Ludlow Food Festival 2014

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Ludlow Food Festival was on over the weekend of Friday 12th to Sunday 14th September in the beautiful market town in Shropshire.  Along with two very lovely foodie friends, Carmela and Julie, who I met up there on Saturday 13th September, we enjoyed our first visit to the Festival.

Starting off our day with a bread making demonstration from Rob Swift, a fifth generation baker of the Swift Bakery dynasty, we sat both entertained and educated by his talent and skills as he showed us how to make a brioche, poached pear, strawberry and chantilly cream stack.  We were also treated to a demonstration of how to make aratha buns (a sweet, steamed Asian bun) that we would have the pleasure of enjoying later in the day as we ate our way around the festival. I reviewed Rob’s book, Born to Bake, in a previous post.

A quick, flying visit to Momo No Ki to sample one of their delicious Ssam’s Bun, made using Rob’s aratha buns, which is filled with pulled pork, sour cherry hoisin sauce, pickled cucumber and spring onions and we were back at the stage for our next demonstration.

Marcus Bean was next up, where he created a chicken, basil pesto and courgette risotto recipe from his new book that has just been published, simply called ‘Chicken’.  More on this book on a future post though as I treated myself to a copy.  Marcus is the chef face of ITV’s This Morning programme and is a talented, self taught, chef who won the Iron Chef competition a few years back.  Along with his wife, they own the Brompton Cookery School in Shrewsbury.  The Brompton also had a pop up cookery school at the show, where visitors could enjoy a free cookery class.

A quick change of seats where we managed to get on the front row, we were then treated to a demonstration by Chris Burt, Executive Chef of both The Peach Tree and Momo No Ki (which translated means the peach tree) in Shrewsbury.  Chris was joined on stage by Sam Gray owner of Middlefarm, author of Doing it in Wellies and host of BBC’s from Plot to Pot.  Chris created a recipe of a pork ‘Wellington’ using Sam’s British Lop pork for the pastry filling.  This was served with a beautifully presented garden of baby vegetables.  It was an event of new books, as Chris also has a book recently released, entitled Momo No Ki, after his Asian inspired restaurant.

Leaving the stage, we toured the show, visiting, sampling and purchasing foods from the amazing producers who we’re exhibiting their wares, from cheeses and ciders to cakes and sweets. We visited favourite spun iron cookware specialists The Netherton Foundry‘s incredibly busy stand where they had a fabulous display of their pots, pans, woks, slow cookers and tagines.

We spotted this little fella munching on a punnet of strawberries; how cute is this?

We chatted, ate, drank, and had the odd hug and kiss from Rob, Marcus and Chris along the way. Returning three times to Momo No Ki we tried every item on their menu, including the Notorious PIG; crispy pork dumplings in Korean BBQ sauce which are delicious!

A quick tour around the outside of the Festival at the markets, boutiques and artisan shops in the town and we were back on the road and headed for home with a long 2 1/4 hour journey ahead of us.  If you get the chance to visit the Ludlow Food Festival, I can thoroughly recommend it.  See you next year!

Book Review – Born & Bread – Robert Swift

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I had the pleasure to meet Robert Swift, a 5th generation family baker from Richard C Swift Ltd in Shropshire at the Brompton Cookery School recently.  Rob is clearly an incredibly passionate man when it comes to yeast, dough and bread. Looking at his lineage, you really can say that it’s in his blood!  We were given a potted history of the family business which is traceable back over 150 years to his great-great-great aunt, Hannah Swift, when she began her bakery in 1863.  Long before the commercial bakeries with their artificial proving methods were ever thought of, this innovate and hardworking lady was producing bread using only four simple ingredients; flour, water, salt and yeast along with a fifth secret ingredient; a huge pinch of love and passion.  Something that is the ethos of the business still today.

You’re introduced to the family line in Rob’s book, ‘Born & Bread’, starting with Hannah and continuing through to Rob today who has introduced a sixth generation into the business in the form of his two children, who will no doubt grow up with the family passion and continue to grow the business and traditions into the future and beyond.

Along with his wife, Lucinda, he has also developed a new company, Bread2Bake, which provides master classes and services an ever-growing number of farmers’ markets, food festivals and other shows with demonstrations.

I was lucky enough to have front row seats to one of Rob’s masterclasses as part of the BBC Good Food Show Midlands Blogger event at Marcus Bean’s Brompton Cookery School in Shropshire in May.  After a very early morning in the bakery, Rob brought along some of his prepared dough and introduced us to the methodology of creating a dough that would rise every time with only the simplest of ingredients.  He then went on to teach us how to shape and flavour the dough to produce an artisan loaf that was truly delicious and perfectly turned out.

We were treated to a host of different breads that Rob had made for lunch to go with the amazing quiche that Marcus made for us, along with British tomatoes and other delicious artisan foods from stallholders that would be attending the BBC Good Food Show, Summer 2014.

Kindly, we were each given a copy of Rob’s book Born & Bread to re-create our own yeasted wonders at home.  It’s been the book which has become my bedtime reading each evening for the last couple of weeks and one that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading and digesting (not literally, I’m sure you understand!)

In the book, Rob introduces you to the life of bread, through the stages of Infancy, Adolescence and Maturity, helping you to understand what goes on in each of these stages to produce the perfect loaf.  It includes the mandatory section on ‘Tools of the Trade’, none of which are expensive or difficult for the beginner to get hold of.  It then gets into the science of bread and ‘The Gluten Framework’ which (as an inner geek) is fascinating and insightful to understand, but of course you don’t have to be a geek to read and understand the book as it’s beautifully and very clearly illustrated with photographs throughout. You’re introduced to each ingredient thoroughly and taught their function in the chemistry of baking the perfect loaf.

Then on to the important part of the book – the recipes.  From a basic white dough and how to create, nurture, check, prove, shape and bake it through to the wholemeal loaf, via Brioche, Focaccia, Iced fingers, Ludlow Brewery beer bread, Pain au Chocolate, Poolish starters, Savoury Breads, Soda and Sourdough breads and sweet breads and cakes.  In all a whole cacophony of 160 pages of delicious and totally mouthwatering creations.

Rob, Sir, I salute you and your heritage. Thank you for bringing your passion into the kitchen and from your heart to those who are lucky enough to witness it first hand. Here’s to the next 150 years business for you and your family.

I was given a copy of Robert Swift’s book, Born & Bread, free of charge as part of the BBC Good Food Show Blogger event.  I was not under obligation to review it, positive or otherwise, but am genuinely impressed at the content.