Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival

On the drive back home from Spain, DonQui sees a sign on the side of the road. It has a picture of a rather fine looking crab with a caption telling him that he is only 5 miles from the most delectable delights. This is too good to pass up so he follows the sign to find himself at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival which is not at Aldeburgh at all but rather at the nearby Snape Maltings.

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He pauses for a moment when he sees the entrance price but, as he likes to support local farmers and local produce, he digs deep into his wallet to produce the required £8.

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On entry he is confronted with a plethora of stalls displaying their wares and all offering tasty samples. He goes from stall to stall trying out what is on offer and doing his best to be disciplined and not buy everything that takes his fancy.

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“I’ll come back and buy later,” he say more than once, determined to see and sample everything before filling the tote bag he had been given on entry with the stuff he really wanted.

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He has a plan to buy something for supper and so tries to avoid filling up too much on all the goodies on offer.  So he passes by the many tempting stalls offering everything from suckling pig to goat burgers and crispy duck wraps. Instead he lunches on the free samples.

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After tasting the goats’ cheeses offered by Fielding Cottage, his resistance breaks down. He buys several of them while Duchess also adds curds and some lotions made from goats’ milk.

wild meat

DonQui  loves wild meat and the Wild Meat Company is one of his favourite suppliers. Wild boar, venison and guinea fowl all end up in his bag. With a couple of wild boar filets he hopes to recreate the delicious meal he had in Seville a few days ago.

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The Kenton Hall Estate is offering Longhorn beef. Not to be confused with Texas longhorns, these cattle are a medieval British breed which are much slower than modern cattle to raise and the price is correspondingly high. DonQui decides to buy a couple of small filet steaks to see if the difference is worth the effort and cost. If nothing else he wants to support the survival of ancient breeds.

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DonQui samples several beers on offer from Barrel and Sellers. Unlike most English beers this is bottle rather than cask conditioned. DonQui loves English beer and is a great fan of his local Adnams brewery. However it is hard to take a decent pint home as the beer in the bottle has none of the character of the draught as English beer is usually cask conditioned. He pronounces these new bottle conditioned beers to be “rather good.”

raw milk

The raw unpasteurised milk and cheese from Fen Farm Dairy are very tasty but DonQui does not buy any as he has already filled his cheese quota from Fielding Cottage. He takes their card and vows to buy some at a later date. Mass production and the necessary corresponding health and safety regulations have almost wiped out non-pasteurised milk products and DonQui is rather pleased to see some local producers are still able to supply them.

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All of this has taken a bit of a toll so DonQui decides to take a break amongst the beans and pulses at the Hodmedod’s stall. He has met the lovely people who offer these products before at the market in Halesworth and they are happy to let him rest a while.

book

They have a book on sale: Out of the Pod by Vicky Jones.  The recipes look rather delicious so DonQui decided to buy a copy and at some time in the future he will try out some of their suggestions and let readers know how they turn out.

cheese and wine

When he gets home Duchess cooks a lovely dish of kale with goat curds which DonQui rounds off with some of the delicious Fielding Farm’s goat’s cheese, fresh sesame baguette and a rather fine bottle of Côte-Rôtie which DonQui had bought in Vienne a few months ago.

In all pretty hard to beat!

Spicy Beans and Tomatoes

One of the first things DonQui did when he got home was to check on the state of his allotment.

Now one of the problems of going away on holiday when you grow your own vegetables is that when you come back you find everything choked with weeds.

allotment

This time, however, things seemed in pretty good shape. The beans were still going strong, there were tomatoes nicely ripening along with kale, chard, carrots and onions. And the weeds had not taken over entirely. There were even a second crop of strawberries coming on. Perhaps they thought it was spring again!

So DonQui decided to treat himself to a little homecoming meal of spicy beans and tomatoes from his own produce.

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Here is the recipe. You will note that DonQui is not great on measurement as he tends to do things by feel and approximation.

Ingredients
Green beans topped, tailed and cut into small segments. Fine french beans are best but as DonQui had lots of runner beans he used them instead in this case.
Cherry tomatoes cut in half
A couple of spring onions finely sliced.
A handful of super fine soup noodles (optional)
Coconut oil (or you can use other cooking oil)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
Approximately 1 cm of ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/8-1/2 teaspoon hot chilli powder (depending on your heat tolerance, DonQui likes things fairly hot)
1 teaspoon garam marsala
1 small tin coconut cream (160ml)

Method
Step 1. Boil the beans, 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Step 2. Gently fry the onion in the coconut oil until it begins to colour then add cumin seeds, and stir fry for about a minute until the cumin seeds begin to pop. Add the ginger and remaining spices, stir fry for a a few seconds until the spices begin to release their aroma.
Step 3. Add the drained beans, stir fry for a couple of minutes then add the tomato halves and continue to stir fry for a minute or so until they begin to soften but not so long that they fall apart.

Up to this point you can prepare in advance and leave to finish off later.

Step 4. Add the coconut cream, bring to the boil and stir until well mixed. If you are using the noodles then add them to the pan. Then let simmer gently for a couple of minutes with a lid on the pan so that the liquid does not all evaporate. When everything is warmed up then serve. If you do not use the noodles then serve with rice.

Best Airport in Britain?

London Southend?
DonQui was not entirely sure that he had heard correctly. Southend was certainly not London and he was pretty sure you couldn’t fly there unless you were a bird.
But it was true. He was flying back to England and not only did Southend have an airport but apparently Which magazine has named it as the ‘best small airport in Britain.’ It might be a bit of a cheek to call it ‘London Southend’ but the train into London Liverpool St is only 55 minutes — not much more than the train from Stansted.
DonQui was flying from Alicante airport and he was afraid that it would be overrun by the Benidorm crowd. Actually it was fairly quite and spacious. Whether it would be the same in high season he cannot say.

flight

The flight was quite pleasant, even thought it was EasyJet and there was a good clear view over the Thames estuary as the plane made its descent.

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Southend was a revelation. Clean, modern, uncrowded and with everything close together it was quite different from the human zoos of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick. DonQui was most impressed.
It took no time at all to get to the airport train station which had no barriers or queues. A train pulled in a minute or two after DonQui got on the platform and he was on his way home.

Leisurely Lunch by the Beach

DonQui had one of the best of his Spanish long lunches a short stroll up from the beach at La Azohia.

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He found himself on a large terrace overlooking a classically curved Mediterranean bay. The restaurant — Antipodas — was at the end of the road, literally where the road ran out and the mountains began. This gave the place an exclusive and quietly secluded feel.

Antipodas view

DonQui looked out over the harbour and contemplated the wine list. There was a good Rioja on offer which after tasting it he deemed far better than average. The service was friendly and the place had relaxing a vibe that DonQui thoroughly enjoyed as he settled in for a couple of hours out of the sun.

The four course set menu of the day seemed interesting and at €12 it was great value. It was duly ordered and DonQui was delighted. Starting with a crisp fresh salad, the next course was a choice of chickpeas or vegetable soup. Both were very good.

Beef Stew

Then came a lovely beef stew which was aromatic and tender, with small pieces of meat and potatoes that stirred his senses. Now DonQui is not much of a potato lover but all the potatoes he ate in Spain were so much better than what he was used to. Instead of being floury and mushy they were firm and full of flavour.

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Duchess had a wonderful local fish — Melva, or frigate mackerel, which is a sort of cross between mackerel and tuna and an Andalusian speciality. It had been marinated in lemon and Duchess declared it was one of the best fish dishes she had ever tasted.

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The light crepe with soft dark chocolate was a melt in the mouth experience that perfectly rounded off the meal. So intent he was in finishing it off that DonQui forgot to take a photo until it was almost too late. Readers will have to forgive him for a moment of chocolate gluttony.

Sipping a café solo and contemplating a stroll back to the beach, DonQui began to think he might just dine at here again.

And indeed he did. In fact DonQui visited three times and each day tried the daily menu with varying success. Most courses were truly yummy but there were one or two not quite to his taste. On one visit Duchess went à la carte and decided to try the goat’s cheese salad which she reported to be ‘perfect’.

Rosé

The house wine by the glass was indifferent but there were some very good reds and rosés by the bottle at exceptionally reasonable prices. DonQui did not try any of the whites so cannot venture an opinion on them.

DonQui felt that luncheon at Antipodas made La Azohia a really great place to visit.

A Nice Quiet Beach

Feeling in need of a little R&R by the sea, DonQui makes his way to La Azohía, not too far from Cartagena on what is called the Costa Cálida or ‘Warm Coast’. By now it is late September and the air temperature is still hitting the high 20s – low 30s although the water seems a bit colder than it was in Tarragona a week or so earlier.

Azohia beach

DonQui was hoping for a quiet place to relax without horrid high-rises, garish attractions or too many humans.

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He had found it. La Azohía is about as laid back as even a sleepy donkey could hope for. There is only one tiny shop, a few restaurants and a couple of beach bars.

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With the season coming to an end, the coast is pretty free of humans and many of the restaurants and bars are closed. The best, however, are still open.

Azohia sunset

Although it is on the east coast, the south-west facing curve of the beach means that there are some fabulous sunsets to watch while sipping a drink and having a meal at the Restaurante Bodega Molina.

Azohia fish

Here DonQui enjoys some very nice freshly caught fish grilled with garlic, olive oil and chillies.

Azohia sunset

An even better sundowner is to be had at the Rockola Summer Club – a tiny beach bar.

Azohia bar

Here all drinks are €1.50 and they have a great play list of rock, blues and jazz.

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All in all DonQui thinks La Azohía is a pretty good place to stay for a few days of blissful peace and quiet. There are no hotels here but if you fancy a stay there are plenty of holiday apartments to rent. DonQui found a very nice one right on the beach through Airbnb.

Drinks and Tapas

One of the best things about Granada is that whenever DonQui goes for a drink in the evening he is offered free tapas. His favourite haunt is Torcuato at the top of Cale Pagés in Albayzín which seems to be primarily frequented by locals.

Torcuato

From 9pm onwards the atmosphere is buzzing and DonQui spends several happy evenings here whiling away the hours sipping wine, savouring the free tapas, and occasionally ordering a dish or two off the menu. It is the sort of casual place DonQui likes — good food and drink without any pretension or fuss. It would probably not appeal to those who want slick service or an orderly meal.

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The tapas varied each evening – DonQui’s favourite was a plate of grilled squid on  crispy cabbage salad bed.

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Further down Cale Pagés there is a small square (Plaza Aliatar) where the bars start up a bit earlier. The tapas there is not as good but DonQui rather liked the ice cold beer served in a clay beaker at El Panero. So a beer there first and then up to Torcuato for wine and food.

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The Mirador San Nicolás is the place to go for a sundowner with unbeatable views of the Alhambra as the setting sun catches the walls.

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Many people simply gather on the wall of the square…

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…but DonQui prefers to have a drink at either El Balcón de San Nicolás or the El Huerto Juan Ranas next door. Neither of these places have free tapas but they have great views of the Alhambra and comfortable seats.

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In the square a number of artisans set up stalls to sell their wares to the tourists. It is all quite atmospheric.