Monday, 29 April 2013

Why I'm Dancing To Victory

Today is a vintage inspired post. As you may know I’m a real vintage lover and even more so when it comes to cooking. We may have the creative chefs of today knocking out amazing dishes that look like they should be hosted in an art gallery, but for me I shall never fail to be impressed with the efforts from the everyday household cooks from the second world war. Those cooks had to make dried egg seem appetizing – try that one Masterchef! And rationing. Jeepers – I’m ALWAYS hungry and love thinking about what I’m going to make for my next meal. I can’t think of anything more bleak than having to divvy up 100g of bacon between a family for a week and go without a large claret.

But really, I tip my 1940’s veiled hat (with a feather – stunning) to the mighty Land Girls or officially known as the Women's Land Army. They were hardcore women who grafted relentlessly to provide nutritious food for our nation in WWII in tough conditions, heavy manual labour and long hours. And I moan about motorway driving and sitting at a desk to earn a living. I know. (Slaps one’s own wrists). They produced 70%  of food in Britain so I never fail to be blown away by these gals’ efforts to feed the country. The Spice Girls didn't invent Girl Power. The Women's Land Army did and then some.
EM Arts & Vintage Photography
Yesterday I bought tickets for an exciting event Dance To Victory which not only looks awesome but the cause is truly important. Organised by the gorgeous Lisa Oakley of vintage fabulousness Lotty Blue of and Sharon Taylor of Always Red Events, these creative ladies are supporting the Staffordshire branch of the Women's Food and Farming Union. Funds raised will pay for a well-deserved memorial for the Women's Land Army and I feel proud to be there supporting the event. It's an evening of music and dance entertainment including the beautiful and talented Lola Lamour. I will feel in Vintage heaven. I’d love to go to the day event Pitch In For Victory too but I’m otherwise engaged but I strongly recommend you check it out and get your tea dress clad butt over there pronto! 18th May, Stafford.
Gorgeous Lola Lamour

I hear the food will be WWII inspired which I will look forward to. So what did families eat during those tough years? Well due to rationing which began on 1940, cooks had to begin to get used to less butter, eggs, milk, meat, sugar, rice, wheat – ok practically everything. Yes chocoholics – the mighty cocoa bean too! Rabbit, game, chicken and fish thankfully weren’t rationed but fish was increasingly difficult to buy as the war continued and families were offered whale meat and tinned snoek (a type of fish from South Africa) which went down like a lead balloon.

EM Arts & Vintage Photography
Therefore tinned meat such as spam and corned beef, dried eggs and home-grown produce were an absolute godsend. The Dig for Victory campaign saw the country making veg plots out of any spare patch; including tennis courts! Some even kept chickens and goats and bred rabbits and self-sufficient living became the norm.

 I’m astounded at some of the make do recipes when forced to go without; mock cream (cornflour, milk, butter) eggless batter, boiling fruit peel to glean sweetness in the absence of sugar.The Government’s Ministry of Food ensured that rationing met nutritional standards and produced leaflets and booklets to teach the nation how to get the best out of the meagre rations. Marguerite Patten was part of the MOF and her popular radio show “Kitchen Front” used her creativity to show British households how to whip up delicious meals using very little. Some of Margerite’s recipes included tripe mornay, bacon and potato cakes, lemon sponge, cheese pie and 8 minute doughnuts.
EM Arts &Vintage Photography

Although some people found the Ministry a little nanny state-ified, many a person had big love for Lord Woolton who was the MOF Minister, so much so he has a pie named after him. What an accolade! This pie was made with veggies such as carrot, swede and since flour was rationed, pastry was made with flour and potato; a crucial ingredient to top a variety of pies as well as the LW variety.

Soups and casseroles were frequent meals since they stretched out slow cooked meats and the veg would bulk the meals out. Yet over time, as men and women served in the armed forces, they began to learn more about more exotic cuisine. The nation became more adventurous with their menus serving up hamburgers, curries, goulash and moussaka. I was surprised about this as I thought they were “modern” dishes but those spices were a godsend to pimp up otherwise bland ingredients.

As horrendous as the war was, it’s played a huge part in how we eat today in terms of food technology ie canning, preserving and also nutritional science. Let’s never take for granted the abundance of food we have today and forget the tremendous efforts of our wartime sisters the Land Girls. If you’re around on the 18th May it would be fantastic so see you at the Dance To Victory event or do pop along to the day event and pay tribute to these amazing women.
EM Arts & Vintage Photography

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Chester Food, Drink & Lifestyle Festival

Last Saturday morning, I took a cup of tea to bed for a little Easter holiday indulgence and caught up with some Tweets. To my delight, I discovered that I had won 2 tickets for the Chester Food, Drink and Lifestyle Festival which was on from Easter Saturday to Easter Monday. Not only had I won tickets but they were VIP which of course appealed to the diva aspect of my good self! This included free fizz and lunch so of course I was a happy (Easter) bunny. Thank you Foodlink Cheshire!

Cheers Foodlink Cheshire!
So Mr V, me and the 2 Whippets set off ready to sample some local delights. And turned back once we'd arrived - apparently dogs were only allowed in the carpark (?) so we did a de-tour to Delamere Forest instead.

So Easter Monday was our day at CFDL sadly sans les chiens. It was cold and cloudy but spirits were high as delicious aromas wafted in the air luring me to the various stalls stocked with scrummy produce both local and from afar. I was in turmoil over whether to have Jamaican curried goat, venison burger or pulled pork. I closed my eyes, took a sip (ok, glug) of fizz and followed my tormented heart.

Pulled pork won and I wasn't disappointed. After being slowly cooked for 12 hours it was succulent and full of flavour and the smokey bbq sauce gave it the edge. It was from a company called Castro which sell South American street food. There was a bit of a queue so I wasn't able to chat much but I'm pretty sure they're based in Liverpool judging from what I've read.

Succulent and melt in the mouth
Sadly both were not for me
Mr V and I had a good mooch around and it was great to see such a diverse range of stalls from local Cheshire cheese and meats to Italian sweets and Asian street food. There was smoked garlic, flavoured butter, sausage rolls, amazing sauces, chutneys, preserves, pretty cupcakes; my senses were overwhelmed and I wanted EVERYTHING.

Pretty Preserves
Of course that wasn't possible so I had to prioritise. I went with one thing in mind; to get something delicious for my evening meal but something quick as I had tasks and chores to attend to. Award winning Cheshire based Pig & Co were giving out samples of their sausage and WHOA!! Blow me down, they were amazing. Called "Lucky Dippers" they were a marvellous concoction of pork, maple syrup, chocolate, chilli, coriander, chilli, pineapple, lime juice and a whole host of other bits and bobs that were leftover. A winner in my eyes.
Best sausages EVER

To accompany these bad boys I chose Uncle Roy's Moffat Chuckle mustard relish and served it all up in warm crusty baguettes and caramelised onions. Heck they were something else. I've had gorgeous sausages but these were so different and unusual with a unique sweetness. I almost cried when they were finished. Apparently they've been going for a year and they had all sorts of porky concoctions on offer check out their website.

My heart was fat with joy when I stumbled upon a few homewares stalls. I won't focus on this too much for the sake of boring you with the longest blog ever but get on this vintage picnic set.

How gorgeous?
After buying a slow cooking recipe book I then mooched over to the the Dough It Yourself stall curious by the crowd surrounding it. I must admit I didn't think I would bother buying pizza bases but I tasted a sample featuring the most delicious Bianca sauce (garlic, rosemary, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper) and the purchase was made in seconds. I bought wholemeal and seeded bases along with the sauce. This will come in a treat perhaps on a Friday night when one desires a less labour intensive kitchen experience. So I'll keep you posted.
The transaction had to happen

Delicious pizza base sauces
The experience ended on a high with chef  Andrew Nutter's cooking demo. I've been to his restaurant before (amazing) but I've never witnessed him cooking either on TV or in person. Apart from his awesome skills, his banter was great and he seemed like a bloody lovely bloke above all else. I was a bit over excited on the crowd participation front whooping and hollering (I'm so un-British and much more suited to the US of A style).

Chef Nutter and the cool Ryan
Mr Nutter showed us how to knock up a chocolate Brownie Torte with fruit brulee which was browned and flamed with a single match and while it was in the oven showcased a "posh pasty" of leftover lamb mixed with feta cheese and coriander and wrapped in puff pastry (I know!) and the main course was sea bass, scallops with spinach and Bury black pudding.

Badass - His dessert was the Nuts!
Posh lamb pasty. It's no Greggs!
The main course

Apart from the impressive cuisine one of the coolest things was that Andy (casual aren't I? In my mind we're mates now) was accompanied by 16 year old Ryan who works at his establishment. At 16 I would have cacked myself being on a stage helping a top chef in front of an audience but this chap was as cool as my glass of fizz. It was fab to see a young person so confident and passionate and I think he'll do well in his career. At the end of the demo the dynamic duo let me take a few snaps and I got in on one. However I was unaware I had bbq sauce on my face post pulled pork scoff. Mortified.

Me and the chaps. Spot the bbq sauce

That wrapped up the day and I left with my belly full and my brain whizzing around with ideas. The main thing for me was that all of the stalls and companies there were all making a living from one of the best basics and necessities of life; food. I always feel inspired by these people. Hats off to them and long may it continue. It was a cracking day.

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