Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Festivals and picnics

Once more unto the festival breach we went, and this time the sun shone and the heat beat down. After our wash-out (though still enjoyable) experience of Henley Festival, we were keen for a taste of a more traditional festival. Eco Sis had done a thorough trawl of possibilities earlier in the summer, and we picked Womad, a festival of world music held near Malmesbury in Wiltshire as our second try. It could hardly have been more different from the Henley Festival (although it did share one band - Show of Hands, the folk duo plus guest singer we'd enjoyed so much). It was much bigger, much hotter, with a lot more bands, and generally a lot less clothing per visitor. Bikini tops and small shorts were the order of the day for the ladies, and bare chests for a lot of the men. We all stayed a lot more clad ourselves, but it was the sort of place where anything went. The whole festival lasted all weekend and there was a nice leisurely atmosphere, no doubt cultivated by the people who were in no particular rush as they had days to soak up the rays and the music. We just went for the Sunday but the chilled feeling rubbed off on us too, and we definitely took things at a nice slow pace.

Picnic: individual drunken-housemate-surviving Eco salad at bottom; pongy Eco cheese to left; roast aubergine dip, right; roast pepper dip, top right

We got there at about 12.30, so we started off with a picnic on the grass in listening distance of the BBC3 tent, in the shade of a tree (The Scientist and I both get grumpy if we're in the sun too much, and I didn't like to inflict that on the Ecos). We brought our posh picnic backpack with us, plus some pittas, an aubergine dip and a red pepper dip, both courtesy of Moosewood Low Fat Favourites. The aubergine one, which is flavoured with sesame oil, soy sauce, star anise seeds and rice vinegar, was a big hit, though the roasted pepper one (with cannellini beans and lemon) needed a bit more flavour [update: the leftovers made a very nice pasta sauce with some softened onion and fennel :)]. The Ecos offered some delightfully pongy cheese (I was so relieved when they got it out as I'd thought the aroma was something odd in our car! Or them, but I hadn't liked to mention that) and some salad, very ingeniously packed in one-person-portions in saved take-away containers that they could bin. There were recycling bins everywhere round the ground, so we could even dispose of them thoughtfully. Their plan had been slightly scuppered when their housemate got home drunk the night before and ate one of the salads, but they had been generous in their portions, so no matter. For dessert I'd made a raspberry and oat slice, based on a tried and trusted Delia recipe for plum and cinnamon oat slice. I'd healthied it up a bit in the past, substituting half of the butter with applesauce, and cutting back on the sugar. I'd actually meant to include some choc chips this time as I had become taken with the combination of raspberries and chocolate when I saw the lush berries at our farmers market this week, but forgot. I was probably too busy eating the extra berries and lost focus. Anyway, this time I subbed raspberries and coconut instead of plums and cinnamon and it was delicious. I halved the recipe and it made one big slice each. Oh, those berries were good. I wish I'd bought more.

The picnic taken care of we meandered into the main part of the park, and spent some time ambling, orienting ourselves, and narrowly missing a lot of music through indecisiveness and distractability. There were several very big tents and several smaller ones, and the acts ranged over practically the whole globe including song, instrumentals and dance. We watched a dance display but didn't dare join in, and a Japanese drumming workshop which looked and sounded amazing. We got ourselves organised to listen to a Chinese singer which was very good, though got a bit much for me after a while, so I went for a wander round the stalls and craft stands. I managed to restrict myself to buying a couple of cards - Eco Bro got the award for most inventive purchase: a mandolin, which he stashed back in the car asap to avoid being asked for a performance (he has yet to learn how to play it, but we await an impromptu virtuoso rendition with Eco Sis on the tin whistle at our next visit).

Festival flags and Big Blue Tent

As well as clothing, craft and music stalls there were loads of food vendors and a lot of veggie options. We fitted in a quick taste survey before Show of Hands came on - the Ecos both went for burritos (Eco Bro's favourite) which were ok, I had a garlic mushroom crepe which was v tasty (cue 'I'm loving my dinner' dance), and The Scientist had a chickeny thing in pitta, and then a banana and chocolate crepe with enough chocolate to induce a sugar coma. Luckily he recovered in time to drive home. Show of Hands were just as good as they were in Henley (though slightly more casually dressed) and I've since ordered two of their CDs as I liked them so much. By that time it was mercifully cooler, and we headed off home at about 8.30. I realise that this post is a bit short on the music we heard but really it was more about soaking up atmosphere and background music than hearing particular bands for us. The choice was amazing, and although I enjoyed good old West Country Show of Hands the most, the Japanese drumming was a good second. I get grumpy when I camp as well so I'm not sure I'd go for the whole thing, but you could possibly bribe me with the vegan canteens!

Show of Hands with guest Miranda Sykes performing

I'm sending my picnic raspberry oaty slices to Susan at Food Blogga as she's hosting this month's Sugar High Friday, which has berries as its theme.

Raspberry oaty slices (adapted from Delia)

Makes 4 large slices or 8 squares

225g raspberries (I used fresh but I'm sure frozen would work - though might need draining)
1 tsp desiccated coconut (or more - you couldn't taste them too strongly in my version)
75g porridge oats
140g plain wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp salt
55g butter/marge
55g unsweetened applesauce
30-55g light brown soft sugar, depending on taste (the lower end isn't too sweet but not in the 'this must be good for me' bracket)

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/400F/200C.

Lightly grease a loaf tin

Place berries in a bowl and toss gently with the coconut.

Mix the flour and oats together with the salt in a mixing bowl, then melt the butter and sugar in a small saucepan over a fairly low heat, stirring from time to time until the butter has melted. Add the melted butter and sugar to the oat mixture, and then add the applesauce. Mix, starting with a wooden spoon but finishing off with your hands so you end up with a lump of dough. Halve the dough and press one half into the cake tin, pressing it down ('like a wall-to-wall carpet', says Delia, but you get the general idea). Next scatter the berries evenly over the surface, then top with the remaining oat mixture, again pressing down firmly.

Bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 25-30 mins, or a bit longer if you like it crispier. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 mins before marking out squares or slices. Serve warm, or allow to cool completely in the tin.


Susan from Food Blogga said...

Hi Lysy,

It sounds like you had a wonderful time. And you ate like royalty! I wish I was at that picnic. I appreciate that you made the raspberry bars healthier. Then you can eat more with less guilt. :)
Thanks for the yummy SHF entry!

Lysy said...

Glad you liked the sound of it! The bars are fantastic and the plum version is really good too. And they freeze if there are any leftovers. Must make more...

Johanna said...

sounds like fun and great food - those bars look great with the fresh berries. Festivals are such a great way to try music (and food) in small nibbles. But I am no fan of camping either