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MAC Food Festival, Birmingham

May 28, 2012

I had to postpone a visit to daughter Nicola by a week but it turned out to be fortuitous as it meant I was in Birmingham yesterday for the MAC Food Festival. MAC is an arts centre and this was its first ever food festival featuring stalls by local artisan bakers; makers of chutneys, cupcakes, sausages, spice mixes; local delis and a whole range of lovely food stuffs.

A food and craft fair I’d been to a few months ago in Birmingham turned out to be a be of a non-event, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect yesterday. However, there was plenty here to keep The Single Gourmet Traveller happy. From the smell of Caribbean barbecue when we arrived as the Soul Food Project had taken over the MAC’s cafe for the day, to the stalls inside displaying a wonderful array of foods. First up we talked to a stallholder whose sausages looked fantastic and he told us he’d made them that morning and ran sausage-making classes. We bought two of each of the three choices – and later they’d go on the barbecue.

Next stall along I spied a row of chutneys to taste. I like a good chutney with cheese for lunch sometimes, but a really good chutney is hard to come by. I’ve made my own in the past, though not for many years, but it was by some strange coincidence that only a couple of days ago, after another disappointing and far too sweet shop-bought chutney, I’d been contemplating getting my preserving pan out of storage. So, tasting the samples at Cuffufle Chutney’s stall was a must and they were delicious enough for me to come away with a Spiced Apple Chutney.

There was raw chocolate to try at Trishul Chocolate and vegan food at ChangeKitchen – whose owner Birgit Kehrer later did a cookery demonstration and talked about the classes she runs privately, for businesses or in schools.

Then we moved on to Lewis’s Deli‘s stall. I have to say this was my absolute favourite stall and I spent ages talking to the friendly Lewis, while Nicola persuaded me we just had to busy some of his raspberry and white chocolate muffins (sorry … we ate them before I remembered I should have got my camera out!) and buy bottles of lovely La Mortuacienne artisan lemonades.

I could have happily filled a large shopping bag with goodies from Lewis’s stall; his range of foods was of the highest quality. Nicola and I also discussed afterwards that a big part of the whole ‘deli’ experience is buying foods that are different and special from a knowledgeable and friendly person who will talk to you about what they sell and recommend things. Lewis definitely fits the bill and although I didn’t buy much from him yesterday, I’m definitely heading to his Moseley shop next time I’m in Birmingham – with a large cool box!

Our final stop was at Capeling & Co’s cheese stall. They have a shop in King’s Heath and Nicola said it was very good. There was a good choice but we settled on buying some Genievre de Cremier cheese, made from ewes’ milk, with a nice nutty flavour.

Back at Nicola’s we decided to stay in to eat and put together an evening meal from some of the things we’d bought. We started with some filled spinach and ricotta pasta that Nicola had bought from Lewis’s shop. They were without doubt the best bought filled pasta I’ve had.

When Nicola showed me the packaging I immediately recognised the Camissa name – Camissa is one of the oldest and best Italian delis in London’s Soho. No wonder it was so good. We then barbecued the sausages – you can see the quality here:

They were wonderfully meaty with the different herb and spice flavourings cleanly shining through, making these top-notch sausages. Nicola made a delicious pea, baby broad bean and mint salad to go with them … which sadly I was too busy eating and enjoying before I thought to find that camera – again!

Back home today, after a trip down the M40 to London, the last couple of the sausages went into my freezer for another time and I enjoyed the lovely Genievre de Cremier cheese with the Spiced Apple Chutney, a crunchy fresh flute of bread from Paul in Richmond and a tasty tomato. Like all simple meals, when you buy the highest quality ingredients then the result is something special and wonderful.

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