Christmas Markets and Making Merry – All the fun of the festive fair!

This week heralds the beginning of the Christmas Market season and we are spoilt for IMG_5471choice in Monmouthshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. I really enjoy visiting Christmas food festivals, they help get over the post Bonfire Night hump and provide the ideal excuse for a cheeky mulled wine or two, not to mention huge present shopping potential .

I have chosen five of my favourite (most) local festivals to take you through to the big day; already we have seen a couple of frosty mornings so here’s to winter and all it throws at us. These are not purely food festivals, many offer local crafts, musical entertainments and great street food; everything you need to get you into the festive spirit.

Abergavenny Christmas Fair  10th December 

IMG_7449The largest local Christmas Fair, Abergavenny Food Festival always holds the banner high when championing regional and artisanal produce. Two weeks before Christmas Day will find the Market Hall, and surroundings, packed with delectable festive delicacies, an excellent time to stock up on foodie gifts, drinks for those  Christmas Parties or nibbles for surprise guests. As always, expect the best of the best; it’s a great place to stock up on Christmas Sprits whilst putting you in the Christmas Spirit. There are several workshops and feasts taking place too, so please see the website for more details.

The Forest Showcase Christmas Food Festival 26th November 

This year’s Forest Showcase Christmas Festival is to be held at Beechenhurst Lodge in the IMG_7709heart of The Forest of Dean, a fairytale setting for any Christmassy event. There will be stalls, demonstrations, workshops, live music and children’s activities. Tickets cost £3 for adults and £2 for children, family tickets are also available. Expect local cider, festive bakes, local meats and cheeses and a plethora of yuletide goodies.

The Hereford Food and Advent Market Hereford Racecourse 2nd and 3rd December 

“The Hereford Food and Advent market will be a fun festive day out for all the family. Held at Hereford Racecourse on the 2nd and 3rd December 2017 from 10 am – 4pm. Cost £2 entry for adults and £1 for children . FREE parking.
We have a huge variety of food and drink suppliers and live music, where you can have lunch under a covered marquee area, and enjoy the German Christmas market atmosphere.
You can browse and purchase all sorts of Christmas gifts and visit Santa in his grotto. ( extra charge of £5 will apply )
Also available will be free craft workshops for adults and children, included in the entry price.
In addition we have a children’s creative workshop, run by The Creation Station where they can have fun with plate art, and Christmas baubles . Please visit the website and Facebook for details of The Christmas Keepsake Workshop.
Also available are fabulous Christmas wreath making workshops with Debbie from the Hibiscus rooms.”

Gloucester Quays Victorian Markets 16th-26th November, daily until 7pm

Gloucester Quays is a prime example of thoughtful regeneration. The docks, once one of fullsizeoutput_41athe busiest in England, went through a period of decay until being reborn as a fabulous tourist attraction offering everything from pubs, restaurants and bars through to designer shopping and even canal boat hire. The Victorian Christmas market is very beautiful, the little wooden booths offering gifts, regional foods, mulled wine, arts and crafts. It’s a lovely place to visit as dusk falls, when the Christmas lights reflect off the calm waters of the dock and, with a glass of mulled cider in hand you can explore this, most historic, of sites.

Taurus Crafts Christmas Markets  2,3,9,10,16,17th December Free Entry 

Taurus Crafts, near Lydney in Gloucestershire is part of The Camphill Village Trust, a charity which offers support and a community environment to people who may struggle with everyday challenges. Founded in Scotland, in 1939, the charity aims to help all, regardless of disability and its Taurus Crafts based community is a testament to its success. The Christmas Fair offers a holistic festive approach; food, drink, gifts, crafts and Christmas trees can all be found alongside music, choirs and activities. Full of little workshops and unusual, quirky stalls, Taurus Crafts is a really lovely place to pass a few hours being at one with Christmas, sipping hot chocolate and tucking into one of their delicious homemade cakes.


Digging for Ancestral Roots in our Cookery…..?

I think that most of us were probably taught to cook by family members; whether Mum, Dad, Grandparents, Great-Grandparents or the more extended family. IIMG_4936 learnt a lot from my Grandmothers; though each was very different in their approach to cookery. One was very much a bake-from-scratch cook; still alive today (at 106) she taught me bread making, jam making and gravy making; she learnt all that from her mother who was born in the late 19th century. Grandma’s rubbed-in cakes and Welsh bake-stones have weathered the years and are still regularly baked in my kitchen at home. Grandma was very much a wartime wife; she embraced rationing, skinned rabbits and ‘made do and mended’.

My other Grandmother, Nan, born in 1922 and sadly no longer with us, was a classic 1950’s housewife; she enjoyed convenience, loved M & S and, as she got older, rarely cooked at all, but when I was a child she would make choux pastry Chocolate Eclairs (which I’ve always considered rather complicated) and Coconut Pyramids (from the eponymous Marguerite Patten); her Beef Stew with Dumplings was always served on a plate rather than in a bowl and the trifles which adorned the birthday table were always from a packet. However, there was something she always made from scratch and which we all found rather amusing – Porridge. At home, porridge was a thick and creamy affair, adorned with honey or syrup or sultanas, it was thick and unctuous. My Nan’s on the other hand was solid, a greying cloddy mass made with half water and half milk then surrounded by another pool of cold milk. It stood like an iceberg, its undercarriage swamped and its head lightly adorned with sugar. It tasted fine, but it looked….well ‘different’! IMG_7474

It was only after doing a bit of research and talking with my Nan that I realised why this porridge was ‘different’ – and it was all down to her ancestry. My Nan made porridge that way because she had learnt it from her mother, and her mother from her mother – and that lady (all the way back in the mid-19th century) was called Florence MacDonald and was born a little way outside Inverness in 1858. Having looked into the Scottish porridge tradition I discovered that it is served, very thick, in bowls and alongside is placed a communal bowl of cream. The horn spoon goes into the porridge (which is served savoury or sweet) and then dunked in the cream. The leftover porridge was then tipped into a ‘porridge draw’ and spread about so as to set firm; this

IMG_1821was carried by crofters and workers to eat during their lunch break as it travelled more easily than oatcakes which tended to crumble.

Although, it’s likely that this was how Florence cooked and served her porridge, a gentle evolution has obviously occurred – an amalgamation of two bowls into one and the result being my Nan’s ‘different’ porridge. Having discovered this I do wonder whether I should make my porridge that bit thicker and carry on the tradition….who knows how far back it goes? I’m sure if we looked about us, we could

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 find dozens of hacks and recipes which travel deep into our family history, not all of us are lucky enough to have a family recipe notebook added to and stained and use, to carry these recipes, we just have our memories and these memories should be treasured and handed down to the next generation. In a gesture towards my heritage I do always stir my porridge with a Spurtle (the traditional carved stick-like porridge stirrer) and I only stir clockwise, superstition or tradition; you decide.

 

 


Delicious, Inspiring and Fun-Filled! Family Fun @ Abergavenny Food Festival 2017

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The countdown has now officially started and in just under two weeks Abergavenny plays hosts to its internationally renowned food festival, and food festivals have come a long way since they comprised a few stalls of locally produced food, a beer tent and several catering vans.

ABERGAVENNY FOOD FESTIVAL, ABERGAVENNY, 17/09/2016

 

Now, perhaps you would, initially,  think twice before taking the younger family members for a ‘fun day out’ to a food festival but you’d be very pleasantly surprised. This years festival is absolutely packed with family fun; whole zones geared towards the little ones and a plethora of workshops – and of course child entry (under 16) is free which is always an added bonus! (although you will need to ask for wristbands when buying adult tickets)

I believe that it is so important to introduce children to food in a positive and fun way, new tastes are far more readily accepted in a relaxed environment and we all know that children are far more likely to eat new foods which they have helped to make.

The study of food sources, field to fork style, should be integrated into the national curriculum, the earlier the better. Britain is riding a wave of obesity and education is the only thing that can prevent this – a recent survey showed that a shockingly large percentage of inner-city children didn’t even know that milk comes from cows!

It’s up to us to change this, to teach them the joy in a homegrown, misshapen carrot or a crudely formed loaf of homemade bread. Society has become used to perfection in all foods, from a visual perspective as well as taste; we must reduce waste, embrace the wonky veg and encourage future generations of passionate foodies.
Aine Morris, CEO Abergavenny Food Festival - credit Kirstie Young PhotographyAine Morris, Chief Executive of Abergavenny Food Festival says:

It has been proven time and again that kids who have the opportunity to grow fresh produce are a lot more likely to eat their vegetables! Children are naturally pre disposed to connecting with nature, being outside, and exploring the world through taste – who doesn’t love sticking their hands in the dirt?
“It is essential that we give young people as many opportunities as possible to learn about the natural systems that we are all so dependent on. Otherwise, how can we expect anybody to value our relationship with nature in the future?

 

So what exactly can we do to help encourage a positive, lifetime relationship with food?….Abergavenny Food Festival might just have some of the answers…

 

 

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Blas o Gymru Travelling Kitchen

 

Join the Travelling Kitchen at Abergavenny Castle for a culinary historical journey through Wales. We’ll be cooking some savoury and sweet recipes, showcasing local ingredients and using traditional Welsh recipes, some with a modern twist.
The workshop, on Saturday 16th September at 10am is suitable for 7-12 year olds. At the end of the workshop children will take away a picnic bag of the food they’ve cooked to share with their families and a recipe booklet so they can cook the recipes again at home.
Free Event

Kids and families Farmyard takeover
IMG_3227“We are handing the Farmyard over to the next generation on both Saturday and Sunday morning between 10:00 – 12:00 with a host of fun and interactive experiences aimed to get children, and adults too, excited about food and farming. Learn about the realities of farming and food and get stuck in to some fun hands-on workshops, interactive demonstrations and exciting and inclusive bite size talks, accessible to all.
Activities include wild tea making with foraged foods, felting with wool, animal handling, games, challenges, milling flour and more.
The programme of ‘Back to Basics’ talks for kids and families include exciting and interactive discussions on Stardust in our Soil: where things grow and why and what our soil is really made of; The Magic of Seeds; and How to Keep Pigs Happy. Topics to inspire budding farmers, growers, gardeners, food producers and inquisitive minds of all ages. We want everyone to get involved and to learn something new from the talks and demonstrations on hand, and encourage you to share your own questions and opinions around the topics of food production and farming.”

 

ANIMALS

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Saturday
• Chickens in a bird-handling pen that public can enter (from 10am-noon only)
• 2 x Berkshire pigs
• 2 x Pygmy goats
• 2 x Sheep
• 3 x Goats: Billy, mum and kid (with special goat-milking demo at 12.10pm at the pens)
• There will also be Goats milk soap & wool available to buy from the Hepburn’s goats next to their pen

Sunday
• Chickens in a bird-handling pen that public can enter (from 10am-noon only)
• 2 x Berkshire pigs
• 1 Ram
• 2 x Sheep
• 2 x large Saddleback Pigs

 

FAMILY FARMYARD TAKEOVER DEMO TABLES & KIDS WORKSHOPS (in the speakers tent) – Saturday & Sunday AM from 10am – noon only
 Saturday
Ø  Interactive Blackboard – Nessie Reid will be asking topical questions throughout the Family Takeover slot & encouraging kids to write their ideas & answers on the blackboard
Ø  How to keep happy pigs props, pics & info and a pig meat cuts display board with Martha Roberts, local pig farmer and small-holder (The Decent Company)
Ø  Flour-milling & learning about different grains & their journey from field to bread – Talgarth Mill
Ø  Food & farming related activities (puzzles, games, colouring, challenges) plus kids can have a go at dying eggs & learn about the protective covering on an egg (overalls will be provided) with Greenmeadow Community Farm
Sunday
Ø  Interactive Blackboard – Nessie Reid will be asking topical questions throughout the Family Takeover slot & encouraging kids to write their ideas & answers on the blackboard
Ø  Wild tea making with foraged foods & info on safe, fun foraging for kids – Liz Knight (Fine Forage Foods)
Ø  Felt-making demos & workshop plus a felt & wool display and info on working with wool – Emma Bevan (Ffolky Felts)
Ø  Flour-milling & learning about different grains & their journey from field to bread – Talgarth Mill
Ø  Food & farming related activities (puzzles, games, colouring, challenges) plus kids can have a go at dying eggs & learn about the protective covering on an egg (overalls will be provided) with Greenmeadow Community Farm

 

Kids Cookery Classes

Always a winner in my family!

Saturday 16th September
10:00 – 13:00 For kids, by kids BBQ with Freddy Bird
13:30 – 14:30 Ice cream sundaes with Green & Jenks (personally recommended)
15:00 – 16:00 Spice up your lunchbox with Jethro Carr
Sunday 17th September
12:00 – 13:00 Delicious beans with Jenny Chandler
13:30 – 14:30 Get baking with Bill King
15:00 – 16:00 Spice up your lunchbox with Jethro Carr

There is limited availability, places will be allocated on a first come first serve basis.

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Of finally, of course, there are the wonderful stalls. The producers’ knowledge and enthusiasm is totally infectious and many are quite happy to explain products and processes to children; and offer tastes – my son really enjoyed this aspect last year; he actually returned home clutching a ‘souvenir’ sourdough starter….and he knew the science behind it!

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Additional activity for families:

ABERGAVENNY FOOD FESTIVAL, ABERGAVENNY, 17/09/2016

Love Zimbabwe Kids Parade
Saturday 16th September, 1pm – 2.00pm

Pupils from local schools come together to learn and share Fairtrade songs in support of Love Zimbabwe. The march starts at Castle Street Methodist Church at 13:00, before heading to the Angel Hotel and the Lower Brewery Yard stage. At each stopping point songs will be sung and a speaker will say a few words, with the Mayor of Abergavenny closing the parade.
The march aims to raise awareness on sustainable living, global food shortages and the importance of Fairtrade.
Love Zimbabwe is an international charity based in Abergavenny, run by Martha and David Holman. The charity’s mission is to improve quality of life of disadvantaged communities in Zimbabwe through health, education and poverty reduction interventions and fostering sustainable global education in Wales.

Rotary Young Chef of the Year Competition

Saturday 16th September, 9.45am – 10.45am

“We are delighted to be hosting the Abergavenny District Final of Rotary GB & Ireland’s Young Chef of the Year Competition, which will take place in the Market Hall on Saturday morning. The winner of this final will go on to compete against Britain and Ireland’s best young chefs in the National Final in January 2018. Whether you just like to cook or you want a Michelin starred career in the kitchen, Rotary’s Young Chef of the Year Competition is a fantastic springboard to culinary success. Who knows, one day the winner may be headlining the Abergavenny Food Festival themselves!”

This competition is open to all students in full time education between ages 11 and 17. Go to https://www.rotarygbi.org/what-we-do/youth-competitions/ for more information.

Storytelling for Children
Saturday 16th September, 3pm – 4pm

“As part of this year’s Fringe programme, experienced storyteller Alison Newsam who works at schools in the surrounding area will be reading stories at Broadleaf Books in the town. A free event, suitable for aged 5+ with contributions welcome.”

And after all that, I expect the adults will definitely be in need of one of these…..highly recommended, and I have sampled extensively…just to make really sure!

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To try and distill the true essence of Abergavenny Food Festival I asked Chief Executive Aine Morris a few questions:

What makes the Abergavenny Food Festival so successful?
“The festival is all about food with a commitment to showcasing the very best developments in British craft food. Our speakers and supporters love Abergavenny as fundamentally, we are able to deliver a food festival with a community feel to a hugely engaged audience of visitors every year. There’s a special mix of talent, interesting talks, dynamic masterclasses, demos and educational spaces which keep people coming back year after year.”

What are the highlights of this years festival?
“I’m very excited about the return of the Community Feast in the Market Hall. It’s a fantastic way to celebrate the installation of the Market Hall decorations, and say a massive ‘thank you’ to the local town with their own special event.

“The pop-up feast by Edinburgh Food Studio is going to be a real highlight – they are definitely some of the most exciting young chefs in the UK at the moment and I’m looking forward to seeing them showcase their food.

“And for families, The Farmyard will be taken-over by kids each morning of the festival this year. There will be a series of workshops including The Stardust in our Soil and the opportunity to milk goats!”

In three words, how would you describe the Festival?
Delicious, inspiring, fun-filled

So there you have it; what’s not to like? Parking is easy, accessibility is excellent….my main recommendation? Really comfy shoes, because there’s an awful lot of ground to cover!

 

 

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                    For further information: www.abergavennyfoodfestival.com