The Ludlow Food Festival
I have somewhat lost contact with The Ludlow Food Festival event in the foodie calender in recent years, so much so that I have not even bothered to look at the running order.
To me when The Ludlow Food Festival first began to use full time organisers it seemed to go off the rails forgetting its roots. Cooking demonstrations by teams from supermarket chains that measure their takings in billions, although interesting in their own right were not in my view particularly germane to the Ludlow food scene, did not in anyway enhance the prospects of small local producers and could have been witnessed anywhere.
There was for me the sheer difficulty in actually getting on stage to do a demonstration, I had to get up at 5 am to do basic preparation and load the car with the pots and pans I would need for the demonstration, then cook breakfast for our guests and prepare for lunch, leave a full restaurant before lunch service had finished, drive the 18 miles to Ludlow, work my way through the crowds, illegally park the car whilst I fund someone with a trolley to take my gear to the demo tent, then I had to get to the rugby field where I parked the car, finally I had to run all the way to the top up the very steep mound to get back to the castle entrance, I ain’t that fit!
Also the year before Isabel and I had been shopping in Ludlow and stopped off in a restaurant in Quality Square for a cup of coffee. This would have been perhaps in late October early November, two ladies who by their open discussion revealed themselves to be Ludlow Food Festival organisers, were taking a working lunch whilst discussing the recent food festival. The one thing that stands in my memory was that one of them said quite loudly “what are we going to do about John Mackley and his chefs” (John used to be the chef organiser) this was said as if the chefs demonstrations were some sort of impediment to the smooth running of the festival, rather than an integral part of the attractions of the festival.
So I am happy to see that The Ludlow Food Festival has many of our chefs demonstrating this year along with some of the culinary stars from Britain and from Ludlow`s twin towns, and some returning stars Shaun Hill and Claude Bosi.
Will Holland and Laky Zervudachi of Direct Seafoods are going to demonstrate dishes produced from sustainable fish. With Will Holland doing the cooking this will be an adventure in culinary art.
There is a personal welcome return to The Ludlow Food Festival of 2 Michelin starred Claude Bosi. In earlier days I only ever got to see one of his demonstrations, he was a delight.
As he was already (miked up) his demonstration began off stage with frantic murmurings as he was trying to gather his produce to take on stage, after a few moments he appeared in a distracted fluster clutching a carrier bag. He explained he was going to attempt to produce one of his mothers more complicated recipes and wanted to make sure he got it right.
After not a little rummaging in his bag he produced a single Camembert Cheese, one of those small ones that you can buy in their little boxes. With great care he opened the box and removed the cheese which was of course still wrapped in its wax paper, he held his audience spellbound as he slowly and delicately unwrapped the cheese, he then confounded us all by putting the unwrapped cheese back in it its box and replaced the lid. Then with an actors flourish and a cheeky grin he popped the box in the oven. That was it! his complicated recipe was to bake a Camembert in its box, it works I have tried is several times and it is a wonderful way to eat Camembert with toast soldiers.
They were a dream they’d wandered into, in the mist; a mystery, a stream of shadows under leaden sky.
On the way down we stopped off at Ultracomida in Aberystwyth and bought some cheese and some of their sour dough bread for the holiday.
Parking in Aberystwyth is a horror and the one way system has been designed by a town planner who’s sole intentions seems to be to keep you in the town centre by any means possible, even though you have to keep moving along with the other poor lost souls seeking either that elusive parking spot or a legal way out of the labyrinth, there is however a good park and ride system in operation – next time!
A gun metal grey storm driven sea was shattering against the harbour entrance with great plumes of cappuccino spray and there, just across the heaving water, was the old bridge that would take us on our way south. Unfortunately we would have to turn round and brave the one way system once more before we would reach it. Again we ended up for the third time in front of Ultracomida, perhaps its many awards have not a little to do with the fact that you keep meeting it when trying to escape the town (no that is really not fair).
For the rest of Monday we just read and slept and ate whilst the weather disintegrated even further.
Tuesday dawned with still heavy winds under a leaden sky which threatened more of last nights rain storm, so much so that when we went out many people were heard muttering that they thought it would rain any second and could not understand why it was not already. We decided that despite the weather the car boot sale might be worth a visit, when we reached the field all that was there was a very lonely burger van. Next on the agenda a drive down the coast and a visit to our favourite antique dealer to see if he had ferreted out any new pieces we might like. By now it was time for lunch and we thought we would try the little pub at Llangrannog.
The Ship – which has had one of those Carmarthen coast makeovers, where they put in a very expensive bar complete with a big stainless steel cappuccino machine and then paint everything white and blue – looked deserted but was in fact inhabited by three ladies who were sitting under one of the televisions waiting for their lunch. An unsmiling welcome assured us that our every wish would be considered! Soup of the day was off the menu because “he” did not know what it was “he” thought it might be chicken but would not serve it as the chef – obviously not “he” – was not contactable to verify the actual category. Perhaps fish then, but as the menu only said fish and not what sort we decided it probably was not worth pursuing, given the soup problem.
In the end we settled for Welsh beef burger and wedges. A “Welsh beef burger” turns out to be finely pulverised beef compacted into a dense rubbery slab, which is then grilled (I think) and wedges are triangular shaped chips. Actually it was not as bad as I am making out and the bun was very nice, well Isabel said it was, I had mine minus bun. Not wishing to outstay our unsmiling welcome and getting fed up with the conflict between both the television and the background music for our attention, we decided to head into Aberaeron and have coffee and cake instead of pudding.
Wednesday was mushroom hunting day, Isabel aided by the BBC weather fabrication department had decreed Wednesday to be the best day of the week, so after packing a bag of sweets and some water, off up into the mountains to check out some of our favourite mushroom spots. The best day of the week did not really extend far beyond the coast, we drove into mist and when out of the car the low dark clouds would occasionally throw just one single handful of raindrops at us as if in jest. We did however find several wild mushrooms mainly Hedgehogs and Giroles, (properly called Chantrelle until suppliers started calling something else chantrelle just to muddy the water) with the odd slippery jack (Bay Bolete). We both thought that had we had more time or more inclination we would have found lots of penny buns but perhaps another day.
On Thursday as we drove down to Aberaeron for dinner at the Hive on the Quay, the sun believe it or not, just broke through the heavy clouds making a statement of beauty that could only have been ignored by the fatally desensitize.
Dinner at the Hive was very a pleasant affair Isabel chose roast tomato and red pepper soup which she pronounced as being absolutely fabulous I had potted crab with crusty bread, which though very nice would have been better described as crab salad with toast sprinkled with olive oil, as the crab was not potted but mixed with mayonnaise, but that’s just me being picky over menu terms. Isabel`s main course of salmon with roast vegetables again met with approval as did my local Welsh lamb on creamed leeks. How Welsh can you get !
We were somewhat stuck when it came to ordering puddings not actually fancying anything on the menu. The pear tatin sounded nice, but I have only ever eaten one pear in my life, that was when I was five years old and was violently ill afterwards, probably not the pear’s fault but associations live with you. We chose instead some of the famous Hive honey ice cream so all was not lost.
One point I will make about the Hive is the service needs some sharpening, especially with the very slick operation of the Harbourmaster in sight just down the road. I understand the problems of getting restaurant staff these days, but when we write everything down on order pads why do they keep forgetting things?
The family in various guises have eaten now several times at the Hive and on each occasion something has been forgotten. One could understand this sort of laxity if the waiting staff were rushed off their feet but that is not the case, on Thursday evening four servers were dealing with four tables of two and one table of five, thirteen people in total, they forgot our water and Isabel`s liqueur, a bottle of wine for the couple on the left and the vegetables for the table on the right. They do not need lessons in customer service politeness or friendliness, in all these they are top notch, they need lesson in memory or perhaps they really need a different system. But even the forgetful service wont stop us going back, as the food is good ambience just fine and anyway there is always the chance next time they might forget the bill.
The first indication of the problem was when the hot water header tank in the loft began to overflow, something which had not happened for the past 3 years ever since the plumber fitted a new bit.
Next, one by one the toilet cisterns began to overflow even those which had not been used in the past few days, in all as we have eight toilets at the Waterdine, well nine if you count the one in Bumbles Lodge, which unfortunately we didn’t, assuming that as she had not said anything all was well with her world. In the end there were pipes overflowing from all directions, so we hunted in the tool shed for items we though would be helpful, spanners and things, and went to investigate.
Recipie on Waterdine Country Cooking site
The Vegetable garden is being very productive again this year. We grow a wide variety of roots, greens, legumes ect. This year we have been experimenting with a new method of growing some baby roots in boxes and up off the ground, this seems to have worked perfectly and the kitchen is now being supplied with some nice baby vegetables.
With a glut of Cucumbers from the garden I was pressed to “come up with a method to get rid of them”, as the weather was quite warm I did try cucumber vichyssoise, but that did not prove to be very successful with the customers who indicated a preference for other things on the menu by a process of not ordering it. So in desperation I made this cucumber mousse, then had to come up with something to sell it hence the Warm Prawn and Tomato salad, that worked! now I am struggling to find enough cucumbers and had to take it off the menu because I ran out of prawns.
This salad requires preparing well before you intend to serve then assembling at the last moment. The beetroot can be prepared two or three days before use.
Small bunch of Basil
Baby Salad leaves mixture such as corn salad, chicory, endive, mesclun, redicio ect. Washed and dried
The hedges have been cut, paths swept, gardens tidied, and baked, harvested, dogs groomed marquees erected and this year scarecrows built, because today is the day the village celebrates. What it celebrates I don’t know and have never bothered to find out but a Wake is usually a celebration at death perhaps could also perhaps mean harvest but what is really means is the village fête.