Food festival for culinary delights

Stallholders at Oundle Food Festival, 2011
Stallholders at Oundle Food Festival, 2011

THESE days, being interested in food is not just about knowing which potatoes make the best chips or which mixing method produces the lightest pastry.

Thanks largely to the many celebrity chefs gracing our TV screens, shoppers now know a lot more about the foodie issues – linked to everything from morality to health – which affect 21st century food production.

There are big questions to answer such as: ‘Who is responsible for the obesity crisis?’ ‘Is organic really best? and ‘What exactly does sustainable fishing really mean?’

Getting to the heart of what really concerns shoppers, one highlight of this year’s Oundle Food Festival, which will take place on Saturday, will be a live Food Debate, chaired by writer and broadcaster, Sue MacGregor.

The discussion, which will take place at 2.30pm in The Queen Victoria Hall, West Street, Oundle, will be led by questions from the public. The panel will include Dr Andrew Ormerod, economic botanist from The Eden Project, Anthony Davidson, founder of Big Barn, and Robert Burns, of the National Farmer’s Union.

Issues discussed look set to include subjects such as the importance of buying locally and the confusing nature of food labelling.

Festival organiser, Alison Newcomb, said: “The perception is often that we have to go to Tesco or Asda to buy on price, but we don’t actually. We can buy cheaply in other ways.

“With labelling, it can also be difficult for young mums where there are things written on packages like ‘no added sugar.’ There might be no added sugar, but what about the other sugar substitutes?”

Now in its third year, the Oundle Food Festival attracts thousands of visitors.

This year, as well as the food debate, there will be about 45 stallholders and Times food columnist, Joanna Weinberg, will also be demonstrating some of her favourite dishes from her book, Cooking for Real Life.

The Eden Project will also be running children’s activities to demonstrate how easy it is to grow vegetables from seed.

Throughout the week, local restaurants – including Hambleton Hall, Oundle Mill, The Pheasant at Keyston, and The Kings Arms at Polebrook – will also be linking up with the festival to offer special, seasonal menus.

Alison set up the festival after selling her restaurant in Cambridge. Since then she has seen it grow into one of the best-known local food events.

The festival, whose patron is chef Dan Lepard, sets out to show how people can lower their food miles, reduce waste and still cut their food bills.

She said: “Oundle Food Festival was founded three years ago to continue to promote really good local seasonal produce and to show how to create delicious food simply and put the pleasure and flavours back into buying and cooking food.”

Questions for The Food Debate can be sent to Debate tickets cost £5 per person (under 12s free). These are available from Oundle Bookshop or online at