him in person and everyone was very friendly and bubbly, especially after a few!

 A massive table for around 12 with an impending chandelier hovering grandly above us. Comfy chairs and rustic charm made for a friendly warm atmosphere. ‘Bill’s’ want you to have a good time, relax, enjoy and stay a while.

We were offered 2 pancakes to try off their 11 days of Pancake menu, plus a cocktail. There was already a cocktail on the table for each of us – so shame to say I ended up a little sizzled. 

They offer one savoury, but it is a good-en – Fluffy Sweetcorn pancakes (2 x scotch style) with poached eggs, feta, avocado, chillis and sauce. Apart from it being slightly under seasoned it was incredibly tasty. (£9.95)

Then there was a selection of sweet ones including a vegan one with coconut ice-cream and mango sauce. A banana, salted caramel ice-cream with chocolate sauce one & a berry one with a generous jug of white chocolate sauce to pour over. All at £5.95.

You can also get any cocktail for an extra £4 – – that’s too tempting to miss. 

The cocktails were very good – I should know I tasted 3. Including the Coconut and Rum Margarita, served with a slice of lime and an estercion (even spell check doesn’t recognise it) flower.  

But where else can you get pancakes in Norwichthis fine Shove Tuesday.

  • Café 33– Fruity, yogurt, maple American Pancakes (£8), or add bacon for £1.50
  • Franks Bar– Sweet or savoury American pancakes on their breakfast menu (£7.50)
  • Zaks– £5.95 for buttermilk fruity American style pancakes for breakfast or dessert. 
  • Yummy Yummy, off Dereham road opposite Lidl offer a pancake menu according to Trip Advisor. (A Polish café, opens from 3pm most days)
  • Wild Thyme– Vegetarian restaurant offers the odd pancake (not confirmed) – re-opened the end of Feb.

Plus, this coming Tuesday evening Namastevegetarian South Indian, are offering a £10 unlimited Dosa pancake (a savoury large flat lentil flour pancake served with curry or dhal) along with unlimited Udal (a savoury lentil donut).

So – get your fix of pancakes this coming Tuesday and if you want to pancake inhere’s a few of my recipes – – – 

Pancake Mix (6 big ones – 8)

100 g plain flour – sieved

1 large egg

300 ml / 1/2 pint any milk

vegetable oil to fry

  • Sift the flour in to a big mixing bowl.
  • Crack the egg in the center.
  • Add a good splash of milk and start whisking at the same time as pouring in the remaining milk.
  • Continue whisking until you get a smooth batter.

Tips on cooking Pancakes– 

  • Allow the batter to rest for 20 minutes or so (only if you have time).
  • Heat a non-stick pancake pan or large frying pan.
  • Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil, swirling round so all the pan is oiled. 
  • Pour any remaining oil back in to batter and whisk in straight away.
  • When the pan is very hot but NOT smoking.
  • Tilt the pan up so the bottom is on the heat and the top of the pan’s back is leaning towards you.
  • Pour a ladle full of batter in the top of the pan so it runs down, move the pan around so a layer of batter is formed.
  • Place back on to the heat.
  • Allow to dry and cook underneath before prodding with a palate knife or heatproof plastic spatula, go round the edge of the pancake lifting the sides away from the pan, shake the pan so the pancake is loose. 
  • Flip or turn over and cook the other side. 
  • Repeat until all the mix has gone.

Gluten Free Pancakes (6 – 8)

60 g potato flour

60 g brown or white rice flour

1 small egg

300 ml / 1/2 pint any milk

oil to fry

  • Follow the method above.

Clementine Crepes

  • Make the pancakes from either mix above – 

Sauce – 

2 generous tablespoons orange blossom honey (or other)

4 Clementine’s – juiced

1/2 lemon – juiced

60 g butter – softened and diced

3 tablespoons Cointreau or Drambuie

  • Cook the honey in a frying pan until it caramelizes and turns a golden amber colour. (2 – 3 minutes)
  • Turn the heat right down and stir in the butter along with the juice.
  • Add the Cointreau and bring to a simmer.
  • Fold the pancakes in to quarters and lay in the sauce, spoon over the sauce – warm the pancakes through and serve.

Three Savoury Filling Ideas (2)

Baked Ricotta, Spinach and Lemon– 1 tub ricotta, 2 handfuls of fresh washed spinach wilted in a little oil and butter, 1 lemon juiced – simply mix together. Divide in to two pancakes, place in an ovenproof dish, pour over 100 ml double cream and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. (Top with some grated Parmesan for added flavour).

Stuffed Chorizo, Tomato and Baked Aubergine– roast a whole pricked aubergine in the oven for an hour, on a tray. Remove and scrap out all the flesh. Meanwhile fry of 1 small diced onion in a little oil, along with 3 cm fo chorizo cut in to small dice, 1 clove garlic and 2 plum tomatoes diced. Add the aubergine and a handful of chopped basil. Cooking for 3 – 4 minutes. Season to taste and stuff in to two pancakes.

Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese and Dill– Mix a tub of cream cheese with 60 g diced smoked salmon, a squeeze of lemon and a tablespoon chopped dill. Season to taste and serve cold spread over two pancakes and then roll.

By Zena Leech-Calton ©


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