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Gibraltar Literary Festival Review

The waiting was finally over and it was time to visit the first ever Gibraltar Literary Festival. Along with Hannah Murray and Selina McKenzie of Talk Radio Europe and Selina’s husband Steve, we checked in at the Queens Hotel and headed off to the first session.

The Spice Workshop was held in the residence of the governor of Gibraltar. A packed auditorium was treated to stories of spices and food by Madhur Jaffrey, the most respected authority on Indian food, and Hardeep Singh Kohli, comedian, presenter and restaurant owner.

As Madhur explained the different flavours that the spices provide to Indian food, she passed around samples for everyone to try. We had mouthfuls of fragrant, spicy rice, yoghurts and spiced potato. Needless to say the flavours were intense and harmonised perfectly. We can now say that we have sampled food personally cooked by Madhur Jaffrey, which is something not many people can claim. After the talk, we bought a copy of both of their books and went up to say hello, and get our copies signed. Hannah had interviewed Hardeep a few years ago, which he said he remembered fondly!

There were lots of different talks and presentations going on simultaneously, covering many subjects, from Food and Spanish history, to children’s literature and crime writing, as well as a workshop on ‘how to write a novel’.

On Saturday 26th October we headed off to the Garrison Library where Hannah met up with some of the authors she has interviewed on her hugely popular weekly book show on Talk Radio Europe. First she met Thomas Mogford, author of the best-selling crime novels ‘Shadow of the Rock’ and ‘Sign of the Cross’, both set on Gibraltar.

Hannah then went on to meet up with Jason Webster, an Anglo-American best-selling crime novelist, travel writer and critic, who focuses nearly all of his work on Spain. It was great to see that both authors were genuinely pleased to finally meet Hannah in person.

Before heading off to the highlight of the day (more on that later), we swung by the Green Room where Hannah caught up briefly with International best-selling novelist Joanne Harris, who wrote the hugely popular ‘Chocolat’, that was adapted into a film starring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche.

By now lunch time was fast approaching and we knew we were in for the biggest treat of all. Having already sat through a talk on spices, and met one of my food ‘idols’ Madhur Jaffrey, my second food ‘hero’ was actually cooking lunch for a selected number of guests, and we were lucky to be a part of the guest list.

We headed down to the Royal Gibraltar Yacht Club, an amazing water front location, which was to host the lunch cooked by the legendary Ken Hom. As we waited to be seated we could see him at work, cooking in the kitchen through the glass door. There was a Champagne reception before being seated, which gave me some time to get a few photos of the guests.

Once at our tables, The Hon Neil Costa MP, Minister for Tourism for Gibraltar welcomed us to the lunch, and spoke about the significance of the event, and of course the amazing food we were about to be served, cooked by the World’s most respected authority on Chinese cuisine.

The first dish was served; dumplings in a spicy Szechuan sauce with sesame, which gave it beautiful nutty taste. It was a truly tasty dish that went down well with everyone. After this was a spicy, garlic infused prawn dish with spring onions. The main course was one of Ken Hom’s signature dishes from his restaurant in at Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro. It was deep fried chicken, which had a prawn paste under the crispy outer section. giving it a beautiful and unique flavour. Finally there was a palette cleansing array of tropical fruits for pudding, including lychees, melon, mango and pineapple.

After the food was devoured, Ken Hom was introduced to rapturous applause where he said a few words before sitting down to chat and sign copies of his books, including one for us that we had bought before the lunch. Selina also introduced herself to him, explaining that she was going to be interviewing him in a month or so, on her Lifestyles Show on Talk Radio Europe.

During the lunch Hannah also spotted Booker prize-winning novelist and poet Ben Okri, so she introduced herself and set the wheels in motion for an interview on her book show.

All in all the festival proved to be a total success and it was a great opportunity to see some idols up close, learn a bit more about their backgrounds, and hear some of their interesting stories.

We look forward to seeing who they’ll be bringing to the rock for the festival next year…

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