Food festivals are a staple of my summer diary. I love getting outside, beer in hand, discovering new products and enjoying food I’ve never tried before. This month’s Foodies Festival at Cannon Hill Park didn’t disappoint, the sun came out on Sunday and blessed us with a glorious day to get out and discover new things.
There were a sea of national brands present from Pimms and Captain Morgan to Seeds of Change and Spam, who were touring with celebrity chef Richard Fox to bring Spam back into fashion.
However, I always make it my mission to meet and support local producers at events like this. The section for local producers was somewhat small, but the ones that I did meet were really impressive, so here are my favourites.
Urban Chutney are based near Kidderminster and have a small but punchy range of apple and fig chutneys. The recipe is a closely guarded family secret with 3 variations: original, spicy and smokey on offer. I tried all 3 and decided that smokey was the one for me.
The guys recommend plastering it over cheese on toast and, for the smokey version, dropping a dollop into chili con carne.
Pip’s Hot Sauce
The queen of hot sauce and Birmingham legend Pip is regularly at events like this promoting her ever growing collection of Pip’s Hot Sauce variations. I was hooked with her original Boca Del Diablo smoked chili sauce, and quickly developed a love for Fuego Del Verde while my partner’s go to is Nagatropolis. This time we got to try La Barbacoa Del Diablo, a tastebud tingling combination of southern style barbecue sauce, bourbon and scotch bonnet chili. I’ve already slathered chicken thighs and belly pork in this stuff, I can’t get enough of it! If you’ll be barbecuing this summer, you should definitely get some in! We also picked up a bottle of chili infused Tomate Assassino, or Kick Ass Ketchup which is way better than your average bottle of red sauce.
Continuing on the spicy theme, Prices Spices are a new name to me, hailing from Leamington Spa with a collection of really interesting sauces made from home grown chilies. We tested out the whole collection and decided on 3 to take home. My favourite was the Haitian Sensation, a mango and scotch bonnet sauce that’s as fruity as it is hot. I’ve used it as dressing on a chicken salad and it packs a real punch. Steven’s choices were the Peppy Piccalilli, which is gorgeous served up with a Ploughman’s style lunch, and Keralan Lemon Pickle, the perfect accompaniment to poppadoms as part of an Indian feast. Prices pride themselves on their chili knowledge, and as they grow their chilies themselves, they can all but guarantee the quality of their produce.
The lovely ladies behind Tan Rosie hail from Erdington, where I used to live not so many years ago, and as well as home-making a range of Caribbean sauces, rubs and treats, they also run their own supper club at their home. I have one of everything they sell in my pantry so I’ve got Caribbean sunshine on demand. My favourite items are their jerk rub which is amazing on just about anything, but particularly good with chicken and pork, their garlic and chilli sauce which I always use in my Jambalaya and their Tamarind BBQ sauce which is sweet, sour, smokey and delicious. Look out for these ladies at local markets in Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield.
1683 Chocolate Place
Solihull based chocolatiers 1683 Chocolate Place create handcrafted luxury chocolates, including a range inspired by desserts. Their banoffee pie creation is absolutely gorgeous, as is their famed salted caramel. I hope to be seeing more of these guys in the near future.
I love supporting local producers and knowing that the amazing stuff I’m eating is literally on my doorstep, but I’m not averse to produce from the rest of the country, so here’s my pick of treats from further afield.
I’ve loved honey for as long as I can remember, ever since I was a kid when my Granddad would make me honey on toast. Hilltop Honey are based in mid-Wales and specialise in producing raw honey that’s as natural as it can be. They have a whole raft of products from cut combs to bee pollen. I was instantly drawn to their raw orange blossom honey. I love the scent of orange blossom, it reminds me of my holiday in Marrakech where this smell perfumed the streets and riads everywhere I went. The delicate perfume infuses the honey, giving it a citrussy, floral flavour that was an instant hit with me. I also picked up a jar of raw creamed honey which was light and delicious. It has adorned many a crumpet in my house already.
The Snaffling Pig
Pork scratchings are a devisive subject, but love them or hate them, a good packet of pork scratchings is a thing of beauty to me, especially with a pint. The Snaffling Pig take pork scratchings seriously, with huge kilner jars full of them in an array of flavours from maple to habanero.
The quality of these bad boys is flawless too, crunchy and crisp, even sized and plenty of flavour on each piece. We got a jar of their hottest on offer, Pig of Doom, which are addictive, but also extremely hot! The great thing about these guys is that you can register your jar online and buy refills when it’s empty. I have a feeling I’ll be putting an order in very soon!
As well as having an awesome name, Gingerbeards Preserves drew me in with their range of craft sauces and chutneys, many of which contain beer, and their adorable gingerbread man inspired branding.
You’ve probably guessed from what you’ve seen already that I’m a big fan of barbecue sauce, so I had to pick up a bottle of Gingerbeard’s offering, the Ultimate Stout Barbecue Sauce. It’s tangy, spicy and has a wonderful depth from the Bristol Beer Factory Ultimate Stout. We also grabbed some Moor Amoor Chipotle Ketchup which has an awesome smoky flavour from the chipotle chili, but my favourite purchase was the Plum Porter and Pasilla Marmalade with bitter seville orange, rich plum porter and Mexican pasilla chilies for a subtle, fruity kick.
Continuing the South Western theme, Somerset Charcuterie produce a wide range of cured meats and sausages at their farm in Somerset. I am addicted to Chorizo, in our house it goes in everything from pizza and lasagne to paella and just on the cheeseboard. I picked up a Chorizo with cider which is sweet as well as smoky, and a couple of pokers to snack on which didn’t even last until the end of the day! Delicious.
The Brownie Bar
Brownies are the ultimate treat. Cake and chocolate, all melded together in an oozy, cakey slab. The Brownie Bar from Newcastle had a massive range of brownies and blondies at Foodies Fest. I went for a peanut butter and nutella blondie, which was gooey, sticky and tasty, I think the Nutella overpowered the peanut butter a bit but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment.
Sadly I can’t remember the name of the guys selling these Scotch eggs with haggis, but this one was so lovely it definitely deserved a mention. No longer is a Scotch egg a pre-packaged supermarket picnic item, this gourmet version was made with free range pork and eggs, and a generous helping of haggis. It was pretty amazing!
So that’s my round up of my favourite producers at this year’s Foodies Festival Birmingham. Thanks to the organisers for my press tickets, and thanks to all the lovely people I met and spent my pennies with.