There’s no feeling more comforting than when you visit somewhere significant to your past, and that uplifting wave of nostalgia washes over you like a tidal wave. Today, I went to the quaint historic market town of Cowbridge, in the Vale of Glamorgan, for Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival. As I studied at Cowbridge Comprehensive School up until the age of 16 (when I moved to Ross-on-Wye for a couple of years), I spent a lot of time here whilst growing up and it was lovely to observe both some familiar, and some less familiar sights, as I strolled around the town.
Although, let’s be honest – I wasn’t here for that warm, fuzzy feeling of nostalgia; I was here for the food. And there was plenty of it. Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival has grown in size each year since it was set up in 2004, but I wasn’t expecting to see anywhere as near as many exhibitors; not to mention some unmissable cooking demonstrations.
Most of the 80+ food and drink exhibitors can be found at the Arthur John Site on North Road, just around the corner from the Town Hall, but others are pitched up a little further down North Road on the Vale Forge Site, whilst several other stalls are based at the Fringe Festival in Old Hall Gardens.
Meanwhile, cookery demonstrations take place throughout the day at the food demo theatre at the Arthur John Site, in addition to a Forgotten Foods Skills Marquee at Old Hall Gardens and live fire demos at the Vale Forge Site.
Today, the festival enjoyed a cookery demo from a special guest in the form of Welsh comedian, Rhod Gilbert, who took to the kitchen to knock up a ‘chicken Risca masala’.
However, Meat and Greek’s demo on how to cook an authentic Cypriotic pork souvlaki was what really stole the limelight, for me. I was absolutely fixated on Lisandros Hajigeorgis as he worked with Shawna Guinn, of Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, to deliver the demo to a crowd of well over 50 people. They inspired me so much, I’m already planned to prepare my own pork souvlaki to cook on the barbecue when I go camping in Pembrokeshire next weekend!
Here are some of my personal highlights from Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival 2017:
Hang Fire Southern Kitchen
Hang Fire needs no introduction, and I’m not at all surprised that this juicy flat iron steak with chimichurri and crunchy, creamy slaw (£7) was the best thing I ate all day.
That said, the chick po’boy came a close second; a hand-crafted bread roll stuffed with smoked chicken, lettuce and tomato and topped with a squirt of Hang Fire’s very own Louisiana Remoulade sauce (£6)
Everyone was talking about Samosa Co’s onion bhaji scotch eggs. I couldn’t resist walking away with one myself, to jazz up a curry I’m cooking tomorrow night. Equally as enticing were the spinach and potato pakoras, lamb pakoras and onion bhajis. At £7 for the lot, it’s certainly not cheap, but it’s worth it for a treat.
I’m usually more of a savoury than a sweet person, but the tantalising array of cakes and bakes on Baked By Mel’s stall really caught my eye. When I took a closer look and saw the Persian Rocky Road, I simply had to taste it.
Rocky road and Turkish delight – two of my favourite foods – rolled into one! I was a very happy girl. I can’t decide whether it’s a good or bad thing that this stuff isn’t available from the online shop on the Baked by Mel website; I would happily eat my body weight in Persian Rocky Road.
My sweet tooth was also drawn to Taste of Persia’s assortment of handmade baklava, priced individually at around £1, £4 for a small pack (approx. 4 small pieces) or £7 for a medium pack (around a dozen pieces). As tempting as it was to walk away with a box of baklava, I thought it best I stick with a single pistachio bird’s nest. Delicate and crispy, this had a sweet, lime green pistachio-flavoured centre and chopped pistachio nuts lay in the middle of the ‘nest’.
With nothing lined up for dinner tonight, I picked up a couple of chicken kebabs from Farmer’s Pantry Butchers, based in Whitchurch, Cardiff and in Llantwit Major. A number of different flavours were on display, but I succumbed to the Jamaican jerk chicken and African sunshine kebabs – an absolute steal at under £1 each.
I also left the festival with a bottle of lime, chilli and coriander dressing (£4.50) from Stainswick Farm. Everything sold by this stall is made using cold-pressed rapeseed oil, as an alternative to olive oil. This dressing had an aromatic, zesty taste and it left my tongue tingling. I can’t wait to try it drizzled over a salad and I bet it would taste amazing paired with pan-seared tuna.
If you didn’t manage to get down to Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival today, not to worry, as it’s open again tomorrow from 9.30am – 5.00pm. Entry wristbands are available on the door at a cost of £5. The live cooking demos from Taste of Persia (2pm), Asador 44 (3pm) and Hang Fire Southern Kitchen (4pm) are unmissable. My advice would be to bring a portable folding chair with you and find a nice spot near the front to sit whilst you watch, as seating is extremely limited.
If you’re driving to the festival, there is a car park behind the town hall located near to the festival on the Arthur John site, but if this is full you could consider parking at Cowbridge Comprehensive School on Aberthin Road, as long as you don’t mind the 15 minute walk into the town centre.
I received a pair of complimentary wristbands for one-day entry into Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival, but I was not obliged to blog about my experience.
Which food festivals will you be heading to any food festivals this summer?