Weekend Food Festivals

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Weekend Food Festivals!

Weekend Food Festivals
This weekend sees a Cherry Fair in Faversham,  the Scythe & Cider Festival in Ardingly (Sussex), and food festivals in Knutsford, Leigh and Church Knowle (both in Dorset), Oundle and Braintree. Plus chilli celebrations in Swindon and Penrith.

This weekend’s big event is the Merthyr Tydfil Food Festival (today only).

SCOTLAND – sorry, nothing on until next weekend.

Lots of food & craft producers at the Castlewellan Agricultural Show (today only).

We have a duckpond market in Ruislip.

Have a good one,

The Taster

See COOK for seasonal cooking ideas, or CALENDAR for more foodie events this month.

Food Festivals Weekend 10 July 2015

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Food Festivals Weekend
10 July 2015

England – this food festivals weekend includes festivals in Wetherby, Brampton Bryan (Herefordshire), Oswestry, Petersfield, and Shugborough; chilli-themed events in Christchurch (Dorset), Shoreham and Rolleston; Grillstock in Bristol; a seafood festival in Weymouth; and a Saturday Beer Fest, and Sunday Feast, in Great Shelford (Cambs); plus a picnic in Preston, on the sea front, on Sunday (no website).

Wales – It’s the big one: International Food & Drink Fest at Cardiff Bay, starting today

Northern IrelandColeraine holds its speciality market at the Town Hall.

Scotland – We have ‘Meet the Makers’ Craft & Food Fest in Inverness.

London – oddly, we can’t find any festivals this weekend for you. Sorry about that :( — but we can tell you that the Kerb streetfood wizards are on today at King’s Cross and West India Quay; see their homepage to find out exactly where they’re heading each day; there are also duckpond markets on Saturday and Sunday in Pinner and Richmond, respectively.

Nationally – A big barbecuing weekend!
See BBQ for Cancer Research UK

3 July 2015 Food Festivals This Weekend

Food Festivals This Weekend

The Taster Magazine Weekly Update: Food Festivals This Weekend

A foodie July features a cancer research BBQ weekend (11-12th), Battle of Britain anniversary (12th – scroll down), National Cherry Day (16th) and the start of National Fishing Month (26th onwards)

Today & all weekend sees the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery  and, in London, the Foodies Festival in Alexandra Palace and the Love Natural Love Organic show in Olympia. In Scotland, The Scottish Game Fair is on in Perth and, today and tomorrow only, the Food Festival in Stornoway (Western Isles).

Saturday features the Food Fair in Limavady, NI; A Taste of Hampshire in Sparsholt and the Vegan Festival in Newcastle.

Sunday offers the Bic Picnic in the Park in Droitwich and Seafood Festival in Cardigan Bay.

All weekend
The Cotswold Show & Food Fest takes place in Cirencester; Seaton Sluice sees the North East Chilli Fest; and Scotland sees a Seafood Fest on in Loch Fyne.

Looking ahead . . .
Battle of Britain ChocolateJust a thought but, if you like chocolate (or know someone military who does), Wickedly Welsh has launched two luxury chocolate bars (in association with the RAF Association) to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain on 12 July. The bars come in ‘Tea and Biscuits’ and ‘Rhubarb Crumble & Custard’ flavours; or for a more special gift there is a RAF gift hamper (£35.99). Find the specific “Chocs Away” range HERE. To learn more, visit RAF Association

Hope there’s something in there for you; have a good one!

The Taster

Click on COOK for seasonal cooking ideas, or on our CALENDAR for further foodie events this month.

26 June 2015 Food Festivals This Weekend

Food Festivals This Weekend

The Taster Magazine Weekly Update: Food Festivals This Weekend

Today & all weekend sees the Malt & Music Fest on the Isle of Arran and the Bristol Foodies Fest (startingtoday)

Saturday features the Fish Fest at Milford Haven and Summer Food Fest at Hay-on-Wye

Sunday offers the Jewish Food Festival in Golders Green, World Egg Throwing Championship in Thorpe Latimer (Lincs) and further food festivals in Burnham and Northallerton

All weekend
In Northern Ireland is the Irish Game Fair in Shanes Castle, Randalstown and a Sea Festival (with food fayre) in Bangor. Across the water are a couple of chilli-themed events — Cheese & Chilli in Basingstoke and Wild Food & Chilli in Maldon, Essex. Plus more food festivals in Morden (London), Colchester and Shrewsbury, plus another at Shobdon Airfield (near Leominster) with aerial display

Hope there’s something in there for you; have a good one!

The Taster

Click on COOK for seasonal cooking ideas, or on our CALENDAR for further foodie events this month.

Blog 8 June 2015 – Traditional picnic food

Traditional picnic food

The Taster Magazine Update: Traditional picnic food

At last, picnic weather! The Wind in the Willows (featuring Toad of Toad Hall) is one of our favourite books. It may or may not be coincidence that it also sheds much light on the constituents of what used to be a traditional British diet for genteel folk. It begins on the very first page, where Mole intimidates some officious rabbits by shouting “Onion-sauce!” (just as a more recent joke involved singing about mint sauce and lambs). A few pages more, and Rat invites Mole on a picnic:

[Ratty] reappeared staggering under a fat wicker luncheon-basket.

“Shove that under your feet,” he observed to the Mole, as he passed it down into the boat. Then he untied the painter and took the sculls again.

“What’s inside it?” asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity.

“There’s cold chicken inside it,” replied the Rat briefly:

“O stop, stop!” cried the Mole in ecstasies. “This is too much!”

“Do you really think so?” enquired the Rat seriously. “It’s only what I always take on these little excursions; and the other animals are always telling me that I’m a mean beast and cut it very fine!”

Note the absence of, for example, boiled eggs, whole tomatoes, cheese, and much variety of sandwich. Instead, Ratty balances five types of meat (chicken, tongue, ham, beef and potted meat) with cress sandwiches, gherkins and salad. Which, plus some bread and soft drinks, makes up the entire picnic.

‘Cold cuts’ certainly used to be far more popular than they are today. In The Taster’s opinion, this seems inextricably linked to the equally declining popularity of Sideboards and Dressers: those large, impressive, old-fashioned pieces of furniture used to store crockery, cutlery and glassware; and which doubled up as surfaces upon which to display buffets, cold collations, or any other form of help-yourself feast.

The main problem with these pieces of furniture is their old-fashioned air and their size. Until very recently, the desire for spacious rooms was tempered by the need to keep warm and cosy, and no-one seemed to mind cramming huge dressers into teeny parlours. But we wonder, now that we have kitchen-diners, open-plan sitting-rooms and so on, whether – coupled with the fashion for shabby-chic – a resurgence in both the Sideboard and the Cold Collation is not due. The Cold Collation is very cook-friendly, since nothing has to be kept warm; most of it can be prepared in advance; and it is an excellent way of presenting thrifty leftovers. It is more or less a lovely indoor picnic, in fact. For a retro feast that is much easier to prepare than it looks, we would suggest this – and it can be adapted for al fresco dining (perhaps without the trifle):

Cold sliced meat (however many types you like. This can include deli meats)
One large sliced pork pie
One platter of quails’ eggs dipped in celery salt
One platter smoked salmon
One large sliced quiche
Sausage rolls (if you can warm these in the oven just beforehand, they are extra nice)
A basket of freshly torn baguette pieces (ditto)
Tomato salad, with onion and white wine vinegar
Potato salad, with chives and fresh herbs
One large trifle
One plateful of brandy-snaps stuffed with whipped cream
Stilton, Snowdonia ‘Green Thunder’ Cheddar & celery sticks or grapes
A basket of whole apples
A bowl of fresh strawberries

Hope you’ve enjoyed this. If you like what we write, consider subscribing.


Found a new funny vid, warning against the perils of TOO MUCH DRINK, for our YouTube channel. Try this:

Have a great Tuesday,

The Taster

PS click on COOK for seasonal cooking ideas, or on our CALENDAR for foodie events this month.

Blog 19 May 2015 – Summer Issue

Tomato Week!

The Taster Magazine (Nearly) Daily Update: Summer Issue

Just to let you know, The Taster Magazine is now coming up to its 2015 Summer Issue. This eighth issue marks the end of two years of intense (highly enjoyable) food & publishing activity; and it is never more intense than, as now, when The Final Deadline looms up rather in the  manner of, as Douglas Adams might have put it, a brick wall placed across a motorway.

Online publishing, social media and blogs, always allow for the retrospective edit, the second thought, the alarmed retraction. The held headline can, by and large, always be reinstated. But paper-publishing allows no such flexibility; the only method of amendment is to pulp the issue.

Just to thoroughly mix the metaphors, online publishing is like making pasta sauce, where you stir, simmer, adjust, and keep on adjusting all afternoon if you like. Paper publishing is a soufflé: once the eggs are in and baking, that’s it. All you can do is pray.

Anyway. This is somewhat in the nature of an excuse/apology. We’re going to ease off the blogs and other social media for the rest of this week, just while we’re finishing off the issue/brick wall/soufflé. Hopefully it’ll be worth it – with pieces about spices (their history, and how to use them), what billionaires eat on holiday, quite a lot about artichokes, hake, rabbits, raspberries and apricots, and a general emphasis on sun, holidays and picnics. Regarding the spices, we should just add that carrying out the taste tests (fish curry, lamb curry, tempura vegetables, cinnamon biscuits, mmm!) has been an absolute joy and we hope to inspire you to try out and enjoy the home cooking kits we found.


Since it’s Tomato Week, click on our Tomato Crib sheet:

Summer IssueHave a great week,

The Taster

Click on COOK for seasonal cooking ideas, or on our CALENDAR for foodie events this month.

Blog 15 May 2015 – Food Revolution Day

Happy Food
Revolution Day!

The Taster Magazine (Nearly) Daily Update: Food Revolution Day

THERE will always be those who insist that You Can’t Tell Me How To Feed My Kids. Throughout history, protesting voices have been raised against the teaching of science, religion, geography, sex education, and even whether lessons ought to be conducted in a language that pupils could understand, as opposed to French or Latin. If a strong tradition of home cooking had managed to survive the ration-books of World War II, those protests might have a point. But — to be blunt — it didn’t. Instead of the Roast Beef of Old England, the thing that impressed most visitors to British shores, postwar, was the terrible and all-permeating scent of boiled-to-death cabbage.

Perhaps I exaggerate. And as Editor of The Taster, and as a parent, I do try to involve my two younglings in the kitchen. But I will be only too pleased to have some hapless teacher shoulder part of the burden. Like many parents, I juggle work and family and it’s often hard to squeeze everything in. The current rule is Sunday mornings are Cooking Time: I cook Sunday Lunch, and the tinies wash vegetables, peel carrots, make pastry and mix cake ingredients. We talk about fats, carbs, protein and vitamins. Lovely and relaxed, yes? What an aspirational family, eh? No. Sunday mornings — or at least, midday until 2.30pm — used to be a lovely respite. For me. The format was: family banned from the kitchen. Recipe books ranged up. Radio 4. Notebook. Glass of wine for Chef, and away I went. But now? It is a long, increasingly fractious period of instruction, clarification, moderation and emergency interventions. I spend a fair amount of time wondering how a child can, with a mere flick of a wooden spoon, propel almost an entire bowl of cake mix flying out on the kitchen floor. Perhaps he’ll grow up to be a champion javelin-hurler. Then again, perhaps he won’t. Either way, after an hour, I’ve had enough; but is an hour a week sufficient to transmit the art of cooking from one generation to the next?

Being a good cook yourself is no guarantee of success. My own mother was an excellent, ambitious cook who prepared French dishes and four-course meals on an almost daily basis. It was all tremendously impressive, and could not possibly have been achieved with children cluttering up the kitchen. So I learned precisely nothing apart from how to set a table; it wasn’t until I reached my late twenties that an appalled boyfriend insisted I try to follow a recipe, rather than just making a sandwich. (I made a lemon pasta by Nigel Slater. It was life-changing. I spent the next six months reading recipe books as if they were novels, often on the tube and train as I commuted to work.)

Jamie’s Food Revolution Day (click and sign his petition) is an attempt to have proper, compulsory practical cookery taught at school. I hope, very much, the project succeeds. Because if anyone at my children’s school wants to go through the hell of teaching an entire classful of tinies how to bake a cake, they will have nothing from me except my gratitude and support.

Here’s Jamie with his own message:

Find more foodie vids on our YouTube channel. Have a great Friday and weekend,

Food Revolution DayCatrin T-P


Click on COOK for seasonal cooking ideas, or on our CALENDAR for foodie events this month.

Blog 12 May 2015 – Best Of Jane Grigson

Best Of Jane Grigson

The Taster Magazine (Nearly) Daily Update: The Best Of Jane Grigson

Best of Jane GrigsonENOUGH of politics. 25 years ago Jane Grigson died, sadly aged just 62, after an amazingly successful life in food writing. One indicator of how successful it was is the fact that the French, no less, translated her book on Charcuterie & French Pork Cookery into their own language.

To mark this anniversary, Grub Street have published an excellent new book, The Best of Jane Grigson, and kindly sent us a copy. Billed as “The ultimate compendium of Jane Grigson’s recipes,” The Taster can confirm that it’s a beautifully produced volume. This does make a difference: we’ve often dipped into Penguin’s version of the 1974 classic, Jane Grigson’s English Food, and while it provides all the info you’d expect, the book itself is densely printed in a tiny font that, for us at least, renders the multitude of recipes a little overwhelming. This collection, however, is altogether more spacious and accessible; from the sepia print (kinder on the eyes than black) to the use of italics for Grigson’s background notes and personal reminiscences — it’s all a lot prettier and easier to read. The book is in eight sections, providing recipes and thoughts on food in England; France (with a special section on charcuterie); the Mediterranean; Europe; the Americas; India and the Far East; and Treats And Celebrations. Scattered throughout are delightful mini-essays on topics including Sausages, Picnics, Tomatoes, Seville Oranges and (oh joy) Edible Gifts; and there are a few Scandi recipes hidden in the European section.

Many recipes have names that simply cry out to be given a try, and it is rather fun to track Grigson’s progress across the continents. Try this list, picked more or less at random:

Saltmarsh Lamb in Pastry
Pressure Pigeons
Mrs Sleightholme’s Seed Cake
Poor Knight’s Pudding with Raspberries
Green Spinach Pie (Spanakopitta)
Sweet-sour Rabbit Italian Style with Chocolate
Emperor’s Pancake (Kaiserschmarrn)
Fried Chicken Maryland with Corn Fritters
Louisiana Court-Bouillon
Bachelor’s Jam (Rumtopf)
Three Kings Salad
Mongolian Fire Pot (Shua Yang Jou)
Winter Melon Soup (Tung Kua T’Ang)

The names alone make our fingers itch to get in the kitchen.


This week is officially Sandwich Week, so here’s a sandwich vid we found for our YouTube channel. Chosen it because the very first sandwich to feature is a British chip butty! Obviously that’s the best, but the rest look pretty good too. Try this:

Have a great week

The Taster

Click on COOK for seasonal cooking ideas, or on our CALENDAR for foodie events in May.

Blog 8 May 2015 – Conservative Food Policies

Time For A Hot Sweet Tea!
Conservative Food Policies

The Taster Magazine Daily Update: Conservative Food Policies

Well, that was exciting. Whether it’s congratulations or commiserations, cups of hot sweet tea all round for the shock!

Just to recap — these are the Conservatives’ promises (and a few of their past achievements). However you voted, it’ll be interesting to see how many of these aims are realised in the next five years.

♦ Champion British farmers and food producers aiming to export. The manifesto emphasises opening up new markets abroad, for example in China and Singapore. The manifesto says: “British farming has a well-deserved and world-wide reputation for its top quality produce . . . As the world’s population continues to grow and tastes and diets develop, we believe that there are phenomenal opportunities to sell British food and drink abroad.” More specifically, they will create a ‘Great British Food Unit’ to promote British foods at home and abroad, and push for country-of-origin labelling in Europe.
♦ Help small farmers & suppliers get a fair deal from supermarkets  via the new Groceries Code Adjudicator. This might make some food items pricier if supermarkets pass increased costs on to customers. It’s up to individual consumers to decide whether this is a Bad or a Good Thing!
♦ Support fisheries. Combat illegal fishing, ban fish discards, and aim to add 100 Marine Protected Zones to the 27 set up in 2013, plus other measures centering around EU rules
♦ Reduce bureaucracy. Reduce red tape for farmers and, in relation to food labelling, avoid “burdensome” rules for small producers
♦ Reduce childhood obesity. Promote clear food information to allow people to make better food shopping choices

SOME CONSERVATIVE ACHIEVEMENTS during their past stint in power
Animal welfare. Introduced the Red Tractor labels and “pushed for tough legal action against [EU] countries who have failed to adhere to the phased bans on battery cages for chickens and sow stalls for pigs.”
Small producers. Introduced the Government Buying Standards under which more of the public monies spent on food and catering go to small and local companies, and promoted the ‘protected’ foods scheme (eg Anglesey sea salt, Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Gloucester Old Spot pigs)
 Fishing. — with a little help from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, we think — reformed the EU Common Fisheries Policy and set up the UK’s first Marine Protected Zones, covering over 9000km². 10% of UK seas are now protected, and 25% of English inshore waters. According to the manifesto, “we now have a legally binding commitment to fish at sustainable levels. All this means that today, fishing communities from the Highlands to Cornwall have more security and peace of mind”

And now, we’re going to take a breath and brew a cuppa.


The Taster

Click on COOK for seasonal cooking ideas, or on our CALENDAR for foodie events in May.

Blog 7 May 2015 – Crunch Time For Foodies II

Election Day!

The Taster Magazine Daily Update: Crunch Time For Foodies II

So. What would we get on our dinner plates under each of the five national parties? Here’s the best-case scenario we’ve extrapolated after a sketchy and incomplete run through the manifestos (we deny everything). No bias any way on our side; all we care about is food. In alphabetical order:

Everything clearly marked with a ‘Great British Food Unit’ label. Possibly pricier than in the past, since supermarkets would come under pressure to give a fairer deal to small suppliers and might pass those costs on to customers.

Sunday Lunch under the Tories depends on how the EU referendum goes, so we have two versions. In the event of withdrawal from the EU, there would be (unlike UKIP) no particular emphasis on trading with the Commonwealth.
EU SUNDAY LUNCH: Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry. Baked Camembert tart with Fleurie; Gressingham Duck à l’orange, carrots & petits pois with Rioja; zabaglione. Caffe latte
NON-EU SUNDAY LUNCH: Real caviar & Scottish smoked salmon on blinis with a vodka shot. Then, English asparagus & Cheddar tart with Glyndwr Welsh white wine; wagyu beef & Yorkshire pudding with a Chilean red; Sweet Eve strawberries & cream; Stilton with Fenland celery. Port (from Goa, not Portugal).
(Policies: creation of  ‘Great British Food Unit’ to help trademark and promote British foods at home and abroad; country-of-origin labelling in Europe; new Groceries Code Adjudicator to regulate supermarkets’ relations with suppliers)

Not as many lentils/freekeh/quinoa as you might expect; rather, a lot more, and a lot cheaper, local organic veg. Wine or beer would be pricier (unless organic). What little meat you consume would, on the up side, be free-range and free of antibiotics. Honey for tea. A lot of pressure not to waste anything.
SUNDAY LUNCH (all veg are organic): Seasonal vegetable samosas; coconut fish curry with a local craft lager; grilled British-made halloumi; homemade walnut & honey baklava; green tea.
(Policies: reduced meat & dairy products; subsidies for organic farms; new farm animal welfare rules; increased taxes on alcohol & unhealthy food; protection for pollinators; emphasis on non-waste and recycling. Also against excessive food air miles; hence not so many lentils or other exotic grains)

Hopefully, you won’t be eating at a food bank. Quite possibly GM and pesticide-reliant veg, but only if clearly shown to do no harm. A goodbye to cheap-as-chips Value Cider, Lager etc
SUNDAY LUNCH: Apéritif of English perry. Curried sweetcorn soup; a small roast pork but with lashings of Armagh Bramley apple sauce, roast potatoes, kale & carrots with a good-quality Cornish cider; apple pie served with Cheshire cheese; more cider. (Basically a scene from the Darling Buds of May)
(Policies: Sunday Lunch under Labour is the trickiest one in this list. Their main policy is to increase food security; the Farmers’ Union recently claimed the UK is in a downward spiral of non-self-sufficiency, unable to meet 40% of its own food needs. So presumably the emphasis would be on British rather than EU foods, and staple grains and vegetables rather than meat or dairy products, which take more energy to produce. Potentially a lot of flour and, as the most efficient converter of food to meat, pigs. They also aim to end reliance on food banks and consider issues such as GM crops and pesticides dispassionately, ie according to scientific evidence)

If you’re a primary school child, it’s free school lunches all the way. Alcoholic drinks would probably be pricier, especially those that were previously very cheap. As with Labour, although the LibDems are pro-EU, their emphasis is to promote local food economies more than EU-imported foods
SUNDAY LUNCH: Apéritif of local craft beer or cider (wine likely to be pricey). Olives and sundried-tomato tartlets from the Farmers’ Market, plus local vegbox salad; roast chicken with potatoes and greens from a nearby allotment collective; apricot pavlova drizzled with British wildflower honey; Wensleydale cheese with slices of local apples.
(Policies: introduce a National Food Strategy for “healthy, sustainable and affordable food”; encourage local food economies and “field to fork” schemes; protect pollinators; introduce minimum prices for alcoholic drinks per unit)

Possibly a lot more wild-caught, sustainable British fish. Clearer food labelling and nothing halal; many more exotic foods imported from the non-EU world and particularly the Commonwealth. MPs would be given a free vote on whether to give GM crops the go-ahead.
SUNDAY LUNCH: Cornish sardines on toast with a sparkling Kentish wine; North Sea prawn tikka massala with Australian Shiraz OR New Zealand lamb & Jersey Royal potatoes with a South African rosé; Yorkshire rhubarb & banana custard; Ghanaian coffee and a few squares of chocolate from Grenada.

(Policies: Protect UK fish stocks and sustainability (including a ban on pair-trawling); clearer food labelling including slaughter methods – and a ban on the non-stun slaughter of farm animals; remove trade barriers with non-EU countries; a free vote in Parliament on GM foods)

Hope This Helps. May you feel good about your choice, whatever it is, as you leave the polling station.


The Taster

Click on COOK for seasonal cooking ideas, or on our CALENDAR for foodie events in May.