Blenheim Palace Food Festival

Blenheim Palace Collage

The food festival season is truly upon us. You could probably spend every weekend from now until the end of the autumn at a different food festival somewhere around the country. And I for one intend to get to as many as I can possibly can.

I spent last Bank Holiday weekend in the Cotswolds, in the beautiful market town of Woodstock, home to the rather magnificent Blenheim Palace, residence of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, which this year played host for the first time to its very own food festival. Continue reading

Calling all bakers: tell your best children’s stories in cake!

Official C&B Show logo

With four shows in four new venues, the Cake & Bake Show is bigger than ever this year, and includes a BAKING COMPETITION on the theme of ‘Children’s Stories’ taking place at each of the venues: Harrogate, London, Manchester and Edinburgh.

The Cake & Bake Show is calling on all cake makers to create a fabulous cake that is an interpretation of a children’s story. Each cake creation can be inspired from any children’s story or film, (there’s lots of inspiration in the cinemas this summer with new releases Minion, Peter Pan and Jurassic Park); or it can be a combination of your favourite characters or stories from over the years! Continue reading

A double helping of foodie feasts

Love Food Collage

We’ve had a good food day today. A lovely Sunday roast followed by homemade cherry pie and ice cream. But it doesn’t compare with what we got to tuck into last Sunday. (Although I must say the cherry pie was pretty top notch. You’ll be able to judge for yourself, as I’ll be posting the recipe on the blog soon.) But last Sunday was rather special on the food front, as we were well and truly spoilt for delicious delights with not one, but two foodie feasts. Firstly an afternoon spent at the Love Food Festival in Bristol, and then an incredible five-course Italian meal in the evening, cooked by the marvellous Valentina Harris, for all those involved in the Wells Food Festival.

The Love Food Festival is the brain-child of Lorna Knapman and takes place throughout the year in venues in and around Bristol, showcasing and championing local producers from across the South West. Lorna has been described as a “food loving mum on a mission to create a sense of community and pleasure in food wherever she goes.” I like the sound of this woman! Dubbed Bristol’s Creative Quarter, The Paintworks on Bristol’s Bath Road is a fantastically vibrant location, and it regularly plays host to Love Food and that’s where we whiled away many happy hours last Sunday, talking to local food producers, growers and cooks and blissfully tucking into some of the best food and drink the Westcountry has to offer. That’s what Love Food is all about after all and we took full advantage of all that was on offer.

After devouring their Burger Theory burgers and Rib Street hot dogs (despite my best efforts to bring them up as adventurous eaters, meat in a bun is still their favourite form of street food – and my husband’s too for that matter), my daughters had a brilliant time making paper lanterns and dragons for Chinese New Year, as well as cute little yarn-wrapped sheep, perhaps in readiness for Shaun the Sheep’s imminent arrival in Bristol.

When I asked them what their favourite activity of the day was, both girls agreed it was making their own Chinese spring rolls and wonton dumplings with a little help from the head chef from the cafe at St Werburgh’s City Farm. They prepared them using those little wraps you can pick up at any Chinese supermarket and filled them with lots of fresh veggies. We took them home to cook for lunch the following day. They were so easy and very tasty too, especially dipped in sweet chilli sauce; the kids were so proud of their culinary creations and I’ll definitely be enlisting their help to make more again soon.

My personal highlights of the Love Food Festival were a beautifully spiced South Indian vegetable curry and parsnip and ginger pakora from Gopal’s Curry Shack, Henny & Joe’s rather wonderful homemade masala chai infusion (which I’m told also works a treat in a fruit cake – look forward to trying that out), and the gorgeously addictive Turkish delight from MKS Food Distribution. And it was so good to bump into Sarah again from Wookey Farm, just down the road from us in Somerset, who I was so pleased to see was doing a roaring trade with her goat’s meat, milk and cheeses.

The next Love Food Festival at the Paintworks will be on Sunday 29 March. To keep up-to-date with all their latest news and events, visit

If that wasn’t enough, we then headed back down to Somerset for a special dinner hosted by Paddy and Judith O’Hagan who are both involved in the organisation of the now annual Wells Food Festival. A gathering of volunteers and supporters of the festival, we were treated to five mouth-watering courses by Italian cook Valentina Harris, chef and author of nearly 50 cookbooks and the chef behind last year’s stunning Italian Feast. Valentina created a whole host of beautiful canapes, followed by various pasta dishes (including macaroni cheese, which I devoured but was delighted when my daughter told Valentina it was good but not as good as mine!), then a delicious risotto, all kinds of naughty puddings and finally cheese and biscuits. Phew!

Valentina's puddingsI was far too busy scoffing and chatting to take any photographs, but I did manage to get a quick shot on my phone of the puddings – a chocolate torte, orange cake and pears poached in red wine and spices. Bang went my diet!

Valentina promised my daughters she’d send us her recipe for the poached pears as they loved them so much. Watch this space – I’ll share it with you once I’ve had a go at making it myself.

There was lots of talk that night about plans for this year’s Wells Food Festival, which returns in October. As soon as the details are firmed up, I’ll bring you news of that too. But rest assured it will be a joyous and delicious celebration of all the very best that Somerset has to offer in terms of food and drink.

My ten favourite things about the Food Reader Awards 2015

Food Reader Awards 2015

Photography by Guy Harrop.

On Monday last week (26 January) I was thrilled to join a whole host of foodies from across the South West at Yeo Valley HQ in Blagdon, Somerset, all of us finalists in the Food Reader Awards 2015. Accompanied by my husband Jason, we were excited (and slightly daunted) to be joining a dazzling line up of tasty talent from across the region to feast on delicious West Country fare served up by Yeo Valley’s kitchen team at Fodder and celebrate the winners of this year’s competition.

Here are my top ten highlights from the night…

1. And the award for Best Blogger goes to…

Me! So yes, that’s got to my number one highlight. I honestly almost fell off my chair when my name was read out. I’d completely convinced myself I really didn’t have a chance and was simply overjoyed to have made it to the awards dinner. Scooping the Best Blogger trophy, particularly with such strong competition from Hells Belles’ Bites and Wuthering Bites, was absolutely the icing on the cake and I’ve been having to pinch myself all week.

Thank you so much to all my blog followers, fellow food bloggers, friends and family who took the trouble to vote for me. You have absolutely made my year. All those late nights “just finishing off one last post” and putting up with the moans from my family waiting to tuck into dinner while I take “just one more photo” of their food have been worth it!

2. The venue

Yeo Valley HQ provided a splendid setting for the night’s festivities. The Fodder restaurant is a beautiful space, and apparently boasts fabulous views over Blagdon Lake, although it was too dark for us to appreciate these sadly. We’ll have to take the kids there for lunch one weekend to see these for ourselves. And I loved the way the venue was decked out with vegetables, from carved sheep to dirty parsnips suspended above our heads.


3. The music

Whoever selected the music for the night has great taste. There was lots of chair dancing going on around our table. If only there’d been a dance floor… And I love the fact different tracks were carefully selected to play as the winners of the different categories were announced. I went up to collect my award to Paperback Writer by the Beatles.

4. The canapés

There’s nothing like some delicious nibbles to get the party started and the canapés really set the standard high for what was to come later. Jason and I strategically positioned ourselves close to a large trayful when we first arrived. His favourite were the very moreish Exmoor Blue cheese biscuits (got to have a go at baking some of those myself), while I couldn’t get enough of the pickled vegetable arancini (deep-fried risotto balls) and steak tartare crostini.


5. Severn Project salad

I first heard about the Severn Project on BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme last year. Set up by Steve Glover in 2010 on a disused plot of land in Bristol, the Severn Project is a fantastic social enterprise producing and supplying salad to food-lovers and restaurants, training and employing people from ‘socially-excluded groups’, such as those recovering from drug abuse, or those with mental-health or offending backgrounds. I was delighted to see their salad on the menu accompanying the hot smoked Blagdon trout. Urban leaves are gert lush!

severn project salad and smoked hot trout

6. Holt Farm beef

The dinner served up by the talented kitchen crew at Yeo Valley HQ was a truly fantastic feast. Well, it had to be really, with all those discerning and very hunger foodies gathered together. For me the star of the show was the main course, a gorgeously succulent roast fillet of beef from Holt Farm, the original family farm in Blagdon where Roger and Mary Mead started farming back in 1961 and the Yeo Valley story started. Now you can’t get much more local than that. Or delicious.


7. Sharp’s Dubbel Coffee Stout

Each course was matched with West Country beers and ciders. Sharp’s Dubbel Coffee Stout paired with the dark chocolate pudding was an inspired combination; the rich, bitter stout balancing perfectly the deep, dark chocolate and sweet clotted cream from Rodda’s (who picked up the gong for Best Foodie Product).


8. Thatcher’s Rose

Also matched with dessert was Thatcher’s Rose Cider. A crisp, light and refreshing cider made from rosy red Katie apples, it couldn’t be more different to the Coffee Stout, yet also worked oh so well as a sweet pudding tipple. As Jason was the nominated driver for the night, I got to sample both. Lucky me!


9. The Loos

I’d heard so much about the ‘facilities’ at Yeo Valley HQ ahead of the event, and they didn’t disappoint. Jason and I even ended up taking selfies for some bizarre reason in the wonderfully kitsch and decidedly eighties disabled loos! At least I can blame the alcohol…


10. Johnny Depp

Someone told me that all the pictures on the walls in the corridor leading down to the restaurant at Yeo Valley HQ were chosen by the staff. Fab idea! And good call to whoever it was that picked this Rolling Stone cover featuring the sex god that is Johnny Depp. Cue another selfie! Anyone who knows me from my schooldays will understand.


11. Helen Upshall

OK, so I realise I was only supposed to be bringing you my top ten highlights, but I’ve just got to squeeze in one more. I have to give a big shout out to Helen Upshall from Hells Belle’s Bites, who I was sat next to during dinner and who was also up for Best Blogger. I was convinced the award was hers. Helen has a beautiful blog, creates amazing dishes and has such a strong connection to the West Country in that every recipe celebrates at least one local ingredient. If you’re not following her already, then I strongly urge you to do so.

A huge thank you once again to everyone that voted for Bangers & Mash, and got my 2015 off to one helluva start. To get the low down on all the other winners, take at look at the Food Magazine website.

Last chance to vote in the Food Reader Awards

food mag reader awards2

That’s me on the right receiving my finalist certificate from Belinda Shipp from Rodda’s, sponsors of the Best Blogger category

If you haven’t voted yet in the Food Reader Awards and given your support to your favourite food heroes in the South West, there are just a few hours left to do so. Voting closes tonight (Wednesday 14th) at 11:45pm (GMT) and here’s where you can register your support.

I’m a finalist in the Best Blogger category and would dearly love your vote, although I have to say I am extremely thrilled simply to have made it to the finals. All the finalists met up on Monday for afternoon tea at the beautiful Combe House Hotel down in Devon, which was just wonderful, and I really enjoyed meeting fellow finalist Helen Upshall from Hells Belles’ Bites, as well as Belinda Shipp who is marketing manager for Rodda’s, the makers of Cornwall’s famous clotted cream and also sponsors of the Best Blogger category. You can see photos from the event over on Food’s website.

And in a couple of weeks, I’ll be hob-nobbing with the region’s top foodies once again when I attend the awards dinner over at Yeo Valley’s HQ right here in Somerset. So you can see why I’m more than chuffed to have made it this far. But having said that, any last minute votes would be very, very gratefully received!

Thanks so much for your support – it means a great deal.

At the special afternoon tea for finalists in the Food Reader Awards with fellow blogger Helen Upshall

At the special afternoon tea for finalists in the Food Reader Awards with fellow blogger Helen Upshall


The World Cup of Food

England might be out of the World Cup but as I’m not all that into football, I can’t say I’m particularly devastated. But I am rather into food though – funny that as I write a food blog… So I thought this infographic of The World Cup of Food was much more interesting than the World Cup itself.

It showcases dishes from each of the countries that have been competing in the tournament. Each dish has been selected by a different food blogger, including the very lovely Helen from The Crazy Kitchen who has chosen good old steak and ale pie for England’s dish.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.