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Thursday, 29 November 2012

Leicester Market Winter Food & Craft Festival

I love Leicester Market....there's an eight hundred year old history and tradition well as a great atmosphere most days of the week. The market place is bustling, alive with stalls packed full of produce and the sounds of the traders shouting out the prices of the fruit and vegetables from every corner of the world.
But everything changes on Sundays when every stall is empty, there's a neglected air about the place...and it seems such a shame.
That's why it was such a pleasure to go the Winter Food and Craft Festival there the other Sunday.
It was busy, over a hundred stallholders selling street food, delicacies and drinks to hundreds of visitors.
I could smell the market before I turned the corner in the square.....huge vats of food were being cooked...from Chinese, Mexican, Indian and Taiwanese

to Italian.....and I have to say the Squisito sausages were delicious......just the right amount of fat and spice. They may be an italian recipe but the pork shoulder is from a farm on the Leicestershire border and they're made at Monks Kirby by Alex Chambers , a charcutier and leader of the Slow Food Movement in Warwickshire.
Sarah is bubbly and enthusiastic....she makes lots of lovely foods including ice cream, and runs a supper club at her home. It was worth going to this event just to meet her and find out what she is doing.

The other find of the day for me was meeting up with  Lucy Heath who, along with her husband and son, make  traditional, artisan, cloth bound Staffordshire and Derby cheese on their farm in Sataffordshire.They've about two hundred and fifty cows on three hundred acres.  I bought some of their Bertelin blue seen in the picture below. What a mistake - I just didn't buy's so creamy and has a real delicate flavour...I had one sliver but the cheesaholics in the family devoured the rest before I had a chance to eat more. If you come across this cheese, do try and buy!

There were quite a few preserve stalls including this one from Stamford...

Tom Fothergill and his team were there from Entropy, the restaurant from the West End of Leicester which is rightly winning lots of praise, but they were so busy on the stall I didn't get a moment to take a decent photo of them all. These birds on the stall weren't moving though.....and it was good to stand and read what seasonal dishes are on the menu this month.....mouthwatering stuff.

A few stallholders were selling beer.....Long Lane Brewery from Coalville  was one of them.Now this is a small microbrewery owned by Anne and Ian Saunders.... Mondays is when they make their beer...and they've obviously got a loyal 2.30pm there were only a few bottle left....

A small brewery from across the border in Staffordshire were also present....with bottles of beer designed for the Christmas market....and yes I have someone in mind for the two bottles on the right and in the centre of this photo!

But back to the food...this lovely young couple were busy cooking up batches of  fried chicken in the tiniest little fryer....and tasty it was too....was that really cinammon in the chicken coating ?

No market would be complete without the stalwart members who work so hard at the County Markets...traditional cakes, loaves and produce from around Leicestershire and Rutland. The thick pale honey I bought from the stall from Keyham has a great flavour..

One of the busiest stalls was this one selling jerk chicken, goat curry and a whole range of hot dishes that were tempting many.....
But it was time to leave while I could still carry all my purchases..... but wait, perhaps a quick coffee first?

It was so good to see so many different stallholders standing on Leicester Market - especially on a Sunday - bringing warmth,  life and colour to such a historic's to the next one....


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Children in Need day

Yesterday was interesting, if not slightly surreal. When I arrived in the newsroom, I could see my friend Jo reading the news. Nothing unusual about that you might say. That's true, but she was wearing pjamas.

So was the breakfast presenter Jonathan, Emily his producer was wearing a pink onesie, and sports journalist Dan wore a bright orange little number. . The News Editor turned up minutes later in a fetching pair of pink pjamas  and in fact most of the staff at BBC Leicester wore their nightwear to work .

Even our faith producer Dr John Florance took part....

They were raising money for Children in Need Day. It's an institution here in the UK, when the BBC led campaign fundraises for children . Six hundred and fifty million pounds has been raised for children whether they're ill, have been abused, or are  carers for their parents for example. Children in Need funds hospice care, playworkers, support workers , helps disadvantaged children have their first holiday, and at night on BBC 1 celebrities, sing, dance and do all sorts of silly stuff to help swell the coffers.

Back to the pjamas first though....I was not wearing any. I  was wrapped up in many layers of clothing because I was off out in the radio car all day,to do lots of interviews at different locations around the county to see what daft or different things people were doing to raise money.

First stop was a bitterly cold Mallory Park, a famous racetrack where superbikes and fast cars are normally screeching around the track accompanied by the smell of fuel and testosterone to the roars of thousands of specatators.

 But there was a completly different vibe ....the place was virtually deserted and quiet. So quiet it was quite eerie under the low grey skies. But I was there to meet Graham Buckingham and his son Lawrence who'd organised a bike ride in which  pedal power took over from motor mania.

When I was there, cyclists were beginning to arrive from called Rob (in the photo) had cycled from Nottingham, was going to do 24 one mile laps around the track, and then cycle off home.A hundred mile trip...and he only began  cycling in earnest  as a result of being inspired by the 2012 London Olympics!

Meanwhile Lawrence Buckingham was going to be doing a night ride with some of his friends around the track in the spooky....and they're on track to raise three thousand pounds.Marvellous....

If I was cold at Mallory Park , then Louise Moore in Birstall was frozen. She had been persuaded by her bosses to sit in a bath of baked beans for about five hours.

She's a trainee design engineer for a house building company- unfortunately the bath wasn't in a lovely new showhome as I was in an open fronted  garage. The poor girl was shivering as we did our live interview....but very upbeat about the thousand pounds she'd already raised by lunchtime.

How many tines of baked beans did it take to fill the bath? Three hundred and fifty apparently......and the smell of all those beans was quite pungent.

 Then it was over to East Midlands DHL Express. Now this is a company which really goes to town  for Children in Need. Staff at their call centre had devsised lots of activities to get money....there were the obvious ones such as making cakes, paying to wear outrageous costumes as they worked, but then there were a few fiendish plans....Gunk the manager being one of them.

 Each team kept putting money in -if they raised a hundred and twenty pounds, then their manager had to be gunked. And when I say gunked, have a look at this....

Poor Lynn....the gunk was a revolting concoction of custard, , rice pudding, tomato sauce and a few other ingredients.

While she was getting showered and changed afterwards, three of the managers were being paid to do gangnam style dancing, and some other managers were having bits of their anaatomy being spray tanned if their workers paid enough. One guy had been done three times and had the most flurescent orange legs I've ever seen...that's one fake tan which will last until next summer I reckon.

The staff there weren't just doing the day job though. At 7pm they started in earnest taking all the calls promising pledges of money as Children in Need Night began on television.....others were coming from DHL centres all over the country to help do long shifts.....everyone volunteering to do it free of charge. That's what I call commitment to a good cause........

I was at Conkers in the heart of the National Forest for the last three interviews....this is where a major outside broadcast was taking place later in the evening. There's one hundred and twenty acres to explore there....but it was so dank and gloomy outside by 3.30pm, I was  grateful that all my interviews were to be done inside at the visitor centre.

A ninety strong choir of eight to ten year olds from three different schools in three different counties  were going to be singing Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge over Troubled Waters as well as lots more. I'd already interviewed members of the Donisthorpe Primary School Choir so it was lovely to talk to them again.

They sang beautifully at the technical rehearsal....and looked little angels...some of us were smiling and choking back tears....then it was teatime, and the noise as they tucked in was immense...

Meanwhile I was interviewing Anne Davies, a presenter on East Midlands Today, who was hosting the evening. She's such a pro...was lovely with the children..really minute she was sat in a corner, hair in rollers, doing another live interview with Radio 2's Simon Mayo, the next minute looking impossibly glam in her dressing area......whereas I was not!

Anyway, it was so good to meet so many lovely people....all doing incredible things to help others....raising  over twenty six million pounds in one day, with more to come. Think how much much hope and support that will give  to thousands of children around the country. A beautiful day....

Today's track is called just that  -"A beautiful day" by India Arie....a wonderful singer songwriter day I'll tell you why another of her songs is forever etched in my memory.....,


Sunday, 11 November 2012

a day of cooking the books...

Cooking the books? Who me? No, I've not been doing any creative accounting......I've been to London this week to visit my favourite  bookshop (apart from the Kibworth Bookshop mentioned here
This is the bookshop that really  does cook the  books...every day in a test kitchen at the back of the shop.....and each time I visit I feel like one of Pavlov's dogs.  He was the behaviour theorist who realised that dogs could be trained to recognise that food was coming. A ring of the bell and they started salivating.
I'm like that, I start drooling as soon as I walk into Books for Cooks...always. The sight and smell  of over eight thousand brand new books about food....culinary memoirs, recipe books , the history of food....I'm in heaven.

Mind you there's enticing aromas coming from the back of the shop too..... wafting their way along the bookshelves.....
There's nothing more exciting than finding a really nice new recipe.....especially if someone has already tested it for you....and that's what happens here...every day, dishes from some of the thousands of books in stock are created. This time, they are...

Lunch service starts promptly at 12 noon..we are already sitting down. The laksa arrives...fragrant, with a freshness and zing about it, and we decide to order a glass of wine . Eric Treuille the joint owner arrives with a bottle of Cahors from his own biodynamic vineyard in France.

"It is cheaper this way"he says in an oh so sexy French accent and puts the bottle on the table. We look at each's still very early...a bottle? But he's so charming, and we have the collective willpower of a band of vampires at a local blood bank. The bottle is polished off pronto.
We're enjoying ourselves , especially when bowls of the slow roasted pork with plum sauce and rice are put on the table.
Noisy "Oohs, aahs "and gasps of pleasure puncture the air -moist  pieces of pork with spicy rich plummy sauce are hitting the spot. It sounds as if we're auditioning to do voiceovers for a porn film.
 Then Laura and I watch in amusement as Suzie determinedly attacks the chocolate and sour cream peanut cake. She's concentrating, hardly speaking until the last mouthful. "That's really good" she says...high praise indeed from a laconic northerner.
By now there's quite a queue of people waiting to eat...Eric is expertly weaving his way around the tables, the queue, chatting away with everyone. It's buzzy and the place is packed so we make our way over to the till to pay for lunch and the books we've bought. Rachel takes our money...she's an American who arrived in London with her partner eight months ago. She came into the shop within days of being here and promptly asked for a job.



But that happens a lot at Books for Cooks apparently. Years ago Rosie Kindersley walked in, and Heidi the then owner offered her a job on the spot. Then Eric walked in one day and ...well, let's just say he didn't only get the job! He and Rosie hooked up, they bought the bookshsop and the rest is history.
Books for Cooks isn't just a bookshop..for me it's a foodie heaven. There's a passion, a warm welcome....there's cookery workshops upstairs..( I'd love to get to one of those soon) plus a series of adorable paperbacks containing all the favourite recipes tested in the that work and that are firm favourites of mine.
I can't wait to return......more details from here....
To my other passion now, music. Today's track is nothing to with food, meals, or's what I'm listening to at this very moment ...such an under rated band,...Minus the Bear with Throwing shapes....
I love this song....reminding me of sunny days and sultry nights in Cottesloe, Western Australia.....a soundtrack to a magical time.....

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Flashmob days.....

I'm walking through Castle Gardens, a little park in the heart of the city.It's lunchtime, and as I make my way towards the banks of the River Soar, I can hear the distant sounds  of a song dragging me  screaming back to the eighties.

Turning a corner , I'm confronted by a thousand people in front of a stage.

Many are wearing blonde wigs....some of the men look like the tartiest transvestites around. Think Sean Bean in his latest television appearance.

There are cheerleaders with impossibly long ,fake tanned legs, in very short shorts.

 There are big butch security men ,

lots of students, and they're all dancing.

And here's more on stage with blond wigs.....these are the top bods at the university...

And there's more and more of them....

all lip synching and performing moves like the Mobot to Bonnie Tyler blasting  out...."Holding out for a hero". I hated that song back then and I haven't changed my mind all these years later.

But let's not be churlish. The wig wearers and hyperactive dancers are all there for a very good cause.It's a lip synching flashmob, all there to raise money for two exceptionally good causes -. LOROS, the wonderful hospice in Leicester where my mother in law died, and PROSTAID, which raises funds for research and treatment for men with prostate cancer.

The flashmob is the brainchild of the charismatic Dominic Shellard, who's Vice Chancellor of De Montfort University. He throws himself into his role with gusto.......

But it's not just a flashmob...there's a film being made with a back story and some sort of a plot....which involves my mate Jonathan Lampon from work, some Leicester Tigers players (well, hello...), Leicestershire cricketers  and Alan Birchenall, all round good egg, and local footballing leg end .

Why is Jonathan hiding...and not in the limelight for once?? 's all part of the act...? Mind you,  with a blond wig like that, I'd be holding it and in hiding too....

The atmosphere is great... seeing so many people lip synching, dancing together ,and having such bloody fun on a Wednesday lunchtime and raising thousands of pounds for charity is heartwarming, life affirming. I can't wait to see the video ....

But after an hour of dear old Bonnie belting  out  from the speakers, just don't, and I repeat don't   .... sing, whistle, or even hum the tune to "Holding out for a hero "near me in the next few weeks. I may not be responsible for my actions.

Today's track is NOT a Bonnie Tyler one. Appropriate as it would be....I don't think so....

Instead...what about "Heroes" by the Wallflowers? I really like their version of the Bowie classic.....


Friday, 2 November 2012

blogging days

When it comes to winning things or awards, I'm usually  towards the end of the queue.

That's not to say I've not won anything at all....oh how I can't forget the excitement of winning a vase in a raffle. It was actually a  rather beautiful vase, but by the time it was sent to me , it was broken.

At charity fairs and fetes, if I ever have a go on the bottle stall, I'm surrounded by people crowing with delight, as they win some really good bottle of wine or even worse, champagne. The only bottle I've ever won was a bottle of vinegar. Yes, vinegar. Not even raspberry vinegar...just plain, boring malt vinegar.

When it comes to awards, well I have actually won one national broadcasting award for an interview I did some years back....but that's it.

But something came out of nowhere this week..something I wasn't expecting. A blogging award. Yipes! Who me?

But, before you get all's not one of these international jobbies, where I went to a fancy pants ceremony, quaffed champagne and had to make an acceptance speech , botoxed and fake tanned upto my eyeballs. Nevertheless , it bought a smile to my face I can tell you....

It was from the lovely Jo at  so thanks Jo!

Instead of an acceptance speech, I'm supposed to tell you why I blog..... well, I just about did that in my last post. But I also must  nominate five other blogs which I find addictive...some are more well known than others

Only five?  I adore reading blogs....but these give me windows into other worlds....

OK, so here they are, and not in any particular order of preference......    Fiona has tried to become self sufficient and I love her stories of growing , making  and chicken keeping with her other half Danny.  this is an absolute must for Emma illustrates  the adventures of her dog Plum..Obviously I'm addicted to this, because for me, Plum looks very like my little puppy Boo......

 Lucy, a twenty something,   lives on the south coast - loving the sea, crafts and photographing her world. (which being her incredibly nosy mother....I love reading about!)  If you like your tastebuds tempted  then look no further. Her food is seriously tasty and beautifully photographed and she's funny too. I've only just become addicted to this.....random letters which illuminate and a letter from 18 year old Keith Richards to his aunt about his new friend Mick, and the letter from a 12 year old boy asking the great architect Frank Loyd Wright to design a house for his dog - and he did!

So I hope you will all have a look at these the meantime, here's a track from a band I've  loved since 2003,and have seen so many times live. I've interviewed them a few times too....

This track is  called "Out of nowhere" and it's by Athlete.