Essex Food Festival: Jean-Christophe Novelli is star attraction at a weekend of gastronomical delights
GOLD-INFUSED sparkling white wine, English apple balsamic vinegar, handmade cheeses, free range butchers – it could only mean the Essex Festival of Food & Drink was in town.
The inaugural festival at Cressing Temple Barns, organised by the Essex Chronicle, saw food connoisseurs mingle with their families, sampling the best of local produce.
And main attraction, Michelin-starred Jean-Christophe Novelli, conjured up some mouthwatering delights on the main stage on Sunday. The mad Frog, as his new book refers to him, spent the morning talking to exhibitors before doing two demonstrations.
He said: "I am so happy to see people took my advice and wore trainers to the festival, which is a good thing because they were walking around a lot.
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"I was very nervous to do an open-air show because it could have rained, but luckily it was OK and we had an audience.
"I am amazed with Essex, every time I go around Britain visiting festivals I am privileged that after 28 years here I am still discovering the country."
Mr Novelli cooked a tarte tatin as well as a souffle and belly of pork, selecting ingredients as he walked round the stalls.
And picking out Hadley's ice cream to accompany his tarte tatin saw numbers soar at Jane Hadley's stall.
The chef said: "If I had to chose between wine and this ice cream it would definitely be the ice cream.
"I was always told that Britain was supposed to be the most understated country in terms of food, but that is not what I have found."
Lifelong friend Mark Baumann, from Baumann's Brasserie in Coggeshall, accompanied Mr Novelli on the main stage.
Mr Novelli said: "To be back with Mark is so very special, it has been a love affair for years.
"If we have shown people how to cook some special dishes then I am doing something right."
And the Essex chef added: "This whole event has been fantastically put together.
"I use a lot of local produce and finally we can share this knowledge with the whole county.
"It can only get bigger and better from here, and I have no doubt people will all be speaking about Essex produce in years to come."
Heart Essex's Martin and Su showed their lack of culinary ability at the demo tent on Sunday.
But after admitting they had not practised either of their recipes, both DJs still went ahead with the cook-off.
Visitors watched in disbelief as Su poured a tub of sugar into her salsa, and Martin took an hour to chop a chicken. Martin was finally declared the winner.
The historic barns were filled with delights including gold flaked sparkling wine at £25 a bottle, chilli jams and oils.
Managing director of Thornwood company Drury & Alldis Jonathan Drury was exhibiting his range of oils and vinegar.
"The raspberry vinegar is great on salads or ice cream," he said as curious tasters dipped bread.
The Essex Beekeepers Association and its swarm of Italian bees also proved a big hit with festival-goers, as was the traditional hog roast with a whole pig on a spit.
Essex chef Paul Boorman, from Lifehouse Spa in Thorpe-Le-Soken, described the fair as "an exhibition of the great Essex larder". He said: "It is simply about trying to show people how simple cooking can be.
"What we have here is a showcase of talent and products we have in Essex, which is something to be proud of."