The delicacies on offer at a top food festival included sheep’s’ testicles and a host of creepy crawlies.
One of the most popular sessions at the Llangollen Food Festival was a cookery demonstration by chef Jack Hatley who cooked up a storm making the lamb fries and dishes using insects such as grasshoppers and meal worms.
It was just one of the attractions at the event which attracted thousands of food lovers from far and wide and is now rated as one of the UK’s top food festivals.
There were also more traditional gastronomic treats being cooked in the demonstration kitchen by fellow chefs Graham Tinsley, the star of ITV’s Taste the Nation and a former captain of the Welsh Culinary Team, along with his protégé Harri Williams and Dai Chef.
Jack Hatley, head chef at Llangollen’s Gales Wine Bar, explained that using the unusual bush tucker-type ingredients wasn’t a gimmick but was intended to show that there are alternatives to traditional classic meat recipes.
He said: “In many parts of the world insects, for example, are a staple dietary ingredient. They are plentiful, easy to produce and come without the environmental problems that come with intensive beef or chicken farming.
“I’m not suggesting people go rooting around their garden collecting all sorts of creepy crawlies to cook up but commercially produced insect ingredients can make for a different and very nutritious alternative.
“There are even a number of Michelin starred restaurants experimenting with insect ingredients now.
“If we can get people to realise that insects have the same proteins and natural fats we find in meat and are equally good, if not better for us, then it could have a positive impact on the environment.”
He added: “It’s the same with lamb fries. We consume most parts of a butchered lamb so why throw away the testicles? Cooked correctly they are a tasty and very healthy alternative.
“In the US they eat beef testicles which are considered a real delicacy and are known as Rocky Mountain Oysters.
“I simply peeled the lamb fries, sliced them thinly and fried them after coating them in plain flour. I also made grasshopper guacamole and meal worm arancini. I was pleasantly surprised at the reaction from the audience.
“Once over the initial shock I think most people were intrigued and keen to try the finished dishes.”
Jack Williams, a customer advisor from Solihull who is a customer advisor, was at the food festival with his partner Cat Parry, a forensic scientist from Llangollen.
He said: “It was a bit testing especially when he was peeling the testicles and I did cross my legs I must admit. I suppose once people get over the stigma of eating things like that it could take off. I mean, why not?
“I did try the cooked lamb fries and found they were different to anything I have tried before. The texture was very unusual and they tasted very salty too. But I’m sure they are very nutritious.”
Forensic scientist Joey Giddings, from Cardiff, tried the meal worm arancini and declared himself a fan.
He said: “The dish had a very good texture and was very tasty. It was a very nice dish even if they were a bit crunchy. I do think people should experiment more. It’s certainly given me food for thought.”
Neil Hopkins, who runs Stori, a Bala tap room with his wife Fiona who hails from Rhos, Wrexham, was exhibiting at his first food festival and was representing a number of North Wales micro-breweries and distilleries.
He said: “We have come together with Eric Geipel, who brews Geipel beer near Bala, Cwrw Cader, a Dolgellau micro-brewery and the Wild Horse micro-brewery at Llandudno to show off our beers at this year’s festival.
“I’m also representing Blue Slate Gin which is distilled in Dinorwig and Merywen Gin, which is distilled at a micro distillery in the Conwy Valley.
“It’s been a good experience and a great opportunity to let people taste our products and get to know more about us. It’s also been incredibly busy”
Amy Reynolds, eight, of Chirk, says the chocolate ice cream she had from the Chilly Cow stand was the best ice cream she had ever tasted.
Amy, who was with her mum, Sarah, and family said: “It’s amazing and very chocolatey, it’s the best ice cream ever. I loved it.”
Mum Sarah said: “We visit the food festival every year that we can. It’s got a great atmosphere and some amazing exhibitors. It seems to have grown over the years and got better and better.”
Llangollen Food Festival committee member Phil Davies says the event had proved a massive success.
He said: “It’s amazing to see the international pavilion crammed with so many visitors. The atmosphere has been amazing and I’m delighted for all our exhibitors and chefs that their hard work has paid off.
“I’d also like to pay tribute to our army of volunteers who have been out in the lashing rain managing the very busy car parks.”
He added: “The Llangollen Food Festival is all about showing off the region’s wonderful producers and their amazing produce.
“There is no doubt the festival now enjoys a very prominent place on the culinary calendar and this year was one of the very best that I can remember. “
To find out more about the Llangollen Food Festival please visit www.llangollenfoodfestival.com