A few months ago, I went to Derby, to the old Victorian Market there. Walking along the rather impressive colonnades,
into the beautifully designed old market,
I could smell food. My stomach growled, I knew I was in the right place. I 'd arrived at the Pyclet Parlour owned by the charismatic Mark Hughes.
Thousands of pyclets are made here every week....and they're not just any old pyclets. If you've never heard of them before, they're like a flattened crumpet.Made with flour, yeast, milk and salt. These are made to an adaptation of an old traditional Derbyshire recipe, baked on griddles and even eaten without any toppings or butter, they're tasty and comforting.
I was here to record Michelin starred chef Angela Hartnett and Paula McIntyre, the Director of the Slow Food Movement in Northern Ireland , as they tasted their way through the whole menu of pyclet dishes. Mark didn't know it, but he'd already been selected as one of three finalists in the forthcoming BBC Food and Farming Awards in the street food category.
What an enjoyable morning's recording here, listening to Mark's story of how he came to start up here. He bought a house, and then found out it had belonged to the Monk family who had been making pyclets in Derby since 1864. He began to research the origin of the pyclets, tested some recipes and the rest is history.
Angela and Paula were a joy as they tasted, tested, asked questions and chatted...they were having fun as well as taking their role seriously. The plain pyclets are sold by the bag, but perched on stools at the counter, Angela and Paula really liked the hot,welsh rarebit topped, toasted pyclet, followed by one topped with stilton, honey and walnuts, followed on with smoked salmon and horseradish cream. Then there's a sweet one topped with nutella.
Luckily I was being kept in the tasting loop too and the three of us ate every single scrap of food put in front of us. No dainty forkfuls, just a quick bite and then onto the next....oh no. We were all hungry and these were delicious.
Meanwhile Mark was serving his regulars with charm and cheeky banter,
and there was just time for a another photo before Angela and Paula have a final deliberation on their overall decision.
Meanwhile judges in the other categories, such as Sheila Dillon, Yotam Ottalenghi, Allegra McEvedy, Stefan Gates, Ken Hom and Diana Henry were criss-crossing the country to visit food producers, drinks producers, cooks, food shops and farmers, who had all been selected from the thousands of nominations received.
On Thursday night, the winners of the 16th BBC Food and Farming Awards were held on College Green in Bristol, and what a night it was. Hundreds of people from all over the UK were there to celebrate excellence, innovation and passion in the British food communities.
I was there early doing a bit behind the scenes with others... ...
My friend Anne-Marie Bullock, one of the producers of the Food Programme was there welcoming the guests, who were being served with tempting trays of canapés, all inspired by the food of the finalists. Oysters, pyclets, salami, chorizo, cheese, and so much more. The trays just kept coming, and guests were all tasting cider, fruit wines and fruity lagers.
I had a sneaky peek at the awards...so practical yet so stylish!
And at 7pm prompt, the awards ceremony began, expertly compered by Sheila Dillon, pictured here with the gorgeous Yotam Ottolenghi. Yes, Sheila is small and Yottam is that tall!
Winners were feted in nine categories, their back stories were humbling and inspiring, and the audience loved every moment. These awards really are the Oscars of the British food industry, but unlike the Oscars, the acceptance speeches were humorous, gracious and mercifully short.
As the ceremony ended , the launch of Bristol Food Connections began - a week long food festival full of banquets, debates, cooking demonstrations, foraging walks and other community events.
Outside, there were tantalising aromas coming from a number of street food stalls who were showcasing what they do....from Caribbean jerk chicken, to pizzas, to oysters, to barbecued goat...
and spirits were high despite the rain.
The rain may have begun to lash down, but people were still chatting, smiling, eating...such a great atmosphere.
Back in the Orangerie, by now slightly damp, I caught up again with Anne-Marie and Sheila
and the inspirational and oh so likeable Dee Woods who won the BBC Cook of the Year award. Dee works as a volunteer cook and serves hundreds of free meals every week at the Granville Community Kitchen London. Outgoing and entertaining, with a life enhancing laugh, she loved her award...
I don't think you can underestimate the power of the Food and Farming Awards. I was chatting with the funny and friendly Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn from the Hangfire Smokehouse . They won the Best Street Food or Takeaway category last year, which has had a profound influence on their lives. Their first cook book has been published by Quadrille, and they've opened their first restaurant in Barry.
What a good night....the camaradie amongst foodies, so many people enjoying themselves, celebrating our food and drink communities, so many stories, so much passion about how food really can transform lives, and so much good food to eat too.
It may be another year until the next awards ceremony in Bristol, but until then, we can all get our weekly fix of award winning food related stories every Sunday lunchtime and Monday afternoon on Radio 4's the Food programme.
Here's the full list of the award winners
BEST DRINKS PRODUCER – Hallets Real Cider, Crumlin, Wales
Presented by Jancis Robinson
THE ONE SHOW BEST STREET FOOD OR TAKEAWAY - Gourmet Goat, Borough Market, London
BEST FOOD PRODUCER - Charcutier Ltd - Carmarthenshire
Presented by Ken Hom
BEST FOOD MARKET - St Dogmaels' Local Producers Market, Pembrokeshire
Presented by Diana Henry and Charlie Hicks
THE 'YOU AND YOURS' BEST FOOD RETAILER AWARD - The Almerley Food Shop – Herefordshire
Presented by Mitch Tonks
FUTURE FOOD AWARD - Our Cow Molly, Sheffield
Presented by Mike Gooding and Julia Glotz
BBC COOK OF THE YEAR - Dee Woods, Granville Community Kitchen, Kilburn, London
Presented by Allegra McEvedy
COUNTRYFILE’S FARMING HERO AWARD - Julia Evans, Worcestershire
Presented by Adam Henson
DEREK COOPER OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD - Joan Morgan
Presented by Tony Hall - BBC Director General