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Mary Berry at the Stone Food & Drink Festival

It was a bleak day as we walked along the canal tow path towards the marquees erected for the Stone Food & Drink Festival. Friday was the opening day and we hoped to get in early an avoid the crowds – no problems there as it was cold enough for even the locals to comment on. Putting on a brave face, we entered the largest marquee and sampled our way down the length of the tent. Plenty of cheeses to try including an unusual matured cheddar with ginger; a small selection of small goods; chutneys and sauces in greater quantity and a variety of cakes, pies and sweets. By Brisbane or Birmingham Good Food Show standards, the selection was modest but plenty to hold our attention. We sampled the Sloe Gin but demurred after our night out on the Real Ale Trail, topped up on a Boar Burger (tasting nothing like chicken (or pork) but surprisingly like the steakettes that we used to have when we were kids) and left with a bottle of clean skin Shiraz from Argentina.
As well as the gourmet food tent, there was the food demonstration marquee where we were lucky enough to see a demonstration by Mary Berry, Queen of the AGA. I suspect Mary is the Anna Wintour of the kitchen set. She is dry and wry and clearly a tough cookie to work for. Her assistant has been working with her for 10 years but looked for all the world like it was her first week in the job. In an hour, Mary cooked 5 dishes (chocolate roulade, salmon terrine, quick ginger and lemon cheesecake, meatballs in tomato sauce and salad of duck breasts) None of it was overly fancy and some on it was downright retro but with a few tips, a couple of stories and the skill that comes from cooking for years, the dishes were quick to make and very appealing and warming in an otherwise chilly environment. Not only does Mary have several cook books and her own food product line, she also runs courses on how to use your AGA – a massive stove/come oven that everyone just has to have in the UK if they are out to impress but very few people actually know how to use or get the most out of. Mary is what Donna Hay will be like in another 30 years, doing the food show circuit. No doubt, she is a national treasure.

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