September Munchies: Return of The Devizes Food & Drink Festival

A festival of gluttonous magnitude descends on Devizes, as the market town welcomes the return of The Devizes Food & Drink Festival. As per-usual, with the exception of the write-off year last, no corner has been left unturned in order to burst the box office when tickets go live on in fortnight, Monday 16th August.

Running later this year, Saturday 25th September to Sunday 3rd October, The Devizes Food & Drink Festival has a full schedule and a variety of interesting food and drink related events, of which I will attempt to sum up here, without getting the munchies and having to nip off for a fish finger sandwich… what? Nothing wrong with a fish finger sandwich, staple diet, mate!

The celebrated Street Food & Artisan Market kicks the show off, its’ free, it’s my favourite in years gone by, primarily because of the free F’s; Food, Festival and Free! From 10am to 4pm, on Saturday 25th September, Devizes Market Place will be “cheese toastie oozing deliciously,” with a generous selection of stalls, sampling wonderful dishes and take-home buys from local producers and traders, not forgetting the Wadworth Bar and live music.

Soul food, also on that day, as author of two successful cookery books and currently cooking up a storm on Weekend Best, ITV Saturday mornings with Martin and Roman Kemp, Shivi Ramoutar will be demonstrating pulled pork shoulder tacos with a pineapple salsa and jerk mayo, 10.30 at the Corn Exchange for £3.

Food writer and columnist for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Great Taste Award judge and author of several cookery books, Xanthe Clay will help save on the washing up with a demonstration of delicious one-pan dishes at midday, for another £3.

Kitty Tait, the teenager from Oxfordshire who’s setting the baking world alight at The Orange Bakery in Watlington, Oxfordshire, is on from 2pm at Corn Exchange.

And the evening can be spent at Belle Bathrooms on Sidmouth Street where you can dine somewhere different.

On Sunday, forget the Wurzels, you can get some scrumpy ‘round ‘ere; it’s all down to Bromham’s Cider Shed at 11.45, where craft cider maker, Roger Blake conducts you through the cider-making journey from apple blossom to bottle, seeing orchard, press and end product.

Later, for the younger, Hillworth park has a teddy bear’s picnic, for just £2.50, for storytelling, games, and a healthy picnic. There will be a special guest, possibly the largest teddy in all Devizes – the Julia’s House Bear.

Salem Chapel, on New Park Street is where to dine somewhere different on Monday 27th September, lunchtime Loaves & Fishes, and Eve’s Pudding and enjoy a glimpse of days gone by in Devizes courtesy of local historian Dave Buxton.  

Peter Vaughan shows you how to prepare some deliciously fragrant dishes from Goa, at his Cookery School, on Hopton. The cuisine is a unique mix of Mediterranean with a tropical Indian blend.

And Monday evening could be spent at The Literary & Scientific Institute for the Great Foodie Quiz, or stargazing in a pod at Erlestoke for an out-of-this-world five course meal.

Zooming back to earth Tuesday, to have lunch among the flowers of Superior Plants in Market Lavington, and an evening meal at the Bear Hotel. The five-course menu will be created by Wadworth’s Executive Development Chef, Andrew Scott, who has worked in several Michelin starred restaurants as well as appearing on BBC2’s Great British Menu, and the meal will be paired with wines chosen and described by experts from Wadworth’s wine supplier Bibendum.

Gin masterclass, is a wise way to end Wednesday 29th September, at the The Vaults on St John’s Street. Local distillery Scout & Sage invite you to learn all about gin, or Devizes Books presents readings from Kipling, Tagore, a Plain Tale from the Raj and some Spike Milligan, with three courses of the delicious cuisine of the sub-continent, at St John’s Parish Rooms.

Cheese Hall, at Devizes Town Hall has foodie written all over it. An illustrated talk by art historian Clare Ford-Wille on Food in Art from the Romans to Cezanne on Thursday 30th September. Or perhaps a murder mystery dinner might be your thing? Also at Devizes Town Hall, with The All Cannings Players, bringing you a murder story, Rough Justice, involving an amateur dramatics group, and, naturally, a three-course dinner.

Friday 1st October, is foraging day, meeting points will be supplied with tickets, as small group walks search for edible and usable plants within the boundaries of Devizes. Lunch at the studio of Devizes contemporary artist, Bee Thomas, or take an expert tutorial at Wadworth’s Brewery in signwriting with Wadworth’s sign painter, Wayne Ritchings.

Then the firm fixture on the festival calendar, Friday, the Come Dine With Us experience without the cameras and annoying narration!

A new weekend upon them, there’s an invitation to Horton House Farm on Saturday 2nd October, and the grounds of Parkdale House has a steam engine, on the old Devizes Branch Line; you could be dining underneath the arches, barbecue style.

But thus, this sees the end of The Devizes Food & Drink Festival, with one of the most ingenious events the festival has launched. The World Food event, free at the Corn Exchange Sunday 3rd October from 12.30. Explore the globe on a plate. An event for all the family, where local residents with far flung roots invite you to sample a family favourite from their homeland. Basically, you get little taster portions for 50p a pop. Such a novel idea, and wonderful way to end the festival

 I’m hungry mentioning all this, anyone got a biscuit? No, not a garibaldi, I want nothing less than custard cream, thank you! More info, and to book tickets, click here.


Rural Wiltshire’s Sensational Soul Food with Sujay’s Jerk Pan Kitchen

When you live in a market town such as Devizes it’s inevitable when driving through any city to become overwhelmed and perhaps a smidgen envious at the variety of cuisine on offer; look, Nepalese dal-bhat-tarkari street food, outside a lacto-vegetarian Mongolian bistro, next door to a vegan Venezuelan arepas snack bar! You name it, a metropolitan milieu will probably have it. Here, while it’s hailed as some of the best; Italian, Chinese and Indian are about our limitations, unless you chance a kebab.

So nice then, that Sujay’s Jerk Pan Kitchen has gifted us an addition, if variety is the spice of life, it’s high time we had a taste of the Caribbean. Sporadically shacked up in the Shambles prior to the lockdown, Pauline and the team has never been busier since introducing a drop box delivery service; perhaps she doesn’t need me to hype it up as word travels fast; this is an authentically tasty treat.

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Through my love of reggae, I’m rivetted by all things Caribbean, the easy-going culture, the colours and sweetness of those exotic islands in the sun, the sounds, linguistics, the art, and of course the food. And that’s before I even went there! The only member of my family lucky enough to have taken the once-in-a-lifetime trip, I wondered if Sujay could return my taste-buds to the West Indies in the same way as a jouvert jam would for my ears, but I was unsure if the family would take to the idea. Surprised then I was when the better-half suggested we ordered, arm twisted, and before I could recite a verse of Three Little Birds our drop box was ordered for Saturday afternoon.

Caribbean food is not customarily a Michelin star a-la-carte affair, rather the traditional roots rest in amazing street food and home cooking, therefore styles and recipes can vary, and this is precisely what you get. You should note I’m no Jay Rayner, I’ll hoof the loot without coming up for air, and if it’s tasty I’m going to tell you, and if it’s not I believe honest criticism is virtuous; it’s all unpretentious evaluation rather than vernacular condemnation. This though, arrived at our door on time with a smile, and was everything it’s been rated as being.

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So good I didn’t contemplate taking a photo for use here, sorry, but I simply didn’t have the will power to resist getting stuck straight in!

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Me, I went for the goat curry as I’ve never tried it. Sticking to custom it is as it should be, a quite humble green paste curry, spices, with chunks of goat. But served with traditional rice and peas (peas being a black bean rather than European green peas) the simpler formula is often the preferred and I loved every bite, as did the wife. I added a side dish of plantains, imagine a fried banana that thinks it’s a potato and you’re somewhere near the mark.

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For the daughter, and of course with portions so generous some of it naturally found its way onto my plate, the classic jerk chicken with a side of chicken wings, and another colossal portion of rice and peas. Perhaps no other dish so popular varies from handed down home recipe as much as this one in Caribbean food, but I’ve tasted a variety. If Levi Roots has marketed a certain blistering style and tailored his own methods, Sujay’s is closer to what I’ve tried in Barbados. Much more subtle with the hotness, but nice on the spice. I also reserve at Caribbean street chicken disguising cheap meat with a high dosage of hot paste but this is not the case here, the untainted wings would’ve revealed, but these too were exceptionally scrumptious and clear that the quality of the ingredients were not skipped on.

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If Sujay’s Jerk Pan Kitchen doesn’t deserve enough kudos with you for providing fifty meals earlier this week for the NHS staff with the organisation of Tailor-Made Events, or serving brown stew chicken and stew pork with rice and peas to the homeless and vulnerable on the streets of Swindon this evening, maybe its time you sampled some of their sensational soul food yourself?

Tams off to Sujay’s then, the perfect meal with a difference for our rurally repressed palate. Irie, as they say in the JA, gurt lush as we might say here! I’m not ganderflanking yer mucker, this is the soul food of Wiltshire and will whisk your taste buds to a tropical paradise faster than Beenie Man can wax lyrical a monostich; pass the rum punch!

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