Monthly Archives: May 2013

Abersoch Makers Market

crug, makers market and bubbles 005

It’s a few weeks since I took a little trip down to the Abersoch Makers Market, but as usual I’ve been busy with other jobs, trips and recipe development but I wanted to say something before the experience passes into the hazy mist of my memory and I forget all about it.

I don’t think the weather could have been better for this inaugural Abersoch market. The latest in a series of Makers Markets taking part across the North West, this was the first in Wales bringing together a host of local food, drink, art and craft producers and those from further afield. On the day I visited there were a variety of stall holders, some were local artisans while others were members of the Makers Market collective who run regular events in Bramhall, Cheadle and Winsford. Several participants had indeed travelled from Cheshire.

Abersoch is one of the best places to get a summer market going. The population in the area swells between May and September with a mixture of affluent city dwellers (Cheshire and the Wirral being the main culprits) decamping to holiday homes, short visit holidaying tourists plus a hoard of day trippers and weekenders from Manchester and Liverpool that flood in during sunny weekends. The small quiet town, popular with surfers and sailors almost turns into a mini city and this was almost the case on the day I visited. The Saturday marked the beginning of a bank holiday weekend which was luckily graced with blazing sunshine (although still bitterly cold) and as a result, a huge crowd. Throw in some live music, a beautiful harbour side location and you are on to a winner. I was very glad I’d travelled down early, browsing and grabbing some lunch before heading back out. As I drove along the A487 I watched the lines of traffic grow. I breathed an inward sigh of relief that I wasn’t stuck in it.

The market itself was buzzing and several stall’s were buzzing with customers. ‘Shabby chic’ and ‘vintage’ craft stalls drew the most attention, clearly popular among the market visitors while other stalls selling hand-made soaps did less well.

In terms of fresh produce, I think they could have done with a bit more variety. I know one or two traders that held back this time (my other reason for visiting was to do a rekkie for Moelyci to see what it was like before they forked out a hefty £35 pitch fee; a high price for some of our local producers). Perhaps others were also being cautious and waiting to see how the market did before signing up, but hopefully more suppliers will join in as time goes on.

While there was a conspicuous absence of fresh produce such as locally grown veg, plants or bread it was rather heavy on the pie and cake. Nothing jumped out at me as being really artisan or unusual (there were several familiar faces that attend a few markets) while much of what was on offer was predictably expensive. Even the hot food was rather samey…artisan, locally made sausages from Buster’s Bangers (which were very nice I might add), local lamb burgers that kind of thing. It’s the kind of market that encourages you to buy things you don’t need rather than going along to do a weekend shop (the main reason I like to visit a market). Sure its nice to get a few treats, but if we want to encourage people to buy local produce and not hit the supermarket, the products must be on offer.

The market was enjoyable, had a great feel to it and will probably do very well with the tourist trade…but as an artisan market, or as a local farmers market? Well, it felt much the same as other markets in the local area so I’m not sure I would regularly drive for an hour  once a month to visit.

But still,  in my eyes all artisan markets are good so I hope they do well!

crug, makers market and bubbles 010

A busy food marquee, even quite early in the morning

crug, makers market and bubbles 012

Pies, pies and more pies….sold by men in skirts!

crug, makers market and bubbles 031

crug, makers market and bubbles 016

crug, makers market and bubbles 023

…and lots of tarts and cakes

crug, makers market and bubbles 024

crug, makers market and bubbles 028

crug, makers market and bubbles 047

and bizarrely tucked in among the craft stalls were oysters and champagne….bu unfortunately not local Welsh Oysters

crug, makers market and bubbles 050

Nice home-made sausages from Busters Bangers

crug, makers market and bubbles 042

Shabby chic and bunting

crug, makers market and bubbles 046

Leave a comment

Filed under British food, festival catering, festival food, local produce, produce markets, reviews

A brief introduction to Kiel

This is my third visit to Kiel, one the smaller German cities that sits on the coast of the Baltic sea. It’s the capital city of Schleswig-Holstein, the most northern of Germany’s sixteen states and although it’s not the most popular destination for UK tourists it is a real hub for visitors heading up from Southern Germany and those travelling over on ferries from the Scandinavian countries.

Many tourists from elsewhere in Europe miss Kiel possibly in the mistaken belief that it is either a/generally cold and not the place for a beach holiday or b/ that it is simply the gateway to Scandinavia (it has the main ferry terminal offering overnight trips to Oslo, Gottenburg and Klaipeda in Lithuania) and is very close to the Danish border. Plus its a stop off point for cruise ships travelling the Baltic countries. To think that this is all it has to offer is a long way from the truth.

Kiel may not have the most historic or beautiful buildings (it had the shit bombed out of it during the war) but it does have a rich and interesting history and an air of culture and heritage. It has always been one of the major maritime centres of Germany, home to the German Navy’s Baltic Fleet and a centre for high-tech shipbuilding (hence it becoming a target for allied bombers). It’s sailing culture remains strong as Kiel plays host to many international sailing events, these include the Kieler Woche (Kiel Week) the biggest sailing event in the World which usually takes place during the last week of June. But there are lots of smaller events popping up at one time or another throughout May and June (which is often when the weather is at its best)..in fact the weekend I visited saw a childrens festival on the harbour, a sailing festival and a kids football championship (out where I was staying)

Kiel makes a great base for exploring Northern Germany and the Baltic sea beaches, which have much to offer. There are plenty to choose from as they flank both sides of the Kieler Forde, the inlet from the Baltic that runs down to the city. All are very clean and sandy, have extremely safe waters (shallow, calm and no with big choppy waves) and are very popular with families (especially those with small kids). Of course they tend to be busy around the sailing weeks, so double-check before visiting if you don’t fancy tangling with the sailing set.

I actually stayed about 15 kilometres outside Kiel with hosts living on the West side of the Forde. The village of Danischenhagen is very convenient  for the beaches of Strande and Schilksee (only 5 kilometres), while on the East side the beaches of Monkeberg, Schoenberg and Laboe (where you can visit the Laboe Naval Memorial and the U-995; the world’s only remaining Type VII U-boat) a must-see for kids and adults alike

As the Kieler Forde opens out to the open sea more beaches line with flanked by numerous little campsites that run up and down the coastal area.

This part of Germany was once owned by Denmark (hence some of the village names) and is so close to the border that there are some similarities in the food, but whether this is due to Scandinavian influences or simply because it is so close to the sea is unclear. Whatever the influences this is a great place for seafood lovers. With regular fish markets, stalls and great restaurants there is plenty of choice.

Here are a few impressions from in and around Kiel …

Germany 051

Tall ships in the harbour for a sailing festival

Germany 043

Bunker 19: Left over from the war…spot the shrapnel and shell holes in this air raid bunker, turned cinema/theatre/art venue on Kiel University campus

Germany 059

Sails and rigging

Germany 135

13th century St. Nicholas’ church

350

U-995 at Leboe

394

Germany 126

Rathaus and the Opera House

Germany 125

Germany 266

292

Sandy beach at Schilksee…you see the wicker chairs everywhere in the summer

Germany 060

street food German style

Travel:

There are various cheap flights to be found if you search around. I flew Easyjet from Manchester airport.  They also fly from Gatwick and various other UK airports.

From Hamburg I travelled to Kiel by Kielius bus. It conveniently pulls up right outside Terminal 1 arrivals, and the journey ends at the main bus terminal in Kiel. It costs 19 euro one way and stops close to plenty of budget and mid priced hotels.  Basic Hotel on Muhliusstrasse has three stars and is a popular choice, but there is a greater selection of accommodation to be found here. If you prefer to book an apartment there are several in and around Kiel including two overlooking the sea at Laboe (see HouseTrip)

For those travelling onwards and into Scandinavia, ferries can be booked online or directly at the ferry terminus which is impossible to miss as its on the harbour, close to the railway station and many of the hotels.

Look out for next post which is all about FOOD!

Leave a comment

Filed under German food, photography, travel, Travelling with kids

Recipe review for The Food Travel Company: The Ethicurean Cookbook

The-Ethicurean-Cookbook_4-650x487

The Food Travel Company recently asked me to test a recipe taken from a newly released cookbook. I had no idea what the book was since it was a blind testing, but I quickly worked out from the list of rather unusual ingredients that whoever the book’s author was they must live in or around the Bristol area.  It transpired that the recipe was from The Ethicurean Cookbook.

Opened a little over two years ago by four friends, The Ethicurean restaurant specialises in the use of seasonal ingredients that are ethically and locally sourced. This commitment can also be seen  in the newly released book. Awarded the Observer Food Monthly Best Ethical Restaurant in 2011, closely followed by a Michelin Bib Gourmand award this year the restaurant is doing very well for itself. The Ethicurean Cookbook follows the team over the course of a year as they create new dishes paying attention to seasonality and the freshness of ingredients. The book presents 120 recipes that represent the best of British using produce grown literally metres from their kitchen door.

I was first asked to cook Goat Meatballs, Mash, Lovage Butter and Mustard Greens but found it impossible to source many of the ingredients so my next attempt was ‘Pearl Barley with Old Demdike and St. George’s Mushroom’. Again it was not possible to find all the ingredients so I had to adapt and make do. To read my full review go to The Food Travel Company blog including the substitutions I made. In the meantime I look forward to trying more recipes from the book; I see it as something of a challenge attempting to source all the amazing ingredients!

As an addendum to the review; other tasters were less impressed with this dish. I think was in part due to a general dislike for pearl barley as a grain, although one taster suggested that although the dish was not unpleasant, it wasn’t something they would choose to eat again.

photo(2)

The-Ethicurean

Leave a comment

Filed under British food, in the press, recipe books, Recipes, reviews

More of the green stuff; a recipe for classic asparagus mimosa

food 012

I’ve tried to find out the history of Asparagus Mimosa but can’t seem to discover exactly when it was first mentioned, or when it became a classic; It’s just one of those recipes I know, but without knowing how I came to know about it.

What I do know is that it originated in France and I’m sure I also read somewhere that it was first mentioned as early as the twelfth century. I turned to my Larousse Gastronomique (my food bible) but even here there is no clue to its origins only a brief description of how it resembles mimosa blossom. One thing I know for sure (because it’s mentioned in Royal Menu’s by Rene Roussin the kings chef between 1936 and 1952) is that Mimosa salad was a dish made for King George VI.

Characterised by its grated hard-boiled egg dressing a mimosa salad does evoke images of the delicate blossom and is really a very pretty dish. It’s simple, visually impressive and makes a great starter or accompaniment to other dishes as part of a buffet. It’s also very quick to make so if you’re a posh mum like me, you could just serve it for tea!!…er, yes that was my attempt at a joke, but joking aside my kids absolutely loved it, so I would recommend it as a family favourite too.

NB: I blanched my asparagus in a pan of hot water with a third of a sachet of smoked water from Halen Mon added to give a very mildly smoky taste.

food 009

Asparagus Mimosa:

1 bunch of fresh asparagus ( I also used some white sprouting broccoli that I’d also bought that day)

2 large hard-boiled eggs (grated)

drizzle of olive oil

a knob of butter

slat and pepper

A small handful of chopped fresh herbs such as chives, wild garlic or chervil (I used wild garlic and chives)

a dessertspoonful of non pareil capers

a selection of edible flowers to finish

Blanch asparagus for a couple of minutes in a pan half filled with boiling water. The stalks should be tender when pierced with a sharp knife but still nice and green. Drain and return to the hot pan with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and a knob of butter.

Arrange the asparagus while still warm on a serving dish. Sprinkle over the egg, capers, herbs and finish with some edible flowers (I used wild garlic flowers).

food 014

Leave a comment

Filed under British food, home cooking, local produce, Recipes, seasonal food, vegetarian dishes

Smoke me a kipper!…..(and some cheese, butter, salt, and even WATER…) plus a recipe for smoky Udon noodle soup

Smoking has slowly taken over from traditional barbecuing is now something of a trend. This is back to basics barbecuing but brought thoroughly up to date. Forget the charcoal briquettes; were talking oak, maple, or cedar chippings, hickory, tea, rice or anything really that will produce an interesting taste and aroma. Things have clearly moved on from a good old-fashioned camp fire although that too has seen a recent resurgence; probably dictated by our modern desire to get back to basics ( its no surprise that foraging and wild cooking are very popular now..food for free that evokes childhood memories of camping in the woods is always good).

It seems that nothing is immune from the smoke treatment; and really, I mean nothing.

There are two ways to smoke food; hot and cold. Hot is by far the quickest and simplest. Cold smoking is a complicated process and generally requires time and proper equipment. I say this but my other half attempted to build a cold smoker out of an old metal ballot box once. It kind of worked, but the fish ended up a little too smoky. I guess it just takes a bit of practise and experimentation and if you don’t mind some wastage (in my other half’s case he’d been out fishing and caught 70 mackerel…this is before they were OFF the sustainable list you understand…and they wouldn’t all fit in the freezer, so he had a go at smoking them).

I’ve hot smoked a fair bit using a small Cameron’s stove top smoker, mostly chicken, wild salmon, mackerel, trout, a variety of vegetables, garlic and mussels. They are also incredibly easy to rig up using a wok with a rack in it. Basically you line a wok with foil, put in your smoking ingredients (chippings, tea or other flavourings), then use a wire rack or tray that fits neatly inside the wok but doesn’t touch the base. Cover with a tight lid or foil to cover the top. Fish usually takes about 20 mins to cook through, chicken longer. Basically its an experiment.

Anyway, these days smoking has moved way beyond bacon, mackerel and haddock (although these are good). I’ve also tried smoked salt, cheese, butter, paprika, mushrooms and duck. Now I hear smoked beer and smoked vodka are on the market, while cookery programme contestants are coming up with smoked yogurt and chocolate! What next I hear you say?….well what next is SMOKED WATER.

The product, hailed as THE culinary sensation of the year since Heston jumped on the smoked water bandwagon, but I’ve been aware of it since its launched last year at the Abergavenny food festival. This unlikely product, made by none other than our very own Halen Mon salt who are just a few miles up the road from me, has taken off and orders are pouring in, but its taken me this long to get round to trying it..

This week I nipped over to visit them and picked up a few sachets while I was there.  I was a wee bit nervous and sceptical at first. Some smoked products are quite overpowering and at first sniff the smoky aroma seemed quite intense. The instructions on the packet suggest that it is best used in stocks, for marinading, in risotto and Heston uses it to give seafood and potatoes a smoky taste, but it doesn’t suggest the amount to use so I proceeded cautiously. I first tried it out by adding it to a pan of hot water to blanch asparagus. I only used a third of a sachet, just to see how intense the flavour would be, but the outcome was pleasing. The very mild smoky hint  didn’t overwhelm the flavour of the young fresh asparagus and turned out just right.

food 005

I got a bit braver so I decided to try it in a traditional udon noodle dish, using Schichimi Togarashi ( or Japanese seven spice), lemongrass, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, chilli and coriander. Again I used about a third of a sachet to see if it tasted stronger in a soup base. It did, but still not overpowering. The combination of spice, smoke and fish was delicious and proclaimed a winner…although not by the teen who said it was too fishy.

food 016

Udon noodles with a smoky spicy broth (enough for 3 to 4):

1 stick lemon grass finely chopped

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

a thumb of ginger peeled and grated

half to one teaspoon schichimi spice

a quarter of a sachet of Halen Mon smoked water

1 dessertspoonful of vegetable oil

a quarter of a teaspoon shrimp paste (optional…it has a very intensely fishy taste and aroma)

1 teaspoon fish sauce (the pale coloured Blue Dragon brand is best)

1 litre and a half of good vegetable stock

2 to 3 small packs of Udon noodles

1 medium or 2 small pak choy finely shredded

2 handfuls of bean sprouts

half a small tin of bamboo shoots (optional)

half a small leek finely shredded

4 medium spring onions finely chopped

1 red chilli finely chopped

a good handful of chopped coriander

a squeeze of lime juice to finish

food 023

Heat the oil in a wok and add the ginger, garlic, lemongrass and stir fry for no more than 30 seconds. Add the schichimi spice, smoked water and stock and bring slowly to the boil. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer.

Dd the noodles to the broth and cook according the instructions on the packet (probably 3 to 4 minutes if they are fresh noodles).

In a bowl put a smile pile of bean sprouts, pak choy, leek and bamboo shoots (as in he picture below)

food 024

Once cooked and piping hot, pile the noodles on top of the vegetables and then pour over the stock. Finish with a good sprinkle of spring onion, chilli and coriander and serve with some crispy sesame fish (recipe to follow) although it works just as well with some cooked chicken, or as a healthy fresh tasting bowl of noodles.

food 025

1 Comment

Filed under Asian cookery, British food, family budget cooking, home cooking, in the press, local produce, Recipes, Sources and suppliers

Recipe: asparagus and parmesan souffle gratin

food 005

Better late than never, the asparagus season is finally upon us. That late cold snap left me hanging around, waiting with bated breath for the first few stalks to arrive. I love it when asparagus season arrives. To me its a sign that summer is just round the corner; the weather has warmed up nicely and an increase in daylight hours brings everything to life again. I’ve never had much luck or patience when it comes to growing my own asparagus so I look forward to the time when Hooton’s crops are ready. But then to my horror I heard a dreadful rumour. The whole crop had failed because of the cold wind last week.

Nooohhh!! I rushed to the farm shop (it wasn’t just to check out the authenticity of this claim, I did have to do some other shopping as well….really, I’m not THAT obsessed) and asked in a hushed and slightly worried voice..‘is it true? the asparagus has failed’

The woman in the shop looked at me reassuringly. No, she said. Don’t worry, it’s just running a bit late. Huh! Like everything in my life!

But now it has appeared. The sunny weekend weather sped up the process and so they cut first stalks this week. And typically I missed them, although I did send manage to get some put by for me via a desperate twitter plea.

food 001

When asparagus stems are young and tender they need little accompaniment and no peeling. Naturally sweet, they need only brief cooking (a quick blanch in boiling water is more than enough) and are perfect in a salad, with hollandaise sauce or in the classic dish asparagus mimosa.

Mind you, the day I collected my swag the rain lashed down, the wind blew and I even turned the heat on in the house for an hour! I wanted something warm and comforting and so returned to my old favourite, asparagus and parmesan souffle gratin. It’s a recipe I came up with a couple of years ago. Combining the lightness of a souffle, with the simplicity of a gratin this recipe stops the worry of whether it will rise or not. Topped with briefly blanched stalks of asparagus it is simple, yet sophisticated enough to serve at a dinner party. I’ve made it for supper club guests a couple of times and it’s always been a hit.

Asparagus and parmesan souffle-gratin:

500ml milk

50g flour

50g butter

4 egg yolks and 2 egg whites

1 sprig of thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 small onion studded with 6 cloves and a pinch og nutmeg

75g parmesan finely grated

24 thickish spears of asparagus, peeled

half a lemon

Butter a large gratin dish and sprinkle in about a third of the parmesan cheese. Place milk in a pan with the onion, herbs, nutmeg and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Bring gently to the boil then turn off the heat and leave to infuse for about half an hour (or as long as possible).

Make a roux with the butter and flour then gradually stir in the strained milk. Return to a low heat and cook for about 10 minutes stirring constantly until you have a smooth white sauce. Add two-thirds of the parmesan and remove from the heat. Allow to cool whisking occasionally to prevent a crust from forming. When it is lukewarm whisk in the egg yolks then cover with buttered paper until it has cooled completely.

Blanch the asparagus in plenty of boiling water for a minute or two (they should be tender, but still green), drain,  then refresh in plenty of cold water to halt the cooking process.

food 004

Beat the egg whites with the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks. Put the souffle mixture into a large bowl and whisk in one tablespoon of the egg white to lighten the mixture, then gently fold in the rest of the egg white with a spatula. Pour the mixture into the greased dish then lay the asparagus in a row on the top (as in the picture above). Bake in a hot oven (230 degrees C, gas mark 8, 450 degrees F) for about 18 to 20 minutes. The gratin should puff up and not wobble when shaken.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under British food, family budget cooking, home cooking, local produce, photography, Recipes, seasonal food, slow food, Sources and suppliers, vegetarian dishes

Recipe: easy feta, potato and rosemary bread

bread 011

My life seems to consist of quick meals…quick pasta, quick noodles, quick risotto and this feta, potato and rosemary bread requires no bread flour or yeast, no lengthy kneading or resting and is extremely quick to chuck together.  I’d hate to buck the trend!

I found the basis for this in a magazine years ago, I think it was a Delia Smith recipe, but I have since tinkered with the ingredients trying different combinations to see what works best. I like to use goats cheese,  a good artisan Cheshire or even mozzarella (which is a bit soft, but the kids love that stringy-cheese effect) red onion goes well, spring onions, finely shredded leek or lots of fresh herbs. Have an experiment!

Whatever you choose to add the process is the same, you literally just shove all the ingredients in a big bowl, add an egg and milk, mix and bake it.

For bread purists this is more akin to a savoury tea bread than a traditional loaf. I make mine with self-raising flour, some good feta cheese (I used a local goats milk feta from Y Cwt Caws) fresh rosemary from the garden and a large grated Blue Danube potato so its stuffed full of tasty ingredients.

I ate my freshly baked bread with a creamy tomato and basil soup made with the first crops of Isle of Wight tomatoes which are just now becoming available. I warn you though its seriously addictive and once you start you wont be able to stop pulling or slicing little bits off and nibbling, convincing yourself that you can get away with just one more piece, until all of a sudden you’ve eaten the whole lot. Oh well, its full of good things so why not!

Enjoy!

bread 013

half an hour later that’s all that was left!

Feta, potato and rosemary bread:

120g semi-hard cheese (feta, goats cheese, artisan Cheshire, even mozzarella) rind removed (if it has one) and chopped into small cubes.

a small red onion finely chopped, or thinly sliced (or half a dozen spring onions) or a bunch of leafy green mixed herbs like wild garlic, chives, chervil, parsley (if you do this leave out the rosemary)

1 medium/large potato peeled, washed and grated

a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary leaves removed from the stalk

180g self-raising flour (I use Shipton Mill)

a teaspoon of salt (Halen Mon)

1 teaspoon smoked or unsmoked paprika (optional)

1 large egg mixed with about 3 tablespoons milk and a teaspoon of whole grain mustard

In a large bowl mix the flour, salt and paprika. Add the grated potato, onion or herbs, and cheese and mix with a flat palette knife until combined. Add the milk and egg mixture and keep mixing until it comes together. Form into a loaf shape with your hands and transfer to a greased baking sheet.

Sprinkle a little flour and some finely chopped rosemary leaves over the top and bake in a preheated oven, gas mark 5/190 degrees C for about 45 mins until golden brown.

Leave a comment

Filed under baking, British food, family budget cooking, home cooking, Recipes

Crug farm nursery: proper plants for proper gardeners

crug, makers market and bubbles 071

Crug Farm is about six miles from Bangor, set high in the Welsh hills overlooking the Menai Straits. Originally established as a beef farm by the owners Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones it gradually transformed into a plant nursery and has traded as such since 1991.  My perception of Crug is that they come from the same mould as any local producer; just because they produce plants and not cattle, lamb or vegetables they are no different in my eyes and their battle against the ‘giants’ (in this case B&Q rather than Tesco) to keep a foothold in the market is just the same.

In the case of Crûg things are going pretty well. It has a bit of reputation for being THE place to go for extraordinary plants and is a plant hunters Mecca. They specialise in the unusual; in fact if you are hunting for anything weird and wonderful they are likely to have it and if they haven’t their extremely knowledgeable staff can probably tell you all about it, find something similar, or get hold of it for you.

Once you have visited a dedicated plant nursery you will see how different an experience it is to nipping in your local B&Q. The sterile, impersonal ‘one shop fits all’ approach is nowhere to be seen and unlike superstore staff that can only offer basic advice,  adopting a pale blank expression if you happen to ask for a Schisandra rubriflora, at Crug you will get a helpful, informative service.

And even garden centres can’t top a really good plant nursery. OK, so they are a better bet than B&Q, but they are still in the garden ‘super store’ mould, often stocking everything from wellies to patio sets, snacks to perfumed candles. Nurseries are a different breed altogether and Crug is in a league of its own.

Listed by The Telegraph as one of the top twenty mail order plant nurseries (yep, they have an online mail order service), they are even better to visit.  Not only can you browse and buy beautiful plants, you can totally immerse yourself in horticultural heaven as you wander through lush native woodland, brush past dense foliage and find yourself at a small secret entrance into their walled garden. Here rich with colour (even at this time of year) and texture, hundreds of examples from their plant collection jostle for space. I admit my knowledge of plant names is woefully inadequate and I don’t visit Crug nearly as often as I would like (when I do I’m sharply reminded why I should), but I never come away empty-handed bringing home something beautiful for my garden.

The day I  visited was a special open day, well a plant fair actually, where lots of others join the nursery with their own stalls. Think of it as being a bit like a farmers market but for gardeners.

Plant sales are a great time to visit a nursery because you will find lots of different growers selling a variety of plants often for bargain prices. One of my reasons for attending was to see Moelyci, but also to have a browse and see what I could pick up. This sale was particularly nice and quite unexpected as it threw together gardeners, plant sellers and artisan crafters plus several stalls with vintage house and garden paraphernalia.

crug, makers market and bubbles 055

Hand turned kitchen ware

crug, makers market and bubbles 060

Vintage Hungarian grain stores (I bought one I loved them so much) from Shop Cwtch

crug, makers market and bubbles 062

I also fell in love with their garden chairs

crug, makers market and bubbles 063

Vintage trunks and garden paraphernalia

crug, makers market and bubbles 065

crug, makers market and bubbles 066

crug, makers market and bubbles 073

crug, makers market and bubbles 068

crug, makers market and bubbles 069

crug, makers market and bubbles 072

crug, makers market and bubbles 074

Along with my Hungarian pot I bought a chocolate mint plant, but sadly had little cash on me after an earlier trip to another market. I will just have to go back another day to seek out more lovely thing for my garden.

The nursery opens between March 28th – September 14th 2013, Thursday til Sunday (9.30am – 4.30pm) but also encourages customers to arrange appointments at mutually convenient times throughout the year, especially if they are planning a sizeable order.

To contact Crug use the contact form on the website. They can also be found on twitter @crugfarmplants

Leave a comment

Filed under local produce, Sources and suppliers

Quick guide to finding and buying locally grown veg…(and what is in my 30 mile radius)

IMG_0154

This week I wrote a piece for the New Bangor Plus website about where to buy locally grown vegetables and it got me thinking about how we find out where to shop. I often hear people say that they would buy local seasonal veg but it just isn’t possible because it’s not in the supermarket, or isn’t convenient to go hunting elsewhere, or just that they don’t know where to go to get it. So how do we find out about local supermarket alternatives?

I guess the place to start is your local produce or farmers market. Most places now have one fairly close by and its a great way to get to know what is grown locally. Although they don’t always run on a weekly basis and you can’t necessarily base your weekly shop around them, they are great places to get chatting to sellers and to find out what farm shops or box schemes are in operation in your area. For me word of mouth was all important when it came to sourcing local veg!

If you are lucky enough to live in a place abundant with markets and shops it’s not so much of an issue (in London you can find pretty much anything!) but what if you live out-of-town, or in a small suburb that isn’t near a market or farm? But how can you be sure the produce you are buying from your ‘farm’ shop is genuinely local? Out of interest I paid a visit to my mother’s ‘farm’ shop with her over Easter. She lives on the border between London and Kent…so you’d think she would be close enough to the countryside to pick up plenty of local produce…Kent is the ‘Garden of England, right?’ Not so. The owner of the farm shop did in fact also run a wholesalers and this is where most of the fresh produce came from. It wasn’t British let alone Kentish. I questioned her about this and she explained that they struggled to get small amounts of veg from local farmers as they preferred to sell their stock in bulk to the London markets (better price etc.). So, the farmers are more concerned about getting the highest price. Well, I can understand this to a point, business is business. She also said that local custom was poor with not enough people buying it to make it worth their while. This farm shop competes with three large supermarkets in one town centre so I can see why. The old breed of greengrocer has been slowly edged out.

Ok, in some places its hard to find local produce, or get to a farm shop or produce market. What if you are busy and don’t have much free time? Well if you want to avoid the supermarket the next best thing is to search online. There are websites that will help you find markets and contacts like Local Foods or Local Farmers markets nationally, plus lots of local markets also have their own website like the Bethesda market I sell at.

If you are still stumped try one of the well established suppliers that sell veg boxes online, the two most popular companies being Abel & Cole who also stock and deliver a variety of other British products and Riverford Organic. Both companies sell a variety of boxes in different sizes, prices and with different content. Most contain staples (potatoes, carrots, onions) plus a variety of seasonal vegetables. I find that in most cases prices are less than you would pay in the supermarket and the produce of a higher quality.

Even with this information I admit it’s not always easy at this time of year.  As a parent sticking to my principles often causes all out warfare as the kids rebel over my seasonal choices. The leafy greens and root vegetable diet can also become a little tedious leaving a yearning for something light and summery…what harm in the odd mango or citrus fruit? My other constant worry that drives me to non-seasonal buying is that my daughter will end up with scurvy if I stubbornly avoid buying the things she ‘likes’ (mostly only available in the supermarket).

tyddyn teg 007

New seasons seedlings @Tyddyn Teg

Still, buying local makes sense. I don’t want my food to have travelled a million miles before it  arrives in my local supermarket. I want my veg fresh. Its tastier, better for you (as it hasn’t been force grown, picked when unripe, refrigerated and only ripening once it hits the shelves) and better for the local economy, because yes, however much we try to ignore it, money spent in supermarkets is not re-invested in the local economy. So I hear you say, how can we change things? How is it possible to eat locally grown fruit and veg? Well, with a bit of flexibility and the creation of new shopping habits it is possible. Just think how many people have returned to buying meat from the high street butchers after the horse meat scandal. What if we were to find out exactly what supermarket veg is sprayed with? Would it take a scandal to start buying local again?

There are several farms around the Bangor area that do grow and sell local produce on a largish scale and sell weekly veg boxes to a growing list of customers. Here is a list of the best farm shops that are open in addition to the local farmers market ….(sorry, this is the local bit, especially to keep my home readers happy. Just look at it as the niche post bit, i.e. only for those that live within a 30 mile radius of Bangor, North Wales).

Moelyci even now has a polytunnel full of spinach, winter leaf lettuce, kale, chard and the more unusual kohl rabi (use grated in salads or coleslaw; looks like a Sputnik and tastes a bit like a radish with a white cabbage hint) despite the late cold snap. Slowly the last of the winter produce is fading out (celeriac, leeks, purple sprouting broccoli) and as May creeps in so does the brief but delicious asparagus season. Hootons grow their own and I buy as much as I can before it disappears just as quickly as it arrived.  I’m also addicted to wild garlic (which is very late growing in my garden) and rhubarb, which will be in abundance at Moelyci soon. All of these signal the beginning of the summer growing period and hope of bright new things to come.

IMG_0160

Kale and Chard @Moelyci

Moelyci market garden

Moelyci is a community owned farm that has grown in stature over the past few years and is now firmly established as a great place to buy fresh local vegetables. Paul, the market garden manager is a talented gardener and grows the kind of produce you won’t find in a supermarket (heritage tomatoes, purple beans) and produces a weekly vegetable box during the summer months. This year it is due to restart in June (due to the late growing season).

As a community farm Moelyci also provides volunteers with the opportunity to get hands on with volunteer days, courses and be part of creating their own food. They also have a pick your-own fruit field which sells a variety of berries throughout the summer (and frozen during the autumn/winter months).

Although the farm, like many co-operatives is ailing in the current financial crisis, it is still up, running and preparing for the summer season. The market garden shop is normally open for business from Thursday until Saturday. Drop in and pick your own veg.

Moelyci Farm, Lon Felin Hen,
Tregarth, Bangor Gwynedd LL57 4BB UK

Phone: 01248 602793  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/111101588937283

Twitter: @Moelyci1

IMG_0157

planting seeds for the new season @Moelyci

IMG_0166

plant nursery @Moelyci

tyddyn teg 015

 

tyddyn teg 003

Young tomato plants enjoying the warm weather in one of the polytunnels

Hooton’s Homegrown

Hooton’s are a very well established farm shop and local produce supplier. They opened their farm shop in 1998 having outgrown their roadside farm stall and later opened a second shop in Fron Goch Garden Centre in Caernarfon.

The farm shop is a haven of local produce, but their locally grown veg is for me the main attraction.

Gwydryn Hîr, Brynsiencyn, Anglesey, LL61 6HQ

Phone: 01248 430644

Farm Shops opening hours
9.30am to 5.30pm (Sunday 10am – 5.30pm)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hootons-Homegrown-Farm-Shop-Cafe/407744002633289?fref=ts

Twitter: @HootonsFarmShop

Village veg

7821_157122717669_2484469_n

picture courtesy of village veg facebook page

Based in Waunfawr near Caernarfon, they run a vegetable box and bag delivery scheme which aims to offer the quirkier seasonal vegetable, such as purple carrots, blue potatoes and flower sprouts.

To order your veg box and find out where they deliver check their website here. They definitely deliver in Bangor so there’s no excuse! To order and discuss contact Emma Duffy, Tyn Cae Newydd, Waunfawr, Caernarfon, LL55 4BX

Phone: 01286 650369 / 07962214314
E-mail address villageveg@sky.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/villageveg/

Tatws Bryn

Chris sells his own locally grown produce mixed with other seasonal produce and delivers in and around the villages surrounding Bangor.

Check his website for details and to contact call Chris on 01248 605027 or

email: tatwsbryn@yahoo.com

Leave a comment

Filed under British food, local produce, seasonal food, slow food, social enterprise, Sources and suppliers