Fabulous Fleet Food Festival: Roasting a wild boar

Roast Wild BoarOn 24th May, Fleet held its second Food Festival.

The organisers did an excellent job of bringing together stallholders selling locally sourced foods, beers and wines. There were also cookery demonstrations and talks held in two marquees, plus live music to listen to as you wandered around the stalls.

In the Food & Wine Talks Marquee, I enjoyed a talk by Paul Collins of Hart Community Farm. Paul hopes to bring local people together to create a network of producers, cultivating what’s wanted in the area – which could be fruit and veg, bees for honey or breeding animals for meat. I hope he’s successful, though what he proposes sounds pretty challenging.

Then I visited the Cookery Theatre Marquee for a demonstration by Rob Kennedy, the award-winning Executive Chef of Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. Rob made his famous Chip Shop Plate (a small piece of baked cod with pea puree and tiny pickled quails eggs), which was extremely fiddly and nothing like a traditional plate of fish and chips. More to my taste was the dish he cooked next, which was slow braised pork cheek with crispy black pudding and creamy celeriac.

I’m a fan of pork cheek and have previously shared my experience of making Slow-cooked Pork Cheek with Chickpeas and Cider. However, it’s a difficult cut of meat to prepare, as the sinewy cheek needs to be cooked for a long time on a low heat. When I use pork cheek in a recipe, I rely on my trusty slow cooker and make a casserole, whereas Rob cooked a single piece of pig’s cheek in a normal oven. I suspect if I tried that it would come out as tough as old leather.

Watching these delicious foods being prepared made me hungry - it was time for some tasters. I did the rounds of the stalls, trying cheeses, salamis, curry sauces and sushi – what a combination. My purchases included Anila’s Curry Sauces (I love these high-quality sauces and always have a jar of Hot Methi in the cupboard), a tray of sushi (delicious and nothing like supermarket sushi) from Let’s Sushi, Kedgeree Kickers (full of flavour fishcakes) from Catch Isle of Wight and a joint of wild boar from Newhouse Game.

Unfortunately, that evening I managed to overcook the boar. Wild boar has little fat and is slightly darker and denser than pork. The farmer who sold it to me said to treat it the same as pork, but I would advise reducing the cooking time. Because it’s leaner and has less fat, I think a shorter cooking time and lower heat is needed to avoid it becoming dry.

I covered the wild boar with seasoning and fresh sage from the garden and a slight film of oil to stop the sage from burning. The meat itself was tasty and tender and I'll try it again, although next time I’ll follow this recipe.

Only in its second year, the organisers and volunteers did a fantastic job of making the Fleet Food Festival a highly enjoyable experience. I believe around 8000 people attended the festival, so hopefully this will become an established annual event.