The Fresh Food Festival, The Oracle, Reading 2-3rd June 2011 - The Producers

Just to let you know, this post was written before I started the paleo diet to help ease my psoriasis. Nowadays I eat a more allergy-friendly diet, but leave these older, non-paleo posts up in case they are useful to readers, as I know not everyone eats the same as I do. Thanks for your understanding. 

Just wanted to fill you in on the great day out I had yesterday at the Fresh Food Festival in Reading. It's situated on the Riverside, just outside the Oracle shopping centre - Jamie Oliver calls this place 'restaurant land' because it's lined with restaurants serving all types of cuisines on both sides of the river. The focus for me was the farmer's market - featuring producers bringing their great food to Reading. It was fantastic talking to these people about how their produce is made and where it all comes from.

First, there was Chilli Queen, a company based just outside of Newbury, Berkshire that specialise in chilli jellies - I was stunned by the long line of jars available for customers to taste, in all different flavours. Their chilli jellies include: coriander and shallot, extra hot, mint, cranberry and ginger & lime. The jellies are made by Lee  Everett Alkin who is the former wife of Kenny Everett and Billy Fury. According to the website, it was Kenny Everett that gave her the name 'chilli queen'! She's lovely - and she told me how she developed the recipes after coming back from the USA.

The jellies don't need to be kept in the fridge once opened - they told me that it's usually when the jelly is tainted with butter or something else on the knife that it will start to go off. And when you think about it, preserves were invented because people didn't have a fridge!

Lee Everett-Alkin, The Chilli Queen!

I bought a jar of the gorgeous ginger and lime chilli jelly and I also now have a jar of the 'original' chilli jelly. They taste so fresh and aromatic - I'll definitely be spreading them onto cold roast chicken sandwiches, stirring them into stir fries and glazing chicken drumsticks with them. Actually, there's a wedge of cheese in the fridge just crying out for a spoonful of this for lunch! I urge you to try this, it's a real find - visit their website and have a look around.

Another great exhibitor at the festival was The Complete Pig - an Oxfordshire brewery and free-range meat curer. I met Henry, who butchers the pigs himself and then makes delicious, old-fashioned pork pies, sausage rolls and chorizo.

The pork products are all hand made, 100% pork, contain no artificial additives, fillers or water to bulk it out - and having tasted one of the sausage rolls I swear that if you could go back in time two hundred years, this is what food would taste like. Just gorgeous, honest and really good.

It was great to meet someone who actually sees production from the butchery of the animal to baking and finishing these fantastic products. This, also, is a real gem - you can visit and taste for yourself at farmer's markets including Windsor, Newbury and Swindon. Visit The Complete Pig website for more details and other locations.

The other stall that particularly caught my eye was Nut Knowle Farm's cheese stall - offering a huge selection of cheeses - hand made on the farm in East Sussex. The goat's cheese is made from the milk of Pedigree British Toggenburg and British Saanen goats that are fed a natural hay and cereal based diet and milked twice a day.

There was a huge selection, and they seemed to be quite busy when I stopped by - a great sign! The farm has also been in business for 30 years so they are well-established and clearly know what they are doing. They attend farmers markets in Kent, Surrey, Sussex and London - visit the website to find out more and for more specific locations.

In this day and age of the supermarket and fast food - it was so refreshing to take a wander round the market here and chat to the people that actually make the food themselves. You can ask them anything - they know every stage of the production because they are fully involved. And they are also so passionate about the food - I loved that.

I also got to meet celebrity chefs James Martin and Lesley Waters at the show, click here to find out what they told me

The Fresh Food Festival at the Oracle in Reading is on 2-3rd June 2011 - so you've still got time to get down there today. There are live demos (all free!) showcasing signature dishes from Jamie's Italian, Tampopo, Strada, Las Iguanas, Giraffe, LSQ2 and Mission Burrito. The farmer's market closes at 5pm but they will have live music going on into the evening. Check out the website to find out more.