Shugborough Food Festival

Last weekend I went to visit my good friend in Stafford. Knowing me well, she had organised for us to go to a food festival at Shugborough Hall, a historic country estate spread over 900 acres of parkland.  While the day started out very overcast and grey, it was at least dry, and, having strategically just had a fruit smoothie for breakfast, I was ready for a day of eating! We decided to share everything that we ate, therefore allowing for more tastes of more things (again with the strategic eating!)

There were so many food vans and stalls, it was hard to know where to begin! After working our way round one of the large marquees and enjoying a few free samples (including some rhubarb crumble fudge!) we decided to give Rita’s Mexican a whirl.

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We enjoyed a tasty shredded chicken and black bean taco with red cabbage colesaw, cheese, chili sauce and sour cream, mmm!

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Washed down with homemade lemonade.

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We kept spotting people walking around with impressive looking sticks with some sort of sliced potato snack on. Having  consulted the festival programme map we hunted down the relevant food stall!

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These fried “twisted potatoes” could be topped with a number of different flavous, we opted for beef steak!

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After a break to peruse some more stalls (from one of which I bought the Hairy Dieter’s cook book after hearing such good things about it, looking forward to trying out some new recipes soon!) I passed one of my true weaknesses – sweet honey covered nuts. I can not resit them!

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Later on in the afternoon we watched a Man vs Food eating challenge. The contestants had to eat a chilli vodka shot, an extra hot spicy sausage with mashed potato and gravy and a chilli and mango sorbet as fast at they could. The victory time was, I think, under 3 minutes – crazy! While we weren’t tempted to join in, it did make us fancy a sausage! There were so many different vendors to choose from, in the end we plumped for a really tasty classic British pork sausage to share, which made a change from a lot of the (equally delicious!) continental sausages that are increasingly popular at these sort of things these days.

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Towards the end of the afternoon, the sun made a sudden, and strong appearance! After enjoying soaking up some rays in the grass for a while, we grudgingly shunned our planned churros dessert for a more temperature-appropriate ice cream. I was delighted to spot Ginger’s Comfort Emporium on the festival listing, a local “ice cream van for grown ups” that frequents the regular markets in Chorlton and elsewhere in South Manchester.

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Previous favourites of mine from Ginger are marmalade on toast, plum crumble and dark chocolate sorbet. This time I opted for the lemon and orange blossom sorbet while my friend went for so-called Chorlton Crack – the ludicrously luscious peanut butter and salted caramel ice cream. While this is truly and utterly delicious, it is rather rich and heavy, and alas I had to help her finish it!

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All in all, it was a great day out. I’ll leave you with snaps of two of the other exceptionally cute food  stands that I came across

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There’s been a murrdur!

Last weekend we held a murder mystery party, I’d never done one before and wasn’t exactly sure how it would turn out, but it was great fun! The 1950s Hollywood themed game was given to my by a friend for a birthday a few years ago and I had actually completely forgotten about it until finding it lurking in the back of our very large very cluttered dining room cupboard (one of my favourite features of Victorian terraces! Especially when they have some retro wallpaper on the shelves!) a few months ago. So the friends were invited, the costumes were planned and the food was prepared. The Red Rose Murders included such characters as Marilyn Mansfield – the blonde bombshell whose flamboyant life both on and off screen has delighted the gossip columnists for years, Madame Velda -clairvoyant to the stars and Rock Houston – rugged, rough and rowdy, the biggest male film star of them all who is now talking about running for Presidency. My character was Mae Vest – author, actress and activist, Miss Vest is seldom seen without a devoted young man on her arm, a quip on her lips and a glass of champagne in hand! I like the sound of that!

We donned our various outfits and props including strings of pearls, massive (fake!) diamond rings, faux fur stoles, silk gloves, feathered fans and crystal balls and I delegated tasks to some of my friends. My friend Marilyn Mansfield was put in charge of cocktails and plumped for a French Martini

Somehow, we failed to take a picture of these once there was actually anything in the glasses…. After three of these (hey, the glasses are small!) before we’d even served the starter (woops!) we were all fully in character and ready to go!

To make these you will need;

  • Vodka
  • Raspberry liqueur (we used Chambord, darling) (around a quarter of the amount of vodka you’re using)
  • Pineapple juice
  • Fresh blackberries

Shake together the vodka, raspberry liqueur, pineapple juice and ice, strain and serve. Pop a blackberry into each glass before serving. Yummy!

My friends Madame Velda and Marlon Mean were tasked with the starter, and served us a delicious Italian platter made up of tomato and mozzarella salad, rocket and parmesan salad, parma ham, delicious tomato and onion and rosemary focaccias and balsamic syrup. We were spoiled! 🙂

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For mains, Wayne Fonda and myself prepared a large vat of spicy, tomatoey beef chilli, left to simmer and develop for several hours, a smoky shredded chicken stew in a tomato and paprika based sauce and all the usual sides including rice, toasted pittas, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, salad and cheese.

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It was a lot of food and we were all rather full by the end! However, a little rest and accusation of murder later, we were ready for Princess Kelly of Ruritainia’s desert! My friend is rather a star baker having delighted us over the years with tasty cakes whenever the occasion calls and this was no exception. She had made margaritas cupcakes (with homemade lime curd, natch!) and coffee cupcakes (coffee cake is one of my all time favourites! mmmm!) both were scrumptious!

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It was a great night, really fun to get dressed up and do something different and I would highly recommend a murder mystery night for you and your friends if you ever get the chance