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Taste of the South Food Festival & an interview with MasterChef 2012 winner Shelina Permalloo

Last weekend, I had a day out with my sister courtesy of Taste of the South festival, and we definitely made the most of the sunny Bournemouth weather!

The festival was based in a large field, with plenty of space for over 100 exhibitors, some chef demonstrations and some live music. We had a slow wander around (anything faster was impossible in the hot weather!) and were pleased to find some foodie gems.

I bought some amazing plaited new season garlic from The Garlic Farm, which I will be roasting whole tonight, to be smeared thickly on fresh bread (I’ll let you know how delicious that is later!) They had several types of garlic, including the new season garlic, dried garlic and smoked garlic, as well as a huge range of garlic based condiments, but it was definitely the new season bulbs that drew me in. Not only are the bulbs an impressive size compared with those found in supermarkets, but they also have a gorgeous purple colour, come conveniently plaited to hang in my kitchen and last for 6 months! What more could I want?

I also couldn’t resist buying some hand reared pork sausages from Blackwater Pork. We stopped to speak to the owner, and she explained that she rears the pigs, butchers them and makes the final product all herself, including huge orders for local hotels and pubs. We were very impressed, and I have to say, after trying the sausages barbecued later that day, I can confirm that the taste is amazing, and they are definitely worth all that hard work!

The final thing I bought was a bottle of an apple based drink called Applejack. It’s made from cider, which is then frozen to remove some of the water content. This creates a drink with a higher alcohol percentage and a delicious warm flavour. I bought it as treat for Chris, but as it’s very drinkable, I’m not sure how long it will last!

I was also interested to meet Mads from organic fruit, veg and meat delivery company Riverford Organic Farmers at the show. Having recently made the switch to buying organic food, I have noticed how difficult it is to buy in supermarkets. There often isn’t a huge choice to start with, and very often products I want are out of stock or not available. The idea that I can have a box of fresh organic food delivered to my house, with far more options, and often less cost, is brilliant, and great to see at a food show. Combined with the number of vegan food stalls at Taste of the South, this really shows how food and people’s eating habits are changing at the moment, and it’s really exciting! Watch this space for more on organic food coming soon.

We just about had time in between our shopping to catch a cooking demo with Sarah Ali Choudhury, and despite some mic issues she was brilliant, managing to cook, while answering people’s questions and giving everyone a delicious taster at the end.

Unfortunately we couldn’t stay in Bournemouth long enough to see the cooking demonstration from MasterChef 2012 winner Shelina Permalloo, but I am very lucky to have had some of my questions answered by her! Here’s what she said.

You say that winning MasterChef can change your life, and you’ve been very busy since! But what would you say is the most surprising or significant change that has happened since winning the competition?
It has been completely life changing .. I think the thing that shocks me most is that everyday I get to do a job that I love – which for me is the best part about being involved in a show like MasterChef !

Sounds perfect! Is there anything about your journey since MasterChef you would change, or any advice you would give to future contestants?
I wouldn’t change a thing – I suppose my only advice is to soak it all up and take advice from everyone and get as much experience in professional kitchens as possible!

Good advice! Your own restaurant seems to have quite a relaxed feel – a big contrast to some of the fine dining we see on MasterChef! Is street food your favourite type of cooking?
Yes it is – casual dining is what I love best, for me there is nothing more relaxing than eating food with your friends without worrying about spilling food down your top and having plenty of napkins on the table to wipe up messy fingers! Street food is relaxing and casual – I do love to experiment with fine dining when I do my private events which I do a lot, but my restaurant food reflects who I have always been.

Sounds like things are going really well for you at the moment, so what’s next? Any new and exciting plans for the future?
We are looking to open another site and I am planning on writing my 3rd cook book, trying to find time to recipe test with my little 1 year old daughter crawling between my legs has been challenging!

I can imagine! And finally, if you could pick one dish to eat in all this beautiful weather we’re having at the moment, what would it be and why?
I would say a delicious Mauritian octopus salad – it reminds me of the summer!

An octopus salad sounds delicious, and perfect to eat in the sunshine! Thank you very much Shellina for answering my questions, I’ll be looking out for the new book! If you want to try out some of Shellina’s recipes, visit her website, or to taste her amazing food, book a table at her restaurant Lakaz Maman.

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