Watching my mum devour ribs at Newcastle’s Street Spice Festival

Since I moved back Northwards I’ve been pretty overwhelmed with how much is going on for food loving folk like me. I’m not sure whether I ought to put the seven pounds I’ve gained down to the fact my mother seems to think everything should come with a man-size serving of carbs or explain it away by saying that I’ve barely stopped to breathe while exploring all the new exciting things on offer what I can shove in my mouth. One thing I’d been particularly looking forward to was the Street Spice Festival that took place at the Centre for Life this weekend. The event combined two things we Geordies love: a bit of a party and lots of spicy food and it was held in aid of the good cause Brain Tumour UK. I was so excited about the event and all of the other stuff I’ve discovered going on up here that I wrote a little piece for the Guardian about all the fabulous food happenings and festivals going on in the North East at the mo, which you can read here, if you want to stay one step ahead before things book up.

As the Street Spice Festival drew close I began to think giving up meat for a whole month along with Bitsandbobsbecs was one of my whackier ideas, particularly when I found out the The Rib Man was in town for the three day bonanza. The day before I headed along with Mummy Berg,  people began tweeting me tempting pictures of meaty goodness barbecused by local meat enthusiasts The Pit Club (wekeeponburning) and I knew my meatfree mettle was truly up for a test. That said, if there’s one food that’s the new veggie’s friend it is spicy food that’s full of flavour, as I learnt during a trip to Leed’s Hansas, so I was confident I would find something to salivate over that was dead-animal free and I was right.

Here are a few of my snaps of meat-free and meat-filled spicy delights that were packed into a music-filled marquee parked outside the Centre for Life.

Vendors at street spice festival, newcastle

A vendor serves up something nice and spicy at the Centre for Life

I’m definitely going to be looking out for other events where the burning boys below are in attendance, their stall smelled particularly delicious.

local rib enthusiasts wekeeponburning

Local barbecue specialists wekeeponburning get the ribs ready

Tempting foods at Newcastle Street Spice Festival

More temptation

All kinds of curry and rice

Pots of colourful curries

As  an experienced food festivaller I knew not to commit to purchase anything until I’d done a full circuit of the joint – too oft have I hurried food into my mouth at stall numero uno only to regret the fullness of my belly two stalls down the line.  I waited until my mum purchased and started to wolf down a rib sandwich from the Rib Man before I made my first selection. No, of course I’m not including a photograph of her sandwich here, do you people not think this day was not already hard enough for me – lover of barbecue? I did buy some Holy Fuck sauce from Mr Rib Man though, which was a comical thing to ask to buy in front of the mothership and was made more funny when my dad told me at tea tonight that he had enjoyed a bit of Holy Fuck on his gammon. OH, SO WRONG!

Anyway, I digress, this is the beautiful veggie treat I picked up at David Kennedy’s stall for a mere few pounds; artichokes toasted in some kind of delicious batter, cous cous mixed with nuts, seeds and a bit of spice, tamarind sauce and coriander and (if I’m right) just a touch of mint. It confirmed the need for the River Cafe and Food Social to be firmly in the top 20 of places I need to eat this year (which i must remember to post on here, actually).

A meal of artichokes, delicately spiced couscous and mint and coriander leaves

My tasty lunch from David Kennedy's stall

As I’d just had a little bite I thought it would be OK to sample a little something else in the form of a uttapam with a little chilli and coriander and coconut chutney from the organisers Sachins stall. Neither of my choices were particularly hot but I did enjoy the range of flavours in each dish and felt particularly inspired to do a bit more with my cous cous than throw some stock, lemon juice or harissa in it. Watch this space for cous cous creativity!

Uttapam on the stove

My uttapam being prepared

I was sad to spot on the news today that a number of people who attended the festival had fallen ill and I must confess I was actually off work at the start of the week with what I presumed was a nasty tummy bug. It’s not yet known if this was connected to a particular stall or even any of the food at the event and I do hope it doesn’t impact negatively on this or similar events happening in the future. There was a real buzz inside the marquee with some belting music being played and cocktails (courtesy of Popolos) cooling chilli-heated mouths and though I really wasn’t a fan of spending Monday and Tuesday incapacitated I was a real fan of the festival and the community concept behind it and I really hope it returns next year.

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