East Midlands Food and Drink Festival in Melton Mowbray

This weekend the annual food and drink festival took place at the cattle market in Melton Mowbray. Normally I head over on the Sunday and spend the day drinking wine, cider and beer with my favourite producers, but alas I had to work this weekend so was able to get over for a couple of hours on Saturday to catch up with people and take a few shots.

Booze o’clock

Natterjack cider is usually my first point of call at any Melton food event and this year was no different, although I opted for one of his wonderful apple juices instead of the hard stuff. Booze was everywhere to tempt me and the lovely chaps from CAMRA were making my abstinence all the more difficult with their beer tasting sessions.

Beer tasting, one of my favourite pastimes

Mark from Gourmet Spice was there, he’s ace. I always love seeing him at events and checking out all his new spice rubs, oils and vinegars. His Togarishi spice blend is awesome, the best I’ve found in the UK, blows your head off mind! His new Mango and Green Apple balsamic vinegar is an absolute cracker too. I ended up leaving with a bag full of his new goodies!

The lovely Mark from Gourmet Spice

There was cheese a plenty which always makes me happy. You should definitely seek out Sparkenhoe vintage Red Leicester, it’s made with love and care by the fabulous and local LeicestershireHandmade Cheese Company, it’s the perfect example of an artisan cheese, just heavenly. I sampled their new blue cheese Battlefield Blue, yeah that’s a cheese I could quite happily bathe in…

Handmade Cheese Co new cheese, it’s absolutely wonderful

Good cheese = a very happy Hazel

Plenty of game for sale

I was taking a shot of hanging cured meat when I bumped into the lovely Rachel who organised Melton Pie Fest, yes I’m taking photos of meat because I LOVE cured meat and look how beautiful it is…

Cured meat, come to me baby!

No one went hungry…

The lovely fellas from Pomegranate were cooking and selling an array of Iranian culinary delights

Fluffy cloud meringues, toasties and Chinese food all did well

Fear not, it didn’t take me long to find the macarons…

Pretty macarons, I had a pistachio and a lemon one, breakfast macarons are the way forward

My absolute favourite stand is always the GB Italia stand. Not only are their Sicilian wines, liquors and limoncello divine but Rosemarie is the most awesome lady ever. I only get to see her once a year but I made sure I stocked up on some Limoncello to get me through until my homemade one is ready. Even if you are not interested in food and drink your ticket cost is worth it just to hang out with Rosemarie and her total enthusiasm for life and Sicilian wine will cheer even the grumpiest of souls.

From Limoncello to purple cauliflowers, all my kinda food and booze

It took me ages to find the Great Food Magazine stand manned by editor Matt Wright. I kept asking friends who I bumped into and they all replied with: “he’s somewhere over there apparently, haven’t found him yet”. Well after quite some searching I did eventually find him behind a wicker basket stand (yeah I’m not entirely sure what that was doing there) and he broke my booze abstention instantly by his determined persistence: Matt: “Time for a beer?” Me: “Hell yeah”. I really do have no willpower, actually thats a lie I just got a half from the `Belvoir Brewery stand (located by the Great Food stand, coincidence? I think not) just ordering a half took serious willpower. This was rewarded however by the abundance of free badges on the Belvoir bar that simple said “I Love Beaver”, obviously I picked us up a couple.

Matt was behind the basket stand everyone

I also bumped into Tim Burke who writes all the news for Great Food mag. “Have you seen today’s Leicester Mercury?” He asked, errr no. “We’re in it!” He exclaimed. So thrilled to be featured in their new Food Special as one of Leicestershire’s Food Heroes for this blog!

“News, views and recipes from the Great Food magazine writer, who also contributes to the website Domestic Sluttery. Her own  blog demands a visit, if only for the hugely entertaining About Me section.” Awesome.

Really thrilled to be included, also there was Tim for his blog and Matt for the fab Great Food magazine, celebratory beers were called for.

Also there was the wonderful Just Soaps Of The Earth with her stunning handmade soaps, creams, balms and all manner of treats to make you look and smell better. I couldn’t resist her Kitchen Soap and Patchouli shower gel so I currently smell like my 15 year old self, in a good way, not in a stinky teenager cider and fags way, hmmm actually I probably smell exactly like my 15 year old self.

One is edible, one will make you smell amazing

Ace to see so many lovely friends there with so many new brilliant products, were you there? Did you find something awesome?

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Pie Fest in Melton Mowbray

                                                                  Pie me!

Last Wednesday morning BBC Radio Leicester’s Ben Jackson and my fellow Radio Leicester Food Friday cook Penny, met at my cottage to prepare ourselves for a morning of pie eating. We had the enviable job of judging Best Pie in the first Melton Mowbray pie competition open to all the local pubs, cafes and restaurants. You can hear us eating and judging some of the pies on Ben’s show (about 1hr 41mins in).

Don’t we all looks so glamorous in our official pie eating garments?

It took over an hour to work our way through the pies that had made it onto the judging table and guided by Stephen Hallam, Melton Mowbray pie maker extraordinaire, we carefully analysed each pie on a number of strict criteria such as pastry thickness, texture of filling, amount of filling, quality of bake and of course flavour. Some pies that scored highly on one scored low on others and before the figures were added up for each one we really had no idea which one was going to win.

                                             Stephen Hallam and a couple of the pies

                                                        Penny and the winning pie

The winner turned out to be Miss B’s Tearooms Hedgerow pie that had a viennese pastry top and filled with blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and elderflower. It was a cracking little pie and served with a big dollop of clotted cream it was quite frankly bloody lovely!

The pie competition was the warm up for the weekend’s Pie Fest which took over the town’s market place. I headed there on Saturday for a couple of hours in the sunshine to talk and eat pie…

Ian from Hartland Pies with his kickass Melton Mowbray pork pie topped with his very own chilli jam

Luckily I arrived just as the festival opened and headed to Hartland Pies for some breakfast. Their pork and black pudding pie was the perfect solution to my breakfast yearnings but I was totally blown away by his chilli jam topped Melton Mowbray. His pastry is just out of this world, he did tell me the secret but if I told you I would obviously have to kill you so you will just have to buy one and try and work it out yourself 🙂 They had sold out of pies just 2 hours later!

 

                         The lovely Louise from Miss B’s Tearoom with her trophy

Food historian Matthew O’Callaghan gave talks about the history of the pie

Stephen Hallam gave Melton Mowbray pie making demos outside his shop all weekend

                                                       How to hand raise a pie

                                                          Jazz and pies…nice

Gorgeous freehand sewing machine tea cosies made by Createry Studio

                             Hey ladies, how YOU doin’? Mark works his magic

It was an ace way to spend a couple of hours and I’m gutted I had to dash off as I really quite fancied an afternoon sat in the sunshine eating pies, drinking ale and listening to jazz, but then again there is always next year and after the success of this year I reckon it’s going to be bigger and better again.

 

Rutland Food Festival

It was an early start for all the traders this morning on the windy shore of Rutland Water. We arrived bright and early to set up the Great Food Magazine stand, battled the wind and managed, thanks to Matt the editor’s diagram, to eventually erect a giant sail put up the gazebo and stake it down. I also managed to break my dress and have my boobs constantly fall out as I wrestled with the gusting winds that were intent on carrying the stand away (I think this combined with the bracing wind actually did the trick of perking waking me up).

                               The stand is up and there is a happy Glen

We battled with the wind but finally we had a stand, much to the relief of Glen who was still struggling to come to terms with having to get up at 7am on a Saturday morning (I had been up since 6am so my sympathy wasn’t forthcoming).

     The view from the Great Food Mag stand before the event opened, not too shabby ehy?

We had the most incredible view across the beautiful Rutland reservoir and before the show opened I managed to get around some of the other stands and catch up with a few of my favourite local producers. First stop was to see the wonderful Nicola aka Little Cakes, my absolute favourite cake maker, you should check out the photo shoot I did with her and her stunning wedding cakes.

There was the truly wonderful Hambleton Bakery who’s bread I adore and made sure I bought a loaf of their sourdough before the gates opened and they sold out (which they did after just a few hours).

                          Their brownies were just divine, if you see them BUY THEM

                               Their muffins and mini brioche made me food swoon

Also there was the brilliant Grainstore Brewery who make Rutland Bitter.  Like Melton Mowbray pork Pies and Stilton cheese Rutland Bitter actually has protected geographical status, it is only allowed to be brewed by one brewery and this HAS to be the largest one in the county. It’s only one of 3 beers in the entire country to have PDO status and a mighty lovely brew it is too!

Everyone got into the swing of things with the sun shining, the beer flowing and the bands playing. The wind had dropped to a gentle breeze and everyone kicked back and soaked up the good times.

                                     Everybody needs a bosom/dog for a pillow

There was lots of great meat to be had too, we were pitched next to Picks Organic Meats who make the most wonderful burgers that are packed full of deep beefy flavours.  I visit them quite often when they have their stall at Melton Market on Saturdays and have their own meat on sale plus wood pigeon, squirrel and more recent they also have fresh fish.

We had a lovely day catching up with fellow food lovers and discovered a cracking new band called By The Rivers who are based in Leicester, if you like your reggae and ska then you should definitely check them out. They’re a group of young lads with huge amounts of talent and have already supported The Specials. Yeah we had an ace day, even Glen who hates early mornings/daylight enjoyed himself which is basically the highest of accolades.

Wild Wood Pigeon, a Lemon Verbena Surprise and Glen gets naked…

Thursday morning and I’m in a bit of a flutter. I’m recording a baking session with Ben Jackson for BBC Radio Leicester in an hour, I’ve been frantically cleaning and mopping the kitchen and I’ve just discovered that Poppy Bumface (our kitten) is locked in the cottage next door and I can hear her crying through the wall. I’ve no idea what time my neighbour is coming home (or how she got in there for that matter) and I haven’t managed to prep any ingredients

Whilst I’m peering through the neighbour’s letterbox at a crying Poppy Bumface, (probably making her much more distressed) unbeknownst to me Boris Cat has brought a present into the kitchen. I return to find a flurry of grey and white feathers, a smug looking Boris Cat and a decapitated, still warm, plump wood pigeon on my freshly mopped floor. Feathers are stuck to the still wet floor, cupboards, fridge door and there is a little trail of blood leading to the back door. Brilliant.

Boris Cat, hunter extraordinaire

As bad as his timing was,two things are very impressive about this, 1: Boris wears not one but TWO bells on his collar and therefore sounds like a herd of reindeer as he moves (and looks like a feline Mr T.   2: The body of the wood pigeon was completely untouched, it was a clean kill, just the head removed which I don’t eat and the body presented to be by the oven. Couldn’t help but be massively impressed by this.

The back door was wide open and there on the doorstep stood my 2 chickens looking rather shaken at the murder they had clearly just witnessed! The last thing I wanted was for Ben to arrive into this scene of blood, feathers and traumatised chickens so I very quickly plucked the pigeon, removed the breasts, heart and lungs, popped them in the fridge and cleared the kitchen (and fed the chickens some hemp seeds and grapes to try and reassure them that all was well!).

Despite my somewhat flustered state the recording went well and if you want to listen click here. I am 1hr 41mins into the broadcast.

So I had 2 wonderfully plump wood pigeon breasts, a heart and liver, what to make? I just kept it really simple and pan fried it with butter, seasoning and sherry. A forage about in my garden delivered lots of edible leaves and flowers. By picking lots of different leaves and flowers I was able to try different combinations. It was absolutely beautiful. The big surprises were how incredible the combination of lemon verbena and pigeon was. The sharp herbal lemon twist just balanced the earthy pigeon and sweet sherry. The lovage leaves were another surprise combination that I’m going to be exploring. In fact everything was just delicious.  The liver was like the most delicate mousse, far superior to any chicken liver, more like foie gras. I’m guessing it’s down to the wood pigeons gorging themselves on the chicken corn and mash that I put out every day.

“Give me back my wood pigeon, I caught it, it’s MINE!”

Ingredients:

  • 2 plump wood pigeon breasts
  • 1 pigeon heart
  • 1 liver
  • big knob of butter
  • salt and pepper
  • sweet sherry (big splosh)

Salad leaves:

  • chard
  • wood sorrel
  • lovage
  • beetroot
  • lemon verbena
  • tarragon
  • fennel fronds
  • chives
  • nasturtium
  • celery
  • pea
  • lollo rosso
  • frisee
  • rocket

Flowers:

  • chives
  • fennel
  • viola
  • runner bean
  • rocket
  • borage
  • french bean
  • nasturtium

Method:

Melt the butter, season the breasts and fry for a couple of minutes each side. The outside was nice and caramelised but the inside still pink. Towards the end of cooking add the heart and liver, cook for a minute then add the sherry, flame and spoon the juices over the meat. Add chopped chives, transfer to a plate and rest for a couple of minutes. Arrange leaves and flowers on a plate, slice the breasts in half and place on the leaves along with the heart and liver and spoon over the juices from the pan.

It was such a beautiful afternoon in the garden, eating free food and drinking red wine. I even gave myself a whole hour off from working just to enjoy the garden with Glen…

Wood sorrel, my giant sunflower, courgette flower and my aces trainers 🙂

I don’t think Boris was ready for Glen doing some naked sunbathing though…

Boris can’t believe it when Glen starts stripping, no idea what he’s laughing at

Borage flowers at Sysonby Knoll

The borage field

I found myself on the other side of town at the Sysonby Knoll Hotel recently. I’ve been meaning to go for a while but it was a tweet from them that mentioned a borage field next to the hotel that clinched it. I’m a huge fan of edible flowers so the thought of a whole field was too much to resist, so off I went.

I could hear the borage field before I saw it, the gentle hum of thousands and thousands of honey bees drinking nectar guided me past 2 wooden hives to the most beautiful sight…

As I wandered through the humming field of blue and purple flowers I passed another of my favourite edible wild plants. For as long as I can remember we used to pull the stems of what we called Applesaps and suck the sour appley juice from the stems like straws. They taste just like wood sorrel and I’ve only just found out that their proper name is Himalayan Balsam and its thought of as a highly invasive weed! Their beautiful pink flowers are just stunning and look like orchids but more excitingly their pods explode when you touch them releasing their seeds! There was plenty of Meadowsweet growing along the riverbank too not to mention all the apple trees, sloes and a huge fig tree with a few plump figs hiding amongst the foliage.

I drifted around the beautiful grounds for about an hour and picked a few borage flowers to crystallise later.

Crystallising the borage flowers

The flowers are now carefully stored away for a rainy day that needs brightening up. It really was a lovely way to spend an hour, and when I look at my own precious solitary borage plant in my herb garden, it always reminds me of that sunny afternoon in the blue humming field of bees.

Cream Tea at Stapleford Park

I can’t believe its taken me nearly 3 years to finally get round to visiting Stapleford Park! It’s only about a five minute drive away from my cottage and since we visited on Tuesday I’ve been kicking myself for not going sooner.

My sister and her two children came to stay with me for a couple of days and asked what there was to do around Melton Mowbray. Aha! My sister loves big country houses so we piled into my car and headed out into the beautiful Leicestershire countryside in search of a cream tea.

On arrival we instantly knew it was somewhere really rather special. Beautiful landscaped gardens lead up to the most stunning hotel which just screams indulgence and pampering. My favourite room was the taxidermy room though, I’m a huge fan of dead animals hanging off walls!

The heady scent of lavender and freshly cut grass instantly had us ready to sit down, relax and soak up our surroundings (there are loads of really rather handsome chaps about  which was also rather nice!).

My niece Nyla took an instant shine to the giant chess set and was happily amused in her own little world whilst we got on with checking out the menu, confident that she will one day become a chess master as a result. Sarah and I both opted for the cream tea whilst my nephew Daniel opted for the rare roast beef sandwich which must have been good as it disappeared too quickly for me to try a taste!

The scones were lighter than light, the homemade strawberry compote was heavenly and the Cornish clotted cream was absolutely heavenly although I was a little disappointed to find it wasn’t local cream, Lubcloud dairy make the most wonderful thick cream that would have been just perfect. I could have also done with an extra scone too, 2 of those little beauties just wasn’t enough to scoop up all that lovely compote and cream! I went for a pot of lapsang souchong tea which was served in a beautiful heavy silver plated pot and the friendly (and immaculately dressed) staff happily provided lots of milk for my niece. At £9.50 per person the cream tea is not cheap but everything was beautifully made, the setting was perfect and to be able to wander the stunning grounds in the sunshine made it absolutely worth it.

We had the most wonderful afternoon at Stapleford Park, in fact once we got back to my cottage we vowed that next time we will stay the night (despite me only living 5 minutes away!) and take advantage of their amazing spa and swimming pool. I’m definitely bringing my Dad for a round of golf on their course next time he visits me, mostly because I want to drive around in their golf buggies but it’s been ages since I played golf and what a place to get back into the swing of things (sorry!).

So if you find yourself in the Melton Mowbray area and want to treat yourself then definitely get yourself over to Stapleford Park, in fact just treat yourself and stay there wherever you may be and take me with you!

My beautiful family:

Lets look at that divine cream tea again….

BBC Radio Leicester Food Friday team BBQ

Jo, myself, Ben, Penny and Holly

If you drop by this blog every now and again then you may know that I’m one of Ben Jackson’s Food Friday Team who cook on the radio every Friday afternoon at about 4:40pm on BBC Radio Leicester. Ben comes to our homes and we cook up something fabulous and easy for people to give a go themselves.

Yesterday we all met up at Ben’s beautiful home for a BBQ and all brought lovely homemade treats to eat. We had an absolute blast too…

The most AMAZING ribs ever

Ben had been slowly cooking his St Louis style ribs (when the sternum, cartilage and rib tips have been removed) marinated in Big Bob’s dry rub for 5 hours in his BBQ, oh my days they were absolute ribs of joy! He buys them from a chap down the road who breeds different pigs for different cuts. These ribs were just pure meat wrapped around juicy bone, hardly any fat and to die for.

rotisserie chicken on the BBQ

2 lovely free range chooks cooked on a rotisserie over the hot coals, just oozing flavour.

How many cooks does it take to carve a chicken? Well Ben and the 3 of us drooling it seems

Penny made some beautiful fougasse and I brought along one of my pig head and edible flower terrines. I’d found an old 15th Century recipe for a strange meat dish that says if you use brawn then you should add saffron so I added some for this one, hence the beautiful golden colour and it worked brilliantly.

Penny and her pizza, Ben’s fabulous Greek salad and the gorgeous Jo

Holly brought along a pea and halloumi salad, Penny made a jelly baby shaped jelly for the kids (which somehow collapsed and actually looked like a fabulous pair of jelly boobies) and Ben’s grandmother made the most beautifully light meringues.

Ben and BBC Radio Leicester gardening guru Ady Dayman have been busy building and tending the Grow Your Own Garden for a feature that ben does with his show that encourages people to give it a go.

Oh ribs I love you

Edible flowers featured heavily in the pretty menu.

Jo made a beautiful chocolate and beetroot roulade that was just wonderful (I must get that recipe!). I brought along one of my Melton Mess (which as you can see has collapsed a bit!) and a big jar of homemade vanilla sea salted caramel sauce that was literally just being guzzled straight from the jar!

Meat Feast

Photo shoot with Little Cakes

God I love Twitter!  I meet so many wonderful people through it (and can easily waste spend hours on it chatting away.  One of my fave ladies is  Nicola Denbigh aka Little Cakes who is based in Uppingham so I was really excited when she asked me to style and shoot some of her wedding cakes. They really are works of art so I used this as a theme for the shoot.

How striking is this black wedding cake? My fella even likes it and believe me for him to like a wedding cake that isn’t made entirely out of A: cheese or B: pies is pretty damn impressive!

Our location was the stunning Falcon Hotel in Uppingham which is being lovingly restored to its former glory by its owners and is a wonderful wedding venue.

‘Liana’ – Five tier round & hexagonal cakes with handpainted gold detailing and handmade wired flowers

‘Isla’ – Double height square cake with hand painted pearls and large wired bloom

You can see more of the shoot over on my Facebook photography page and Little Cakes Facebook page

Thoughtful Bread

 I was born in Bath and whenever I head back for a visit I become so terribly homesick for many reasons, but one of them is the abundance of fantastic bread there.  I don’t know why but great bread is really thin on the ground round my way.  The upside of this though is that I bake quite a bit of my own, which I love doing, but my oven has a mind of its own (and its a bit of a nightmare) so it would be so lovely to have fantastic sourdough bread readily available.

I first heard about The Thoughtful Bread Company last year through BBC 2’s The Big Bread Experiment in which founder Duncan Glendinning and head baker Patrick Ryan help a Yorkshire community set up their own bakery.  I knew that they had a stall in Bath’s Green Park Station so vowed to visit them.  I did just that last year and was not only really impressed by their amazing breads and cakes (oh my god their cakes!) but by the guys that make up the company itself. Ross was running the stall that day and we got chatting about the company and their eco-friendly business. Not only are they absolutely lovely guys but their passion for bread is really inspiring.

Ross at the Thoughtful Bread stand last year

 So when I headed off to Bath last week for my big sister’s birthday I made sure I popped over to see them once more. It was only 12:30pm by the time I got to the Farmer’s Market at Green Park Station and met up with Ross but he was already sold out. Gutted. All was not lost though because Thoughtful Bread had a pop up cafè in The Guildhall for 2 weeks during the Bath Literary Festival – HOORAY!

Ross and Duncan were busy behind their counter and their cafè was a quirky mix of mismatched crockery, hay bale seating and trestle tables all surrounded by their gorgeous breads.

How beautiful do these loaves look? They make so many variations of loaves depending on what’s in season – cider, beetroot, walnut, wild garlic – all beautifully made and most importantly tasting amazing.

Flatbreads for homemade dips

Oh and their cakes really are something special. “Try our gluten free spiced orange cake” said Ross.  For some reason I avoid gluten free cakes but I won’t anymore.  The wheat flour had been replaced by ground almonds and the sweet, sticky orange cake was absolute heaven. Their Guinness cake, although I didn’t try it, completely inspired my Guinness free Guinness cake that I made for my Domestic Sluttery posting on Friday and those chocolate and raspberry tarts are just beyond delicious.

Gluten free spiced Orange and Almond, Guinness cake and Dark chocolate and raspberry tarts....swoon

They even have a book so you can make their breads at home!

I bought one of their sourdough loaves to take back to my sister’s later that day.

I stopped off on my way back that afternoon to pick some wild garlic so I could have my favourite Spring treat…sourdough, wild garlic and cheese sandwiches – hell yeah! Plus my gorgeous niece Nyla tried wild garlic for the first time and loved it!

 Nyla gave their sourdough an almighty thumbs up too!

So if you find yourself in Bath make sure you head to see the fab fellows of The Thoughtful Bread Company, say hello from me, try their goodies and stock up.  Oh, and if you happen to be heading up to Melton Mowbray, bring me a loaf too!

And no, they haven’t paid me to say all these lovely things about them!

The EDL march through Leicester

On Saturday the English Defence League came to Leicester, they hired coaches and came by train.  They were not wanted, but its all good as we had The Force on our side…

Using the Force for a peaceful day in Leicester

2200 police officers were in Leicester yesterday.

This guy was making balloon creations and handing them out around the Clock Tower

They screamed "who are ya?" repeatedly as they marched past us, someone should point out that the correct English is "you"

Police moving to block another road and one of the many ridiculous signs the EDL littered the city with

A bus heading for Southsea takes a wrong turn and is met with an unexpected sight.

Pauls Bakery

 Paul’s Soyfoods are entirely organic and in addition to delivering fresh fruit and veg around the country also bake 6 days a week.  I spent an hour one morning watching the two bakers at work, it was fast, unrelenting and beautifully coordinated work and I was really struck by how tactile the whole process was. There are quite a few more photos to come over the next couple of days as I get around to it and I will be heading back to photograph them making their own tofu and tempeh soon.

Bath Farmer’s Market visit

Thoughtful Bread at Bath farmer’s Market sell the most delicious breads and cakes!  Unfortunately I arrived quite late to the market but I was still able to grab a Beetroot loaf (I will definitely be making these in future), a Cider Loaf (amazing!) and a Walnut and Raisin loaf (fantastic, my absolute favourite) and not forgetting the most beautifully indulgent Chocolate Raspberry tart (it didn’t even make it as far as the car!).

I adore cheese and last year was the year I discovered Homewood Cheese who make stunning cheeses using sheep’s milk.  What was even more lovely was that despite having never met them before I was greeted with a very friendly: “Hello Hazel”!  It was really lovely to finally meet Tim and Angela at the market as I’m quite often to be heard singing the praises of their cheese on Twitter! Tim is the cheese man and he met his partner Angela at a Farmer’s Market where she sells her fantastic preserves.  Their fresh cheese tart only made it as far as the car also!

This lovely chap travels up from Dorset each month to the market.  I bought some Venison faggots from him and they were absolutely delicious!