Big crowds make food festival one of the best

Sloe Gin tasting, 26% proof at the Berwick Food Festival.
Sloe Gin tasting, 26% proof at the Berwick Food Festival.

LARGE crowds turned out to ensure the fifth annual Berwick Food Festival, held in the magnificent surroundings of the town’s historic barracks, was a major success.

Visitors enjoying the autumnal sunshine were treated to an array of produce from over 40 stall holders brimming with hand crafted cheeses, locally reared meats, free range eggs, hand made preserves, locally caught fish and seafood, home baked bread, pies and preserves, cakes and chocolates, sauces and seasonings, locally grown vegetables and a range of fair trade and organic produce as well as kitchen equipment and advice and recipes to make the most of leftovers.

Festival director Lisa Wilson said: “We are delighted to be celebrating five years of the festival and of showcasing regional food. The festival is only possible because an enormous number of people give up their time to help and I would particularly like to thank every member of the Slow Food Committee who have worked on the event for the past year including Vlasta Novak and the team who made sure everything ran smoothly on the day, Matthew Jenkins and all at English Heritage, all our suppliers and stallholders and the many volunteers from Berwick Event Group, HospiceCare Northumberland and the local community.“

With an increasing number of people of all ages becoming interested in baking, many were keen to see Lea Harris, the only Scottish contestant in Series One of BBC2’s Great British Bake Off, take part in the demonstration kitchen.

As part of the hugely entertaining programme put together by Slow Food member Jackie Kaines and her team, she followed a garden baking theme showing the audience her recipes for Rose Scones and Chocolate, Raspberry and Lavender Brownies. Local food stylist Maggie Jary got the audience to take part in some hands-on fun on both days showing them some of the tricks of cake decorating.

As well as the bakers, the cookery kitchen also hosted local chefs and producers – including Denise Walton from Peelham Farm in Foulden in the Scottish Borders, Jimmy Bell, ‘Jimmy the Lambman’ from East Windgate Farm in Northumberland, Matthew Rawlings from the Great Northumberland Bread Company, local goat cheese maker Derek Goggin, Gordon Campbell from The Collingwood Arms in Cornhill, John Forestier from The Wheatsheaf in Swinton and Cameron Waterhouse from The Barn at Beal – all demonstrating how we can get the most from our local produce.

In the demonstration kitchen the Fenton Centre’s Helen Henderson demonstrated a selection of 19th recipes. The slot comes from her extensive research, as part of an ongoing Slow Wisdom project to pass on food knowledge from generation to generation and she also organised a food themed competition for younger festival goers.

On Saturday afternoon a pease pudding competition judged by Advertiser editor Phil Johnson was won by the Bean Goose Restaurant on Holy Island.

This year in his ‘Read All About It!’ display Berwick historian Derek Sharman, showed how the Victorian local newspapers reported on farming, fishing and other food-related topics, including the Victorian Harvest Festival. He was also on hand to update visitors on the Mouth of the Tweed project to preserve this food history.

The animal farm, as usual, was popular with visitors of all ages as people got chance to see some of the rare breeds which have formed part of our farming history.

A display of traditional breed fleeces and wools from the Wool Board in Galashiels and demonstrations of weaving, spinning and rugging showed how these animals were used for both food and clothing.

And of course a food festival would not be complete without some delicious catering, visitors could choose from delicious home baking at the Slow Food Café run by Helen Henderson of the Fenton Centre and Ruth McNeely of The Old Vicarage, a hog roast courtesy of Johnsons of Wooler or Well Hung & Tender burgers.

A range of local beers was provided by Justin Pringle from Northumberland’s latest craft ale bar the Three Wise Monkeys with a donation from sales going to HospiceCare North Northumberland.

Graham Head, leader of Slow Food said: “I would like to echo our thanks to everyone who help with the event. Early indications are that stall holders and visitors are already looking forward to the 2013 so once the committee has taken stock, we will look at plans for next year!”