Foodies Festival 2013

Another year, another wonderful day out at the Foodies Festival!

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This is the third year in a row we’ve been to a Foodies Festival! Last year we went to Brighton and in 2011 we went to Hampton Court Palace for the first time and absolutely loved it.

This years second May Bank Holiday (seriously, what was all that about?) loomed quickly and without warning and I completely ran out of time to arrange any fun activities for us. We’re a bit skint at the moment as 90% of our disposable income is whisked away into our Florida savings account every month, so we aren’t left with very much. Obviously I’m not complaining about this as a Floriday is the number 1 thing to save for, in my humble opinion, but it does leave us with very little leeway for doing anything else the rest of the year. (In case you’re wondering, the other 10% of mine goes on ribeye steak and Ben’s probably goes on Strongbow.) So the Bank Holiday was stretching out ahead of me, three looooong days of sunshine, with the slightly depressing knowledge that we had absolutely nothing planned. We managed to scrounge together some friends on the Saturday and had a very enjoyable day but Sunday dawned with nothing planned and I was still keen for some proper Bank Holiday fun. Straight onto Twitter and Facebook it was then and by 10am I’d found what I thought was the perfect solution – Foodie’s Festival was tweeting a link to their ticket website! However, 10am was a smidge late to be getting up, getting ready and driving to London for the day with enough time to make the most of the tickets. Sunday was promising the better weather but Monday was looking a lot more feasible for us so we plumped for that. Two tickets were purchased at a 2 for 1 rate thanks to my extraordinary ability to find cheap tickets for events online and we were all set!

We had a really lovely day at the festival and I was so glad we’d got cheap tickets. The weather was gorgeous, the crowds were at an acceptable level and most importantly, there was an absolute ton of free food. Winner!

I took my new SLR like a real food blogger to document the day. Here are some highlights!

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Car slash bar. Can’t go wrong. Unfortunately I was driving so couldn’t partake in any alcoholic beverages but Benj, bless his soul, took one for the team and forced a few down.

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He looooooved this Dorset Cider. I loved the rudimentary signs!

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One of the many, many cheese tasting stalls. You could tell which ones were most generous with the samples by the amount of people swarming around in the front like milk-starved puppies.

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Raclette! Always wanted to try it but never have! It looked delicious but I just wasn’t feeling the price tag. Anything that involves meat, potato and melted cheese is a sure winner though, no?

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This was the tagine stall. There was a mixture of stalls selling products and offering free samples, versus the actual food vendors who were just selling ready-to-eat food. I loved them both equally, in different ways. We chuckled at this one as it was painfully obvious which of the massive pans of tagine were vegetarian! Bless them for trying 😦 I told Benj to get some because I felt bad for the guys cooking it but he wasn’t feeling it.

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One of the many, many, MANY oil stalls. These were my absolute favourite genre of stall; I could quite happily just eat bread and oil/balsamic vinegar for the rest of my life so I was a happy bunny whenever we stumbled upon one of these. Ben, on the other hand, was pretty much over oil by about 3/4 of the way through the festival and said he might be physically sick if he had any more. Oil fatigue. It happens.

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This was the English Provender Company stall and we got really excited when we realised we actually had some of these chutneys in our fridge! We’ve tried the caramelised onion one and the fig and pear one at Christmas and we loved both, so delicious! Chutney was probably second after oil in terms of market saturation at the festival but again, I’m a big chutney fan so I was all over it.

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We were passing the Baking Theatre at about 12pm and I dragged Benj to a couple of seats after realising the next demonstration involved savoury baked goods! We aren’t really sweet people so I wasn’t expecting to get involved with the Baking Theatre but I could not pass up the chance to get involved with savoury food. Excitement levels were quite high as we waited for it to start and I excitedly whispered to Ben, ‘it’s like Food Network right in front of me!’

Our demonstration was run by a really lovely lady called Christine Videl who owns Made In Provence, a company that sells jams, chutneys and other traditional produce, handmade by local artisans in a small area of Provence near where she grew up. Christine cooked cheesy twists, strawberry and rosemary pavlova and rosemary biscuits in the short time she was in the theatre. I loved listening to her stories and seeing her prepare the food and the smell of the cheesy twists baking was just incredible! I thought the demonstration was really well set up too, with TV screens behind Christine showing her work surface so we didn’t miss anything. I was impressed by how quickly she whipped up the three items and we will probably recreate the cheesy twists at some point; shop-bought puff pastry, gruyere cheese and olive tapenade were all united in about 4 minutes to create a really rather majestic savoury nibble. We were invited to try the recipes Christine created and it was a bit of a bunfight but I managed to snag the last piece. Result!

We ended our day with a little sit down on the lawn near the front entrance of the festival, where they had bands and singers performing on the stage.

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Although I wasn’t technically meant to be spending any money, I really am powerless in the face of posh food and money seems to be no object when it comes to trying new and exciting culinary treats. Here are the goodies we purchased throughout the day, lovingly arranged on our kitchen counter when we got home.

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From left: Chan Cham hot sauce (Ben’s contribution) BLACK TRUFFLE OIL, garlic oil, Joe and Sephs Feta and Italian Herb popcorn (!) and our evening snack, the oils arranged on a plate with olives and pita.

Can you tell from my description which item I was most excited for? Tough, isn’t it!

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I’d never tried truffle oil before but I’d aaaaalways wanted to and I was so excited to see it on one of the oil stalls. I dipped a cube of bread into the little dish and pretty much died and went to heaven. I’d never tried anything like it, what an incredible taste! I bought a tiny bottle of it for Β£5 which I thought was quite reasonable as it will last a long time. I chatted to the guy for a while about the different uses for the oil and he recommended a few drops in mashed potato which sounds fantastic! I do need to buy a potato ricer before I try that though, lumpy mash with truffle oil!? Sacrilege!

We had a fantastic day at the Foodie’s Festival and will no doubt be returning to one of the locations next year. We’re actually off to London tomorrow for the V Delicious Vegetarian exhibition (exciting!) and the FF is on Clapham Common! Tempting to pop in for a few samples but hopefully the V Delicious exhibition will keep us busy πŸ™‚

BBQ Pulled ‘Pork’ (Seitan!)

It was Ben’s birthday a couple of weeks ago and as one of his (many!) presents, I bought him some vital wheat gluten flour. ‘Great gift…’ I hear you cry! But, it was in fact, an awesome gift. Because vital wheat gluten is pretty pricey and it’s not something he’d ever order from himself so he was chuffed to bits when he opened it, mainly because I think he then knew he had many seitan-based dinners on the horizon.

The first thing I wanted to make with the flour was BBQ Pulled Seitan πŸ˜€ We were watching Diners, Drive Ins and Dives (when are we not) and for probably the 276th time, I watched somebody making pulled pork. It always looks soooooo good! I decided I wanted to recreate it for Benj and what better meat substitute than seitan? Seriously, there IS no better meat substitute. Seitan is chewy, textured and just plain MEATY! And it takes on flavour really, really well.

We decided to turn the BBQ pulled seitan into an entire American evening, complete with Disney videos on Youtube (our newest obsession) Β and summer-y drinks. To accompany the rolls, we made chilli cheese fries and had onion rings, corn on the cob and coleslaw on the side.

First up, I had to actually make the seitan! I used the Fat Free Vegan BBQ Seitan Ribz recipe as I figured I was going to be chopping the meat up into little pieces at the end anyway.

Here are the dry and wet ingredients ready to be mixed…Ben said it looked pretty disgusting. He is correct.

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The dough comes together very quickly and is super hard to knead. It doesn’t knead like normal bread dough, it kind of just forms a ball and then stays like that. I couldn’t really flatten the shape or make it fit the size of the tray like the recipe said to, so I just formed it into a rectangle and left it! Onto an oiled tray and into the oven for 15 minutes; I had no idea what was expected to come out but hoped for the best.

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I think it looks a bit like brains :/

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15 minutes later I pulled what can only be described as a BEAST out of the oven. Eeek! This photo was taken as it had started to deflate too, it was HUGE!

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We flipped it over and popped it back into the oven for 5 minutes to give it a chance to CALM THE HELL DOWN.

When I took it out again it was slightly less terrifying and I was able to baste it with BBQ sauce and put it back into the oven for its’ final hit of heat. The next time I took it out, it actually looked pretty good! And it smelled AMAZING. So if you do try this recipe, you just really need to persevere with the seitan because it is a funny old thing but it does come together eventually.

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Close-up! See, appetising!!

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I left the seitan to cool for a little while before I sliced it up. Whilst I waited, I indulged in a little of this:

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(Passionfruit juice and vodka)

And Benj indulged in a little of this:

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(Margarita)

It was Saturday night! Hey, can you tell we like Disney? I’m not sure it’s obvious enough.

Once about 10 minutes had passed, I sliced up the seitan into lots of small chunks. I wanted to get the look and feel of pulled pork but it was tricky because the seitan didn’t ‘pull apart’ as such, I just had to do it manually. But once it was all doused in BBQ sauce and sticky, it really looked the part.

 

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I then popped it into a pan and fried it on high for a few minutes to encourage some crisping and browning of the edges, before adding a liberal amount of BBQ sauce. It all came together beautifully in the pan and with a bit of added water to make the BBQ sauce go further, it was starting to look fantastic.

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See?

We served the pulled seitan with the aforementioned sides and I was so pleased with how it turned out. Ben never thought he’d be able to sample this authentic American delight and here he was, with a plate in front of him!!

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For the chilli cheese fries, I just used some leftover frozen chips we had in the freezer, topped with veggie chilli (veggie mince, taco seasoning, chilli powder and passata) and my homemade nacho cheese sauce which I have perfected over recent months and I’m now very proud of!! It’s a basic roux, with added plastic cheese slices, garlic and a few glugs of brine from a jar of jalapeno peppers. The brine gives it a lovely heat and to me, it tasted exactly like the plasticy nacho cheese sauce found in many an Orlando restaurant/quick-service place. Try it, it’s so easy! We tried to buy Squeeze Cheeze to make our lives even easier but tragically, Asda didn’t have any 😦 I topped the cheese fries with some chopped spring onion, but you have to call them scallions to make it all authentic and American.

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We then have corn on the cob, beautifully cooked by Benjamin with liberal amounts of butter and salt and some oven baked onion rings, which I dipped in sour cream. A lot of sour cream. Like, half the tub. I served the pulled seitan on buttered white rolls as although this goes against everything I’ve ever been told about carbs (go brown wherever possible) that is how they are always served on TV. I topped them with some coleslaw (not homemade as we really couldn’t be bothered to wash the new food processor we have recently acquired) – plain for me and a mango jalapeno variety for Benj.

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This was a proper, trashy, down-home American meal and we absolutely loved it. Better still, we made enough for two nights so enjoyed exactly the same treat the following evening! Best Bank Holiday ever!! If you are a vegetarian just gagging to experience the full, unadulterated beauty of pulled pork, please try these. πŸ™‚

Japanese Gyoza

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Sometimes, I get a food craving. A really really strong, can’t-think-about-anything-else food craving where I actually have to abandon all other eating plans and satisfy it.

This happened the other day with Japanese gyoza. I was chatting innocently to the girls at work about the wonders of Wagamama and how I hadn’t been in ages. When I used to work in Basingstoke I would go quite often as the restaurant was about 5 minutes from my office but since I started my new job, I haven’t been once. Which is very, very distressing. Although, I did get into the quite expensive and extremely calorific habit of just grabbing a take-out box of my favourite dish Amai Udon on my way back to the office, after a lunchhour spent browsing the shops. Not very good at all! So maybe it isn’t such a bad thing that I’ve had to go cold turkey, on reflection.

Anyway. Myself and Ben had a gig on the Saturday (this was the Thursday) IN Basingstoke and although I knew we should go somewhere cheap for dinner beforehand, the lure of Wagamamas was extremely strong and quite difficult to ignore. I realise that to most people Wagamamas is a cheap option, however, last time we went I accidentally got two side dishes* AS WELL AS my main meal, plus we both had wine and beer. So the bill was like Β£50. Not even slightly cheap.

*I find it really hard not to order the gyoza when I visit Wagamamas and then I saw they had salt and pepper squid so obviously I had to get that too. In my defence.

So I was chatting to the girls at work about how amazing the food at Wagamamas was and what a shame we were going to Wetherspoons instead in order to keep costs down, when the craving hit me. Hard, suddenly, and out of the blue. I had to have gyoza. Right now. This was like 5pm so as I drove home I was mentally rifling through our cupboards to see if we had anything remotely Japanese-y that I could make gyoza with. We actually had baked potatoes and veggie chicken kievs on the meal plan for that night, but that went out the window and it was all about the Asian food.

I remembered seeing The Hairy Bikers make gyoza a couple of weeks before on their new gourmet cooking show and it looked so easy! I Googled the recipe and lo and behold, water and flour!!!! Easy peasy pie. I whipped up a batch of dough (if you can call it that) and left it out to prove for a bit whilst I made a filling.

We didn’t have any ginger or rice wine vinegar or anything helpfully Asian like that so I had to make do with sesame oil, garlic and soy sauce. I defrosted some Quorn chicken chunks, chopped them up into small pieces and chucked them in our wok with some garlic and sesame oil. I then added shredded lettuce (cabbage would have been much preferred but we didn’t have any!) and some chopped red onion. I fried it all for a few minutes before tasting it and I actually couldn’t believe how nice it was! I was seriously impressed with myself.

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The dough had been proving for about half an hour and it was ready to go. I divided it into 4 pieces (having halved the original Hairy Bikers recipe as I didn’t want to make enough for 8 people!) and rolled each section out super duper thin, with plenty of flour. I then used my cookie cutter to cut nice round circles out and stacked them all up into a pile, with flour in between each disc so they wouldn’t stick.

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Benj was eager to help with the gyoza making so after a brief viewing of ‘How to Make Gyoza’ videos on Youtube, we felt ready to give it a go.

And, honestly, it was so unbelievably easy!! I couldn’t believe it! We had the whole stack of about 28 gyozos done and dusted in about 15 minutes!

You take a disc, rub cold water around the edges and put a small spoonful of filling in the middle. It is then just a case of folding the dough around the filling and pleating it all the way, which sounds hard but once you’ve watched someone else do it, you’re sorted!

Ben’s hands expertly pleating the gyoza dough.

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Here is around half the batch we made, sitting pretty in the frying pan about to be seared! You need to sear the gyoza on the bottom until they are golden brown and crispy, before steaming them. This is a very important step! Otherwise you’ll have soggy gyoza! Surely everyones worst nightmare?? I know it’s mine.

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I seared them for about two minutes on a high heat. Oooh, they smelt so good! I then turned the heat right down and added 100ml of water to the pan. It hisses and spits a bit so be careful! I got Ben to add the water as he’s brave like that πŸ˜‰ I put the lid on the pan and steamed the gyoza for another two minutes before serving them with dipping sauces; soy sauce and sweet chilli and garlic. Both were lovely but soy sauce always wins for me!

We were so unbelievably proud of our creations, they could have come straight from the Wagamama kitchen!!

Check these bad boys:

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The bottoms were crispy and crunchy and provided a lovely contrast to the slightly gooey texture of the steamed dough. The filling tasted delicious with the extra cooking time and I can’t recommend it enough! I was so impressed with the ease and simplicity of these treats and how professional and restaurant-y they turned out.

I can’t wait to make these again, I think they’ll be even nicer when I have the correct ingredients! I’m going to research yummy fillings and make sure I have everything before I start cooking. But for a weeknight indulgence with no prior planning and no extra ingredients purchased, I think we did pretty good! πŸ˜€