Regular customers and passers-by on the Surrey town’s high street were invited to sample whatever fruit and veg took their fancy, as well as delicious Coughlans specialities such as Heritage Tomato and Basil Pesto Flat Breads and Vegan Sausage Rolls.
The Coughlans have been artisan bakers since Grandad Jack founded the business in 1937 and now in their third generation, the family strives daily to bring the freshest, handmade artisan products to their 26 bakeries, using local suppliers, many of whom they have worked with for decades to ensure quality and consistency.
As well as premium flour, locally milled, Coughlans uses all manner of British-grown fresh produce to add unique flavour profiles to its range of pies, pastries, breads, cakes and rolls and as well as using Grandad Jack's original recipes, there is a desire to bring out new and exciting products every week.
DDP Ltd, which supplies Coughlans chain of stores daily with seasonal fruit and vegetables from New Covent Garden Market, in Nine Elms, London, was on hand to support the occasion in Oxted with its traditional market porter’s barrow and a wide and varied array of British fruit and vegetables.
“We are passionate about working with the seasons where possible and the best British ingredients, whether it be our premium flour, milled less than 40 miles away from the bakery or our daily hand-selected fresh produce from New Covent Garden Market,” said Sean Coughlan. “You only have to visit one of our bakeries to see how passionate we are about everything 'baking' and we are immensely proud to be at the heart of all our local communities.”
“My number one best seller is the vegan sausage roll that we developed with DDP using a variety of mushrooms and herbs,” said Sean. “People can never believe it’s vegan the first time they eat one, but they certainly come back for more!”
Paul Grimshaw at DDP Ltd agreed: “When Sean first sent me one [of the vegan sausage rolls] I have to admit I wasn’t expecting much. But it was absolutely delicious and not surprisingly, it soon became massively popular with Coughlans customers. They are extremely inventive bakers and there are loads more examples in all of their stores of their use of our fruit and vegetables to create products with a real point of difference.”
Coughlans is a massive supporter of the market, having collected from DDP every single night for over 25 years. “We absolutely love what we do. We have so much trust in DDP, the market and the quality of the product we buy there and we couldn’t imagine doing it any other way,” said Sean.
The admiration is mutual. “The way they have diversified over the past five years or so has been amazing and they have really welcomed the vegan marketplace into their product range," said Paul. "The key with Coughlans is that a product may be vegetarian or vegan, but not at the expense of flavours.”
DDP works directly with many British growers and also indirectly with others, through the other wholesalers at New Covent Garden Market. “We are proud to work closely with British growers who cultivate a huge variety of fresh produce right on our doorstep,” Paul said. “We can have fruit and vegetables in our warehouses that were in the fields only hours ago, which represents unbelievable freshness. Food miles and the impact on the environment are significantly reduced.
“Some we get in direct from the grower and a lot is from the market every night, from wholesalers including London Fresh, Bruce White, Side Salads, Bevington Salads, RG Herbs, Thorogoods and HG Walker.”
The fruit and vegetable map
The list of products Coughlans buys at this time of the year is a real geography lesson on the major growing regions of England. It consists of: herbs from Surrey; apples from Kent; strawberries and rhubarb from Yorkshire; Wiltshire-grown leeks; mushrooms. Micro-herbs and carrots from Norfolk; Lincolnshire onions and carrots; heritage tomatoes from Sussex; Cambridgeshire iceberg lettuce, rocket, celery, squash and beetroot; potatoes and cucumbers from Hertfordshire, potatoes from Essex, parsnips from Suffolk; Worcestershire courgettes; kale and cabbage from Lancashire.
“People might think of us first and foremost as bakers and that wouldn’t necessarily bring fresh fruit and vegetables to mind,” says Sean. “But the amazing array of British produce we get from DDP is one of the key elements of our success. Our customers love to know that we’ve got British growers at the heart of what we do and they love the taste sensations that they get when they bite into the breads, cakes, pastries and pies we make with British ingredients.”
This article was written for The Source, the newsletter of British Food Fortnight organiser Love British Food.