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Farm to Fork: Grumpy Farmer Goats Cheese and Chef David Mao, Derbyshire

By Molly Scott – 24th November 2020

Prior to lockdown 2 being announced, I was all set to review Emerald Wine Bar in Derby having heard great things since their recent opening . Good old Boris put paid to that. However, at Girl About we wanted to find a way to support both the hospitality industry and small, artisan producers in these troubling times. When award winning Development Chef, David Mao, suggested a collaboration, we both agreed that supporting quality local food had to be top of the agenda.

David has previously worked and ran some of the UK’s most renowned restaurants and produced five star food according to the prestigious AA food guide. He is due to grace our screens in February 2021 when a well-known food show on national TV will feature his dessert. David is now travelling all over the UK as a Development Chef, developing recipes and menus, helping with staff training and general trouble shooting.

In Derbyshire, David has been involved in the rejuvenation of the restaurant at Littleover Lodge and more recently Emerald Wine Bar in the city centre which opened to rave reviews. David was instrumental in designing the menu and staff training, including the appointment of Head Chef, local Daniel Green. One of the dishes that has been incredibly well received at Emerald is a goats cheese and beetroot starter. David attributes that to the ingenuity of using liquid nitrogen to create an exciting new texture and the quality of the award winning goats cheese he has sourced from a local farm.


Grumpy Farmer Goats Cheese from Handley Farm

David is passionately committed to using local artisanal producers and shops, and firmly believes this small farm on the outskirts of Belper epitomises that ethos. Wherever possible the farm employs organic and bio dynamic principles. This means the animals are free to roam and eat what they want. David is adamant that this makes the flavour so much more refined. Fresh, clean, creamy cheese produced in an ethical way.

David feels so strongly about the need to champion local producers such as the Grumpy Farmer’s goats cheese that he has agreed to coach many of the Derby chefs in his own time to encourage the use of this specific cheese in various Michelin star quality dishes including aerated goats cheese nitrogen snow, goats cheese cheesecake and even goats cheese ice cream. “We must support our local artisan producers. Use them or lose them.” he says.

“Grumpy Farm” (actually called Handley Farm) is ran by Susan Cowan who took on the farm 7 years ago. She has since been joined by Nolwenn Lepage from France, bringing a wealth of knowledge about farming and cheese making. Both are keen to encourage more people to shop regularly at the farmers’ markets.

Farmers’ markets are crucial income source for Susan, Nolwen and countless other small artisanal family businesses. David agrees: “The produce is amazing! The best cheeses, meats and vegetables etc that money can buy.”

Grumpy Farmer cheese is available to buy at Wirksworth market every Tuesday and the monthly farmers markets at both Wirksworth and Belper, or from their rustic farm shop. See their Facebook page for more information.

All farm photography by George Krousti Photography.

At Home Recipe for David Mao’s famous Goats Cheese & Beetroot starter

Serves 4 as a starter or a hearty, beautiful lunch if served with some fresh crusty bread. Even without the technical wizardry employed at Emerald, David assures me that this recipe is about 90% the same dish. David is confident anyone could create the at home version successfully.


1kg fresh beetroot.

500 g of Grumpy Farmer goats cheese

400 ml beetroot juice

250g onion chutney/marmalade

30g hazlenuts

Chives and salad leaves to garnish

50 ml extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt 20g


Cooking and preparation

Preheat oven to 170c (fan 150c).

Firstly rub the raw beets in olive oil and sea salt, then wrap tightly in foil and cook in the oven for 1 hour or until tender. Once cooled peel and cut into rustic chunks.

Roast hazlenuts for a few minutes to warm them up and soften them, intensifying their flavour.

Blend the onion chutney and beetroot juice in a food processer or liquidizer until it is without lumps. (You will need less than half this amount – the rest can be kept in the fridge for four days, or frozen, for the next time you make this dish).

Plating guide.

Place pieces of goats cheese and beetroot onto the plate however you feel looks nice. Put some of the beetroot and onion dressing on to the plate, making neat dots by pouring slowly from a teaspoon.

Scatter some of the warm hazelnuts around the plate.

Garnish with chives and dressed salad leaves.


Enjoy! x


This is a Girl About review. I was invited by the management to dine at their restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest and frank review. All my opinions are my own and in no way have they been swayed by their kind invite. Girl About reviews are always 100% honest. We only publish reviews that, for the most part, are positive.

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