Food and wine festivals. From now until the end of summer there's numerous fantastic festivals being held around our fair country, celebrating the provenance of a region's finest produce and featuring those for whom working with such bounty has become a passion, an obsession, a livelihood.

I adore being a punter at such events - to look, to learn and to leave armed with supplies and a bevvy of new knowledge. For picking up tips and tricks, new recipes and new-found kitchen confidence, nothing compares to watching a line-up of chefs and food legends cooking in front of you.

Over the years I've garnered many a hot tip from being in the audience at such events; Ruth Pretty showed me a great tip to keeping boiled new potatoes hot for hours after cooking them - drain, place one or two folded tea-towels directly on top of the potatoes in the pot, put the lid back on, another bath towel over the top and, hey presto, they'll keep piping hot for ages without turning to mush. Good to know if you're cooking for a crowd.

I watched as Al Brown effortlessly whipped up a batch of the lightest, fluffiest smoked kahawai fish cakes in Gisborne one year and I've made them his way ever since, heating the fish in milk first and adding a cup of mayo to the mix. Gloriously creamy fish cakes.


Going further afield one year, UK legend Stevie Parle shared on stage his secret to making fresh coconut milk for that gentle South Indian curry, moilee, which forever changed the way I make curries - never using tinned coconut milk and making my own using long dried coconut thread steeped in hot water. Magic.

Find a food and wine festival near you this season - they're the best show in town, I say.

* What's the best food and wine festival you've ever attended? Let us know below.