Food and farming fair at Weald and Downland Open Air Museum

Traditional costumes on show at the food and farming fair.C110802-11
Traditional costumes on show at the food and farming fair.C110802-11

Families flocked in their hundreds to the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum to picnic in the sunshine and experience the wide mix of local produce on offer at the annual food and farming fair.

There were 80 stalls of produce to tingle the tastebuds of visitors who made their way to the museum in Singleton on Sunday and Monday.

From cheeses to honey, to spices, sauces and meats, visitors weren’t stuck for choice.

It was also the first time the Downland Cookery Challenge competition was held at the food fair, and it was part-judged by the Observer.

This year the two finalists in the cook-off were Amanda Budding from Middleton and Sam Harris from Lavant.

Amanda cooked up her ‘Textures of run’ dish – putting a modern twist on Arundel mullet. Meanwhile Sam tried to impress the judges with a roasted pork fillet with pea risotto, onion chutney, crispy leeks and carrots.

When it came to decision time, 46-year-old Amanda was chosen as the winner. The judges said both entries were excellent, but what put Amanda first to the winning post was her decision to choose a local dish and make it her own. She used a grey mullet from the River Arun for her dish.

She said: “I didn’t want to go in because I was really nervous. The first ten minutes were horrible, but after that it went quite quickly. It was difficult because I wasn’t using my own equipment. I am used to cooking at home. I really didn’t think I was going to win.

“I had some chilled champagne with my husband to celebrate.”

Amanda won the champagne as part of her prize as well as £200.

Events coordinator Sue O’Keeffe said: “The weather was great and everyone was picnicking. We get local producers from East Sussex, West Sussex and Surrey. A real mix of foods.

“We have cattle here on the fields and horses, preparing land for harvesting. This is a real family event and lots of people keep coming back especially to meet the local producers. This event has been running for more than 20 years.”

And it wasn’t just the food that was a hit with visitors. John Stevens, president of Chichester Beekeepers, said the response of people wanting to learn about beekeeping was enormous.

He said: “We were delighted to be invited by Weald and Downland to participate in what was a very successful event.

“It was brilliant. There was a tremendous atmosphere, lovely weather and the setting was beautiful. We were busy all morning and talking to people about bees and beekeeping.”

Mr Stevens started beekeeping 16 years ago as a hobby with two colonies – now he has 40 – and admits it has become an obsession for him.

The Chichester Beekeepers, as part of the West Sussex Beekeepers’ Association, also had a few delicious pots of honey on sale.There were plenty of other things to keep people entertained at the farming and food fair, including tastings, cookery classes, demonstrations and children’s activities. There was also some period music playing, displays and activities celebrating downland farming.

For more information about the fair or about the museum, log on to www.wealddown.co.uk