Last week was the Devizes Food and Drink Festival 2012. The festival is a great excuse to enjoy some good food whilst helping out local charities, so we decided to check it out.
This year’s programme was very varied, including cookery demonstrations and lessons, competitions and talks. It was hard to choose, but we eventually settled on ‘A Night in Madeira’ held at The Bistro (which is owned by the same people who ran the breadmaking class we went to last month). We thought this would be interesting as it wasn’t a cuisine any of us had tried before!
Madeira is an island off the African coast (just north the Canary Islands) that has been in Portuguese possession since they discovered it in the 14th century. The volcanic nature of the island leads to mineral rich soils which are great for agriculture and the island is covered in rosemary, bay leaf and fennel. These herbs formed the basis of the evening’s menu.
The starter was a selection of Portuguese appetisers including homemade bread, Gonzola olives, Papas Bombas (spiced potato balls), octopus in wine, marinated vegetables and salsa verde.
For the most part, the starter was lovely, although I wasn’t a fan of the octopus at all (I’m actually impressed that I braved a forkful of in the first place!) The salsa verde was a particular highlight, and it went really well with the Papas Bombas and the bread.
There was a choice of three different main courses: Espetada of Wiltshire beef (skewered beef marinated in wine and bay leaf), a vegetarian Espetada made using smoked tofu, seitan and oyster mushrooms, and hake cooked in banana leaf.
All four of us chose the beef and all of us enjoyed it. The sauce was particularly nice – but it would have been better if there was more (but I always drown everything I eat in sauce, so maybe that’s just me!)
We all chose different desserts – there was Madeira cake with banana ice cream (they grow bananas in Madeira so they are apparently very popular in their dishes), rosemary and lemon sorbet, and banana liquor coffee with Madeira biscuits.
I was rather stuffed by the time it came to dessert – but it was included in the cost of the meal, so I soldiered on! I had Madeira cake, which was lovely but very different from what you’d expect if, like me, you’ve only had the supermarket version before.
There was a selection of drinks on offer including Portuguese sangria and a Portuguese beer called Sagares. Everyone was also given a small glass of Maderia which is a fortified wine made on the island. It was served in special shot-glasses that contained dry-ice. I’m not entirely sure why – perhaps it was to cool the wine quickly, but it certainly looked pretty!
Our overall impression was that the food was sweeter than we expected – even the beef. It was definitely interesting to try something entirely different to what we’d had before and I might try and find a similar marinade recipe to try it for myself!