The Wonder of Essex Food – The Essex Food Festival

13 Jul
If you are looking for the best food the UK has to offer then I’m pretty sure you could fulfil most of your desires within Essex and Suffolk.  I know I may be bias but we have so much to offer;  Tiptree Jam, Maldon Salt, Kelly Bronze Turkeys,  Essex Pigs and Mersea Oysters, Rossi’s Icecream, Adnams Ales, Marriages flour,  Aspalls Cider and Copella fruit Juices to name but a few of the more famous brands on offer.  Then there are all the local stand alone providers selling their wares at all the wonderful farmers markets these fine counties host on a daily basis.  It’s not surprising with all of these culinary delights on the doorstep that we have also given birth to some of the countries top chefs.
So when talk of an Essex Food Festival began I could barely contain my excitement and the day itself did not disappoint.  The weather was great, which is always a bonus, and when we arrived at Cressing Temple Barns the place was buzzing.  As soon we paid our very reasonable £6 entry fee we were immersed into a foodie heaven.  With so much to try, do and buy we really didn’t know where to start.  We got stuck in to sampling many of the wonderful produce on offer and even with my high views of Essex food I wasn’t disappointed.   All the exhibiters were so lovely and helpful, and they clearly all believed in their products which is so refreshing to see.  I can highly recommend The Giggly Pig Company for truly unique sausages, especially their Lemon and Fennel creation which were divine and The Suffolk Pate Company for wonderfully scrumptious pates, their chickpea and coriander was my personal favourite, such a flavoursome dish with a real kick to it.
After sampling many foodie delights my attention was grabbed by a very interesting lady from Food Safari UK, an inspirational company that goes beyond your usual cookery lessons to give you a real food experience.  Whether you’ve always fancied mushroom foraging, butchery lessons, artisan bread making or a boat trip to catch your fish and learn how to cook it these people have the day for you.  I want to take part in every single one of their 10 experiences on offer; I just don’t know where to start.
Finally on our way to grab some lunch and listen to the live music we got chatting to a very informative, and I must say lovely lady, from  Visit Essex.  Her wealth of information on things to do in the Essex area was astounding and I left armed with bundles of leaflets to read when I got home and with many ideas for days out and.  Just once again proving to me how very wonderful this fine county is.
Well done to the whole of the Essex Food Festival team, you put on one hell of a show; I cannot wait till next year.
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The Big Feastival

13 Jul
Being pregnant over the summer does limit the traditional festival experience somewhat. Take this weekend for instance, I’m attending a beer festival and have already had to phoned ahead to ask if they will be serving any non-alcoholic beers.  Don’t get me wrong being the only sober one when out has its advantages, I have enough embarrassing photos and stories in my locker now to get my own way within in our group for at least a year, but I have found myself wishing there was a more pregnant friendly festival for me to take part in.
Then I won 2 tickets for The Big Feastival and my wishes were answered.  Upon entering the arena I squealed with delight, all my Christmases has come at once.  A funfair, music stages, Split-Screen VW selling ice-cream, clothes for sale, makeovers, cake making, BBQ competitions, cookery demonstrations not to mention over 15 different top restaurant outlets selling food for £5 per dish.  It was as if Mr Oliver had asked Jules ‘what do all pregnant ladies love?’ I can only assume the answer was FOOD!
The food was great, the queues did get big but it was always worth the wait. We got stuck into trying all the free tasters as well – what is with freebies that make you try things you would never go near if you has to pay?
My highlights of the event were the WI tent in which I found clothes by Lilly Allen’s boutique Lucy in Disguise and free knitting lessons, and the Karaoke stage where you could get up and sing with a live band.  I didn’t join in the singing, but some people were really getting into it and there was some real talent on display.
Unfortunately as I only won these tickets 3 days before the event we already had plans for the evening so left about 5pm and missed The Charlatans headlining, but I’ve heard they were great.
I certainly think Jamie Oliver’s golden touch struck again, he had even arranged glorious weather for the day.  He has a great recipe there for a great annual event, excuse the pun.  I certainly would return next year, and this time my main review would be on the cocktails bars!

Hylands Park – A great place to play and eat

13 Jul
For us lunch in the park is always a picnic, my wicker hamper is my pride and joy and I’ve lost count of the number of picnic blankets I have bought up over the years.  I just feel that there is something so quintessentially English about a ‘proper’ picnic. Ripping off a piece of bread, covering it in Brie, picking a few cherry tomatoes out the pot, pouring a glass of red wine and chatting for hours under the trees while the children run around needing only mother nature for enjoyment is quite honestly my idea of heaven.   All that could make it better would be travelling there in the vintage split screen VW camper I have had my eye on – maybe next year!
Today however there was no picnic for Scarlett and me – The wonderful English summer weather put pay to that.
So off we went to Hylands Park in Chelmsford to dodge the rain, try out their playground and grab a bite to eat in the cafe.  The Adventure Castle Play Area is the best play park we have been to in the local area, catering for toddlers right through to teenagers, with equipment that can be used by all ages at the same time which I think is great for families with multi aged children.  It was nice and quite today (midweek, term-time) so Scarlett got lots of time to run around and play on everything. The cradle swing and giant wooden fort were her two favourite attractions. Hearing my little lady squeal with delight as she ran off on her own over the drawbridge into the fort showed me just what a grown up little lady she is becoming – where has my baby gone??
Once the little lady had burn off steam it was time to fill our bellies.  A short walk across the fields led us to Hylands House, an 18th century country house open to the public with a visitor centre, gift/craft shop and Huttons Courtyard Cafe.  Instantly I was pleasantly surprised with how child friendly the place was.  There were many highchairs available along with booster seats for older children and we quickly found a box of goodies; toys, colouring books and crayons to keep us amused while we waited for our food.  The menu was quite standard however I must say that the options for children were very good.  They were served promptly, hot and with child sized cutlery for Scarlett (which I always appreciate) so that was wonderful. 
We left the cafe two full, happy and worn out individuals and headed back the car – I hadn’t even left the car park before Scarlett was snoring her head off and she went to bed for a further hour when we got home – so that was a nice bonus for me too.
I would thoroughly recommend a day out at Hylands Park, there is so much to do and the best bit it is most of it is totally free.  I  will be heading back there in a couple of weeks with the whole family, this time packing a picnic as I think my hamper is feeling left out, so as always….fingers crossed for sunshine!
Telephone: 01245 605 500
Website:
www.chelmsford.gov.uk/hylandsforkids
Parking – Writtle Road Car park (Free)
Park opening time – 7.30am
Park closing time – January 5pm, February and March 6pm, April 8pm, May 9pm, June and July 10pm, August 9pm, September 8pm, October 7pm, November and December 5pm

Essex Food Festival

13 Jul

If you are looking for the best food the UK has to offer then I’m pretty sure you could fulfil most of your desires within Essex and Suffolk.  I know I may be bias but we have so much to offer;  Tiptree Jam, Maldon Salt, Kelly Bronze Turkeys,  Essex Pigs and Mersea Oysters, Rossi’s Icecream, Adnams Ales, Marriages flour,  Aspalls Cider and Copella fruit Juices to name but a few of the more famous brands on offer.  Then there are all the local stand alone providers selling their wares at all the wonderful farmers markets these fine counties host on a daily basis.  It’s not surprising with all of these culinary delights on the doorstep that we have also given birth to some of the countries top chefs.

So when talk of an Essex Food Festival began I could barely contain my excitement and the day itself did not disappoint.  The weather was great, which is always a bonus, and when we arrived at Cressing Temple Barns the place was buzzing.  As soon we paid our very reasonable £6 entry fee we were immersed into a foodie heaven.  With so much to try, do and buy we really didn’t know where to start.  We got stuck in to sampling many of the wonderful produce on offer and even with my high views of Essex food I wasn’t disappointed.   All the exhibiters were so lovely and helpful, and they clearly all believed in their products which is so refreshing to see.  I can highly recommend The Giggly Pig Company for truly unique sausages, especially their Lemon and Fennel creation which were divine and The Suffolk Pate Company for wonderfully scrumptious pates, their chickpea and coriander was my personal favourite, such a flavoursome dish with a real kick to it.

After sampling many foodie delights my attention was grabbed by a very interesting lady from Food Safari UK, an inspirational company that goes beyond your usual cookery lessons to give you a real food experience.  Whether you’ve always fancied mushroom foraging, butchery lessons, artisan bread making or a boat trip to catch your fish and learn how to cook it these people have the day for you.  I want to take part in every single one of their 10 experiences on offer; I just don’t know where to start.

Finally on our way to grab some lunch and listen to the live music we got chatting to a very informative, and I must say lovely lady, from Visit Essex.  Her wealth of information on things to do in the Essex area was astounding and I left armed with bundles of leaflets to read when I got home and with many ideas for days out and.  Just once again proving to me how very wonderful this fine county is.

Well done to the whole of the Essex Food Festival team, you put on one hell of a show; I cannot wait till next year.

 

http://www.gigglypig.co.uk/markets/

http://www.thesuffolkpatecompany.co.uk/

http://www.foodsafari.co.uk/

The Big Feastival – Clapham Common

12 Jul

 

Being pregnant over the summer does limit the traditional festival experience somewhat. Take this weekend for instance, I’m attending a beer festival and have already had to phoned ahead to ask if they will be serving any non-alcoholic beers.  Don’t get me wrong being the only sober one when out has its advantages, I have enough embarrassing photos and stories in my locker now to get my own way within in our group for at least a year, but I have found myself wishing there was a more pregnant friendly festival for me to take part in.

Living in Clapham Common big feastival 6 july 2011 Jamie Oliver was on our doorstep   The Big Feastival in Clapham

Then I won 2 tickets for The Big Feastival and my wishes were answered.  Upon entering the arena I squealed with delight, all my Christmases has come at once.  A funfair, music stages, Split-Screen VW selling ice-cream, clothes for sale, makeovers, cake making, BBQ competitions, cookery demonstrations not to mention over 15 different top restaurant outlets selling food for £5 per dish.  It was as if Mr Oliver had asked Jules ‘what do all pregnant ladies love?’ I can only assume the answer was FOOD!

The food was great, the queues did get big but it was always worth the wait. We got stuck into trying all the free tasters as well – what is with freebies that make you try things you would never go near if you has to pay?

My highlights of the event were the WI tent in which I found clothes by Lilly Allen’s boutique Lucy in Disguise and free knitting lessons, and the Karaoke stage where you could get up and sing with a live band.  I didn’t join in the singing, but some people were really getting into it and there was some real talent on display.

Unfortunately as I only won these tickets 3 days before the event we already had plans for the evening so left about 5pm and missed The Charlatans headlining, but I’ve heard they were great.

I certainly think Jamie Oliver’s golden touch struck again, he had even arranged glorious weather for the day.  He has a great recipe there for a great annual event, excuse the pun.  I certainly would return next year, and this time my main review would be on the cocktails bars!

 

Fun in the sun

7 Jul

There is so much fun to be had in Essex this month I’m not sure how I am going to fit it all in.

 I very thrilled to be attending the inaugural Essex Food Festival at Cressing Temple Barns this weekend coming (9th/10th July) for a showcase Essex’s finest producers, chefs, vineyards, farmers markets and food vendors.  Having visited Clapham Common last weekend for Jamie Oliver’s ‘Feastival’ and filling my belly with scrummy food all day I am so excited to replicate this enjoyment with truly local, Essex made products – the only way is Essex after all!

The following weekend sees the return of the CAMRA Chelmsford Beer Festival – in my eyes the best summer festival Chelmsford has to offer (Sorry V!).  This year will be a tame visit as I’m pregnant so no beer for me, however there will be plenty of food and live entertainment for me to enjoy and I never tire of watching my friends get drunk and then reminding them of their daftness the next day.

Finally I’m taking the husband to Jimmys Farm on the 31st July for their Beer and Sausage festival as his birthday treat – with sausage making demos, sausage eating competitions, live music, kids entertainment, rodeo pig and free access to the nature trail including the butterfly house it looks like its shaping up to be a great day out for out whole family.

 

I do love Essex, I never struggle to find things to do or for places to go.  I just hope we get some sunshine to accompany our summer fun. I’ll be back soon to let you know how we get on.

Ben and Jerrys Festival, Clapham Common

24 Jun

Now festival season is upon us we have booked our tickets to take the little lady back again to the Ben and Jerrys Festival – had a great time last year….check out our review on Festival kidz (great website!!)

http://www.festivalkidz.com/festivals/review-ben-jerry/

Alice

Shaken Vegetable Omelette

18 Jun

Mini-Chefs 1st attempt to crack an egg herself

Mini-Chef and I attempted this recipe together for the first time on Thursday, before now it’s been me cooking and her watching.  Cracking the eggs was a lesson in itself, it started with the first two falling on the floor and the next three been thrown into a bowl by mini-Chef with a lot of shell following closely by, but we persevered and got there in the end.  She chose a mix of cooked vegetables to put in the omelette and a handful of cheese. 

For this recipe we use Lakeland Boilbags http://www.lakeland.co.uk/1405/Boil-a-Bags?src=gpcoo as they are a lot sturdier than sandwich bags, which depending on the brand have been known to leak when boiling.

Ingredients (Makes 1 Omelette)

Boil Bag or Strong Sandwich Bag

2 Eggs

Handful of chopped mixed vegetables (these can be chosen by the child – we are using peas, carrots and cauliflower)

50g Grated Cheese

2 Tablespoons of Milk

Method

Crack two eggs into a reusable boiling bag or strong sandwich bag

Close Bag at the top with a knot or a sandwich bag tie and squish the eggs with your hands – this is great fun for little hands to help with

Re-open the bag and add the vegetables, cheese and milk (or the fillings of your choice) – letting your children helps with this part gives them ownership of their meal and can really help fussy eaters to try new things

Re-close the bag and shake to mix well – we have a little ‘shake shake’ song we sing at this point!

Squeeze any excess air out of the bag and ensure it is tightly closed

Place into a pan of boiling water

Tucking into her creation

Cook for 10-15mins (until all the liquid has disappeared)

Remove from the water with and open carefully (mind the steam)

Things That Make Me Smile

18 Jun

This week Essex has, on the whole, been a wash-out! The last two days have seen rain of biblical proportions at times – so much so I even asked the man of the house to see about buying some sand bags! So while I’m sitting here thinking up yet more raining day activities for us all my mind had wandered as to what has made me smile this week.

The Man of The House is losing it

After finding him and Mini-Chef singing a double glazing jingle from the local radio station on Tuesday because ‘he had forgotten the words to anymore nursery rhymes’ I thought id seen my share of crazy in this household for this week,  I clearly was mistaken.  I walked into our bathroom last night to clean my teeth just in time to witness him throwing his socks into the toilet bowl and heading to the washing basket to take a leak – do men get baby brain as well I wonder?

Mini-Chef has learnt to crack an egg

 It was like pulling teeth at times and cost me a pack and half of eggs but my little lady has grasped it.  Just means now the answer to ‘what do you want for dinner?’ had been replaced by ‘scrambles please mummy’ instead of the usual answer of pasta.  I think we may need to get Chickens.

Family swim time

We have found a new pool about 30min away from us in Braintree, Essex – its a great place for little ones with a leisure pool that 2 year old Mini-Chef can stand up in meaning no need for her armbands.  It has a few water fountains and also a wonderful slide that provided us with endless squeals of enjoyment. And it’s perfect for those rainy days!

CentreParcs next week

Family holiday time is upon us, and for some reason beyond my comprehension we booked a UK break for the same week that Wimbledon begins, which can mean only one thing, RAIN!  Packing for this holiday has been an experience, I haven’t holidayed in the UK since I was a child and hadn’t realised the bizarre planning it involves.  The start to my list for packing currently reads as follows;

Swimwear

Sun cream

Welly Boots

Waterproofs

Paddling Pool

Sun tent

Umbrella

Torch

 

In this fast paced world we live it is so easy to forget the little things that are important to us, I am making a promise to  myself that each weekend I will sit down and document what has made me smile over the past 7 days.  Especially with little ones around, we sometimes forget to stop and remember all the special times we have on a daily basis – I’d love you to share with me the things that have made you smile,  it’ll give me something to read when the rain starts again!

Hylands Park – A great place to play and eat

15 Jun

For us lunch in the park is always a picnic, my wicker hamper is my pride and joy and I’ve lost count of the amount of must have picnic blankets I have picked up over the years.  I just feel that there is something so quintessentially English about a ‘proper’ picnic, ripping off a piece of bread, covering it in Brie, picking a few cherry tomatoes out the pot, pouring a glass of red wine and chatting for hours under the trees while the children run around needing only mother nature as their enjoyment is for me quite honestly my idea of heaven.   All that could make it better would be travelling there in the vintage split screen VW camper I have had my eye on – maybe next year!

Today however there was no picnic for mini-chef and me – with us going on holiday at the weekend I have been running down the food in my house for a couple weeks, meaning when I went to the kitchen this morning the cupboards were bare!

So off we went with a friend and her little boy to Hylands Park in Chelmsford, Essex to try out their playground and grab a bite to eat in the cafe.  The Adventure Castle Play Area is the best play park we have been to in the local area, catering for toddlers right through to teenagers, with equipment that can be used by all ages at the same time which I think is great for families with multi aged children.  It was nice and quite today (midweek, term-time) so Mini-Chef got lots of time to run around and play on everything – however I have been told weekends can get quite busy so arrive early for a few hours of playing before the masses turn up.

Once the little ones had burn off steam it was time to fill our bellies.  A short walk across the fields led us to Hylands House, an 18th century country house open to the public with a visitor centre, gift/craft shop and Huttons Courtyard Cafe.  The cafe was very busy on arrival and all outside tables were full – we opted for a nice inside table and were pleasantly surprised with how child friendly the place was.  There were many highchairs available along with booster seats for older children.  We found a box of goodies;  toys, colouring books and crayons to keep the children amused which was also a very friendly touch.  The menu was quite standard however I must say that the options for children were very good, quick bites for lunch like toast with toppers and a range of sandwiches right up to main meals such up to scampi and chips or sausage, mash and yorkshire pudding.  The meals were priced from £2.20 – £5 for children; they were served promptly, hot and with child sized cutlery (which I always appreciate) so that was wonderful. Mini-Chef had a Sausage sandwich which was seved with salad and carrot battons, it was eaten with a big smile and the mouthful I had was very tasty.  It was a large size childs meal the would suit toddlers to teenagers, if I were to go back again with two little ones they could share a meal and still be well fed.

We left the cafe with two full, happy and worn out children and headed back the car – I hadn’t even left the car park before Mini-Chef was snoring her head off and she went to bed for a further hour when we got home – so a fresh air bonus for Mummy too as I got half hour of housework done and half hour to catch up with Sky+, well 10 mins housework and 50 mins catching up on Sky+ but lets not tell the man of the house about that one!

I would thoroughly recommend a day out at Hylands Park, there is so much to do and the best bit it most of it is totally free.  I  will be heading back there in a couple of weeks with Mini-Chef and her Daddy, this time packing a picnic as I think my hamper is feeling left out, so watch this space for picnic recipes and outdoor activity ideas.

 

Hylands House and Park, Chelmsford, Essex – http://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=6155