It’s hard to believe that I’m writing my first anniversary blog, so it seems fitting that the subject of this post should be the same as my first one, Taste of Grampian. This is my third visit to the event, which is now in it’s 16th year, and I have to say this was the best event yet. Lots more exhibitors, great celebrity chefs and fantastic demonstrations throughout the day.
My first stop, as it was last year, was Summerhouse Drinks. Based in Aberdeenshire, Summerhouse Drinks have created the most delicious lemonades, and more recently, the first Scottish Tonic Water, Walter Gregor. I snapped up some bottles, eager to try it out a soon as I got home!
I was excited to meet up with Susan from Mess in the Ness, who I’d spent the previous Saturday with at Highland & Moray Food and Drink Festival. We headed to the craft tent before heading inside for the first demo of the day with Norman Calder. If you are a fan of The Great British Bake Off then the name will be very familiar to you as he was one of last year’s contestants and probably one of the best they’ve ever had on the show! Susan and I were lucky enough to have seen him the previous week in Inverness. He was just as entertaining and talked us through how to make a Fraisier Cake, a gorgeous French cake with fresh strawberries and crème pâtissière as well as an orange cake flavoured with Cointreau. Norman also brought a massive box of homemade shortbread which went round the entire audience…. we can safely say it was delicious!
After a quick look round some of the other stands inside, we headed back to our next demo, this time it was last year’s Bake Off winner Nancy Birtwhistle. She was incredibly warm and very comfortable in front of the audience. Like Norman, she told us a few wee stories about the process of applying for Bake Off and how her life has changed since winning as well as lots of baking tips, including one where she recommended adding one egg at a time when making a cake batter and using an electric hand mixer directly over the top of the egg and keeping it in that position until the egg has been completely incorporated before adding the next one. This way, according to Nancy, does away with adding a spoonful of flour with the egg to prevent curdling. During the demo, Nancy made some Flapjacks with Corrello Cherries and Coconut followed by a Pistachio and Chocolate Ring Cake, both of which looked utterly delicious. She even stayed on after to sign autographs and pose for pictures with the large crowd that had gathered!
I then had a good wander round the stalls and picked up some lovely goodies. I was particularly impressed with Dip Nation, especially the recipe cards that they had produced to accompany each of their dips. I selected three dips and have already used the Roasted Red Pepper Chunky Dip along with the recipe for Asparagus Tart and it was delicious!
Onwards to Jo Jo’s Jam where I discovered three new chocolate jams to the range! Not one to miss the chance of trying out a new jam, I decided to go for some Blueberry and Dark Chocolate Jam after sampling all three…… both Susan and I were in unanimous agreement that this was our favourite! Fruity and chocolatey, what’s not to love in a jam like that?
Time for something refreshing before the next demo, so I headed for Portsoy Ice Cream, who were selling the most tempting flavours including Raspberry and Loganberry Sorbet and Chocolate Orange Ice Cream. I plumped for a scoop of Bramble and Elderflower Sorbet and one of Gin and Tonic Sorbet (you HAVE to try it!!!).
Off back to the arena to join Susan to watch Lady Claire MacDonald, award winning cook and writer, and owner of Kinloch Lodge on the Isle of Skye. They don’t come much more professional than Lady Claire, preparing no less than three dishes using pork, lamb and beef in her half hour slot! She is incredibly passionate about Scottish produce and was a joy to watch.
The last demo of the day was the hotly anticipated cooking duel between Brian McLeish, finalist of last year’s Masterchef : The Professionals and head chef at Aberdeen’s Moonfish Café and Jean-Christophe Novelli. Poor JC was given a real mixed bag of ingredients and needless to say local lad Brian won the public vote!
On the way out I picked another couple of goodies. Murdoch Allan Bakers had the most superb selection of cakes and I had to buy one each for Mr Food Adventurer and I.
So, that’s it for another year! I just want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken the time to read my blog over the year and kind enough to leave a comment or two (thanks mum!). Let’s see where the next 12 months will take me!!
Melanie, Food Adventurer