Actually Mrs Portly goes to the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival every year but this year I actually got my hands dirty (literally – egg and breadcrumbs – more on that later) and what a fantastic weekend it was.
The sun shone (mostly) and a big crowd of food lovers came along to soak up the atmosphere in the beautiful setting of Snape Maltings, before staggering home with bags full of delicious things to eat and drink.
More than 60 of our East Anglian food and drink producers were there to showcase their products and a whole host of famous chefs came along to give cookery demonstrations and masterclasses.
I was invited to compere some of the demonstrations and I was in hog heaven. I’m not called Mrs Portly for nothing.
I got to chat to and occasionally help out chefs like Michelin-starred Galton Blackiston of Morston Hall, who generously forgave my mangling of his name; Mexican street food maestra Thomasina Miers of Wahaca; the lovely Sabrina Ghayour, author of my favourite new cookery book Persiana; Jane Baxter and her sous chef for the day, her son David; and the wickedly funny Mike Keen of Ipswich gastro pub, the Brewery Tap.
It was Mike’s fault I got my hands dirty, as he roped me in to egg and breadcrumb his crab-and-smoked-salmon-wrapped Scotch eggs, an idea I’ll be nicking off him in the near future. The audiences were fantastic (thank you for laughing at my jokes, folks) and the food cooked by the chefs was both scrumptious and inspiring.
It’s the most fun I’ve had while wearing a pinny in a long time. Apologies for the fact that I’m in so many of the pictures, by the way, but the friends who took the photos were naturally rather biased (thank you, Simon and Tim).
I still had time to tour all of the food producers’ stands and came home with a magnificent rib of Aberdeen Angus from Lottie Barbour of Cratfield Beef, a jar of fabulously aromatic saffron from Norfolk Saffron, a deliciously gooey piece of Baron Bigod, a raw milk Brie-style cheese from Fen Farm Dairy, and a pre-order in for my Christmas turkey and a couple of guinea fowl from P.A. Mobbs and a whole lamb from Jimmy Denny at Alburgh Lamb (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). Oh, and some excellent smoked beef fillet from Artisan Smokehouse and a loaf of Pump Street Bakery‘s sourdough to eat with it.
Aldeburgh is not just the top foodie event in Suffolk but one of the top food festivals in the entire country and we’re lucky to have it. It’s a non-profitmaking celebration of everything East Anglian and a lot of people work tremendously hard all year round to make this one weekend a success.
My personal thanks go to Jess Brown and Annie Willey, who worked virtually round the clock to ensure everything went so smoothly, to sound engineer Walshie and to Chris, who slaved at the back of the demo tent to wash up, clean up and keep the ingredients coming and who had a big smile on his face all weekend regardless of the pressure.
There are still lots of fringe events still to come, by the way, including next weekend’s Woodbridge Shuck shellfish festival focusing on oysters and mussels from the River Deben, and the meringue and macaron masterclass and mad hatters’ tea party (no, I don’t know either, but it sounds like fun) at the White Lion in Aldeburgh on October 11. Check out the festival website for more information.
Roll on 2015 when we can do it all over again.