Melting Moments in Melton Mowbray
Melting Moments in Melton Mowbray
Famous globally for Melton Mowbray Raised Pork Pies and Long Clawson Blue Stilton Cheese both of which we found on food shelves in New Zealand, this ancient town in The Heart of England has defied the fate of many of its contemporaries by retaining its live animal market where flocks and herds meet their destiny.
It has done so by opening up the market doors to other events including shows, festivals and produce markets (the Christmas one is bountiful) and the one we explored with Charly and Tom was the Chocolate festival. Next year the organisers are planning to make it the biggest chocfest in the UK.
As we walked the short distance from the car park, well wrapped in scarves and gloves since it was a chilly breeze that whisped around us, I reflected on the new Lidl Supermarket that has sprung up across the road from the market. Before it was built there was an ugly office building there with the groundfloor offices given over to The Job Centre and waiting room for Driving Test Candidates. My already nervous pupils often had to rub shoulders with dissatisfied, grumpy adults and their bored children as they awaited the verdict on their benefits while my pupils feared the examiners clip board.
It was a long time since breakfast and it was cold so we needed a good dose of freshly deep fried churros swiftly followed with some slices of hot pizza to warm our tummies. Years ago when Emily and I lived in Lymington, Hampshire, we used to weave our way down one side of the high street exploring all the Saturday market stalls and up the other side until we came to the stall outside the church. The Churros Stall. That is where we first came across this Spanish/Mexican staple snack, sprinkled with powdered cinnamon and sugar we would munch them as we walked home with our bikes.
At the chocofest, as we queued for the bag of delights with the accompanying beaker of dipping chocolate sauce we watched the enticing production process. The smiling young lady pulled down on the lever that forced the choux dough through the ridged nozzle cutting the emerging dough at six inch intervals so it fell into the bubbling fat below and fried to a golden brown.
Her mum bagged the tasty morsels and sprinkled liberally with the sugar and spice and we tucked in, finishing the snack in no time, which left a cm. of the sauce in the little pot, well I wasn’t going to waste that was I!
By this time Charly and Tom had come across a van with built in wood burning pizza oven. Amazing, what a wonderful job this time of year, no winter chills in there. The couple who were running it had mastered their tasks and in no time we were tucking into yet more hot cooked dough and my tummy was feeling warmer by the minute.
Equipped now as we were for further exploration we hit upon our raison de venir, chocolate! The photo shows an impressive display of shallow, grease proof paper lined chocolate filled trays of countless flavours, 3 big slabs for £10. We settled on Ferrero Rocher, Chocolate Orange and Crunchie bar style with honeycomb chunks. It was softened to a truffle texture and way too easy to eat so we rationed ourselves just to make it last a little longer.
Remember I mentioned earlier the fashion for flavoured vodka and gin, well there was plenty of choice and we readily supped the tiny sample glasses of raspberry, honey, Cranberry and blood orange (a happy marriage!), coconut and chocolate. Yep, we tried them all and settled on a bottle of the ‘happy marriage’ and a bottle of coconut to be enjoyed over the Christmas festivities.
There were too many stall types to mention, some chocolate based and others more generally Christmas themed but one final and delightful revelation was roasted apple flavoured ‘Moonshine’ and more memories came flooding back, this time from 1977 and the last few weeks of a seven month long tour of the USA and Canada in our Safari Landrover. Then hubby Stuart and I were staying with friends at their country home in Clarksburg West Virginia and we were preparing to return home to the UK.
But not before we made a trip to visit our hosts’ friends who lived up in ‘the boonies’ and distilled Moonshine. It was February and the area was gripped by sub-freezing temperatures and a metres deep carpet of snow. We loaded up with a few random containers of the clear liquor and were making our way home with Mark in his 4x4 when a loaded coal lorry in front of us lost its grip and started sliding backwards down the hill towards us. The driver turned the wheel so the massive grey vehicle slewed sideways on the slope and stopped with an unnerving lurch in our direction, but at least it stopped. Was this brush with danger a warning we were about to do something illegal?
A few days later we landed in Heathrow and passed through the nothing to declare corridor, the full hip flask and kilner jar of moonshine clinking conspiratorially in my handbag. After all the effort and risk in getting hold of the liquor it was the first distillation and was virtually undrinkable so we had to work really hard at it! This particular golden 21st century moonshine was smooth and delicious so as you can see we bought a Mason jar complete with dispenser lid and we will do it justice as the year ends and is reborn as 2018.