Tag Archives: cheese

Brighton & Hove Food & Drink Festival (1 Sept – 4 Oct 2011)

Saturday, 10 September at 11:55am

In typical fashion, I’ve accidentally found myself in Brighton during a food festival…and with no camera.

I have, however, brought my notepad and a pen, so I’ve perched myself in a sunny spot under a palm tree behind the royal pavilion and its here that I’m eating a blueberry muffin and drinking my very belated morning coffee.

So far today I’ve wandered the Lanes (lusting over all the lovely antique diamonds) and I’ve perused the offerings at the food festival (which I also lust over) on New Road and Regent Street, narrowly avoiding a rather dangerous encounter with a Cypriot food stall selling only four types of pastries; the savoury options being spinach & feta and halloumi & onion, and the sweet options being a sort of almond custard with cinnamon and an anari filled empanada-like pastry, drizzled with honey and sesame seeds.  (I love anari – it should be an incredibly dull cheese, but it makes everything you serve it with, feel special.)  All of them were very tempting and oddly enough, they were gluten free as well.  There are dozens of stands selling American style cupcakes, old fashioned English tea cakes, freshly spun cotton candy (the staff wear massive bright pink wigs), local cheeses (including some Sussex Charmer, which I’ve bought to take home) and there’s also a man selling organic, biodynamic English fruit wines.

By the way, as I write this, I’ve been eavesdropping on an elderly Australian family who have accidentally made their way to this quiet end of the garden and have been deciding whether or not to negotiate jumping the 6-ft high fence that separates the Royal Pavilion grounds from the art deco bus stop at Old Steine.  Thankfully they have reconsidered and have taken my recommendation of walking to the other side of the garden and taking the exit onto Church St.  I love how Australians behave like 25 year olds, even when they’re 65!

Many of my favourite pleasures of Brighton are food-based; Montezuma’s chocolates, the fudge cake at Chockywockydoodah, the mountain-sized summer salad and the eaton mess at Bill’s on North Road and fish & chips with a can of coke on the pier.  As I’m here on my own today, its unfortunate that I’ll  probably avoid indulging myself with a single one of these decadences, but I may wander my way back up to Regent Street to buy one of those beautiful Cypriot pastries.

Saturday, 10 September at 2:35pm

I’m sitting in Pavilion Gardens, at the front of the palace, rather than the back this time, nibbling on my spinach & feta pastry and listening to the electric sitar player.  At one point, I thought it would be terribly romantic if I fell in love with the sitar player and lived with him in a ramshackle flat in Brighton while he busked & gigged and I ran a yoga commune or taught at a Waldorf school or something, but this fantasy stopped the moment he stopped for a smoke break with his friend the Rastafarian (who you also sometimes see playing his steel drums in the Pavilion Gardens) and started whinging about the Council in the truly whiniest voice you’ve ever heard.  Love is a fickle thing, and my loyalties immediately returned to my lovely boyfriend…even if he does work in insurance.

Sunday, 11 September at 12:10pm

The Brighton & Hove Food & Drink Festival continues until 4 October and there are plenty of foodie events between now and then, although the Big Sussex Market, which I’ve been at, will finish on Sunday 11 September at 6pm.  Its a beautiful autumn day and all the major Brighton restaurants have food stalls, there are loads of local suppliers of food and drink, and there’s a whole pavilion for Mexican Independence Day.  So, eat & drink your way to Jubilee Square and then watch some Mexican dancing or wander into the Pavilion Gardens and listen to the brass band (or the electric sitar player!) whilst enjoying a glass of prosecco from the Hotel Du Vin stand.  Just hurry up and go…now!

Shop by the Season

Fresh raspberries from Kent I bought at Bermondsey Farmer’s Market this morning

I don’t always buy organic.

I do when I can, but sometimes I prefer to buy the local Kent or Sussex grown tomatoes if that’s what is available at the farmer’s market, rather than the organic Spanish ones at the big chain superstore, which are laden with the additional guilt of unecessary food miles and extra packaging.  I shop the way my conscience tells me to, and sometimes that means that means making difficult choices.  The one choice I never compromise on, however, is how my food tastes.   I’m not going to buy either of those tomatoes if they taste of damp cardboard.  And certainly not unless they smell like a tomato should smell; of damp earth and acidic fruitiness.

Buying what’s in season usually keeps me on the right track for getting the freshest & most flavour packed produce.  And, as a farmer I am not, my vegetable guy at the market always steers me in the right direction, so my general horticultural ignorance doesn’t seem to hinder me too much.

Luckily I didn’t have to make any difficult choices this morning when at the farmer’s market.  My fish guy, Chris, was there with his truck back full of sustainably caught sole, haddock, crab, plaice and mackerel.  I bought some plaice and got the instructions on how to prepare it.  Chris is a 4th generation fisherman and though I’ve not been buying from him for too long, his fish is always fresh & odour-free and I’ve found his advice to be consistently spot on.  When I prepare my dinner tonight, I’ll season and flour the plaice lightly and fry it in butter, finishing it only with a squeeze of lemon.  A little fennel, sliced thinly and sauteed to transparency in butter (if I still had a gallbladder, it would hate me now) and well seasoned with salt & pepper and a tablespoon of luxuriously thick and tart creme fraiche stirred in at the end, will make a beautiful and simple side dish to accompany the fish.

But wait, I need to tell you more about the butter!  Its Glastonbury butter!  Green’s of Glastonbury are a family-run dairy farm from…well, Glastonbury in Somerset, where their organically certified herd munches on the grass around the slopes of Glastonbury Tor.  They are mainly a cheese producer, but they also sell their own butter, which is sold in huge round wodges and they also make the most nutty and sharp unpasturised cheddar you will ever taste.

After the amount of butter and creme fraiche in my supper, I think the cheddar will have to wait for another day, but the abundance of raspberries in season means I will still be having dessert tonight.  But this time, no Greek yogurt, no creme fraiche, no drizzle of honey.  Just plain raspberries, so ripe that each drupelet bursts open and starts to melt as it touches your tongue.

The Taste of Summer

Ripe tomatoes & fresh organic local mozarella

Its summer now.  Apparently.  And on the odd day or two its even been vaguely hot outside.  As cool Spring evenings turn into sultry Summer ones, my tastebuds stop craving the carby warm & sweet earthy concoctions of grains, rich spices and roasted vegetables I once favoured and start craving the light and elegant flavours of summer.  Basil.  Watermelon.  Tonic Water.  Pistachios.  Orange blossom honey.  Sour yogurt.

Last night I came home, miraculously still full from the miso soup I’d eaten at lunchtime. Some tomatoes from the local Greek market around the corner were sitting on the counter, ripening from red to almost purple, and their heady fresh dirt perfume hit my nose as soon as I walked into the kitchen. I rummaged in the fridge to find the last  of my recent farmer’s market purchases, a fresh ball of organic buffalo mozzarella, and cut it into thin slices, alternating with slices of the tomato, and then heightened the flavours with a sprinkle of my Portuguese fleur de sel (flor sal I believe it is called) and some coarsely ground pepper.  We mop up the juices with slices of dense rye bread & butter from the local organic bakery.

Another small slice of the honey & vanilla pound cake ended the meal extremely well and we retired to the sofa to watch Thomasina Miers’ new Mexican cooking show in my old Oaxaca culinary haunt at the Abastos Market.