Category Archives: Butchers

Robust venison goulash for an Autumn supper

food festival Ludlow 2014 276I know it hasn’t been particularly Autumnal of late, but as the nights start to draw in and the evenings are beginning to cool, I’ve found myself craving  the dishes I associate with this time of year. With back to school and work routines now in place I long for comfort food. Out go the summer salads, BBQ’s and light meals designed for hot evenings and in come roast dinners, casseroles and hearty flavoursome stews (although this weekend was perfect BBQ weather!).

The Autumn and winter months also herald the beginning of game season, and although these days Venison is available across the year it’s still associated with the hunting, shooting and fishing season, and this might be why it’s overlooked. It’s often seen as a bit expensive for ordinary folk and just for those ‘posh’ people who wear red jackets, riding hats and have an expansive wallet. There is also of course the emotional, “poor Bambi” reaction which I often hear from people,while others aren’t sure they would like the taste, thinking it’s too strongly flavoured.

Some of this fear of venison is related to previous experience. If it was a bad experience then the obvious reaction is to avoid, or perhaps it was nice first time round and the flavour was different the second time. Production methods and labelling were less consistent in the past, plus the label never distinguished between types of venison, red deer for example tastes different to fallow deer. These days however many local butchers and game specialists routinely stock venison, and opinion is slowly shifting. Why? because production methods have improved, the processing of wild venison is quicker, there are more deer farmers out there and in both cases improved methods produce meat with a more consistent flavour and quality.

Venison is so similar to beef the two are often confused but it differs in that it is leaner, has more protein, more iron and B vitamins making it a good health choice. Also, because wild deer lives on wild and pasture food there is a minimal fat content in the meat and what is there has higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (a possible protector against heart disease and cancer). Because it is like beef it also cooks in a similar way. Steaks are best cooked fast on a high heat or a BBQ, while diced venison takes well to slow cooking and robust sauces. I used diced venison to make a rich Goulash, a family favourite. Its quick and easy to prepare and although it takes a long time to cook you can stick it in the oven and go do other things while you are waiting.

If you want to give venison a try, now is a great time. The deer have spent the summer feeding on wild food and pasture so the meat is top quality and not very expensive. I purchased my venison from my butcher (G Williams & Son in Bangor). It came pre-packed in a 500g tray and cost £4.00.

Venison Goulash:

Serves four as a lunch dish (served with some rye bread or similar) or 2-3 as a main course dinner with lightly steamed vegetables

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (plus a knob of butter)

500g diced venison

1 large onion finely sliced

2 cloves of garlic (chopped or crushed)

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon plain flour

350g fresh tomatoes chopped (or tinned in the winter months)

300ml beef stock

400g small potatoes, washed, peeled if necessary and chopped into chunks

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven gas mark 3/160 degrees C

Heat a large non-stick pan and add the oil. Add venison when its nice and hot and brown over a medium heat. Once browned tip into an oven proof casserole dish. Add the butter to the pan and tip in the sliced onion. Cook for about 15 minutes until starting to soften and change colour. Add the garlic, caraway, paprika and stir for a minute then sprinkle over the flour, add tomatoes and stock. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer then tip over the venison in the casserole dish.

food festival Ludlow 2014 273

Pop on a lid and put in the oven for an hour. After an hour tip in the potatoes and cook in the oven for a further 30 mins.

Once the potatoes are tender serve with a glass of red wine (unless its lunch time and you have to work afterwards) and some hearty rye bread to mop up the sauce.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under British food, Butchers, family budget cooking, Game recipes, home cooking, local produce, Organic meat, Recipes, seasonal food

The Green Man cheese list

Supper club regulars will know that I love my cheese. At the end of every meal I serve a Welsh cheese board to go with coffee (if anyone isn’t already full!!). I love the rich variety of cheeses. The tastes, textures and added ingredients used to make them distinctive and unique. It never ceases to amaze me how many fantastic cheeses come from dairies within the Welsh borders; more than enough to keep a person happy for a year (at least!!)

It is inevitable then that my love of cheese spills over into all of my catering jobs including the lunch time cheese board now routinely served to the crew of the The Green Man festival. It was a huge hit last year and they loved our best-of-Welsh choices so of course it had to return with several new additions.

This year I was constantly being asked ‘what cheese is this?’

There were regular overheard conversations around the table about which was the best cheese, or which was the favourite

‘that one with the blue rind…which one is that?’ or ‘That green one is fantastic, that’s the best’ .

I reckon we should start a Green Man Welsh cheese club with the number of fans I have created.

At the end of my cooking stint this year I promised to make a list of all the cheeses I have served and where to buy them. At The Green Man Festival we source from the fantastic Cashells in Crickhowell; a fabulous deli, great choices of meat and cheese, lots of local produce (and a rather cute butcher too)….us girls know we’d be fools not to use them!

So here it is, the definitive Green Man cheese list….

Snowdon Black Bomber ( a strong creamy cheddar with a black wax rind. A regular on our cheese board and highly distinctive when used in a cheese sauce, macaroni cheese or as a topping for pasta and meat sauce. Beats any cheddar on flavour)

Snowdon Green thunder (that extremely popular green rind cheese with garlic and herbs)

Snowdon pickle power (cheddar cheese with pickled onion)

All of these are from the Snowdonia Cheese Company who have an online shop and sell widely across the UK.

Then there were Perl Wen (Brie) and Perl Las (blue cheese) from Caws Cenarth, Y Fenni (a cheddar with mustard seeds and ale, made very locally in Abergavenny) which is widely available in supermarkets across the UK, and several Blaenafon cheddar’s the most popular of which were the whisky and ginger (with the blue wax rind) and the taffy apple which we didn’t manage to get this year despite asking for it!! Last year we also served Gorwydd Caerphilly

So there you have it! Since I am already booked to return next year I’m sure there will be a few additions and I might even try a goats cheese!

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Something for the weekend?…Lamb Merguez stew for the boys

Sorry to have abandoned you all for a couple of weeks, life has been pretty busy on the cooking and teaching front, which of course is very good, but sadly it leaves less time for writing and blogging. Over the past three weeks I have taught year 10’s doing GCSE home economics how to make pizza from scratch and Danish Pastry; I’ve trained with Dynamo role models and cooked for talented local musicians performing at  Cho Coppock Whittle’s benefit gig (raising money for leukemia research). More on that in a subsequent post.

This week was just as busy as I’d been booked as a private chef by Outreach Rescue to cook for one of their groups for four days, to help out their resident chef Chris. Based in a lovely holiday cottage (Yr Hen Weithdy) in the village of Llanllechid I cooked a three course evening meal for nine fit fireman / search and rescue chaps!…I know, it’s a hard life this catering lark…but someones gotta do it!!

View from one of the windows

Good hearty home cooking was the order of the day as these guys were out on the chilly Menai Straights training from early in the morning. The weather was sunny, but bitingly cold so I opted to make them hot soup, cheesy frittata, spinach and ricotta crepes, which made great starters; followed by big, slow cooked one pot stews and finally hefty man-size portions of cake. Cooking once again on a four ring electric oven (all my ‘Green Man’ demons came back to haunt me!!) where cakes burn in seconds, pots never boil and everything sticks to the bottom, was the only down side.

As the week progressed there were lots of questions…”how did you make that chocolate cake so light”? “What did you do to that meat to make it so tender”?…and comments “I never thought I liked couscous til last night”….”nice baps” and plenty of wind-ups and mickey taking…”yes, it was very average”, “you’re not using a recipe book are you? That’s cheating”!Plus the inevitable…”Britain’s Best Dish…where’s the trifle then?”

I ended up feeling like the wife of nine…especially when one called “Hi darling, I’m home!” as he walked in the door one evening.

Everyone had their favourite dishes, but the undisputed hit of the week was the lamb Merguez stew which I cooked for them on Tuesday. I think it was Si that said “do you give out your recipes?” and I told him I’d just made it up…but here, just for the boys, is the recipe (as I remember it. Sorry if it’s not exactly the same…I didn’t write what I put in and I was too busy to take any pictures!)….

Lamb Merguez stew to feed nine hungry firemen:

2-3 lamb Merguez sausages per person (I got mine at Williams & Sons butchers in Bangor or Johnny 6 as most people know them) cut in half.

2 large red onions diced finely

3 cloves garlic crushed or finely chopped

thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated

2 to 3 medium carrots chopped into batons

couple of potatoes, small egg-plant and a medium courgette cut into chunks

large teaspoon turmeric

large teaspoon cumin

large teaspoon paprika

level dessertspoonful Ras al Hanout

a small teaspoon harissa (depending how hot you like it)

1 small stick cinnamon

1 bay leaf

1 tin chopped tomatoes

olive oil

1 tin cannellini beans

plain flour

1 litre (or so) chicken stock

salt and pepper

fresh coriander

Heat olive oil in a large pan and add onion. Cook gently for 5 minutes until beginning to soften then add carrot, garlic, ginger, potato, eggplant and courgette. Stir in the pan and coat with oil and allow to cook gently for another five to ten minutes without colouring. Add spices and a tablespoon plain flour and stir so everything is well coated and the spices begin to release their aroma. Stir in the tin of tomatoes and stock and bring to a gentle simmer. If it looks too thick add some more water or stock. In a separate frying pan heat a little more oil and add sausages to brown. They only need browning so don’t worry about cooking them all the way through. You may need to do this in two batches. When browned add to the gently simmering stew along with the tin of drained beans and continue to cook slowly for a good half an hour although you can leave this really gently simmering for longer.

If the sauce is too thin you can bubble it a little more vigorously (unless you have an electric cooker like me as it will probably stick to the bottom of the pan!!). Season with salt and pepper to taste and a couple of handfuls of chopped fresh coriander. Serve with a lovely lemony, herby couscous.

I have to finish by saying a big thank you to the nine gorgeous guys that left me speechless with their pressies of flowers, chocolates, wine…oh yes and a book!

Cheeky buggers!!! 😉

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To Market, to market..

We didn’t go to buy a fat pig or a fat hen….although we did cook some lovely dry cure bacon and chorizo!

We missed the Ogwen Produce market, Bethesda during the January break, so it was with great joy that I packed up my boxes and headed off early Saturday morning to cook for the market faithful. Usually I sell jam and chutney and run the pop-up cafe, but this month I was giving myself a bit of a break and just sticking to the cafe, which gave me time to take some pictures, an unusual feat for me…and how nice it was to have time to browse and catch up with other producers.

The Bethesda market is lovely because it combines local crafts and food. You can pick up your Sunday dinner and buy a few extra treats and gifts and this month, with Valentines day being just round the corner there were so many pretty bits and bobs to buy. They had everything from heart-shaped biscuits at Cegin Brysur, to felt hearts, cards, red heart jewellery from DyfalDonc, gorgeous cute egg cosy’s, chocolate at Cariad chocolates and those beautiful valentines cakes that I’d seen on Aderyn Melys’s FB page…I made a beeline for them!

As well as sweet treats, crafts and the usual vegetables, cheese (from Rhyd Y Delyn), local honey and bread, two local butchers joined us for the first time.  Johnny 6 came along with their Welsh made chorizo, lamb merguez and other gourmet sausages, while I cooked up samples in the kitchen. I’m loving their Welsh dragon (leek and chilli) variety at the moment. We also had Tom Pritchard, from Parc Farm (in the next village to us) selling his home reared pork and lamb. It was good to have fresh meat on sale.

It was a cold day and I’m sure the hall was chillier than it was outside. But we kept ourselves warm with plenty of hot tea and coffee, plus bacon and sausage baps, chorizo and chick pea stew and spiced parsnip and apple soup.

Here are a few pictures from the day…

Wendy from Johnny 6

Sophie from Phia designs with her lovely fluffy scarves and wraps, recycled fleece slippers and hats and totally cute and gorgeous egg cosys…a perfect gift for Easter

cooking chorizo!

Cariad chocolate

Rhyd y Delyn cheese

Paul from Moelyci environmental centre in the foreground and our cafe at the back

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Lazy Sunday brunch

I love a long drawn out Sunday brunch…whether it aids recovery after a Saturday night out, or sets me up for a day of healthy hill walking there’s nothing better to prepare me for the day ahead.

For me the perfect brunch includes lots of different elements; a bit of sweet, savoury, salty, spicy some carbs for energy (and maybe just a bit of oil to settle the stomach…I swear by a fry up to cure a hangover)..

This weekend will see the first in an ad hoc series of Sunday brunches at which we will be giving you the opportunity to sample some of the sausages from the new range I have created with Johnny 6 the butchers (G Williams & son in Bangor) as well as trying other lovely brunch dishes…dont worry vegetarians, it’s not just a sausage fest…there will be plenty of vegetarian alternatives!

If you’d like to join us for the perfect start to your Sunday the menu is as follows……

 

American style pancakes with bacon and maple syrup or blueberries

or

Potato pancakes with smoked salmon and sour cream

followed by:

Home made baked beans with chorizo (or without if you are vegetarian)

Rosemary roasted tomatoes

Smoky cheese frittata

plus

Fresh squeezed fruit juices

toast and jam if you are still hungry

Pots of organic fair trade coffee or tea

the Sunday papers, a log fire, a big table and a comfy sofa

Donation will be £10 a head…yep thats all we are asking…and if you need a hair of the dog you have to bring your own!! Brunch will be served between 11 and 2 and bookings are essential….its kid friendly so don’t be afraid to ask and we will provide toys.

either email on moelfabansecretsupperclub@live.co.uk I will respond immediately so if you don’t hear back try phoning on 07775 828769

or send a message through Facebook or twitter

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Filed under baking, British food, Butchers, Eating out with kids, home cooking, living room restaurant, local produce, North Wales restaurants, seasonal food, secret supper, underground restaurant

Bringing the Middle East to North Wales

Merguez is a type of sausage made of lamb (or beef) that forms part of a North African or Middle Eastern diet. Flavoured with a mixture of spices including garlic, ginger, fennel, sumac, coriander, cumin, turmeric its highly aromatic and slightly spicy with added harissa or cayenne.

Anyone walking past the butchers on Wednesday probably caught a whiff of spices roasting in preparation for our next lot of sausages, lamb Merguez. The chorizo sold out in a day (but never fear if you missed out, they are making more as I write) and we wondered how long it would take these to go.

All at the butchers looked on slightly bemused as I hand ground (my spice grinder blew up that morning!) the roasted spices and their scent filled the air with what Paul described as

“memories of turkey”

Johnathan was less convinced. Not being a fan of spiced food he said to me

“are we putting ALL of that stuff in?”

“yep” I replied and he shook his head.

Once all the spices were ground to a powder and we had our Merguez spice base, we minced the lamb and mixed it with garlic and ginger, sumac, tomato and harissa…finally we added the spice powder sprinkling in enough water to produce a good mix.

After working the mixture well by hand we fried off a couple of small patties to check the flavours. Not enough heat was the verdict, although everyone liked the flavour (except Johnathan…he still didn’t look convinced). We added more harissa which added a little heat but accentuated the spices already in the meat.

Soaked sheep casings were filled with the spiced meat mixture and twisted into sausages. Unlike the chorizo they didn’t have to hang for a week; they were simply left overnight (to let the flavours develop) and then moved to the shop ready to sell. I brought a small bag of the leftover meat home with me to try out. It made fantastic burgers.

I cooked my little burgers on a griddle pan and served them with a simple couscous dish (the traditional thing to serve Merguez with), a dressed green salad and some grated cucumber mixed with natural yogurt.

Couscous:

I’m not a very accurate cook and usually just put a few good handfuls..or what I think is enough for the family. Maybe between 250 and 300g tipped into a large bowl. Cover with enough boiling vegetable stock to cover. Put a tea towel over the top and allow to stand for 10 minutes or so.

Taste a few grains after 10 minutes to check they are soft and tender. If they are fluff the rest of the grains with a fork, if not add a little more hot water and cover for another 5 minutes…but be careful not to add too much otherwise it will become too wet.

Stir in a couple of handfuls of raisins, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, some fresh coriander or parsley, the juice of a lemon and some toasted pine nuts. Check seasoning.

Green salad dressing:

3 tablespoons olive oil or rapeseed oil

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon course grain English mustard

seasoning

Shake this all together in a sealed jar and pour over the salad. Toss well.

 

 

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Chorizo making in North Wales

One of the best things I’ve been asked to do this year (so far!) is to work with one of Bangor’s longest established butchers to help develop recipes for their new range of ‘gourmet’ sausages. I like sausages a lot. In particular I like well made, high quality British sausages and fancy sausages…from Merguez lamb, to pork with caramelised onion, anything with apple and herbs, French toulouse…seriously, I love them all!

Down at the butchers our first attempt was to create a good quality cooking chorizo. For those that don’t know chorizo is a type of European sausage made with pork, sweet and smoked paprika and salt, plus various additions such as herbs, wine and cayenne or hot peppers. Spanish and Portuguese chorizo is generally fermented, cured and smoked and is either sweet or picante (hot). This type of chorizo does not need cooking although you can add it to various dishes. My favourite type of chorizo is the uncooked kind, which is just like a sausage but a little firmer and dryer. I have asked the butchers for ‘proper’ cooking chorizo plenty of times so what better place to begin with our gourmet sausage range than to make us some Welsh chorizo.

On Wednesday, armed with my spice box I trundled off to Bangor. Appropriately (but none too elegantly) dressed in white coat and apron, Johnathan and I set to work. Sausage making is as I discovered, quite an art form. The ingredients must be measured very accurately (not like my usual we need ‘just about’ this amount), otherwise the flavours change too much,  particularly the salt content which needs to be exactly 2.2% of the combined weight of meat and fat. Having measured the required amount of ingredients….sorry I cannot divulge the recipe, it’s a secret…we got stuck in with mixing and kneading the ingredients together.

First Johnathan chopped and minced the pork

next we added salt, sweet and smoked paprika from Derimon, fresh garlic from Pippa and John in Bethel plus a few other ingredients. This was then kneaded into the meat. It was hard work. Johnathan told me that it was essential to work the meat for a good amount of time as this is what breaks down the proteins and helps develop the flavours

and what we were left with was a deep red highly aromatic meat which had stained everything from the bowl to my hands! We made up a small patty to fry on the griddle, just to test the flavours and spices. Although the flavour will have changed considerably by the time they go on sale.

The next step was to feed the meat into casings which had soaked for 24 hours. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests in his online pig course to use hog casings and not the traditional sheep intestines used for sausages. They tend to me thicker and slightly white in colour giving the filled sausages quite a pale colour, but this disappears very quickly as the paprika soaks through and the distinctive red chorizo colour develops

.

Next Paul attempted to teach me how to twist and pinch the sausages. I was all fingers and thumbs and took ages unlike the professionals. They made it look so easy!

The sausages were then hung to dry for a week before going on sale in the shop. This first batch will be on sale as testers, with customers being asked to give feedback.

This was on the Wednesday and by Friday the colour had deepened further.

If you would like to be among the first to sample our Welsh chorizo come along to Williams and Son butchers, Bangor High Street (Gwynedd), LL57 1PA between Monday and Wednesday this week.

You could also give Paul a call to reserve yours on 01248 362146

Alternately you could book in to our Chorizo special Sunday brunch on Sunday 29th January. Sausage and Chorizo tasters plus a full breakfast for £10 a head.

Call 07775 828769 to save a place

Denise x

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Slow roast shoulder of Moelyci pork with apple and sloe gin jelly

Earlier this year visitors to Moelyci environmental centre were surprised to stumble across six very large, happy pink pigs, brought in to turn over the land as a precursor to planting. They were a popular addition and Aidan loved them. He braved the electric fence (very low voltage worried parent readers) to climb in and make friends with them and in one delightfully malicious moment named one of them Roisin (after his beloved sister!!)

Roisin the pig

We paid those pigs a few visits over the summer so imagine our dismay when one very wet and windy day, while showing my Peckham dwelling cousin and his family the joys of mountain life we found the pigs were gone!

“oh no, they must have escaped” Aidan said…but us adults all caught each others eyes and inside we all knew the truth.

So did Aidan after we paid a visit to Moelyci at the end of the summer, for there in the freezer we found those happy pigs packaged and ready for buying.

I think its important for kids to know where their food comes from. Despite spending many years as  vegetarian I am I suppose, quite unsentimental these days. If we are going to eat meat then having some awareness of where that meat is produced, reared and slaughtered helps us make informed decisions about what we eat and where we buy it.

I watched Country file the other night and discovered that Britain imports 60% of the pork we eat. British pig farmers are apparently losing around £7 per carcass due to rising feed costs and the lack of appreciation in pork prices making it hard for them to continue producing, although pork remains the most popular meat globally taking up 42% of the market. Some of this is down to a continued lack of confidence in British pork following two foot and mouth bouts and an export ban, but also because European production methods are not so stringent. Intensive pig farming and lack of welfare guidelines in Europe mean that costs are kept low; they can cram more pigs into a smaller space, cut the energy they expend by not letting them run around and therefore feed them less.

In 2013 things will change as new regulations come into effect bringing European production into line with us, so levelling the playing field. But in the meantime we in Britain can be discerning consumers. If we buy locally, or at least British, not only will it help our struggling pork farmers, but at least we know our meat has come from happy, well cared for animals, not ones forced into pens with little room to move and no chance for exercise!

Our pork shoulder was totally delicious. It was quite fatty which made great crackling, which I simply rubbed with plenty of sea salt and some crushed and ground spices.

As we sat down to eat we wondered whether it was Roisin we were having for dinner….the real Roisin (an on-off vegetarian) looked less than pleased and Aidan said “that’s sad”, before tucking into a plateful. I’m now looking forward to receiving my half a pig for Christmas.

Slow roast pork:

I used two cloves of garlic, some pink and black peppercorns, coriander seeds and fennel seeds which I ground to a paste/powder in a pestle and mortar. I then rubbed it over the fat pushing it into the slits. Preheat the oven to gas mark 8 / 230 degree C. Place the pork on the top shelf uncovered. Roast for about 20 to 30 minutes until you can see the skin starting to puff up a bit and harden into crackling then turn the oven down to gas mark 3/170 degree C for about 3 and a half hours. If the crackling gets too dark or begins to burn cover with a piece of foil and wrap loosely.

Move the pork to a serving dish to rest and cover with foil. Pour off all but a tablespoon of the fat from the tray then put it on the hob to make the gravy. Add vegetable stock to the meat juices and bubble away until you get a nice dark gravy. Strain and serve with the meat and crackling.

I served mine with some potato and swede colcannon, roasted parsnips and hone-made made apple jelly. The perfect Sunday dinner.

Apple and sloe gin jelly:

2 kilo of cooking apples (I used mostly windfalls which are fine for this)

1 pint of water

rind and juice of a small lemon

454 grams sugar to each 500ml (1 pint) juice

Cut and trim the apples removing any bad bits (you need to do this as adding them will cut the shelf life of your jelly) and put in a large preserving pan. You don’t need to peel and core them. Add the water and the grated lemon zest (make sure not to add the pith as this could make the jelly bitter).

Simmer until the apple is soft and mushy. Line a large sieve or colander with muslin or a jelly bag and put to stand over a clean bucket or pan. Fill with the apple pulp and allow to drip into the container. I often fold over the muslin and put a plate on top with weights just to help the process.

The following day, remove the plate and weights and with a pestle, end of a rolling-pin or your hand, give the muslin a good squeeze to get as much juice out as possible. Some say don’t do this as it makes the jelly cloudy but to be honest I don’t mind cloudy jelly and I would rather squeeze out as much flavour as possible. Measure the juice into a jug and pour into a large pan adding the proper amount of sugar and lemon juice. Heat gently stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for five minutes before testing for a set. If it needs longer continue to boil until it wrinkles when you put a teaspoon full on a cold saucer.

Once you have reached the setting point switch off the heat and leave to cool for about five or ten minutes. Add a good glug of slow gin (or two) and transfer to warm sterilised jars. It should keep in a cool dark place for several months and store in the fridge once open.

 

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Filed under British food, Butchers, family budget cooking, home cooking, local produce, Organic meat, preserving, Recipes, Sources and suppliers, Uncategorized

Not a vol-au-vent in sight…wedding buffet for 70

Catering for my first big wedding was as you can probably imagine both nerve-wracking and exciting (in equal measures). It wasn’t as bad as it could have been though. I’d already given myself a good grounding in larger scale cooking with my little summer jaunt around the festival circuit and this really helped with the step up from domestic cooking and supper club numbers to what was at times industrial quantities! Not only did it teach me that there is more to cooking for large numbers than just tripling the recipe but also that it takes just as long to make a cake for 6 as it does a cake for 56!!

Armed with this invaluable knowledge and experience I came back to plan the buffet for Cath and Scotts wedding, a job they had asked me to take earlier in the year after the supper club dinner I cooked for Cath’s parents wedding anniversary.

Over the past few months we ploughed through the planning tinkering with ideas here and there until we settled on a lovely modern British menu, with a bit of European thrown in for good measure. It was all made with my trade mark local ingredients and produce, herbs from my garden and bits and bobs I picked up from Harvest and Borough market. Luckily we were still in time for the last of the summer produce and I collected lots of cucumbers and tomatoes from Moelyci, plus red onions and pink fir apple potatoes which were delicious. I sourced gammon and chicken from my local butcher (Williams in Bangor) and the salmon from Mermaids in Llandudno, the best seafood suppliers for miles around. Blas ar Fwyd were my knights in shining armour as I struck a last-minute wholesale agreement with them for Welsh cheese, milk, cream and butter. They couldn’t reach me with their van so we arranged delivery at the local Londis who are always very willing to support me. So a big thank you to them all.

Finally Four Seasons wholesalers were very helpful with my fruit order especially as I bent their ear mercilessly about its provenance. OK so usually it goes against the grain to buy pineapple, mango and passionfruit but it’s not like I do it all the time and I’m not into depriving myself, or my customers unnecessarily but when it comes to seasonal fruit I do expect it at least to be from the British Isles. Why would I buy plums from Spain when they are plentiful here at the moment? So I did insist that the apples, pears and plums were at least from Britain, if not Wales. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

salmon and herb tarts, Orzo salad, cheese and gammon

The menu comprised;

Home cooked local gammon with English whole grain mustard

Herb and sumac coated roast chicken

Poached salmon side with caper and dill mayonnaise

Salmon and herb tart

Tomato, red onion, basil and cheddar tart

Old English fidget pie

more buffet

A simple bowl of locally grown tomatoes. So sweet and juicy they needed nothing more to accompany them

Orzo and oak smoked tomato salad

Couscous with lemon, roasted garlic courgettes and herbs

Winter slaw with Nigella seeds

Potato salad two ways

Local beef tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, basil and balsamic vinegar

Welsh cheese board with home-made chutney and crackers

Tropical fruit Pavlova’s

tropical fruit pavlova's...one guest confessed "they were so nice I had to have 3"

Blackcurrant and Cassis baked cheesecake

fresh fruit salad

Mon ar Lwy vanilla ice-cream

and not forgetting the obligatory wedding cupcakes!

If you have an event you would like catered for or would like more information please contact me on the usual Moel Faban Secret Supper Club email address, or phone number….or alternately refer to the new private dining and event catering heading above for more on the types of events we can cook for…

Look forward to hearing from you

Denise x

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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