Sunday, 1 September 2013

A day at The Big Feastival 2013

A festival about food (and music) was always going to be right up my street, but The Big Feastival was even better than I was expecting today.

In the middle of nowhere - well, in fields in the pretty Cotswolds countryside - The Big Feastival is the brainchild of Jamie Oliver and Alex James. It started last year, but the three day event was apparently bigger and better this year. It was definitely big.

The Big Feastival is all about food and music, which is a great combo in my opinion. Over the weekend, loads of the top chefs gave cookery demonstrations and signed books, including Tom Kitchin, Rachel Khoo, Gizzi Erskine and of course, Jamie Oliver, and there was music from Basement Jaxx, Rizzle Kicks, Lianne La Havas, KT Tunstall, The Feeling and more!

Now it's safe to say I'm not much of a classic festival gal (mud + tents = not my cup of tea. Mmm tea), so I was never going to pitch up for the weekend like so many others. The glampers, on the other hand, I would've happily joined.

Georgie and me at the Feastival
Instead, my oh-so-fabulous and fellow foodie friend, Georgie, accompanied me on a cross-country road-trip for our day at the Feastival (isn't that a great name?) And oh, what a trip it was. Thanks to silly Silverstone (it would seem there were a lot of people going there this weekend - didn't they know the Feastival was on?), our journeys took faaaaar longer then they should have done. No matter though, we just wound down the windows of my battered, old Fiesta and sang Wicked the whole way. Good friends and good music certainly make being stuck in traffic more enjoyable.

Unfortunately, however, the awful traffic meant that not only did we arrive bursting for the loo, but also very nearly late for our cooking class. Oh, yes, we were lucky enough to have been given two places in one of the Electrolux Chefs' Secrets Cooking Classes with Michelin star chef, Tom Kitchin. We were very excited. Yet slightly stressed about missing it. That would have been tragic.

So, after parking in a field, we ran down through a few more fields and into another field to the Big Feastival entrance. Luckily there was no queue either to get in or for the loos inside. That was brilliant. It was all brilliantly organised actually.

Once inside, I was somewhat amazed at how huge the whole event is. I tried to take it all in as we sprinted through to the appropriate tent for our class. Luckily, we arrived just in time. Embarrassingly out of breath, yes, but that just shows our commitment to the food cooking.

Over the course of the weekend, all the top chefs were giving cooking classes to lucky groups of ten or so at a time. In a state-of-the-art kitchen. In a tent. In the middle of the field. I cannot deny it, as we stood behind our counter, excitedly wearing our aprons, I felt like I was on the Great British Bake Off. Except there were lots of people watching right there, which was slightly nerve-wracking.

It's safe to say Georgie and I aren't the most experienced chefs, but we had a brilliant time. Were we a bit more jokey than the rest of our fellow cooks? Um, yes. (We may or may not have taken selfies.) But you've got to enjoy it, haven't you?

With the amazing Tom Kitchin - having that surname, you've just got to be a chef, haven't you? - on a raised platform at the front (with a handy mirror above showing us what he was doing) and helper chefs strolling round, we were taught how to make our very own Michelin star dish.

Tom Kitchin

We had all the ingredients conveniently laid out in front of us and a very snazzy touchscreen Electrolux hob (they sponsored the whoooole Feastival) to work with, we were ready to go. First, Georgie chopped some carrot. She nailed it, totally profesh chef style.

Next, I seasoned and fried our lamb chops in some oil and then took them out to rest.

We fried some bacon, added the carrot and some butter and let it all sizzle beautifully.

Next, we popped in some peas, poured in some stock and stirred through our chopped lettuce.

We let it all cook together, added some butter and left the sauce to thicken for a moment. Tom said those of us not on a diet should add some more butter. We added more butter.

Our finished dish. Not too shabby, eh?
The veggie-bacon mix was poured on to a plate, and we placed our lamb on top as artistically as we could. I'm not going to lie to you, Georgie and I were told our meat was cooked to perfection and our sauce was the best (probably because of all the butter.) Tom seemed to like it anyway (YES!), and so did we. And all cooked in one pan eh? It was quick, fun and deeeeelish. We were very lucky to have been given such in-demand spaces on the cookery session.

So, after gobbling down our culinary creation, Georgie and I wandered into the Electrolux Big Kitchen tent to join what grew into a huge crowd of people keen to see Gizzi Erskine - she of the 'Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts' cookbook fame - do her thang.

It was wonderful to watch Gizzi whipping up her Korean fusion dishes, and really interesting to see first-hand how a top chef works. Man, her concoctions smelled yummy.

Despite having just munched our Michelin-Star-worthy meal, Gizzi's creations had certainly made us feel somewhat peckish, so we decided to head off to explore the grounds. And where better to start than the main food market area?

Oh my, it was amazing! Foodie heaven. On a plate.

Have you ever been to one of those posh farmers' markets? Well it was a little like that, only way bigger and way better. There was everything from freshly-baked breads and cakes, to cheeses, yoghurts and ice cream.

We were offered cereal bars and porridge, but also whisky and wine, and everything in between. And I really mean 'offered' - there were free samples of EVERYTHING. It was poor student heaven. Naturally, Georgie and I made the most of it. If I was rich, I would have spent so much money.

Eating some yummy yoghurt
All the food and drink we saw looked amazing, but also slightly unusual and interesting. It was great not to just find the same old things you see at every market.

One of my favourite discoveries of the day was the Strawberry Company. I particularly like this pun of theirs - 'specialists in the strawberry field.' HA! (Tell me I'm not the only one who finds that marginally hilarious?)

Run by three charming young men, The Strawberry Company specialises in everything strawberry-y. (That really should be an adjective.) Now, avid blog-readers will know I'm a big fan of the humble strawberry, so you won't be surprised to hear I was keen to see what they had to offer. I definitely wasn't just drawn in by the free samples. Ahem.

Georgie and I with our new strawberry friends and Emilie Garrould from the BBC Good Food Show
However, we did get to try three of their delicious desserts: strawberry crumble (yum), strawberry cheesecake (yum), and strawboffee pie (YUM!) I genuinely couldn't choose my fave. The lovely guys also let us sample their smoothies: a tropical strawberry concoction followed by an Eton Mess affair. The latter was particularly good. I'd really like to see the Strawberry Company in the shops, and I think y'all will too. Mmm strawberries.

Georgie and I also really loved Global Fusion Bakery. Their loaf cakes and bread were so very scrummy, and, somewhat amazingly, completely vegan. You wouldn't guess it from tasting the cakes (from the best banana bread of my life to the champagne strawberry cake I bought for mama), and the lovely man behind the counter told us that they don't make a huge deal about being vegan because it actually puts a lot of people off. Interesting, eh?

The sun was shining, and we carried on exploring. There was just too much to see! The main acts weren't taking to the stage until the evening (I'm going to be honest with you, we were far more interested in the food, don't judge us), so we strolled round the rest of the bustling, bunting-clad fields, sampling scrummy treats as we went. We did catch a bit of Mark Owen though, and I'm sure he did sound good, but I was singing along to Four Minute Warning slightly too loudly to hear. Oops.

As well as the market area, there was a street food zone, where one could purchase an array of tempting dishes, from paella to churros with chocolate. There was also a 'BBQ your own meat' area. It was random. Why have someone else cook the meat you paid for when you could cook it yourself, eh?

I really enjoyed discovering all the independent foodie companies in the market, but there were also lots of chain brands at the Feastival - Vita Coco, Pimm's, The Hummingbird Bakery and Nairn's Oatcakes to name but a few.

Free fruit in the kiddie zone

The Big Feastival really sets itself apart from everything else as a feel-good festival for all the family, and there was a lot going on for kids. Is it bad that Georgie and I were loving all the children's things? A funfair, face-painting, free fruit (I went home with a mango, YOLO) and ohmyword a petting zoo.

I felt a little bad about all the animals in their little areas but hopefully they were well looked after, and good golly, they were all cute. LOOOOOK:

There were lots of shops to peruse if one wanted a food break (PAH lightweights), from Joules to little vintage boutiques. Naturally we had a little browse, but we're not going to pretend we were there to buy clothes or jewellery.

The whole vibe at the Big Feastival was fantastic, and it was all a lot of fun. I think Jamie Oliver and Alex James did a fab job with it, and so much of that came down to great organisation. It always does, doesn't it? People, there were cash machines and a phone charging point on-site. IN THE MIDDLE OF A FIELD.

Thanks so much to Electrolux for kindly offering me the tickets and giving us a great day out. We are happily and thoroughly stuffed.


  1. I am so jealous. I want to go to this next year!

    1. You definitely should! I'm very lucky to have gone :)

  2. This sounds like it was really fun! Will keep an eye for it next year :)

    1. It was, Jesse! You definitely should :)


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