First of all, I apologise for the bad quality of the photos. I only took my old Sony compact camera and I had to zoom-in quite a lot, so a lot of the photos are blurry.
Anyway, Steve and I enjoyed the show on Friday and we got to taste a lot of nice food by just wandering around the various stalls and picking up taster samples. We ate so many things that we didn’t even buy any lunch!
The venue was Olympia and I think it’s a good venue for the show, as it’s quite big so there is plenty of space for all the stalls, demo areas and people.
As we first walked in, we picked up a free Show Guide which detailed when and where all the demonstrations would be taking place. It also had a map so you could easily see where all the food stalls were. The guide is also chock full of recipes!
The first demo we saw was at one of the small Hot Tips Pods, as we were just in time to catch Theo Randall and his ‘Pasta For Beginners’ demo.
I saw Theo making his pasta on Saturday Kitchen Live a few weeks ago, but I was still interested to see him make it again. He uses a lot of eggs in his fresh pasta, to give it a much better flavour and the colour was amazing.
He made the pasta dough in the food processor, so it was very quick and easy (apart from the equipment not being set up for him when he arrived!). Then he said you should let it rest, but he carried on with the demo to show us how to roll the dough out using a pasta machine.
He said the best brand of pasta machine to buy was Imperia and you can get a decent machine for about £35.
Theo said you shouldn’t fold the pasta when you keep rolling it, otherwise it will crack and all fall apart when you cook it.
He made a filling of spinach and ricotta to make ravioli. He simply placed balls of the mixture onto the pasta sheets, then folded it over to encase the mixture, making sure to press down to squeeze out any air bubbles.
Unfortunately he didn’t have the facilities to cook the ravioli so that we could try it. But he said it was easy to cook in boiling water for a few minutes and then fry in a pan with some butter and sage.
It was a short demo, but I was inspired to learn more and afterwards I queued up to speak to him (I had to wait for all the giggling teenage girls to finish having their photo taken with him and get his autograph) to ask if you could freeze the ravioli and/or the pasta dough. He said you can freeze the ravioli and it’s best to make sure they’re all separated on a tray when you freeze them and also when you come to defrost them. He said the pasta dough can also be frozen. I also asked him about resting the dough in the fridge and whether it should be covered. He said it should be well covered to stop it drying out. I thought his demo was excellent and I would love to have a go at making my own fresh pasta now! Theo was also a top bloke and very nice to chat to.
There were also Sushi making demonstrations and this is Takanori Kurokawa from Nobu, showing us how to mould the sushi rice into the correct shape. He did it incredibly quickly, so it was amazing to watch. Apparently if you’re too heavy-handed with the rice and squash it too much in your hands, then it will be too compressed and difficult to eat. That’s why it takes so many years for them to train to perfect moulding the rice.
He topped the rice with salmon and wasabi (which they were promoting) and also avocado and an onion dressing. Steve and I got to try the salmon sushi and it was amazing as the texture of the rice was so soft and melt-in-the-mouth. We weren’t too keen on the wasabi though! Unfortunately we scoffed the sushi before I remembered to take a photo!
We then walked through the ‘Restaurant Experience’ area where you can buy dishes from some top gourmet restaurants. You had to purchase Dining Currency from one of the booths and then go and order your food. The menu and decorations from the Blue Elephant caught our eyes, but we weren’t that hungry from all the taster samples we’d eaten. The other restaurants were: Roast To Go, Cafe Spice Namaste, Launceston Place, Skylon, Boxwood Cafe, Urban Caprice, Theo Randall at The InterContinental, Min Jiang and also The MasterChef Restaurant (featuring dishes by past winners).
We then found the ‘Cookery Experience’ section just as the Cook-Off between Nadia Sawalha and Thomasina Miers was about to begin.
I didn’t think we’d be able to see this part of the show because we’d only bought a standard ticket and I thought this stage area would only be visible to those who had paid an extra £6. But the extra money only gets you a seat in front of the stage, so it’s really not worth it as we got a pretty good view just standing outside the sectioned off area.
Anyway, our favourite wine expert Olly Smith was hosting the event and got the crowd suitably warmed up with his “I’m the lovechild of Draco Malfoy and Pat Butcher!” gag.
Then on comes John Torode and Gregg Wallace. I’m personally not a big fan of them and they put me off watching MasterChef. But I wanted to see what Nadia and Tommi were going to cook. Nadia went down the savoury route and knocked together a fried egg dish similar to Huevos rancheros, whilst Tommi did flat puff pastry discs with raspberries and custard. The judges weren’t that impressed with either dish, but they had to choose a winner and it was Tommi.
The Cook-Off wasn’t all that exciting really and it wasn’t very well organised as the cooks didn’t have all the equipment they needed, so Olly Smith and James Martin had to run around looking for things like tin openers!
So James Martin was kept busy before doing a book signing at The Book People stall, where I picked up a copy of The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook for only £4 (RRP. £16.99!). I was disappointed to read lots of bad reviews about this book on Amazon when I got home, as people have complained about the recipes not being tested properly and therefore the quantities and timings are completely useless. But some people have raved about the book, so I have been messaging them and asking which recipes have actually worked. I guess it will be a good challenge trying to use this book!
There were also lots of other cookery books on sale (Ching, Rick Stein, James Martin) and also some gardening books, all at very cheap prices.
Upstairs was called the ‘Producers Village’ and there were lots of stalls selling their fine food and drink. We bought some excellent fudge from Yum Yum Tree Fudge as it was so soft and the flavours were really good. We got Mint, Lemon Bon Bon, Cappuccino and White Chocolate.
I did consider buying some green tea from Choi Time as it was very nice, but when I asked if they could do a discount on 2 packs of tea costing £14 each and they offered me the deal of £30, I walked away as they obviously had no clue on how to add up! Their product is good, but they need to make it clearer as to the quantity you’re actually buying in each packet.
One other stall that impressed us was Lauden Chocolate, as the designs were absolutely amazing. Unfortunately the only sample we got to taste was the Champagne flavoured ones and neither me or Steve like Champagne! They contained real Marc de Champagne, so the flavour was very strong and intense. These were very well made chocolates and this was reflected in the high price tag. They would make a brilliant gift for someone who likes posh chocs, but everyone we know just likes Cadburys!
Overall the show was quite good. The stalls were very generous with all their taster samples, so we didn’t go hungry. If I’d had more cash to splash then I probably would have bought a lot more things (take cash with you as the cash machines in Olympia charge you and not all the stalls take cards).
I really enjoyed the cooking demos but the whole MasterChef thing was a waste of time in my opinion. I’m glad we only bought standard tickets as there was enough for us to see without the upgrade.
So the question is: would I go again?
Yes, if I could get free tickets! Apart from watching and meeting the chefs, there isn’t that much that is new if you’ve ever visited shows like Spirit of Christmas or the Ideal Home Show, as the stalls are generally the same. But it was a good day out and I might go again in a couple of years time.