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Friday, 13 April 2012

Love Food, Love Bristol

The great benefit of holding a food festival immediately adjacent to a mainline station is that you can travel by train, and so we did.

Love Food hold a series of events across the UK so the emphasis is on local producers in each event, the one I attended was in Bristol in Brunel’s Old Passenger Shed. Bringing together producers from the South West and South Wales the Spring Fair really did showcase all that is local and great and the £2.50 admission price was an absolute bargain.

Just 100 metres from the main station at Bristol Templemeads, we were met by an amazing display of fresh herbs, the chance to grab a coffee or a breakfast bacon roll. If that was not to your liking a Thai BBQ or freshly cooked Mackerel was on offer.

Once inside the huge hall a vast range of stalls awaited and within seconds I had spotted old friend from Usk Farmers Market James Swift from Trealy Farm Charcuterie.

James wanted me to meet Ruth Tudor who runs The Meat Course based on the farm.

The two day course is a must for serious food lovers, anyone with an interest in sustainable agriculture and anyone wanting to learn more about production of meat, butchery and charcuterie. I was very pleased to sign up for the course in May and over the two days will get to meet animals and learn a little about their needs during the farming year. There will also be a chance to see a sheep slaughtered (this part of the course is optional) and then to learn about butchery. We covered some aspects at Ballymaloe but there is always room to learn more. Finally we will make bacon and sausages and faggots which we can take home! How more close to provenance can you get?

Details of The Meat Course can be found here and further information is available from Ruth at

After a good chat with Ruth I trotted over to the Love Food Cookery School where demonstrations would run all day. The first was a demo showing that homemade butter could be made with nothing more than Double Cream, a Jam Jar and some wrist action. Butter is the fatty solids from cream and shaking cream in a jar will separate them and leave buttermilk, essential in baking as a by-product. It was as well that there was a large audience keen to participate as the amount of shaking required is more than one wrist can take! Niamh Shields demonstrated Butter-making at the Abergavenny Food Festival but with the sensible alternative of using a Kenwood.

Butter making was just the warm up act for Liz Knight of Forage Fine Foods who was juggling demonstrating, running a stall and keeping an 11 week old baby happy. Fortunately Ruth took care of the latter issue whilst Liz demonstrated how to make Primrose Curd and spoke about foraging in general and edible flowers in particular. Her half an hour flew by and at the end we were rewarded with a taste of the delicate creamy curd. Unsurprisingly a large crowd gathered at her stall and I had to shoulder my way through to buy some Potager for soups and casseroles, and Wild Herb Rub which could take my Pork Crackling to another level!

Cheese was always going to be on the shopping list and in the Bath Soft Cheese Co we hit a seam of West country gold. Made in the Somerset hills the cheeses are all organic and range from a brie style to a soft blue. I chose the Wyfe of Bath which was, on the stall as a taster positively oozing and offering a rich creamy taste. I was offered the cheese at two ages, ready to eat or for maturing. I chose the one which would take another couple of weeks to come to perfection so that I would have a lasting memory of the festival. Helpful consumer advice is printed on their bags along the lines of “Cheese likes a moist atmosphere so keep it in a cave. If you don’t have a cave, keep it in a cellar. If you don’t have a cellar, keep it in a larder. If you don’t have a larder, a fridge will do. If you MUST keep it in a fridge keep it well wrapped so that it doesn’t dry out.” Sage advice and I find that tinfoil works best for fridged cheese though our utility room is usually cool enough for longer storage.

So with cheese salads in mind it was off to see Rupert from Womersley Foods who makes the most amazing “botanically enthused” range of vinegars and dressings. I often add a couple of drops of the Lemon, Basil, Bay and Juniper Berry to a Parsley Thyme and Lemon stuffing for a chicken and the lift given to the stuffing is amazing.

It was the vinegars that I wanted on this occasion the Raspberry in particular but the Cherry also took my fancy after a tasting. This should be brilliant in a dressing or possibly added to egg white for making meringue – will be experimenting with that idea!. Actually the vinegars are so sweet/sharp that I said “I could drink that on its own”. “Try it in a glass of fizz” suggested a fellow customer so a quick Prosecco related experiment later I had a new pre-meal drink for friends.

Talking of drinks led me to the far end of the hall where the Bristol Cider Shop had set up. Encouraged by their snappy slogan “We sell Cider” I embarked upon a tasting session before settling on litre bottles of both Dry Cider and Perry. Again local drinks and both very good. Pork cooked in cider with some of Forage’s rub infused into the liquor would be amazing.

And, on the drinks and foraged foods front, I found Field Bar who make wines with fruits and flowers from the area around Cirencester. Selling through Farmers Markets they have deservedly built a strong reputation and their website has a number of recipes for using wines in cocktails. I tried and subsequently bought the Elderflower Sparkling, Ginger and Red Rose Petal varieties and very good they are.

Finally a quick trip to Thoughtful Bakery for some damn fine breads, baked in Bath, and a copy of their book Bread Revolution. I regularly bake bread – see earlier posts – but using the book my own efforts have been revolutionised. Big thanks to Duncan and Patrick for the change they have brought about!

A great day out and some really good producers. The next festival in the South West is at Dyrham Park and then there is one in Brighton in May. As my daughter lives in Hove it would be churlish not to visit her and find out what Local and Great gems the South-East has to offer.

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