Graze The Vale food festival in the Vale of Belvoir

graze the vale of belvoir

The perfect antidote to Sunday’s Melton’s Cheese fair at the cattle market was the very first Graze The Vale food festival that took place on the Bank Holiday Monday on the Belvoir (pronounced beaver *chortle*) Castle estate. Glorious sunshine and the beautiful location of Vale House were home to artisan producers of cakes, pies, chocolate, teas, organically reared meat and other culinary delights.

graze the vale

I took Glen along to help put up the Great Food Magazine gazebo as Matt the editor was away sunning himself on holiday, even Glen had a brilliant day out which is no mean feat for a sun shy grumpy old man ūüėČ

hartland pies graze the vale

I was over the moon to see Ian and Nic from Heartland Pies ¬†which meant breakfast pies were in order. Heartland Pies are the only Melton Mowbray pork pie maker to use outdoor bred pork, their farmer is just up the road who rears all their pigs then Ian butchers them himself and then joined by wife Nic and sons Luke and Adam they turn them into wonderful pies. You’d be surprised how rare this is when it comes to Melton Mowbray pork pies who tend to use intensive farming systems for their pork, I long for a free range Melton Mowbray pork pie to come onto the market. Glen, who doesn’t even like sausage rolls, will happily snaffle up a couple of Heartland jumbo rolls which meant it was a porky breakfast for both of us. WIN.

graze the vale

Next to Heartland Pies was the Bluebird Tea Company who I rather fell in love with. They hand blend black, green, fruit, herbal and flower teas in all manner of incarnations. I bought their caffeine free rhubarb and custard and that was it for me, hooked. They are a young couple who are passionate about flavour and quality and even run a tea tasting club where you can get different teas posted out to you every month.

silvio graze the vale

The wonderfully exuberant Silvio was there with his Italian hog roast, Roast Events, this my friends was also really rather bloody brilliant, he marinaded the pig in herbs including fennel, garlic and onion and gently slow roasted it overnight, the stuffing was cooked in the perfumed rendered roasting juices and the crackling was crisp and addictive, yep, more aceness, more piggy delights.

coffee chocolate graze the vale

Not content with pies, teas and Italian hog roast I headed over to see Jerome who along with his wife run With Chocolate just up the road in Eaton. They source, temper, blend, design, package and produce the most heavenly chocolate, their banoffee truffle bar is a thing of absolute bloody beauty.

graze the vale food festivl

Picks Organic were there selling gorgeous meat reared on their farm or for something from a bit further afield there was kangaroo, elk and crocodile from their neighbour to get stuck into. ¬†Thaymar ice creams were also there with their cute little van as were Sophie’s Flower Company and The Waltham Deli selling Hambleton Bakery pecan buns (AMAZING) and other hardcore indulgent delights.

graze the vale food festival

The beautiful Lara and her equally gorgeous Vale House which was home to the festival

It was a really chilled out, friendly festival, accompanied by great music (Edith Piaf and other sunshine happy music tinkled away in the background) and ace visitors and stall holders, the only thing missing was a beer tent but Lara is on the case for next year. Once the day was over and just us stall holders remained packing things away, Lara told us the news that not only had Silvio put a couple of legs of lamb in the hog roaster for everyone but she also broke out the ice cold beer and champagne from her own fridge, I bloody love this woman! As we all drank ice cold beer in the hot sun and chatted about what a fab day it had been I realised that it had been something really quite special, bring on next year ūüôā

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Melton Mowbray Cheese Fair 2013

melton mowbray, cheese fair

 

Last weekend saw the return of the Melton Mowbray Cheese Fair (I’d link to the website but it still only has a list of last year’s exhibitors), it’s actually billed as the “artisan” cheese fair but many of the exhibitors could hardly be called artisan, Long Clawson for example makes over 6,700 tonnes of cheese a year and I’ve worked in one of the other cheese factories that were there and they are about as far from “artisan” as you can get.

Artisan: (from the Oxford English Dictionary)

noun

  • a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.
  • [as modifier]¬†(of food or drink) made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients:¬†Britain‚Äôs artisan cheeses

There were much fewer cheese exhibitors this year, many of the artisan producers that were there last year were absent this time round bar a handful, but with the term “artisan” being used so loosely to include huge cheese manufacturers I don’t really blame them for wanting to distance themselves from something that devalues the true meaning of the word so carelessly.

I went along on the Sunday and was pretty shocked, not by the lack of small producers which I’d kinda expected but by the sheer rudeness of so many of the show’s visitors. It seemed entirely appropriate that it was held in a cattle market as people paid their ¬£1 entrance fee many pushed and shoved and grabbed greedily at samples before just walking off. Everyone I spoke to in the days following the event said the same thing: “we saw people literally grabbing the knives off the tables and hacking lumps of cheese off from the producer’s tables and then just walking away.” It was depressing. Full credit to the traders though who I think must have all taken some super smiley pills because they were all incredible gracious and friendly in the face of such rudeness. I would have had people leaving my stall with toothpicks protruding from their eyes and hands after several hours of this so huge respect to all of them.

I gave up on moving around the stalls after my desire to whip out a cattle prod grew too intense and opted for a pint of Natterjack cider to calm me down, then an ale and watched the Melton Ukelele Orchestra who were absolutely ace, they played Paint it Black by The Rolling Stones and it totally made my day.

Things had quietened down a bit by then (perhaps the morris dancing had something to do with it) so I headed round the stalls to talk cheese. It was great to see David from Sparkenhoe there again (middle left on the picture above), THIS my friends is what Red Leicester is meant to taste like, its nutty, creamy, unpasturised and made on their farm using their own herd. Unsurprisingly the hands down flavour winners of the day were the unpasturised (raw milk) cheeses, of which I bought about 8 different ones (Keens cheddar, Chorlton smoked and unsmoked Cheshire,¬†Laverstock buffalo mozzarella, Teifi’s Celtic promise, and 2 from the same producer whom I can’t remember the name of) which were all wonderful but my favourite of the day was Kent’s Winterdale Shaw which is Britain’s first carbon neutral cheese. Next time I’m down in Kent I’m going to head over to see them, they are a lovely family making great cheese using their own cows, just the kind of people and cheese that make this country’s food heritage something to be proud of.

There aren’t many photos to accompany this post as I pretty much just wanted to get out of there. It’s a real shame as it has the potential to be a good food fair, just drop the word Artisan or ONLY have true artisan products, get out of the cattle market and into a field with some marquees, have lots of other micro breweries, cider makers, artisan bakers, pie makers and celebrate food that is made with love and care and not forgetting MUCH more of the ukelele orchestra ūüôā

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?

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 ūüôā 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.

Leicester Winter Food Festival

 

 

There were an awful lot of cake and cupcake stalls, I guess this is down to shows like the Great British Bake Off. There were some really nice cakes about but so many stalls had pretty much the same things

Even dogs?

Total highlight was Vila Brasil’s amazing Brazilian street food. The Salt Cod croquettes were so light and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. ¬†I became quite addicted to everything: