Have just returned from the Eat Dorset food fair and I am still salivating. Foodie heaven on my doorstep. Literally. The fair is in the grounds of Parnham House in Beaminster, so I should have walked but decided not to. I knew I would have too many bags to carry back.
I started by watching Lesley Waters demonstrating an appetising menu: bread filled with dried figs and black pepper, pheasant terrine, chunky apple marmalade, seared venison with roasted beetroots and potatoes…
It’s such a good idea to have chefs demonstrating the produce sold on site because it entices you to try new things. Lesley is brilliant, she really embraces the whole local food phenomenon that has grown in this country in the last decade and runs with it. She uses these local suppliers for her school near Dorchester, so whilst a cynic would say that she gets a good deal from them, I say she’s chosen to live and work down here for a reason: because there is so much choice of tasty local food.
So filled with new ideas I had to go and choose what to spend my money on. Not an easy task. This was not a fair filled with grannies and their marmalades or other chutneys. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve bought a few chutneys from grannies in my time but today I was after real local stuff to fill my fridge with and the tricky bit was to choose wisely. Today I wanted something new.
Lesley showed us how to marinate some feta cheese. Really simple, very mouth watering. Thing is, Woolsery are not allowed to call their cheese feta because this is Dorset not Greece. Why they’ve decided to call it Fiesta though is a quandary. The big softie or ‘Woolsery’s crumblie’ would have spoken more to me but what do I know! All the same, I still bought some and will stuff it into a jar with some good olive oil; haven’t decided which herbs to use yet but I can’t wait to eat it with a baked potato or with some pasta since it won’t last until next Summer for a salad.
Another show stopper for me was the Real Boar company. Despite my brother-in-law being a wild boar hunter near St-Tropez I had never tried boar salami. It hits the taste buds strongly as you’d expect but leaves a lingering subtle taste of red wine and for some reason made me think of blue cheese, although you will not find any Blue Vinney in it. The texture is fine and silky, it melts in your mouth and is utterly delicious. I subsequently found out that they supply the George Cinq -the man heard the French accent so he impressed me with the Parisian Palace first- but also Jamie Oliver. Well, I’m not surprised. If I had a restaurant, I would find a way to put it on the menu. In the meanwhile, I am thinking dinner party.
Now we have two ‘big’ names in Dorset that export abroad and have cleverly marketed their ethos through to their packaging: Dorset Cereals and Clipper Tea. Big bold designs for scrumptious products. Clipper are actually based in Beaminster and their fair trade tea in unbleached tea bags has been my favourite cuppa since my mother in law introduced me to them when they took over the Numatic factory some years back. As for Dorset Cereals they had a special offer on, so despite my “New Stuff’ policy I could not resist a bargain; plus I ended up with lots of little freebies. Don’t you love freebies?
Honey was something I was keen to find. My kids love it but try as I may to find English honey in the supermarket all I could find is utter nonsense. I don’t want honey that’s flown from New Zealand. I know we have a problem with bees dying everywhere but why does the honey have to fly from the other side of the world to land on my doorstep? Even worse, the cheaper brands are from ‘mixed sources within the EU’. Where has this honey been before it went into the jar, let alone on my kids’ toasts? What a joy to find honey from Hugh and Gillian Land who have hives near Sherborne. I should have bought more than one jar.
Another foodie find was Rapeseed oil from the The Seed Company. My Mediterranean roots make me reach for the olive oil before I’ve even thought about cooking, so I have placed the new thin bottle by the cooker so I don’t forget to use it. Apparently it can burn to a much higher temperature than olive oil, let’s see if I can be convinced to use an oil that is as expensive as the thick green cold pressed nectar. Last time I tried a new oil for cooking it promised to have carotin in it which is supposed to be good for you, it looked orange but when I fried it, my whole house stank of fish. Can’t remember the name of it, probably because my brain is worried I might buy it again by mistake. I have a better feeling about Rapeseed though. Could be the nice little green canvas bag they gave me to carry my bottle. Another freebie.
It wasn’t all food though. There were some beeswax stuff -makes sense since there were honey suppliers- and seeds from Peppers by Post. These guys also grow chilli. We bought a plant from them a few months back. What a winner. It stands proud at the end of the kitchen table near the window and it has produced dozens of chillies -purple, white, yellow, orange and red ones. The whole family loves looking after the plant and it is still growing in October. I am chief waterer though. For five pounds, that was the best investment in spices we’ve ever made! Another non foodie stand well worth a visit is Green Drawers. It’s the most eclectic stand there. Interesting eco products, cushions with hand woven covers or made from prints from a local artist -Liz Summerville; and those bags like my Mum used to have to go shopping with when I was a kid. They look like posh and bright onion sacks with a handle. If you can remember before the plastic bag days that is. I love them, bought a bright pink one to leave at the bottom of my handbag. And yes, I filled it with organic sausages, bacon and chipolatas from Sydling Brook Farm.
Must be off now, there’s some cooking to be done.