Abergavenny Food Festival 2012 : The Food Academy lamb meatballs and pasta recipe

We got back from Abergavenny late on Sunday night and what with loosing my USB camera cable, being 6 months pregnant and recovering from such a wonderful festival, it’s taken a few days to get to this blog post.

We stayed with my lovely friend, Cath Fookes (who is festival co-ordinator) and her family.

I hadn’t been to Wales for years and had forgotten how beautiful the countryside is. This is a view from the Castle Field where we spent most of our weekend.

My daughter’s festival highlight, aside from running around and making new friends, had to be the Food Academy.

The sessions she went to were run by Jethro Carr of Kitchen Academy in Brighton who has an impressive list of clients, from Kids Company, BBC Good Food Show, Soil Association to FareShare, Fair Trade, Womad and Brighton and Hove food and drink festival.

There were more sessions, which we missed, unfortunately, delivered by Alex Mackay, Patron of Kids Cookery School charity (I saw children coming out with delicious looking “Everyway burgers” in baps) and Richard Bertinet of Bertinet Kitchen Bakery in Bath who made  smoked haddock chowder.

There is something that children love about cooking with a chef. I don’t know whether it’s because they associate it with famous TV chefs or because they are so professional (and calm and unflustered) in their whites. But most kids tend to have a bit of reverence for them and listen intently to instructions.

In the Sunday workshop my daughter made …

Lamb meatballs with tomatoes and home made pasta

Once hats were decorated, Jethro gathered mini-chefs at the front and went through the recipe steps, explaining along the way, in particular, safe knife skills: using the claw and bridge. After the briefing a member of Team Food Academy guided the food prep on each table.

Here’s Jethro’s recipe so you can make your own….

This is about enough for 7-10 children’s portions depending on age and appetite. You could either to reduce the amount to suit your needs – or make it in a big batch and freeze what you don’t use.

Once fully briefed, children went back to their tables to grate parmesan …

Pound the garlic…

Then mix all together with torn basil leaves and organic lamb mince…

And roll into small meatballs (followed by a good handwashing)…

Meanwhile on the other (meat-free) side of the table, pasta ingredients were combined…

And kneaded …

While the tomatoes were chopped and deseeded…

Then it was time to roll out the pasta, several times….

Which they loved…

Until it was thin enough to roll into tagliatelle…

While Team Food Academy cooked the meatballs and pasta, kids made their smoothies on the Smoothie Bikes…

Then it was the most important part of the process…

Followed by a delicious smoothie…

All a rather resounding success.

The chefs and all the Abergavenny Food Festival staff worked so hard for two days delivering workshop after workshop, followed by washing up and tidying away ready for the next group of children. Working with children in this way is actually quite tiring so hats off to you all and thank you very much.

Anyone who has cooked with children knows it can have a positive impact on eating habits and openness to trying new foods. Even a one off cooking activity like this can get children trying new foods and instil new food skills.


Blueberry recipe #2: Blueberry crumble muffins

My daughter now back at school, phew! So I now have time and the headspace to catch up on blog posts and work.

These are one of my favourite muffin recipes, and Yotam Ottolenghi kindly gave permission to share an adapted version of his recipe from the Ottolenghi cookbook here. And why invent the wheel when its been designed so well by someone else?

I have been making recipes from this book for a few years, including the wonderful salads and my favourite carrot and walnut cake recipe – which uses sunflower oil instead of butter.

We tend to make these muffins when we have friends or family coming to visit and also for playdates – children love them and they do have some (not a huge amount but some) fruit in them, so are a slightly healthier pudding, great for picnics and lunch boxes too.

I made these muffins with the blueberries we picked from Trehane Nursery near Wimborne – which was a very calming holiday activity. The picking season is extending hopefully to the end of September this year so we will probably make a visit after school one day. English Discovery apples have been available for a few weeks now. If you buy English Blueberries now freeze them and you can have these muffins well into the apple season without buying blueberries that have been flown in from other countries.

It’s possible to make them with gluten free wheat flour and gluten free flour which both work well. I’ve also recently made them with spelt flour which was a little heavier – though the muffins were still as popular as ever.

For 12 muffins you will need…

100g Blueberries (plus enough to put a few on the top of each muffin)
210g Plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 medium egg
70g butter
150g semi-skimmed milk
Half an apple (eat the other half!)
Grated zest of half a lemon
110g caster sugar

For the crumble mixture

I make this up and keep some frozen*. For this recipe you need about a dessert spoon of mixture per muffin.

300g plain flour (I’ve used wholegrain spelt which works really well too)
100g caster sugar
200g cold unsalted butter cut into cubes.

How to…

… Make your crumble

  1. First, make the crumble mixture by putting all the ingredients into a bowl and rubbing them through your fingers to make the crumble mixture.
  2. (If you have a food processor, just put all the ingredients in and give them a whizz until they resemble breadcrumbs.)
  3. Give the bowl a little shake and the bigger lumps will come to the top, rub these through so that you have a consistent crumble mixture.
  4. The crumble mixture keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days but you might as well freeze what you don’t use as it takes very little time to defrost and will keep in the freezer for months.

…Make your muffins

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 170˚C / gas mark 3 / 325˚F.
  2. Line your muffin tray with cases.
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder and put to one side.
  4. Whisk lightly the egg, add the sugar and melted butter (making sure its not too hot) and keep whisking lightly.
  5. Whisk in the lemon zest and milk to the wet mixture.
  6. Add the blueberries and grated apple to the liquid mixture.
  7. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and stir in, not too much – just enough to combine – allowing there to be lumps.
  8. Spoon the mixture into the cases, sprinkle a dessert spoon of crumble mixture on top with a few blueberries
  9. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  10. You can check whether the muffins are cooked through with a skewer – if it comes out wet then they need a few minutes longer, if it comes out with no mixture on it then they are ready.


So I have slightly adjusted this recipe to suit younger children – by reducing the sugar content and reducing the portion size. So each cake has a teaspoon of added sugar, the rest of the sugar content (about 5g) is from the fruit. Fat and saturated fat content are low in these cakes too). Each cake provides about 170 calories which is just over 10% of the recommended calorie intake for a child aged between 4-6 years of age. Each muffin contains about 10% recommended calcium intake, just under 10% recommended iron intake and about 20% recommended Vitamin A intake for a child in this age group.

*Having frozen crumble mixture in the freezer is a great fall back for midweek or Sunday lunch fruit crumbles as it takes very little time to defrost.