Category Archives: eating out

Food waste and Bristol Skipchen

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In May 2009 I was made redundant. I suspect many of you readers will already know this and it’s no secret that I started writing this blog and running my supper club as something fun to do while searching for a job.  What you may not know are the realities of living on a suddenly reduced income. Within six months I dropped from a very cosy salary of £30,000 a year as a health psychologist, to £72.40 a week income based job seekers allowance (once the redundancy money and ad hoc freelance work dried up).  This was before my marriage ended and my husband and I still lived together. He was working full-time and had a similar wage, which should be pretty good, but once you factor in all the trappings of the ‘middle-class’ professional lifestyle; hefty mortgage which he had to take over paying, credit card payments, household bills plus two hefty overdrafts (which we could no longer afford to pay off), the descent into debt and virtual poverty was swift. This is how people end up bankrupt and homeless. At one point my monthly bank charges topped £150 because I couldn’t pay in enough money to cut my overdraft. The wonderful HSBC bank refused to freeze the account, or stop charging me, which compounded my woe month on month.

Advisors from the CAB told us the only way to freeze charges and cut payments was to default (except the mortgage, council tax and utilities). They told us that store card companies couldn’t make us pay and couldn’t send around bailiffs. Luckily we didn’t lose the house, we kept paying the essentials but we did default. It was stressful and we still struggled to keep our heads above water, often not having enough money to put fuel in the car or buy food for the family. It was scary how all that could happen. I have a PhD,  but I couldn’t get a job. I was skint. I now have a terrible credit rating, but have learned what is important in life, what I can live without and just how precarious that capitalist lifestyle is.

I joined forces with my friend Sophie who was in similarly dire straights. Sophie relied on the tried and tested student practise of ‘skipping’ as a way to top up her food cupboards.  Skipping, for those not aware, is where people collect discarded supermarket food from the skips and use it to feed themselves. Technically its illegal (although not as immoral as chucking away perfectly good food or throwing bleach or rat poison over the contents of the skips so people can’t raid them and use the food…which happened in my area) and many supermarkets now keep their ‘discarded’ food under lock and key. Of course this makes it incredibly difficult to make use of the rejected goods, 90% of which is perfectly edible, safe and reusable.

With food banks, foodcycle, and soup kitchens on the increase, it’s not just those on benefits who are struggling to feed their family.  Barnardos reports that there are around 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK (almost a third of all children) with 1.6 million in severe poverty . In the UK 63% of children living in poverty are in a family where someone works. There is a massive discrepancy in income, living conditions, outlook, perceptions, and I have lived this myself.

But it’s not just about food poverty, it’s about the relentlessly wasteful planet we now inhabit, the supermarket controlled world that has drained people of their cash (don’t kid yourself, everything is over priced, even those things they tell you are on ‘special offer’, you only need to take a trip to Aldi or Lidl to see that) and their common sense when it comes to buying food.  This has long been one of my favourite soap-box subjects and food rants (along with no cookery in schools), but I’m not the only one banging this particular drum, enter The Real Junk Food Project.

According to their figures around 1.3 billion tons of food gets thrown away globally each year. This amounts to nearly 40% of global production. 40%!!! That’s huge. Unimaginable. In the UK alone we waste around 15 million tons of food a year and this is predominantly due to stringent and confusing food safety legislation.

The Real Junk Food Project began life in February 2013 in Melbourne, Australia. Founders and co-directors Adam Smith and Johanna Hewitt were horrified by the amount of food waste they came across so set up pay-by-the-minute barbeques on the banks of the River Yarrow using discarded food. Later, when parenthood beckoned, they felt the lure to return home and back to Adam’s home town of Leeds with the aim of continuing the project. They hunted about, found lots of support and were finally offered  access to a struggling community kitchen in Armley, a particularly deprived part of Leeds. Meanwhile, at a local food activist meeting Sam and Conor (co-directors to-be) heard about the project. They too were  making their own discoveries about commercial food waste as they, and a cohort of other friends from university dined on the proceeds of supermarket bin raids. They heard about the project and approached Adam and Jo with food to exchange and a relationship was formed.

The Leeds Skipchen opened its doors for its first trial in December 2013 when the couple cooked Christmas dinner for the homeless population of Leeds. In the same month it became a Community Interest Company and has thrived and grown since sparking support and interest from all sectors. Now open 7 days a week the project is spreading and growing; new cafe’s are popping up across Leeds…and now, this, the first one in Bristol.

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The other interesting feature of the Skipchen is the Pay-as-you-feel (PAYF) policy. This is what their website says about it. I couldn’t have put it any better, so over to them….

As well as the positive environmental impacts of reducing edible food waste the project also has clear social benefits through operating a strictly Pay-as-you-feel (PAYF) policy . PAYF offers an alternative to the conventional the payment system as there is no price on any produce of the café. Our system transcends monetary transactions and liberates people to use their skills and attributes as well as money to pay for their meals. Furthermore, we aim to highlight the absurdity that the produce we use has been stripped of its monetary value but still retains its nutritional value. By making people think about what they wish to contribute for their meals, the idea is to get society thinking about how they value food as a resource.

The pay-as-you-feel policy makes sense and takes me back to the early days of supper club, when we asked for donations. Later, this later changed to ‘suggested’ donations because people needed more guidance, they wanted to know ‘how much’ was OK. Although the supper club is based on a different concept (I was buying top quality ingredients for those evenings which was in fact pretty much the only time I did any proper shopping) and costs had to be covered, it was still a not for profit exercise. I liked being able to offer people a restaurant experience without charging the earth, bringing in customers that wouldn’t normally go to a top flight restaurant, making them feel welcome and relaxed, where hippies with dreadlocks could sit next to university lecturers and all would get on and find common ground.

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So, on a damp Wednesday afternoon five of us plus a baby in a pram jostled for space and a place to sit inside the busy Bristol Skipchen. Initially we dithered, confused, trying to work out what was the skipchen cafe menu and what belonged to the bar that ‘loans’ them space during the day. Once we’d sussed it out we chose a variety of dishes; vegeburgers, salad with mozzarella and a lovely lime dressing, watercress and spring onion soup, roast cauliflower. The cafe was happily chaotic with a vibrant group of diners leaving the counter with loaded plates of everything. I guess that for some this may well be their main, or only meal of the day. Conversation about the project surrounded us, and there seemed to be a keen interest locally.

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I spoke to Sam who runs the Bristol Skipchen and he told me how it worked. He emphasised two points; first that the project is independent of the big supermarkets. Food Cycle and many food banks, are run in conjunction with, or hosted by supermarkets…ironic since they are the ones that create the problems in the first place. By staying free of their input its easier to challenge their stranglehold. Second, it deliberately avoids the supermarket skips around Bristol which are already used by many of the cities homeless population.

Food donations come from a variety of sources; a local homeless hostel that receives a surplus, a restaurant that over ordered mozzarella, a food PR company that couldn’t use a whole box of watercress, and is sometimes topped up with discards collected from skips in more affluent areas outside of Bristol, where the food would simply be thrown away.

Bristol Skipchen is run by volunteers, all young, enthusiastic and committed food activists and has a lets all-muck-in-and-help-yourself kind of feel to it, which is what they hope to encourage. I love that the Pay As You Feel policy got us all talking, discussing what we’d eaten, what we thought the food was worth, weighing up the time and skill put into its preparation, using our judgement and what we could afford (my visit took place whilst on a severely pared down budget). Some visitors there can’t afford anything, and in that way its fantastic for providing a square meal. We could afford to pay, so did so according to our means. We loved it; the concept, the buzz, the enthusiasm and the commitment. It was good to see it busy. The food was pretty good, if not cooked with total gastronomic expertise (sorry, I’m a chef and hard to please 100%) and there was plenty of it.

One of our group was my eleven year old son. Initially bewildered and perhaps slightly disgusted by the concept of eating food reclaimed from bins, he soon understood what it was all about, realised that I’d given him reclaimed food at home and so tucked into his lunch with no more hesitation. We were sad that there was no pudding, but they have to work with what they’ve been given  (a donation of cake ingredients please). So thankyou The Real Junk Food Project and Bristol Skipchen, you have restored my faith in human nature just when I’d given up hope, and you’ve inspired me. So yes, I will be returning there. Soon I hope and perhaps  the other side of the counter. I will make cake.

Bristol Skipchen is based in the Stokes Croft district of Bristol. Give them your support and your food donations and they will give you a delicious lunch.

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From the Sea: a salty seafood pop-up

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To close the inaugural Menai Seafood Festival a very special pop-up charity supper took place. Inevitably salt and sea were its principal themes; the salt provided by Halen Mon (Welsh sea salt specialists) and every course focusing on a different type of seafood, provided by local fish monger Matt White and with local farmed sea bass from Anglesey Aquaculture.

Now I get little opportunity to attend supper club’s or pop-ups as generally there are none locally, and my forays out of Wales don’t always coincide with supper club dates or events elsewhere. This, as you can imagine was a massive treat for me! I also took my mum along to say thank you for looking after the kids over the holidays and I think she was just about as excited as I was. She’d seen the menu online thinking how delicious it looked before I told her I’d booked for us both. It wasn’t a  cheap night, but as it transpired it was the perfect, decadent end to a busy day.

Jess Leah-Wilson, glamorous owner of Shop Cwtch hosted the event. Her shop, transformed into a stylish intimate dining room for the evening, has a lovely vibe by day, and is the sort of place where you just want to buy everything (during the festival I think my Mum did!). She has great taste, an eye for detail and scatters the shop with so many beautiful things that it was destined to make the perfect backdrop for this dinner. The food, a seven course tasting menu with paired wine, cocktails and Prosecco was designed and cooked by Eamon Fullalove (yep, that IS his real name) with the help of three young aspiring chefs; my assistant chef Mark Burns helped out along with Elfed Roberts and Dion Hughes from The Oyster Catcher Restaurant, where Eamon is the motivational chef and a tutor. Waitressing and helping introduce the food and wine was Nia Williams, also from The Oyster Catcher. All proceeds from the event were donated to Hope House children’s hospices who give specialist nursing care and support to life-limited children, young people and young adults from Shropshire, Cheshire, North and Mid Wales.

Eamon’s background is impressive. Former head chef at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, he has years of high-end restaurant experience and this supper was the perfect platform for his skills. It offered the young chefs an opportunity to experience food preparation in a very different environment (i.e. in an open air kitchen outside the shop in Menai Bridge). They survived the onslaught of questions from relentlessly curious passers-by and later drunken hangers-on slumped over the kitchen wanting to taste the food!

I cannot make a single gripe about the evening, friendly, informal, great conversation, stunning food. At the beginning of each course Eamon introduced the dish and the matched wine. By the end of the meal we’d tasted many incarnations of Halen Mon salt…from  smoked water used to cook the puy lentils, spiced salt in the bisque,  plain sea salt to cure the salmon and vanilla salt to crust the glasses for the watermelon margarita….as Eamon introduced dessert he simply said “there’s no need to gild a lily” before bringing in warm chocolate brownie’s, vanilla ice cream with salted caramel sauce. He was right, it needed nothing more. Simple pleasures.

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mackerel cured with salted limes, pomegranate and cress

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Perfect scallops, puy lentils cooked with smoked water and unsmoked bacon to top…”Chefs hate unsmoked bacon, but here the smoke is in the lentils”….one of my favourite dishes of the night

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Happy guests

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four different salts…spiced, vanilla, plain and smoked. We were invited to use them to season our own seabass…which had not been seasoned at all. In fact I didn’t need anything extra, the samphire brought enough saltiness to the dish along with the olive tapenade. The fennel, cooked until it broke down, is referred to as Trufillo (to be like truffle) in Italy. There is no alternative translation in English so Eamon told us…its just fennel mush….apart from dessert this was my other favourite dish of the evening

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“no need to gild a lily”

We finally staggered off home at almost midnight….with a glass of wine matched to every course, a couple of Margareta’s and two glasses of Prosecco I almost carried my mother home. I smiled to myself as I escorted her to bed with a glass of water that this was a great night and one to remember.

Matched wines were sourced from Llyn Wines and were as follows:

  • Di Maria Prosecco
  • McPherson Verdelho
  • Yalumba dry white
  • Cher et Tendre Vouvray sec
  • Torre de Menagem Vinho Verde
  • Gavi La Battistina
  • Bacalhoa Moscatel de Setubal

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The Oyster Catcher restaurant and the Timpsons connection

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Last week I attended the graduation evening for the trainee chefs completing their training at The Oyster Catcher restaurant in Rhosneigr (Anglesey). It was an honour to be there because this was no ordinary graduation. For the nine young chefs it marked an enormous transition and a huge achievement. For these lads, who could have ended up stuck in North Wales with few opportunities for training or employment, it was a real celebration of what a young person can do with the right guidance, motivation and support. To see the pride on the faces of their families and friends almost brought me to tears (I am a bit emotional at times). It was a very special night.

Most of you will have heard of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen, well, The Oyster Catcher runs along the same lines taking on disadvantaged young people and providing them with the training and life skills necessary to help them find a rewarding career in the food industry.  Established by The Timpson Foundation, which has a long history of philanthropic work, it is still in its infancy but it has already set two lots of graduates on the path to a successful career.

A bit of history about the Timpsons then; they are a family firm established in 1865 by 16-year-old William Timpson. William’s first shoe shop opened in Manchester and from there the organisation grew, adapted and diversified. They opened more shoe shops and then heel bars. Business continued to grow, then waned as modern cheaper shoe manufacturers entered the market. Some areas of the business were more successful and although John Timpson (the great-grandson of William) who heads the organisation today, finally sold off the shoe shop part of the business in 1987, the shoe repair business remains hugely successful. They carry a  reputation for being caring and easy-going employers and an organisation that puts high value on a good quality service and customer care. They offer their staff lots of perks, even free holiday accommodation in one of the homes they own across the North West and Wales.

As a Cheshire family they have a history of holidaying in North Wales. John and his wife Alex have owned a holiday cottage close to Rhoscolyn for years. Their first food related business buy in the area was The White Eagle when it closed down in 2004/2005.  A love of good food and sadness at not finding anywhere decent to eat locally fuelled their purchase and later refurbishment, making The White Eagle a place of good repute in the area.

The Timpsons initially bought the old Maelog Lake Hotel in 2009 with plans to create more holiday accommodation for their staff, but around the same time James Timpson (chief executive and John’s son) visited Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen. He began to think about doing something similar and slowly those plans for the Maelog changed. James decided the site was the perfect place for a North Wales chef’s academy and so The Maelog Project and The Oyster Catcher were born.

The Timpsons demolished the original building which was looking rather sad and dated and employed Huf Haus, a German company, to build a modern, airy glass fronted, environmentally friendly building that allows diners to view the stunning scenery through the huge windows, while introducing energy-efficient features such as bore holes with a ground source pump to provide hot water and heating, and clever computers that keep energy use to a minimum.

Although I have been aware of The Maelog Project and The Oyster Catcher since the projects start this was my first visit. My personal background in psychology, youth work, counselling and prison research. plus my voluntary directorship of another local Social Enterprise project make the Oyster Catchers Ethos one that’s close to my heart and whose progress I have followed closely and with great interest (despite always being too busy to eat out!)

The building has undergone some refurbishment since it opened. Since this was the first commercial Huf Haus the builders were entering unknown territory. They weren’t entirely sure how it would all work and so, after living with it for a while, a few issues came to light. Noise levels were high due to the open plan nature of the building and some people were not so enamoured by the decor and design. They took measures to introduce sound proofing, laid carpet and carried out a refit. Now the decor and layout is smart and trendy, with elements that fit well with the beach side location. I particularly like the little beach huts on the balcony and the new seating alcoves within the restaurant. I know once they also displayed art work from The Koestler Trust (another organisation I follow closely as my sister, artist, photographer and art blogger is a strong supporter of their work) but I admit I was so busy talking and taking photographs that I forgot to have a look!

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In 2011 the first wave of sixteen cadets began their training, spending their first year in the local catering college (Coleg Menai) gaining basic skills, then moving into the restaurant to work with The Oyster Catcher chefs (notably head chef Roger Gorman from The White Eagle and motivational chef Eamon Fullalove, previously head chef at Fifteen) gaining practical skills and experience. With mentoring and further support provided by The Timpson Foundation. Nine of those chefs completed the course and started work full-time at the Oyster Catcher. Since then a second wave of cadets has started. I had the pleasure of working with one of this years graduates (Matt) and one of the new intake (Elfed) on a recent job; both worked their arses off!…Festival catering is hard going, but a great opportunity for a young chef looking for new experiences. This time it was a pleasure to see them on home turf; one where I didn’t look as if I’d crawled from a hedge in chef’s whites, having slept for less than six hours over 3 days. Elfed almost didn’t recognise the nicely scrubbed up version of me.

As I hadn’t visited the Oyster Catcher I wasn’t sure what to expect food wise. I’ve heard mixed reviews from friends, mostly related to expensive food and small portion sizes. This is a bug-bear of mine, but my visit was quite the opposite. There was so much food we were bursting at the seams! As the waitresses wandered round asking “would you like another mini-burger? Or maybe some more chips? we wondered if we would be able to manage pudding. By the time it arrived I think the guests on most tables had eaten one too many mini burgers leaving many bowls barely touched. We had no trouble on our table. Hearty appetites all round!

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The meal was cooked by the latest intake of chefs and this was probably reflected in the menu. Dishes were simple, well cooked and beautifully presented. Choosing to serve family style made the meal a much more interactive and communal experience, which I liked.

All in all my experience of The Oyster Catcher was a good one. I strongly support the project and will hopefully return to eat again soon. I also hope it grows and gains support in the way Fifteen has. It’s so much more than just a gimmick (which is what I thought Jamie Oliver’s place was when I first heard about it) and it really does offer young people like Matt (who has now been employed full-time at The Oyster Catcher), Kyle (who is off to do a stint at The Fat Duck) and the rest of the graduates a fighting chance. And really, hats off to the Timpsons for giving them that.

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Filed under British food, eating out, in the press, local produce, North Wales restaurants, photography, reviews, social enterprise, Welsh food

Literary dinners @ Hardy’s W1

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Some of you will know that I don’t just write about food. As an academic writer (in my earlier profession) I was widely published. After my redundancy I began working on prose, poetry and short stories. Now I’m writing a novel (which may never be finished let alone published). I also love literature and reading and have attended many book readings, signings and the like, mostly in small, dusty cramped book shops, impersonal university lecture rooms or a muddy literature tent at a festival. This was my first grown-up literary dinner which was held at Hardy’s Brasserie and Wine Bar.

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The prospect of a more glamorous experience with a three course dinner cooked by Hardy’s new head chef, Raymond Blanc protegé Sam Hughes, filled me with excitement and anticipation. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The meal entitled ‘food for love’ was advertised as a ‘traditional’ Welsh dinner inspired by writer Deborah Moggachs new book Heartbreak Hotel. Set in the rolling hills of Powys the food was matched perfectly and the ingredients and menu were right up my street, but the literary experience? Intrigued, I was keen to find out.

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Deborah’s book focuses on a bed and breakfast in Powys taken on by ex-Londoner Russel ‘Buffy’ Buffery. To make a bit of money he runs ‘Courses for Divorces’ where spurned ex’s learn the skills their partner brought to the relationship. This is not my usual reading matter. I am a fan of the ‘gritty’ novel and when I tell you that my favourite writer is Solzhenitsyn, you will realise how far out of my usual reading sphere I had travelled. My choice of reading is the polar opposite of stories about the divorced middle classes bonking in a Welsh B&B, if get my drift. Needless to say I felt a little out-of-place among the Marylebone women and at one point imagined I’d stepped into an upper class WI meeting, where everyone is getting tight on wine and having a jolly wheeze!

Sadie and Kate, my dinner companions, were by far the youngest people in attendance. Kate is an art writer, photographer and avid reader, while Sadie is London poet and barkeeper whose idea of a romantic night out is trying out a series of outrageous chat up lines on unsuspecting men (hi, i’m fertile, whats your name?….reserved for men of a certain age or, hi, I really need a seat…can I use your face….should really be saved for the council estates of Dartford and not used in a classy Marylebone bar). Needless to say the pair of them got their entertainment by spending most of the evening eyeing up the barman and the waiter in turn, as we realised Deborah’s books attract a totally different demographic to us!

Hardy’s is a stylish, cosy bistro on Dorset Street, close to Marylebone station and Baker Street tube. It’s not my usual haunt (even when I lived in London or even when I visit) but it is for Sadie who works just around the corner. The evening we attended was busy. Very busy. Clearly the literary dinner is proving popular and we were almost literally shoe-horned into narrow seats near the bar.

Hardy’s staff were friendly and welcoming if a little flustered at times. I didn’t get much of an opportunity to chat to the hosts as they were understandably busy and this seems to be something of a new venture for them. They are clearly still getting used to dealing with the massive influx of dinner guests arriving at once.  As I sat at my table the waiter swiftly offered an aperitif; wine or Brecon gin and tonic. I opted for gin as I know and love Brecon. There wasn’t a huge amount of space to move chairs in and out; not a problem for me as the other dinner guests were quite understanding, but others might find this less relaxing. Bread arrived as did the offer of tasty canapes with laverbread and pancetta which we nibbled as we while we studied the menu and made our decision about what to eat. Tempted, Kate devoured several claiming she’d never tried laverbread, and choosing to ignore the rest of the topping “Do not tell anyone I ate pancetta”….(now lapsed vegetarian).

We all settled on something different so we could have a taste of each others. Kate chose baked oysters with laverbread and crispy pancetta (yep, well and truly lapsed veggie by this point). The sauce was flavoursome, although even confirmed salt-fiend Kate said it was a little too salty with the pancetta. Sadie opted for Welsh black beef carpaccio, anchovy, garlic and rosemary dressing which was lovely. Small tender beetroot chunks worked well and we all enthused over the dressing which was the best bit. I chose steamed mussels with leeks and wild garlic. The mussels were delicious; plump, salty and perfectly cooked while the leek base was well seasoned and tasty, but only a mild hint of the wild garlic came through.

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Black beef carpaccio with beetroot, anchovy, garlic & rosemary dressing

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Baked oysters with laverbread & crispy pancetta

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mussels with leeks & wild garlic

For main Kate chose Cod ‘Cymru’ with cheese sauce, spinach, slow roast cherry tomatoes. The cod was cooked perfectly, the sauce and mash, which was rich and creamy, were delicious but the dish itself was a little uninspiring overall. This again was a theme with Sadie’s Glamorgan sausages, mash potato and spiced tomato relish. The relish was well-flavoured, but the mash was more like crushed potato and not half as rich or creamy as Kate’s and the Glamorgan sausages were just lacking in flavour a little. A good strong Welsh cheddar would have perked these up and not a light Caerphilly, which just doesn’t have the strength. I know it’s traditional, but hey! Finally, I chose the 12 hour slow roast lamb in lavender with braised onions and potatoes, chanteney carrots. The lamb was delicate, tender and melted in the mouth. It had just the slightest hint of sweetness (which I presume was from the lavender) but the lavender itself was barely detectable among the deep flavours of the jus. The carrots and potatoes were nice but perhaps a leeky mash might have been better to soak up the sauce.

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Glamorgan sausages, mash potato, spiced tomato relish

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Cod cymru with cheese sauce, spinach, slow roast cherry tomatoes

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12 hour slow roast lamb in lavender with braised onions, potatoes and chanteney carrots

We all felt full at the end, but not too full for dessert. Again we chose three separate dishes which turned into musical bowls! Kate chose a ‘Snowdon’ steamed marmalade pudding, I opted for the cheese board with Perl Wen and Golden Cenarth from the Caws Cenarth cheese makers of whom I am a regular customer and Sadie went for a Welsh borders lemon meringue tart.

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Welsh borders lemon meringue tart

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‘Snowdon’ steamed marmalade pudding…already minus a spoonful!!…I missed the cheese completely

The cheese plate was sadly disappointing. There were plenty of crackers and a beautiful home-made fig and pear relish, but there were only two small pieces, which barely gave a taste of what Wales has to offer. Either a greater choice or at least slightly larger portions might have been nice. Kate looked at my plate declaring that she would have preferred cheese, not having a sweet tooth, so I offered to swap. Her steamed marmalade pudding was more to my taste as I definitely do have a sweet tooth. It was delicious, but I’m greedy and would have liked a bit more custard. I only had one spoonful when Sadie declared that she wasn’t that keen on lemon and the tart was very lemony. She looked at me beseechingly, so once again this time with a small sigh of regret, I handed over my plate. I loved the sharp lemony tart but was slightly disappointed to find that the top of the meringue was finished with a blow torch and not oven baked so it lacked the crispy topping and marshmallow centre that I love.

Along with our meal we devoured two bottles of Cuvee Jean Paul Rouge, Vins de Pays de Vaucluse. The Grenache-Syrah mix made for a medium-bodied, soft, fruity and very drinkable house red, which went exceptionally well with the lamb, but clearly affected my ability to remember to take photo’s as the evening wore on (the girls chided me for this later!)

My thoughts overall? I love the concept of the literary dinner. It’s a more refined, grown up way to enjoy literature and all the flavours of a books setting….its an all glamour and no mud affair and a very sociable one too. The cosy environment, a shared interest in the writer, book and food created a more relaxed environment to dine in, but I was rather disappointed that Deborah didn’t read an excerpt. Even if her books are not strictly to my taste its nice to listen to a writer read from their work in their own ‘voice’ as it gives the reader an insight into the creator of the story. Instead we just got an introduction to the background and a general chat about the book.

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Deborah Moggach talking about her latest book ‘Heartbreak Hotel’

Would I come again? Well, I think that perhaps a different writer would attract a group with whom I might feel more akin. This was a little like being the cuckoo in the nest, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the evening or that I wouldn’t recommend it, because I would. There are two up and coming events I have my eye on…

Beyond the Cherry Orchard….A Russian Feast on Friday 22nd March and Viva Tequila! with Cleo Rocos (which sounds right up my street) on Thursday 18th April…Cevice, squid and chorizo, pulled pork…plus tequila, what’s not to like!!

The food was undoubtedly delicious and well worth the £40 a head price tag. We agreed that Sam has a particular talent for sauces and dressings, all of which hit the spot pleasingly. The ‘Welsh’ menu could have been more inventive and there were elements that didn’t work as well, but having said this its nice to see a chef experimenting with different food/menu’s etc. That is the pleasure of running a supper club, the opportunity to experiment and these dinners provide exactly that for Sam. He was also very happy to talk to us after the meal, but I think the girls may have scared him with their drunken insistence that he come to the pub round the corner for cocktails. He looked a little scared……so sorry for kidnapping you Sam, we are quite normal really.

Hardy’s Brasserie and Wine Bar is at

53 Dorset Street, London, W1U 7NU.

For more information you can speak to Rosie or Dominique; call 020 7935 5929 or email hardysbookdinners@gmail.com

Sadie Jane Medhurst, Kate Withstandley and I were guests of Hardy’s Brasserie and I extend my thanks to Rosie Apponyi and Dominique de Bastarecchea for their hospitality.

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Bodnant Welsh food centre and the Hayloft Restaurant

Although it opened in the summer, its only in recent weeks that I’ve had a chance to explore the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre. A twitter follower mentioned it was coming at the beginning of the year and later I received a couple of emails telling me to keep an eye out for the opening. I followed development with interest and hoped to attend the opening, but typically I was mad busy and away working so its only now that I’m becoming acquainted with the place.

Bodnant Welsh Food Centre is more of a Welsh food hub and has lots of different parts. The first thing you come across when entering the courtyard is the Furnace Farm Shop which sells an extensive array of Welsh food. They produce and make a lot of what they sell in the shop and serve in the tea room, plus a wide variety of goods from local suppliers.

The tea room across the courtyard has spectacular views over the Conwy Estuary and Carneddau mountains. You can sit and admire them with a warming drink, from a comfy sofa, knowing you are sitting where the cattle once stood. You also know that just next to the old cattle byre talented artisans are baking and making the ingredients for your lunch. The centre boasts its own dairy, butchery and bakery. You can’t get produce much more local than that!

The National Beekeeping Centre of Wales purpose-built visitor centre is just next to the tea room. You can visit and speak to the dedicated expert staff, visit on site apiaries, view bees in their natural environment at work via the live webcam and generally learn all you need to know about keeping bees. I always thought you needed lots of land and  plenty of distance from other houses, but I’ve since discovered that you can pretty much have a bee hive anywhere, apparently they have them on the top of the Waldorf Astoria in New York!

For a more substantial lunch you can visit the The Hayloft Restaurant. Its situated above the Furnace shop and has its own entrance and outside seating area (for when the weather warms up again). If you climb the stairs again you come to the The Bodnant Cookery School where a variety of cookery courses are held, usually at a weekend, although there are some midweek too. Of course since the centre is only in its infancy the programme is still under development ( I have recently attended a course there, but that deserves a post of its own!).

If this wasn’t enough there is also guest accommodation, a training/event room for hire and of course the most stunning views you can imagine!

Personally I’m thrilled that these once run-down farm buildings have a new lease of life . Their restoration has been sympathetically carried out and they are beautifully styled and decorated having retained every bit of their earthy traditional charm. You can sit by the open fire in the restaurant lounge and view original beams throughout, while little unique touches such as the antler chandelier on the stairs and the reclaimed wood tables give a modern yet rustic feel. It’s also good to see the place so busy. The quietest time was when I first visited midweek; small amounts of building and finishing work were still going on and you could tell it was still not yet complete,  but now that is all done and at the weekend it’s absolutely packed!

I recently dropped in for lunch at the Hayloft restaurant, eager to try their food after hearing good reports from friends. I booked a table just in case it was busy, but there was no need. I guess at the weekend it might well be fully booked, but on a Thursday lunchtime there was plenty of space. This may of course change as their reputation grows.

The lounge area is beautiful and the refurbishment project has really brought out the best in the buildings. The roaring open fire and comfortable sofas create a homely relaxed atmosphere. I could have sat there drinking gin and tonic all day and not felt any pressure to move on.

The restaurant itself is bright, modern and pleasant. My dining companion dislikes music in restaurants, he finds it distracts from good food and conversation so he was pleased at its absence, although I thought the jazz in the lounge was rather nice. I also liked that there was a variety of clientele; families with young children sat alongside retired couples, others had clearly dropped in for lunch after having a walk but no one looked out-of-place and staff were friendly and attentive, helpful and polite.

The lunch menu is not extensive, but offers enough choice for everyone to find something they like. I opted for Menai mussels in white wine, cream and garlic and my dinner partner chose pan-fried pigeon breast with orange and beetroot salad with ginger dressing.

Menai mussels with cream and garlic

Pigeon breast with orange, beetroot & ginger salad

The mussels were creamy and delicious. The sauce was quite rich and heavy and could have been too much had the portion size been larger, but it was spot on leaving me plenty of room for my main and not over filling me. The rich gamey-ness of the pigeon breast worked nicely with the sharpness of the salad. The contrast of sweet, bitter, sharp and meaty worked very well, although there could have been a little more ginger in the dressing as it wasn’t so obvious.

For my main course I chose Bodnant steak burger with juniper and morello cherries, salad and root vegetable shavings and my dinner partner chose a slow cooked shoulder of lamb on mashed potato, with garlic and rosemary sauce. I have to say my dining partner was very happy, no miniscule portions here! A really good hearty lunch put a big smile on his face; the vegetables were perfectly cooked, the lamb fell tenderly from the bone and his only gripe was that there wasn’t more sauce to soak into the mash.

My burger was sweet and juicy, well-flavoured with the juniper and cherry and the root vegetable shavings were deliciously crisp with a hint of sweet and salt. A small salad accompanied and a bun baked on site. The only thing missing was a dressing or relish for the burger. A home-made burger without any relish can veer on the dry side and as the salad not dressed either it just needed a little something. I wondered if I would be offered anything but after a minute or two I decided to ask the waitress if there was anything to go on the burger, or if she had any dressing of any kind. She offered a mustard dressing for the salad, which was very tasty.

Of course we couldn’t resist dessert, even though we were pretty full. I went for a lighter choice, the white chocolate and lemon parfait with raspberry coulis and home-made tuille while my partner (to my amazement after all that lamb) chose blackberry and apple crumble with fresh egg custard. Apparently he just HAD to go for all the winter options because it was cold outside. That’s his excuse!

The parfait was light and delicate but I could hardly taste the lemon in it. The coulis matched beautifully with the white chocolate and the crisp tuille finished the dish perfectly. The crumble was nice and crunchy, the apple well cooked; still holding its form so it had a good texture but not too crunchy, however it was quite tart (which I like, but others with a sweeter tooth may find a little too sharp). The egg custard was, well eggy and delicious.

The only criticisms we had, as I said above, were quite minor things really and mostly related to the finishing touches and rather cautious use of flavourings. They certainly didn’t detract from quality or our enjoyment of the meal.  As for cost, we both had three courses, a drink each and I finished with a coffee. The total bill came to £42.00 which I think is excellent value for money.

As a whole Bodnant Welsh food centre has impressed me. It makes a great stop off while exploring the surrounding area, a fab lunch destination and an interesting place to visit in its own right. I’m looking forward to checking out the Bee Centre and what courses they have on offer and I’m already booked on a course in the new year. I think there are still some pricing inconsistencies that might put people off; yes the restaurant is excellent value, but some of the products on sale in the shop are quite expensive in comparison to other outlets in the area, and courses are not cheap either. I know it’s still early days, but I suppose my hope is that Bodnant Welsh food centre becomes widely known both in and outside of North Wales. If it can make itself accessible to more than just those in a particular wage bracket or the tourist industry and raise awareness among locals of the food we have on our doorstep its on to a winner. Hopefully then we will see this rather unique centre thrive and grow.

Bodnant Welsh Food is open from 10.00am – 6.00pm, Monday to Saturday & 11.00am – 5.00pm on Sunday.
Hayloft Restaurant is open Mon-Wed 12pm-3pm, Thurs-Sat 12pm-9pm and Sun 12pm-4pm
Bodnant Welsh Food, Furnace Farm, Tal-y-cafn, Conwy, LL28 5RP T: 01492 651100
E: customerservices@bodnant-welshfood.co.uk

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Menu for Saturday 10th November Vegetarian Italian supper club

The day will begin with our monthly pop-up cafe at Ogwen Produce Market, Bethesda. This month we take up residence in the Jerusalem chapel so will have a warm and dry cafe space with tables, plus lots of produce and crafts to buy for Christmas. we will serve our usual breakfasts…local bacon or sausage baps, BLT’s and hot seasonal soups…come and pay us a visit and support your local producers!

We also still have spaces for our vegetarian Italian dinner next weekend (Saturday 10th November)….the menu is as follows…

Tomato & basil and tapenade bruschetta & Rossini cocktails

Pumpkin and crispy sage risotto

Chargrilled vegetables with caper and anchovies (for pescatarians)
Baked spinach with cream
Caponata
Mixed winter leaves

With CiabattaZabaglione ice cream & biscotti

To finish…coffee and chocolate salami

If you would like to join us at the table please drop me an email moelfabansuppers@gmail.com or give me a call on 07775 828769

** If bookings remain on the low side the evening will not take place, so please let me know by Thursday if you wish to attend! Thank you xx

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Olympic opening ceremony and Global Feast

There was a tangible buzz of excitement rippling through East London as I began my Global Feast journey. Despite predictions there was no travel chaos, my trip between Ebbsfleet International and Stratford international was simple and quick (ten minutes from Kent to East London!!) although I was travelling at 10am and it did get busier as the day progressed.

As mentioned in my earlier post, Global Feast is a twenty night dining extravaganza coinciding with the London Olympics. More of a fringe event, it acts as an antidote to the corporate pressures pushed by the Olympic sponsors and instead focuses on the glorious eclecticism of the UK. This country is home to so many nationalities, cuisines, personalities and talents all living cheek by jowl on this small island and each night of Global Feast celebrates these talents and heritage of a different chef or chefs.

Then there is the table where guests seat themselves in a different country and are encouraged to move around to a different continent between courses. Alex Haw’s Worldscape table is an equidistant cylindrical map of the world showing its peaks, troughs and centres of habitation marked out by tiny lights set into the table. It is a perfect work of art and design and I’m only sorry that it wasn’t finished on the night I cooked (its intricacy and problems with machinery meant that completion was delayed).

If Alex was the artist and host for the night, his counterpart Kerstin Rogers (aka msmarmitelover) was the talented curator and coordinator of food. She is a small explosion of a woman. Loud, bold, direct and disconcertingly (for some) forthright. She can be rude and blunt but working with her on this project, up close and personal, gave me an insight into how she makes big things happen and how open, generous, supportive and good fun she is. I had a fantastic time! Clearly staging such an event is highly challenging and stressful and there were moments of near disaster (when we lost power to the fryers; as I almost had a flap because my first batch of gingerbread went wrong, no numbers on the cooker dial meant I turned it down instead of up!!; and it was such a hot day that everything kept melting, but no one lost their head and with help of the ‘backstage team’ (my unsung hero’s) Colin (from lovefood), Kiren (highly accomplished chef from The Bladebone Inn) and Linn (guest chef for Northern European night but helping out in between) it all came together. In Kiren’s words that’s why everyone loves British chefs, they just get on with it.

So here it is, in fabulous Technicolor pictures (courtesy of Kate Withstandley art blogger and my official photographer for the evening…as of course I was too busy!)

Starter of blue cheese salad with mixed leaves, flowers, pickled radish, pickled sour cherries and toasted oats by Aoife Behan of Jelly&gin, my co-chef for the nights

The menu, map napkins and beautiful plates with a relief of London

waitresses at our field kitchen and Col from lovefood

plating main course

fish (sustainable pollack in beer batter) with crispy chips sprinkled with truffle salt, French peas (cooked in white wine) and home-made tartar sauce cooked by Kerstin as her quintessentially English dish

plating my dessert: Apple and cinnamon tart, salted caramel sauce, Welsh ginger bread

The finished dish, completed with glass of Penderyn Welsh whisky

Kerstin’s world pop’s

My roll call of sponsors and suppliers:

  • Penderyn Whisky. Gorgeous Welsh whisky with a smooth honey flavour that paired beautifully with the spices in my dessert
  • Nantmor Welsh shiitake mushrooms
  • Snowdonia cheese company. Black bomber cheddar
  • The tomato stall. Oak smoked tomatoes
  • Calon Wen butter
  • Shipton Mill Plain flour
  • Halen Mon sea salt and vanilla salt
  • Cotswold Gold white truffle oil
  • Steenbergs organic fairtrade spices
  • Redcurrants from Moelyci environmental centre

Thank you to you all x

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Keeping it raw

I’ve never been one for food fads although I once did one of those ‘detox’ diets back in the 90’s when they were THE big thing to do. My dad and I embarked on it together; a seven-day programme of toxin free eating to purge our bodies of the impurities of modern life. In all honesty we were rubbish. On day five I found my step-father head in fridge, guiltily stuffing chunks of cheese into his mouth at half past twelve in the morning. Meanwhile I walked around ready to kill, driven crazy by the lack of nicotine entering my system.  We both cracked. Totally unable to cope without our morning shot of caffeine or hefty dose of protein during the day. We decided together that the toxins weren’t that bad after all.

It’s not that I’ve ever had a particularly unhealthy diet. I was, until I started living with my then boyfriend (now husband), a strict vegetarian. I’d even dabbled with veganism for about six months, but that was in my late teens when I wasn’t so keen on vegetables and there just wasn’t the variety of products on the market tailored to vegan living. It was only when my teen was little that I started to eat a bit of fish and occasionally chicken. Back then I shopped in the supermarket and couldn’t afford organic meat so it was easier and cheaper to eat vegetarian most of the time.

My knowledge of raw foodism (is that the correct term?) was pretty sketchy. I’d always imagined raw foodists as a strange sub-group of vegans; pale and unhealthy looking hippy types (yes I’m just going to generalise wildly here so please forgive me) eating salad for breakfast lunch and dinner. These days it seems that more and more people are choosing a raw way of life…and for the most part they look pretty damn good doing it. It’s still not totally mainstream but people like Mike Nash (buff American author of Aggressive Health), David Wolfe (curly-haired ‘rock star’ of superfood) and chef Chris Massamba from Sundia foods (opening night chef at Global Feast 2012) are doing their best to pioneer the trend and tell all about the benefits. If you think it’s just another fad diet I think you would be wrong, it’s a lifestyle (they do all look incredibly wholesome, toned and squeaky clean…which is enough to put me off and make me feel quite grubby). This lifestyle they espouse doesn’t seem to have much room for moments of stodgy cake, booze, cocktails or dare I say it, the odd cigarette but there are plenty of people following suit and lots of websites with recipes and tips on how to do it.

This week I received an invite to Raw Dave’s night of raw food.  A three course raw food dinner with talks and demonstrations. I wasn’t sure what to expect (what with my sweeping generalisations and large chuck of cynicism) but with so few food events (let alone interesting and different food events) cropping up in these parts I knew I’d kick myself if I turned it down. In any case I know the chef, Raw Dave (as he is known locally) so I was genuinely interested in what he had to say and prepare for us.

You’d be forgiven for imagining Raw Dave as a gruff feral man, part Tarzan part Neanderthal, emerging from the undergrowth after an extended forage. In contrast Dave is a gentle, laid back self-effacing guy who clearly loves food, experimenting, preparing and eating. He does have a hint of the clean and glowing about him but  along with his lovely and massively enthusiastic assistant Gill (for whom all of life is AWESOME. Favourite adjective of the night) they managed to enthuse all the guests with the same amounts of bounce and anticipation.

The totally awesome Raw Dave and Gill

The evening was hugely interactive, well planned and I learnt masses. Guests liberally fired questions across the table which Gill and Dave answered with relaxed honesty and openness. It felt like a cross between a supper club (I had that feeling of deja vu witnessing the birth of a new foodie project) and a food lecture. I’d never have guessed that this was the first time they’d run such an event. They were fun, entertaining, enlightening and interesting. I sat with Jules (from the Incredible Edible Hedgerow project) and a couple of her friends, plus Pete who is a veteran supper club guest. The conversation and debate provoked by the food, how we eat, grow, shop and what the effects of eating such a nutrient rich, unusual diet might be on our systems were definitely a highlight of the night.

Clearly there are long-term health benefits to such a diet. Dave explained his own journey. He’d always been fit but a big guy and as he approached his thirties he felt himself becoming lethargic, achey and slowly he piled on the weight. As he topped 23 stone his Mum developed hypertension and his dad had a heart attack. He found he was developing the same symptoms so decided it was time to make a change. He didn’t become a raw foodie over night (in fact Dave strongly advised against doing anything so drastic and so suddenly…as he said it’s not about putting yourself through withdrawal and feeling crap it’s about improving the diet and feeling healthy), he started by drinking green smoothies and slowly replaced unhealthy snacks with healthy ones. Over a three to four year period he became almost totally raw. In the process and without watching what he ate (raw chocolate plays a massive part in his life) his weight dropped to an astounding 12 stone. He looks healthy. He brims with energy and he no longer aches in the morning.

We started our meal with one of his famous green smoothies. A dark green high chlorophyll (which makes you feel buzzy and uplifted) concoction of 1 juiced apple, 1 juiced pear, a hand full of spinach and a stick of celery juiced, spirulina, sea algae (high in Omega 3), agave nectar.

It was more tasty than it might seem, although Dave had put plenty of Agave nectar in it to make it more palatable. The apple and pear flavours were strongly in evidence and not over powered by the celery and spinach at all. We were also treated to some raw chocolate bites to go with it. High in phenathlamine (among other things!) they offer a natural high and topped with dried fruit (I can’t remember what Dave said the dried fruit was on top, something like kumquat I think) they were very nice.

raw chocolate: coconut oil, raw cacao powder with a dried kumquat like fruit on top

One of the purported benefits of eating raw is that it boosts your energy levels. With the high nutrient content, added Omega 3 (spirulina), natural ‘good’ bacteria in algae, natural caffeine and chemicals in the raw chocolate I certainly felt quite buzzy and high after the chocolate and smoothie appetizer.

We moved on to starter; a mixed leaf, herb, flower salad with mixed seeds and Green Dragon dressing.  Leaves and flowers were harvested from the on iste permaculture garden and the dressing made from half a scotch bonnet chilli (which apparently helps to open up the cells inside us, replacing the bad stuff-toxins, with good stuff), half an onion, a handful of coriander (good for the detox of heavy metals), 7 fl oz tamari soy sauce (a wheat free variety), a couple of dropper full of flax oil (Omega 3 rich, it’s very good for reversing a deficiency but if used too much can cause an imbalance), nine fl oz apple cider vinegar (lower in ascetic acid than balsamic vinegar), good olive oil and pink Himalayan salt (the purist kind and most contaminant free apparently). These were all blitzed in a blender.

The dressing had real punch (from the chilli) but was also slightly sweet and sour. The sweet came from a drop of agave nectar (from the blue agave plant; the same thing they make tequila from…something else I learned that night).

Main course was courgette spaghetti with a marinari sauce and raw pesto. To make the courgette spaghetti Dave used a spiraliser, a Japanese gadget, that Gill demonstrated (after bouncing up and down saying “can I do it, can I, can I” )

Gill using the spiraliser (not the best picture sorry)

This was my most coveted piece of kit for the night. I have to get one of them!

Courgette spagetti with marinari sauce and raw pesto

I don’t think I was paying attention when the demonstration was going on as I didn’t make a note of the ingredients. I think we were too busy being excited by the spiraliser and passing round vegan parmesan substitute. Made by Marigold it looks a bit like fish food and has a yeasty kind of taste, but isn’t unpleasant. It comes into its own when it’s added to dishes. Dave used it in the pesto, which was very nice.

Pete’s extrodinarily long piece of courgette pasta

Although it is supposed to be summer, the sauce would have benefitted from lightly warming as it wasn’t the warmest evening, although this did not detract from the taste; perfectly flavoured and seasoned.

Dessert was raw tiffin with mint sauce. The ‘biscuit’ part (which can also be used as a cheesecake base) was a combination of walnut halves, dates and pink Himalayan salt, blitzed together in a blender until it begins to hold together.

Next coconut oil warmed in a bain marie was mixed with melted raw cacao powder and what we arrived at was, in the words of Gill

“chocolatey joy in a bowl”

Thank you Gill, that is exactly what it was. Once set they cut the tiffin into chucks and served it with a simple pureed minty sauce and a strip of strawberry fruit leather. I’m rarely defeated by dessert but this was so rich half of it made me feel like I’d over eaten!

During the evening my dinner companions and I came up with two questions. Would we be able to sleep after so much buzzy food and would we feel full at the end of the meal? I asked one more silent question of myself. What would it do to my insides? This seems a strange question to ask, but I’m not used to eating solely raw food. As Dave said, “you’re not just getting five a day, you’re getting twenty-five a day”.

Question two was answered easily. Yes we all agreed we felt full and I continued to feel full for a long time afterwards.

The first question was answered later…no I couldn’t sleep. Apparently Sean listened to me talking at him in an over elated fashion while we lay in bed. He listened for a while before he finally fell asleep. He was sure I carried on even then.

My own question was answered the following day. The over abundance of vegetable made me feel quite bloated. The following day my stomach spoke to me in gurgles. Now, without getting too grim about the details, suffice it to say I couldn’t have felt more purged if I’d had a colonic irrigation. Despite this I didn’t feel ill, I felt rather light and energetic until I started getting a headache and a craving for a really big ham roll. Sorry Dave, my toxins rule my body.

Lizzy Hawley and the girls behind the newly revamped Hendre Hall Arts Cafe and Permaculture Garden hosted the evening. It’s a fab place which is now being used as a base for lots of local craft people as well as a venue for weddings, special events and a monthly local produce market. If you would like to attend future events they are mostly advertised through Facebook or word of mouth, so its worth checking their page for news.

Thank you to lovely Lizzy, resplendent in Green taffeta, and the rest of her glamorous assistants for all their hard work and of course to Gill and Dave who were truly AWESOME!

 

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Global Feast 2012

When Kerstin Rogers (aka msmarmitelover) emailed me last week to ask how my supper club was doing, were we still up and running? I thought it was just a polite inquiry. The next minute she was asking me if I would be a guest chef at Global Feast 2012’s British food night!

Excited is an understatement. When I took a look at the other contributors ( list at the bottom of those confirmed) many of whom I have followed and admired from the depths of the Welsh mountains, you will get an understanding of just how excited I am and how amazing it will be. I’m brimming with more than a little nervous anticipation of what promises to be a busy, but superb twenty days.

Global Feast 2012 coincides with the Olympics and is the brainchild of Latitudinal Cuisine (started by Alex Haw, whose team at atmos also designed the central table…more on that in a sec!), a collective culinary project bringing people together to create and enjoy great global food and local conversation and curated by Kerstin Rodgers (msmarmite lover from The Underground Restaurant).
Between Wednesday 25th July and Monday 13th August guests will be invited to take a journey into the world of food. They will  travel through the cultures and cuisines of the entire world, tasting a different specialty each night lovingly prepared and cooked by the best local supper club cooks and chefs from the UK. The diverse culture of London and the UK will be there for all to see as will the quality and variety of the British and local produce used to create the dishes.
Lets get it right; this is not a night for the corporate, the glitterati or the feted….this is a night for those with a taste for the underground; those who like something a bit more creative, different, real.  With that in mind you can guarantee this talented group of Londoners (as well as a few of us that do not have a Londoncentric life), proper food lovers, artists and entertainers will be loving the opportunity to create a unique and unforgettable experience. If this isn’t enough in itself, guests will sit at Worldscape – part architectural masterpiece, part art installation-which is apparently the tallest table in the world, made from its contours and designed by atmos.
picture courtsey of atmosstudio

Dinners will take place in the covered courtyard of the Old Town Hall in Stratford (pretty much next door to the Olympic venue) and the schedule is as follows…

18:00 Bar opens
18:30 Welcome cocktail and canapés
19:30 Starter
20:00 Entertainment begins
20:30 Main Course
21:30 Dessert
02:00 Bar closes (4am on Friday/Saturday)

 

I will be cooking Welsh inspired dishes on British food night (Friday 27th July) and will be bringing in as many of my favourite suppliers (and products) as possible…there are so many to choose from!…

These are some of our glorious Welsh producers…but the list is endless….Welsh lamb from my mountain, Welsh black beef …so many growers within a mile of my home…Halen Mon salt are on my doorstep….Welsh cheese (how many varieties?)…we also have the best goats cheese dairy ever!….a smokery (fantastic smoked Brie and paprika)…amazing Welsh grown shiitake mushrooms…so many food orgasms without having to travel more than 20 miles!! Of course these are very Northcentric… but there are many fantastic South Wales producers too….Calon Wen cream and butter, Rachel’s Organics, Perl Wen and Perl Las cheese, Trealy Farm, Caws Cenarth….I could go on forever!! Not all will focus in my dishes, but I’m damn sure I will wedge in as many as I can!

If you wish to come along to any of the evenings (see the website for a full list of events and more information about the project) you can buy the Global Feast tickets by clicking on the link below.

http://www.globalfeast2012.com/#Book/

Those who already make up the all-star parade of guest chefs from the very best supper clubs are as follows….

Arno Maasdorp of the  SaltounSupper club (representing South Africa)

Aoife Behan of My Home supper club and Jelly and Gin (representing Scotland and Ireland)

Moel Faban supper club (representing Wales)

Plus Six Five supper club (representing Singapore)

Sabrina Ghayour supper club (representing Persia)

Uyen Luu of Leluu supper club (representing Vietnam)

Lee Sylvester of Tan Rosie supper club (representing the Caribbean)

Martin Morales of Ceviche restaurant and pop ups (representing Peru)

Carina of Russian Revels supper club (representing Russia)

Chris Massamba of Full House supper club (representing West Africa)

Caroline Hobkinson (representing Poland)

Pistachio Rose (representing Indian desserts)

As a last thought…if anyone would like to comment on or suggest their favourite Welsh dishes and desserts please I would welcome it!

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Perry Higgins and the Lazy Dollar

On my way back from dropping the teen at school for her last GCSE exam I took the opportunity (during a moment of calm between weddings) to indulge myself with a visit to my favourite spot for a bit of vintage browsing.

Perry Higgins in Penmaenmawr is rather a hidden gem along the North Wales coast. Lots of people travelling along the A55 expressway would easily miss it as they zoom through from central England on route to Holyhead Port and the Irish ferries. It’s a shame as its well worth a detour. Although maybe not, because I like having it almost to myself!

My main reason for dropping in was for the pleasure of uncovering countless curiosities and treasures, but it wasn’t my only reason. There was a foodie related motive to my trip and that was to look for more vintage serving bowls. Really large ones for lots of people! With three floors to browse I was in there a while.

The top and ground floors are full of beautiful artifacts, furniture, costume and kitchen ware. I easily found what I was looking for before I’d even descended to the basement which is a treasure trove of bargains, bric a brac and chairs! There are absolutely loads of cheap chairs (prefect for starting a supper club!!…This is where I bought a few of mine and at £20 for four…I haggled…I couldn’t really argue, even though they needed a sand and varnish). If you happen to come across the owner…well you can’t miss him, he’s eccentric, bordering on grumpy, especially if you have younger inquisitive children in tow..but he’s often open to a spot of bartering and he is helpful if he thinks you have a genuine interest or are a genuine buyer 🙂

As well as the items I eventually purchased I came across this

I totally fell in love with it but couldn’t justify the £37 the shop was asking. What? I hear you say, only £37 for a beautiful vintage, intact picnic hamper. Well I kicked myself the following week on a return visit when the owner told me it had sold that very morning. I was devastated. I wanted to cry.

The last little gem that makes this place a MUST visit is the cafe which adjoins the shop.

No where else in North Wales will you find as authentic an American diner. Perfect in every detail. The jukebox, the pictures on the wall, the decor. I stayed around for a coffee and pancakes (I’d yet to have breakfast) which were sadly rather disappointing. This is the one problem with the Lazy Dollar; the food doesn’t live up to the setting. Even though their cooking facilities are limited (they have no proper kitchen on site and only the means to keep food warm or cold) they could invest in some better ingredients from local suppliers. There’s no need to use Carte’D Or ice cream in their Knickerbocker glory when they could use Mon ar Lwy or Fortes or Llanfes Dairy, need I go on?

On a return visit with the kid and his 1950’s loving mate (trust me I’ve never met a nine-year old that knows more about the 1950’s than Yani…this is a boy who got a sequined Elvis all in one for Christmas!!), my boy struggled to eat his ice cream because it was too ‘artificial’! Yani on the other hand thought he’d gone to 1950’s heaven and loved every second of his after school treat.

Now that I’ve discovered the lazy dollar my mind has gone into overdrive. So many possibilities; so much potential!

….watch this space there are plans afoot.

Perry Higgins and The Lazy Dollar are open 7 days a week. The Lazy Dollar serves teas. coffees, ice cream and sundaes.

Mon-Sat: 11 til 4.30pm

Sun: 11 til 3.30pm

You will find them both on the main street; Bangor Road which runs through Penmaenmawr.

 

 

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