Monthly Archives: August 2011

Welsh produce in the Brecon Beacons

Welsh cheeses and home made chutney

As most regular readers of my blog will know I am a fiercely vocal advocate for the buying of local seasonal produce. This was no exception during my Green Man crew catering stint. I admit I had a lot of help before hand, having been sent a pretty thorough list of local businesses who were the most lovely, helpful bunch. So lovely in fact, that I thought I’d share them with my readers. Just in case you ever visit the Brecon Beacons, or if you live close to Crickhowell, or even if you are looking to buy your food on route to the Green Man festival you may want to pop along and sample their fabulous produce.

First stop would be Cashell’s (01873 810405); a fantastic family butchers and delicatessen stocking all things Welsh. I used an absolute  mountain of their smoked bacon, sausages, beef, lamb, mince and gammon. They supplied a never-ending choice of Welsh cheese for our popular lunchtime cheese board, which comprised cheeses from Caws Cenarth, the Snowdonia cheese company (Black Bomber and Green Thunder were firm favourites) and the Blaenavon Cheddar company, whose Taffi was a winner. Combined with both mine and Del from Calon y Cegin’s chutneys they went down a storm.

On to Askews family bakery (01873 810345), who supplied our bread and rolls. The rolls were soft, fresh and floury and everyone commented on how nice they were. We also sourced a lovely, cakey, bara brith from them which proved itself to be a very good staple for afternoon tea and a firm favourite with the crew.

enormous vat full of carrot and coriander soup…served with Askews buns

Our dairy man Carl (01873 810881) kept us supplied with milk, eggs, cream and lovely butter, although it would have been nice if the butter had been Welsh.

The only disappointment was the lack of local/British produce from the vegetable wholesaler. Quality was at times variable (very under ripe pears for example, which could have been locally sourced and would have been seasonal and ripe and tomatoes which are plentiful in the UK) and a lot was from overseas. On the other hand they were a lovely, friendly and helpful bunch who tried to make sure we had what we needed promptly.

Del and I brought a lot of our own ingredients such as preserved lemons, smoked paprika, sumac, Keralan chicken spices etc. but there came a point when even we ran out. I tried to avoid supermarket ordering on the whole, but there are some things you just can’t get in the local shop and without a market stocking exotic produce the next best choice was Waitrose in Abergavenny. They supplied most of the unusual ingredients we wanted such as Orzo, Tagine spices like Ras al Hanout, Harissa and balsamic vinegar. Anything that could be bought in bulk we picked up from Bookers, the local cash and carry.

Our suppliers didn’t let us down and so we had great, local food to offer the crew we cooked for. They felt like part of the family we spent so much time on the phone to them and its a shame that I won’t get to see them again until next year (hopefully).

The food wasn’t fancy. It was simple, well cooked and wholesome, think well-flavoured freshly made soups, stews, tagine, chilli and curries. On our last night, by popular demand I made a massive creamy fish pie with a fennel and endive salad followed by lemon meringue pie. Cashell’s supplied the fish at cost price and for that both I and the rest of the crew are eternally grateful. It made our week. I think and I hope we made people very happy and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

sliced, freshly cooked gammon…a lunch time staple along with soup, cheese and a couple of enormous salads

Denise x

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Filed under British food, Butchers, festival catering, home cooking, local produce, Organic meat, Sources and suppliers, travel, welsh cheese

Hello i’m back!!…and here’s what’s in store for September and October

Phew!! Its been a whirlwind month at the Green Man festival and it feels somewhat strange being back in my own house and not having to get up at six every morning to cook breakfast lunch and dinner for 50 people every day.

What with the long hours and intermittent internet access I have little time to think about the outside world, living in a self-contained little bubble, where everyone becomes family (albeit a somewhat dysfunctional one at times).   I made a lot of great friends, had a whale of a time but I’m glad to return to the real world.

But now that Autumn is creeping up on us, the kids are going back to school and holiday time is drawing to a close its time to look ahead. With so many exciting things coming up I have no time to feel sad about the end of summer and I really can’t wait for the Autumn and Winter!

Our next scheduled supper club is Saturday 1st October and unfortunately (or fortunately for me) it is already full. But do not fear, there will be plenty of other opportunities to attend.

On Saturday 5th November we are planning a bonfire and fireworks supper club where we will be serving lots of yummy warming food for a cold November, mulled wine, spiced punch, treacle tart and parking topped off with a bonfire and some fireworks to ooh and aah to.

and then Saturday 26th November which will have lots of hearty, wintry dishes

During September look closely and you will also find me at the Ogwen local Produce market (Saturday 10th September and Saturday 8th October) with freshly made jams and chutney’s; I will also be helping out Ellie and Rosie from Salad Club with their food stall at Harvest at Jimmy’s in Oxfordshire (9th – 11th September)  and at Conwy Feast doing a food demo and again with my Jam and Chutney stall (22nd -23rd October) more details to follow.

On 13th September and 22nd November I will be running a seasonal cookery course for  Moelyci Environmental Centre. Contact Naomi in the office for more details.

If none of these dates suit then feel free to call or email to discuss private bookings and bespoke cookery courses.

Look forward to hearing from youor seeing you over the coming months

Denise xxx

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Filed under baking, British food, cookery courses, home cooking, living room restaurant, local produce, produce markets, secret supper, Uncategorized, underground restaurant

Giant suppers and inspired food….crew cooking at the Green Man

The Lodge

Apologies for my relative quietness lately but I’ve been tucked away for the past week and a half in the beautiful surroundings of Glanusk Estate in the Brecon Beacons, cooking four meals a day for the hungry crew members that put together the Green Man festival.

The estate pre festival

The job came about through Ellie of salad club who cooked for them last year. I’d always fancied trying my hand at festival catering and the Green Man is my most favourite festival so I emailed her to say if she was doing it again, I’d love to do it with her. A year passed by and then out of the blue I got a message from her saying Green Man were looking for a caterer but she wasn’t doing it, did I want the job? Of course I phoned the organisers immediately and the rest is history!

I promptly set to looking for helpers. For the first ten-day feat Welsh supper club host Delyth from Calon y Cegin in Cardiff stepped in.   We’d never met before but through our Facebook link I contacted her and asked if she would be interested. She jumped at the chance.

Despite being privileged in that we got to stay in the Lodge, a  lack of internet access (a fault on the line) and the relentless workload kept me from the computer. Cooking for between 30 and 50 a day it was monumentally hard work. Up at six to prepare cooked breakfast, a brief sit down before starting on lunch, which consisted of soups, bread, salads, cheese, ham, Quiche, fruit and cakes, followed by afternoon tea at four and then straight on to dinner which was usually a big pot of tagine/goulash/stew/ chilli accompanied by potatoes, rice, couscous and various other salads and dessert. The last bits of clearing up and the night security pack lunches were usually done by nine, at which point we collapsed in a heap.

trays of cake for afternoon tea

massive trifle with home made sponge, custard and blackcurrant coulis

 

home-made focaccia and salads

cheese board and home made chutney

Delyth making industrial quantities of sponge...one with lime marmalade and coconut and the other with plum jam. We were also given a bag of plums from a tree on the estate that we turned into plum compote

chocolate brownie in massive quantities

our last lunch....didn't matter how much cheese we put out, it all went

We cooked everything  from scratch using supplies from the local producers plus we both brought with us some of our favourite ingredients, equipment, knives and a few odd extras such as special spice blends, black currants from my garden and toffee vodka (which went into a sticky ginger and toffee vodka cake)!!

Everyday we put our heads together to get creative. I’d worked out basic meal plans on a spread sheet but we often ad-libbed, changed things according to what we had in, or what needed using up. Food waste was minimal as numbers grew day on day. Five days in we asked the crew for feedback. What had they liked so far. They responded

we like cheese and we like cake….and we like cheesecake

We knew we were on to a winner…seeing as I’m a bit of a cake fiend myself.

It was a steep learning curve for both of us and at times a struggle to keep the energy levels high enough to keep going. We both had days where we felt like death and providing enough food on budget was my biggest headache.

There were days when we ran on caffeine and cigarettes. We sometimes worked through hangovers. Most of the time I didn’t get enough sleep, lured by the hypnotic charm of the crew camp fire and a cold beer, but despite all that Delyth and I made a great team, produced some fantastic inspired grub and didn’t fall out.

26 litres of carrot and coriander soup

a few of the crew

more crew...getting lunch. They were all the hardest working bunch EVER

The best bit of all was seeing how gratefully received our meals were. There’s nothing that makes a dedicated cook smile more than to see people enjoying their creations. In the words of Bill (designer and builder of the main stage)

I love you…you keep me alive!

Bill in the cherry picker at main stage

My three-day break back at home with the kids is drawing to a close and I’m back off the Brecon tomorrow for the festival and five more days cooking. More tales of crew catering will follow…

Main stage

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Filed under baking, British food, festival catering, home cooking, local produce, Uncategorized

For the love of meat balls

My recent lunch in Polpo reminded me of how much I love Italian meatballs, or Polpette as they are there.

Polpette...with a bit of spagetti...even though I said I prefer them without!!..a hungry mother can change her mind can't she?

Meatballs are standard fare around the world. In Germany they are fried and called frikadeller or klopse and in Denmark they are frikadelier. In Indonesia and the Philippines they are more usually served in a noodle soup or broth.  In Portugal or Brazil they are almôndegas and cooked in a tomato sauce. I have my own recipe for these yummy little meatballs which seems to include elements from all the countries, although mine are more akin to the Italian inspired ones I had at Polpo that came with a rich tomato sauce, the perfect accompaniment to my mind.

Polpette are usually made with a mixture of beef and pork, bread soaked in milk and flavoured with a variety of ingredients such as onion, parsley, Romano cheese or garlic. They are commonly served as a second course with a salad, and not in the American style, with pasta. Having said this, serving them with pasta in Italy is not unheard of and I often do at home simply because the kids demand it!

I love them simply because they are hearty country fare. No fuss. No need for unneccessary adornment. But these succulent little balls are also versatile. They are perfect for lunch or supper; they make me think of raucous family dinners sat around a large table in the sun, but at the same time they comfortably hold their own as part of a restaurant menu. Even better, it is just as easy to make a vat full for a large hungry gathering as it is to make a small amount for two.

a massive pan of Polpette for a lot of people

Polpette:

To serve six to eight with or without pasta.

For the polpette: 2 thick slices ciabatta, 8 tablespoons milk, 350g minced pork, 350g minced beef, a good handful of chopped parsley, a handful of chopped fresh oregano, 4 cloves garlic, 1 large egg beaten.

For the sauce: 2 tins of cherry tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tomato or sun-dried tomato puree, 1 teaspoon sugar, 150ml of red wine, or water, 2 cloves garlic crushed. Chopped parsley and fresh oregano. Salt and pepper.

Tear the bread into small pieces into a bowl removing the crusts. Pour over milk and leave for about ten minutes or so to soften. Add the pork and beef, half the parsley and oregano and garlic, salt and pepper. Knead well with clean hands to work all the ingredients together. There shouldn’t be any big lumps of bread left. Add the egg to bind and continue working the mixture together. spoon out about a dessertspoonful of mixture and form into a golf ball size/shape.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan and fry the balls briskly until browned. Put to one side. Add all the ingredients for the sauce to the pan and bring to the boil squashing the cherry tomatoes into the sauce as you go. Once bubbling return the balls to the pan, turn the heat down low and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Just before serving check the seasoning, then serve with a sharp lemony salad.

 

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Filed under family budget cooking, home cooking, Italian food, Organic meat, Uncategorized