On Saturday I headed over on the train to Inverurie, where the Taste of Grampian festival was being held. Last year over 12,000 people visited this one day free event, which showcases the best produce and crafts in the Aberdeenshire area, as well as the whole of Scotland. There’s also a programme of chef demos throughout the day in various venues (some of which charge an entry fee).
This year was no different, and so I went along for the first time, and met up with Melanie (of Melanie’s Food Adventures). We enjoyed seeing our old pal Norman Calder (who we saw the previous week at the Highland and Moray Food & Drink Festival). Unfortunately for us, he did exactly the same demo (and jokes) but it was still good fun to see him, and we got a piece of his famous shortbread this time! (Thanks Melanie for the picture!)
The next demo we saw was Nancy Birtwhistle, the winner from Series 5 of the Great British Bake Off. She was very lovely and down to earth regaling us with stories from her time in the GBBO tent.
She made a morello cherry and coconut flapjack, and a pistachio and chocolate cake. Unfortunately pistachios are a bit of a no-go in our household, but I’ll definitely be giving the flapjack a try as we love morello cherries.
One tip Nancy gave while making the cake was to crack the eggs into the beaten eggs and sugar one at a time, and use an electric mixer in a standing position (rather than chasing the eggs around the bowl). This will avoid the problem of a curdled mixture (and with Nancy’s method, there’s no need to add any flour with the first egg either). Nancy also said that she uses margarine in her baking instead of butter which I found interesting as I always use butter. Maybe one time I’ll do a comparison bake and see if anyone can tell the difference!
After Nancy’s demo, I waited in the show ring for the next demo, which was Jean Christophe Novelli. I was on my own for this one so was passing the time using the free wifi, when Jean Christophe passed by me and shook my hand and thanked me for coming! I was slightly amused as I had really only stayed there to secure a seat for the demo, but he wasn’t to know! I got a wee picture and a wee kiss on the cheek (those French are very polite) – he was very charming indeed!
However, his demo didn’t go quite as well – due to him doing a lot of talking and interacting with the audience, his strawberry tarte tatin was a bit of a disappointment and collapsed on itself coming out of the oven. He made up for it though by making a basket out of spun sugar in the last few minutes and filling it with some fresh berries and icecream. I don’t think most people were too bothered though as he was very charming and friendly!
The last demo of the day was a free one, and was probably the one I enjoyed most. Lady Claire Macdonald is the owner of Kinloch Lodge on the Isle of Skye (and a Michelin starred restaurant, along with The Three Chimneys).
Lady Claire demonstrated three dishes all in 30 minutes which was very impressive, using scottish pork, lamb and beef. She was very much an advocate of using the produce right on our scottish doorstep and making food that doesn’t require hard-to-get ingredients. She was just a real treat to watch and I went away feeling inspired (like when I saw Victor and Carina Contini last September in Nairn).
Of course no trip to a food fair is complete without some purchases – here’s what i came home with (I also bought a lovely icecream from Portsoy Ice Cream which obviously didn’t make it much further than the exit when I left!):
This DipNation pots are probably one of the things I was most excited to buy. As well as dips they can be used to create main course recipes (handily provided on their recipe cards!) so I will let you know how I get on with making a Butternut Risotto and a Chicken, Feta & Spinach Lasagne! (3 for £5)
I did have a self-enforced ban on buying jams and chutneys… until I saw this jam from JoJo’s Jams and was egged on by Melanie to buy it (actually there wasn’t too much egging was there! :-)). I love blueberries and the chocolate flavour is a subtle (but definitely there) flavour. This might get used in some baking in the future!
Berry Scrumptious had some lovely samples of fudge to try, and the Raspberry & Dark Chocolate was my favourite, so of course a wee square came home with me!
My final purchase from Ola Oils) will hopefully be one used all summer on salads. I love raspberries so couldn’t resist this dressing made with cold pressed rapeseed oil.