Celebrating the best in British food

It was a great thrill to receive tickets to attend this year’s BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards. It is, to my mind, of great importance that the BBC champion independent and artisanal food producers from farm to fork, so to speak, and I took great interest in finding out more about the nominees, spanning from cheese makers, to a micro brewery in Bristol. For a full list of nominees, take a look at the Food and Farming Awards website here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/ffa/2011/

The awards were recorded in Birmingham at the NEC, at the same time as the BBC Good Food Show, so it was an excellent opportunity to take a good look around the show at the same time. It’s always a great opportunity to spot many celebrity chefs and television presenters, and this trip was no exception. I always love to catch up with friends and see what new food producers are up to at these shows.

Each award was presented by a well known figure; with those presenting including Rick Stein, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Richard Corrigan and Adam Henson from Countryfile.

Rick Stein chatting to Sheila Dillon on stage

 

All of the awards were tremendously well-deserved and indeed so were those of the runners up. There are many genuinely exciting and innovative food producers, farmers, cooperative owners and artisans all over the British Isles, and it’s great to celebrate the valuable work they do.

I chatted to Richard Corrigan after the awards, who was just bubbling with excitement about the quality, skill and expertise which goes into the production of so many wonderful foods. We talked about just how far this has come on in recent years, and how the quality of so many foods being produced in the UK easily rival any being made abroad nowadays. Particularly so on the cheese front. You can here Richard talk about the Loch Arthur Creamery cheese makers on BBC iplayer, which won the Best Food Producer website.

Adam Henson chatting to me

 

Adam Henson and I discussed the changes in farming which have taken place in recent years, including the focus on sustainability and the positive impact this can have on farmers. I was also lucky enough to chat with Adrian Dolby, runner up in the Farmer of the Year Award, and his delightful wife. The work they do on the Barrington Park Estate is tremendously valuable.

I was so thrilled to have the chance to chat to some of the winners and runners up after the awards ceremony. The lovely ladies at Alder Tree Fruit Ices told me about their lovely products (which were absolutely delicious, my blackcurrant fruit ice disappeared in no time). They are predominantly a fruit farm, who use home grown seasonal fruits in all their ices. They, I think, are destined for great things.

I tried some sensational bread from Golspie Mill (runner up in the Best Food Producer category) whilst chatting to the lovely Wayne Wright, a passionate chef at Harper Adams Community College. An inspirational chef, with a great philosophy and winner of the Best Public Caterer Award.

Wayne Wright and his award

 

Next time we go on holiday to the Lake District, we will be stopping off in Bolton, that’s for certain. Their sensational market won the Best Food Market Award. All I can say is that I wish there were more food markets like this. A great community market, where people can actually go to do their weekly shop! I’m all for farmers markets and there are so many excellent ones around, but the issue I have is with the cost of some of the products on sale. It’s just not realistic for very many people to buy a significant proportion of their weekly shop there. Bolton Market is different, selling great value, local produce and is, as a result, really well supported by the local community. Below is Malcom Veigas from Bolton Council, who accepted the award.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was the deserving winner of the BBC Food Champion of the Year Award, for the Hugh’s Fish Fight campaign, working tirelessly to change the rules and regulations surrounding fishing quotas and fishing wastage. We were shown a clip from the television campaign which Hugh fronted to highlight the issue, and I was truly horrified by the practices which are in place, which have to be followed defying common sense or logic.

Valentine looking very jolly

Finally, I chatted to Valentine Warner, a great champion of British produce, who was really excited about the awards and what they mean, and is very keen to support the work of BBC Radio 4 in running the awards.

Please do take a look at the nominees and winners and remember…support local when you can!

Finally for this time, some more of my favourite soup recipes. They are both great ways to use up any unloved vegetables in your fridge.

Leek and Potato Soup

My leek and potato soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 spanish onion, diced
  • 225g/8oz potatoes, cubed (I like King Edward or Maris Piper)
  • 2 medium leeks, sliced thinly
  • 1.2 litres/2 pints vegetable or chicken stock
  • 150ml/5fl oz double cream or crème fraîche (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the onions, potatoes and leeks. Cook gently for around 15 minutes until the vegetables soften.
  • Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Season well with salt and pepper and simmer for another 20 minutes or so. I like the potato to be really soft.
  • Blitz a blender until smooth. I use my Cuisinart blender on the high function. If using cream or crème fraîche, stir this through now.

N.B. I made this soup dairy free and it worked very well for a vegan option.

Carrot and fresh coriander soup

Ingredients:

  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 spanish onion, chopped
  • 450g carrots, washed, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1.2 litres vegetable stock
  • Chopped fresh coriander
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onions, carrots and garlic, sauté until they are soft, but take care for them not to colour
  • Add the ground coriander and plenty of seasoning
  • Add the stock and bring to the boil, cover and simmer for around  20mins or until the carrots are really tender.
  • Stir in the fresh coriander.
  • Blend the soup, add the lemon juice and serve

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