• Yvonne Gainford with Angela at the Rum Story

Cumberland foodie range launches for Christmas

One of West Cumbria’s best known private chefs has launched her own range of Cumberland inspired products in time for Christmas. Yvonne Gainford, the Culinary Occasions Chef from Workington has launched ‘Yvonne’s Cumberland’ – a range of rich pie fillings based on traditional Cumberland recipes. The Rum Story in Whitehaven and Shills of Cockermouth are the first retailers to stock the range which currently stars the Cumberland Rum Nicky recipe.

Yvonne Gainford has run her own chefs business for five years, often catering on glamorous yachts and five star holiday homes. With a love of her Cumbrian roots, Yvonne always tried to add a touch of nostalgic Cumberland wherever in the world she was working. Some of her favourite dishes (and that of her diners) were variations on the Cumberland Rum Nicky, a tart traditionally made with pastry and rich fruity rum filling.

For the last eighteen months Yvonne has been cooking up her own luxury Rum Nicky filling, one that is very reminiscent of her childhood when she helped her Grandma make the deliciously sweet treat. Yvonne said ‘It was quite the Christmas tradition, mixing the fruit and spices, adding a huge splash of rum, then watching Grandma roll out the pastry on the cold sandstone shelf in the larder.’

I still have the recipe book today, it’s very precious, not only because it was handed down, but because it contains so many traditional Cumberland recipes. It’s easy to get caught up in the romance and fairy-tale of the Cumberland Rum Nicky. Its origins go way back to the 1780s when the Jefferson family started to import demerara sugar, fruit and rum from Jamaica. It is said that sailors ‘nicked’ the rum to preserve fruit and that’s how it got its name, but you can never be sure.

Yvonne says friends have been very helpful, tasting and helping perfect the recipe over a six month period before it was finally perfected. Working closely with the Rum Story in Whitehaven and using Jefferson’s 1785 Dark Rum, the product becomes even more authentic. It includes a heady mix of fruit, spice and spirit to create what has become a very luxurious and sophisticated filling. And for those not keen on rum, there is a non-alcoholic Tea Nicky version too. The Rum Story became the first place to stock the new range.

Angela Bragg, the Rum Story’s Retail Supervisor said “We’ve only been stocking it since the end of October, but we’re already decided to include it in our hampers. It’s very in keeping with our story so we expect it to sell well. It’s an old fashioned product with a completely up to date taste. There’s a hint of ginger, apricots, rich fruit and then the rum. It’s the perfect product to showcase our rum and I can just imagine sailors thinking it a real treat in 1785.”

Eager to extend local stockists Yvonne approached Nick and Wendy Shill from Shills in Cockermouth, calling in with samples. Always keen to promote local suppliers and interesting products, Nick introduced Yvonne’s Cumberland Rum Nicky straight away, saying “I needed just one taste. It’s deliciously rich and fruity, spices add a real depth of flavour and you can really taste the Jefferson’s Rum coming through, quite a sophisticated, like a fine wine. A real treat for Christmas with great local provenance.”

The products are currently stocked in The Rum Story Whitehaven, Shills of Cockermouth, Hartley’s Beach Shop in St Bees and Low Sizergh Barn near Kendal, with plans for wider distribution in the spring. Yvonne said “It’s not just a treat for Christmas; I’ve got pages of recipes I use to turn it into puddings and canapes all year round. Our research suggests that visitors to the area love the idea of taking it home as a treat – so we’re hoping Rum Nicky will continue to be well travelled.”