Festive Food all wrapped up at Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink Fair


Whether your taste runs to the rare and exotic, the innovative or the traditional the Abergavenny Food and Drink Fair (Sunday 14 December, 10.00am – 5.00pm), has it all in the bag. No more running from shop to shop and getting frazzled. This has to be the most convivial way to get ready to celebrate with friends and family.


To get you in a party mood there’s a run-up event event on the Saturday (13 December, 6.30 – 7.30pm, tickets £10.00) at Homes of Elegance (Abergavenny). Lindy Wildsmith, award-winning cook and food writer, will make festive drinks based on recipes from her new book ‘Artisan Drinks’ (£25.00 hardback/Jacqui Small Publishing). You’ll have plenty of opportunity to sample the results. How about artisan punch, an elegant liqueur, or a glamorous cocktail? And for those of you in the driving seat there’s an invigorating non-alcoholic cordial, fizz or mocktail. Lindy will be doing a book signing afterwards so you’ll be able to try her recipes for yourself or buy as a present for friends and family.


Come Sunday morning the Food & Drink Fair will showcase over eighty hand-picked speciality exhibitors so every facet of the festive season is covered: fresh and cured meats, poultry and game, cheeses and chocolates, cakes and desserts, wines and liqueurs, ales and ciders and a whole lot more.

Here’s a snapshot of what’s in store: Naturally smoked foods (Black Mountains Smokery), Indian spices, mulled wine tasters and Christmas pudding (Green Saffron), traditional cheeses (La Cave à Fromage), Welsh vintage sparkling wines (Glyndwr Vineyard), charcuterie, air dried meats and salami (Trealy Farm), hand-crafted chocolate truffles and products using real fruit and flowers (Sciolti Botanical Chocolates), gourmet fishcakes (Devon Fishcakes), French-style macarons in variety of flavours (Dimkin Ltd), loose leaf and herbal teas (Chantler Teas), all things garlic (The Garlic Farm), and Gloucester Old Spot pork: faggots, sausages and bacon (Coity Bach Produce).

There’s also a selection of catering stalls for food-to-go including:  American Street Food Ltd, The Capuccino Bar and Sam’s Meat Roast. Whilst getting a bite to eat you can enjoy the swags of greenery and fruits in the Market Hall, alongside the Arts Alive ‘pigs and garlands’ decorations from the September Festival.


Alongside the markets there’s a rolling programme of seasonal demonstrations with top culinary talent. Shop, then take a rest whilst getting tasty tips. If you’re lucky there might be some food to sample too. Adele Nozedar (author and forager) and Karl Cheetham (Gliffaes Hotel) conjure up wickedly delicious festive sweets; Liz Knight (Forage Fine Foods) makes jelly from wild pine needles and aromatic mincemeat, and Iain Sampson (The Bear, Crickhowell) pairs up with Jim Hamilton (Kings Arms, Abergavenny) with twelve savoury canape/finger foods. Then it’s on to Victoria North (Vic North Cookery School) with a Christmas baking session, including one gluten free recipe; and Illtud Llyr Dunsford (Charcutier Ltd) who goes back to Victorian times drawing on heritage recipes for his real meat mince pies. The final dem of the day will be given by Arun Kapil, founder of Green Saffron Ltd. The spice specialist will turn left-over turkey into a delicate superbly aromatic dish, then magic up ‘snowman on a stick’ from left over Christmas pudding. See the full line-up at abergavennyfoodfestival.com.


Children of course are at the heart of Christmas so there will be child-focused Secret Treats workshops in the Corn Exchange (accessed through Market Hall) – and word has it that adults will get a look-in too. There will be crafts and sweets to make for stocking fillers and little presents, and things to buy. Create ‘randomz peppermint creams’ and christmas cards, and delicious confections with ‘chocs away’. Follow the ‘shhh’ secret trail to get there.


Adult stroller tickets cost just £5.00 and give access to the Abergavenny’s beautiful Victorian Market Hall, plus Upper Brewery Yard and The Priory Centre at St Mary’s. If you’ve got children in tow (under 16), then they get in for free.

This year every stroller ticket holder will automatically be entered into a prize draw. The top prize is still to be confirmed (watch this space), but additional goodies include special Festival aprons signed by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and discounts from local shops will be in the mix too.


The day will finish off with traditional music and singing. The whole community is invited to join in a musical procession starting at Market Hall with Abergavenny Town Band (4.15 to 4.45pm), finishing at Priory Church of St Mary where there will be a free Christmas concert featuring Gwent Youth Strings and School Choirs (4.45 to 5.40pm) and food-themed Evening Service (6.00 to 7.00pm).

Box office is now live. Buy stroller wristbands and event tickets at abergavennyfoodfestival.com, through the Borough Theatre (tel: 01873 850805) or on the day from the ticket point outside the Market Hall and Priory Centre.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gluten-free Linzer biscuits for Christmas – a recipe from Victoria North

We’ve a great line-up of talented chefs and cooks who’ll be demonstrating in the Market Hall throughout our Christmas Food & Drink Fair on Sunday 14 December. Over the coming weeks they will be sharing some of their recipes with you.

CaptureCardigan Bay Baker and Cookery School  owner Vic North will be celebrating the festive season by showing you how to bake delicious Sourdough Stollen stuffed with marzipan and morello cherries, gluten- free Linzer biscuits made with ground almonds and spiced jam and chocolate salame – a tasty treat from Italy to share with friends and loved ones.

Try out the recipe below. Compare your results with hers on the day.

Victoria North 1

Gluten Free Linzer Biscuits for Christmas – a recipe from Victoria North

Linzer biscuits are a cookie version of the Austrian Linzer Torte, a Christmas time treat heralding from the city of Linz in Austria. Rich with almonds and cinnamon, the pretty jam filling can be seen through a cut out window on the top layer.

Assemble these biscuits shortly before serving as the jam will moisten the crisp biscuit crumb – although this could be considered as only adding to their jammy deliciousness!” Linzar biscuits are traditionally made with blackcurrant jam


  • 115g butter, chilled
  • 375g ground almonds
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 85g honey
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 50g jam
  • Icing sugar to dust


  1. Using a food processor, whizz together the almonds, cinnamon and salt. Toss in the butter, honey and vanilla and blitz until a rough dough has formed.
  1. Divide the mixture into two equal sized portions. Place each portion between two pieces of baking parchment and roll out to about half a centimetre in thickness. Place the cookie dough, still between the parchment paper, into the freezer to chill for 20 minutes. Working with gluten free dough has it’s challenges and keeping everything cool is a great technique to make the mix easier to handle.
  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  1. Using a cookie cutter, cut out disks in matching pairs which, when baked and cooled will be sandwiched together. Cut out the centres of half of the pairs in a shape of your choice.
  1. Bake for around 10 minutes, until just the edges are starting to turn golden.
  1. Using a palette knife, place the biscuits onto a wire cooling grid. Meanwhile, gently heat the jam in a saucepan to soften. When the biscuits have cooled, spread the whole biscuits with the warmed jam and sandwich the matching halves which have the cut out window, on top.
  1. Allow to cool completely before dusting with icing sugar.

Happy baking. If you are interested in developing your culinary skills then do check out the courses on offer at  the VicNorth Cookery School

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Petals of the Valley Fresh Rosewater to launch at Festival

Welsh Rosewater – Cook with the fragrance of summer all year round

Welsh Rose WaterWelsh Rosewater, made from pure, natural ingredients, grown and made in Wales is being launched at the Abergavenny Food Festival this year. Believed to be the first rosewater in the UK to be approved as a food ingredient, Petals of the Valley’s rosewater is rich in natural oil and flavour.

The fragrant Rosa Damascena roses are only distilled once in a traditional copper still then matured in glass demi-johns. These delicate roses have to be picked at dawn in order to capture the maximum rose oil content before it dissipates over the day. The result is rosewater rich in oil and flavour with no preservatives.

Rosewater was traditionally used for flavouring before the advent of vanilla and as such can often be used in place of vanilla in recipes. Think cakes, puddings, drinks, sweets.

Petals of the Valley Ltd can be found in the Souk at The Priory where you can taste their rosewater’s unique, fragrant, fresh and delicious floral flavour and
find inspiration for cooking with Rosewater on their website.

Posted in News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

BBC Radio 4 – The Kitchen Cabinet and Saturday Live at Abergavenny Food Festival

Two BBC Radio events will at the Abergavenny Food Festival:

The Kitchen Cabinet

Jay Rayner

Jay Rayner

On Friday 19 September the Kitchen Cabinet, chaired by Jay Rayner, will be recording in the Borough Theatre (time: 12 noon). The panel will feature food historian Annie Gray, Spanish food supremo Rachel McCormack, food writer and journalist Tim Hayward and Tim Anderson,  winner of BBC Masterchef (2011) and owner of pop-up Southern Japanese restaurant Nanban. The Rev Richard Coles from Saturday Live will also be featuring on this special edition. Some of the themes that will be talked about include cider and British charcuterie.


Saturday Live

Richard Coles

Richard Coles

The following day (Saturday 20 September) it’s the turn of Saturday Live with Rev Richard Coles, Suzy Klein and Jay Rayner (time: 8.30am). Guests will include Jancis Robinson, Doyenne of the wine world, tree hunter Rob McBride who travels the world tracking down ancient trees such as The Oak at the Gate of the Dead on Offa’s Dyke; and Beekeeper Scott Davies who served his honey to Barack Obama at the NATO conference in Wales and dressed up as a bee to meet the PM. John Humphrys will be tucking into Welsh rarebit with JP Devlin plus songs from Welsh-speaking Bajan singer/songwriter Kizzy Crawford and Inheritance Tracks from musician and broadcaster Cerys Matthews

Both events will take place in the Borough Theatre, Cross Street, Abergavenny. Apply for tickets now for The Kitchen Cabinet and Saturday Live off the BBC’s website

Posted in News | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Giant Pigs in Clover take top billing in Market Hall

Arts Alive Wales is putting the call out for creative and motivated people who’d like to volunteer and team up with a professional designer to create a magnificent art installation for Abergavenny Food Festival 2014.

This year’s theme is ‘Pigs & Garlands’. Inspiration will be drawn from our much-loved British breed pigs, including Gloucester Old Spot, Saddleback,  Hampshire and Tamworth. We’re talking really swanky swine here so creative hands are also needed to glam them up them with garlands of flowers and fruits. A fitting tribute to these visually distinctive animals who’ve graced our farms and agricultural shows for generations.

These extraordinary annual installations have become something of an institution. The pigs are destined to hang in Abergavenny’s Victorian Market Hall where they’ll be unveiled at the start of the Festival weekend (20 and 21 September). They will be a huge attraction for visitors and locals alike and remain on display for a year.

Come on board and turn ideas into reality. Textile, painting and sculpting skills would be particularly useful but beginners are very welcome too. You’ll be guided by professional designer, Bettina Reeves.

The workshops will take place at the Arts Alive Wales studio, Brecon Road, Crickhowell from Monday 1st to Wednesday 17th September and run from 9.30am to 5.30pm. Please note: there are no workshops on Thursdays or Sundays.

If you would like to get involved please email: info@artsalivewales.org.uk or call 01873 811579 and say which dates you’re available. Please bring lunch to share.

The creation of this year’s installation has been funded by Abergavenny Food Festival and Abergavenny Town Council.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top Chefs Head for ‘Best Event in Wales’

Last year the Abergavenny Food Festival won the accolade ‘Best Event in Wales’ (National Tourism Awards 2013), so the bar has been set high for 2014. This year’s programme won’t disappoint. The Festival takes place over the weekend of 20 and 21 September and box office is now live at abergavennyfoodfestival.com.

Over fifty of the brightest lights of the culinary world have Abergavenny as a firm date in their diaries.  Join the masters, get inspired and take your culinary skills to another level. Buy tickets online or from the Borough Theatre on 01873 850805.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, one of the UK’s best-loved cooks, is first off the block on the Friday night (19 September). He’ll be discussing his new book ‘River Cottage Light and Easy – healthy recipes for every day’ with journalist Joanna Blythman.

The Festival prides itself on great hospitality and a laid-back convivial atmosphere. Award-winning chef Cyrus Todiwala says, “The Abergavenny bug has smitten us hard. We just love to be there and make many new friends.” Cyrus will be taking the stage with Tony Singh, his co-presenter on ‘The Incredible Spice Men’ (BBC2). Their mission is to wake up Britain to the power of spices. Expect a high-octane demonstration as they conjure up dishes from their book and TV series.

Thomasina Miers also knows a thing or two about spices. She fell for the food of Mexico and cooked with some of the country’s top chefs before winning MasterChef in 2005 and opening the Mexican street-food chain ‘Wahaca’. She’ll be cooking from her latest book ‘Chilli Notes – recipes to warm the heart.’

The special events programme represents a real melting-pot of diverse food cultures, each taken to new heights by amazingly talented people. The line-up also includes Claudia Roden, the legendary doyenne of cookery writing, who’ll be returning to Abergavenny for a rare cooking demonstration on the food of Italy; Iranian-born rising culinary star Sabrina Ghayour – one of the strongest voices in Middle Eastern food today; and Sam and Sam Clark, the inspirational duo behind ‘Moro’ restaurant and little sister ‘Morito’ with a focus on Spanish and Moorish cuisine.

And what of the UK? Well, Marcus Verberne, Head Chef at ‘Roast’ – a restaurant located in the foodie mecca of Borough Market – celebrates both heritage and innovation with his seasonal British cooking. He’ll be showcasing the glories of British cuisine; and River Cottage’s Steven Lamb will demonstrate how to smoke and air-dry your own produce. Closer to home, Wales-based Illtud Llyr Dunsford – who raises Mangalitsa pigs with an Austro-Hungarian pedigree for his artisan company Charcutier Ltd – will be hosting a charcuterie tasting with restaurant owner and blogger Eliza Flanagan.

While the guests are performing live, the Festival’s five main venues will also be in full swing. “A buzzing place for tantalizing smells, exotic foods and smiling faces all over. Pure joy.” So says master chocolatier Marc Demarquette who’s looking forward to sharing a tasting of his sweet and savoury ganaches.

The Artisan Kitchen School is a brand new initiative for 2014. Sign up to hour-long classes in artisan food and drink production throughout the Festival weekend. Don an apron, learn a new craft and create an artisan product to take home. You can, for instance, make bacon with James Swift from Trealy Farm, discover the world of home-made seasonal fruit liqueurs with Lindy Wildsmith, finesse the art of pasta-making with Abergavenny’s own Franco Taruschio, and join Marie Cheong Thong to brew your own sake.

The Festival markets have over two hundred top-notch exhibitors across five locations as well as a children’s food academy sponsored by Organic Centre Wales, chef dems and other entertainment; and there’s a brand new Night Market on the Saturday too.  A brilliant collection of street food traders will be open in Lower Brewery Yard, transformed into a magical place to eat, drink, shop and hang out, complete with pop-up restaurant and tastings from top cheese experts at La Cave à Fromage;  plus live music too.  Free to stroller ticket holders or £2.00 on the spot.

Special events start at £8.00 a ticket. Stroller tickets for the main markets start at £6.50 (early-bird prices) and children accompanied by a paying adult get in for free (strollers only). You can also pick up a complimentary 80-page guide on the day which contains everything you need to make the most of your Festival visit.

The Festival is supported by the Welsh Government, Visit Wales, Monmouthshire County Council and Abergavenny Town Council, with additional valuable ongoing support from local businesses and individuals.

Chief Executive Heather Myers says, “Everyone who contributes to the Festival also plays a vital role in promoting the best of Wales alongside other food cultures. Wales has loads to offer and the Abergavenny Food Festival is a great place to start. Monmouthshire in particular has an exellent year-round food offering which is why it’s now known as ‘The Food Capital of Wales’. Come along and experience it for yourself”.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Say No to Waste for the AFF Grow It, Cook It, Eat It Competition 2014

Calling all schools and groups in the South East Wales area with young people of secondary school age. Now’s the time to sign up to the 2014  Abergavenny Food Festival ‘Grow It, Cook It, Eat It’ competition. This year’s theme is ‘No Waste’.

Last year’s winners were King Henry VIII School who came up trumps with their Harvest Meal Recipe. Here’s a pic of the winners, with Judges Kate Humble and Julie Barratt, Director, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (Wales)


The competition is a really important part of the Festival and gives students the chance to show off their culinary skills and perform centre stage. It is an eagerly anticipated part of the Food Academy at the Castle, sponsored for the second year running by Organic Centre Wales with Waitrose Abergavenny contributing to the cost of the ingredients.

Prizes are being provided by The Celtic Manor Resort. The lucky winners will be awarded Celtic Manor Resort  5 in 1 Adventure Activity Passes. These comprise a full day of fun across the full range of Celtic Manor activities including 18 hole Adventure Golf , Forest Jump Treetop Adventure, Laser Combat and Archery or Crossbow and a snack and soft drink. And a ‘best food hygiene’ prize awarded by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health will also be up for grabs.

Groups are being asked to plan a week of dinners, with a close eye on minimising waste. For instance they might want to consider:

* using ingredients for more than one meal
* creative use of leftovers
* composting and recycling
* growing their own produce to avoid unnecessary packaging
* using local (ie: ingredients produced within a 50 mile radius) to reduce air miles/carbon footprint

These are suggestions to get you started. Add your own ideas too.

Students should also consider the shelf-life of their food and how it should be stored safely, and the benefits of using organic produce.

The Festival is big on recycling and reducing waste so the ‘No Waste’ theme goes right to the heart of the event.

The judges will be looking for delicious, healthy meals which can easily be adapted to suit most households.

Two finalists will be chosen to cook their choice of one dish from their menu at the Abergavenny Food Festival on Sunday 21st September, with the winner being crowned on the day.

Feedback from the schools and groups who have taken part in previous years has always been very positive. It has proved to be a fantastic way not only to help young people learn about choosing and eating healthy, locally produced, food, but also giving them the skills to prepare a meal and the satisfaction that comes from doing it.

Please e.mail kirsty@abergavennyfoodfestival.com to confirm the details of your group and be sure to submit your entry by Friday 4 July. Finalists will be notified before the end of the school year on Friday 18 July. Garden Organic is kindly donating seeds, so please let Kirsty know if you require any seeds for your produce.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment