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So Bolton Food & Drink Festival is over for another year and what a great time we had! Seems like ages ago already, but it was great to meet the chefs and to see their passion and craft in action. Whilst it’s fun to see the ‘big names’, actually I found it really interesting to see many of the demonstrations that took place in the Chefs’ Quarter in the Market Place Vaults and over in Bolton Market. The audiences were smaller so it was much more ‘up close and personal’, and you got the chance to ask questions and see the techniques at close quarters. I certainly got loads of useful and unexpected cooking tips and was inspired to try some different things which, after all, is the general idea.

I know some people had an issue with Paul Crone as compere, but I think cooking and talking must be tricky enough, without someone to help move things along and ask at least some of the questions the audience had and draw out some personal insights. It also saw a first for me (and Jenny McAlpine – Fizz from Corrie) in terms of live Facebook interviews. A bit nerve-wracking, of course, but a lot of fun really. All the interviews are still on our page if you want to check them out.

Anyway, to food:

This weekend I discovered @Tesco #BakeOn on Twitter. Tesco are keen to get everyone baking and are setting new baking challenges each week, as well as offering loads of great recipes and ideas on their website. There are prizes on offer too! I was lucky enough to be sent a £5 voucher to spend on baking ingredients, so I am hoping to get some more ground almonds and icing sugar this week so I can try macarons and also cupcake icing – I was so blown away by Rosie’s demo that I can’t wait to have a go myself. She has tips and tutorials on her website so you can ice along! Who wouldn’t want to make these amazing marigold cupcakes?

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The Tesco recipe this week was for Challah bread, so I had a go. It’s quite different to your average bread dough as you make a batter first, then leave to prove and then add the rest of the flour to make a very soft dough. It’s a plaited bread that’s quite sweet and soft, like brioche I suppose. Mine tasted good but the rise was quite slow and the plait split, so I need to revisit what happened.

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Earlier in the week I had actually been inspired by a video on Facebook which was promoting the new Doctor Who cookbook. I know The Ood may not be the most attractive adversary, but I was so taken by the Ood head bread I wanted to try and recreate it, albeit without the benefit of the book. I just used a basic bread dough and then rewound and paused the video an awful lot of times! I made two of them last week, one to try and one as a request from our esteemed editor, Pete. Both went ok, though one was ‘more tanned’ than the other, and I actually quite enjoyed the process, to be honest.

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I also bobbed along to the Teenage Market on Saturday, where business was brisk, and bumped into Scarlett from Barking Berry’s, whose fundraising is still going strong. I was inspired to dig out a book a friend had given me, with recipes to bake for your dog. I made banana and carrot cookies for them and they really seemed to go down a treat with Nellie and Charlie!

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I had some raspberries and strawberries that I bought from the market and which were starting to go a bit soft, so I made raspberry and strawberry oaties. They are truly delicious and smell amazing, but mine went soft rather than chewy. Never mind, we are forcing them down nonetheless and they are wonderful with custard or cream as a pudding.

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Finally, wait for it… today I actually cooked meat. Duck a l’orange, no less. We went to Bolton Market and bought a fresh duck for £8, complete with giblets, and four oranges for £1.20, so I followed a traditional recipe by Jacques Pepin which used a whole duck, rather than just the breasts. The cooking method was spot on and so the duck was really beautifully cooked, not too fatty but really moist and tender. There was rather too much sauce, as it was quite intense and sweet so you didn’t need much, but it really enhanced the duck and I even roasted the potatoes in some of the duck fat that I poured out of the tray, to add extra flavour. My husband really enjoyed it (well, yes I suppose he would say that!) and I really enjoyed recreating such a classic dish, even though I couldn’t even taste it.

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Reader, I had a salad! Yes, really, and it was yummy. Just because I don’t eat it, doesn’t mean I don’t get a lot of pleasure from cooking food that other people enjoy. Anyway, hope you enjoy some of my cooking adventures and that you get inspired to try something yourself – please share if you do!

 

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