Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Rock 'n' Rollmop

"Whatever happened to Alex James? he quit the pop world for cheesy fame,
What ever happened to Fearnley Whittingstall? began a fish fight now he's hooked us all,

What ever happened to the food heroes? x2

Whatever happened to Valentine Warner? he's cooking up a storm around the corner
Whatever happened to Richard Corrigan? he blew his oven up and got another one

What ever happened to the food heroes? x2

All the food heroes, they're all here
The Harvest food heroes, here and there

Whatever happened to Guyrope Gourmet? I never heard of him, who is that bloke anyway?"

To the tune of The Stranglers No More Heroes - accompanied on my ukulele

So went the introduction to the Guyrope Gourmet's cooking demonstration this weekend at Alex James presents Harvest.  I was a little nervous before I started, but enthusiasm and the opportunity to show off to a crowd of people soon put paid to any trepidation on my behalf.  It was 1:30 on the Saturday afternoon, the sun was poking through the low clouds over an Oxfordshire farm and a crowd had gathered around the Guyrope Gourmet stage.  With a menu of Smoked salmon blinis, bruchetta, mussels in beer & coriander and Paella up for grabs, I'd done the vast majority of my food prep beforehand.  The fact that I was pitched next to The Little Green Coffee Machine meant that I was well supplied with caffeine from the Coffee Pirates who were offering the best coffee in the whole site!   As the crowd settled down on what was left of the straw bales the site crew had dropped off earlier that morning (festival children taking great delight in destroying the seating!), I grabbed my trusty  
Uke and turned on the show.  

My audience were terrific, enthusiastic, interested, beautiful and very obliging as I proceeded to destroy a perfectly good Stranglers song in two minutes flat!  The Guyrope Gourmet is all about having fun while cooking good food on a camping stove and I certainly did that!  Assisted by my long suffering wife, Anne-Marie, we kicked off with a few smoked salmon & cream cheese blinis while i was cooking up the bruchetta.  Chopped mushrooms with quartered cherry tomatoes cooked in olive oil with some chopped garlic, a sprig of thyme from my garden and a whizz in the pan for ten minutes or so and served on toasted baguette.  That seemed to go down pretty well so I moved on to the paella. 

I'd shunned the use of technology and declined the offer of a microphone, opting to bellow my commentary as the good folks at the back had agreed to shout LOUDER if my voice tapered off.  The thing about good food is that there is always a story behind every dish.  Peppered with outlandish tales of the origins of my many dishes, the show was going down well.  Though I wasn't using it, I'd brought along my trusty Trangia stove as a prop and a cue card for embellished tales of culinary derring-do on a campsite.

Once the paella was simmering nicely and doing its thing, I made a start on the mussels in beer & coriander.  I used a bottle of Mac's Golden all malt lager, which attracted the attention of a few Kiwis in the crowd, sorry guys non left for sale (they do it in Waitrose!).    

The best bit about the whole show was the audience.  They cheered, laughed and shook their heads in all the right places.  I managed to pick up a couple of new recipes and one woman explained in detail how she managed to cook a whole roast dinner on her camping stove.  I forget the details (don't I always?), but chicken livers and bacon with creme fraiche and pasta sounds well worth exploring.  I learned you can sweat chopped onions in a little water instead of oil, that way they never burn at the edges - genius!  The paella was ready as the mussels began to open.  I scattered chopped coriander over the mussels and dressed the paella with flat leaf parsley and lemon wedges.  Then came the stampede of hungry campers.

I honestly struggle to describe the pleasure it gave me to cook for such a wonderful crowd of people.  All I can say is a massive thanks for you support and sheer enthusiasm.  I hope that I'm lucky enough to be asked to do it again next year.  I'll be there in a flash!

I did it all again on the Sunday too with equal enthusiasm from a willing audience.

Funnily enough, no-one stayed around for the washing-up demonstration which followed!

A big thanks to Clare, Georgie and Briony at Big Wheel who looked after me like true professionals - see you next year XX