One of the things I like about Suffolk is the fact that it is so varied. It ranges from heathland to forest, has some of the most fertile farmland in the country, and a stunning coast. Which means that the county produces a wide variety of delicious food; from the fresh fish landed daily in Aldeburgh to well-hung, local beef from Salter & King; from Henrietta Inman’s pop-up patisserie to sourdough bread worth driving miles for; from Adnams in Southwold to Aspall’s ciders. This food all comes together in a celebration of Suffolk (and East Anglian) food in the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival.
Set in the Snape Malting, the festival features a sea of stalls all spotting fresh local produce. And even better is that you can see the provenance of the products. For example, the bread and cookies I bought were were made with the flour two stalls further down.
Some of my ‘sweeter’ highlights include the Greek yogurt from Marybelle Diary, polenta and linseed bread from Two Magpies Bakery, the ‘to die for’ gooseberry and limonchello ice cream from Alder Carr Farm and the salted caramel granola bar from Bonallack Great Granola. I also lost my heart to the berry cider from Aspall’s, healthy roasted peas from Hodmedod’s, the large range of fresh produce from Maple Farm, cured meats from the Artisan Smokehouse, fresh unpasteurised brie from Fen Farm Diary and melt in my mouth Gressingham duck.
The stories behind some of the producers are fascinating. For example on a walk through borough market, Edward of Edward’s Cordial decided to buy some rhubarb to experiment with, made cordial and gave some to his boss. The boss asked for 20 more bottles the next day as his pregnant wife was absolutely hooked. You don’t say no to a pregnant lady and the rest as you say is history. There are equally fascinating stories and flavours from Curry Pie (he had me at black-eyed peas and sausage), Red Chilli Kitchen who’s Vietnamese curry pastes are just to die for and the Yemeni style chilli paste from Yemen Taste that worked wonders on cheese. Then there is all the love (10 whole weeks of it) that goes into producing every single bar of chocolate at the Pump Street Bakery.
The festival stages also features a stellar line up of chefs and various speakers cooking with the local produce. I was enthralled with the very infectious super club host Sabrina Ghayour whose session who had me alternatively giggling or drooling as she demonstrated how to make lamb koftes from her cook book Persiana. Other highlights included the food and drink (beer, wine and martini) pairing by Adnam’s filled with fun facts, including the one that James Bond had got it all wrong with his ‘shaken and not stirred’ martini requests.
Seriously it is a great – you get a huge variety of good local produce and a whole load of other fringe events happening over a 2 week period. And you could easily combined this gastronomic delight by visiting the beautiful Suffolk countryside with local gems such as Framingham Castle and Sutton Hoo, and a trip to Aldeburgh or Orford, or if you are coming in Spring, make sure you go to the Alde Valley Spring Food and Art Festival.
See you next year.