Lindy Wildsmith was billed as one of the main attractions, demonstrating some techniques from her book Cured: salted, spiced, dried, smoked, potted, pickled and raw, so her publisher, who'd sent me the press release, sent me a copy of the book to play with too.
I confess, that I was a little disappointed by the reality of the Festival. It was on a much smaller scale than I had anticipated, there was no defining signage and it all felt a bit slapdash. We wandered around Southbank for a while, trying to see if there was another section of market tents that looked more Festivalesque before realising that no, that was it.
On the other hand, there was a Polish sausage stall pumping out absolutely dynamite lunchboxes. My grilled, smoked sausage, dill-redolent potatoes, salad and pickles was just what was required on a cold autumn day.
We stepped into the small "main tent" for what was billed as a French pate tasting and was in fact high comedy. Apparently the producer had been approached to participate, couldn't be bothered and sent a few tins of pate over. So they were plonked on the tables with about as much ceremony they deserved and a friendly passing French man was coopted to read the labels for us.
Then it was Lindy's turn. She demonstrated a couple of techniques from her book and passed around samples to taste. Lindy was very warm and engaging and made everything look very accessible, but there wasn't anything particularly new for me in it. The most interesting thing, for me, was the audience. There was a group from The School of Artisan Food - which I had never heard of and now I want to go - and a woman with the most extraordinarily dissatisfied facial expression. It was amazing. It was like every time she tasted anything she put her whole being into showing how much she disliked it.
After the demonstration we did a bit of shopping, picking up some smoked cheese from Artisan Smokehouse and some gorgeous ham and salami from Cannon and Cannon.
Then it was home to play with my copy of Cured.
It's a pretty good starting point for a beginner I think. Not a lot in the way of outlandish ingredients or equipment, very clear explanations and good general principles that you can apply. It's not going to replace my other preserving books, but it certainly deserves a place alongside them. The duck confit, streaky bacon and salt beef that I made were all very successful.