A LOOK BACK AT A GREAT SUMMER FESTIVAL
By Ann Evans
Photos courtesy of Rob Tysall, Tysall’s Photography
As the chilly autumn weather sets in, I thought a look back at one of summer’s events was in order. And one of the really enjoyable events that took place around the country was the Great British Food Festival. I went along to the festival at Warwickshire’s Ragley Hall where I met the organiser, Danny Maycock.
Dragging him away from his stint on the outdoor bar, Danny told me, “It’s always a nice atmosphere when the sun is shining. There’s music and food – and people just love that.”
The Great British Food Festivals are very much family affairs with Danny, his brother Nick and his wife Janine running the events along with additional assistance from other relatives and good friends.
“We’ve been running these festivals for five years now and this is our second time at Ragley Hall,” said Danny. “We currently organise seven festivals a year, all around the country. It is hard getting everything organised, but you can tweak as you go. No two festivals are the same but there’s always something for all the family.
“We started in a field in Cheshire. The sun came out and people seemed to enjoy it. So we took it to different places and it just grew. Of course you’re always at the mercy of the British weather!”
Danny likes to use local musicians and local chefs, so that they can show off their talent and their wares, as well as having more well known chefs take part whenever possible.
The crowds certainly descended upon Ragley Hall which is a stunning place to visit in its own right. Dating back to 1680 the impressive hall stands at the heart of the 6,500 acre Ragley Estate. It’s open to the public on certain days when you can explore the 400 acre gardens and take a guided tour of the stately home itself.
Amongst the fun and games going on at the festival, was the popular Man v Food challenge. Competitors had a variety of culinary challenges and we watched (with glee!) four daring young men who were competing to eat the hottest and most spiciest of foods.
They ate their way through Tabasco popping candy, birds eye chillies, pure chill extract and various other steaming hot and spicy ingredients. One by one the challengers gave up, and it was an ‘eat off’ between Mark from Cincinnati USA and Coventry man Sean. After a gruelling heat – pardon the pun, local contender, Sean came tops. He won a T shirt and a lot of prestige!
Wandering around the stalls you could try all kinds of different foods and drinks including ostrich cooked by Nick Hill from Sheffield, who seemed to be getting positive reactions from those enjoying the ostrich burgers. You could sample some Afghanistan Delight, with delicacies such as lamb kafta and lamp dumplings.
There was a taste of the tropics with Coconut Connoisseurs, who started their cocktail venture just a few months previously. Lloydon Alleyne and Natasha McLeod-White, who live in London come originally from Grenada in the Caribbean. They were making delicious spiced rum cocktails, and lime, pineapple and mint cocktails in the coconuts. But could I get the recipe? No. Sadly it was a trade secret!
If beer was more your tipple, then the Parched Bar owned by Darren Derrick and Beverley Coldrick had some really unusual beers, lagers and ciders. Darren said, “We look for anything that is unusual. If you can’t get it in the mainstream outlets, then we want to stock it. We’ve come across all sorts of small producers in this country and abroad such as Japan and Cuba.
Chef’s demonstrations are always popular and one particularly quirky item was ‘Paula’s Cooking in the Camper. Which was precisely what she was doing, or rather cooking just outside her camper so everyone could watch and see what she could conjure up on just a simple camper van stove.
Paula explained how it all started. “My husband Gordon, nicknamed ‘G’ is a photographer and surfer, so our daughter, Princess, our dog, Jessica, Gordon and I travel all over this country and parts of Europe in our Volkswagon camper van which we fitted out ourselves. Often we’d be left in the camper while Gordon is off surfing or doing his photography. I would be cooking and people would ask me what I was cooking. I said well you all have a cooker in your vans, so I would give them different ideas and show them how to cook really simple, tasty meals. We’ve been doing this for six years now and we do lots of shows.”
The Great British Food Festival shows are over for this year, but happily the dates are being set for 2016. Here’s some to be going on with. But keep an eye on their website for news of further events.
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