The Big Feastival

Posted on September 18, 2015

We all had a great time at The Big Feastival this year. Hosted by Jamie Oliver on Alex James’ farm in Kingham. We were involved this year with their Wheat Project. We joined the RAU and local Schools to plant wheat back in the Spring. This meant that at the Big Feastival kids could pick the wheat take it to FWY Matthews to mill it, they then baked flatbreads with us on Weber BBQs.

Tom Herbert reports;

Jamie Oliver, aching in muscles that daily cooking don’t use, crashes satisfied, onto his mate Alex James’s [Blur Bassist] spare bed, the sound of their festival revellers laughing and shrieking outside as security usher them back to their tents. Surely life can’t get any better if you’re the big J.O., thousands of people coming together in a celebration of music and food. FOOD…. Why despite all the work he’s done to eat healthily and loosing two stone does he get theses hunger pangs between meals, the Hobbs House Bakery cheese toastie warm in his hand, is made with good honest ingredients, by passionate people that he’s spent his life getting behind. Colourful light from the helter-skelter dance on the glistening cheese, “get in my belly” he chortles before biting through first, the buttery toast with a satisfying crunch and moist chew, then, the melted hot cheese, mixed with what must be a creamy béchamel and squeaky savoury crunch of leek. The Cheddar is mature and so tangy, it’s indescribable the way it sparkles electrically across the tastebuds. “Yum-ami!” he mouths at the mirror, joyful at the way the new word and vulgar flavours feel in his mouth. Waking the next morning, the sharp bread crumbs and the screwed up greaseproof bag with its big orange Hobbs House H; instant reminders of the best Big Feastival day ever, and a wild night.

Hi I’m Tom, Chipping Sodbury boy and baker at Hobbs House Bakery. This is obviously how I imagine it went, the facts though are this.
1) We were invited to join with Royal Agriculture Collage and F.P.Matthews Mill in what we called the #WheatProject. 1/4 of an acre of Alex James’s farm was planted with wheat by children from two local primary schools, the RACollege, brother Henry and I. This was grown and ripe for harvest come the Big Feastival, and with 5000+ kids on site over the weekend, we weren’t short of assistants. 20 at a time they came, pulled the wheat, ran it through a small mill, before bringing the freshly milled flour into the Hobbs House Bakery School tent to make flat bread with our 60 year old sourdough starter. Within 40 minutes, delicious flat breads “the best bread I’ve EVER eaten” a common statement, were made with what was moments earlier, standing in a field. This is up their with my favourite ever baking experiences, and to share what we love with well over 300 wide eyed kids, job satisfaction, redefined. I was horse from shouting and cajoling and a little overwhelmed with the sheer appetite for this elemental activity. If you know any kids, bake with them, if only once, it’s messy and delicious and fun and they’ll thank you and remember it forever. Please.
2) In return for hosting the #WheatProject baking school, we got to build our Cheese Toastie stand bang opposite the main stage, where Dizzy Rascal and Paloma Faith, strutted. The lights spelling out CHEESE, above our stand drew the happy crowds like famished moths to where brothers George 37, Henry 28, Archie 22, and Uncle Sam 42, Bex, Milo, Roo, and Toby worked from 10am till 1am-ish to feed everyone with hot cheesy toasties made with our sourdough loaves, perfect for the job.
3) On Saturday night after a day of epic proportions on both the WheatProject and the Toastie front, Jamie Oliver turned up 5 minutes after the site security had demanded we stop, they let us make one more toastie, for the man himself. George asked him, “would you like a Toastie?” He said, “why do you think I’m standing here!”. And so it was, the most memorable of a monstrous 3000 Cheese Toasties we grilled, in a weekend where we danced wildly in the VIP enclosure as Jo Whiley dj’d, feasted in a Nuts-In-May themed Art-Of-Dining supper-club Pop-Up, sat around the campfire under the stars with Adam Henson and DJBBQ, and the cherry on the cake? On Sunday morning Jamie came back to our stand, embarrassed that he had forgotten to pay. He said eating our toasties in bed was the dirtiest, rudest most vulgar thing he’d done in a long time, and his grin confirmed this was a good thing.

If they’ll have us, we’ll go again, as a family outing the energy on both our sites was infectious. We bought it, and it felt like everyone gave their all, making merry and sending the summer off in delicious style. The toasties all gone, long live the toasties.