BBC Good Food Show Winter, The NEC, November 2018

So here we are again, the annual visit to the Good Food Show. A compressed trip this year, as we had a discounted ticket which meant you couldn’t get in before 11am, and Mrs MOFAD had an appointment with an aircraft this afternoon (off to Munich for work).


Luckily, the show was smaller this year, so we managed to do everything in 4 hours. There seems to be a trend towards shrinking over the last few years, and there were so many producers missing. No Port of Lancaster smokehouse, no Dean’s Shortbread, no Geeta’s, no Debbie & Andrew’s. No White’s, no Wild, no Saucy Fish, no Yorkshire Provender.

The most startling thing was the lack of breweries. I think 2016 was probably the high point for this, whilst this year there were only 5 or 6. Barely any cider makers this year too. Still lots of gin dominating the drinks village. Good to see our friends at the Curry Sauce Co back again (and they are now available in Ocado too!)

I met some fellow ministers:-


and as usual we sampled some good food and drink, the standard random selection of beer, cheese, apples, gin, chocolate, sausages, pears, biscuits, chutneys, sauces and chicken teryaki. Definitely a much smaller show this year, but we still returned with a decent haul (some items not pictured for reasons).



The Swan Inn, Hanley Swan, Worcestershire, August 2018

A pub not far away from a camp site is something to always be explored. The Marton Arms in Thornton (Yorkshire) is probably our favourite “close to camp site” pub, given that it was just a few minutes walk away from the site.

The Swan Inn is about a mile away from where we were staying, but it had been recommended by regular MOFAD companions Karon & John, and looked really good on the web site. We had booked online, a quick and easy process, and they even e-mail you on the morning of your booking for you to confirm it. Very efficient and modern – I heartily approve!

We arrived a little early and ordered drinks from the bar. A very friendly barman handed us drinks and menus and we waited a few moments to be shown to our table. We had a nice little “mini booth” in the corner. We sipped our drinks and perused the menu, lots of nice things to choose from.

A waitress came over, looked at us drinking our drinks and reading menus, and asked us if we wanted to order drinks. Errrr, no. We’d like to order food. Oh, ok, I’ll get someone to take your order. She goes back to the bar, puts down her notepad, picks up a different notepad, and then comes back to take our order. Odd.

I continued to sip an excellent pint of HPA from Wye Valley Brewery. Really nice to see that a “foodie” pub is also capable of looking after their beer and presenting it in tip top condition.


A little “amuse-bouche” arrived, a small basket of freshly cooked crisps and a little pot of salsa. This was a nice surprise, a freshly cooked crisp is a rare sight, and it was a pleasant little mouth pleaser. The salsa could do with a bit of a reduction though, rather watery tomato.


On to the main courses, and most excellent they were. Mrs MOFAD opted for the asparagus risotto which was very flavoursome.


After 10 miles of cycling and 5 of walking (both of which involved plenty of uphill), I needed some big tasty protein, in the form of a lovely bit of sirloin steak.

There was a time when I would almost always have steak when out and about. Now, it’s something that I only have only rarely (and always rare). Rareness (or lack of it) is one of the reasons why, it seems that it is a struggle to find places that cook steak to your liking (and it’s a personal preference which should be easy to honour).


This one was cooked to perfection (for me) and was really tasty. Classic accompaniments of triple-cooked chips (we do love a bit of a triple cooking nowadays), a mushroom, roasted/grilled tomatoes and a few leaves on the side (with interesting parmesan shavings bringing another flavour into play). With the addition of some nicely warm English mustard, this was a perfect plate of steak and chips. More like this please!

After the exertions of the day, it’s fair to say that we had earned ourselves a pudding, and given there were plenty of lovely options on offer, we decided to indulge.

Mrs MOFAD had apple and cinnamon crumble with a scoop of ice cream. It was quite tart and might have benefitted from a spoonful of sugar. There was also a lot of cinnamon, which is exactly why I avoided it. Keep cinnamon out of my puddings 🙂

I had the roasted peach pavlova, which was a sweet delight. A very firm meringue, half a peach, nicely whipped cream and some cheffy squiggles along with some micro leaves, a couple of flowers and some fruity dots. It was lovely, although some more peach wouldn’t have gone amiss.


A really nice dinner in a lovely pub. Whilst we waited for our plates to be cleared, I booked online for Monday night too. A fantastic village pub!

BBC Good Food Show Winter, The NEC, November 2017

The annual round up of the annual pilgrimage to the NEC to visit the BBC Good Food Show. And for the first time since the last century, we had a guest, with Mrs MOFAD’s sister (and regular MOFAD supplier) Jo joining us for the first half of the day. We rocked up at the NEC at just after 10am, after a quick detour to pick up our passenger. Note to future self – coming down the A446 from junction 9 is much better than going down to junction 6.

In to the show we go. More security this year, sniffer dogs trying hard not to be distracted by the smell of sausages cooking nearby. Guide dogs doing the same. As usual we set off for the drinks sections first, which were absolutely overwhelmed by gin producers. I thought that there were loads of them last year, but I’m sure there were even more this year. Fewer cider producers and way fewer breweries. No Renegade/West Berkshire (probably the highlight of the last 2 years). No BAD Co (another good one from last year). No Empress Ale. No Crafty Devil. Not even a bigger name like Wadworth.

There were a few familiar names as well as some new breweries (reports on them to come later I’m sure). Plenty of interesting food producers, but again some notable absentees. No Croome Cuisine and their lovely hop cheese. No Debbie & Andrew’s. We picked up the usual haul of Dean’s biscuits, always the most generous with their samples of whole biscuits (unlike some of the cheese producers who have samples the size of a mote of dust).

Santa tells me that there are more goodies to come in 25 days, so I’ll wait until then to do another round up 🙂

The Oyster Shed, Angel Lane, London, March 2017

After a lovely afternoon tea up the Shard, we had a wander around Borough market. We didn’t buy any food as we were full as an egg, but it was lovely to explore the market. We will definitely come back another day. After that we had a stroll along the south bank for a little bit.

We were meeting up with our good friend Gale, who happened to be working nearby today. We had arranged to meet in another pub, but that was closed for refurbishment, so we strolled east along the north bank for a short while to find ourselves in The Oyster Shed.

This is not one of your historical London taverns that has stood on this site for years, playing host to Samuel Pepys or the Krays. If you’re looking for an historical boozer, go elsewhere. It’s very new but doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, blending nicely into its surroundings. Huge glass windows give good views over the river.

We met Gale here and stayed for a couple of drinks. Luckily (and slightly unexpectedly) there were a couple of decent ales on. This was a Naked Ladies by Twickenham Fine Ales. Those keywords ought to bring a few extra hits to this post. It was a hoppy and bitter golden ale.

Next up, a former craft beer. Camden Pale Ale is still a reliable beer, despite the fact that it is now owned by AB InBev. Camden Town Brewery grew very big very quickly, and around 70% of its beer is currently brewed elsewhere. By June this year, all brewing will be back in house at a new brewery site in Enfield, the investment coming as a result of the AB InBev takeover in December 2015. The initial backlash seems to have subsided, so Camden Town look to have ridden the storm.

The Oyster Shed claims not to be part of a chain, but Geronimo Inns are owned by Young’s, so they are. It’s not a bad thing in this case, as there are plenty of good pubs owned by Young’s.

If you find yourself around Cannon Street, Monument or London Bridge this is a cracking modern London pub to meet friends in for a drink. The food looked good too, plenty of pub classics on the menu, although we were too full to even consider anything, even a bowl of chips.


BBC Good Food Show Winter, The NEC, November 2016

We have been visiting the Good Food show since at least 1999. It is an annual pilgrimage. A great chance to pick up lots of interesting food and drink from smaller producers, some familiar, some new. There are big names there, such as the usual giant Lakeland shop:-

Most of the stalls are much smaller though, for small producers to sell direct to the public. Each year you try and work out who was there last year, who is new, and who is returning after a year off. One of my favourites from last year, Renegade Brewery from Berkshire were there again, with the same beers on show. L’Atypique craft cidre (nothing to do with that Stella nonsense) were also another returner.

On to some of the new. Absolutely loads of cider and gin producers this year, way more than breweries. I think that’s a first. In the Northern Ireland producers village there were lots of new stalls to look around, several breweries, cider producers and lots of interesting foods.

We also found out about the Appkettle – a nice looking piece of shiny designed and developed by some fellow Loughborough graduates. A kettle that is controlled by an app. You can change temperatures, monitor water levels, boil it remotely and keep it warm for 30 minutes. It is a kettle that costs £130.

Now that sounds a lot for a kettle, but when you consider that this one will set you back the same amount:-


and it does nothing other than boil water, or that you could pay over 2 grand for this coffee machine:-


then it doesn’t sound quite so crazy after all. But we didn’t buy one. We did have a nice chat with the team behind it though.

We carried on trundling around, picking up some of our favourites (Dean’s biscuits, Spice’n’Tice chutneys, cheeses) as well as some new things (lots of interesting new canned beers and some Irish cider).

You’ll also spot a selection of ales from elsewhere, my annual refresh of herbs and spices from Fox’s spices, lots of garlic things from the Isle of Wight garlic farm, some tasty fish from Port of Lancaster smokehouse and some other bits and pieces. There are also a few gifts (not pictured) 🙂

Another great day out at the Good Food show. Not even the weirdness of Christmas cake cheese (yes, really) could put a downer on it. Well worth it.

The Tea Merchant in Canary Wharf opens

This is another in that occasional series of previews of places that look nice but I’ve not been to yet.

The Tea Merchant in Canary Wharf has opened its doors following a big refurbishment.


Formerly known as The Cat and Canary, The Tea Merchant claims to “bring sophisticated al fresco dining to Canary Wharf, from brunch through to evening.” Celebrating the area’s rich history, the Tea Merchant serves meals throughout the day and has a heated outside area with 80 seats overlooking the North Dock.  The private dining area is available for business meetings, private food events and drinks receptions.

A well-crafted menu offers high-quality dishes prepared using the best seasonal ingredients from hand-selected suppliers, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday roasts. The open kitchen allows customers to watch the team showcase their culinary skills. Dishes on offer at the moment include rabbit loin, lemon sole, ox cheeks, sea trout, Dorset lamb and the classic cod and chips.


The Tea Merchant’s new name is homage to the local area’s rich heritage. Canary Wharf was once one of the busiest docks in the world, bringing tea, sugar, grain, and produce to London from around the world. For a preview of the refurbishment, please visit the pub’s website and use the 360 tour:

Kara Alderin, Fuller’s “Head of Premium Dining”, said: “The opening of The Tea Merchant has marked a new chapter in the site’s history. Together with a complete transformation and of course a new name, this business has an exciting new lease of life. It brings to the area the best in pub dining, with high quality wines, craft beers and some exceptional freshly prepared gin infusions to tempt even the hardiest tea drinker.”


(All images copyright Fuller, Smith & Turner P.L.C.)

Sloe, sloe, pick, pick, sloe

As well as finding bits of tupperware whilst out geocaching, you can also come across handy supplies of fruit. Blackberries are the obvious one, and they start to be ready for picking during August. August is also a good time to look out for good areas for sloes, the fruit of the blackthorn. What do you do with sloes? Well, the best thing to do is to make sloe gin. Like parsnips, sloes are best after the first frosts, so if you can wait for the frost to come that’s great. If not, start to pick them when they are ready (usually any time from September onwards) and simulate a frost by sticking them in a bag and popping them in the freezer for an hour or so. Damsons and bullaces can also be found in the wild, and they also work perfectly.


If you fancy making some sloe gin, here is a recipe You will need:-

1lb sloes
8oz caster sugar
1 75cl bottle of gin (cheap gin will do absolutely fine)
15ml glycerin

Here’s what to do:-

1. Stalk, wash & prick the sloes, then put them in a wide mouth glass jar. If you’ve frozen them, you won’t need to prick them as freezing generally bursts the skin.
2. Dissolve the sugar in the gin, add the glycerine and pour it over the fruit.
3. Seal the jar and leave in a handy place where it can be shaken each each day for 1 month to extract the juice & flavour. Leave it for a further two months in a cool dark place.
4. Strain out, drain & discard the sloes. Taste the gin, sweeten it further if required, then bottle and keep for a further 6-9 months before drinking it.
5. Drink!