Tag Archives: Real food festival

Bread – what’s left unsaid

Look, if you are not in the mood for cooking (a state I know) then make sure basics, such as bread, are doing you good.

Bread gets messed-around with. This sticky label, from the 2009 Real Food Festival, lists ingredients that might be found on bread – but are never listed.

The label said:



This ‘bread’ may be made using the following:

Amylase, hemicellulase, phospholipase, peptidase, xylanase, protease, oxidase and other enzymes, some of animal or GM origin.

The law says bakers don’t need to declare them.


These stickers are only for use in your own home. The Real Bread Campaign, Sustain and The Real Food Festival take no responsibility for any consequences, legal or otherwise, of you using them elsewhere such as wrappers of factory bread, supermarket shelves or advertising posters.”


As Michael Pollan says: if they are more than five ingredients on a label, avoid.

The long list of enzymes above are “processing aids”. In other words they are used to make the bread rise faster, look nicer, last longer.

But because these processing aids are not classified as food ingredients then – by law – they do not need to be listed on the label.

Whaaat? You eat them but they are not food ingredients?

It reminds me of adulterated food sold to the Victorian poor

My real bread came from the Better Food Company in St Werburgh’s, Bristol where I also got marmalade made by their chef (as good as homemade…hey, it’s January, time for marmalade-making again) and organic butter from Nature’s Genius in Fishponds, Bristol.

Yes, the bread cost more than supermarket bread but I got more food for my cash. My grandmother would say money spent on un-nutritious food is money wasted. And I agree. Do you?

Judging the Great Taste Awards

Great Taste Award 2009 super-cropped

I was a judge at the recent Great Taste Awards at the Real Food Festival in London last weekend. It was a salutary experience.

That is putting it politely.

Some of the entries had an ersatz look and taste. Lemonliness, for example? Think pungent-smelling disinfectant.

The Great Taste marquee seated about 100 judges at different tables.  The judges at mine included three other food writers and one buyer from a posh department store.  She had all the technical words whereas I was going: “Yak, I can’t eat this.”

Our brief? To taste seven olive oils as well as confectionary, cakes and biscuits. Cruel combination, but we were game. We discussed each item thoroughly, making copious notes including constructive suggestions.

My fellow judges allowed only one item, a fresh and intriguing amaretto chocolate, on to the next stage.

It is good to know judging is discerning so a Great Taste Award is worth its…salt.

But where was the taste? I felt commercial concerns with clout and confidence were the ones putting their products up for judging.

Back on the showfloor, there was real food galore.

For example the Nibchoc stall with its Raw Cocoa Bar with Ginger Nibs was a sumptuous ginger taste-sensation and healthy to boot.

My message is: if there are any artisan or small organic food producers out there, thinking:

“Do I dare put my product in front of the Great Taste judges?”

I would say: Do It.

Get out there, real food makers, and strut your stuff for the 2010 awards!

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Fay’s pavlova and the Real food festival

Fay\'s pavlova

Fay’s pavlova is legendary. How does she get the meringue so light on the inside yet crispy on the outside?

Piled high with strawberries (out-of-season but hey, only g-d is perfect), imbedded in whipped organic double cream, the delectable concoction is hard to resist.

Fay and I both rely on the late Evelyn Rose’s recipe for a perfect pavlova. It’s worth buying her book just for that, although (I promise), you will find a ton of other indispensable recipes there too.

Whip four egg whites to stiff peaks, then fold in double the amounts of caster sugar (that makes eight ounces. Sorry, I am so unmetric when it comes to cooking although I am trying, I really am). Fay uses half of white caster sugar and the other half golden caster sugar.

The secret Evelyn Rose ingredient is one teaspoon of vinegar (plus one teaspoon of vanilla). The vinegar seems to ensure that crispy outside and unsticky inside although I am not sure how it works scientifically.

Then spread the mixture on a greased baking sheet and bake in a low oven for two hours.

Being such a purist, my mum (for that is who Fay is) is no freezer-cook but she does (to my surprise) freeze egg whites.

I want to take my mum to the Real food festival on Thursday 24 April as she so appreciates fine raw ingredients.

“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” she says. You have to buy the best (be it organic, free-range, fresh, seasonal, local and/or artisan) to make a good meal, she says.

If the ingredients are good, no need for complicated recipes (as her mother said before her).

Ingredients, ingredients, ingredients. The only three words you need to know when it comes to cooking.

Real food festival – what a buzz

Fay\'s borscht

As you can imagine, as soon as I got wind of the Real food festival, I knew I had to go.

Opening this Thursday 24 April at 10 am in Earl’s Court, this is London’s foodie festival of the year.

With about 500 small producers under one roof, including Blur musician and cheese maker Alex James, it must be one of the the biggest farmers’ market in the world.

(Thus meriting a picture of my esteemed mother’s borscht. She strains the cooked beetroots, adds lemon juice to the liquid and beats in an egg. See pic from Saturday lunchtime, above.)

The Real food festival ends at 6 pm on Sunday 27 April. Here’s how to get tickets.

There’s a real buzz going on in the food world about this festival. Everyone I speak to is on their way.

I will be going on Thursday. My first stop, Nichola Fletcher’s stall (P648).

Nichola is a deer farmer from Auchtermuchty, Scotland. I just read on her website how the deer in her care are slaughtered. Sentient beings, they die instantly with no stress – it is awesome.

Deer are well-real because they have not been so intensively-farmed or bred (unlike those poor chickens).

Nichola is also an award-winning author. I know Nichola from the Guild of Food Writers. Fellow members, we have ‘met’ online.

I am looking forward to meeting Nichola in real (my favourite word again!) life.

And tasting her compassionately-killed venison.