Friday, 20 November 2009

MasterChef LIVE 2009

If you could cook it, eat it or drink it, London's Olympia was filled to to the ceiling with goods to delight every foodie.
Following a re-branding, the BBC Good Food Show London became MasterChef LIVE halfway through its promotional campaign. I'm not sure whether there was a definite reason for doing this – perhaps poor advance ticket sales or maybe a marketing brainwave?
Either way, the show seemed to be packed with the usual high quality exhibitors and attractions.

MasterChef was very much the theme in the theatres with top chefs and past MasterChef winners demonstrating their skills and tantalising our tastebuds with a variety of dishes.
One area was the Invention Test that offered members of the public to take part alongside celebrities. Ingredients were supplied and using their ingenuity they had to produce a dish to impress the judges. Despite friends of mine saying that I should enter, I politely declined. Although a brilliant opportunity it was still scary stuff!

A large area was devoted to the Restaurant Experience where one could buy some dining currency and use it in exchange for some taster portions from some top London restaurants.
It all smelled very delicious, but the plastic plates and bowls that the food was served in, not to mention the queues, proved to be a little detracting.

There were some Hot Tips areas, one of which we visited to see James Nathan give a class in how to prepare shellfish. I've always been slightly perturbed at the thought of dismembering a crab or a lobster, so was intrigued to see what I could learn.
Watching James somehow made things a lot clearer. As he recounted his early days, admitting that at first, he didn't have a clue how to prepare various crustaceans and molluscs, I began to feel more relaxed about the whole procedure.
It was even comforting to see him waver when he had trouble opening an oyster. I admired him for his honesty when he confessed to messing one up. It must be difficult performing in front of a small audience just feet away.

Aside from all the pizazz and showmanship there was the huge Producers' Market, including the Food Lovers Britain Fair and Slow Food. Here, we tasted our way through an array of items, before deciding whether to buy.
On our tour around the show we met up with the people from Adesso whom we first met two years ago at The Real Food Festival. At the time they were first starting out with their marinades, so it was nice to chat and find out how they were getting on.

Who would think that were so many varieties of garlic to choose from?
The Garlic Farm had everything from the recognisable to the rare and some of the biggest garlic I've ever seen – Elephant Garlic

Gorgeous artisan breads from Flour Power City.

Don't get me wrong, I do love cheese, but there were rather too many stands offering their wares. However there were some fantastic flavours to be sampled. Some fine aged cheddars and a beautiful creamy blue from Cornwall.

Cheese always needs a little relish to accompany it..... hang on there's more cheese hiding on this stand at Truckle.

Speaking of a proliferation of similar products, chilli in all its variants was everywhere.
Mr Singh's Punjabi Foods had a punchy little sauce in bottles small enough to be a travel accessory.

Hot, hotter, hottest!
The South Devon Chilli Farm stand was all too tempting. First I tried a subtle relish and it was fragrant and warming then I spread a little sauce on a cracker... that had a definite kick. Noticing something at the end of the table that looked rich and thick and yummy I tasted that too, but with disastrous results. At first it was very tasty and then an almighty heat whacked me in the back of the throat, set my tongue on fire with power of a thousand suns, nearly ejecting my eyeballs out of their sockets! Crikey, I wished I'd checked the label on the jar first... Extreme Hot it said decorated with a logo of a skull and crossbones! Back to a cheese stall I went to neutralise my oral inferno.

These were very good cakes, sorry sweet breads, baked to a traditional Creole recipe.
Moist, fruity with a hint of spice.

Hmmm..... have cupcakes had their day? Discuss.

Let it be said, when there's free alcohol to try, the British are very good at being in the front of the queue! The sun was barely over the yard arm and people were already necking as many freebies as they could. Although they should remember to bring several disguise kits so that they can revisit the stands several times!

The Black Bottle whisky was exceptionally good – smooth with a hint of caramel and smoke.

I thought that I didn't like sake, but after tasting several different types at the Fukumitsuya Sake Brewery stand I've realised that there are better ones out there compared to the one you can pick up at the supermarket. Shame on me!

For those not so alcoholically inclined there were some coffee
and tea suppliers.
Jacc's Coffee produce a range of beans flavoured with things like roasted pecan but I have to say it's not really my cup of tea – or should that be coffee? – as I prefer my beverage to be unsullied by unwanted essences. Each to their own.

Choi Time teas had those amazing flowers that unfurl in your teapot – a delight to look at as well as to sip.
A good reason to have a glass pot then.

Ah yes, this is real salami and pancetta. Good stuff.

The Kikkoman stand proudly displaying their
cooking skills using soy sauce.

Sweet-toothed visitors were catered for with everything from
hand made fudge to artisan chocolates....

With veg this pretty, who wouldn't want to eat it?

Flavours of the Mediterranean were everywhere and
some of the finest olive oils.

If you're getting tired of olive oil, then Sussex Gold had a tasty and healthy British alternative of cold-pressed rapeseed oil.

This was a new one for me, African Baobab Fruit Jam from Yozuna.
It's a lovely thick golden paste, not unlike quince cheese. The taste was sweet and tangy and went well with the cheese that was offered with it. Not only is it yummy, but it's extremely good for you, full of vitamins – well what would you expect from the 'Tree of Life'.

Thanks to my husband for the photos.
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