Awards are about rewarding food and drink producers and farmers

A Generic photo of twin Quince fruit. See PA Feature  GARDENING Column. PA Photo/Generic'' WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature   GARDENING Column.
A Generic photo of twin Quince fruit. See PA Feature GARDENING Column. PA Photo/Generic'' WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Column.

The 16th BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming awards were launched last Sunday on the Food Programme and the nomination process is open until the 24th of January.

These food awards aren’t about celebrating fancy restaurants or chefs, but instead are about rewarding food and drinks producers, cooks in the budget sector, farming heroes and food innovators.

I was honoured to be a judge in the street food and takeaway category last year and have witnessed how winning has changed the lives of the successful business. Hangfire Smokehouse in Cardiff is run by Shauna Guinn, originally from Northern Ireland and Sam Evans from Wales. They gave up high powered jobs in London to research proper low and slow barbecue food in America. They now run pop-up stands selling fall off the bone brisket, melting pork shoulder and amazing ribs all over Wales and beyond. They have a book coming out in the late spring, are opening a restaurant and there’s talk of a TV series – all down to winning one award.

Two years ago there were two finalists from Northern Ireland – St George’s market in Belfast and Abernethy butter from Dromara. The market is now recognised as one of the best in the UK and Abernethy butter supply some of the best restaurants and chefs in the UK. Last year Professor Chris Elliott from Queen’s University won the Food Game Changer award that’s solely nominated by the judges and not the public. Unfortunately there were no finalists from the province in any of the other categories. Northern Ireland has world wide recognised food producers, cooks, farmers and innovators so wouldn’t it be fabulous if, in our special 2016 Year of Food and Drink, we had some winners from here for this year’s competition? Nominating is easy – just go to the BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards website or post your entry to BBC Food and Farming Awards, BBC Radio 4, BBC Broadcasting House, Whiteladies Road, Bristol, BS8 2LR, and register a business or person you think is deserving. One of the awards, Countryfile Farming Hero, is especially pertinent to the readership of this paper. If you know a farmer or farming family (and having been at the Farming Life/Danske Bank awards last year, I can think of scores!) who have made a difference through their heroic actions or going above and beyond in times of need, then get voting.

I know I’m going to sound odd but I’ll be glad of a cold turn in the weather. Walking through my parent’s garden (run solely by my mum...) the appearance of daffodils in early January was a bit disconcerting. Before the icy snap hit, I gathered up an armful of quinces from a tree to make into jelly. It never ceases to amaze me how these bullet hard, vibrant lime green fruits transform into a ruby red translucent confection. The fragrant, exotic smell they emit, when cooking is a delicious way to make your kitchen seem a bit more exciting.

Quinces are evocative of the middle east and are lovely with gentle spicing or nuts. My first recipe is to for quince jelly. They’re available to buy at the moment if you don’t have access to a tree or you could make an apple jelly instead. The second recipe is for a quince and pear tart but substitute your favourite jelly and apples or plums as an alternative.