The gardening and gluttony show

Andy Munro visits the BBC Gardeners World and Good Food Shows.

Normally, as a shopping lightweight you would never see me jostling the crowds at the NEC, which has all the atmosphere of a modern shopping mall.

However, thanks to the city council’s Bull Ring Markets outfit, I was given the opportunity to sample the delights of this popular show, as I was helping out top Balti restaurant Al Frash on the cooking demo stage. I hasten to add, that, despite wearing an Al Frash apron, I was only there to answer questions as their talented chef speaks English marginally better than I can speak Punjabi. So I dutifully turned up on their appointed days of Thursday and Friday, for a one hour slot, which gave me a chance to also look around the wider show.

Now I love gardening and (like most people) love my food. Pleasingly, the Gardening Show had displays of some unusual plants, albeit at unusual prices. However, the experience was a fairly hectic one as normally mild-mannered gardening types ruthlessly vied for the best specimens and then loaded up their trollies so they became virtually offensive weapons as they bulldozed their way to the next stall.

If anything, the foodie section was even busier with stallholders applying the sort of prices, they needed to at least break even to pay for their prohibitively priced pitch. I fell foul of a flapjack at a ‘special show price’ of £3. It was salted caramel but……

Perhaps, the most depressing thing was that on the Saturday I decided to have a lunchtime snack and chose a quite delicious water buffalo burger from the Napton Buffalo Farm. There was only one person in front of me whilst a twenty yard queue stretched out for ‘New York Beefburgers’. Maybe that says a lot about the culinary horizons of most of the UK’s population.

What of the Al Frash cookery demo? Balti Garlic Chilli Chicken, Balti Chicken Achari and a range of pakoras including the world’s first(?) Sweet Potato Pakora, all went down very well judging by the way I was torn limb from limb as I tried to give out samples. In fairness, it made the loaves and fishes trick look like kids stuff.