In 2007, Graham Anderson visited the East Coast of Scotland with his partner Edna whilst on holiday from Renfrew. They immediately fell in love with Crail and the following year moved to the gorgeous East Neuk village to follow their dream of running the Honeypot Guesthouse and Tearoom.
Not long after, the idea for Crail Food Festival emerged from Graham’s fond memories of Johnshaven seafood festival and a conversation with other Crail business owners at a Scottish Enterprise event in the local pub. Graham took on the Festival organisation and four years later the Festival is thriving!
His enthusiasm is infectious and, as a newbie to the Festival, I had great fun hearing all about how the festival has developed over a cuppa and a wander around Crail in the sunshine….
What makes this year’s Crail Food Festival special?
“Last year, 4,100 people visited the festival’s two venues over the weekend. This year, we have expanded to six venues, allowing people to explore Crail throughout the weekend whilst celebrating local food.”
Graham’s hand-drawn map of the festival highlights the huge variety of activities and locations….an amazing insight into all the planning going on in his head between shifts in the Honeypot!
If you look closely at the map, you’ll see that the 2014 programme includes some amazing tasting sessions in the Community Hall, chefs demonstrations in the Kirk Hall, a House of Sugar in the Town Hall, lots of family fun in the Legion Hall, a Saturday night party in the Marine Hotel (with amazing views) to celebrate World Gin Day and a Sunday shindig in the Harbour. Wow, what a fab programme!
There is so much to see and do over the weekend, what is your top tip or ‘must see’ at the festival this year?
“All of our tastings and cookery demonstrations are seated and on a first come first served basis, great fun with Chefs participating giving prizes! The House Of Sugar and Producers’ market can be visited at leisure but there is a free tasting table each day at the market, so best to visit all of the halls and stay longest in the one you prefer. Cookery classes for the kids are a must and the natural amphitheatre for lunch at Crail harbour on Sunday is iconic.”
What has been the festival’s biggest success?
”The first festival was made possible by an event in the local community hall that raised £2,900, a great success. The festival has continued to grow over the years and is now recognised with funding from organisations including Fife Council, Event Scotland, SRUC’s Community Food Fund and Homecoming Scotland 2014.”
It was inspiring to hear Graham reflect on the progress and successes of the festival to date – it is amazing what passion, dedication and hard work can accomplish! With next year being Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink and Fife having so much amazing local produce, I’m sure the future for the festival will only get more exciting…
I’ll definitely be there this weekend tasting the local fudge, chocolate and mallows in the House of Sugar and enjoying the wine and Ardross Farm Shop Chefs’ Theatre …see you in Crail!
The Honeypot Crail is one of the village venues serving up Crail Food Festival Specials this weekend – pay a visit there or one of the other participating venues, open all weekend to keep you nourished with fabulous local Fife food.
By Derek Swan (@hungry_swan http://thehungryswan.blogspot.co.uk/)
I’ve been the fortunate recipient of vouchers to various cook schools across Scotland in recent years, all of which have been enjoyable but involving a bit of a trek from my home in Pittenweem. I hadn’t been aware of one right in the heart of Fife until being introduced to Jenny Thomson via the Crail Food Festival.
Jenny owns and runs Courses for Cooks from her family home at the edge of the Lomond hills. The classes are held in the kitchen of a former Victorian Manse, where small groups can take full-day or half-day classes across a range of cooking styles and cuisines, benefiting from Jenny’s 20 years’ experience as a profession Chef and Cook.
In advance of her appearance in the Chef’s Demo Theatre at this year’s Crail Food Festival, I had the chance to speak to Jenny about her background, motivations and, of course, about the classes.
D. How long has the cook school been running and how did you start out?
J. After training at Leith’s School of Food & Wine in London, I went on to work as a Private Cook, travelling around Scotland, France, Canada and the USA. After that, I ran the Butterchurn for 15 years, a farm shop, restaurant and craft centre promoting Scottish produce and located in West Fife. Courses for Cooks has been running for 2 years now.
D. From all your travels in your early days, what was your favourite location?
J. Probably France. I worked there at Chalets during Ski Season, so you got to get out for some skiing and prepare food for people who’d really built up an appetite! I’d really recommend it to anyone starting out in their food career.
D. How does the food you prepare now differ from that at the Butterchurn or during your time as a Private Cook?
J. No matter where you are, I think that most people are looking for good, home-cooked food made from fresh, local ingredients treated well. Over the years, some of the trends in cooking and access to ingredients may have changed, but the desire is the same. More recently, people have definitely become more interested in local produce and the economy of home cooking.
D. Who typically attends Courses for Cooks?
J. A wide range, really – students to older people. I think that there are more men than before showing an interest in cooking, maybe looking to take up a hobby in retirement. That could be the Paul Hollywood effect! There’s also an increase in much younger people, perhaps 8 or 9 years old, taking an interest in cooking.
D. And how do you think the wives of the retired gentlemen will take to their sudden interest in cooking?
J. I’m sure that they’ll welcome the help!
D. You’re very kind! And great to hear much younger people taking an interest too.
J. Yes – I think that the younger kids are now benefiting from the increased interest in recent years in cooking and availability of local produce
D. With that increase in interest, there’s also been an increase in the number of cook schools in Scotland – What differentiates Courses for Cooks?
J. We really focus on cooking from scratch and very seasonal cooking. For example, we’ll not just teach how to cook, but how to de-feather and joint a game bird in season. Also, with a maximum of four people in a class, everyone gets a lot of individual attention, working to their pace of learning to make sure everyone gets the most of their time.
D. You offer a wide range of cuisines and cooking styles at your classes. Do you have a cuisine or style of cooking that you’re most passionate about?
J. I like all cuisines, but am most interested in how the change of seasons influences what you cook and eat – from slow cooked curries in winter time to fish and seafood in spring and summer. And I try not to cook the same thing twice, always changing what I eat. Unless it’s practising a dish, which I may do several times over. Then I’ll get ‘not this again’ from the family!
D. They are lucky guinea pigs, I’m sure! What do you think is the most common skill gap that you come across?
J. It’s mainly pastry and cooking with eggs that people struggle with. For example, when it comes to poaching eggs, making soufflés or whisking egg whites to the correct stage, people get scared and make mistakes.
D. Can you give me a recipe to try that works with both? I’ll promise to share my results, whatever the outcome!
J. Yes, of course!
D. And one last thing – what one bit of advice would you give to any aspirational cook, young or old?
J. Never give up. Don’t get put off. Always keep trying.
Jenny Thomson will be appearing at the Chef’s Demos on the 15th June at the Crail Kirk Hall as part of the 2014 Crail Food Festival (http://www.crailfoodfest.co.uk/2014-events/) . Chef’s Demos run on both 14th and 15th June at 11:45 – 13:00 – 14:15 -15:30 in our 80-seat Chef’s Theatre.
Classes for Cooks run courses throughout the year – bookings can be made at http://www.coursesforcooks.com/article/5/courses
And here’s that recipe:
Leek Souffle Tart
Serves 4 – 5
6oz/175g plain flour
grind of black pepper
1 medium leeks – finely sliced
¼ tsp turmeric
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp flour
2 eggs separated
1 tbsp lemon
1 tbsp parsley
1oz/30g grated parmesan cheese
50ml Greek yogurt, crème fraiche or double cream
Last year a friend and I packed the car and headed to Crail for the food festival.
The weather was beautiful and this carried on to the Sunday at the Harbour. We did the foraging walk with chef Paul Wedgwood of Wedgwood the Restaurant and Mark Williams from Galloway Wild Foods.
The festival has grown this year with tasting opportunities and a chefs’ theatre on both Saturday and Sunday as well as a wider range of events for children.
One of the tasting/discussions I enjoyed last year was by Edinburgh Gin. As the event this year will be on World Gin day I asked them to share with us a Gin cocktail recipe.
Fill a chilled highball glass with ice cubes, 50ml of Dry Champagne, Prosecco or Cava, 25ml Elderflower Edinburgh Gin and 50 ml of Club Soda. Garnish with a twist of lemon.
As I still had some Elderflower gin and a bottle of Prosecco chilling in my fridge I decided to celebrate my birthday with this cocktail.
I hope the sun shines and some of you can join us on Saturday the 14th of June and Sunday the 15th for The Crail Food festival. Cheers