Exeter Food Festival – Carol Trewin Young Food Writers Award

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Five of the finalists at the launch of the Exeter Food Festival

Last Thursday, I was asked to come and talk to the finalists of the Carol Trewin Young Food Writers award.

Carol Trewin, was the much loved and brilliant Food and Farming Editor of The Western Morning News, a BBC presenter, broadcaster and producer, and writer of the acclaimed  publication, ‘The Devon Food Book’ published posthumously. Carol was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in 2006 and sadly passed away in 2009. During her illness  she continued to work and help food producers with great kindness and intelligence. The Carol Trewin Young Food Writers Award was set up to “keep her values and work ethic alive amongst a new generation of food writers,  to encourage and support a new generation of aspiring young writers who are living, working or connected with the West Country.” The organisers, Marc Millon, food and wine writer, and James Crowden, author and publisher,  announced the finalists at the launch of the Exeter Festival. They wrote a 500 word piece to get this far and to win, they have to write a 1500 word piece for the Western Morning News. We can’t wait to see what they will come up with.

The Finalists

Stephanie Metcalf, Clare Hornby, Fleur Tucker, Karen Christian, Sadie Phillips and Anna-Marie Julyan

Earlier in the day, we met for coffee in Pebblebed Tasting Cellar, Topsham. This is a vineyard tasting cellar located in an old warehouse on the riverside near the Quay in Topsham.  It’s like those great cellar bars you find on the wine roads of Europe, that Marc has written many books about and it’s a wonderful Devon secret that you should not miss.

In the cellar, they offer Pebblebed wines (grown and made in Devon) wines from other Devon Vineyards and select wines from around the world imported by their associated organisation Vino and Topsham Wines.  They also serve delicious local cured meat selections, fabulous local cheese boards, and other tasty tapas. And watch out for Marc’s unforgettably fabulous pop up restaurant nights.  Book now, it is well worth the visit!

We took them on a visit to Country Cheeses – one of the best cheese shops in the UK – with an opportunity to interview Gary, the owner. I bought a selection of six for supper for a mere tenner and I left with not only a huge amount, but the heavenly experience of eating them all later, slowly, taking our time, mmm. I couldn’t resist buying Montgomery Cheddar, which is ,in my opinion, the best cheddar in the world, without doubt, and five others that were new to me. Little Stinky was particularly delish. Gary has a shop in Topsham and Tavistock and is always on the look out for new small producers, so there are always suprises.Image 15 Image 16 Image 17Then, we went on to a  West Country lunch at Route 2 Café Bar with Liz Hodges and James Clark (Travelling Cookery School) where James treated us to a fantastic lunch of spring vegetable risotto with fresh crab, the tenderest lamb that had been cooked at 45 degrees for six hours and a super lemon tart.

They day ended with the Launch of Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink and the  Festival After Dark party where the shortlist had a wine tasting at the Pebblebed van

Sharon Davies of Midfileds Granola with Michelin starred Chef, Michael Caines, at last year's festival.

Sharon Davies of Midfileds Granola with Michelin starred Chef, Michael Caines, at last year’s festival.

followed by half an hour with Michelin starred chef Michael Caines, who went out of his way, again, to support young people interested in food.


Cooked beetroot, carrot, red pepper, squash salad w dill yoghurt dressing

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I don’t like my salads to be a chewing chore, so I prefer steaming hard vegetables like carrots and beetroot, unless I am grating them finely in a slaw or Asian dish. These four match well: sweet carrot, earthy beets, waxy squash and fresh crisp peppers. I made this one with dill but rosemary (so good fresh, so bad dried) works like a dream.  I often think we get too stuck pairing herbs with foods in conventional ways that get stuck in one’s particular cultural norm. I was buying fish the other day and mentioned that I was cooking it with mint (see fish recipe) which brought cries of horror from the shoppers behind me. More fool them.

6 peeled carrots cut into bite size chunks, steamed until tender
3 peeled beets cut into bite size chunks, steamed until tender
1/2 butternut squash, cut into bite size chunks, steamed until tender
1 raw red pepper, de-seeded and sliced

Steam the root vegetables, add the red pepper and toss with the dressing.

250g Greek yoghurt
1/2 tsp Maldon sea salt
1 garlic clove chopped finely
A squeeze of lemon
A glug of peppery olive oil
10g fresh dill (or use rosemary, chopped finely into the yoghurt)

Vegetarian butternut squash, onion, feta and mustard leaf tart

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My friend Amanda made this pastry case, which I baked and left to cool.  Then I filled it with onions that I’d cooked down with a dash of sugar and  topped it with my feta mix – a recipe I’ve posted before as a filling for butternut squash or sweet potatoes (Click for that post here). This time I used the butternut squash as the filling (roasted in chunks in the oven with oil and a little balsamic, dropped the coriander and used peppery mustard leaf as a topping. It makes a great alternative dish for vegetarians. I repeat the filling recipe below if you can’t be bothered to track back. I do enjoy baking pastry cases then adding a cooked filling as I have a phobia of soggy pastry bases!

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3 large onions sliced and cooked down with a little oil and sugar

1 large butternut squash, peeled, cubed and spiced with salt, paper and a little cayenne. Baked in the oven with olive oil and balsamic until tender.

Feta topping

Mix one pack of broken up feta cheese (200-250 g) with:

1 clove of crushed garlic, 1/2 tsp of coriander seeds crushed and 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, one chopped fresh chilli (optional) and a glug of olive oil.  Sprinkle with sliced black olives, and top with fresh coriander or parsley.

Top with three or four shredded leaves of peppery mustard leaf, and slices of fresh red chilli.

A note on pastry

As for the pastry, Amanda and I use1/2 fat to flour, in this case 250g butter to 500g flour and just enough water to pull it together. Don’t overwork it, it is good to see globets of unmixed butter in the dough. Amanda puts the water in the freezer until it has the thinnest skin of ice, then adds that to the butter flour mix. It made the pastry much crisper. Roll out or squash into the pastry tin (12″/30cm) and leave in the fridge to harden for a couple of hours, or overnight, before baking.

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or try this filling on baked sweet potatoes (bake them first, then add the cold topping).

Exeter Street Food Market – April 2013

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Tacho Macho

At last, the street food market in Exeter has opened from Friday- Sunday every week. The Market surrounds the small 10th century church of St Pancras, in the middle of the Guildhall Shopping Centre.

English: St Pancras Church, Guildhall Shopping...

English: St Pancras Church, Guildhall Shopping Centre A small church in the heart of Exeter; of Saxon origin, still used for services and especially for private prayer and quiet. (Cited from the Small Pilgrim Places web site.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The church is tiny, only 46 feet long and 16 feet wide, and dates from 1191 with origins that go as far back as the Romans. It would once have stood  “without a church yard, tightly surrounded by stables, shops and houses in what was then described as Exeter’s British Quarter” so one hopes that the surrounding bustle of foodie commerce might bring this fascinating relic, now marooned between Mothercare and Claire’s Accessories,  some more notice.  Pop in before you buy your lunch.

It’s early days for this market and the large spaces between stands means you can miss stalls that are hidden around corners but start going there and more will come. Try Mexican Gus’s  ‘Taco Bowls’ filled with beef, chicken or fish and topped with lime, coriander, lettuce, feta, sour cream and tomato salsa for £4.97. Image 14or a plate of paella Image 13

Maybe, sample some pearl barley sushi

Image 12Image 10or gyozo dumplings with chilli sauce made by Larian and Jolly. They were tasty.Image 8


The Cosmic Wheels van was turning out delicious global treats like….
Image 27this tabouleh with grilled halloumi and garlic,yoghurt dressing.Image 23


I can recommend this guy below who makes yummy scallops and chorizo on rocket, to order, for a fiver

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or try his proper dinky fish and chips.Image 26

Then wash it all down with an invigorating coffee, roasted locally.Image 25


So next time you are in Exeter on a Friday or at the weekend, go down and support these guys. We want them to stay and we want more of them.





Raw asparagus, watercress and mint salad – Asian Style

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Asparagus is delicious raw, I almost like it better that way, almost.  It is also easy to prepare with an ordinary vegetable peeler.  I paired it with watercress and mint, mixed it all together, sprinkled it with some nouc cham I happened to have in the fridge and created a lovely light lunch that zinged with springtime goodness.


1 bunch  of spring asparagus (Choose fresh, green asparagus spears of a medium thickness that have tight, closed heads.)

1 large handful of watercress

10 mint leaves

1 red Thai chilli

Serve with Nouc Cham Sauce (and a dash of sesame oil)

This is a dipping sauce/dressing that has many variations. Some are sweeter or more sour than others. You have to find your own balance. This recipe will make a small jar but you will only need a couple of tablespoons for the salad.

2                      small garlic cloves, crushed

1                      chilli split and seeded

1 teaspoon      of fine white sugar or more to taste, dissolve in hot water if necessary.

2                      limes juice of (30ml)

60ml                 rice vinegar or mild low acid vinegar like cider vinegar

60ml                 fish sauce

Place all in a jar and shake about to blend the flavours.


1. Hold the tough end of the asparagus spear and slice down the asparagus (towards the head as thinly as possible) using a vegetable peeler. The heads can be a bit tricky to do on the very last peel so just crumble them in and discard the hard end you are left holding in your hand. Repeat until all the asparagus is sliced.

2. Slice the chilli, also as thinly as possible. Wash and drain the watercress and mint leaves. (coriander leaves would make a great addition too).

3. Toss the asparagus, watercress and mint with the nouc cham; add the chilli, pile the  asparagus on a plate and finish with a dash of sesame oil. Enjoy.

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If you love asparagus try these

Cornwall Butty

IMG_0481Down a long, long, one-track lane that seems to lead to nowhere, in deepest Cornwall, is a tiny shack.  The shack has been run by Angie for 17 years.  Each morning she cooks a roast or two and waits for her customers who buy…


…hot pork rolls, home-made pasties or burgers made from beef from their farm, all with a nice cuppa.     You take in the view.



and visit the wonderfully dusty shed that is the farm museum.IMG_0497Oh, and get butted by a sheep that happens to be hanging around.IMG_0476

No directions, the fun is in finding it.