Monthly Archives: January 2013

A night of moules and music…Moelyci benefit night

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On Friday 1st February I will be donating my time to support Moelyci Environmental Centre. They are one of my primary local suppliers and hold the unique title of being the first community owned farm in the UK, a model which has helped and inspired other similar and perhaps more well-known projects such as Fordhall in Shropshire (which was England’s first community owned farm). Moelyci is a very special place. As a pioneering community enterprise where every member is an equal (whoever they are and whatever their background) it is a shame it has never been able to reach its full potential. There are many reasons for this, but a significant one is their lack of working capital. The future vision is there but with high mortgage payments, little spare income to increase staffing levels, geographical isolation and perhaps a certain lack of effective marketing its true potential has not yet been realised.

As a working farm it has always been at ease with its small, sustainable, peaceful cooperative ethos but sadly now that is not enough. The present economic climate is making life difficult for businesses small and large to survive. Moelyci like many non-profit making social enterprises are struggling for survival and as someone who works closely with and respects their work, the last thing I, or the rest of the community want to see is another community enterprise go under.The likelihood is that the land would be lost to developers and the mountain no longer accessible for the community.

We are all working hard to save the centre and I am helping in any way I can. Their situation is precarious but not yet dire; they survived Christmas due to a local groundswell of support and a huge amount of voluntary action, but we need more of this.

The building of a much-needed education centre (and one which has taken up a lot of the financial reserves) is one step to bringing in new and increased revenue, the mortgage is paid up til March, a green burial site is in preparation, but the bills are still mounting and the regular members of staff have all been on reduced hours since the end of November to meet financial commitments around the farm.

So now I have said all this all I can add is that….If you are local come and join us for a night of food (local Menai moules mariniere with bread) and quality music in the form of Bandabacana and the Racubah DJ’s; two prodigious local talents and purveyors of dance, funk and afro-latin grooves.

If you are not local maybe you could spare a few pounds to help us buy the mountain and farm. Money raised will enable us to finish building the barn and allow us to forge ahead with future developments that will ensure sustainability, so the local (and wider) community can continue to enjoy this beautiful Welsh mountain farm.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MOELYCI OR MAKE A DONATION PLEASE CLICK HERE

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Whisky and orange crepes….perfect for a snowy day

So, I’m snowed in. It’s a reasonably common occurrence where I live as I’m up on higher ground. Whilst those in Bangor city wonder what all the fuss is about, my village just a few miles outside is hit by snowmageddon! Abandoned cars, icy roads and snow drifts render some parts of the village inaccessible (including my street) but the fun we have tobogganing makes up for it. We all love a ‘snow day’!

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So of course I did the only thing a girl could do. I panic bought whisky and ginger wine to make whisky macs, drank Bailey’s hot chocolate with whipped cream, enjoyed a snowy walk or two and tried not to fall over on the ice. Sledging was unfortunately out of the question what with my back being bad and all, but I made up for it with some dedicated ‘apres ski’.

With food running slightly short in the house (yep, bought plenty of booze, but nothing of much use other than that) we resorted to split pea soup (at least I’d made it with proper fresh chicken stock and topped with crispy bacon) and a wonderfully indulgent creation of whisky and orange pancakes. Made in the same way as crepe suzette, the retro classic french dessert, but with whisky and not Grand Marnier and using a couple of the 15 kilos of Seville oranges from the load delivered on Thursday. They were a massive hit. Using the Seville’s with a couple of lemons produced a sharper citrussy sauce, but I liked that sweet and sour effect. Just like squeezing lemon juice on your pancakes.

Whisky and orange crepes:

To make 8 crepes:

120g plain flour

pinch of sea salt

2 large eggs

half a pint (275ml) milk

oil for cooking

For the sauce:

zest of one orange and one lemon

juice of one lemon and three oranges..I used Seville but you can use any juicy orange.

90g butter

120g caster sugar

100ml whisky

Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs and milk and whisk together to make a smooth, lump free batter.

Heat a small flat-bottomed pan. Add a trickle of oil and swirl it around the bottom of the pan. When it is really hot and just beginning to smoke a little add some of the batter. Quickly swirl this around the pan to coat the bottom. Cook until it looks golden brown and then flip it over to cook on the other side. Remove the crepe on to a plate and repeat the process until you have used all the mixture.

In another pan, this time larger melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and simmer together for a few minutes until it just starts to change colour. Immediately add orange and lemon juice and zest and simmer for a couple more minutes. Add whisky and then start to add one pancake at a time folding into quarters, they should all be able to fit snugly into one pan. Allow to bubble gently for a few minutes so they soak up the sauce

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You can serve these with cream or ice cream, but they really don’t need anything else but the rich, sticky sweet-sour sauce. True comfort food!

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Easy apple brioche

Yep, here it is, that diet destroying recipe from Alex Gooch that I promised in my last post. What can I say? It is simply addictive. There’s not much else I can add. Just try it for yourself.

500g Shipton Mill strong white flour

6 large eggs

250g butter at room temperature

130g sugar

10g salt

8g dried yeast (Doves Farm is good)

4 large apples chopped into chunks (no need to peel)

20g cinnamon

20g cardamom

icing sugar

For the glaze:

200g runny honey

50ml hot water

juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl mix the flour, salt and yeast and 50g sugar. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly. It will be quite sticky.

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Turn onto a table or board. Chop the butter and dot over the dough….yep you use the whole pack!

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Massage the butter into the dough until combined. On another part of the table, or another board sprinkle plenty of flour. Scrape up the sticky brioche dough and place on top of the flour. It doesn’t require kneading just bring it together into a neat ball with a dusting of flour.

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Put into an oiled bowl and cover the bowl with clingfilm. Leave it somewhere warm for about two and a half hours.

When ready turn the dough on to a well floured board and shape into an oblong (as in the picture below)

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sprinkle over the cinnamon, cardamom and remaining sugar then top with chopped apple. Starting from the top roll the dough into a swiss roll shape. With a sharp knife cut into about eight to ten slices putting them top up on baking tray covered with baking paper. You want to fit them close together so that they batch while proving.

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Cover with oiled cling film and leave for another 2 hours.

Bake in a medium oven 180 degrees, gas mark 4 for 20 to 25 minutes.

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Allow to cool on the tray and do not separate the buns. Combine all the ingredients for the glaze and use to coat the buns about 20 minutes after they come out of the oven. After glazing sprinkle well with icing sugar.

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WARNING!! DO NOT MAKE IF ON A DIET!!! Ours lasted 3 days!!

If you live close to Hay on Wye, I’m sure you can pick some up from the man himself or from one of the many local stockists, check here to find out where to buy.

 

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Sourdough and brioche at Bodnant Welsh Food Centre

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There is one thing I have to say……that Alex Gooch has singlehandedly ruined my post-Christmas diet.

Attending part two of his bread making course (this time the advanced class) was always going to be a struggle. It appears now that my resolution to cut out bread and cakes for the month of January was premature, especially as I seem to have given up smoking and drinking too. Smoking because I have long had a rule that I will only smoke if here is tobacco in the house and now everyone else has given up smoking too, so by default so have I and alcohol because it doesn’t mix with hefty doses of Cocodamol I’m taking for my back pain.

Now here we get to my other struggle, my slipped disc is not healing well and I knew I wouldn’t be able to lift, knead or stand for a long period but rather than cancel my place on the course, I took a helper along with me. That helper was none other than my teen.

You may laugh and raise an eyebrow as I know most teens would rather die than go make bread with their mother, but she did not scowl, moan or swear at me. She came totally of her own volition and even appeared to enjoy herself! It was also interesting for me to see how the course might appeal to someone who isn’t necessarily the ‘target audience’. Would she be bored or not keep up with instructions?

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looking slightly miserable as still not fully awake

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It is testament to Alex’s easy-going style and excellent teaching that she remained totally engaged (if a little monosyllabic early on, claiming that it was far too early for all this). Nothing was too complicated, it was well explained (even if she didn’t always listen or follow his instructions….but that is just being seventeen….clearly she knew better than anybody, even the expert!)

As a team we barely even bickered although she had the rest of the class tittering as she claimed I was sooo over controlling. She actually did most of the work while I sat watching and a bloody good job she did too.

But I have gone off on a tangent and you are probably still wondering why Alex ruined my diet….its totoally down to that apple brioche (this is where I sigh and drool in ecstasy) which was totally addictive. The teen and I ate our first chunk, still warm from the oven, glistening with the lemon, vanilla syrup in which it was doused and powdered with icing sugar in the car on the way home….and we haven’t stopped since. I promise I will share the recipe in my next post.

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I’m not sure yet whether Bodnant has sorted itself out organisation wise. Again we had to help ourselves to tea and coffee and there were no drinks provided during the day, in the end Alex had to find jugs and fetch drinks for lunch.  Lunch itself was enjoyable, although there was nothing there that Rosie liked except potato salad and coleslaw (but as a vegetarian that hates mushrooms that was just unfortunate). Alex however has been consistently good and if anything this was even better than the last, more relaxed and comfortable, although that might be because most of us had been at on the earlier course together.

We once again whizzed through the making of three different types of bread; rye sourdough, light rye sourdough, olive and rosemary sourdough and that fatal apple brioche.

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sticky brioche dough

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sticky hands!

Teen handled all of them exceptionally well, regressing to a child like state as she worked the sticky dough on the table (a memory of play dough perhaps!). If anything she played around poking and prodding the dough a little too much so that our light sourdough did not rise as much as it should. A lesson learned.

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sourdough in proving baskets

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the olive and rosemary sourdough in the proving baskets…this one didn’t rise so well due to too much teen prodding and not enough resting!

I told her to listen carefully as she might learn something when we discussed sourdough starters. Alex told us he’d had his sourdough starter for seven and a half years!! Deb, the only other woman on the course, told a story of how sourdough starters are often passed down through the generations from grandmother to granddaughter, a beautiful historic link to the past and a way of life that has slowly been eroded by the modern world. Sometimes they are given as a wedding present to daughters to carry on a family tradition….Rosie looked totally horrified at the thought of being passed on a sourdough starter. I said she could have it as a wedding present….to which she replied “What for? It’s not like I’m EVER going to make bread again in my life! ” I’m now looking forward to the day when she comes to me and says “Remember when we went to that bread course…what did that bloke say about…”

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Alex’s seven and a half year old sour dough starter

Her concentration only waned as the marathon bread baking began and we all stood chatting. She couldn’t be bothered talking to us boring lot so went to read her book, nipping back now and then as the next loaf came out of the oven.

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dark rye sourdough

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beautiful light sourdough

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almost a full set

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Rosie’s piece de resistance…..apple brioche, with run soaked prunes

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coating the brioche with syrup

She finally returned to wrap all the baked bread carefully in tissue and greased proof paper. Back at home she carried the box into the house with great pride “I made that” she said. I hope one day she will return to this memory and come back for her sourdough starter.

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A box of carefully wrapped bread to take home

A course with Alex is a joy. Although there does tend to be a ‘typical’ audience (very male) don’t let this put you off, the course is fun for everyone…even a stroppy teen!!

To check courses and dates go to the cookery school page on the Bodnant website, or email reception@bodnant-welshfood.co.uk for further information.

Moel Faban Suppers and Rosie McClearn were guests of Bodnant Welsh Food.

 

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A recipe top ten for 2012

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Funnily enough my most popular posts for 2012 weren’t recipes at all, they were either restaurant (Cennin, Vijante) or product reviews (Magimix, Sarpo potatoes).

My most popular and sought after recipe of 2012 was (quite fittingly after all the preserving demo’s I held last year) one for Pumpkin Jam. But, like many of my well used recipes on the blog it isn’t new at all; its nice to see that they are still in demand!

TOP TEN:

1. Pumpkin Jam

2. Tipsy Laird Trifle

3. Roast Potatoes

4. Winter Minestrone

5. Roast duck breast with redcurrant and red wine sauce

6. Lamb Merguez stew

7. Apple and cinnamon tart with bara brith ice-cream

8. Ginger, orange blossom and vanilla salt cookies

9. Orange, herb and wild garlic flower salad

10. Beetroot tart tatin

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Happy New Year! A round up of 2012 and a fresh start for 2013

So that was 2012, the year of the Dragon, a year of change. Well, the world didn’t end, but for many including myself a new chapter of life began. Last year was certainly a busy, interesting and highly enjoyable journey! All that I hoped for happened and lots that I could never have anticipated.

My goal for 2012 was to build Moel Faban Suppers into a business with a good reputation and one that paid the bills. A simple wish really and something I have worked hard to make happen. It was a slow and inauspicious start. January was quiet and I worried that work wasn’t coming in. Had I made a mistake believing I could build a business in a recession? I fretted a lot as we lived a very frugal family life. I hadn’t anticipated how quiet the month would be and I cursed myself for not saving more the previous year.

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There were odd moments of fun though as we hosted our first ever Sunday brunch which was a great success and I indulged in a bit of sausage making with my local butcher. I also had more time to cook and develop recipes and I had three summer wedding bookings to plan for.

By February and March things started to pick up. The local produce market and supper club restarted with a St. Patrick’s Day dinner. I also had a few nice private chef jobs and demo’s booked in. One was for nine very lovely firemen, while one of my demo’s was in a local secondary school.  Following on from this Big Ideas Wales contacted me and asked if I would like to join their list of Dynamo Role Models. I did and so now I go out to schools and colleges in the area to talk to students about entrepreneurship and starting a business.

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I still had just about enough time to visit some of my local producers; The Mushroom Garden were kind enough to sponsor a competition.

April saw the arrival of lots of goodies in the post. It was like Christmas all over again as I spent the month creating recipes and reviewing products for the blog. From Montezuma and Green and Blacks chocolate to Rachel’s Organic Yogurt and Clipper teas, my family and friends enjoyed being recipe testers. I also got out and about visiting various foodie destinations; a trip to Brixton Market and lunch with French and Grace and a visit to The Real Food Market at the South Bank.

By May the festival and wedding season arrived with a vengeance. I didn’t know it at the time but the Spanish supper club held early in the month would be our last for the year, but all of a sudden weddings just took over. As well as the three bookings I already had, I received another two. One for last-minute canapes and another mercifully for later in the year.

I zoomed into another frenetic gear as the first of five weddings arrived. This was rather too closely followed by a food stall at Kaya Festival that coincided with the Jubilee weekend, a teaching trip to Germany and another three weddings on consecutive weekends. At the end I was fit to drop. It was a fantastic learning curve and I hope I did justice to each wedding despite my relative lack of experience. I know that at three of the weddings my team got a special thank you and round of applause for the food which totally made our day! This year I will remember that two weddings a month is more than enough for me!

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I took no bookings for July as I intended to take a long family holiday. I did manage a week in Ireland but out of the blue I received an email from Kerstin Rogers (AKA ms marmite lover). She and Alex Haw of Latitudinal Cuisine had joined forces to host an event that coincided with the Olympics. Global Feast 2012 was a kind of food olympics, held over 20 consecutive nights and with a different chef/world cuisine each night and seated around an amazing world map table designed by Alex’s Atmos design team.

Alex and Kerstin were looking for supper club hosts and up and coming chefs to cook on each night. They asked me to cook on British food night, serving dishes that represented the best of Wales. I made tiny tarts as canapes and crammed as many Welsh products into my dessert as I could manage!

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This was one of my best experiences of the year. I was buzzing before, during and after it. Stressful as it was, I loved every minute of it. It gave me the opportunity to meet other supper club hosts and chefs and work on a unique collaborative project. I knew then that I wanted to do more pop-up events (and later in the year I did exactly that!)

I was back home a week before I hit the road again, this time to cook at The Green Man festival for the second year running. A new assistant accompanied me this year, lovely Lizzie, who became the fried egg queen and serial washer upper and we were all sad when our ten-day opening stint came to an end. On the out my sister Kate (freelance photographer and art blogger at exporingartinthecity) helped but this may well be her last year as she heads for new horizons.

As we headed into the Autumn more cookery demo’s and my last wedding of the year awaited. Conwy Feast and Moelyci Harvest Festival were highlights, topped only by the five stars awarded me at my environmental health inspection. Its likely I am the only five-star domestic property in the vicinity!

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My wish for more pop-up events came true in December with a three course, 1930’s German themed cabaret supper. Tickets for the collaborative Weimar Productions event sold out. Guests came clad in their 1930’s finery and we Charlestoned the night away to some absolutely fantastic music. It really did cap a wonderful year.205128_122144001281111_1138279861_n 430807_494225723955258_1313142107_n

So now we are back in January and like last year it is quiet. This time I’m ready. I have jobs a plenty to keep me busy; lots of paperwork (yuk, but it has to be done!) and planning and organising for the rest of the year. It’s nice to have a clear month to think about what I want to focus on and where I need some help. More weddings, festivals and more private jobs are on the horizon so there will probably be a few additions to the Moel Faban team, but I also want to get back to basics. Supper club is where I started and I don’t want to let that go despite having a very quiet year.

Dinners will therefore restart on January 26th and we will return to small events for up to eight people at £25 a head. The last Saturday of the month will become a regular slot with the produce market taking place on the second Saturday of the month. I’m also hoping to make a return to selling jam and chutney as that has fallen by the wayside this year.

For now though all I can say is happy new year and I look forward to seeing some of you in my home, at the market or elsewhere….

 

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