Setting off early last Sunday morning, Erik and myself filled up our pockets from the local cash point in anticipation of loads of delectable goodies then headed off to the Beverley Food Festival. The sun was shining, the roads were empty (it was 9.15 am), so within 20 minutes the stunning Beverley Minster came into view.
Fingers crossed, we turned into the large car park near to The Angel pub, and luckily we found a space. As we walked up Toll Gavel, towards the ancient Market Place, it was obvious that Beverley was just waking up, and the musical bells of St. Mary’s church were working overtime to persuade the locals to attend the service before they wandered around the Food Festival.
As we entered the cobbled marketplace, we spied Michelin star chef, James Mackenzie, of The Pipe and Glass at South Dalton. Already in his whites, he was buzzing about the huge tent, getting himself organised before his food demonstration.
Suddenly we found ourselves at one of our local food favourites – the Staal Smokehouse stall, overflowing with the juiciest Oak Roast Salmon, Gravadlax (my favourite), and the Hot Smoked Trout that is an award winner.
Justin Staal, himself, was manning his stall, surrounded by his brilliant fish and also the Smoked Chicken and Smoked Duck. We are hoping to visit Staal Smokehouse soon. Set up by Justin and his wife, The Smokehouse is at Long Riston, East Yorkshire, not too far away from where we live. As the next day was Erik’s birthday, so we decided to treat ourselves to a pack of the Cold Smoked Salmon, some Gravadlax and the Hot Smoked Trout.
Avenues of tented stalls filled the marketplace, overflowing with every type of food you could imagine. Cupcakes galore, pies, sweet and savory, filled with every food imaginable, cakes, chillies, vegetables, pork and bacon and sausages, mini liqueurs (a sip of Sloe Gin at 10.00 am really tastes good!) – scented teas and patisserie. Even cookware. You name it, we found it there. Plus a large number of local brewers were selling their wares, probably an overspill from the Beverley Beer Festival which was on that weekend.
We stumbled across the Three Little Pigs stall, another husband and wife team from East Yorkshire. Aside from producing their own rare breed pigs, which happily trot around on the Yorkshire Wolds, they also make their own spicy Chorizo and Salami. The Chorizo, spiced with La Vera Smoked Pimenton, is absolutely delicious, either to nibble with a glass of good Spanish red wine, or to use in Tapas such as ‘Potatas Bravos’ or to add extra flavour to a hearty casserole. Click here for more information from Three Little Pigs.
Another farming family turned artisan food producer are the Shipleys of Manor Farm, Thornholme, near Driffield, East Yorkshire. Recently we were lucky enough to taste their tasty Biltong, a mildly spiced and salted air dried meat that originates from South Africa. This comes in various flavours, original, pepper, garlic or the new, strongly spiced chilli Biltong.
But our main reason for finding the Manor Farm stall at the Beverley Food Festival was to buy some new sausages that we’d read about. Boerewors are a traditional South African sausage, and using the Manor Farm’s premium minced beef mixed with whole coriander seeds, red wine, nutmeg, allspice and the Shipley’s secret spice mix, these sausages are made by Hutton Cranswick butcher, James White. These Boerewors contain no rusk, and are ideal for people on a gluten free diet. This information all sounded very good, but the proof was in the eating. More of that later. Click on Manor Farm here to find out
Garth Cottage was a name new to us. A lovely lady from North Yorkshire manned the stall, and we were impressed by the variety of herbs, oils, dressings and especially the Fruit Vinegars displayed. Apparently fresh fruit is infused with either white wine or balsamic vinegar, and various spices are added. Tasting dishes and squares of bread were provided, so we had a dabble. I really enjoyed the Wild Blackberry Vinegar, infused with cloves, juniper berries and cinnamon (spices I love), so I bought a bottle and used it the next night to drizzle in the Sausage Casserole. It was tangy but sweet, probably great to help deglaze or add to the sauce or gravy to go with Venison or Wild Boar, even Duck.
The Balsamic fruit vinegars are naturally sweeter and gentler. Raspberry, blueberry, mango, peach, nectarine, tangerine, fig and orange are all infused to make this delicious product. Also on the Garth Cottage stall was a selection of brilliantly packaged oils and vinegars to give as presents. I have a ‘thing’ about packaging – it can make all the difference, and these simple cardboard carrying boxes just oozed quality. Our lady producer (so bad of me to not ask her name), explained that she didn’t like to send out by mail-order because of breakages, but she will be back in Beverley and various food festivals before Christmas. So guess whose family will be maybe getting these great products for Christmas?
Whatever Food Festival we wander around, this is the stall that Erik loves. Yorkshire Chillis. Manned by a very knowledgeable expert on Chillis, every colour, size and strength is displayed in tiny, medium and large packets. Fresh Chilli plants are for sale, and I succumbed to the packet of Padron peppers (seen in the bottom right-hand corner), with instructions on how to turn this fresh delight into a delicious but incredibly spicy Tapas dish. The Chillis range from gentle and low heat to ‘Nuclear’, so there is something for everyone to play around with. I find it amazing how just a hint of chilli can sometimes lift what could be a boring dish into something very special. To find out more about Yorkshire Chillis (and see his brilliantly coloured web-page, click here
As we needed to get back home and strip and sand yet another wall at our house, we had to leave the Beverley Food Festival at 10.45 am. But by that time, the crowds had swelled the marketplace into a heaving mass of foodie hunters, bulging in and out of the big tent where demonstrations and competition cook-offs by local chefs were entertaining the food ‘groupies’ of all ages. It was sad we had to leave, but with our bag of ‘goodies’ intact, and protected from being crushed by the crowds, we gently elbowed our way out of that ancient Beverley marketplace, that was brilliantly doing the job that it had been made for hundreds of years ago – showcasing the local food and drink to all who were interested.
And how did we get on with our food buys? Brilliantly. For Erik’s birthday meal I served, as a starter. the Staal Cold Smoked Salmon, simply, with a squeeze of lemon and frondy fennel leaves – Erik pronounced it ‘Superb – so delicate but full of flavour’. And our Boerewors sausage casserole, with addition of chopped shallots, carrots and celery, and the gravy enhanced by a sprinkling of our Wild Blackberry Vinegar, partnered by home-made mash, was declared a triumph. So Beverley Food Festival and all its food producers got lots of ticks from this family.