Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Festival food through the decades and the Latitude festival food roundup

I have a theory that hippies make the best cooks. Ecology, natural fibres, concern with pollution, recycling, growing your own, vegetarianism and veganism, the beans, the yoghurt, the wholemeal flour, the nuts and seeds, the vegetables, all those things that used to be laughable, well, hippies did them first.
Pretty much everything we think and do today, comes from the 'hippy' alternative revolution of the 1960s and 70s. Hippy ideals and hippy foods, are now mainstream.
Festivals are another thing invented by hippies - Woodstock and Glastonbury. For a few years Glasto (during my youth anyway) was thought of as 'naff'. As a punk, I used to sneer. 

I went to my first Glastonbury in 1989. I sneaked in for free. It blew my mind: it was like Mad Max on acid. Strange vehicles bucking along the dusty roads, robots, freaks, druggies, wild children... I loved it. Food was fairly basic. In Babylon (which is what people called the main area) you could get the usual fairground food of burgers and chips, candy floss, hotdogs - American and British for the most part. In the Green Fields, you got the hippy fare, chai tents and Indian food. I found a veggie burger truck that was selling them for a quid. I lived off that every day. 

Today festival food costs on average between £7 and £10 a plate. It spans world cuisine, you can eat Chinese, Indian, Venezuelan, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Italian, British (tea and crumpets), Mexican, American food including Southern (fine dining BBQ,) New Orleans and New York, Scandinavian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Spanish, Portuguese, Caribbean, Tibetan, Indonesian, Swiss, Argentine. In fact the only major cuisine that isn't really represented is French. 

People have a horror of toilets at festivals, and it's true that the combination of high-fibre food, fresh air and walking (you walk miles at festivals) meant that the shit-pits required an iron stomach.

Glastonbury isn't on this year. And Glasto has changed - too much for my liking. It's too 'Babylon', too commercial. The last time I went in 2010, I had to pay to get in (after years of bunking in), someone nicked my wheelbarrow, and people in hi-viz waistcoats corralled anyone who wanted to party after-hours along a narrow pathway. This isn't my idea of a festival.

I've tried other festivals, Bestival, Secret Garden Party, Glade, Shindig, all good, but probably the prettiest festival I've ever attended is Latitude in Norfolk.

Latitude festival site is divided into several areas: camping, music, comedy, theatre, literature/talks arenas, the river, the forest and the food offering. There is so much to do.

The Forest:

The forest is magical: there are fairy lights drawing you on, peeking playfully through the trees.  At night you happen upon secret gigs in undiscovered woodland glades. During the day, the trees provide dappled shade, scents of pine, birch and oak. Art works and paintings stand eerily in the hushed wood. 

The heatwave, 30ºc during the day, meant that the forest was a potential tinderbox; the casual flicking of a cigarette could have had devastating consequences. Fire wardens stood around with hose pipes, perpetually staying alert for any sparks.

The heat and the river also meant that the mosquitos, or were they giant gnats? were a problem for people like me, especially in the evening. The bite was painful but didn't last long.

The River:

Latitude festival is bisected by a river.  During the day, you can take a trip on a punt guided by straw-hatted, stripey T-shirted fellows. There is a swimming area in the river which unfortunately I didn't discover until too late. Pink-dyed sheep graze bankside, it's both beautiful and surreal.

At night, tulip shaped street lights mark the path. From the main bridge you can view a stunning spectral (like a Harry Potter patronus charm) lightshow. 

The People:

The audience consists of either parents with young children, teenagers in gangs (but not scary- nice middle class ones) or older adults. As a middle aged woman, I felt very comfortable with the age mix. 

It wasn't a druggy or getting shit-faced drunk type festival either. 

By the way, everyone, and I mean everyone, in the festival, was nice. From security, to shower cleaners, to ordinary punters and people camped either side of you - I didn't meet one arsehole. This is so rare.

The Music:

I almost didn't have time to see any music. I saw Solange, Beyoncés sister, whose album I really liked. Her show was arty, with modern dance moves, and beautifully lit, but somehow didn't connect with the audience. 

I was impressed by James- who are so good live. The Killers were slick light pop music. Probably the most interesting musical offerings were EDM(Electronic Dance Music) - I saw a spooky gig by Clark in the forest with dancers wearing gauzy cloaks, sort of sci-fi horror.

Food really is the new rocknroll, there were more innovative things going on at food stalls than on stage. The dominance and central location of the food stalls only emphasised this.

The Food:

Food at festivals has come along leaps and bounds. At Latitude, the selection of food, circling the globe in terms of variety, was stunning. The quality equally so. Street Feast, who organise night markets in London (I suppose everyone has forgotten that I set up the very first one) brought along a huge selection of food trucks.

Theatre of Food:

It was the first year of The Theatre of Food, a tent with discussions and demonstrations from food writers and chefs.

  • Felicity Cloake did a demonstration of how one pot of cream can make both cultured butter and buttermilk for a soda loaf. 
  • Joanna Blythman talked about processed foods, she said: 
'One factory will make all the lasagnas for all the supermarkets: 9am till 11- Sainsburys: 11 to 1pm- Morrisons, 1 till 3pm- Budgens and so on.'
  • Sally Butcher showed how to make Persian food, a soup called Ash-e-reshteh. 

The Hot House Restaurant:

This is a brilliant concept by Ros Jellett and husband Hugo: a full service restaurant with no kitchen. The food comes from the surrounding food trucks and is served at a table and chairs, with cutlery, Maldon's salt and great decor.  

Food Trucks at Latitude

The cooking cooks

The cooking cooks prepare 4000 portions of fresh pasta for Latitude-  no joke. The results are delicious. It's a bit like Padella but on the road, in a field. Pasta is cooked in baskets, then transferred to a deep frying pan with a sauce and tossed over fire... £7.50 to £9 for a generous bowl. Impressive.

Eat Thai

 Generous, fresh and tasty Thai green curry with smoked tofu by 'Eat Thai'. Thai food is one of my favourite and the perfect thing to eat in 30ºC heat. 

Rainbo gyoza

 Rainbo gyoza had well presented, crisp and tasty gyoza.


Bangwok, run by chef Dong (pictured above), consistently had the longest queues and it serves what it says on the tin - Pad Thai. I had the vegetarian one: fried rice noodles with peanuts, chilli and sauce.


Petare, run by Venezuelans, are determined to make arepas into the new tacos and I think they will succeed. Fresh and filling - bulging fried and split buns stuffed with avocado chunks, plantains and tomatoes. Meat versions are also available. Once people tasted one, they came back for more.

Yum Bun

Yum Bun quite possibly do the best food- beautifully presented steamed buns with exquisite flavours. Everyone was raving about their food.

Urban Falafel

Just to change things up, I had a middle Eastern breakfast from Urban Falafel one day, a well filled wrap with felafel and salad were just what I wanted after a heavy night.

Flank London

Thomas D Griffiths of Flank had an impressive albeit slightly Hellraiser style set-up with meat hanging over a wood fire. He believes in nose to tail eating: as a result of using every part of the animal, he only used four entire cows last year.
I liked his vegetarian offering: fire cooked celeriac, finely shaved doner kebab style, with malt, soy and mirin. 

Vegan waffles

Savoury or sweet, I ordered the cinnamon, chilli and chocolate vegan waffles - really good. 


A vegan food truck near to the Hot House restaurant. I had a vegan doner kebab which was excellent, and the bean balls in chocolate sauce above. 

Raclette Brothers:

I'll be honest, when my friend Jim suggested a portion of raclette from the Raclette Brothers, in that heat, I felt repulsed. One big tray of buttery potatoes, pickles and melted cheese later, I was convinced. This is food that needn't only be eaten on ski slopes.

Anna Mae's

This business started in my back garden and haven't they done well? Stalls everywhere, a book out too, Anna Mae's is on the up n up. 


Argentinian wine

This stall presented a variety of Argentine wines to Latitude customers. When they found out that it was serving the best wine of the festival, they beat a path to the door. 

The Danish Quarter

The Danish quarter is a section of the festival where you can pretend you are in Copenhagen. There is a large wooden structure, long beer tables, a sourdough baker in the morning and a beer bar. 


Pink Moon Camping absolutely saved my arse when it came to showers, sleep and toilets. Although my tent mate Jim was not happy with my snoring. It was my first 'glamping' experience and I have to admit, it is rather nice not having to fill your car or backpack with everything you will need. 

Conclusion: Latitude is a aesthetically beautiful, creative, well organised festival with tons to do. I'll be back. There's so much food I haven't tried, so many talks to attend, so many gigs. 

Friday, 13 July 2018

Football and food, on the Norfolk broads

Boating on the Norfolk broads, pic: Kerstin Rodgers/

Boating on the Norfolk broads, pic: Kerstin Rodgers/
Boating on the Norfolk broads, pic: Kerstin Rodgers/

Norfolk is where the North folk live, in the flatlands under the big sky.
"It's just like Holland" said Jim, my mate, who had come with me to Herbert Woods boatyard, to rent a boat. 
Windmills broke up the windswept horizon.
We had arrived two hours late. Whatever Google maps says, double the time. So many roundabouts.
We had minutes to learn about mud anchors, hooks, ropes, knots and how to drive a bloody great boat when you've never done it before.
And parking! or mooring as it is more properly known. It's not like a car. You use thrusters, the current, the tide, and finally very slow power-steering to back into a space.

Herbert Woods boat/Boating on the Norfolk broads, pic: Kerstin Rodgers/
I'd packed enough food for weeks. London has been sweltering, so desiring freshness, I went overboard on the fruit and veg. For the first night I packed some 'easy' luxury food: a bottle of Sacla truffle pesto and some egg pasta Pasta Di Aldo.
This took only minutes to knock up.
These boats have a satellite TV, so we didn't even have to miss out on the World Cup and Love Island
The first night we camped wild, not at a proper mooring. We stuck hooks in the mud and twisted the blue nylon ropes into figures of eight around the cleats, fore and aft. Incorrectly no doubt but it held for the night.
There are speed limits along the broads, 4, 5, and a maximum of 6mph. When driving you are advised to look behind you,  to look at the wash. Going over the speed limit damages the banks of tall rushes. If you come across a yacht you must slow right down and cut behind them. You must drive 3 or 4 hours a day to charge up the battery.
We watched as sunset glowed orange and grey over the reeds; ducks flew slowly overhead.

Boating on the Norfolk broads, pic: Kerstin Rodgers/
I was woken by the sound of swans 'coughing'.
I tried to remember how to use the pump toilet.
Today we headed under a dark sky towards Wroxham: we want to be near a good pub with a big telly for tomorrow's World Cup final. It's coming home but we are away.
My first time backing into a mooring was hairy: two fisherman with cups of tea stayed cool as I moved perilously to within inches of their boat.
"It's not our boat" they laughed.
Along the way, we peered at thatched houses with sooty beams and decorative herringbone ridges. Thatch used to be a sign of poverty, but is now a badge of the rustic middle class country house. A well constructed thatched roof will last 50 to 60 years. Norfolk reeds are used for thatching in the broads, and are famous for their quality.
In medieval times, wheat was also used, being very tall, around six foot. The present day digestive problems with wheat is that it is modified to be short, to make it easier to harvest by combine harvesters. Tall wheat did not cause digestive difficulties.
thatched cottage/Boating on the Norfolk broads, pic: Kerstin Rodgers/

Tonight I made water spinach with rice noodles.

Recipe for cheaty vaguely 'Thai' dish

Vaguely Thai dish/Boating on the Norfolk broads, pic: Kerstin Rodgers/

Wash the water spinach and separate the leaves from the stems.
Chop the stems into small sections.
Using an Asian veg multipack, I sliced up spring onions (separating the green and pale green sections), baby corn, mange tout and broccoli.
I finely sliced 3 cloves of garlic and 1 red chilli (removing the seeds).
Fry in olive oil.
Fry the light white part of the spring onion, the water spinach stems, the corn.
Add the broccoli and mange tout.
Add a can of coconut milk (check for percentage of coconut milk on tin).
I lacked soy sauce so I added plenty of salt and a little sugar.
Then I added the rice noodles, stirring gently as they absorbed the coconut milk.
I squeezed the juice of a lime.
Finally a sprinkling of fresh coriander and basil leaves.
Serve with lager.

Every morning we check the oil, the water and the 'weed' filter.
Most moorings are free, some cost £3 to £5 for the night. There are places to top up with water or to empty the bilge.

The kitchen is well equipped: sink, 4 ring gas hob, small fridge/freezer. You have everything you need.
There are two bedrooms, prow and stern and a sofa that can be turned into a bed.
You need at least 2 adults: one to be skipper, the other to be able to jump off and cast off or on (or is that knitting?).

Boating on the Norfolk broads, pic: Kerstin Rodgers/
The boat is quite easy to drive, but we almost had a mishap struggling to fit under the mouse-hole bridge at Wroxham. We were told of one bridge where we'd have difficulty, but it wasn't this one. As we neared the tiny humpback bridge, I realised we wouldn't fit. A boat coming the other way pushed forward and a man shouted at us:
'I'm a pilot. You should read your handbook.'
'I did'
'You should  know that you can't fit under this bridge'
In the end I lost my rag and called him an "arrogant twat".
We turned around and moored, £20 overnight, at Wroxham Hotel. The phone rang.
'Did you try and go under Wroxham bridge?'Herbert Woods queried.
News travels fast. I expect the arrogant twat pilot grassed us up.

Our boat, Olympic Light 1, good for cold weather, is very warm when the sun is out. It was blazing hot. England flags fluttered on many boats and from peoples fences and windows.

Wroxham village is small but contains a Mcdonalds, a couple of expensive charity shops and several shops called 'Roys'.
At a department store called Roys, I did some shopping.
Speaking to myself I announced aloud my shopping list:
Two women giggled.
Roys is like a 1950s department store. The underwear department had large bras, full girdles, firm control pants and petticoats. Proper.
It's been open since 1895 and calls itself 'The world's largest village shop'.

At the Kings Head pub, we asked if we could reserve a table for the World Cup semi-final that night.
'Sorry, all booked up. Get here by 4pm to fit in' said the barman. 'Everyone will be coming here straight from work at 5.'
England are playing Croatia in the first semi since 1990. I remember that semi-final, I watched it silently in Argentina. The English weren't terribly popular at that time, so I kept it quiet.

When you cook on a boat you have to think of energy as well as ingredients: I'm making black bean soup. You don't have to soak turtle beans but I did, to shorten cooking time. I then brought the beans to the boil and put on the lid, putting it down to a simmer for half an hour. Later, when we return from football, I can light up again and simmer for another half hour. This way, I reduce 2/12 hours cooking time to 1 hour.
Boating on the Norfolk broads, pic: Kerstin Rodgers/

Black Bean soup with avocado recipe

100g black turtle beans
1 heaped tbsp of epazote
1 dried Mexican chilli
1 tbsp of paprika
2 avocado leaves.
Juice of 1 lime

Sling all the ingredients into a pot of cold water. Leave to soak for a couple of hours.
Then bring to a boil and simmer for half an hour. Put on a lid, go watch the game and put it on for another half hour when you return.
I served with a scoop of sour cream, some avocado slices, a squeeze of lime, and fresh coriander.

We watched England at the Kings Head. The barman kept saying it would be packed By London standards it wasn't.
We saved our seats from 4pm and kick off was at 7pm.
Behind us stood 2 young white men who frequently boomed "Bastid".
Then a chant would start from one end of the pub to the other in a round like Frere Jacques.
While waiting for the game to start, Jim quizzed me on football.
'You actually know quite a lot about football', he said, which pleased me. 'Most girls don't even know who Pele is,' he added.
I remember Gazza crying as he got a second yellow card, knowing he couldn't play in the semis. They've stopped that now. They used to reset the yellow cards after the last 16. Now they do it at the quarter finals.
I realised I'd stopped watching England in the World Cup for the last few years as it was too painful. The penalties killed me. It was actually too stressful.
Wayne Rooney's piggish antics put me off: a wealthy footballer who didn't seem to care about his country only his huge salary.
I remember seeing Michael Owen at 18 soaring over the grass, playing young and free while he had no pressure on.
I remember Wayne being like that too, before he turned into a bloated multi-millionaire.
Boating on the Norfolk broads, pic: Kerstin Rodgers/
The minute I saw the Croatian team come out, my heart sank a little. This team was formed of men, hardened soldiers, mohicanned vikings, against ruddy-cheeked boys.
Play your little hearts out, I whispered to England, don't hold back, you've nothing to lose.
Trippier scored an early goal at 5 minutes. It seemed too easy.
It was.
The second half saw Croatia determined to equalise.
Extra time and Croatia were up two goals to our one.
The pub was silent- trying to stymie the grief which was sure to come.
'I'd settle for penalties now' said Jim.
Me too.
Once that happened, the delaying tactics by Croatia were in full force: walking to the other side of the pitch when you know you are going to be substituted, walking as slowly as fucking possible back, literally pigeon steps. Making every throw in or corner as slow and inept as possible. Stretching and shrinking time.

The pub was half empty by the end. The spirit drained out of us quietly.
When we got back to the boat, we realised the TV didn't work. The power had run out. I called the engineer, who confirmed this.
I thought I misheard at first, but several times he called me 'my woman'. You need to charge up for six hours. He mentioned my bridge antics:
'We saw that on webcam'
Sad and disappointed, Jim and I watched a shit film, 'Love Simon', by candlelight, until the power on the laptop ran out.

Having sunk a rare three pints of lager, I went to bed.


Slept like a baby. Awoke naturally at 8 am. Quick cuppa then must leave before 9 am from this expensive mooring (£20! and no facilities)
For breakfast I made mushrooms on toast.
mushrooms on toast/ Boating on the Norfolk broads, pic: Kerstin Rodgers/

Mushrooms on Toast recipe

a few drops of olive oil 
a slab of butter
a few coriander seeds
2 cloves of garlic, sliced finely
200g of button mushrooms ( I used them whole)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
4 slices of bread (sourdough or seeded)
Plenty of salty butter
Fresh coriander or parsley leaves

Put olive oil and butter into a deep frying pan. Add a few coriander seeds, the garlic and the mushrooms. Fry gently until golden. Season.
Toast the bread until golden. Add butter.
Throw the mushrooms on to the toast. 
Garnish with the herbs.

It's cloudy and overcast but not cold.
We drank cups of tea while driving up top. There are two driving positions: inside and on the top. On the top you can see better. You only go inside for bridges and rain.
ice cream boat. Boating on the Norfolk broads, pic: Kerstin Rodgers/
We passed a police boat, a steam boat with a copper chimney and an icecream lady boat.

We made our way to Stalham, and visited the Museum of the Broads.
The Norfolk broads are not natural but the result of peat and reed harvesting. Norfolk reeds make the best thatches for grooves. The broads date from Viking times (even Ragnar Lothbrok was in the area).
Whole families used to make their living on boats. There is a replica of a wherry, a passenger carrying Norfolk barge, with a tiny Aga style oven.

Once charged up at Richardson's boat house, we drove back towards Potter Height. We moored in a wild place a couple of hours from Herbert Woods boatyard. We have to bring back the boat by 9am Friday morning. Orange-billed ducks seemed unfazed by their new neighbours.
In the distance was a drainage mill.
We feasted, rather too much, on a Middle Eastern style meal: chilli halloumi, falafel, Norfolk new potatoes basted in butter and coriander, hummus and chilli sauce. I also made a Norfolk apple pie from Bramleys, which didn't look pretty but tasted great.
Jim and I were tired and went to bed after Love Island.

The alarm went off at 7am but I couldn't physically get up for another half hour. Jim made thick doorsteps of buttery Marmite on toast. It took three pots of tea before we made it back to the boatyard.

Boating on the Norfolk broads, pic: Kerstin Rodgers/


4 nights for 2 people at peak time costs £653 for the boat, plus £45 insurance and fuel.
Book through Herbert Woods.