Abergavenny Food Festival is not just about visiting all the fantastic food and drinks stands spread out across the several market areas, though that’s a huge pleasure. A big part of the experience is attending some of the wide range of masterclasses, tutored tastings and food talks on offer during the weekend.
This year, I attended a number of tastings and talks, and wanted to share a little of the experience with you here.
Forage Ahead for Christmas by Trine Hahnemann and Liz Knight
The key message from both Trine and Liz was to make use of the bounty around you for your Christmas gifts and your Christmas table. Some of the recipes they talked us through, and which we tasted, were from Trine’s new book, Scandinavian Christmas. Others were recipes that Liz makes and sells under her Forage Fine Foods brand, one of my favourite finds at last year’s festival.
One new idea for me was in the use of elderberries: whilst I’m familiar with the use of both elderflowers and ripe elderberries, I had never come across the use of unripe green berries pickled and preserved much like capers. This is common in Scandinavia, and a great one to try next year.
When it came to making use of rosehips, the fiddle of removing seeds and the itch-inducing hairs means it’s better to look for the larger ones, like the ones they had brought along to show us. The very next day, my friend Martine and I were quite excited to spot a bush covered in enormous rosehips in a nearby Abergavenny car park.
We talked about pickling blackberries, making rose syrup from petals and preserving cherries.
One of my favourites was a lingonberry preserve. Said Trine, “I made this myself, I really hope you can tell the difference from Ikea!”. Don’t worry, Trine, we could!
Veggiestan by Sally Butcher
Having interacted with Sally on twitter for months, or maybe even years, I was keen to attend her Veggiestan talk and tasting. Sally and her husband Jamshid, also present for the talk, run well-loved London deli Perseopolis, specialising in Persian food and Sally is also the author of the Persia in Peckham cookbook.
For the purpose of sharing her favourite vegetarian ingredients and recipes, Sally presented a range of dishes from the fictitious land of Veggiestan, a way of covering the non-meat cookery of a region stretching from Turkey across the Middle East to Pakistan.
Some of the dishes we really liked, others left us nonplussed but all were interesting and we enjoyed Sally’s passionate presentation.
A Taste of Humble by Nature by Kate Humble and Friends
After Kate Humble and husband Ludo bought a farm in Monmouthshire, they wanted to find a way not only to make a living from it but also to share with others what Kate had learned about rural skills and animal husbandry through some of her recent television series.
They turned to the experts, and now offer courses in food and cookery, rural crafts and working with animals.
For this talk and tasting, Kate introduced us to her charcutier Graham Waddington, Katherine Marland who runs the cookery school and Liz Knight, who teaches foraging and related cooking classes.
We had plenty of fine food to taste, from confit pig’s cheek to crabapple, bramley and fennel jelly to Japanese braised pork belly. It was an interesting session, as each of the three friends shared a number of tips with the audience.
Making Fine Chocolates Marc Demarquette
Marc Demarquette is one of my favourite UK chocolatiers, not only because his chocolates are fantastic but also because he’s a lovely man. His commitment to supporting British producers, and small independent suppliers is something he takes very seriously, not like many brands who simply use such a stance as a marketing tool.
In this session, we first did a tasting of 4 different chocolates, whilst Marc reminded us that “it’s very important to know the provenance of the product”. He will not buy cocoa from the ivory coast of ghana but instead invests a lot of time in seeking out ethical cocoa. Those we tried were a 65% Papua New Guinea, Marc’s dark house blend of cocoa from Madagascar, Ecuador and Dominican republic, a milk chocolate from Vietnam and an 80% dark from Uganda.
After the tasting, Marc walked and talked us through how to make his caramel chocolate ganache. Delicious!
I also attended Memories of Gascony in which Pierre Koffmann talked to Matthew Fort about his life and experiences in the food industry. I’ll be writing about this talk as part of a book review of Pierre’s book of the same name.
With thanks to Abergavenny Food Festival for press pass and event tickets.