Thursday, 11 September 2014

Electric Picnic 2014: What a weekend!



It took us 3 hours to drive from Dublin to Stradbally due to the traffic and our German friend who is usually very quiet expressed quite a bit of road rage at several stages, funny to witness from the back seat. I was tempted to drink my Côtes du Rhone wine, decanted in a plastic bottle for the occasion (classy, I know) on the way there but I resisted. We arrived to a muddy Stradbally on Friday evening but the sun was starting to shine and my wellies were already on my feet: it was the start of an exciting weekend.



It's impossible to describe all the things you can see, witness, enjoy, listen to and eat at Electric Picnic. It's definitely much more than a music festival, it's like a giant theme park for adults.



There are many campsites, lots of different stages everywhere, plenty of food vendors, workshops, comedy gigs and so many other things going on, almost too many to chose from. 


The different areas all have their own atmosphere, the main stage, casa Bacardi, Trailer Park, Body and Soul, Mindfield, the Salty Dog.... It is such an overwhelming experience for all your senses not to mention a bit of a walk.


I took about 450 pictures and could probably blog about the festival for the next week but I chose to sum it up a little bit just to give you an idea. 

Theatre of Food



This is where I spent most of my time as you can guess. The Theatre of Food tent is located in the Mindfield arena, not too far from the main stage.  John and Sally Mc Kenna are the founder of TOF and Caroline Byrne (aka The Dublin Foodie) has been co-organizing it since it started four years ago. The three of them did such an amazing job of arranging a line up of chefs, artisan producers, food writers, bloggers, mixologists, baristas…  From talks about Irish artisan food to a Modern Irish Cooking demo by Neven Maguire, cocktail tips to African tagine tasting, the programme was so diverse and interesting that it was difficult for me to leave the tent to attend other gigs.


I was absolutely honoured to be invited to do a cooking demo at Theatre of Food this year, where I made bouchons (pork dumplings) from Reunion Island (where my dad is from) and talked about Reunion food. As  was a little nervous I forgot to put the kaffir lime in my dumplings (please don’t tell my dad) but that’s OK, it’s an optional ingredient and some people don’t use it in their recipe (phew...). Food writer Leslie William was the best MC I could have hoped for, with his great sense of humour and wittiness he really put me at ease. It went well and I’m so glad I did it, merci Mr. FFID (we can see the top of his head on the pic) for being my beautiful assistant, my friends L. and D. for taking pictures, Leslie for his help on stage and of course I can't thank enough John, Sally and Caroline for allowing me to be part of this unforgettable weekend at Theatre of Food!

Find my Reunion Island recipes here

Food Highlights at the festival

Mr. FFID and I some brought Irish farmhouse cheeses and terrines with us and had a few picnics at the campsite but we also tried a few food options from the many great food vendors over the weekend.



Kinara Kitchen were super organised in their queuing/payment system, you could see they were very experienced. The food was fresh, flavoursome and deliciously spicy. They won 'Best Festival Food' by public vote at this year's Mc Kennas' Guide Electric Picnic Food Awards. 



The Global Green Food Project won the Mc Kennas' Guides Electric Picnic Judges Award. Their area was amazing and the food made by Country Choice on Tour was top quality.


Their breakfast blaa made a tasty hangover cure while their courgette and ginger jam on a sourdough toast provided a healthier option (so I ordered both!).


We also found the corn dogs to be the ultimate soakage food and tried them on the trusted recommendation of food writer Leslie Williams.



Music Highlights

I became quite emotional listening to Portishead and cried pretty much throughout the entire gig, I enjoyed the Pet Shop Boys and loved Beck. I also liked the Body and Soul area with its bohemian atmosphere and found the Salty Dog stage very cool. The highlight for me was the Other Voices stage in the middle of the woods, I fell in love with Mick Flannery's voice and couldn't believe how talented the young lads from the Strypes were.

I will never forget happening across a random stranger playing the soundtrack of my favourite French movie 'Amélie' on a piano which was left in a small hut in the middle of the woods. Magical.



The Boutique Camping

I love camping but I don't think the 31 year old me would have survived the regular campsites which were cramped and noisy. We had our own tent in the boutique camping and the queues for the showers and bathrooms weren't too bad for early birds like myself. I wasn't jealous at all of the people staying in the tipis, yurts or cute looking huts, not one bit jealous...


The atmosphere

There were people with babies, bearded hipsters, groups of young girls, 30 somethings, older people... 41,000 people gathered in a field in Laois for 3 days of fun, it was good craic and from what I saw, filled with friendly people.


The attention to detail

Every area and every single decoration, no matter how small had been thought about and planned, this is what made the site so special. The stages, the seating areas, the sculptures, the vendor trucks and everything about the site was just stylish and arty. I have to say it was the most Instagramable festival ever, a pity my phone battery was dead most of the time.


The verdict?

I came back with a sore back, an ever-lasting hangover and little bags under my eyes but I was so happy that I wasn't an Electric Picnic virgin anymore. I didn't think it would happen but I even had the post-Electric Picnic Blues upon my return, that should tell you how good the weekend was. Simply epic.




Disclaimer: I was a guest at Electric Picnic as I was giving a cooking demo at the Theatre of Food. I gave no undertaking to write a review and the words above are, as always, my absolute honest opinion. 

Reunion Island Recipes: Bouchons (Pork Dumplings) and Bonbons Piments (Chili Bites)



My dad is from Reunion Island, a French overseas department between Madagascar and Mauritius Island. The food there has been influenced by the influx of immigrants from all over the world between the 17th and 19th centuries. The local cuisines include Indian, Chinese, Malagasy and French influences, which results in an amazing variety of dishes, mostly spicy ones. I was brought up eating a mix of different cuisines from Reunion Island, France and Portugal (where my mum is from). You know me as French foodie because I'm from France but my palate is truly international and I’m so happy that my upbringing made me curious and adventurous about food in general.



A few months ago I was invited to Electric Picnic to give a demo about Reunion Island cooking and so I chose to demonstrate how to make bouchons, traditional pork dumplings loved by the people of Reunion Island. The ‘bouchons’ were introduced to Reunion by Chinese immigrants, they’re great appetisers and are also sold in food trucks all around Reunion Island. Everyone in my family is mad about them, they're truly delicious and easy to make. Bouchons have a signature flavour which comes from the zest of kaffir lime but as I was a little nervous I forgot to add it to my mix during my cooking demo... Oops, anyway, it's not a big deal (funny though) as some people prefer not to use it. By the way the only place in Dublin where I've seen kaffir limes (wrinkly looking limes) is the Asia Market on Drury Street. 

Another popular appetiser in Reunion Island which my dad used to make when I was a child was ‘bonbons piments’ (chili bites), they’re quite similar to falafels but a lot spicier. The ‘bonbons piments’ (chili bites) were introduced by those arriving from India to Reunion Island and are great snacks to enjoy with a cold beer.

Here are both recipes if you’d like give them a shot!

Bouchons (Traditional Reunion pork dumplings)

Ingredients

Wonton pastry (available in Asian supermarkets, defrost before use)
500g pork mince
Bunch of spring onions (chopped)
Zest of a kaffir lime (grated) 
1 tbs tapioca starch
5 small chillies (optional)
Salt
Pepper
Soy sauce for dipping 

Method

In a big bowl mix together the pork mince, spring onions, tapioca starch, kaffir lime zest, chilies, salt and pepper.
Make a little ball of the pork mix (about 1tsp) and place it on one sheet of wonton pastry and bring the 4 corners of the pastry together to close it in on itself. Hold lightly and press everything together to form a little ball.
Repeat until you have used up all the mix and sheets of pastry.
Cook the dumplings in a steamer for about 15 minutes.
Serve warm with soy sauce for dipping.

Bonbons piments (Chili bites)

Ingredients

500g dried butter beans
A few leaves of fresh coriander (chopped)
5 small green chillies (chopped)
Bunch of spring onions (chopped)
1 tsp of curcuma (turmeric powder)
1/2 tsp cumin 
fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
Pepper
Vegetable oil

Method

Soak the beans in water overnight (about 12 hours).
Drain the beans and peel off their skin.
Blend the beans until smooth.
Add the herbs, spices, salt and pepper to the beans and mix everything well.
Make little balls with the mix (slightly smaller than a golf ball) and flatten them to look like mini patties.
Heat vegetable oil in a deep pan (or deep fat fryer) and cook the chill bites for a few minutes (until golden brown) in the hot oil.
Drain and dry on kitchen paper before serving.