Saturday, 12 October 2013

Last orders at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival.

Well, since my last blog – Give us our Daily Local Bread – my intention to visit the Festival Hub in Albert Square nearly every night was somewhat thrown off course by a cycling accident which resulted in a visit to A&E and a 3-hour operation to reset my arm. Anyway, as part of my occupational therapy sessions I'm now catching up on a few more gems that are worth seeking out even when the festival is over.

First, I was really taken by the unashamedly Gallic, retro Citroën van, apparently called ‘Rowlie’, that is the mobile cooking space for two guys cooking wood-fired pizzas. I think we've all become a bit blasé about this icon of Italian cuisine that has, at both ends of the market, become either overdone with too many gourmet aspirations or, at the fast food end, become a slippery mess of cheap tomato purée and mozzarella.

So hallelujah to these guys at Pizza Peddlers who produce five simple variations in wood-fired ovens in their fantastic Citroën van and, in doing so, serve a light and very appealing pizza using fresh ingredients and a light dough base.

Eating their ham pizza reminded me of some home-cured bacon I bought half an hour earlier back in St Ann's Square from husband and wife team Ashley and Sean from Savin Hill Farm. Ashley and Sean are yet another example of local food producers who own the business and the whole process – apart from the abattoir element, which is the only element sub-contracted to local outsiders near their farm in the Lyth Valley, south Lakes.

What you realise when talking to Ashley is that she loves what they make, along with their whole approach to creating a product that is authentic, highly quality and intrinsically local. Having bought some home-cured bacon made from their herd of Gloucester Old Spot pigs, she drew my attention to their range of sausages with damsons, a fruit that defines the character of the Lyth Valley and puts a very local stamp in their produce.

A few stalls down, I also stopped to check out a specialist provider of a food that I was brought up on as a child, then fell out of love with (too much, too often) but now enjoy more than ever, especially on brown toast: the incredible wonder food that is honey. Lili Porter, a native Bulgarian now living in the North West, has some of the most incredible honey I have ever tasted, with a provenance that is truly remarkable – taken from valleys in Bulgaria where bees pollinate from a mix of flowers and trees.

Mass-produced honey, which is bland and often over sweet, is nothing compared to these truly delightful, fragrant and floral offerings which are light golden yellow in hue and each distinctively unique in its character. They're not cheap but top quality food always comes at a price and these are worth every penny. Enjoyable just-off-the-spoon and perfect for a high teatime treat with decent bread. This really is the food from the gods. Contact her here.

Words and photos: Tom Warman.

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