Cambridge Chilli Farm

Benington Lordship GardensThe recent bank holiday weekend on the 26th & 27th August saw the 7th Benington Lordship Chilli Festival take place in the beautiful grounds of the Benington Lordship Gardens, near Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

Having attended the West Dean Chilli Festival the day previously I was still keen to attend one of my more local chilli festivals. Arriving just as the festival opened I wandered around the grounds to get a feel for which businesses where in attendance. With the revised date for the West Dean Chilli Festival clashing with Benington Lordship I was concerned that many regular names may have pulled out but it was good to see that many of the popular names such as Fire Foods, Cambridge Chilli Farm, Mr Vikki’s, and Chilli Pepper Pete were still able to attend. Several new exhibitors to Benington (but regular exhibitors on the chilli festival scene) such as Dartmoor Chilli Farm and Hot Headz were also present.

On the front lawnCrowds gradually started to filter into the grounds and as the morning progressed towards lunchtime, temperatures were high and so was people’s thirsts – the Fallen Angel Brewery was proving popular with its choice of chilli beers in bottle and on tap. Equally in the food garden queues were forming at the food stalls. This year attendees were able to treat themselves to a wide variety of world foods: Moroccan, Indian, Philippian, Tunisian and Mexican. All were proving to be very popular by the length of the queues at the respective stalls.

A Mariachi band provided musical entertainment, playing a mixture of traditional Mexico folk music as well as some great interpretations of current hits, whilst people enjoyed their lunchtime snacks.

Chillheads looking to purchase plants were well catered for with a wide variety of chilli plants available from the Garden’s own stall and Edible Ornamentals. Varieties of freshly harvested chillies were also available from Completely Chilli and Edible Ornamentals, the latter who were proving very popular with visitor as they selling superhot varieties such as the Dorset Nagas. Of course those looking for treats at the other end of the heat and flavour spectrum were well catered for too with a variety of chilli chocolate products being available from Cocoa Loco and Dartmoor Chilli Farm.

Chilli Eat Competition AudienceOf course it wouldn’t be a chilli festival without the requisite chilli eating competition. In advance of the competition huge crowds had gathered on the grass embankment waiting to watch the spectacle of a small group of people face the challenge. The table was set up with an inviting beer, and as the contestants were called forth to their seats, the enthusiastic crowds cheer them on. The crowds were delighted even more when at the last minute a member of the Mariachi band decided to participate in the competition.

Things kicked off pretty easy with some Serrano chillies followed by unripe and then ripe Birds eye chillies. Unsurprisingly everyone was still in at this stage but things then moved up quite a few notches on the Scoville scale when the next variety brought out where yellow 7-Pot chillies. Whilst it clearly looked like some were struggling with the heat at this point, everyone managed to eat the pods. Unfortunately however shortly thereafter the first retirement came, when one of the contestants made a hasty exit to the milk station, having rubbed his eyes with the hand he used to handle the 7 Pot.

Chilli Eat Competition WinnerThe heavily artillery of Bhut Jolokias and Moruga Scorpions were the next varieties to be brought out and not surprisingly these chillies began to create casualties. Even the people’s choice – the lady from the Mariachi band – dropped out at this point taking too long to eat her Moruga chilli. The contest now came down to two men – the two Martins. Two more rounds of ripe pods were eaten by each of them before eventually one of the Martins reached his limit and the other Martin was declared the winner, collecting his prize of a case of beer.

It was clear from the large amount of people who had gathered to watch the chilli eating competition that the festival was in full swing. There was definitely a warm and friendly atmosphere at this festival and this was confirmed when talking to many exhibitors (both new and old). As with previous years the festival was attracting large crowds of families and enthusiastic chilliheads alike and no doubt it was this balance of people, along with a generous dollop of bank holiday sunshine that was helping to create such a great ambience.

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The Cambridge Cheese CompanyIt is often hard to find a good retailer of Hot Sauces, but on a recent trip to Cambridge we where following one of my other passions Cheese when we found The Cambridge Cheese Company. The cheese selection was awesome, but also their selection of Hot Sauces from The UK and USA made this a place to remember.

Now you would expect the Cambridge Chilli Farm to be a big supplier, and yes there products took pride of place, in fact the Cambridge Chilli Farm tells me that as they have no fixed retail outlet of their own they recommend The Cambridge Cheese Company.

The Cambridge Cheese Company
4 All Saints Passage

Phone 01223 328672

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Last Sunday (17th June) saw the Father’s Day Chilli Fiesta held at The Mansion House in the beautiful grounds of Old Warden Park, near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire. The event, organised by Joanna & Shawn Plumb of Edible Ornamentals and The Mansion House team, was the second Father’s Day Chilli Fiesta and followed on from the success of its inaugural event last year.

Being unable to attend last year’s event I had been looking forward to attending the event as the weeks drew close. Unfortunately when the weather changed from sunshine to torrential rains at the beginning of the week then gale force winds towards the end of the week, I had visions of wandering around the grounds ‘Glastonbury style’ with broken stalls and flying marquees. Thankfully however the weather took a turn for the better and Sunday turned out to be a warm bright day as I set off for the event.

Around 70 exhibitors attended the event with many of the regular chilli festival exhibitors in attendance such as Fire Foods, Hot Headz (who thankfully still managed to get to the event after having a blowout on the way to it), Cambridge Chilli Farm and Bim’s Kitchen, as well as other local specialists and some newcomers to the festival scene.

Cambridge Chilli FarmI’d seen Tim from Cambridge Chilli Farm tweeting earlier in the week that he would have his newly launched Trinidad Scorpion sauce for sale at the event, so I made a visit to his stall my first port of call for the day. Having arrived not long after the event opened things were still quite serene so I was able to spend some time chatting to him. Needless to say when sampling the sauce it delivered a great kick. Many others must have had similar interest in trying his latest creation too, as crowds soon began to gather around his stall and sample it.

A steady stream of cars could now be seen coming up the long driveway into the grounds and the atmosphere began to buzz in the grounds as the crowds of visitors began to wander amongst the stalls.
Several of the stalls catered for chill growers with good varieties of chilli plants being available for purchase. Sean Plumb was in demand at the buys Edible Ornamental stall, selling the copious selection of plants grown in their poly-tunnels as well as answering questions and given sageful advice to buyers. For those with green fingers who wanted to be catered for, demonstrations and Gardeners Question Time sessions were available at the Gardening Academy area.

Many of the stall were in the open grounds, however under the cover of a marquee other exhibitors were located. Just inside the entrance was the Grim Reaper Foods stall run by Russell Williams and his wife Sharon. Although very well known in chilli circles for his great products, this was actually Russell’s first time as an exhibitor, something that no one would’ve thought from the quality and attention to detail they’d put into creating the stall. It certainly was in line with Grim Reaper Food brand imaging with its skull tasting dispensers and definitely was the star of the show for its merchandising appearance.

Cookery Demo KitchenAlso located inside the marquee was the Chilli Kitchen were cookery demonstrations were frequently taking place. Award winning Master Chef of Great Britain Grant Hawthorne was the celebrity guest giving demonstrations and offering the public to sample his culinary chilli dishes. Handily for those who found them too hot for their tastes, the festival bar was co-located beside the Chilli Kitchen.

As I wandered around the grounds it was clear from the crowds that many families had been attracted to event. Chilli-head Fathers weren’t the only ones being catered for, with a wide range of attractions for children’s entertainment such as trampolines and bouncy castles.

Lunchtime approached so I wandered around to the main stage where the ubiquitous chilli eating competition was about to take place. The 9 victims, sorry contestants, made their way onto the stage and a large crowd of spectators and supporters gathered to watch the contestants battle with the mighty capsaicin.

Chilli Eating CompetitionA variety of increasingly hot chillies grown by Edible Ornamentals were given to the contestants and within about 15 minutes the competition had been whittled down to 3 die- hards who seemed to be relishing the challenge. Unfortunately given the time of year in the chilli growing season, Jo from Edible Ornamentals didn’t have any fresh superhot chillies to give to the contestants so instead the ante was upped to consuming a spoonful of Mad Dog 44 Magnum, a 4 Million Scoville oleoresin. Surprisingly to those watching this didn’t have the instant effect of eliminating competitors, so Jo resorted to having the 3 finalists consume more chillies and spoonfuls of the oleoresin until eventually a winner was able to be declared.

I continued to wander around the grounds sampling the delights and, rather unfortunately for my wallet, purchasing bottle and jars of chilli products. Our very own Hot Juan had recently reviewed Germano‘s Chilli Sauce In Olive Oil and I was pleased to find that Marsh Trading, the official importer for this product had a small stall where I was able to sample this and some of their other imported sauces. As Hot Juan said in his review, the flavours in this product are amazing and consequently the hole in my wallet continued to grow as I purchased a jar of this and some of the Byron Bay sauces (from Australia) that they had available.

All in all there was a good family friendly atmosphere at the festival which seemed to be drawing good crowds. It was proving popular with the visitors and looked to be successful for exhibitors alike.

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Here is a quick round up of our 12 days of Christmas gift ideas:-

Don’t forget our last chilli shopping days listing,  don’t leave you Christmas chilli shopping to late..

While these are the last official dates for shipment to reach you before Christmas, there is always a rush on the last day to process orders and after that the couriers/post office are also working as fast as possible, so please if you can don’t leave it up to the last-minute to order.. remember nothing is guaranteed.

Last Shipping/Order Dates for Christmas Retailer
12th December Chillis Galore
14th December Mr Singh’s Sauce
19th December Chilli Pepper Pete
19th December Taste of Texas
19th December Cambridge Chilli Farm
19th December The Devils Garden
20th December South Devon Chilli Farm
19th December 1st Class & 20th Special Del The Chilli Pepper Company
22nd December  (before 1pm) Hot-Headz
22nd December Dartmoor Chilli Farm
22nd December Cheeky Chile
22nd December Sinful Sauces
22nd December Greenhouse Sensation

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