Isn’t it just so dreary when the weather has been lovely from Monday to Friday and then it rains all weekend? I feel sorry for people who have made plans only to have them dashed by the vagaries of the British weather.
Living in the depths of the countryside I am lucky to have access to a whole host of different outdoor events throughout the year. It doesn’t matter what the occasion or the size, they have taken weeks, months and sometimes even a whole year of fraught planning to organise and to have an event spoilt, or at worst cancelled because of the weather, is a distressing time for all involved.
Here on the border of Suffolk and Norfolk we are starting to see the beginnings of the annual round of fairs, festivals and country shows, some small and organised by the likes of schools and local clubs in order to raise a little hard earned cash for their coffers.
My son’s primary school held a plant fair yesterday up in the village square and the stalwart ladies of the Friends Committee and their helpers stood outside in the rain for a few hours selling a vast array of plants and cakes. The money raised goes towards helping the children with various school outings and projects that the school budget unfortunately doesn’t stretch to, of which there are many.
Even though it was drizzling miserably, there was not one moan about the weather, even the children were helping out with beaming smiles and it was a joy to see so many people from the village milling about in the square on the hill. These little events not only raise a few pennies for worthwhile causes but in this busy world they are fabulous for the community as a whole by getting people together, however briefly.
A step up from these small affairs are the bigger individual shows put on by larger businesses, local estates or stately homes. There are many village and town shows who organise street festivals, craft fairs, food shows, dog shows, flower shows, in fact there must be a show for everyone’s hobby or pastime throughout the spring and summer season.
At the very top of the ladder are the big annual county shows. These huge events, showcases for a phenomenal range of goods and services spread over sites of several acres, are big business and can prove to be make or break time for a lot of traders. Stalls at these large shows do not come cheap and for start-ups and small companies it is a big decision to take the risk that the money spent on stands, PR material, stock etc. will be recouped in sales or orders.
Thankfully for us, the consumer, there are a huge amount of producers that have faith in their products to take the leap so we can buy and taste their wares and every year I am amazed at what I find. There is always something new, fresh and exiting and even if food is not your thing there will most certainly be something else that takes your fancy, whether it be gardening, country pursuits, beautiful livestock or an exciting helicopter ride.
I would say I have been to a couple of shows that have been hugely disappointing. One of the main reasons that I love attending is I get the opportunity to have a good mooch around the food and produce stalls to see what is going on the in the thriving East Anglian food world. Nothing is worse for me than to be greeted by the aroma of old cooking oil and rows of nothing but burger stalls selling poor quality burgers and sausages in pappy bread at extortionate prices.
However, luckily expectations of street food, both in quality and variety, has risen enormously in the last few years so the public is now much more savvy and knowledgable about what they buy and hopefully this year I will see the bar raised again by our fabulous local foody community.
Unfortunately there are too many shows to mention individually but I have listed a few that I will be attending over the up and coming months. Tickets for the bigger shows can be bought online and if you are planning to go to a food show to see the headliner chefs you will need to buy your tickets beforehand to ensure a place in the food theatre.
So lets hope the sun shines. As a keen gardener I do like an occasional rain shower but can we have them at night time please, or on a Monday (Bank Holidays not included).
These are just a few of the our local events, they are all on the internet if you want further information.
Cromer and Sheringham Crab and Lobster Festival 15th – 17th May
The Suffolk Show 27th & 28th May Trinity Park, Ipswich
Kenton Hall Estate Food Fair 30th May Kenton Hall Estate, Stowmarket
Strawberry Fayre 20th June Alder Carr Farm, Needham Market
Essex Festival of Food and Drink 18th & 19th July Cressing Temple Barns, Braintree
Porkstock 25th July Norwich
The recipe today is a delightfully light and fresh tasting filo pastry pie. Based on the traditional spinach and ricotta Greek filling I added some extra flavours and was delighted with the result, I will certainly be making this again.
The addition of a layer of Parma ham was a last minute decision as I had some in the fridge and it did add a delightful little salty note to the pie which I loved. Of course, if you wanted to a make a vegetarian version this could be left out and the pie would still be delicious.
As I do not have a gas hob I charred the pepper under a hot grill, turning occasionally with tongs. A good tip is once the pepper is charred, place it in a plastic food bag to let it cool. The flesh will soften and the peel will come off really easily. Don’t be tempted to skip this bit. If the pepper is raw when it goes in the pie it will not cook sufficiently in the oven.
The pie can be eaten warm or cold although it is probably best served to guests on the same day as the filo pastry will soften overnight and lose the lovely crispiness on top. I personally don’t mind this myself but it does lose some of the wow factor if that is what you are after.`
- 1 pack ready rolled filo pastry
- 450g spinach, wilted, well drained and cooled
- 1 Red Pepper, charred, cooled, skin removed and sliced into strips
- 1 bunch of Asparagus, blanched and cooled
- 250g Ricotta Cheese
- 2 Large Eggs
- 80g Parma Ham
- Salt and Black Pepper
- Fresh Nutmeg
- Approx 2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- Preheat the oven to 170c (fan).
- Prepare the filling first so the pastry doesn't have time to dry out.
- Make sure you have got as much liquid out of the spinach as you can.
- In a bowl, mix the spinach, ricotta, eggs, a few grates of fresh nutmeg and a good seasoning of salt and pepper.
- Using a pastry brush, quickly brush the top sheet of filo pastry with olive oil and lay it oil side down in the cake tin.
- Repeat this several times with about 8 sheets of filo (keep two sheets in reserve for the top), leaving flaps of pastry hanging over the edge. The pastry sheet does not have to go across the whole bottom of the tin, but just ensure each sheet is overlapping and there are no gaps.
- Put half of the spinach mixture in the bottom of the pastry case.
- Lay the strips of red pepper on top.
- Cover with the rest of the spinach and ricotta.
- Arrange the asparagus on top and then cover with the Parma ham if using.
- Use the overhanging pastry to cover up the pie.
- Oil two remaining sheets of pastry, scrunch up lightly and arrange prettily on top of the pie.
- Cook in the oven for approx. 50 mins until golden brown.
- Leave to cool slightly in the tin then remove the outer rim.
- Serve slightly warm or cold (preferably not straight from the fridge).