What to expect from the line-up of the Brecks Food and Drink Festival
- Credit: Angela Sharpe
It's a celebration of farming, food and countryside, a chance to showcase the bounty of a unique landscape that produces a deliciously diverse array of food and drink. STACIA BRIGGS looks at the line-up at this year's Brecks Food and Drink Festival.
The Brecks' larder is packed full of incredible seasonal produce, boasting soil that's perfect for growing world-class asparagus and blueberries and with an agricultural heritage which is renowned across the country.
It's the home of English whisky, extraordinary ales, fantastic hotels and restaurants and suppliers who set the agenda when it comes to first-class produce.
The Brecks Food and Drink Festival stretches over a fortnight of events that showcase the very best that this diverse, fascinating area has to offer, from The Big Onion Festival which kicks off proceedings this weekend to three days of fantastic food-packed events in and around Swaffham on September 12, 13 and 14.
Hotelier, chef and Food Festival patron Vanessa Scott said that the Brecks' festival had become one of the highlights of the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival which this year runs until October 12.
'We have a unique landscape in the Brecks that is a essentially a larder for Norfolk,' said Vanessa, who runs Strattons Hotel in Swaffham with husband Les.
'On a smaller scale, the Brecks is a larder for our hotel, which acts as a showcase for some of the wonderful producers we have in the area. We are always glad to shout about how wonderful the Brecks are and to shine a light on the area.
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'The food festival here helps to spread the word about what is going on here in terms of food and drink and it's become a very important part of our calendar.'
BRECKS FOOD AND DRINK FESTIVAL EVENTS:
• September 6 and September 7 - The Big Onion, Elveden Estate:
Taste delicious food and drink from lots of local companies, learn about onions from the UK's leading onion grower, listen to great music all afternoon, watch demonstrations from top local chefs, enter the home baking competition and watch your children let off steam with a whole range of activities for small people at this annual celebration of all things onion. Elveden is the UK's largest lowland arable in-hand farm, growing around 25,000 tonnes of onions every year, around six per cent of the UK's total crop. Call 01942 898068 or visit www.bigonionfestival.com for more details.
• September 6 - Broom Country Hotel, Saham Toney:
Enjoy a special cream tea on the terrace looking out across the garden or other events, which include a Food Festival Lunch for senior citizens and Festival Pie Night. For more details, call 01953 882125 or visit www.broomhallhotel.co.uk.
• September 8 to September 14 - Food Trail organised by the Iceni Partnership:
It's a popular part of the Brecks Food and Drink Festival every year and one that children in the area look forward to. There will be food-related questions in shop and restaurant windows in Swaffham and prizes for the highest scores. There will also be a picture competition. Open to children aged up to 12, visit www.icenicpartnership.info for more details. The Iceni Partnershop will also be organising a special Food Week menu, which will be displayed in all restaurant and café windows and in the Regency Room at the Assembly Rooms in Swaffham on September 14 and working with the Nicholas Hamond Academy to help pupils prepare meals for their teachers.
• September 11: Walk the Pork – Scotts Field Pork annual farm walk:
By invitation only, local suppliers, restaurateurs, hoteliers and chefs will be given the chance to study the Scotts Field Pork operation in the lovely Brecks landscape around Oxborough. Guests will be joined by Environment Secretary and local MP Elizabeth Truss, and will hear from Rob Simonds of Scotts Field Pork, Vanessa Scott from Strattons Hotel, William Gribbon of Heygate Farms, Scott Taylor from Elveden Estate and Charlie Mills of Bramfield Meats. Scotts Field Pork is available from Impson's, Market Place, Swaffham, www.impsonbutchers.co.uk.
• September 12: In a day packed with food and drink celebration, there will be plenty to do around the Brecks – and plenty to eat! Events include:
n Swaffham Food Festival Indoor Market – a market of local traders, producers and artists.
n Best-dressed window competition judging at 10am to crown the Swaffham shop with the best display on the theme of farming, food and countryside.
n Harvest Festival at Ss Peter and Paul's Church, 11am. A celebration of the harvest in the Brecks where children from the Convent of the Sacred Heart will bring food baskets to be auctioned to raise money for the Home Hospice and the Ss Peter and Paul's Restoration Fund. Rob and Sarah Simonds and Susie Emmett will be in the church with their pigs and sheep.
n The Great Brecks Bake Off in Swaffham: Enter an eight inch round or square decorated cake, using at least four local ingredients for a chance to win a special cup and a cookery book bundle. There are three classes to enter – find out more details from Vanessa Scott, 07500 003316.
n Butchery Demonstration with Impsons Butchers in Swaffham Assembly Rooms from 7pm and 9pm.
• September 13:
n The traditional Saturday Market will have a festival makeover with a kilometre of bunting created by Beachamwell Women's Institute.
n Fabian Eagles Poultry Auction, Lynn Road – the gates open for entires at 8.30am until 11am and the auction begins at 11.30am. Pure breeds and cross-breed poultry will be available. For more details, visit www.fabianreagle.co.uk.
n Green Britain Centre Garden and Apple Orchard Day: 10am to 4pm: Squeeze your own fruit juice, take part in the children's apple pie masterclasses, find out about organic gardening and heritage fruit in the 63-species strong apple orchard, enjoy garden trails, games and take a tour of one of the world's only wind turbine which is open to the public. For more information, visit www.greenbritaincentre.co.uk. Entry is free but a charge applies for the turbine tours.
n Food Festival Quiz at the Assembly Rooms, organised by Strattons Hotel, 7pm: A food festival quiz with tastings and prizes to raise funds for The Neuroblastoma Society. For more details, contact Strattons on 01760 723845 or visit www.strattons-hotel.co.uk.
• September 13 and September 14:
Oxburgh Hall will be presenting a Norfolk-themed menu which features local suppliers, including pork from the Large Black Pigs farmed next to the hall. Call 01366 328258 for details.
• September 14:
n There will be an all-day Brecks Food Festival Farmers' Market in Swaffham Market Place which will be packed with festival fun. Swaffham Town Council has taken over the management of the Swafham Farmers and Craft Market which is held on every third Sunday of the month from 9am to 2pm in the Market Place and promotes regional agriculture and craftsmanship. At this special market for the Food Festival, there will be music, refreshments, a picnic area and swingboat rides for children.
n At the market, the Sacred Heart School Harvest Festival produce baskets will be on sale. All proceeds will go to the local home hospice charity and Ss Peter and Paul's Restoration Fund.
n Rob and Sarah Simonds from Scotts Field Pork will bring a Large Black sow and her piglets to the market and at the Assembly Rooms in Swaffham from 2pm to 5pm there will be an International Food Day organised by the Iceni Partnership which will feature food and drink from around the world, entertainment and activities for children.
n Food Festival September: College Farm Thompson: College Farm is a refurbished Grade II listed building built as a college for priests in 1349 by Katherine Wolstenholme's ancestors. During the festival, Katherine will be cooking dinner with ingredients that have not travelled for more than five miles – for example, venison from her land and pork from her own pigs. On September 14 there will be a lunch party – Lavender's Lunch – in the garden with food prepared by Katherine and villagers, using local ingredients, with donations to the local parish church.
• September 19:
n Pop Up Food Friday with Strattons at The Westacre Theatre. Enjoy a very special night of opera and tapas at Westacre – the £40 tickets includes the chance to see Madama Butterfly screened live from the Sydney Opera House in Australia. n This outdoor spectacle stars Japanese soprano Hiromi Omura as tragic Cio-Cio and George Vasiliey as Pinkerton. To accompany the theatrical night at the theatre on River Road in Westacre, chefs from Strattons Hotel will be presenting a sumptuous selection of hot and cold Spanish tapas. For information about tickets, contact Strattons on 01760 723845 or visit www.strattons-hotel.co.uk or www.westacretheatre.com.
• September 23 - Brecks Game Night, Elveden Inn:
Enjoy a feast of locally-sourced game dishes, including venison and rabbit from the Elveden Estate. Booking is advised, call 01842 890876 for details or visit www.elvedeninn.com.