Sunday 14 September 2008

River Cottage Autumn Festival

River Cottage sign

Last year we fell head over heels for River Cottage when we were taken on a mushrooming tour de force by John Wright - Hugh's brilliant mushroom expert. It's taken us a nearly a year to return - but we did so eagerly.

The River Cottage Autumn Festival attracted 2,000 visitors over 2 days - each paying £15. Which means that over the course of a year Hugh's seasonal festivals take £120,000 on the gate. Impressive stuff. Even more impressive when you look at the itinerary for the rest of the year. It's great to see someone's rustic dream become a lucrative success.

The festival itself was a jolly affair. Swarming with families and kids in wellies running around without a care in the world.

Boy running

All the stalls were manned by slightly hippyish people - utterly dedicated to making things by hand, just like the good old days. This is the part that really excites me at the moment. I am dead keen both on smoking my own food and also have a burning desire to build a clay pizza oven.

By sheer coincidence, Cowie and I watched the episode of River Cottage where Hugh builds a smoker on the train down to Somerset. Having learnt how easy it is to do and now armed with a photograph I am planning to convert Cowie's spare stable into a rustic smoker.

Hughs smoker

Perhaps more excitingly, I also had a chance to inspect Hugh's collection of clay ovens. Whilst I can't afford to go on his "Build a clay oven in a day" course, I have now got the seminal book on the subject. I've also found a brilliant website that explains exactly how to make them. All I need is a load of clay, another load of sand, some sleepers and a few spare weekends. Then I'll be feasting on pizzas...

Pizza oven

The folk music band was in full swing as we pottered into the farmers' market tent. It was full of brilliant local foodie producers.

Music stage

My favourite was the South Devon Chilli Farm.

South Devon Chilli Farm

Their chipotle sauce is now on my desk at work and has inspired me to smoke my next batch of chillies... Why not combine two of my favourite things. I guess I'll have to then scatter them all over my innaugrual pizza!

Chilies 3

Their chillies ranged from the mellow to the fierce. I've invested in 4 new types of chilli... with one weighing in at 450,000 Scoville units... frankly, I'm a bit scared!

We left the skwelchy car park full of beans, but starving! It was a great event that I am very hesitant about critcising... but not being able to provide enough food for a ticketed event is pretty poor... especially when you're a chef at home on your own farm!

River Cottage food queue

So we went to Lyme Regis and had some sensational fish and chips instead!


Jules said...

Hubby & I were hoping to go to this, but it clashed with something else. I sounded like great fun.

Last summer Hubby attempted the clay oven after being inspired by hugh. It was only tiny, but produced lovely baked bread.

Browners said...

Tell me more about the clay oven... did it take long to make? And does it look good?

Marie Rayner said...

Sounds like a great day even if the food was scarce. The fish and chips sound even better!

Browners said...

To be honest I think you're right. Fish and chips were epic!

Jules said...

Browners - You can find more info about the oven he made here:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to my clayoven blog Browners. I look forward to seeing photos of yours soon!


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