Thanks to Big Spud and Essex Gourmet, I was alerted to the pleasures of the Essex Food Show on Saturday. A quick hop down to Liverpool Street to meet Ian and we were on our way to the charming White Notley, the nearest station to the show. I'm always apprehensive about food shows I don't know: are they going to be full of manky faux local food that actually comes out of multi-national factories - or are they the genuine article? Thankfully, apart from the trouser press guy and some dubious mass produced bottled goods, the Essex Show was a really great showcase for local food.
Meat was the first purchase of the day - some fine beef from Spaynes Hall Farm Meats based in Halstead. The beef is Red Poll, and all the other meats are rare breed. Also very tempting were the delicious Berkshire/Duroc sausages from Boxes Farm - spicey and juicy. I bagged half a dozen.
At this point, the show got distinctly avian. Polly's Parrots is a one-man band and his troupe of rescued parrots - here's the rather shy macaw. The display was wonderful. Further along was this fine ex-batt hen, looking very calm and enjoying all the attention.
And as Ian munched his pasty, this fowl group came to take a closer look.
Away from the livestock, apples were getting mashed for cider.
The cider was good but not made with cider apples, so lacked a certain subtley. But very quaffable, none the less.
The food stalls were scattered throughout the collection of barns at Cressing, and it was lovely to see the guys from Love Farm there with their excellent rapeseed oil. At the back of one of the barns, I made my first big find of the day.
Three types of cheese from Crete, imported by a brand new Essex company. The creamy sheep's myzithra was fantastically good, and I was easily persuaded to get a pot. I don't much like goat's cheese, but Ian was impressed. I do hope we get to see more of these cheeses.
I sqeaked with excitement when I saw this stall and a row of d'Arcy Spice apple juice. My favourite apple (discovered last year at Lathcoat's) and an Essex original.
My second big discovery was this red wine jelly, made in Sardinia and exported by Tre Stella. It was utterly delicious. No problem making a buy here.
By now, our bags were heaving and the weather was beginning to take on a gloomy hue. So we rang for a taxi and were lucky to get an asparagas-loving driver who swiftly conveyed us to the nearest farm shop were I bought the one desired item we didn't find at the fair. Back home, I cooked up a quick and very late brunch of egg, smoked bacon and asparagas...
...followed by a slice of chocolate cheesecake; recipe from Jason Atherton's Gourmet Food for a Fiver. Jolly good it was too.