Monthly Archives: March 2010

Reviews of the Underground Farmers market…and new Farmers market in Wales

Article on the Underground Farmers Market in the London Evening Standard….

and I will also be selling cheese and posh buns at the Hendre Hall farmers market on Easter Monday…come down to try and buy from 9 til 4

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The Underground Farmers market

It can be a lonely existence being a supper club hostess in North Wales. I am only one of two supper clubs in Wales and still the only one in the North, so the Underground Farmers market provided me with a wonderful opportunity to meet other supper clubbers, share stories and food and generally have a sociable afternoon.

My little table with cheese, Bara Brith and Welsh cakes

Fab coffee contraptions and fab coffee by Dose

'The shed' doing a bit of weaving outside the shed

The Shed

The gazebos' with stall holders

Rachel from http://www.hatchamsupperclub.wordpress.com with her curds and Lex from http://www.lexeat.co.uk with her beautiful napkins which the teen cheekily tried to swap a loaf of Bara Brith for...nice try!!

lots of lovely cakes

Kavita from Kavey eats http://www.kaveyeats.com with her Indian chutneys and jams

cupcakes galore!!

msmarmitelover giving her Focaccia shots demo

Focaccia shots...which were very moreish!!

Cocktails on the ironing board

As this was the first event I have attended with produce to sell I wasn’t sure what to expect, so it was with some trepidation that I turned up laden with cheeses and with a variety of Welsh cakes.  The cheeses were all locally made, the first from Rhyd y Delyn Farm on Anglesey, and the second from the Snowdonia cheese company www.snowdonia-cheese.co.uk/ . unbelievably I’d sold them all within the first hour! I wish i’d brought double the number. The cakes did less well. Probably because there was a plethora of fantastic looking cakes on sale, the visitors were spoilt for choice!

This wasn’t a disaster as in true bartering-economy style (something we are very good at in Wales) I went off on a swapsie mission, ‘a cake for a cake’….which most people were up for. I came home with an amazing array of different and very yummy cakes…my favourites of which were Suki & me’s fancies (www.sukiandme.com ) and afternoon tea at 410’s (www.afternoonteaat410.com) Anzac biscuits and brownies. We also had some wonderful Portuguese banana cakes and coconut cakes, pork pies, Mama Lan pancakes, lemon curd, coffee and cocktails. The teen bought Tourette’s biscuits and rude magnets for all her friends from www.belgianwaffling.blogspot.com evidently they were ‘legend’ and I bought some extra virgin rapeseed oil from the lovely Charlie (our next door neighbour) www.cotswoldgold.co.uk

It was also great watching the cookery displays; a totally inspired idea to include them and in their turn inspiring, as I am now going to attempt to make cheese and Focaccia shots!

I probably spent my profits, but what the hell, it was a wonderful day it didn’t rain, I met so many interesting people so all power to msmarmitelover www.marmitelover.blogspot.com for opening up her home to host it….hopefully there will be many more to come in the future

Denise x

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The Underground Farmers market

I will be selling local Welsh cheeses, two-seed crackers, seed cake and Bara Brith at msmarmitelovers Underground Farmers Market in London on Sunday….

To get tickets go to http://www.wegottickets.com/location/2522

Look forward to seeing you there

Denise xx

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Make-do Friday

Friday is usually house shopping day, when the store cupboard is replenished and the weekly menu is planned (everyday is a military operation in this house!!). But the usual routine went out the window when I found myself housebound with a sickly small one, who didn’t want to go anywhere near a shop. This is when it pays to be resourceful, so I scoured the cupboards to see what I could find (which are generally pretty well stocked, but were looking a bit thin on the ground).

I’m convinced that the more skint I get; the more creative and resourceful I become…I think we have a tendency to stop thinking when we are earning plenty, we have the resources to just go and buy and don’t put so much effort in to making things at home, or drawing on whatever resources we have tucked away inside us. I, on the other hand am earning hardly anything these days, so I have to do lots of thinking. Apart from the teen complaining that she can’t have everything right NOW, we don’t do too badly….making presents and cards, even home made bunches of flowers have become second nature…and we love it all the more for the effort and time that has been taken.

So back to supper and raiding the store cupboard….all I managed to find in the way of fresh food was some potatoes, half a red cabbage, some carrots, and a pack of chicken in the freezer.

So, first I got the chicken out to defrost, which once done was marinated in olive oil, a clove of garlic, half a teaspoon of English mustard, some herbs (I used chives from my window sill, parsley, thyme from the garden…well my neighbours garden) salt, pepper and some lemon zest and juice (that used another one of my glut mentioned in my last post). Left for an hour or two I then put the chicken in a roasting tray and stuck it in the oven, gas mark 6 for about 50 minutes to an hour. In the meantime I part boiled some peeled potatoes for 5 minutes or so, tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper, thyme, a sliced lemon and then roasted them in the oven too. I shredded the red cabbage and mixed it with grated carrots, chopped walnuts, raisins and made a dressing from 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons walnut oil, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey and some salt and pepper and tossed it over.

Marinated roast chicken, potatos and red cabbage slaw

The teens alternative...unmessed with salad, vegetarian sausages and organic tomato sauce

 

Voila, one healthy Friday supper (although the photo, rubbish as ever, doesn’t do it justice)….unfortunately the vegetarian teen wasn’t so keen and demanded her own ‘un-messed with salad’ which consisted of grated carrot and cucumber, no dressing and vegetarian sausages…can’t please ‘em all!!

Denise x

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Friday baking and liqueur making with a glut of lemons

I’m not entirely sure how I ended up with so many lemons in the house, I think it may have been something to do with me asking the other half to get me pack of lemons to make lemon curd after our last supper club. ‘How many do you need?’ he asked me ‘Not sure, maybe its best to get me two packs’ I replied, expecting him to return with two packs of four organic lemons. I was slightly shocked when he walked in with twenty-four.

The receipt nowhere to be seen the heat was on for me to use them before they shrivelled and had to be composted. I used eight for my lemon curd, which left me pondering how to use the remaining sixteen.

Luckily I had a massive bottle of vodka in store (which wasn’t bought to drown my sorrows on a bad day, but with the intent of making some liqueur or other).

So I managed to use ten of those lemons making Limoncello, an Italian liqueur heralding from the Amalfi coast. It is traditionally served chilled as an after dinner drink, often in small ceramic glasses which have themselves been chilled. My sister bought me a bottle for my 40th (as part of a collection of liquors from Vom Fass…she knows me well!!!) and it’s lovely on its own or in citrussy cocktails.

skinning the lemons

It’s also very easy to make. You simply peel the skin (not the pith) from 10 lemons, preferably organic and unwaxed, which have been washed well and dried. Place skin in a tall jar with a screw lid. Then make a sugar-syrup with 12oz granulated sugar and 5fl oz water. Put the sugar in a small pan, add the water and melt sugar over a low heat. Keep stirring making sure it does not come to the boil. As the syrup begins to clear take off the heat and leave to cool.

Add a litre of cheap vodka to the lemon peel in the jar and when the syrup has cooled add that scraping in any solidified sugar which has stuck to the sides and the bottom of the pan. Store the jar in a cool dark cupboard for 50 days (give or take a few…it’s probably good to leave it longer) turning once a week. Bottle and drink (but not all at once). Also makes a nice present if you can bear to give it away!!

screw top jar with lemon peel...just add vodka and sugar syrup

So that left me with six lemons, plus all of the skinned ones from the Limoncello. The next thing I made was a lemon seed cake. This is simply a variation on a classic Madeira cake recipe. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3, 170 degrees centigrade and then, cream 240g (8oz) unsalted butter with 210g (7oz) caster sugar add three large eggs then 90g (3oz) plain flour and 210g (7oz) self raising flour. Mix well (I use a food processor, such a cheat but so much easier). Then add the grated zest and juice of two lemons and 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds.  Turn into a lined greased loaf tin and bake for about an hour or until a skewer stuck into the cake comes out clean.

Lemon seed cake ready to bake...useless as ever, I forgot to photograph the end result

One lemon and one of the skinned ones down, I was still left with five plus nine.

The only thing for it was more lemon curd. I used a different recipe this time as I was short on eggs, but I managed to slip in 5 of the skinless lemons (plus the rind of two), which still left me with four skinless ones and three complete. Finally my daughter claimed two for her surprise mother’s day meal for me.

I think there may be a couple of skinless ones lurking somewhere, but I’m glad I used most of them as I really hate waste and I guess I will squeeze the rest for salad dressing!!

Denise x

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Menu’s and recipes

For all of you that have asked for menu samples and recipes I have now added a new sub-heading at the top which will be regularly updated (as and when I get a spare few minutes) with event menu’s and recipes….so you can keep an eye on what kind of things I cook and if you want to make it yourself at home!

Denise xx

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A quick word about booking….

Once again I am being plagued by last minute cancellations!!…This is hugely disappointing as I cannot really run supper club with less than six people (time, labour, cost of food and also the atmosphere…more people make for a more interesting evening)

…this Saturday now only has 2 people booked in following the cancellation of a largish party who on receiving directions for the evening suddenly realised I am in Wales and not London!!!!…I am now having to consider cancellation again

So…please please before you book

-ensure you can definately make it on the date (obviously some cancellations are unavoidable)

-ensure you know what you are booking and where I am!!

Thankyou

Denise xx

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Festive pants and piss pots of plonk

Whilst having a well-earned lie in on Sunday, listening to the birds building their nests in the eaves of the house and basking in the morning sun streaming through the skylight, a smile spread across my face. Thoughts of the previous nights supper club caused that smile and got me thinking about what I really love about doing it….the combination of meeting new people, providing fine food and a homely atmosphere is too simplistic. It’s much more than that. Now that we are into our sixth month and word is starting to spread I have realised it is the whole event that I enjoy, from sourcing the food, deciding what to cook, the anxiety about who will come, whether it will all come together in time, whether the guests will they like it, will they turn their noses up at my house, my kitchen, my family…then the adrenalin surge followed by relaxation as the guests arrive and service gets underway. This is replaced by elation as the evening progresses and the wine and conversation flows. I love the fact that even though I don’t know whats going to happen and every supper club is different. I also like it that I don’t know who has booked, although more often than not it turns out that I actually do know some of the guests…or someone else at supper club knows someone….a quirk of living in a small close-knit community.

Saturdays supper club was the perfect example of this quirk. From the clandestine cheese drop off in the B&Q car park (cheese and cash exchanging hands over the bonnet of the car, accompanied by furtive looks from passers-by) to the purchasing of vegetables from my dance partner and Pilates instructor…who also works at the local whole food shop Saffron in Llanberis  http://www.llanberisorganics.co.uk/ a great source of organic fruit and veg when there is little else around….

The cheese came from my usual sources; smoked Brie from Derimon http://www.derimonsmokery.co.uk/  Black bomber cheddar from the Snowdonia cheese company http://www.snowdonia-cheese.co.uk/ and a new soft cheese simply labelled CAWS (which is Welsh for cheese) from Ryd y Delyn farm (for more info contact menaijones@hotmail.com they don’t have a website as yet)

The final menu was a mix of tried and tested, alongside the new and it went as follows

Mixed Bruschetta, with a tomato salsa topping, roast figs with honey and Ricotta with prosciutto and basil and balsamic vinegar dressing. I hadn’t made them before but the idea came from the salad club blog (www.saladclub.com ), a great source of inspiration. They certainly went down well and made a perfect accompaniment to my ever popular and rather lethal Champagne cocktails.

Various Bruschetta

This was followed by carrot and coriander soup with chilli and ginger, as served on Valentines day supper club. My own variation with the chilli and ginger but i had to make it again as it went down so well.

I have also served Jamie Oliver’s recipe for roast chicken breast with basil butter, wrapped in Pancetta and served on a bed of winter leaves, roast potato , cherry tomato and olives before. Again the chicken was very well received and barely a scrap was left.

peeled pears...unfortunately no pictures of the end result!!

My diners had requested anything but a chocolately dessert (my usual choice being a chocolate fan) so I settled on a fruity pudding of Pear Financier (a Gordon Ramsey recipe) served with pears poached in red wine and a dollop of crème fraiche. Apart from two ladies who were not pear fans, the pudding also disappeared. The ladies in question were quite happy to top up with more wine instead!

Apart from a few minor hiccups (last-minute problems with sourcing decent olives…my home made French bread did not come out as planned so I had to dash to the supermarket to buy some and both kitchen helper and substitute kitchen helper failed to materialise) all ran remarkably smoothly….although once again I failed on the picture front…especially as I was so busy and two helpers down.

The evening took several bizarre twists, the first of which was the request to play Greek music….I didn’t ask!! The next was the rearrangement of the chairs so that the somewhat belated ‘secret santa’ pressies could be handed out….the few I caught included half a dozen eggs, a chocolate icing set, but as I was busy arranging cups, plates, cheese, chutney and coffee at the time I missed most….but at one point I came in to find a man taking his trousers down to display his Batman pants and a lady drinking from a piss pot….I couldn’t resist running back for my camera!!….

Secret santa pressies

The piss pot....and proud owner!!

At the end two random pressies were passed to Sean and I ….they swore they didn’t know what was in them…I got a pair of sexy black undies (very apt for those that know me) and Sean got a knitting doll (i’m sure there is something I could say about this, but he’d probably end up being isnsulted and not speaking to me)…I’m sure it would have been funnier and more photo worthy if Sean had received the pants.

Coffee, Caws and Crackers

The evening drew on, the laughter grew louder, the wine continued to flow and everyone got very merry!!! Including us who had a fantastic night. There really is nothing better than to hear diners having such a wonderful time. Several came into the kitchen later and told us that they had been somewhat sceptical when they were told they were going for a ‘secret supper’….one of whom had discovered on reading the blog that she recognised me, this simply made her feel more anxious about coming into my home….but I think and I hope they were all won over and will return again soon. One of our guests, who was methinks slightly worse for wear by this point stated emphatically “I will come back, with my friends this time”….his mate who was stood next to him looked affronted and said “and what are we then?” (I think he meant his OTHER friends…..)

This was one of our best supper club nights yet and I hope to see them all again soon.

Denise x

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