Preserving workshops, Morrison’s magazine, BBC Radio ‘Wales on the Menu’ and a simple plea

So, another busy week ends and I have lots more exciting things to report, plus a heartfelt plea to my readers.

But lets start on a high note! Last week, as some people have mentioned to me already, there was a little piece in Morrison’s supermarket in-store magazine about supper clubs. Moel Faban was one of four mentioned and asked to contribute to the article. I’m not a big fan of supermarkets as most will know and tend to only use them for basics, so it’s slightly strange being written about by one, but also nice at the same time. It’s only a small mention mind (and they spelt Faban wrong), but its nice to have some recognition for starting the trend in Wales 🙂

On that note, it will be our third birthday this coming October. How time flies!! Keep an eye out for dates as we might have to have a special celebration!

The other thing that happened last week was that BBC Radio Wales’s Wales on the Menu programme contacted me. In it Simon Wright challenges home cooks to get their speciality dish on the menu of a top restaurant.  I like this programme myself, so when they asked me to pass the word out to my followers, or anyone that might be keen to take part in the new series I was happy to oblige. Lets see a few more North Walean cooks getting themselves on the map!

If you want more information about taking part, or know anyone that might be up for a challenge, you can email them at walesonthemenu@presentable.co.uk 

I finished the week catering for a big birthday bash on Saturday, followed by a day of preserving workshops on Sunday. Organised  by Moelyci Environmental Centre and the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, they were a way of welcoming Autumn and celebrating the harvest.

Workshop photos taken with my camera by Emily @Moelyci: picture 1 showing a less than glamorous me (oh how I wish I was a little photgenic) with the morning group; then measuring out the fruit, Moelyci strawberries frozen during the summer months and then defrosted for jam making; and finally everyone in action!

When I say harvest it is with a little sadness that our British one is rather depleted this year. It is noticeably thin on the ground with the apple yield down (my tree only grew two very small apples), hardly any black currants in comparison to last year and most soft fruit faring badly in the face of a deluge of rain with little sun to even things out. Earlier in the year my Mum complained about the ruined Kentish cherry crop. Usually her little tree is positively bowed under the weight of fruit. This year they failed to grow…and when they did get going they failed to ripen. I missed out totally and have had little to turn into jam. The only thing I have plenty of is gooseberries which I picked and froze before I went away for the summer. They will soon be turned to jam and made into other lovely desserts.

On the day of the festival the heavens opened again and drowned us all day. Thankfully my two preserving groups (eight in the morning and eight in the afternoon) and I remained dry in our little catering marquee, warmed by three gas stoves and cheered by a heavenly aroma of fruit and spices which greeted the senses of anyone entering. We didn’t care about the rain.

When asked to run the workshops I doubted my own abilities. I thought that seasoned preservers would know more than me and put me to shame, but I surprised myself with the amount of jamming knowledge i have stuffed away inside my head. I not only passed on basic tips but encouraged experimentation and bravery. Each little group chose different spices and seasonings for their chutney; a little indian pickle spice here, some chilli flakes there, a bit of star anise and mustard seeds a plenty. In our jam session we tried different quantities of sugar (to see if it affected the set) and ways to tone down the sweetness of strawberry jam. Most of all we had fun. Which is what cooking is all about after all!

Moelyci is a regular host for such events but sadly it is, like many small organisations in the UK, being threatened by the recession. In recent months it has lost income streams that make proactive fundraising approaches necessary to make sure it survives.

Moelyci was once an industrious Welsh upland sheep farm owned by Penrhyn Estates. In 2003 the last tenant moved out no longer able to make a living from the farm. The farm was at risk of being sold and developed into a holiday home complex which would have destroyed the natural landscape (250 of its 340 acres now have SSSI and SAC European status). Instead the community got together, raised the income and a mortgage and saved the site for the local community. These days Moelyci has received critical acclaim for its conservation management, its social enterprise principles, educational opportunities, preservation of the areas natural heritage, market garden and abundant fruit fields. It’s been visited and filmed by Iolo Williams for S4C, BBC Countryfile and is a small hub of cultural opportunity. Everyone involved with Moelyci (not just myself) would like to see this grow and expand.

Sadly critical acclaim doesn’t pay the mortgage (which is a large one), or staff to run the place and take these plans forward. The centre is run by a small paid workforce, plus a dedicated band of volunteers who help with its upkeep and development. An elected group of volunteer ‘directors’ (of which I am one) help make and drive plans forward. Readers will know that I get a lot of produce from the market garden there and have been a visitor to the place long before I became a director. I have a vested interest of course, as do the employees who are keen to continue working there, but this is a valuable natural resource for the whole community too. Better this than a holiday home complex?

So why am I writing about this? Well this is the heartfelt plea I mentioned earlier. Anyone can become a member of Moelyci Environmental Centre. It has Industrial & Provident Society (IPS) status and it’s  co-operatively owned by its members. Like the Centre for Alternative Technology you can ‘buy’ non-profit making ‘shares’ which brings you membership. You will receive regular information, discounts on courses and the opportunity to rent an allotment on the site. If you don’t wish to do this you can make a one off donation, or just come along and buy produce from the market garden (they run a small veg box scheme) or bring along your green garden waste for composting. Moelyci is also an open access site so you are welcome to go for a walk across the hills and in the woods that surround the farm. All of this support will help make sure that Moelyci Farm, the land and the Mountain survives and develops for the benefit of the community, the environment and the future generations that will learn about its heritage. For more information email office@moelyci.org or phone 01248 602793 or simply pop in and visit this historic farm.

Thanks all xx

Image courtesy of Steve Jones @ Ultra(lazy)runner blog

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Filed under British food, cookery courses, Food festival, in the press, local produce, preserving, Sources and suppliers, Uncategorized

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