We got down there nice and early, as they had a Farmers Market and the restaurants in the centre giving out free tastings - yum! In total they had over 35 stalls packed with the highest quality, locally sourced produce. They also had a live cookery theatre. The two 'celebrity chefs' that would be cooking through the day was Sophie Grigson (one of the UK's best known, best selling food writers and broadcasters) and Russell Clement (winner of BBC2's 'The Restaurant'). They also had chefs from various different restaurants in Eden demonstrating throughout the day.
Unfortunately, we didn't have the time to spend the whole day down in Eden, but we did manage to watch Sophie's first appearance in the cooking theatre. This was all about breakfast. The first was a healthy kick start to your morning - Bircher Muesli with Nuts and Apple Juice. This was dead simple and easy to make. Rolled oats soaked in apple juice, with grated apple, Greek style yogurt, Honey, chopped Macadamia Nuts and topped with a selection of fresh fruit (Strawberries, Blueberries and Apricots).
One of the things that Sophie is known for, is for her passion on healthy food for children. She interacted with the audience as she shared her passion. She is a big believer in not cooking separate meals for children, and to cook one meal for the whole family. Why not? Too many times you hear nowadays about people not sitting down and eating the same meal together. I believe in what she says. This way children will learn more about food and have a wider knowledge of food. As Sophie says, the only thing you may need to do when cooking one meal for the family is to reduce the amout of chilli you may be using.
Talking of chillies... there was a stall being occupied by Chillies2U. They are a small farm in Oxfordshire that organically grows a range of chillies. They also make a range of chillis sauces - which along with the actual chillies are available mail order. This is one of the products that Sophie spotted as she walked around the farmers market and decided to add in an extra recipe to her demonstration. The other product that Sophie spotted was Chiltern Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil (the same that I picked up at the Farm Shop when I went fruit picking).
I'm not sure what the name of this particular recipe was, so I'm going to call it Mexican Breakfast Eggs. This was a super quick breakfast to make - and probably perfect if you are little worse for wear from the night before. She fried two eggs in the rapeseed oil. When they were almost done she added into the pan some chopped chilli (she used Joes Long from Chillies2U) and two chopped cloves of garlic. She then basted the eggs with the oil, chilli and garlic and squirted in the juice of a lime. The eggs were then plated up, sprinkled with chopped coriander and seasoned with salt and pepper.
For her final demonstration - it was something special. I had been waiting for her to do this all morning. She was making one of my favourite indulgences - Peanut Butter. But this was not just any ordinary Peanut Butter. Oh no. It was Honey Cinnamon Cashew Nut Butter mmmm. This is something that I HAVE to make and soon. Again this was another simple and quick recipe. It was just roasted cashew nuts whizzed in a food processor along with honey cinnamon and a touch of salt. Then just gradually poured in rapeseed oil until the mixture is thick and creamy. You can then just put this into a jar and use. I was lucky enough to be able to taste some of it, and wow, its was creamy, thick, stuck to the roof of your mouth the the taste of honey and cinnamon exploding in your mouth. I know this may sound wrong with it being August - but it tasted of Christmas (note to self - remember to make for presents this Christmas). I will let you know how I get on when I make it.
I have to give it to Sophie, she was great. Her enthusiasm and passion is infectious when you watch and listen to her. She tells many stories, and gives lots of tips and advise out while she is cooking.
It was then on to do a bit of shopping. The first stall we came to was Flour Power, must have had the biggest range of breads I have ever seen. We purchased a great Rustic Rye loaf, which we had for dinner in the evening with a Ploughman's. As we went up to the stall for Hare Hatch Sheeplands, my Mum something she hadn't had for a very long time. Lardy Cake. I've never had this before, so quickly took a free sample to try. It was sweet, sticky, gooey and delicious. So that was it, we had one of them. I was told it tasted much better and was more sticky and gooey if it is warmed in the oven. OMG they were right, I must find a recipe for Lardy Cake. It's definitely not for the health conscious - so be warned.
We then came across The Complete Pig. They hand make pork products from a herd of free ranging Duroc Pigs. They are based in Watlington, Oxfordshire. So went for some of there sausage rolls. When I got home and tried them, they must be the best tasting sausage rolls that I have eaten for a long time. There was no horrible paste in the middle of them, but proper coarse pork meat, seasoned very well and tasted totally different, but way better, than your normal sausage roll. We also picked up some of their dry cure streaky bacon, which I had for breakfast this morning. I have to say when it was cooked, the bacon did look a little unappetising. It was a more grey/brown colour, and I wasn't too optimistic. As the saying goes - don't judge a book by its cover. The taste was (this may sound strange) very meaty and tender. I have to say it was some very good bacon, one I will be happily buying again.
We then went to the stall of Manor Farm Game. I had some of their sausages brought back for me from this years Game Fair. They were Duck & Orange, Venison & Red Wine and Wild Boar and Apple. I haven't tried these yet, but I have some good ideas how I am going to use them. While at the stall I had a taste of their Pheasant & Pear Sausages. They were meaty, juicy and very moreish. So I had to grab a pack of them as well. The final place that we purchased something from was Give Me Cake. It was such a delightful stall with delightful looking cakes. From dainty looking cupcakes, to loaf cakes and various treats. We picked up a couple of slices of Yorkshire Parkin. I'll have that a little later with a slice of cheese and cup of tea.
Overall I think it was a fantastic event, and looking forward to next years. Not everyone has the opportunity or possibility to go out and purchase food from local farmers, growers and producers. So to bring these producers into the town centre for everyone to have access to is great. Not only does it educate and share seasonal produce with the public so they can eat healthier and better produce, but in these current economic times, we should be doing everything we can to help the smaller farmers and producers. After all not so long ago, we didn't go to these gigantic supermarkets to buy everything in one place - we went to individual retailers. I also think they the food festival proves one thing - at Farmer's Markets you are buying much better quality produce. It looks better. It smells better. It tastes better. That's because these people really care for what they create, and that comes through their food. One thing that did surprise me, was the price of everything. I was expecting some of the products to be 'over-priced', but I was pleasantly surprised. No some of the things that you could purchase were not as cheap as a supermarket. But for the quality of the produce there, the prices I thought were reasonable. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for.
Now I am really looking forward to 19th September. It's the first official Farmers Market, which will be on the 3rd Saturday of every month. It is a being organised by The Thames Valley Farmers Market Co-operative, and will be great to see more local produce. I'll blog then to let you know what it is like.