Finally, I can relate what happened at the "Taste of Christmas"event on Sunday.
On the day we – my daughter and I – arrived at the ExCel around 1020, after leaving Basingstoke on the 8.44 to Waterloo. Thoroughly enjoyed the trip on the Jubilee line and the Docklands Light Railway – both were quite impressive. We signed in and received our tickets at the box office and submitted the loaf at the press office near where the judging was to take place:
|This was my offering - freshly baked on Saturday evening.|
|A few of the entries - mine is in the box|
|Very disappointed with how it turned out - the shine had completely gone - and I'd given it several coats of sugar glaze|
|These were the cakes that were sampled - the rest - 20 or so - remained on the shelf. The actual winner (we found out later when it was too late to take a proper photo!:( ) is the one right at the back - decorated with what looked like mango skins.|
|The rest of these pics are of the cakes that were left on the shelf|
Eric Lanlard was the judge of the cake competition (more of him later). He told us that, to him, appearance is 50% of the taste. This is obviously very subjective - witness the cakes Eric chose on the day and those he left behind. I can well see why mine didn't get through, but I'm less sure about some of the others.
The first demonstration was at 11.00, so we had a quick look around. We soon found ourselves in 'Chocolate Alley' - every stall seemed to be flogging chocolate - and none of it was cheap. However, the samples were very acceptable, and there was quite a few Vegan chocolates for me to try. I found one chilli chocolate which was vegan, Fairtrade and very, very spicy, so it ticked all my boxes. My daughter bought me a large bar of this - which I won't see for 3 weeks, since I'm to get it for Christmas!
We strolled back for the Gary Rhodes demo and were - well, quite disappointed. In his introduction he was billed as 'The man who's originality and flair changed the face of English cooking' since his appearance on TV in 1987. Well, he showed nothing of this when he demonstrated - how to make a bread and butter pudding! The only difference that I could see between his B&B and my mother's was that he used egg yolks for the custard - and creme bruleed the top.
There was no space for questions, otherwise I would have asked him why he used bog-standard white sliced bread instead of some well-crafted bread??
Complete waste of 30 minutes, IMO!
In contrast, the patisserie chef, Eric Lanlard, was well worth his spot. He made a traditional French Yule log, with a plain sponge and a sweet chestnut spread for a filling. He took a couple of slices off the rolled up sponge and placed them on top to represent branches that had been sawn off. He then coated the sponge with melted chocolate, telling us as he did so that the chocolate should be about 60% cocoa. Chocolate at 70% or more just doesn't have the right balance between sugar and cocoa, in his book.
He was very entertaining and informative - when he was sieving the flour he said there was no need to hold the sieve up high "It won't make your cake rise any higher - sorry, Delia!" He was very insistent about the need for an oven thermometer if there was any doubt about your oven. He said that in his kitchen there were 6 identical ovens - all with different readings!
He also dismissed an old maxim about never opening the oven whilst the cake was inside, telling us that modern-day ovens hold their heat very well and your cake won't suffer.
This was something I'd suspected since I began my cake-making career. I use the oven to make bread at the same time as I'm making cakes - I'm in and out of the oven all the time - and the cakes have never sunk.
To finish off the cake Eric tarted it up with glitter for snow and managed to get a couple of (Easter?) eggs on there as well. It was an excellent demo from an entertaining, knowledgeable chef who came across as a lovely guy. Quite the opposite from the demo above!
He over-ran by a good fifteen minutes - much to the displeasure of the warm-up guy.
Between these shows we had a good wander round - my daughter tasted most things - I was sort of confined to tasting olive oil with bread (I assumed the bread was vegan), wines, rum (I had a good shot of this!) and chocolate!
However, the best stall for me was selling Creole Soda Bread which were more like cakes, really, they were simply gorgeous. I had to have one, so I bought a chocolate loaf - £4, but it was worth it!
The stallholder told us that they used fruit juice instead of buttermilk and that this was traditional in parts of the Caribbean and the Southern US. I've not been able to find any recipes on line, but I shall have a go anyway - soon.
For lunch we found ''Damas for food' which was selling Damascan food. We each had a bread wrap containing roasted veg and falafels covered with a sesame sauce. Absolutely divine! I'd have liked another one - but I was full up!
Around 3, after the Eric Lanlard demo, we called it a day. I doubt we'd seen everything, but we'd seen enough. Before we left we found Emma some stuff from a cup cake stall which she'd been after, so she was happy. We'd had a great day and returned home tired but content - nibbling on the succulent loaf of 'bread' from Global Fusion!