Feeding 1,200 people a three-course dinner is a tall order. When those 1,200 people are going to be at the Farmers Weekly Awards in London on 4 October, celebrating the best food producers in the country, it becomes even more important to do justice to the ingredients.
To make sure we got it right on the night, Farmers Weekly decided to enlist some expert help, in the form of BBC Radio 2’s food and drink presenter Nigel Barden.
Having grown up in a house in the middle of a Lancashire beef and sheep farm, Nigel has a strong appreciation of all the work that goes on behind the scenes to create a great plate of food.
“I worked on the farm from a very early age, haymaking and looking after stock,” he says. “It’s why I’ve always had a great love of agriculture.”
His background has undoubtedly helped shape his unique presenting style. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of local producers – from Northern Irish beef farmers making award-winning corned beef, to cobnut oil producers from Kent – and you’ll often find him namechecking them on his show.
But, despite making a living from eating, cooking and talking about some of the country’s most extraordinary foods, Nigel is under no illusions about the challenges facing producers. “Farmers are bent in the wind like a good field of barley all too often,” he says.
“Credence should be given to them for what they do. They are marvellous multitaskers – physical but able to run a business with all the modern elements of marketing and financial nous. It’s tougher than ever and we should be supporting them.”
Bringing all this knowledge and expertise to our tasting day (and far more refined taste buds than anyone from Farmers Weekly) Nigel had the onerous task of eating his way through three starters, three main courses and three desserts – not to mention sampling 11 glasses of wine.
After three hours and much deliberation, these are the dishes that earned a place on the menu.
“Bearing in mind our audience, it’s quite protein-rich,” explains Nigel. “But even if you are a carnivore, do try to snaffle some of the goats cheese tart from someone’s plate because it’s really good.”
2012 Farmers Weekly Awards menu
Hereford beef carpaccio, crispy fried shallots, horseradish, courgette and basil salad
St Tola’s goats cheese, leek and walnut tart, beetroot and balsamic dressing (v)
Aubergine and British vegetable timbale, tomato butter sauce, vine cherry tomatoes, roast potatoes and stem broccoli (V)
Roast Cornish rump of lamb, preserved lemon and rosemary jus, potato gratin with wild mushrooms, stem broccoli and baby carrots
English dessert quartet: warm Bakewell tart, raspberry and rosewater sorbet, shot of sherry trifle and brandy snap biscuit with vanilla cream
Find out more about the 2012 Farmers Weekly Awards including details on how to books tables for the event’s glittering London awards bash.Rachel Jones on G+