A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting my second home town (during university) Birmingham, host to the BBC Good Food Show Winter. Where the highlight for me was seeing the almighty Rick Stein cook up a storm in the Sainsbury's Super theatre, for demonstration.
The show was a jam packed day in the large arena at the NEC Birmingham, bustling with shoppers, foodie gourmands and inquisitive cooks. In addition a host of chefs graced the arena, on Wednesday the likes of Stacie Stewart, James Martin, Tom Kerridge, Nathan Outlaw, Monica Galleti and Masterchef Winner Tim Anderson shared their tips and cooking demonstrations.
In the afternoon I had booked to see well known chef Rick Stein, with recipes inspired from his Spain book. Everyone was seated in the theatre (I lucky enough had a second row seat) and get a full view as he was introduced onto stage by Olly Smith, Sommelier and host.
Rick surprisingly was a slightly nervous cook in front of the audience however he revels in live demos because not only can he 'explain the subtleties of the particular dishes but can also communicate knowledge of raw materials, cooking tips and philosophy of good simple cooking'.
He mastered in creating some beautiful dishes at the demo, inspired from his love of seafood and as he exclaimed " not using second hand ingredients, preferring to use fresh, really makes that difference". Being in great praise of his cookery school in Padstow, Cornwall an idyllic location to get quality produce and ingredients.
In awe of his audience he cumbered up a deep dish of Clams with Serrano ham and Oloroso sherry - Almejas Al Jerez and a Chicken in a mildly spiced saffron, pine nut and almond sauce. Simple enough and perfectly keeping the main ingredient of the clams speak to for themselves and the spices of the saffron with almonds and pine nut sauce to infuse together. Two great festive dishes to try over Christmas.
Rick exclaimed, "If you’re cooking for more than four people avoid any cooking that requires pan work i.e. frying or sauteing much better to choose, say, the poaching or roasting of a whole fish or cooking fillets in the oven. You don't want to be cooking in relays!" Some advice I will definitely be taking.
Rick will be in Australia for Christmas this year, enjoying a seafood platter of "Queensland prawns, barbecued snapper and will probably also fit in a spanner crab" .. It's ok for some!
With so many suppliers and artisans of fresh Brit produce, ranging from quality home born and bred meats, homemade chutneys, jams, fruit and vegetables under one roof no wonder it took me over two hours to circle the room once.
With the likes of the Cornish Cheese Co, from Cornwall bringing their “World Cheese Award Supreme Champion” blue cheese, Cotswold Gold, rapeseed oil, from Worcestershire, Woodhouse Farm Leicestershire Meat, Belvoir Fruit Farm Lincolnshire fruity cordials, Napton Water Buffalo from Warwickshire brilliant buffalo burgers, Snowdonia Cheese Co, where I purchased their Amber Mist (cheese laced with whiskey) and The Garlic Farm from the Isle of Wight bringing their range of garlic products.
Some others included deep flavoured smoked kippers and smokehouse products with all things smoked on display, a smoky lover's heaven. Sorrel and Ginger drink, plenty of antioxidants and pungent, sharp ginger in a bottle, all things 'round' from The Little Round Cake Company, heavenly, mini cakes to satisfy those cravings.
I did manage to do some celeb chef-spotting, realising I was standing next to an ever smiling and not known for Monica Galleti buying knives, managing to catch Eric Lanlard's baking frenzy on stage, Tim Anderson and Andy Peters taking food enthusiasts step by step through gyoza making. There were plenty of talks, demos and opportunities to try and taste produce and a heavenly environment to be in if this is what floats your boat, so to speak.
Nabbing up some mini oatcakes from the Oatcake company (which were my loyal snacks while I was on the Candida diet) and The English Providence Sweet Tomato and Chilli chutney, perfect combination I trotted off back to London in anticipation of the Taste of Christmas Festival and many festive food markets to get into the Christmas spirit!
By Selina Periampillai