Chef Demonstrations are a key element in a food festival and Abergavenny has lots, too many in fact to get to them all.
Some free events in the Market Hall and some ticketed events as well.
This year you could have seen Angela Hartnett, Bryn Williams, Valentine Warner, Henry Harris, Bill Granger, and a host of others, had you possessed some kind of Tardis and were on the world’s strictest diet – no time to eat.
I concentrated on the Market Hall, not because it was free but because the chefs there were Local and Great.
I only managed two demos because the weekend just offers too much but what demos I did manage.
First up James Sommerin, the Michelin Starred Chef from the Crown at Whitebrook and the Crown at Celtic Manor. Just one of our Monmouthshire Star chefs.
James was a whizz with Lobster which just happens to be my favourite food of all time. Not for James the Rory O’Connell approach of gently heating the crustacean from cold in a pot of salted water so it “goes to sleep thinking it is in a rock pool on a particularly warm day”. Rory argues that the lobster slips into a coma and by the time the water is 40c (a shower temperature for you and I) it has died and can then be cooked off in boiling water.
James’ approach is faster and more dramatic. Straight in to the boiling water and a lid on to stop any attempt at escape!
Boiled to just done the lobster is broken apart and the meat extracted – save the shell for bisque.
Fried off again in a Maître D butter then plated with the bisque and some fresh leaves and served simply this is a dish for everyone and second only to my favourite method by equally starred Italian chef Alfonso Iaccarino who does his in tempura batter.
The other local chef that I wanted to see was Wes Harris (see earlier blog ‘Steer a course to the Charthouse’). Wes has run his own restaurant in the past and worked with most of our local stars before setting up at the Charthouse.
The dish he demonstrated was currently on the menu and used extremely local ingredients – a Venison Wellington. This used Roe Deer, local wild Mushrooms, a Chocolate Mustard and Kale. The venison was brushed with the mustard and placed on puff pastry with the Mushrooms (now converted to a duxelle with Butter, Thyme, Rosemary and Garlic) being placed on top before the blanched and shredded Kale was added. Wrapped in the pastry the Wellington went into the oven for 14 minutes and then rested 6 before being served.
Voted a huge hit by the audience, who scrambled for a tasting, Wes showed not only his considerable talents but also the terrific ingredients we have in Monmouthshire.
Two local chefs, two totally different dishes but a common link in quality.