Calke Abbey Fine Food Fair

This weekend we joined some friends of ours for a trip to Calke Abbey, a National Trust property just outside of Ashby de la Zouch and a place of great sentimental value to me. I'd not been for a few months so I was looking forward to seeing the place and of course getting to see what was on offer at the Fine Food Fair!

For almost 3 years, up to earlier this year, I was a volunteer at Calke, spending Saturdays as a room steward. I loved it, talking to the public and getting to really know and love the house and its history, not to mention the other volunteers. Sadly, I squeeze far too much into my life and I just couldn't fit it all in!

Picnicking at Calke in Summers gone by..
The Fine Food Fair is a celebration of all things foodie and local. All of the produce on display is grown, raised or caught within a 30 mile radius - now that's what you call local! There were some fantastic local suppliers there, some I know and love and some new.

Eggs on display at Calke Abbey Fine Food Fair
medieval brewery at Calke Abbey Fine Food Fair

Family run Brocklebys had a huge range on offer - their Beaver Pie is not beaver - its beef - and award winning! I've got one in the fridge for dinner tomorrow and can't wait. Farming lands in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire since the 1600's I'm confident these guys know exactly what they're doing and their commitment to and enthusiasm for local food is fantastic.

Brocklebys Pies at Calke Abbey Fine Food Fair

Sparkenhoe cheeses from Leicester were there too, a familiar name since meeting them at the Melton Mowbray Artisan Cheese Fair earlier this year. Their mature cheddars are heavenly and we've stocked right up! Others there included Septimus Spyder, a brewhouse making medieval ales and mead and Buffalo Brownies with all sorts of treats on offer!

It was great to see so many local suppliers in such an historic setting and if you want to get in on the action, the next Fine Food Fair is a Christmas special - on Saturday 14 December - between 11 - 6pm. It'll come around quicker than you think and get there early to avoid the crowds!

Midlands Best Deli - and the winner is...

As we edge ever closer to the Winter BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham, the team behind the scenes in association with BBC Good Food Magazine (and our blogging community!) have been busy out and about looking for the Midlands Best Deli or Farm Shop. After much deliberation, we can announce the winner!

DRUM ROLL.....  Beckett’s Farm Shop in Wythall, Birmingham.

BBC Good Food Show Midlands Best Deli

After counting and reviewing customer nominations, a mystery shopping exercise performed by some of the Midlands’ top bloggers and a visit from the lovely Katy Truss of Fabulous Food Finds, Beckett’s Farm Shop stood out as a clear winner of the coveted title of the Midlands’ Best Deli. They will receive a free of charge stand to promote their business and sell their products to thousands of food lovers at the BBC Good Food Show Winter at the NEC in Birmingham.

Beckett’s Farm Shop had a remarkable amount of customer nominations during the voting period. The Show’s blogging community were set the task of mystery shopping the most nominated delis and farm shops. They looked out for the variety and range of local and international produce, quality of facilities, customer service and atmosphere too. The results from this showed that Beckett’s Farm Shop stood out amongs the competition.

Katy Truss of Fabulous Food Finds, visited Beckett’s Farm Shop along with some of the most popular nominated delis including Birmingham’s Anderson and Hill, Nottingham’s Delilah Deli and The Deli at Boldmere. She says, “I love this competition as it uncovers some really wonderful delis and farm shops, which have been recommended by the people that really matter – their customers. Beckett’s is a really fantastic destination for food lovers with an impressive range of local & international produce, its own bakery, butchery, restaurant, cafe and deli counter too. They have recipe cards to inspire and a cookery school to teach you how to cook with their fabulous, great value produce. An outstanding farm shop, worthy of the crown of the Midland’s Best Deli or Farm Shop – I just wish it was on my door step!”

Barney Desmazery, BBC Good Food Magazine Food Editor says, “There was a really impressive range of nominations this year, from all over the Midlands. Beckett's Farm Shop really stood out from the competition with plenty of nominations from loyal customers, fantastic facilities that include a cookery school and an obvious passion to delight their customers. It's great to see quality local produce being sold at affordable prices too. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they will bring to the Show.”

BBC Good Food Show Winter Logo
If you want to go to the show and don't yet have your tickets, you can use my special discount code GB20 to save 20% - but hurry as the code expires on 29 October! If you don't know what to expect, why not take a look at my past blog posts from last years Winter show and this years Summer show!  

The original BBC Good Food Show is back for its 22nd year and  over 50 chefs and experts from across the country on seven different stages this is the perfect place to prepare for Christmas. The nation’s favourite TV programmes will be brought to life with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, James Martin’s Saturday Kitchen sessions and John Torode and Gregg Wallace live in MasterChef Cook Offs in the Supertheatre, sponsored by Tesco finest*.

I'm so excited.. not long now! Remember - comfy shoes, lots of cash and shopping bags are essentials! 

Smoked Mackerel Pate

This is so easy, you can whip up a batch in the morning and leave in the fridge for an afternoon snack or spoon into individual ramekins and put one in your lunch box for the office, perfect with a salad and some crisp breads. You can experiment with different flavours too as nowadays there are more than just the traditional smoked/ peppered varieties around.


Caribbean Seafood Pepperpot

Since getting home from my recent holiday, I've been dreaming of Caribbean food.

This spicy 'pepperpot' broth comes from Jamaica and can be made with meat or fish but I looked it up as it has echoes of the food we ate in the Bahamas. Jerk, fish and spice, plus such a warming dish really brightens up that mid week supper. If you are feeling extra special though, you could add some squid or a second type of fish.

Seafood Pepper Pot finished dish

Travel Bites: Eating in and around Nassau, Bahamas

So, we're home from our holiday in the Bahamas. Its raining outside and I'm sat in my onesie with the heating on. A bit of a shock from the sun soaked beach front hotel which has been our home for the last 8 days!

Cable Beach

Of course my main mission whenever I go away is to discover the food culture of that place. So, although we were staying in an all inclusive resort, we were keen to get out into Nassau and find the real Bahamas! And that's what we did!

Sadly, being such a small place with a BIG tourist pull, we were disappointed to find lots of restaurants serving everything but Bahamian food - Chinese, Italian and American seemed to top the bill. However, when we did eat the local food it was great - fresh seafood including Conch, Grouper and Giant Shrimp! Conch fritters were a revelation but sadly something I doubt I'll find here! Conch is a massive part of food culture in the Bahamas and is basically a giant sea snail. Judging by the first picture below, its one of those things its better NOT to know what it is before eating! They serve is as mainly as a ceviche style salad and in fritters with island sauce. We munched through many fritters during our stay and they were delicious!

One evening we headed down to the harbour, across from the famous Paradise Island, to at the well known Poop Deck. They offer fresh seafood cooked on the grill and in a variety of ways, all traditional Bahamian classics. As you walk in, a huge iced display of today's catch greets you. Simply choose what you want and sit down and admire the views over the harbour!

We went for crab cakes and (more) conch fritters to start, all of which was delish. The crab cakes were full of flavour and more importantly, crab meat! The conch was so good, a lightly spiced batter and island dressing to dip. For main, the hubby had Mama Mary's Fish - Grouper cooked in a spicy tomato and pepper sauce served with rice and peas. I had grilled grouper and shrimp, served simply with slaw and amazing garlic roast potatoes. The pictures aren't great but it was dark! 

Another place worth visiting is Arawak Cay - its kind of a collection of seafood streetfood vendors although most of them have permanent structures. They serve the famous 'down home fish fry' for not much dosh. Twin Brothers is supposed to be one of the best but I think they are probably all as good as each other!

If you ever get the chance to go to the Bahamas, make sure you step outside of your hotel and try some of the islands real food. You won't be disappointed.

Now... time to plan my next holiday. Where to??

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