The Faces of Abergavenny Food Festival & What They Love To Cook

It’s not just us punters who look forward to the Abergavenny Food Festival, it’s the many professionals taking part who do too.

From chefs and restaurateurs to farmers and food and drink producers, from authors and journalists to broadcasters and photographers, from food historians to food policy advisors, from researchers in sustainable agriculture to environmental scientists, there are a huge range of experts and professionals who come to share their skills and knowledge with festival-goers at Abergavenny.

I caught up with some of the Speakers for Abergavenny Food Festival 2019 (21-22 September) to ask about their go-to dish when cooking a simple meal at home, and what are they most looking forward to about this year’s festival.

Josh Byrne

Josh is head chef and co-owner of The Black Bear Inn in Bettws Newydd, along with his wife Hannah. This is one of our favourite local pubs for top quality cooking and a warm welcome.

Josh Byrne, chef

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Josh Byrne: This is my first festival since moving to and opening a business in the area so looking forward to being involved and seeing what it’s all about.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Josh Byrne: We are quite rigidly British in our cooking and sourcing for the restaurant so it’s nice to go outside of that for cooking at home and there is arguably no better simple but tasty home cooked dish than spaghetti carbonara made with good quality guanciale, pecorino and good fresh organic eggs.

Xanthe Clay

Xanthe Clay started her food career in cookery book sales, trained as a chef and worked in catering before becoming the hugely successful food and cookery writer she is today.

Xanthe Clay, chef, caterer, food and cookery writer

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

What am I most looking forward to? What a question! There is so much. I think that Abergavenny’s USP is the fantastic atmosphere, the way just strolling through the Market Hall you’re rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in food, and that’s the reason I’ll book to go before I’ve even looked at the programme. Now I’ve had a browse, it’s impossible to choose just one from the smorgasbord of smashing events, but Tim Lang’s one of the most influential and thorough experts out there so his talk in the Borough Theatre – The Diet that Could Save The World – will be unmissable. Will he say we all need to go vegan? I wonder: there’ll be lots to talk about after hearing that.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

My go-to supper is lovingly known in our house as Bean Slop, but it’s actually a dish that’s a peasant staple all over Europe – a tiny amount of meat, perhaps two rashers of bacon or a small chunk of chorizo, finely chopped and cooked with onions and garlic, then lots of beans – haricot or borlotti generally – added along with some stock and cooked slowly until tender and full of flavour. Then some greens stirred in to cook at the end – cavolo nero or cabbage generally, or sometimes rainbow chard. Equally often we’ll just roast a shedload of vegetables with a bit of olive oil, maybe some cumin or rose harissa. Big chunks of meat are strictly for special occasions these days.

Charlotte Pike

Charlotte is author of five bestselling cookery books, including Smoked, Fermented, and The Hungry Student.

Charlotte Pike, cookery book author

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Charlotte Pike: Abergavenny is a completely unique festival with a wonderfully warm and vibrant feel, and a very special audience who really love good food. That’s a pretty special combination, and one that I always look forward to experiencing.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Charlotte Pike: I always cook from scratch at home – as I feel better when I eat homemade food. Even if I’m really pushed for time or back very late, my go-to is an omelette or scrambled egg on good sourdough toast, which, for me, is always better than a ready meal. I make a lot of salads throughout the year, as I love the contrasting flavours and textures of a simple but balanced salad. I also regularly make curries from scratch – usually Indian or Thai – which are always very well received at home. For me, simple home cooking is all about buying the best ingredients you can afford and preparing them simply, but with care.

Cyrus Todiwala

Well known chef restaurateur, author, educationist and media personality, Cyrus Todiwala, and his wife Pervin, run several restaurants in London, including the long-running and hugely successful Café Spice Namaste.

Cyrus Todiwala, chef restaurateur, author, educationist and media personality

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Cyrus Todiwala: As always we will look forward to meeting hundreds of visitors that now know us so well. Create awareness towards the use of welsh shellfish in my special event and to raise awareness on only grass fed lamb. Besides of course introduce the visitors to some new products we have been working on.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Cyrus Todiwala: EGGS. I love eggs as does Pervin my wife and you may catch us after a hard days work sitting an eating a masala omelette or masala scrambled eggs at midnight with some sour dough toast and whatever else the poorly stocked fridge throws up. If not eggs some quick potato bhajee with chappaties. Easy and heart warming.

Tim Hayward

Tim is a professional food and drink writer, columnist and broadcaster. As well as regular and one off pieces for a wide range of publications, he has published several books, appeared as a regular panelist on BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet, and produced and presented several radio documentaries. In addition, he also owns Fitzbillies, a hundred-year old bakery cafe in Cambridge.

Tim Hayward, food and drink writer, columnist and broadcaster

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

What am I most looking forward to? The whole damn thing, to be honest. I mean I don’t want to use the term lightly but Aber is the original ‘Safe Space’ where I can guarantee that for 3 blissful days, I’m surrounded by people who love food, who understand the meaning of lard, who will drag themselves miles through a desert for the sniff of an artisanal cheese and would only ‘go for a run’ if they were chasing a fleeing pizza van. I don’t know anywhere like Abergavenny. In one way it’s like the Sundance Festival… where loads of industry people are getting together for just a few days of the year… in others it’s like the most bonkers village fete… but ultimately it just feels open, welcoming and big hearted.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

My go to dish for simple home cooking is devilled kidneys. I keep kidneys in the freezer, pre-cored and there’s always a big old slice of fresh sourdough. I have every expectation that I’m going to die of gout, but I honestly don’t give a toss. What did you think I was going to make? A quinoa bowl with an avocado and superfood nut sprinkles?

Ed Gilbert

Cardiff-based Geordie Ed writes Gourmet Gorro, an award-winning food and travel blog.

Ed Gilbert aka Gourmet Gorro

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

I’m really looking forward to the Welsh chef demonstrations. There’s some real talent cooking in Wales so it’ll be great to see chefs like Tom Watts-Jones from The Hare and Hounds in Aberthin and Tommy Heaney from Heaney’s up on stage. I’m also hoping to catch Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver talking about St John; they’re absolute superstars of British cooking and this is a rare opportunity to see them in conversation.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

I’m a pretty bad cook (I’m better at eating) so I tend to rustle up things which are pretty quick and easy. I’m a big fan of curry udon made using a brick of instant katsu curry sauce.

Patrick Holden

Patrick and his wife Becky are the owners of Holden Farm, a 300-acre organic dairy farm where they produce Hafod, a raw milk cheddar, from the milk of their herd of Ayrshire cows. Patrick is also the founder and chief executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, previous to which he was the founding chairman of British Organic Farmers, and was a director of the Soil Association.

Patrick Holden, organic dairy farmer and cheese maker, and Chief Exective of the Sustainable Food Trust

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Patrick Holden: I am hoping to discuss the sourcing and provenance of food, the role of sustainably managed livestock in future diets and the welsh assembly consultation paper on a future food system for Wales.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Patrick Holden: My ideal dish would comprise all or nearly all the ingredients that are sustainably grown on the farm or by local producers. On our farm, minced beef, milk, cheese and wild harvested nettles could be combined with pasta to make a beautiful lasagne!

Polly Russell

Dr Russell is a curator of Contemporary Politics and Public Life at the British Library, and a freelance food historian and writer. She also co-presents BBC 2’s Back In Time For Dinner.

Dr Polly Russell, food historian and writer

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Polly Russell: I cannot wait to hear from Franco Taruschio who has agreed to take part in mine and Rosie Sykes’ ‘History Cooked’ supper club. I’m going to be talking to him about setting up an Italian restaurant, The Walnut Tree, in Abergavenny in the late 1960s and thinking about this in the context of Italian food in Wales.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Polly Russell: Everyday dishes include dahl with raita – I usually make a large batch of once a week atnd everyone helps themselves as the week progresses. Otherwise it’s courgette and basil frittata with salad. And failing that cheese on toast is always a winner.

Mark Diacono

Mark is a food and gardening and author and spends his time growing, eating, writing and talking about food. He has published several books including the wonderful A Taste of the Unexpected, all about growing more unusual and very delicious varieties of fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices.

Mark Diacono, food and gardening author

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

This is my first time at the festival so I’m looking forward to soaking the whole thing up most…but if I had to choose, Liz Knight is always hugely inspiring with her engaging foraging knowledge and recipes…I’m really looking forward to hearing Bee Wilson talking about the way we eat…Asma Khan’s cooking class, Jose P’s on Saturday…and so much more. I’m interested in finding out more about Three Pools permaculture farm too. So much going on.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

I’ve got v enthusiastic about rojaks – hot, spicily dressed Asian salads…tumbles of fruit, leaves, vegetables and perhaps a little protein. They’re so adaptable to whatever’s in the fridge, in season etc and both refreshing and satisfying.

Manon Lagrève

Manon was a quarter-finalist in 2018’s Great British Bake Off and shares recipes via her blog, Manon’s Little Kitchen.

Manon Lagrève was a quarter-finalist in 2018's Great British Bake Off and shares recipes via her blog, Manon’s Little Kitchen.

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Manon Lagrève: It is my first time at Abergavenny and I have heard so much about it, so I am very excited! It will also be my first time baking on an outdoor fire which is scary but will also super fun :).

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Manon Lagrève: In the summer I tend to do salads with anything I have in my fridge all the time! And in the winter, I just love a really comforting one pot dish, either with some veg, mash potatoes or simply pasta. I actually don’t mind eating the same thing for two days, as long as it is rich and delicious.

Danny Walker

After 15 years as a cocktail bartender, Danny set up two distilleries in Bristol with his business partner. He is distiller and director at Psychopomp, a micro distillery producing seasonal gins, absinthe and aquavit, and Circumstance, a new distillery making whisky and rum.

Danny Walker, distiller

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Danny Walker: So much to look forward to! Drinking Martinis and eating oysters with my old friend Alex Bluett is going to be awesome. Wandering the markets and meeting some great producers is always a real treat. But the absolute highlight is going to be getting to meet Sandor Katz, the master of all things fermented.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Danny Walker: Really loving experimenting with poké at the moment. Super fresh, healthy, simple to make and banging. Once you’ve got good raw fish and some tasty rice and grains you can go anywhere with the flavours. My favourite cuisines are Mexican, Japanese and Korean, all flavours that work really well in poké

James Rich

James Rich grew up in Somerset, where his family run a cider farm. He is also a food writer, and has published a book on Apples.

James Rich, author

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

James Rich: This is my very first Abergavenny Food Festival, so I am excited about absolutely everything! There are so many events and talks I want to check out; Angela Clutton’s Vinegar Cupboard talk in particular and of course the Beer vs. Cider event with Pete Brown and Jaega Wise too, although I totally already know which one should win! Team Cider!

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

James Rich: Roast chicken! For sure! I would love to say something more exciting or unusual, but it really is my favourite go-to, homely and comforting dinner. Plus an apple crumble with ice cream for dessert, of course!

Claire Warner

Claire is the MD of Æcorn Aperitifs, a specialist drinks company informed by 17th century English herbal remedies and inspired by the European Aperitif tradition.

Claire Warner, the MD of Æcorn Aperitifs

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Claire Warner: It will be my first time to Abergavennny and we’re bringing our new brand, Æcorn Aperitifs to the event, so I’m looking forward to meeting lots of like-minded enthusiasts who are looking for a non-alcoholic alternative to pair with great food and friends!

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Claire Warner: Being a vegetarian my go-to would be a quick and delicious stir fry with almond butter dressing.

Angela Clutton

Angela is a food writer historian and writes for many national publications. She is also a recipe writer, demonstration cook and host of the Borough Market Cookbook Club. Her book The Vinegar Cupboard was published earlier this year.

Angela Clutton, food historian writer

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Angela Clutton: Just being part of it all! It is my first ‘proper’ time at Aber and I am thrilled to be coming along to talk all things vinegar and The Vinegar Cupboard.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Angela Clutton: Roast chicken liberally doused with fino sherry and salt – makes for the crispiest, tastiest skin!

Matt Waldron

Matt worked in some of the UK’s best-regarded restaurants, including Helene Darroze at The Connaught Hotel, Restaurant James Sommerin in Penarth and Gareth Ward’s Ynyshir in Powys, before taking on the role of head chef at Park House Cardiff.

Matt Waldron, head chef at Park House Cardiff

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Matt Waldron: Having the chance to demonstrate the food I produce, meeting new people and learning new things.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Matt Waldron: Lasagne, I love a home made lasagne and you have another meal the following two or three days with the rest of the tray.

Ben McFarland & Tom Sandham

Known collectively as The Thinking Drinkers, Ben and Tom are award-winning drinks writers and comedy performers.

Ben McFarland & Tom Sandham, known collectively as The Thinking Drinkers,

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Thinking Drinkers: Making our Welsh debut! We’ve never performed in Wales before and we’re very excited about it. We’re also looking forward to tucking into some quality food and drink and rubbing shoulders with some top-class chefs and producers. I can think of few better ways to spend a weekend.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Thinking Drinkers: Tom rustles up a great risotto while Ben’s speciality is most definitely “The Volcano” – a mountainous dish consisting of mash potato, fried egg and tomato ketchup. It’s very artisan, it really is. We also enjoy a packet of Minstrels in the tour van.

Georgina Hayden

Food writer and stylist Georgina spent more than a decade working with Jamie Oliver, cooking and styling for his recipe books, magazine shoots and TV shows. She now works freelance, and has published two cookery books of her own, Stirring Slowly and Taverna.

Food writer and stylist Georgina Hayden

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Georgina Hayden: I’ve always heard so much about Abergavenny and I’m thrilled to finally be able to attend! Can’t wait to be reunited with my maple Canada crew to cook outside over fire, it’s a real passion.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Georgina Hayden: We eat a lot of lentils, whether cooked Cypriot style with onions, rice and a little cumin or as an Indian spiced daal. Both are simple and quick, and are proper comfort foods for me.

Samantha Evans & Shauna Guinn

Together, Samantha and Shauna run a successful barbeque business called Hang Fire. It follows on from an epic road trip around the USA to learn the essence of American BBQ, bringing it to life in the UK using top quality British produce.

Samantha Evans & Shauna Guinn

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Hang Fire: We have some incredible talent coming to Abergavenny this year. Many of our food heroes will be there, to name a few; Fergus and Trevor from St John’s – absolute legends, Asma Khan what a chef, what an inspiration! But we’re really looking forward our demo’s at the Live Fire area at the Castle. Aside from a demo that Sam and I are doing together, we’ll also be hosting and cooking in a demo with 3 other chefs – 5 of us in total – maybe the first 5-way demo for Abergavenny Food Festival? We can guarantee it’ll be delicious, hilarious, slightly chaotic – and definitely one to remember!

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Hang Fire: When you work in hospitality, you tend to steer towards something that doesn’t take hours of preparation. Shauna’s Nan has this super simple Northern Irish stew recipe that you basically throw whatever veg and tinned pulses in the pot with lots of black pepper, cover with stock, bring to the boil then simmer for 35 mins and it’s done. We usually keep a nice bit of sourdough or wheaten bread in the freezer that we can munch down with it.

Alex Bluett

Alex is a chef, forager, gardener and writer from Cornwall. He us currently growing food organically on a 2 acre farm where he also runs small events.

Alex Bluett, chef, forager, gardener and writer

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Alex Bluett: Being a first timer I’m excited to experience the festival as a whole and finally get to see what it’s all about. With so many great chefs and guest speakers it’s going to be a year to remember.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Alex Bluett: I’ve recently moved to Cornwall in a bid to simplify my life and live more sustainably. I now grow the bulk of the food I eat and that includes having chickens for eggs. So the majority of the time when I want a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner it has to be in the form of an omelette with what ever veg is lurking in the garden. I’m currently working through a glut of ‘pink fur apple’ potatoes, courgettes and spinach. With some fresh oregano, garlic chive and mint beaten through the egg mix, it really is the definition of simple, seasonal and sustainable on a plate.

Tommy Heaney

Following many years working at top restaurants around the world, and an appearance on the BBC’s Great British Menu, Belfast-born Tommy launched his own restaurant, Heaney’s in Cardiff.

Chef Tommy Heaney

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Tommy Heaney: There’s a great line up and it’s my first year doing a demo, I’m very much looking forward to it.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Tommy Heaney: I’m a big BBQ lover and my go-to is a Big Green Egg. I have one in the garden and I will use it anytime of the year, whatever the weather! We even cooked our Christmas Turkey on it last year…

Sara Sanna

Holding a diploma certificate from The Consejo Regulador del Tequila, Sara Sanna has turned her passion for Tequila into a successful business, with the opening of Masa + Mezcal, a Mexican cantina, restaurant and bar in Bristol.

Sara Sanna of Masa + Mezcal

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Sara Sanna: We go to the Abergavenny Food Festival as part of our staff party with the whole Season and Taste crew so I am definitely looking forward to enjoy the whole day eating, drinking and having fun with everyone! And of course I am buzzing about giving a talk about Mezcal, it’s going to be great and hopefully people will enjoy as much as I do.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Sara Sanna: Spaghetti with bottarga and prawns – Sardinia in my heart! Doesn’t taste as good as they one my parents make though.

Henry Eldon

After training as a classical French chef, Henry worked in a number of kitchens before a role as Executive Chef for The Cowshed Group. To showcase his passion for cooking with fire and smoke, he opened his own place, The Cauldron Restaurant, with wife Lauren.

Henry Eldon, chef

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Henry Eldon: I’ve never been to the festival before, so I’m looking forward to roaming the different venues and streets. And eating a lot of amazing food.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Henry Eldon: I cook outdoors all year round. A go-to is chargrilled lamb rump, mushrooms and herby salsa.

Matt Benyon

Matt Beynon is head trainer and key account manager at Wogan Coffee.

Matt Beynon, Wogan Coffee

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Matt Benyon: Seeing everyone again and touching base, plus a chance to meet so many new and interesting food obsessionals!

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Matt Benyon: Pan roasted Cod with chickpea stew and fennel. Super easy, super healthy and super quick!

Gareth Ward

Gareth Ward is chef owner of Ynyshir, a Michelin star restaurant and rooms in Powys.

Chef Gareth Ward

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

Gareth Ward: All the epic food stalls serving really high quality food.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

Gareth Ward: I love lamb roast dinner with Yorkshire puddings and loads of mint sauce!

Asma Khan

Having met Asma in the early days of the supper club she ran out of her home, it’s been a huge, huge pleasure to see her go from success to success. Not a formally trained chef, Asma has nonetheless launched one of the most popular Indian restaurants in London, published a cookery book, and been featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table series. She’s also heavily involved in many charitable projects, at home and abroad.

Asma Khan, Darjeeling Express

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

This is my first time at Abergavenny and I am really looking forward to attending the demos and talks of other chefs. In this industry we do not get many opportunities to interact with our peers and the festival is such a wonderful space to make connections and friendships.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

I love egg curry! In Calcutta this was our standard dish once a week on a meatless day and also during Monsoons when the bazaar was flooded and we could not get any fresh ingredients. I have a recipe of egg curry in my book- I make many variations of egg curry depending on what else I find in my fridge and kitchen.

Trine Hahnemann

Danish chef, food writer and TV presenter Trine is a strong advocate not only for Scandinavian recipes, cooking techniques, and culture, but also for sustainable and organic sourcing of ingredients, and using them with gratitude and love.

Trine Hahnemann, Danish chef and food writer

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

I so look forward to be in conversation with Bee Wilson about everyday home cooking, why that is so important to a society. And always the party at the castle.

When cooking at home for yourself, what is your go to dish for simple home-cooking?

My go to dish, is sautéed vegetables server with boiled pearled grains or rice. Can be done in 20 minutes, and then whatever salad I can make from what I have in the house.

 

Images used with permission from the Abergavenny Food Festival.

Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!
12 Comments to "The Faces of Abergavenny Food Festival & What They Love To Cook"

  1. Ciara Attwell

    What an incredible line up. Sounds like its going to be a fantastic festival!

    Reply
  2. Mamta Gupta

    Wow! I can’t imagine the amount of time it must have taken for you to gather all this information. I loved reading it.
    By the way, my go to dish when I am feeling lazy, is Khitcheri, a rice and lentil combination, with lashings of ghee, grilled Bikaneri popodom(not fried), yoghurt and pickles.
    Just saying, in case anyone wants to know 😜😋😄

    Reply
  3. Claire

    Aber has been on my list for ages, but timings never work out. This has made me more determined to make the trip and immerse myself in a quality food festival *sigh*

    Reply
  4. Kate Hackworthy

    I absolutely loved reading this! It’s so nice to get a chef’s take on what a food festival is all about. And it’s so interesting to see what they all cook for themselves at home. I’m intrigued by Xanthe Clay’s bean slop and I need to look into the rojak that Mark Diacomo mentioned.

    Reply
  5. Helen

    I love Abergavenny, it really is the crown of food festivals attracting all that amazing talent to be there.

    Sadly we can’t go this year, it is such a good festival to plan a holiday round which we have done before.

    Reply
  6. Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry

    So interesting to find out more about the different people and their favourite things to cook!

    Reply
  7. Alyssa

    I loved reading about everyone’s favorite dishes to make at home. It’s given me lots of great ideas! (although I don’t think I see any deviled kidneys in my future)

    Reply
  8. Choclette

    Good grief Kavey, you spoke to so many foodie greats. It is good to hear Xanthe Clay is looking forward to hearing Tim Lang. He would be my first port of call too. It sounds like a fantastic festival. Well I do know it has a very good reputation.

    Stir fry with almond butter dressing now has me smacking my lips good and proper.

    Reply

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