It’s all hotting up at Tesco Taste Festival

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The best in local produce is being transformed fresh from the earth into delicious and innovative recipes and demonstrations at the hands of some of Northern Ireland’s hottest chefs at this year’s Tesco Taste Festival.

Headlining a packed itinerary of events, which illustrate the richness of Northern Ireland’s myriad harvests, is a cookery theatre featuring among the impressive line-up of Great British Menu chef and proprietor of the UK Local Restaurant of the Year, Wine & Brine in Moira, Chris McGowan, and Forestside Cookery School’s top tutor, chef Stephen Jeffers.

The acclaimed pair kicked off the programme yesterday at Belfast’s Custom House Square, showcasing the skills that have gained each of them considerable culinary kudos in recent years.

The free admission event, which is organised annually by Tesco in partnership with its local suppliers, celebrates the quality, diversity and provenance of locally and regionally-produced fresh food and drink.

Today’s events continue apace with another local gourmand, Colin McCreedy, executive head chef at La Mon House Hotel and Country Club, from 11.30am to 12.30pm, and he will demonstrate his mastery in the kitchen.

He’ll be whetting visitors’ appetites with his pan fried cod loin, with sapphire and Queen scallops in a seafood bisque, and natural smoked hake served with poached egg and Bérnaise sauce, crafted using Keenan Seafood and Cavanagh free range eggs.

The Battle of the Bakes competition, sponsored by Graham’s Bakery of Dromore, which follows at 12.30 to 1.30, will put three of their delicious bakes and buns to a public vote, giving the audience the chance to win goodie bags and small prizes.

Next up, from 1.30 to 2.30pm, is Kilkeel-based Whitewater Brewery’s beer tasting and cookery demonstration by the White Horse Inn of Ballynahinch.

Thirsts will be quenched further when apple producers P McCann and Sons from Portadown host a cider and apple juice tasting session from 3 to 4pm, before palates are treated to the chilled delights of the much-loved Morelli’s ice-cream.

The epicurean exploration continues at 11am on Sunday with another cookery theatre led by Roy Abraham of the Smugglers Table, Killyleagh, who will be serving up smoked mackerel penne pasta.

A second round of the Battle of the Bakes competition, sponsored this time by Irwin’s Bakery of Portadown, kicks off at 12pm until 1pm, before visitors will then get to participate in an interactive Q&A session compered by U105 presenter Frank Mitchell.

Commencing at 1pm, Angus Wilson of potato producers, Wilson’s Country; vegetable grower, William Gilpin of Gilfresh Produce; and Oliver McCann of P McCann & Sons apple growers, will answer questions on all things tubers, roots and orchards.

Eileen Hall of Cavanagh Free-range eggs of Enniskillen will crack on at 1.30pm, on the history of her growing family company, in a day culminating with Ruby Blue Spirits, from Hughes Craft Distillery Ltd in Lisburn, who will toast festival goers with its ‘Pimp my Prosecco’ session from 3pm to 4pm.

The largest free food and drink event of its kind in Northern Ireland, with a theme this year of ‘Our Tastiest Yet’ the Tesco Taste Festival is now firmly established on the Northern Ireland culinary calendar and has attracted close to 1.5m people since it began in 2008.

On top of the 60 plus exhibitors, the festival includes entertainment for all the family, with the Ark Open Farm’s petting zoo, climbing wall and live music. The festival runs today from 10am to 6pm and continues tomorrow from 10am to 5pm. A must visit event this weekend for foodies far and wide.