WHILE Claire Lee makes food out of local ingredients, her inspiration comes from much further afield.

She collected many of the recipes and ideas for her Spice ’n’ Easy products while living in Malaysia and travelling in Thailand.

Claire, who now lives in Milford on Sea, spent two years living in Malaysia with her husband, who grew up in Singapore.

She draws on that experience to create chutneys, curry pastes, sauces, dressings and marinades which, she says, offer something a bit different to the standard supermarket range.

These include achar, a Malay pickle, hot apple chutney with ginger and coriander and chilli jam.

She uses local ingredients wherever possible, even making a kiwi fruit chutney with kiwis from Brockenhurst.

“People are always amazed that you can grow kiwis in the New Forest and assume they must be grown under cover which they’re not,” says Claire.

From the beginning, Claire was keen to use as many local ingredients in her products as possible. Unfortunately, with British producers struggling to stay afloat, two of the New Forest farms she relied on for local produce have closed. She now depends on small producers and even people with surplus from their allotments to supply local ingredients such as carrots, pumpkin and green beans.

“Someone came to me and said she had a lot of greengages and could I do something with them. I can take fairly small quantities of things.”

Claire made a conscious decision to try and source her ingredients as locally as possibly when she started looking into food miles and felt it was ridiculous to be buying food which had to be flown over from places like Kenya and Peru when it can be bought from farmers who are just a few miles away.

She boasts the New Forest Marque on many of her products, meaning they are made of at least 25 per cent local ingredients and her commitment to local food extends to helping to put on the Milford on Sea Food Week, which takes place from Easter Monday to April 11.

She is helping to coordinate a food market featuring local producers – including herself – which is a great opportunity to highlight the range of local food that is easily available.

Over the last year there have been some tough trading times, particularly as some of the smaller local outlets that Claire relied on to sell her produce have closed.

But thanks to her busiest Christmas yet since she started her business in 2003, things have levelled out.

Claire is always looking for new outlets to sell her ever expanding range of products – which has gone from three to 30.

And with a delicious range of food, offering ‘exotic flavours from the New Forest’ she’s sure to find an even bigger market.