Saturday, 24 September 2011

Real Food Harvest Festival – South Bank, London – 23-25 September 2011

If you are in any way interested in food, every year seems to bring more and more events where you can indulge yourself. 'Taste' now operate festivals in London, Edinburgh and Dublin (sadly the Birmingham event was cancelled) and has a Christmas event 'Taste of Christmas'. The newer 'Foodies Festival' took place this year in London, Edinburgh, Hampton Court, Brighton, Oxford and Manchester. Masterchef has a live show, coming in November. The London Restaurant Festival is soon to start. And you may have noticed that throughout the Summer at London's South Bank, there has been a lively Saturday 'Real Food' market.

To celebrate the end of Summer and harvest time, the organisers of the Real Food market have put together a weekend where you can shop, eat, drink and watch demonstrations by a varied and reputable number of chefs and TV cooks.

Yesterday was something of a small preview, as a large number of exhibitors and traders had not yet arrived and set up shop. However, as the weekend has now started it would appear that there will be over 100 exhibitors running stands. 

Market Stalls in the shadow of the Queen Elizabeth Hall
During my 'reccy' of the festival yesterday, I found a variety of stalls, some selling take home products and ingredients and others ready to consume food and drink. 

Cute little Dutch pancakes being cooked before your eyes!
Wandering around, enjoying the last of the Summer sunshine among the stalls
Being the kitchen geek that I am, it was obvious that the cooking classes and demonstrations in the 'Chef's Demo Kitchen' were going to attract my attention. I had the chance to watch two great demonstrations. 

The first was by Naved Nasir of Dishoom Restaurant. Dishoom (at 12 Upper St. Martin’s Lane) specialises in the food of Bombay, a melting pot of influences from all over India and beyond. Seeking to recreate the heritage of 'Bombay Cafes' (a dying breed in a city becoming increasingly modern), the food is heavily influenced by the flavours of street food. These wonderful dishes are rarely served in UK Indian restaurants, and even more unfortunately, are not documented in any cook books. Naved demonstrated the making of 'Vhera Pao' (AKA Aloo Bonda), a battered potato dumpling served in bread as a street side snack in Bombay. 

Naved Nasir whisking the batter for his potato dumplings
Naved went to great lengths to get the recipe from one of the street vendors who make this dish. Naturally, the vendor was suspicious to give up his trade secret, so Naved had to visit him nightly during his breaks from working in a restaurant kitchen, to beg the secret recipe. After tasting the results, I can see why he was so protective! Naved also shared recipes for the accompaniments to the dish, being two chutneys and a masala.
Valentina Harris shows the correct texture for fresh pasta after being given a little rest
I also had the chance to watch Italian food expert and cookery writer Valentina Harris' masterclass on pasta. Valentina exploded the myth that Italians constantly make their own fresh pasta at home, a process I have found extremely time consuming and occasionally fraught with difficulty. No, they are usually quite happy with good quality dried pasta, and if fresh is needed, it can (and is) bought from artisan pasta makers. Making the stuff at home happens on truly special occasions. Ones which are more special than mere birthdays. Valentina gave some invaluable advice to pasta novices like me, and demonstrated a butternut squash and walnut filling for home-made ravioli.

There are some amazing demonstrations happening over the weekend, including Jason Atherton (of Pollen Street Social), Giorgio Locatelli and Cyrus Todiwala.

So if you are thinking of having a day out this weekend, you may want to visit the Harvest Festival. Fuller details of the exhibitors can be found on the Festival Website.

If you want to know more about the planned cooking classes and demonstrations, click here for the  Timetable for the demonstrations


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