Baking, birthday dinners and spring fairs

I always say it but it has been a busy week. This weekend saw two big events take place, the first a private birthday supper club and the second my first ‘official’ produce stall for which I have slaved over a hot stove for the last two months. Planning and prepping for supper club, as well as the stall proved a challenge in itself, but on top of that I have worked with my marketing and publicity expert (the lovely Gemma) on jam jar labels (in the printers in time for the fair) and business cards. To make life that bit more complicated my broadband went down on Wednesday hence my lack of blogging and the need to do all things by blackberry (very fiddly and annoying).

As Friday afternoon approached I wondered if I had taken on too much yet again, but just as it always does everything worked out well in the end. We collected the cards and labels at four and were back home in time to watch me embarrass myself on national TV. Oh well, every programme needs stockings, lace and tears…if only it hadn’t all been added by me!

I spent the rest of Friday until about midnight labelling jam and writing ingredients in not one, but two languages (I am resolutely bilingual when it comes to selling produce locally). I gave up at about midnight having fretted over how to say ‘best before’ in Welsh and guessing that my friends would not take kindly to a text at that time asking this.

Saturday started with an early trip to the farmers market for cheeses and fresh vegetables and then a visit to Moelyci for the rest. Gemma (mentioned above) had made some specific requests for her birthday dinner: Beef, halloumi, celeriac, purple sprouting broccoli,lots of garlic and cheese. She was less specific about dessert, stating

“I’m all about the main course”

but she did say she liked dark chocolate…and maybe chocolate mousse. The menu went like this

Smoked halloumi salad (compliments of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)

Braised fillet of beef with garlic, rosemary and Copa di Parma

Celeriac gratin

I then added to that mashed potato with wild garlic and an amazing asparagus and parmesan gratin which was basically a souffle mix with asparagus laid into it. This was for particularly for the lone vegetarian, but it went down well with the others too and as this was the first of the new season asparagus, I was unable to resist. It wasn’t cheap, but it was certainly worth it. The light delicate tips and thin spears perfectly fused with the parmesan, encased in light and fluffy souffle.

local asparagus, first of the season

table setting


plating smoked halloumi salads

basic souffle mix with asparagus and parmesan ready to go in the oven

beef fillets wrapped in Copa di Parma braising on red Barolo wine with red onions and celery

plating beef and wild garlic mash

Dessert was a bit of a disappointment for me even though everyone seemed to love it . Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason why something works perfectly one day and doesn’t the next and on this occasion the dark chocolate mousse, which I have made many times before,  resolutely refused to set perfectly, remaining stubbornly gloopy much to my annoyance. It was served with some buttery home-made shortbread which at least made up for the annoying mousse. While I was at it I made a good batch of biscuits for the Moelyci spring fair the following day.

chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce and shortbread

This was by far the most glamorous dinner I have hosted. Gemma and gang pushed the boat out turning up in their best long and floaty summer dresses, hair adorned with flowers and sporting sky-high heels oblivious to the uphill trek to my house. They all looked gorgeous. Dinner itself was, apart from that damn mousse, a great success. At one point Gemma was overheard making loud noises of appreciation…I said “well I think that’s gone down well” as she appeared in the doorway and exclaimed  “oh my God, that is the BEST bit of beef I have EVER had”. The next day I spotted comments on Facebook stating that “I am never eating anywhere else again” which confirmed that she’d had a great night.

cheese board of local produce and home-made chutney

Cheese and coffee were followed by birthday cake, made not by me but one of Gemma’s friends, in the shape of a giant Jaffa cake, complete with orange and Cointreau jelly in the middle and I giant flamethrower, firework, candle thingy on top. I feared for my safety and watched the low beams in the living room for signs of charring but mercifully the fire alarms stayed silent and the beams remained white and unburnt. I like the fact that all the stray kids that littered our house gathered to peer through the banisters, probably in the hope that something very dramatic would happen.

highly dangerous flamethrower candle

you can see the kids in the background waiting for it all to go wrong!

By about 11.30 they all teetered off down the very steep hill in their very high heels. I watched and wondered if my insurance covered broken ankles.

The following morning started bright and early and as glorious sunshine beamed down, I packed the car up with Jams, biscuits and fresh meringues for my first day as a produce seller at the Moelyci spring fair. I hoped the good weather would mean that everybody would be out for a day in the sun and I wasn’t wrong. The beautiful mountain surroundings of Moelyci farm on a hot sunny day appeared to bring out half the local population: kids, dogs and every hippy within a 10 mile radius turned out for a picnic on the hillside. Giant bubbles drifted on the breeze, morris dancers with jangling bells and silly outfits entertained, as well as a variety of local acoustic musicians. Even though us stall holders were somewhat confined to our covered marquee, we still had a very good day, so good that in fact I sold 52 jars of jam, marmalade and lemon curd. Amazing!!!

the stall

a few other goodies

All in all it was a fantastic weekend!

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Filed under baking, British food, home cooking, local produce, Organic meat, secret supper, Sources and suppliers, Uncategorized, underground restaurant

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