As I write, it’s hotter than the Mediterranean in the UK, and festival season is in full swing, with every music fan, foodie and travel junkie clambering to get into a multitude of sun-drenched events. Don’t jinx it, I hear you cry! And I hope I haven’t: especially as we’re all gearing up for that annual trip over the bridge to Wales’ culinary capital for Abergavenny’s famous food fest.
This September sees the 20th edition of the event, which was set up by two farmers in 1999 in response to the BSE crisis. Now, in 2018, Abergavenny Food Festival is bigger, brighter and better than ever. This Monmouthshire market town has quite a weekend planned in mid-September: there will be a fire-cooking area set among castle ruins; a drinks theatre where some very professional lushes will be sharing their favourite wine, beer, spirit and cocktail ideas; a cookery school with classes for both adults and kids; a host of amazing chef demos; and a foodie night market. But before I get to my pick of the best events (and I promise they’re not just the ones I’m involved in), I wanted to use the festival as an excuse to celebrate the best of the West who are travelling to Abergavenny to spread the culinary love.
Yes, there is a lot of home-grown South Wales talent on the books, as well as chefs and contributors from all over the world, but most interestingly of all (for us) are the Bristolian foodie glitterati, heading over for a weekend on the edge of the glorious Brecon Beacons. Among them are Freddy Bird from Lido, food and wine writer Fiona Beckett, fire-loving cook Genevieve Taylor, food TV producer Pete Lawrence, restaurant scene veteran and drinks guru Kate Hawkings, food writer Xanthe Clay, gin master Danny Walker and Pear Café legend Elly Curshen.
Another Bristol pro involved in the festival is Romy Gill MBE, and it is her unique Indian cookery I wanted to share with you on the run up to the festival.
Romy is the owner and head chef at Romy’s Kitchen, a restaurant which opened in September 2013 on Castle Street in my home town of Thornbury. But my association with Romy goes back further than that; it was while I was producing Saturday Kitchen Live that Romy and I first met by email. Romy introduced herself to me as a chef ahead of opening her restaurant. We connected over a love of good food and the fact that she and her family lived in the town where I was born and raised. Small world, hey? Romy invited me to her restaurant launch, and the rest is history.
I’ve hosted many a wine night at Romy’s Kitchen since, recommending wines to sip with her fantastic dishes that always combine flavours from her Indian roots with seasonal West Country ingredients.
It just so happens that one of Romy’s latest creations goes perfectly with a Welsh wine that I’ll be featuring in one of my events at Abergavenny. (Just look how that worked out.) The dish is prawn malai curry and involves juicy tiger prawns cooked in coconut milk with a host of Indian spices and aromats. And the wine? Gwinllan Conwy 2017. The vines at the North Wales vineyard were first planted in 2012 by wine enthusiasts Colin and Charlotte Bennett, and they produce the little-known Solaris grape.
The wine has a grassy nose and a bold streak of citrus acidity when you taste it; the grapefruit edge will stand up well to the green chilli, tamarind chutney and the tomato purée. The texture of the wine works with the curry leaves, ginger, garlic and coconut milk, and although it’s a dry wine there’s a slight elderflower fragrance that will complement the mustard seeds and spices.
And if, during this hot weather, rosé is your lubrication of choice, Montgomery Rosé 2017 from Powys is a real Welsh delight. Made from Pinot Noir and Solaris, the wine has hints of a typical Provençale rosé but with a delicate charm. There’s a whiff of wild strawberries on the nose which continues on the palate. It might not stand up to the power of Romy’s dish, but it will go well with simply cooked prawns. A great summer tipple.
Gwinllan Conwy 2017 Solaris is priced at £18 per bottle and is available from gwinllanconwy.co.uk Montgomery Rosé 2017 is £20 and available from Montgomery Vineyard.