June 18, 2013 by Dewi
Every summer and every winter, the BBC Good Food Show comes to the NEC, Birmingham. This summer, the show ran from June 12-16. I’d never been before, but heard great things from friends and others who had gone in the past. I’d read and been told about the good range of cool, small artisan producers and the shows put on by TV chefs in the super-theatre. So as you can imagine, when Dani, my girlfriend, told me she’d bought us tickets to go on the Friday (and to watch a demo by John Torode and Gregg Wallace live in the super-theatre), I was a little excited. I was excited by the prospect of speaking with small producers about their products and buying some nice ingredients to cook with and review on the blog. I was excited about watching the Masterchef boys cooking live. I was excited about maybe even meeting some chefs, having a chance to talk to them and getting a photo, but more on that later.
The NEC is big. Really big. When you walk in it feels like you’ve entered a small town which happens to have its own roof. Incidentally, the different parts of the show were actually called ‘villages’. We quickly made our way into the producers’ village looking forward to trying some free samples. Rather than me go on about ‘this producer’ and ‘that producer’ and, frankly, bore you, I’ll just share few snaps of some good displays: (don’t worry, I will talk about one producer in particular later on, where I got some great ingredients)
Having wandered through the producers’ village for a while (tasting plenty of samples along the way!) we came across an empty stage, surrounded by other foodies who seemed to be eagerly awaiting something. As we neared the growing crowd, we read on a board that TV’s Mary Berry (baking royalty, of the Great British Bake Off) was due to be interviewed on the stage. Now, Dani is a keen (and very talented) baker. She also happens to think that little old ladies are the sweetest people on earth, so naturally, she demanded we stay and watch. To be fair, I genuinely enjoyed Bezza’s interview. She took questions from the audience and answered honestly and knowledgeably. She seemed just as nice as on TV, her popularity speaks for itself, really.
Next it was time to head into the super-theatre for the demo with John Torode and Gregg Wallace, the hosts of BBC’s Masterchef. I’m a fan of the show, the food can be fantastic (and the disasters are always funny), and John and Gregg are good hosts, funny but informative. On the show, John seems like the more serious of the two, rarely cracking a smile. I was quite surprised, then, watching the demo to find that he was actually a bit of a joker. The back-and-forth between him and Gregg Wallace was properly funny, and the food they cooked looked superb. John, drawing on his fondness for asian flavours, made sweet and sour tofu, and lobster in a thai curry sauce, the latter of which looked amazing. Gregg made a seasonal asparagus mousse which was so simple, but really impressive. I’ll definitely be making that this summer.
I left the super-theatre buzzing, but hungry. After a pit stop at the buffalo burger stand (which was delicious! – See picture below) I was eager to get back to the producers’ village to hopefully find some good ingredients to take home. In the end I bought some products from just the one producer: Olive Branch. They specialise in high quality, extra virgin olive oil which they produce in Crete. After a couple of free samples, and a pleasant chat with Kamil about their ingredients, I bought from them a bottle of their olive oil, some of their red wine vinegar, and a jar of sun dried tomato paste. These products really are absolutely delicious, I’ve never tried such fruity and fragrant olive oil. I’m really looking forward to cooking with this stuff and I’ll post the recipes when I do. You can find the Olive Branch guys on twitter @OliveBranchFood and do check out their website for more info, too: http://myolivebranch.co.uk
Late on in the day we were walking through the show and saw another crowd forming. They were crowding around a stand showcasing Paul Rankin’s traditional Irish food products, and behind the counter was the TV chef himself. He was talking with the punters and very happily posing for photos. I asked him if he’d mind me getting a photo for the blog, and he gladly obliged. He even went as far as giving me some freebies from the stand to mention on TBCC! He filled a bag with soda and potato farls, a sweet fruit cake called barmbrack, and a raisin and cinnamon loaf. He shook my hand and wished me luck with the blog. I was chuffed to bits!
Although I’m not normally one for pre-made stuff, preferring when I can to make things myself from scratch, I feel like I should say something about the Rankin products. Simply put, they are delicious. I had a slice of the barmbrack with butter on a rainy afternoon, and it was great with a cup of coffee. At the weekend we had the soda and potato farls with bacon and eggs, and again, they were lovely. When you’re not in the mood to make these things yourself, these make a great cheat. And I’m not just saying that because Paul Rankin off the telly was nice to me.
So that was the BBC Good Food Show. A cracking day out it has to be said, and I’ll definitely be returning in the winter to see more demos, artisan producers, and (hopefully) meet some more famous chefs!