Baxter’s Morecambe Bay shrimps are the Queen’s favourite
PUBLISHED: 10:27 21 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:27 21 September 2020
Milton Haworth 2020
You can keep your Michelin-stars – Her Majesty likes nothing better than a pot of good old Morecambe Bay shrimps
When it comes to the Queen and cuisine we know she likes to keep it simple. Her breakfast cereal stays fresh in a Tupperware box, she is partial to a pub lunch thanks to a meal once served to her at the Inn at Whitewell and, as for garlic, she and Count Dracula are as one. It sucks.
What’s not so commonly known is her passion for Morecambe Bay shrimps. The red rose delicacy produced by the long-established Baxter’s company is the proud possessor of a Royal Warrant and the dish made headlines recently when the Queen’s former personal chef spilled the beans about her favourite foods.
Darren McGrady, now based in the United States, revealed that virtually every one of the Windsors has a passion for good old fish and chips but, for Her Majesty, few things beat Baxter’s Morecambe Bay potted shrimps.
‘They’re cooked and marinated in this secret spicy butter,’ he told thousands of viewers to his American online channel. ‘The Queen would have them with warm toast and, when you spread them on, the butter melts. All that flavour runs into the toast and you would have the beautiful shrimp as well. You need to try them.’
The endorsement from Darren, who worked for the Royal household for 15 years and cooked for five US presidents, is good news for Clare Holland and her team in the old Lancashire village of Flookburgh.
That is the relatively new home of this brand which was run in Morecambe by seven generations of the Baxter family dating back to the late 1700s. In modern times, the remaining members of the family decided to call it a day. Instead of this historic company being lost, Clare took it under the wing of her existing business, the successful Furness Fish & Game company.
The economics of operating on two sites didn’t add up so just over a year ago they moved to the more modern Flookburgh site, taking with them the Royal Warrant and that secret recipe that tickles the Queen’s taste-buds.
The Royals first became hooked on Morecambe Bay shrimps in the 1950s when the Queen Mother developed a passion for them. The Queen decided mum knows best and gave them a Royal Warrant. Ever since, pots of Baxter’s shrimps have adorned the Royal tea table.
‘We have been careful to keep the Baxter’s name and production is confined to one day a week and is separate from everything else we do,’ said Clare. ‘Nothing has changed except the location they are made in.’
You know the recipe is in good hands when you hear she comes from an old Flookburgh shrimping family. ‘I can still remember my granny shelling them,’ said Clare, whose current family is a real story of ‘surf and turf’. While she produces fish and shellfish plus game at Flookburgh, her husband Ben owns Bowland Outdoor Reared, producing pork, lamb and beef at Low Gill in north Lancashire.
‘The lockdown was a case of swings and roundabouts for us,’ she said. ‘We lost out in some retail and, of course, in hotels and restaurants but we have seen a really big increase in online sales. And it’s not just older people – younger couples who have been unable to eat out have been treating themselves by trying new things, including our shrimps. The internet has gained us a lot of new customers.
‘We don’t sell to supermarkets – there are only so many shrimps you can get out of Morecambe Bay and we want to ensure stocks are maintained and it’s sustainable. But we have a really wide range of other customers from local garden centres to the Garrick Club in London.’
Mum-of-three Clare and the team devote one day a week to cooking Baxter’s shrimps and this produces between 500 and 600 pots. ‘It’s quite labour intensive and a slow process because it’s all done by hand. November and December are the busiest times for us in the run-up to Christmas so we are likely to up production to two or three days a week.’
As well as launching a more user-friendly website, Clare is looking to create new products. ‘There is only so far you can go with potted shrimps – people buy them because they love the traditional taste so you don’t want to change that.
‘But we are looking at ways we can package them up with our other products such as John Ross smoked salmon. We think there is a scope to build up the business so the Baxter’s name lives on. And hearing about the Queen’s passion for them gave us a real boost. It made us very happy!’