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Visiting The 2011 London Real Food Festival

What do you get when you combine fabulous wine, organic olive oils, spicy chorizo, local cheeses, gluten free brownies and adorable little baby lambs all together all under one roof?  The 4th annual London Real Food Festival that’s what!  Yesterday I attended day 3 of the 4 day event, and I had a fabulous time wandering around the festival exploring and chatting to the nearly 250 exhibitors who were showcasing their products.  It was great to see such a wide variety of food products on show, many of which were either organic or free range.


Almost every stall was giving away free samples of their food, so of course I had to take full advantage of them!  The first thing I stopped to try were some delicious handmade chocolates by Sciolti.  Their award winning chocolates use natural and locally sourced ingredients such as fruit, flowers and cream.  I tried their Kir Royal chocolate and it was delicious!  The filling was so smooth, and full of black current flavour.  I wish I would have remembered to go back and buy a selection of them to take home.  If you do get the chance to sample their chocolates I highly recommend them!


Next I stopped by My Sweet Tooth Factory and sampled some of their Oreo cheesecake squares which were really tasty.  They were also selling a variety of cupcakes and a really really nice and moist looking Red Velvet Cake – which I didn’t try, but really wish I did.  I wasn’t familiar with My Sweet Tooth Factory before today, but I was told they sell their cakes on Sundays at the Brick Lane Market.  

One of the things I was pleasantly surprised with was the Chocolate Fudge from The Old Chapel Fudge Company (their website is currently under construction).  Back home in Canada I used to love fudge, but since moving to the UK I haven’t been able to find fudge like we had back home.  Most of the fudge I’ve tried over here has been extremely sweet and rather dry and crumbly – and I’ll admit I usually end up throwing it out after a bite or two.  But not this time.  The Chocolate Fudge I tried had a rich and dense consistency, and was probably the closest thing to North American fudge I’ve tasted since living in the UK.  If you’re not a fan of chocolate fudge, don’t worry because The Old Chapel Fudge Company had a wide variety of flavours to choose from.


There were so many delicious foods on offer at the Real Food Fest, so I was really thankful for all the samples that were being given out – there was no way I could eat more than 1 or 2 full sized portions.  After wandering around and stopping off to eat one of the best hamburgers I’ve had in a long time (sorry – can’t remember the name of the place!) it was time to explore more of the baking stalls.  

One of the first things that caught my eye after lunch was the most amazing looking Rich Chocolate Tart from The Pudding Stop.  This thing was seriously good!  It had the richest smoothest chocolate filling, but still somehow managed to taste light as air and not heavy at all.  If you manage to make it down to the last day of the Real Food Festival tomorrow I’d definitely recommend trying this one!  



Another thing that got my attention was the fabulous looking cupcake display from Sweet Things.  And after reading rave reviews about their cupcakes yesterday by I Heart Cupcakes, I decided that this would be the only cupcake I would try at the festival as I absolutely hate wasting money on bad cupcakes!  Sweet things sell loads of other yummy treats beside cupcakes, and they also have a large selection of wheat free cakes.  I bought one of the last regular vanilla cupcakes they had left.  It was very nice, and had a really yummy icing on top that I’m pretty sure was  swiss meringue.  


Finally I stopped by to see Caroline who owns and operates the fabulous Sugar Grain which specialise in gluten free and wheat free products.  I’d met Caroline once before at a food blogging event, and she was so lovely I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her and her products since!  Sugar Grain have a stall at Borough Market, and I’ve been wanting to stop by and sample some of her products for ages but just never got the chance until today.  I had a hard time choosing what to try, but I opted for the award winning Raspberry and White Chocolate Chunk Brownie and I’m so glad I did.  That thing was seriously good!  And I’m not just saying that to be nice!  The brownie was so nice and moist, and had a rich chocolate flavour bursting with fresh raspberries.  If I hadn’t have waited until I left the Real Food Festival to try it I would have gone back and bought a second one.  


There was no way I could stop and sample everything without physically exploding (or going totally broke), but there were a few other things that caught my eye, although I don’t remember the the names of companies who were selling them.

Giant meringues 

Savoury macarons accompanied by your choice of cheese

And of course there were sweet macarons too!

If you’re looking for something to do today – Sunday May 8th, then I’d definitely suggest visiting the Real Food Festival.  There are loads of different foods and products available, and don’t worry they’re not all sweet!  Like I mentioned before, there was a wide variety of meats, cheeses, fish, olive oils, spices, cereals, breads, fresh vegetables etc.  You name it, they have it!  And bring your kids too because they had the most adorable little baby lambs on display courtesy of the Real Farm Lambing School in Scotland. 

Cute!

This was my first visit the Real Food Festival and I had a great time exploring and trying all of the different products that were available. I will definitely be back again next year!  If you do manage to stop by today, and if I would recommend one thing for you to try it would be Sugar Grain’s award winning Raspberry and White Chocolate Chunk Brownie.  Simply divine!

These Might Gross You Out…

Chances are if your from North America your going to love these, but if your from the UK I’m going to have to work hard at convincing you to give these cookies a try.  A few weeks ago I came across a recipe on another blog for something called a “compost cookie”, which basically consisted of anything you’d like to get rid of in your pantry.  The particular cookie I saw had chocolate chips, peanuts, shredded coconut, some M&M’s and potato chips.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Potato chips.  In a cookie!  At first I thought eew, that’s gross.  But then after I got thinking about it and imagining what they would taste like, I figured potato chips in a cookie might actually be kinda good.  After all, one of my favourite chocolate bars when I lived in Canada had pretzels in it.  The Max 5 bar (called Take 5 in the US) incorporates pretzels, caramel, peanuts, peanut butter and chocolate all in one amazingly delicious little bar.  It’s the perfect combination of crunchy, salty and sweet. I decided if a cookie can have potato chips in it, then why can’t a cookie have pretzels in it?  Ah ha!  I know, I’ll make a cookie based on the Max 5 bar!  A day or so after I decided that the Max 5 cookie would be my next cookie conquest, I discovered that someone had already beat me to it!  My life had just got a whole lot easier – I didn’t have to bother coming up with the recipe!  And even more importantly, all of the ingredients are readily available in the UK. 


You’ll need peanut butter, some Rolo chocolates, chocolate chips, peanut butter and pretzels.  In the UK the pretzel selection is pretty slim.  In fact, I was only able to find one brand of pretzels and they’re a little smaller than the ones back home (but that won’t make a difference in this recipe). The original recipe called for natural chunky peanut butter, but I’m not really a fan of nuts in my cookies (or brownies), so I used a 50/50 split of smooth natural peanut butter and American Skippy smooth creamy peanut butter (available only at Cost-Co in the UK).  The recipe called for Rolo chocolates, but I also tried a few cookies with some of the new Cadbury Caramel Nibbles. And since I really love chocolate I decided to throw a hand full of chocolate chips into the mix as well.  The lack of chocolate chips in the UK was one of the things that really struck me when I first moved here.  They do have chocolate chips, but only 3 types: milk, regular (semi-sweet) and white – and they come in really small packages.  Mint chocolate, white & dark swirls, peanut butter chip, toffee, micro mini M&M’s, etc don’t exist here, so whenever I go back to North America I always stock up. 

Clockwise left to right: American “family size” (2kg / 72oz) bag of chocolate chips,  Canadian  “family size” (1kg / 35oz) bag of chocolate chips, American regular size (340g / 12oz) bag of chocolate chips (same size in Canada), standard UK size (100g / 3.5oz) bag of chocolate chips.
Making these cookies requires the dough to be made ahead of time and refrigerated over night so all of the flavours can blend and develop.  When it come time to actually making the cookies you’ll need to sandwich 2 slightly flattened rolo chocolates in between 2 discs of the cookie dough and really smoosh them together just prior to baking.

Below is the recipe, which I adapted slightly from the original found here.

Take 5 Cookies

1 1/4 cups (156g) all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (130g) natural peanut butter
1/2 cup (130g) creamy regular peanut butter
1/2 cup (113g) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (150g) lightly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup pretzel squares or twists, lightly crushed

1/4 cup chocolate chips (approx 1 handful)
30 Rolo candies, unwrapped (each UK Rolo pack has 10 pieces)

1) In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

2) In a large bowl (or stand mixer), beat the softened butter for a few minutes until light and creamy. Scrape down bowl with spatula, add peanut butter and continue to beat with butter until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl, add sugars and continue beating until fully combined. Scrape down bowl, add the egg, milk and vanilla extract. Mix well.

3) Add half the flour mixture, stir in slowly just until combined, then add the remaining flour mixture. Stir just until there are no white pockets making sure to scrape down bowl in between additions.

4) Fold in pretzel pieces and chocolate chips by hand. Wrap dough in parchment or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. This allows the a rich caramel flavor to develop as the ingredients sit.

5) When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350˚F (175˚C). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

6) Take two Rolos and flatten slightly. Take a tablespoon or two of dough and mold it around the Rolo to form a disk shaped cookie (about 2-inches wide). Place on sheet pan and repeat with remaining dough. Bake for exactly 10 minutes. Cookies may look a bit underdone, however they will come out chewy and delicious when cooled. Cool cookies on pan for one minute then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Notes:  The above recipe says you should get 24 cookies, but I only got 14.  My peanut butter and butter mixture never got light and fluffy, it was actually pretty runny due to all of the oil that was in the natural peanut butter.  The mixture didn’t get light and fluffy for me until I added the egg and vanilla.  After you chill the dough it can become quite crumbly and hard to work with, so it’s best to take approx 2 tbsps of dough and flatten it into a disc in the palm of your hand, and then place it on your baking sheet before placing the 2 rolo’s and another flattened disc of dough on top.  I baked my cookies for 10 mins, but took them out of the oven after 6 mins and flattened them slightly with the back of a spoon.  These cookies will not flatten out much by themselves.  Finally, allow the cookies to cool completely before eating to allow the pretzels to crisp up again.
Enjoy!