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Monday, 4 August 2014

Talks 'n Tasters at Newport Food Festival

One of last year's great successes was the Talks 'n Tasters stage, where visitors could see chefs and producers close up, taste their offerings and often get hands on experience in making them.

This year there are more sessions and three venues!

Tickets will go on sale on 5th August so here's a preview of these popular sessions.

From a start in an unoccupied stall in the Market Hall the sessions have expanded into a designated area of the Hall, Waterstones in town and the Lamb public house.

In the Market the sessions start at 10 am with Nia Thomas running a Cup Cake session. Love em or hate em there is no doubt that Cup Cakes have been the latest Big Thing and Nia will bring 16 years experience to the session. She also does courses for Newport Community Education so you can find out how to develop your skills as well.

As a huge coffee fan the Coaltown Coffee session on Top Tips for Home Brewed Coffee is a must for me. Scott James started the company and also runs a Barrista School so yu should learn lots and perhaps make that perfect cup of Joe!

Next up is Isla Black of Tasty Bites who brings her Jamaican background to producing some extremely tasty food. Her Jamaican Beef Patty is amazing and one of my favourite snacks at Llanyrafon Manor Market.

For the Wine Lover Neil Cammie offers some insights and the chance to Know your Merlot from your Cabernet in a wine tasting session. Neil is an expert in his field, writing a Western Mail Wine column and his company Fine Wines Direct does what it says on the tin.

Welsh Food Heritage is the subject for Sian Roberts who will show that Wales has a strong food heritage and we do more than Welsh Cakes and Cawl.

Abergavenny based Barry Chantler of Chantler Tea will reprise his very successful Tea Tastings and offer an insight into finding your perfect blend and making a great cuppa.

Finally I will be doing another hands on dough making session where we learn that bread isn't too hard to make, needn't take up all of your day and tasted better than supermarket pap. You get to make your own dough and take it away, with a recipe, to finish at home.

Over in Waterstones, Coaltown Coffee will do a Latte Art demonstration twice during the day so combine these with the Market sessions to seriously up your coffee making skills!

Diane Corister from Honeybunch Cake Company will demonstrate Cake Icing and Decorating.

Lucknam Park chef Luke Woodward will be demonstrating the other Big Thing of recent times Macarons. Dainty little Almond based meringues that come in many colours and flavours.

Nia Thomas runs a Cup Cake icing demo after Luke and I would not be surprised of elements of Nia, Luke and Diane's sessions come together for the final session where Luke will create Afternoon Tea,

The third venue for the Talks 'n Tastings is The Lamb public house which will feature Beer Tastings from 5 local breweries. Gareth from Tiny Rebel, Jamie from Tudor, Martyn from Untapped, Natasha from Rhymney and Simon from Pipes will each showcase their fine ales and beers in tutored tastings.

Tickets for these events, and many are free, are available from the Riverfront Box Office.

Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Masterclasses at Newport Food Festival

Newport Food Festival is back and bigger than ever!

The beauty of this festival is that it is firmly rooted in the community, using the Market as one main venue and encouraging local producers and traders to take part and showcase what the area has to offer

Local chefs will be providing many of the demonstrations but as always there is a fair sprinkling of top names as well.

The Riverfront  is the venue for the Masterclasses, which are kept small so that you get up close and personal with the chefs, see exactly what they are doing and have the chance to talk to them both during and after the class.

A very strong line-up will be on stage and for your £7.50 admission you will get a great insight into some top dishes and techniques.

Starting the sessions is Emma Evans who runs Secret Supper Club, was a finalist in My Kitchen Rules and is about to open a new restaurant in Caerleon. Green’s will be located in the old Drovers pub and will offer top class food and a great atmosphere.

An Italian touch will come from Sergio Pasquelle of Gemellis restaurant in Newport. Expect superbly executed dishes and some insight into great flavours.

Next will be Newport boy, and Festival Patron, Hywel Jones who will show why Lucknam Park regularly retains its Michelin Star.

Newly ensconced in his own restaurant in Penarth, Caerleon born James Summerin will demonstrate why he has a superb reputation for fine dining food and why Penarth can expect a Star soon.

Head Chef at the Parkway in Cwmbran, Clive Williams is next up and, having seen his demonstrations in the past, I can guarantee that he will offer some tasty treats and a great insight into cooking at a very high level.

Local hotels will be represented again when a chef from the Celtic Manor offers an insight into their cooking. As yet the name isn’t confirmed but when you cook for the Ryder Cup and NATO conferences you have to be at the top of your game, and all of the Celtic Manor chefs certainly are.

Finally Festival Favourite and multi-award winning Anand George of Purple Poppadom brings Modern Indian cuisine to the stage and demand for his Masterclass will be high.

Unlike some events, where a couple of hundred people are trying to see what the culinary champions are doing, the Newport Food Festival Masterclasses are small and intimate, you are right up with the chefs and with only 20 people in the audience hey are like private lessons.

Tickets are available from Friday 1st August and check the Website at 

Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

Monday, 21 July 2014

Humble by Nature, Great by Design

I have followed the progress of Humble by Nature since my days as an officer with Monmouthshire County Council.

At a time when the County Farms Unit was reviewing the number of farms and small holdings which it owned, Upper Meend Farm, in Penallt near Monmouth, came vacant.

Rumours began to circulate suggesting that Kate Humble was interested in buying it and establishing a rural skills school.

Gradually the plans came to fruition, and Humble By Nature was born - offering a range of classes and courses including Animal Husbandry, Small Holding and Wood Fired Oven building. Indeed on our visit a small group were actively involved in Dry Stone Walling.

We were there, however, for the latest part of the development the opening of the Farm Shop and Café.

Kate and her team have gathered together some superb local products, and we are lucky that South East Wales has more than its fair share of Great Taste Award winners. From Liz Knight’s foraged foods to Graham Waddington’s Native Breeds charcuterie and Halen Mon Sea Salt the shop is a foodie dream.

I was very pleased to see both Angharad Underwood’s PreservationSociety jams and pickles including the epic Candied Jalapenos and Rhian Short’s range of Usk River chutneys, Tudor Brewery ales and beers, Calon Wen organic cheeses and butter and possibly the most local product Wye Valley Cheese made on the adjacent farm. The shop reminded me a little of Wright's Food Emporium, though without the Continental Selections, and seeing a display of Wright's Tomato Catsup reinforced that feeling.

As well as Kate’s own books the shop stocks a number of publications aimed at getting you to produce a little yourself, even if you only have room for a grow-bag or a couple of pots.

Most of the items sold in the shop are used to make the delicious meals available in the adjacent café.

A wide range of teas and coffees are available, and the coffee roasters and tea blenders have also made the bespoke House Blends for Humble by Nature.

Breads are by Alex Gooch and they taste as good as they look.

The menu is seasonal, changing monthly, and offers a good choice of light meals, mains and desserts.

We opted for the Pulled Pork Sandwich which came on toasted Sourdough - which had a malty taste- and was accompanied by a small salad with edible flowers from the Edible Garden next to the shop,

 and the Farmers Lunch. That would have fed a very hungry farmer indeed!  Two thick slices of ham, Wye Valley Cheese, A small frittata, Beetroot, chutney and jelly with huge hunks of bread filled one plate whilst a salad covered the other.

All made to order in the kitchen the food was superb and just what you would need after a morning on the farm, or indeed a good shopping experience! The mains were so filling that , despite the desserts looking and sounding delicious, we could not manage one.

The shop and café will become destinations themselves, as well as the range of courses and events on the farm.

Humble by Nature has come a long way since inception and will develop further.

Already though it deserves to be called Local and Great.

We paid for our lunches and most purchases in the shop but did receive a small goodie bag of shop goods and a free tea and coffee.

Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

Friday, 11 July 2014

Latest Updates to Anergavenny Food Festival

The Official Programme for the fest dropped through the letterbox this morning and I am able to share it with you.

Still not everything revealed, you'll have to wait for the website on 16th July, but more flesh on the bones!

Also today, Arun Kapil of Green Saffron Spices revealed that he will be doing a Demo in the Market Hall on Sunday 21st. Arun's Masterclasses and Tastings have always been sell out attractions so here is your chance to see Arun in action for free. Doubtless he will have a few copies of his book, due for publication in September with him too.

But more of the latest news:

Dont forget the online box office opens on 16th July and the full programme can be downloaded then.

Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Abergavenny Box Office News

Just a week until the Abergavenny Food Festival Box office goes live on Wednesday 16 July. The full programme will be released that day on line on line at and tickets can be bought there or through the Borough Theatre on 01873 850805. If you buy buy tickets on line you will be entered into a prize draw. One lucky winner will walk off with a fabulous Flint & Flame Classic Knife Set worth over a thousand pounds.(This is an on line only draw)

As always there is a stellar line up of chefs demonstrating, holding masterclasses or talking about food and their craft which this year includes Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who’ll be appearing at the Borough Theatre on the Friday evening,

With Wahaca opening its first restaurant outside London in Cardiff this autumn Tommi Miers will be a big attraction.

Cyrus Todiwala has long been a Festival Favourite, whether for his spicy delights served up in the Castle area or for his entertaining views in the Rude Health Rants, and this year he is teamed up with Incredible Spice Men partner Tony Singh. Whatever the pair get up to will be highly entertaining and full of flavour.

There's a distinct taste of the  Middle East as Sam and Sam Clark of Moro bring their Moorish foods  and Iranian born Sabrina Gayhour introduces the taste of Persiana, 

More chefs will be appearing but these may just whet your appetite. Though demos in the market hall are free some events are ticketed and the Box Office can supply those that you want.

The Children's Food Academy has been a consistent feature, this year sponsored by the Organic Centre Wales, and adults get their chance too.

Amongst the new skills you can acquire at The Artisan Kitchen School (in the Masonic Hall) are making Bacon with James Swift from Trealy Farm, brewing your own Sake with Marie Cheong Thong and entering the world of Seasonal Fruit Liqueurs with Lindy Wildsmith. 

 With a full programme of events around town, over 200 stalls and a brand new Night Market on the Saturday with Street Food in the Lower Brewery Yard, as well as the Party in the Castle there really is something for everyone.

Stroller Tickets  for the main markets start at £6.50 (early-bird prices) and children accompanied by a paying adult get in for free, the Night Market is free to Stroller holders or £2 if you don't have one. Ticketed events start at £8.

The Box Office goes live on 16th July and you can download a full ‘diary at a glance’ to help plan your visit.

Finally a question, What do Abergavenny Food Festival favourites Tommi Miers, James Ramsden and Arun Kapil have in common?  They all trained at Ballymaloe Cookery School and were taught by Rory O'Connell.

Rory is a highly regarded chef and teacher and his first book Master It was Observer Food Magazine Book of the Year 2013.

I'm delighted to say that Rory will be taking part in the festival this year and is a MUST!

Check for further information and to book tickets from 16 July or call The Borough Theatre 01873 850805