Photo gallery: Mouth-watering milestones at North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival
- Credit: Keiron Tovell Photography
Norfolk's mouth-watering annual celebration of food began with an event which marked exciting milestones for one of the county's biggest producers – and for one of our artisan legion of cottage industries.
The North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival, now in its fourth year, was the first event in the county-wide EDP Adnams Norfolk Food and Drink Festival which takes place throughout September.
Chefs, growers and more than 60 producers enticed thousands of visitors to the courtyard at Holkham Hall, with a delicious showcase of the area's rich bounty of meat, vegetables, real ales, honey, preserves, juices, ice cream, cheeses and chocolates.
The main sponsor was Kettle Foods, whose managing director Dominic Lowe announced the Norwich-based company had recently seen its annual retail value top the £100m mark.
And at the other end of the commercial scale, a fledgling producer was launching a unique product which embodied the home-grown passions of the festival.
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Sally Francis, of Norfolk Saffron, was selling her first batch of orange and saffron liqueur named King Harry – the Norfolk dialect name for a goldfinch, in honour of its golden colour.
The drink, based on a historic English recipe, took 18 months of development work to perfect, and is made from saffron grown at her family's smallholding at Burnham Norton.
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'There is nothing like it in the UK – it is truly unique,' she said.
'The inspiration came from a historical recipe I discovered and tweaked. For a bit of fun I entered a bottle in our local flower show two years ago and it came first in the fruit liqueurs class with some lovely, encouraging comments from the judges.
'Since then, it was a case of commercialising it.
'We wanted to launch it in Norfolk first, and this event is good because there are a lot of buyers for shops from Norfolk and London. 'The main thing for us is to sell the products to local people, but the other thing is at this type of event we always meet at least one interesting contact that opens the door to other things. It is all about meeting the people.
'Any question people ask, I can give them an answer, because I have done it all.'
Festival chairman Chris Coubrough said: 'This festival is more of a chance to educate the public about your produce, rather than just selling it. You are meeting that person who is living and breathing their product. These cottage industries are really important, and we have got more than 60 of them here, so imagine how important that is for the local economy.
'Sometimes the most fantastic things are the biggest secrets, so what we want to do is have two days where these big secrets have a platform.'
Restaurateur Mr Coubrough was one of the chefs displaying their skills at the festival's Cookery Theatre, featuring demonstrations by Richard Bainbridge and Miles Thwaite of Morston Hall, Nik Hare of The Victoria at Holkham and Avrum Frankel of The White Horse at Brancaster, among others.
The event was opened by Holkham's Viscountess Coke, who encouraged visitors to build relationships with the local producers on show, asking 'how much more delicious is the food we cook and eat when we know the stories behind it?'
A £1,000 prize, including mentoring support, was offered by sponsors Kettle Foods, to help one of the attending stall-holders to grow their business – which was won by the Bread Source artisan bakery from Horsham St Faith.
Joe Trewellard, who co-founded the firm with Steven Winter last November, said the firm had recently opened its first shop in Aylsham to add to its regular attendances on markets in Dereham, Fakenham, Sheringham and Reepham.
'The mentoring is definitely going to be the most useful thing,' he said. 'We are at that transitional stage where we need to set up systems – we are good at baking and talking to customers, but projecting where the business is going and working out how we can grow sustainably is what we want to do next.
'The Norfolk Food Festival is a great idea, and it is something we should be doing more of as a county. Norfolk has some absolutely fantastic producers and it is great to be able to have a venue like this to shout about it.'
The EDP Norfolk Adnams Food and Drink Festival runs until October 6. For more details, visit www.norfolkfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk and www.edp24.co.uk/what-s-on/norfolk-food-and-drink-festival where you will find recipes, quizzes, interviews and more.