Abergavenny to London via Jerusalem with Pop-Up Kitchens and Autumn Flowers

Abergavenny to London via Jerusalem with

Pop-Up Kitchens and Autumn Flowers

I have been promising to write about my recent travels and adventures over the last few weeks or so, but, there is a lot to fit in as I have been travelling and attending press days, charity events, conferences, workshops, competitions and meals for the last four weeks; so, I bring you the first of my “Traveller’s Foodie Tales” which covers Abergavenny to London. (the “via Jerusalem” will become clear soon!) I was lucky enough to be invited by Organic Food UK to attend the Abergavenny Food Festival, with an opportunity to enjoy  a meal at “The Friday Night Fry Up” Pop-Up Kitchen with Jane Baxter (and Claire Robertson of Hidden Dining)Jane Baxter used to be head chef of the award-winning Riverford Field Kitchen in Devon. She trained at the Carved Angel under Joyce Molyneux before going on to the River Café. She is the author of the Riverford Farm Cookbook and, with Guy Watson, co-author of Recipes for Everyday and Sunday. The Friday night fry up was in fact an opportunity to sample an amazing tasting menu using local organic ingredients. The menu comprised:

Gin and tonic with Rosemary aperitif


Venison Carpaccio and Boudin Noir, celeriac apple and mustard

Crab Salad, courchamps sauce and asparagus

Sweet cured Herrings, fennel and orange

Smoked Eel, blini, beetroot and horseradish


Fave with Padron Peppers

Lamb Leg coked in salt pastry, pepperonata

Lamb Shoulder cooked in milk, chard


Creamed corn

Artichokes leek gratin

Beans with anchovy, tomato and chilli

Potato, almond croquettes


Figs baked with Grappa, honey and creme fraiche

Raspberry gratin

Cobnut upside down pudding



Perl Las, Perl Wen and Golden Cenarth


Coffee and chocolates


Iced Marmalade Vodka digestif



Red: Costieres de Nimes “Marginal” (Languedoc, France)

White: Grenache Blanc Virgile Joly (Languedoc, France)

Sweet dessert wine – Stellar – “Heaven on Earth” (S Africa)

Asparagus © Llansantfraed Court Hotel

Asparagus (photo courtesy Llansantfraed Court Hotel)

The food was all donated and was impeccably cooked – I enjoyed every bite of it; my wine glass was constantly filled by two dinner companions sat next to me and opposite me, none other than Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, co-authors of Jerusalem. We chatted all evening about the food we were served, which was innovative and beautifully prepared, their exhausting book signing schedule, as  well as my family, my recipes and my site here! I had an amazing evening and it was a thrill to sit next to Yotam and Sami and share cooking and ingredients tips! I have their book, of course, and I will be reviewing it, as well as trying my hand at some of their recipes over the next few weeks. I don’t have time to cover the whole food festival here, sadly, but you can read all about it here: Abergavenny Festival Guide 2012. With thanks to the Organic Naturally Different campaign  for my invite, and also for the amazing “organic goodie bag” too……stuffed full of organic and fairtrade ingredients, as well as a copy of Discover Organic cookbook .

Lavender & Lovage

Moving on to London now and Blog Camp; I attended the Birmingham Blog Camp in April, you can read all about it here: Blog Camp UK – Cake, SEO, Friends, Wine & Cornish Pasties…….I had such a wonderful time there, that I was keen to attend the London one, as I would have a chance to meet new people and also learn new skills at blogging etc. Blog Camp London was held at the Google Campus, and after a fairly hectic tube journey, I finally arrived to see lots of familiar and friendly faces, as well as some new ones. The event was sponsored (it was all FREE!) by Cross Pens, who left us all a lovely “goodie bag” with a NEW Cross Click pen in there, boxed, with a “doodle” pad too. NEW Cross Click pen – a sleek writing instrument which combines smooth-flowing gel ink technology with a clever ‘click’ mechanism.  Thanks to Cross Click, expressing one’s thoughts and ideas has never been more easy or enjoyable.  The quick ‘click’ system and smooth gel ink of this must-have pen will help your ideas flow, and ignite your creative flair; whether you’re writing notes, lists or even doodling at the top of your page. Cross understands that some of our biggest thoughts and ideas often start as simple doodles, notes, and sketches; and, that putting pen to paper can give life to great ideas, and that an uninterrupted flow, aided by a smooth writing experience, can deliver the beginnings of something inspirational. So on the day, the Cross team set us a very special creative challenge – to DOODLE our blog/website with one of their pens, for a prize! You can see my “Blog Doodle” above, and guess what? I WON the top prize for my Lavender and Lovage doodle, and my fabulous prize was a Nexus 7 Tablet! 

Tots100 BlogCamp parent blogger events

On the day we had talks and lectures on and about:  

Basic and advanced Google+ techniques

Tutorial on using StumbleUpon

How to be a snark (and get away with it)

Using your blog to market your book


I had a great time, as always, a group of us made our way to a wine bar after the event for a few glasses, before saying goodbye and making our way home. With thanks to Sally and all the other organisers at Tots 100 and Foodies 1oo who always make these events so informative and fun.

Hand Tied and Vase Arrangement

Still in London, I was lucky enough to attend another one of Interflora’s fabulous flower schools once again; you can read about my last floral experience here:  A Summer Garden Party Flower Arranging Evening at the Interflora Flower School. This time the class was “A Celebration of Autumn Colour” with David Ragg and David Denyer.  As always, the classes are held in the graceful and elegant Chandos House, a beautiful Georgian town house located in the heart of London’s West End, just a few minutes walk from Oxford Circus tube station. I was also asked if I would like to bring a guest with me, so I invited my good friend, Fiona from London Unattached, who has also written about our lovely day here: Making a Tied Bouquet with Interflora – Easy !!! You can see her in action below, as she makes her formal arrangement……..

Interflora Flower School

The class was held in a large, light and airy room, where David Ragg and David Denyer, our tutors and experts, were waiting to welcome us, with tea or coffee. The room was filled with flowers, and a long “work” table was set up in the centre of the room; we were told that we would be working with two arrangements, a hand-tied bouquet, as well as a more formal arrangement in a basket with containers in it. The theme was a Celebration of Autumn Colour and the flowers that adorned the room were certainly very autumnal with rich orange, tangerine, yellow, bordeaux, pink and chocolate red in abundance. There were flowers as well as foliage and grasses, and some strange-looking black sticks, called Midelino sticks, which are commonly used on floristry.

Hand Tied Bouquet

David Ragg was the tutor for the hand-tied bouquet, and I was fascinated to see how effortlessly he appeared to make it! He told us to “add the flowers as if you were playing a violin” and not to get the stems tangled together, as well as be bold with “blocking” flowers and colours together, and not to be too symmetrical. Once the hand-tied bouquet is ready to be trimmed and tied, to check if it is firm and holds together, you should be able to stand it on the table , as he did, and as you can see in my photos above. We all set about making our own hand-tied bouquets afterwards, with the two David’s on hand to help us. I was VERY pleased with my bouquet and I feel that I am confident enough to make my own hand-tied bouquets at home now……

Hand-Tied Bouquet

My Hand-Tied Bouquet

….the bouquet was added to a “glass fish bowl” and oak leaves were floated in it for extra effect, which coloured the water after a few hours and added the to the beauty if the arrangement.  We had a break, with scones, jam, cream and fruit salad being served, before the wine was poured (how convivial) and David Denyer started his demonstration for a formal arrangement in a large pedestal vase. He then showed  us how to make a static more formal arrangement, in a basket with small tubs in it…..and with oasis florist’s foam as a base for our arrangement.

Formal Flower Arrangement

The arrangement was made up of stunning a vibrant colours, and was very unusual, with visual emphasis being at different levels…..the glasses of wine helped me with my creativity…….

Wine and flowers

…….and again, I was thrilled with the results of my arrangement! The instruction for the day was friendly and although very informative, it was pleasantly informal. The venue was perfect and the refreshments were just right for an afternoon session….you take your floral  arrangements home with you, so make sure you take a large bag with you!    I would recommend one of these classes to anyone who loves flowers and wants to learn how to be more adventurous with arrangements at home, both amateurs and those who are more skilled, plus, one of these courses would make a fabulous gift too……a list of the classes available is on the Interflora website here:  Flower School Classes. 

Flower Classes

With thanks to Bethany from Interflora who organised my flower class and also a big thanks to David Ragg and David Denyer who were brilliant tutors and made the whole afternoon so much fun as well as being instructional……that’s it for today, I will be back tomorrow with a late meal plan and some RECIPES! Karen



    • says

      No not grumpy Fiona, just engrossed! It was a really lovely day and I would love to attend another one…….glad you enjoyed it as much as me! Karen

  1. says

    To arrange flowers is an art and I feel you need to be pretty creative to do a good job! So many inspiring compositions and what a day, it must be so interesting attendig a blog camp, so many tips to share.

  2. says

    Oh well done Karen. You’ve done so well and come such a long way since you started your blog. I’m trying not to be envious of your organic sponsorship which sounds right up my street, but so glad you got to go. And you got to meet such interesting people there too – I’d have just been tongue tied! I hadn’t realised Jane Baxter had left Riverford Field Kitchen. We’ve only managed to eat there once a long time ago and it remains in my memory as one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. Do you know where she’s gone now?

  3. says

    isn’t Yotam just the nicest man..? you are so very lucky and what a trip you’ve been having recently… and so creative, it’s like 5 persons lifetimes in one!

  4. says

    What an adventure. I’d definitely like to go to Abergavenny next year, it sounds as though its a lovely food festival and it if good enough for Karen and YOTAM!!!! I am so jealous. I bet Sami was a delight, too. Your doodles look brilliant as does your floral course, hope you’ve managed to get back to France now for a REST!!! xxx

    • says

      Thanks so much Ren! It was a BIG surprise, as I had no idea they, Yotam and Sami, were there, and then to be seated next to them was great! I am having a NICE long rest now thanks…..:-) before my next trip! Karen

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