October has been a wonderful month, mostly because Pete and I spent two and a half glorious weeks on holiday in Japan. We had a magical trip, which I’ll be sharing with you over coming weeks.

Our trip gave me the idea for October’s BSFIC theme – frozen treats inspired by Japan. You had the choice of using Japanese ingredients as flavours for your ice creams, or presenting more familiar flavours in ways inspired by Japanese food or culture.

In the end, this one proved to be quite a challenge and whilst many were excited and intrigued by the idea, only a few of you gave it a go:

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Foodycat Alicia was the first to make a move. First, she attempted a creative dessert sushi roll with a toasted sesame wrapper around a rice pudding ice cream with a core of mango puree. It didn’t quite go to plan, though I agree with her that the idea is a good one. I wonder if freezing the fruit puree into a thin sausage, then inserting that into the rice pudding mix and freezing that, in turn, into a log shape, before finally wrapping the frozen log with the sesame sheet might work? Undeterred, Alicia changed direction and made a green tea ice cream with a condensed milk base, which she served in ginger sesame snap cups. Looks really smooth and very delicious!

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Claire, who writes Under The Blue Gum Tree, was similarly excited by the idea of a sweet frozen sushi roll. She made a plum and pomegranate fruit leather to use as the wrapping, a rice pudding ice cream following a Michael Caines recipe and three varieties of fresh melon as the central filling. Claire says that next time she’d also soak the melon in vodka to stop it freezing quite so solid. The finished result is really beautiful and I particularly love the idea of using fruit leather to replace the nori (seaweed) wrapper; I’d never have thought of that. And I’ve been meaning to try my hand at fruit leathers…

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Sandi aka the Kitchen Princess, was also inspired by sushi, but this time nigiri sushi rather than sushi rolls. For the nigiri sushi pieces she made mochi covered with fresh fruit, which she served on a cucumber, melon and sake granita. Her mochi didn’t come out quite as she’d hoped, because she was not able to get the proper glutinous rice flour required, but she highly recommends the granita as a refreshing palate cleanser or light dessert.

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Jennie from Things I Eat always impresses with her ice cream creations. Often it’s the tastiness factor which is off the charts, but this time, it’s definitely the cuteness factor that’s at the forefront. Having previously made a rather adorable Totoro cake, for this month’s BSFIC Jennie has created a black sesame Totoro ice cream lolly. Isn’t it adorable? Learn more about Totoro here…

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When I announced the October challenge, I promised a prize to my favourite entry, a little something I picked up in Japan. However, with just four entries, I’ve decided to send out a little something to all four of you. Please can you drop me an email or twitter DM with your postal address so I can organise? Thanks!

And I know some of you planned to enter but ran out of time. I hope you’ll still go ahead and make and blog your ideas? I’d really love to read about them.

Keep your eyes open for November’s BSFIC, announced on the 1st of the month.

Oct 262012
 

Aaaah. August! When the sun was shining and the sky was blue… it seems so long ago now…

On the last day of the month, Pete and I were invited to visit a Hop Garden in Kent, and learn more about how hops are grown, harvested and processed before being used to make beer. Our hosts, Shepherd Neame are based in Faversham, and are committed to using British hops as much as possible. They took us for a tour Mockbeggar Farm in nearby Teynham, where owner Tony Redsell showed us around.

You can read more about the visit on Pete Drinks.

For my part, I’d simply like to share some photographs from the day. (Click on individual images to view at larger size).

Out in the fields:

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Stripping hops from the bines:

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Drying the hops:

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Packaging the hops:

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Chatting to owner Tony Redsell and Shepherd Neame’s Head Brewer, Richard Frost:

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Kavey Eats visited Mockbeggar Farm as a guest of Shepherd Neame.

 

A light industrial estate in Cirencester is probably not the first place you’d look for a high quality coffee shop, but that’s just where you’ll find Rave Coffee in Stirling Works, Love Lane.

Suppliers of wholesale coffee, Rob and Vikki Hodge also sell coffee, tea and cakes to individual customers to drink in or takeaway, and have built up a loyal following of local workers as well as customers who visit from further afield.

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In the front of the store is a coffee counter graced by a beautiful Expobar Diamant coffee machine, a couple of comfy sofas and stools and a few shelves displaying coffee syrups and teas available to purchase.

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Behind a full width wall of clear glass is the working area where Rob roasts and blends sacks of coffee beans to meet customer requirements.

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So good was the coffee we enjoyed on our first visit, we made a second visit the very next day. Those of who usually have sugar in our coffee were particularly impressed with the lack of bitterness in our full flavour coffees.

If you’re in the general area, would definitely recommend you pay a visit, especially if you also want to buy some beans or ground coffee to enjoy at home.

 

This post was originally published as a guest post on Pete Drinks.

We eat first with our eyes, so it’s no surprise that I’ve pinned more food images to my Pinterest boards than any others. One of the recipes that caught my eye was this Guinness & Cheddar Meatloaf from The Galley Gourmet blog. Admittedly, it was the sight of bacon-wrapped meat that drew my eye, but I also liked the sound of the beef, lamb and cheddar meat loaf and the beer and honey glaze.

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We made a few small changes to ingredients, and halved the recipe to serve 4 (or two with generous leftovers). There was some leftover glaze, as indicated in the original recipe, which we poured over the leftovers before reheating.

Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf with a Stout & Honey Glaze

Glaze ingredients:
150 ml stout beer of your choice
50 grams light brown sugar
50 grams (2-3 tablespoons) honey
Meatloaf Ingredients:
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
90 ml stout beer
1 slice white bread, roughly torn
60 ml whole milk
225 grams ground beef
225 grams pound ground lamb
1 large egg
100 grams strong cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 heaped teaspoon umami paste (or 10 grams dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted and finely chopped)
0.5 teaspoon salt
0.5 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
200 grams good quality streaky bacon, approximately 12 rashers

  • First make the glaze by bringing the stout, honey and sugar to a boil, in a small pan, then cooking on a medium heat until the the liquid thickens and reduces to half of the original volume. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

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  • Preheat the oven to 180° C (fan).
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion until just softened and beginning to take on colour.
  • Add the garlic and fry for another minute.
  • Add the stout and simmer briskly until the excess liquid has been absorbed or evaporated.
  • Set onion mixture aside in a bowl to cool down.

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  • If using porcini mushrooms, add boiling water to reconstitute, soak for 10 minutes, drain and finely chop.
  • In a bowl, soak the bread in the milk, tossing lightly until soggy but not falling apart.

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  • In a large bowl, combine all meatloaf ingredients except for the bacon. Mix by hand until thoroughly combined. (You can use a food processor for this step if you prefer).

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  • Line a rimmed baking tray with aluminium foil, transfer the meat mixture onto the foil and shape into a rounded loaf.
  • Drape the meatloaf with slightly overlapping strips of bacon, tucking the ends under the loaf. Carefully cover the ends of the loaf with additional rashers.

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  • Brush the top of the meatloaf with a few coats of the glaze.

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  • Bake for 45-50 minutes, basting with the juices, or extra marinade, 2 or 3 times during cooking.
  • Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving.

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We both loved this recipe, and will definitely be making it again. Hope you enjoy it too!

 

A friend gave me a copy of this book as a gift recently and, to my absolute surprise, I could hardly put it down. For a few days straight, I squeezed in time to read chapter after chapter on trains and buses (and whilst waiting for trains and buses – why do they take so long!), whilst eating lunch, one hand blindly feeling for food and delivering it to my mouth as my eyes stayed firmly fixed on the book, during a long hot soak in the tub and indeed, any time when I could snatch a few minutes.

I didn’t expect to find the book so engaging, informative and even, occasionally, gripping.

Pete’s the baker in our household and I am happy to leave it to him. So a book about baking bread didn’t seem the best fit for me. But I was wrong.

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Hardback and paperback covers, respectively

The book takes the reader through a year in the life of American author William Alexander, as he strives to achieve the loaf of his dreams. Determined to create a rustic “peasant loaf” with an airy crumb and crisp yet chewy crust, he commits to baking a loaf a week every week for a year.

In another author’s hands, this could have been a dry and dull account of the incremental changes and improvements made over that time.

But as well as his baking efforts, Alexander weaves in entertaining glimpses of family life, educational visits to yeast and flour manufacturers as well as other (more expert) bakers and even a special conference for bread makers, both the sandal-wearing and non-sandal-wearing kind! His efforts building a bread oven in his back garden are particularly amusing. He even grows his own wheat and thrashes and grinds it, just as Pete did last year.

Further afield, his bread quest leads him to Morocco, where I can’t help but smile at the friendship he strikes up with a helpful shopkeeper, to the basement kitchens of the Hotel Ritz in Paris, where he learns a more commercial form of baking.

Finally, he writes about his visit to an ancient monastery in Normandy where he has somehow agreed to teach the monks to make bread. This section of the book is surprisingly uplifting and moving; surprising because I’m not a religious person and had not expected to be charmed or interested by reading of the life of the monks; moving because I found myself desperately rooting for his success and cheering each tiny achievement along the way.

Interspersed in Alexander’s story is also plenty of solid practical information, much of which was new to me and quite eye-opening.

 

The hardback version of 52 Loaves (with the subtitle “One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust”) is available on Amazon uk for £13.33. The paperback version (sold with the subtitle “A Half-Baked Adventure”) currently costs £8.88. The kindle e-book version is £8.44. (Prices correct at time of writing).

 

I made the switch from film to digital photography many years ago, and swiftly taught myself how to use simple image processing to make the best of my images. Whilst a few folk still like to suggest that all digital processing is fakery, they are often just woefully ignorant of how significantly one can adjust a printed image in a traditional darkroom. It’s for good reason that image processing is often called the digital darkroom, allowing for similar adjustments in exposure, contrast, shadows and highlights as well as cropping, colour balance and saturation. Having used both, I don’t miss the back ache and slow progress of a traditional darkroom, though I used to enjoy it at the time!

I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom to process my images for years; these days I mostly use Lightroom and open my older version of Photoshop more rarely. Lightroom is currently priced at around £100 for the full version or £60 if upgrading from an earlier version, which I think is a fair price. However, Photoshop pricing has gone through the roof with a full version currently priced at £660 and the upgrade from earlier versions still £188. Both tools are focused on photo editing, and do not offer any graphic design features. For that, you’d need yet another programme, such as Adobe Illustrator. And if you need to throw some professional documents together, there’s a separate desktop publishing programme, InDesign.

When it comes to video editing, I used to struggle along with Windows Movie Editor, but gave up on that some time ago, when it suddenly became incapable of handling multiple clips in one file. As one would expect from a free tool, it was very short on features anyway.

I was recently approached by Magix with the offer of trialling some of their photo editing and video editing tools. To that end, I’ve installed Xara Photo and Graphic Designer (£70) and Movie Edit Pro Plus (£80).

One of the first things to notice about Xara is that it offers photo editing, graphic design functionality, and desktop publishing. I’ve spent just a few hours playing with Xara so far. I will say that, with so much functionality, you will need to invest a fair amount of time in learning how to use it. The help pages are not ideally arranged, and it took me a fair bit of searching through the Help Index and jumping from section to section, to work out even the rudimentary functions. However, this is true of any complex software tool used for similar purposes. There are also a number of tutorials available in the online magazine and video tutorials are often shared over at their Facebook page.

The photo editing offers reasonable functionality, though would not replace something like Lightroom for a serious photographer – one example is the temperature (white balance) control which offers only one slider to cool or warm the image, rather than the usual pair of yellow/ blue and red/ green sliders. It also doesn’t offer batch processing of images, which is essential for large volume processing.

MagixXaraCubeCollage

The graphic design tools look good, and there are also lots of design templates which you can use as they are, replacing the holding images with your own. It took me only a few minutes to create the collage above, using a template, pulling in my own images and replacing the text. I’d like a wider range of collage templates, but that’s probably because this is one functionality that doesn’t exist in my Adobe tools. I’ve been using Picasa to create collages but am unhappy with the way Picasa handles files and file locations, so have been looking for an alternative.

I’ve never really used graphic design software, though a clever friend of mine used Xara to transcribe my hand-drawn logo for Mamta’s Kitchen into the image file we currently use as the header for the website. This is an area of Xara I need to explore further going forward, though I’m not very talented in this area.

That leaves Movie Edit Pro, and I’m afraid I’ve been rather lax in this area, and not yet had time to play around with it. However, Pete has some video footage from a recent trip to edit, and he’s going to give Movie Edit Pro a go. The features list looks promising so I’m confident it’ll be a big improvement over the tools we’ve tried before.

 

COMPETITION

Magix are offering both the above products as prizes for a Kavey Eats competition.

  • The first winner picked will receive a code to download a copy of Xara Photo and Graphic Designer.
  • The second winner picked will receive a code to download a copy of and Movie Edit Pro Plus.

Please note that these programmes are suitable for Windows users only. Full systems requirements can be found at the Magix.com.

 

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 2 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, answering the following question:
How do you currently edit your photos or videos?

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @KaveyF on twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter!
Then tweet the (exact) sentence below:
I’d love to win @Magix_UK photo or video editing software from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/EIPmn #KaveyEatsMagix

 

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 26th October 2012.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • Prize 1 is a digital download of Magix Xara Photo and Graphic Designer. Prize 2 is a digital download of Magix Movie Edit Pro Plus. Prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered by Magix.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You do not have to enter both ways for your entries to be valid.
  • For twitter entries, winners must be following @KaveyF at the time of notification, as this will be sent by Direct Message.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email or twitter (for twitter entries). If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received review copies of Xara Photo and Graphic Designer and Movie Edit Pro Plus courtesy of Magix.

This competition is now closed. Winners are MarklesUK (via twitter) and Tori.

 

The Pershore Plum Festival celebrates plum growing in and around the Worcestershire town of Pershore. Many varieties are grown in local orchards, including Victoria, Monarch, Greengage and many more but, of course, the varieties that are most celebrated during the festival are those named for the town, Pershore Purple, Pershore Yellow Egg and Pershore Emblem (also known as Evesham  Red). Of these, the Pershore Purple seems to be most prevalent.

Held during August bank holiday weekend, the festival sees this pretty market town celebrate plums with an expansive food and drinks market, music and family entertainment, craft exhibitions and even a large vintage and classic cars show held in abbey park. Local shops deck their windows out in purple, competing for the prize of best display of the year.

I bought my plums from the absolutely charming Ellenden Farm Shop near Harvington. Smaller than other farm shops we visited over the weekend, this one was nonetheless our favourite, firstly because it had a really appealing range of produce and secondly because of the genuinely warm and helpful welcome.

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My Pershore Purples went into a simple plum jelly, with the addition of port for extra flavour.

The purple skins and yellow flesh combined to make a beautiful deep maroon pulp which I strained to 500 ml of juice. Putting the juice aside, I also pressed an additional 182 grams of thicker pulp from before discarding the remaining stones, skin and fibre. I made the jelly in two batches, one with the strained juice, which results in a clearer jelly, and a second smaller batch with the pulp, which makes a thicker and cloudier but just as tasty offering.

I used the same recipe as my previous plum jelly, made from yellow plums from our allotment, it was the colour of sunshine in a jar. It’s the recipe my mum’s been making since I was a kid and is simple and delicious.

 

Plum & Port Jelly Recipe

Ingredients
Plums
Sugar
Water
Ruby port

Note: You won’t know how much sugar you need until you’ve cooked the plums down and strained the juices. For each litre of juice, you’ll need a kilo of sugar.

Note: You can omit the port if you prefer to make a plain plum jelly.

Note: I’ve provided information about the weights and volumes produced from this batch of plums below the recipe.

Method

  • Halve the plums. I find this quick and easy to do by drawing a sharp knife right around each plum and then twisting both halves in opposite directions; the halves come apart easily.

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  • Place halved plums into a large pan, leaving the skins on and stones in.
  • Add just enough water to cover most of the plums. (It’s better to be frugal with water and add more during the cooking down process – add too much and your resulting juice will be too thin).

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  • Cook down the plums until they disintegrate completely. Add more water only if the mixture is looking dry and might catch.
  • Transfer the cooked pulp into a muslin straining bag or cloth. Either tie closed and hang over a pan or place into a colander inside a pan, so that the juices can easily run down. I left mine to strain overnight, with a clean towel loosely covering everything.

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  • To avoid cloudy jelly, resist the urge to squeeze the pulp to extract extra liquid.
  • Set the strained juice aside.

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  • If you are feeling thrifty, as I was, squeeze more juice from the pulp, and process this separately, as it will produce a thicker, cloudier jelly than the naturally strained juice.

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  • Discard the pulp (on your compost heap or into your green bin).
  • At this stage, if you think your juice may be too watered down, boil to reduce volume.
  • Measure the juice and put into a large pan, with caster sugar. Use a kilo of sugar per litre of juice, adjusting for your volume of juice.

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  • Plums are naturally high in pectin, so I used regular sugar, but if you use this recipe for other fruits with lower pectin, add powdered or liquid pectin now, or use jam sugar, which has pectin added.
  • Boil the juice and sugar hard. I use a jam thermometer to make sure I reach 104 °C (219 °F).

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  • When the jelly has reached temperature, do a pectin check to test that it’s ready to set. I usually just hold the spoon up and see how the jelly drips off it, or draw a line in the jelly coating the back of the spoon).
  • If the jelly is ready, turn off the heat and stir in the port.
  • Pour your hot jelly into hot sterilised jars. I sterilise my jars in the oven (and boil the lids at the same time, draining them onto a clean tea towel). Pouring the jelly into the jars while it and they are still hot minimises the risk of the glass cracking from a sudden and extreme change in temperature.
    (Actually, I ask Pete to do the pouring as holding large jugs of very hot liquid scares me!)

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I started out with 1.2 kilos of plums from which I strained 500 ml of juice and squeezed an additional 180 grams of thicker, cloudier juice.

To the 500 ml of juice, I added 500 grams of sugar and about 2 tablespoons of port. This produced three 200 gram jars of dark but clear jelly.

To the 180 grams of thicker juice, I added 180 grams of sugar and a tablespoon of port. This made just over one jar of a thicker jelly, more like fruit cheese. We poured the excess into a small bowl to be eaten over the next few days.

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Oct 072012
 

Carluccio’s first ready made meals for supermarkets were launched in July. I was sent a selection to review.

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The Pappardelle con Ragù di Cinghiale (RRP £4) was good. The wild boar ragu was rich and generous in ratio to the pasta. I’m not sure if this is meant to serve 1 or 2; it’s on the small side for the latter. We had ours with a Pane all’Aglio (RRP £1.50). It was saturated in caramelised garlic and parsley butter, and delicious, though again, a little small for the price against much larger supermarket garlic bread baguettes.

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The Lasagne al Forno (RRP £6) was the right size for 2 and we really liked the meaty beef and pork ragu and egg pasta. We could taste the chianti clearly. We might possibly buy this again, but probably only if it was on special offer; it’s the same price as the Charlie Bigham’s lasagne, which we really like, and the Waitrose own brand is also very good and significantly cheaper.

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Where the range really fell down for us was the fresh pasta sauces, neither of which we liked much at all. These are priced at £2 each, plus the pasta, which is £1.80. I definitely prefer the Waitrose range of fresh pastas and sauces. One of them was unpleasant enough that I didn’t even finish it, and plugged the gap with a raid of the fruit bowl instead.

A mixed bag, then with some hits and some misses and even the best items are entering a market that’s already saturated with other brands and supermarket own. Whether or not they’ll find a following based on recognition of the existing Carluccio’s brand, I don’t know.

Kavey Eats received complimentary samples of the Carluccio’s ready meals range.

 

One of the many great street food traders at Food Blogger Connect 2012 was Tongue N Cheek.

Usually at Eat Street, King’s Cross, owners Cristiano and Kirie Meneghin sell tasty food making use of underappreciated cuts of meat. As well as burgers and ox tongue rolls, the menu also includes Italian-inspired dishes, such as the ox cheeks with caramelised onions and polenta.

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As you can see, I was pretty darn pleased with myself when I got my hands on this Heartbreaker burger with pork belly, gorgonzola and other Tongue N Cheek condiments.

The patty is ox heart mixed with other well-aged cuts of beef to create an incredibly succulent texture and wonderfully rich beefy flavour. Even against the silky pork belly and pungent gorgonzola, this patty held it’s own.

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It’s a fabulous burger, and what’s more, it’s not trying to recreate what anyone else is doing. It forges its own utterly tasty path.

 

Last year was my first year at Abergavenny Food Festival and I loved it! I had a great time this year too!

Hundreds of food and drink producers spread out in several different areas around the town centre, a packed agenda of talks, tutored tastings and masterclasses to attend and a lot of eating and shopping opportunities!

Two things stand out about Abergavenny compared to other food festivals and, especially, the big food shows.

  • The quality of the food and drinks on offer is excellent. Some shows seem to accept any retailer as long as they’ll pay for a space. Abergavenny invites producers to submit an application, and then invite them to participate only if they feel the quality is excellent. The aim is to showcase local and regional Welsh products first and then products from rest of the UK. And another criteria is to achieve a good mix of categories so there’s a wide range of different items for visitors to discover.
  • This must surely be the friendliest food show in the UK? I’ve made many friends in the industry over the last few years, and all tell me the same thing – they go to Abergavenny first and foremost because it’s such a joyful weekend. Fellow exhibitors are friendly; customers are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and keen to learn more; they enjoy touring the festival too. That happiness on the part of the exhibitors is very evident to visitors too: it’s great to be able to visit stalls and be met by a smile, helpful explanations and courteous service. Even visitors, complete strangers, often get chatting.

This year, I attended a number of talks, tastings and masterclasses, which I’ll be writing about soon.

In the meantime, here are some photos of some of the exhibitors and products I enjoyed this year. (Click to view a larger sized image).

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Pictured: Black Mountains Smokery, Forage Fine Foods, Forest Pig Charcuterie, Halen Mon Anglesey Sea Salt, Homewood Cheeses, Hook & Son Raw Organic Milk, La Cave a Fromage, Lahloo Tea, Peppers by Post, Riverford Organic, Simply Welsh Cakes, Taste Of Persia, The Dorset Blueberry Company, The Garlic Farm, The Tracklements Company, Trealy Farm Charcuterie, Womersley Fruit & Herb Vinegars

 

With thanks to Abergavenny Food Festival for press pass and event tickets.

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