Category Archives: festival catering

Black pudding regrets and other Green Man food stories…

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Early morning haze over Glanusk

Every August I disappear into the hills of Brecon to cook for the crew and production of the Green Man Festival. It’s a fantastic, frantic, hard-working month filled with highs and lows, time spent catching up with friends and making new ones, parties, hangovers, sleepless nights, topped finally by one big festival in the middle. Every year I intend to catch up with writing over the few days I have a break, but always I fail. Tiredness catches up and my brain just can’t compute.

This was my third consecutive year so I’ve pretty much cracked the routine bit and so with Lizzie my assistant from last year we ran like a well oiled machine! We even had an extra pair of hands to help with washing up! This gave me more time to think about being creative with the cooking. Even though we work to a budget I still like to experiment and try new dishes. Old favourites, big one pot meals and hearty pies make up the staple diet but it doesn’t take much to create well-flavoured, tasty grub and as ever our efforts are greatly appreciated. In fact even as we sat down to dinner at The Bear (our traditional first night on site evening out) talk turned to what was on the menu for my first week of cooking and everyone has their special request….fish pie, cottage pie and a good curry, which along with the Welsh cheese board, honey baked gammon and vast array of cakes, have become standard Green Man fare. I try to vary the menu to keep things fresh. This year I cooked my first crew roast dinner, finally getting over my fear of screwing up the timings for so many people so I braved it.

Spiced pulled pork with crispy crackling followed by warm chocolate torte with ganache was the triumph of the week…and the dinner that saw me peak too soon! The torte, as expected, was so good it broke a few grown men. Ben arrived in the morning claiming he would not be eating cakes and puddings this year..before devouring two lots of chocolate torte the same evening. Another was overheard declaring “holy shit!!” as he took a mouthful….I took that as a compliment).

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Spiced roast pork

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The cake that broke a thousand men…warm chocolate torte with ganache and strawberries

By Monday the numbers had increased and I never quite reached the heady heights of that dinner again.  Embarking on a lemon meringue pie for fifty with home-made pastry, nearly gave me a nervous breakdown as I struggled to get it ready on time and my battles with a temperamental Aga raged over the week…its constant use meant it cooled down rapidly refusing to cook the food. Fair enough if you have all the time in the world, not so good if you have half an hour until dinner and the carrots still haven’t come to the boil. We peered despondently into the pot willing them to be ready in time….they weren’t, and dinner was half an hour late.

Still, we hit a few high’s; poached pears with rum and cinnamon caused our dairy free crew member to come over all unnecessary, potato pancakes at breakfast got everyone a bit excited and of course cake formed the basis of everything…even a bit of sculpting to mark out the stage set-up

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Hi-tec design: main stage and speaker lay out in cake

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“How will I live without potato pancakes” (Tash)

and lots of black and white pudding was consumed…over heard from the kitchen…

“I’m having black pudding regrets”

“From eating it?”

No, from not eating it”

Being part of the Green Man experience is unique. It’s hard to explain to others the family feeling this festival evokes. As a group we spend time with people we might only see once a year, live closely together and share the excitement, the highs and the lows of building a festival. We see the love, care and attention that goes in to every bit of the build and the dramas that go with it. We gear ourselves up for the party, almost to the point of elation and then its over in a flash and we find ourselves on the other side tired, broken and bereft as the family goes its separate ways. Its hard and emotional but worth every second.

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The Green Man team (for the build): Claire, me and Lizzie

And as the tiredness creeps in, it gets harder to stay creative and on the ball. One kitchen, an Aga blasting out its heat twenty-four hours a day as the sun beats down outside, it’s easy to end up a bit hot and bothered, distracted and lacking focus…although to be fair on this occasion I can’t just blame that on the heat in the kitchen ….but that’s another story altogether.

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Abersoch Makers Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A busy food marquee, even quite early in the morning

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

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…and lots of tarts and cakes

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

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Nice home-made sausages from Busters Bangers

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Shabby chic and bunting

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The Green Man cake diaries (part one)

Curry and tins of lemon cake photo courtesy of Lizzie Morrell

If there is one thing the crew of the Green Man love as much as their cheese its cake. Lots and lots of cake.

During my cooking stint I made more cake than I probably make at home in a year. I baked cake with fruit, cake without, steamed sponge cake, plain sponge cake, cake with jam, cake with cream, cake with caramel sauce and cake with chocolate. We made cake for lunch, for afternoon tea and various sponges for dessert after dinner. If we didn’t make cake we made pudding (bread pudding, sponge pudding) or flapjacks. We even made dairy free cakes (more on the challenges of that in another post).

Cake became such a fixation that it even penetrated the radio system used by the crew to communicate with one another….at four o’clock a lone voice could be heard crackling across the airwaves, “cake or death”? (For anyone unfamiliar with Eddie Izzard’s cake or death’ sketch check it out here…this is my nine-year old son’s favourite version).

Huge tray of Apple sponge photo courtesy of Lizzie Morrell

Anyway, now you understand how much they love cake you will perhaps get some insight into just how many we had to bake. It’s hard to keep the choice varied and although we are full of good ideas at the beginning this becomes increasingly difficult as the days roll on and our cake repertoire becomes depleted, our energy levels droop and our enthusiasm for baking cake begins to wane.

To ease the burden we bought in a few staples (bara brith and Welsh cakes from Askews bakery) but that crew are a picky bunch and they inevitably chose the ‘posh’ freshly made cakes over the simple buttered bara brith (even though it is delicious) leaving it rejected on the side of the tray.

At home I make dessert maybe once or twice a week and bake cakes even less often (unless required for supper club). At the Green Man there were times we made three cakes a day! And not just any normal sized cake either, but industrial quantities, six times the usual recipe, in huge trays. We made so much cake that Kate, from the production team really did start a cake diary!!

Over the past two years I have discovered that the crew have a few favourites….so with that in mind here is our very own cake diary with a list of our top festival bakes (with recipes for all of those that asked!)

1. Rich chocolate cake or chocolate mousse cake with strawberries and cream or chocolate brownies

All a variation on a theme, that theme being chocolate. Whether it be Nigella’s chocolate mousse cake or Hugh FW’s chocolate brownies (recipe below taken from his book Everyday), everyone loves something with chocolate in it and this version is very hard to beat!

  • 250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 275g dark chocolate (about 70 per cent cocoa solids), broken into pieces
  •  3 medium eggs
  •  125g caster sugar
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 150g self-raising flour (I use wholemeal, but white works well too)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

Grease a shallow baking tin, about 20 x 25cm, and line with baking parchment. Put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Set the oven to 180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4 and put the bowl in it until the chocolate and butter start to melt. Stir, then put back in until completely melted. Meanwhile whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until combined. Next beat in the melted chocolate and butter until smooth then fold in the sifted flour and salt gently with a large metal spoon. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The top should be firm but the underneath should still be a little moist. The heat will help finish the cooking process and if you leave it in too long they will become dry.  Remove from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool before cutting into squares.

2. Lemon trickle cake

Recipe taken from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s book Everyday as well. Its pretty similar to most other lemon trickle cake recipes, or in fact any Victoria sponge cake recipes.

175g unsalted butter, 175g caster sugar, zest of three lemons, 3 eggs, 175g self-raising flour, a pinch of sea salt and a drop of milk or lemon juice if needed.

Grease and line a 1 litre (2lb) loaf tin and preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170 degrees C.

beat together the softened butter and caster sugar with a hand blender. It should be very pale and creamy. Add the lemon zest and eggs one at a time with a spoonful of flour each time to prevent the mixture curdling.

Fold in the remaining flour and salt. If the mixture is a bit stiff add a drop of milk or lemon juice to make it looser. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 45 to 50 minutes. It should have risen quite well and started to split on the top.

While the cake is still warm pierce the top with a thin skewer  making lots of little holes all over the top. Mix together 200g icing sugar with 75ml lemon juice. Pour this over the warm cake slowly, so that it all soaks in. Leave in the tin to cool then cut into slices.

Lizzie icing lemon trickle cakes

3. Apple sponge with vanilla salted caramel sauce

For the apple sponge:

Peel and core 1k dessert apples and place in a pan with a couple of pinches of cinnamon, a tablespoon of brown sugar and a couple of tablespoons honey. Cook gently until pulpy and almost a puree. Spread this over the base of a deep oblong or square dish.

Cream together 200g caster sugar, a few drops of vanilla essence and 200g unsalted butter until light and fluffy. Beat in 4 eggs one at a time adding a little flour each time so the mixture doesn’t curdle. Fold in the remaining flour. Spread the mixture over the apple puree and smooth the top. Cover lightly with a piece of damp baking parchment and cook in a preheated oven, gas mark 4/180 degrees for about 25 mins. To ‘steam’ it in the oven place a tray of water in the bottom, this helps keep it slightly damp and prevents it drying out too much. Cut into squares and serve on top of some vanilla salted caramel with the apple puree on top.

For the caramel sauce: 150g unsalted butter, 400g caster sugar, 100g golden syrup, 250ml double cream, a couple of pinches of Halen Mon Vanilla Salt

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a heavy based saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the cream and vanilla salt and give it a quick stir. Test to see if it needs more salt. Cook for another minute or so and then remove from the heat and transfer to a jug. Pour a little over the sponge

4. Jamaican rum and ginger cake

Another Hugh FW recipe. The reason I’ve used his book so much is that the cake recipes are very simple, don’t have too many ingredients, are quick to prepare and are effective. Hugh knows his stuff so why change it? As they say ‘don’t fix it if it isn’t broken’.

This cake I did tinker with a little (by adding more stem ginger, Morgans spiced rum and a little cinnamon too)

100g unsalted butter, 125g dark muscavado sugar, 150g black treacle, 150g golden syrup, 75ml Morgans Spiced Rum, 2 eggs, 225g self-raising flour, 1 teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, a pinch of sea salt, 6 to 8 balls of preserved stem ginger finely minced (plus some of the syrup)

Prepare a loaf tin as per the lemon cake recipe. Preheat the oven gas mark 4 / 180 degrees.

In a saucepan melt butter, treacle, syrup and sugar. Leave to cool a little then mix in the rum then eggs.

In a large bowl sift the flour, salt and spices. Add the butter and syrup mixture and stir until smooth. Mix in the ginger plus some of its syrup. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake in the oven for about 50 minutes or until a skewer stuck into it comes out clean.

If it starts to go too brown on top you can cover it with a piece of foil. When cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool. Brush the top with a bit of extra ginger syrup.

This cake gets better after a couple of days. Warp in foil and keep in a sealed tin.

5. Banana and walnut loaf

200g soft butter, 200g soft brown sugar, 2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional), 4 eggs, 200g plain or wholemeal flour, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, 4 large mashed bananas, 150g chopped walnuts or pecan nuts

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one adding a spoonful of flour with each to prevent curdling. Fold in the rest of the flour and baking powder, followed by the bananas and nuts.

Spoon into two 1lb loaf tins, greased and lined with baking parchment. Level the top and bake in a preheated oven (gas mark 5 / 190 degrees C) for 20 to 25 mins. It should spring back when pressed lightly.  Leave to cool in the tin for a few mins before turning out on to a wire rack.

This keeps well wrapped in foil and is quite versatile. Spread with butter, or eat warm without.

6. Carrot cake

I made a couple of versions of carrot cake during my cooking stint but this is by far the best recipe I have ever used and modified

300g plain flour, 175g soft brown sugar, 175g muscavado sugar, 3 large eggs beaten, 175ml sunflower oil, 2 teaspoons vanilla essence, half a teaspoon grated nutmeg, 2 good teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon bicarb of soda, half a teaspoon salt, 300g grated carrots, zest of one orange and juice of half, 60ml sour cream (omit if dairy free)

For the icing: 120g cream cheese, 50g unsalted butter, 50g sifted icing sugar, juice of half a lemon or orange

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 / 150 degrees C. Line and grease a 20cm cake tin.

Mix together eggs, oil, vanilla, orange juice, zest and sour cream (if using) with a whisk until well combined. Add the sugars and mix well ensuring there are no lumps.

In a separate bowl mix flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, bicarb and salt. Fold dry ingredients into the wet and mix well. Then mix in the carrots. Spoon into the cake tin and bake in the oven for about an hour and a half. To see if its cooked insert a skewer, if it comes out clean its done.

7. Apple and orange sponge

  • 6 granny smith apples,peeled,cored and cut into quarters
  • 2 oranges,rind and juice
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 200g unsalted butter,softened
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs,large
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
Put the sugar and butter into a mixing bowl and beat until light and soft. Beat in the eggs one by one. Sieve the flour and baking powder into the mixture and mix well. Add the apple quarters, orange rind and juice and honey and stir together with a spoon. It will look rather chunky but don’t worry.

Butter and a small roasting tin. Pour the mixture in to the tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes until well risen or until nice and golden. The apple should now be nice and soft although still visible in the sponge, which will have risen around the chucks. Serve with whipped cream.

8. Cup cakes for which we managed to enlist some help. In between manic cooking we opened up the kitchen to a few of the kids for an impromptu baking session. Their fab efforts were greatly appreciated at tea time, with each crew member having their very own bespoke cake!

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Four weddings and a festival

Apologies for my tardiness, I’m sure you’ve thought I’d abandoned you all over the last month, but really I’ve been so busy doing that I’ve had little time for putting my endeavours down on paper. Now that the craziness has died down I have plenty of time to update you all with what we’ve been up to and what is still to come this year…

I knew May and June were going to be hectic. With four weddings, a festival and a few other jobs thrown in for good measure it was inevitable. As you will know from my earlier post my first wedding went well. Despite the almost arctic temperatures and prematurely running out of Quiche, we still received a round of applause for the food (I didn’t actually hear it, but my waitresses did).We started the season on a high.

Sadly the weather was no kinder for the remaining four events. Imagine biblical scale flooding, a months rain in a day and high winds that levelled two marquees and you will get an idea of what we’ve had to deal with.

Our little festival cafe…full of wet & cold people on Sunday

Our first event was Kaya festival which had its fair share of dramas (mostly due to chaotic organisation) . This was a brand new festival put together by a team of novice promoters with the aim of celebrating music, diversity and arts. They certainly had big ideas, an impressive list of acts, interspersed with a range of exceptionally good local artists and it all looked good. For my part I’d been asked to do some cookery demonstrations and had several conversations with them about local suppliers and producers.  Sadly this, like a lot of things over the weekend didn’t quite run to plan. The demonstrations didn’t happen as no kitchen was organised. A lot of workshops didn’t happen either although this was in part due to the atrocious weather conditions on Sunday which saw a lot of local people head for home. With hindsight it was a good thing they didn’t happen as I ended up having plenty of other problems to  sort out. On Friday I arrived to unload, I didn’t know where I should set up and neither did anyone else. After five hours of trying to work out what was going on I finally phoned a friend, borrowed their marquee and put it up myself in a spot I quite liked. The organisers appeared happy to let me solve my own problems although security (or site management i’m not sure which) glared at me and spoke intensely into their radios for a while before leaving me in peace. It also emerged that I was the only person on site doing decent veggie or vegan food. Consequently I sold out three times and had to go home every night to prepare more for the next day. Making hummus at midnight on a Saturday and chick pea stew at 5am on Sunday is not good for the energy levels.

When the heavens opened on Sunday a lot of cold damp people that remained on site flocked to me for a warm lunch and a marquee to stay dry in. We’d sold out of stew by tea time…again. I didn’t have the energy or ingredients left to make more but I did nip home and make hummus and get more feta for wraps and buns.

Despite selling out three times I was left with about two hundred pounds worth of meat (I’m saving the last bag in my freezer for the next produce market). Numbers on Sunday were low and as we weren’t doing breakfasts (which with hindsight we should have done) we just couldn’t get rid of it!  I wasn’t out-of-pocket before you fret on my behalf, but I certainly didn’t cover my costs for three sixteen hour days, plus preparation for the cooking demos, plus helping out other stall holders source local produce and find staff as well as doing costings for the organisers.

On a more positive note, Friday and Saturday were lovely days. The music was great and the production team did a fantastic job. Lots of attendees had a wonderful time (I’ve seen the reviews). There were some lovely touches; the baby chamber, the healing field, Dr Zigs giant bubbles, James and the syrcus circus tent that played host to some great acts,  the ‘market’ run by Emma at Ysbryd y Ddraig, plus a run of lovely visitors to our stall for wraps, baps and hot stew. Over the weekend we fed Bandabacana, The Pistols, (Johnny Rotten’s reference...”the chorizo was bang on” ) plus Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and his musicians and members of Drymbago…and i’m not sure who else because I was very busy!! The funniest moment was watching Rosie my teen waitress climb on stage with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry

If the organisers can sort out all that ‘behind the scenes’ stuff that let the festival down and learn from their mistakes this has the potential to be a great little festival.  I’d like it to happen again. It’s a beautiful setting, in a great part of the world. Hopefully next year will be more polished and will have grown from this years experience. I know I have!

Moving swiftly on (and it really was a swift transition) to wedding two and three;. The heavens opened at Kaya and didn’t really stop. I’d lost two working days due to the Jubilee celebrations (which mercifully I slept through) and I was seriously playing catch up by the time Wednesday arrived.

With my kitchen helper ensconced I set to preparing canapes for thirty for delivery that evening. Blinis with smoked salmon, tomato and basil brushetta and tiny oak smoked tomato and black bomber tarts were put together at a rate of knots and delivered to Llanberis at the foot of Snowdon in the worst torrential rain you can imagine. From there I zoomed off to Caernarfon to give a talk about my experience of running a supper club and setting up in business at a Chwarae Teg event.

Friday morning and the rain continued. Preparation for wedding three was complete. At four pm we drove to the venue to deliver the food through a flooded Ogwen Valley. It was like a scene from Indiana Jones. I imagined myself driving through water falls while rocks fell from above. The platter of dressed salmon shot from one end of the van to the other as I braked suddenly. Then a box fell on top of it.  I was on the verge of tears. At the venue the guests and wedding party wore head to foot waterproofs and wellies.

On the day itself the bride had planned to canoe across the lake Hiawatha style to arrive at her wedding. Instead she drove herself there in her white van and entered the venue protected by a huge umbrella. The salmon survived. The bride remained dry and at least by the afternoon the rain had subsided and a hint of sun allowed the guests to go outside and the kids to play in the field.

Inside everything was beautiful. Yellows and greens gave the venue a fresh summery feel despite the weather outside. As with our first wedding we provided a hot and cold buffet, this time with waitress service to make sure portions were strictly controlled. With vegan food put to one side we couldn’t risk the meat eaters helping themselves. I felt like a food fascist as one man said “could I have some tart please” my response being “are you vegetarian or vegan”? “No” he replied, “well you can’t” I responded at which point he moved a long and had some lamb looking a bit sorry for himself. ).

Putting it all together in the kitchen…vintage china, which was also used on the tables and for tea and coffee

Cakes galore!

The menu of over night roast shoulder of lamb with rosemary and honey (lamb from Gerlan), marinated chicken with gremolata, cold salmon with dill mayonnaise, wild mushroom and leek croustade (vegan), plus a selection of salad, bread, Welsh cheese board and chutney went down a treat. The desserts (baked cheesecake with blackcurrant coulis, chocolate torte, chocolate cake (vegan) made by the best vegan cake maker I know, Lynwen from Aderyn Melis, fruit salad and mango-passionfruit sorbet) also disappeared so quickly some barely got a look in!

A beautiful wedding cake made by the brides mother and sisters graced the table later, along with two huge vats of stew and couscous to go with them. It always amazes me how quickly food disappears…no matter how much you put on the table!

This wedding was of friends of ours so Sean and Aidan joined me for the evening and we Ceilidh’d the night away, until I had one too many glasses of wine and tiredness caught up with me. I abandoned the van and Sean drove us home, me nodding with tiredness in the front.

You might have hoped the last wedding was less dramatic but sadly you would be wrong. This makes a story on its own which I will regale you with in my next post! For now though I feel obliged to thank all those people that made all these events possible…Rosie the teen waitress; as ever, beautiful, stroppy, over dramatic, but always there when I need her (except at Kaya cos she was too busy having a good time ;-)…for the weddings…Elin Cain (singer with Vintage Magpie), Lhotse Sounds (get well soon honey), Lee Watson (The Beach House Kitchen), Amber Green (our newest lovely waitress)…..for Kaya; Zion Stuart (bassist with Dinosaur Garden…next time try not to scare the customers away :-)), Sam Cuthbertson, Swyn Anwyl Williams and Sadie Medhurst

….I love you all and thank you xx

Last but not least I have to thank Magimix for my new blender….10 kilo’s carrots, 5 kilos beetroot, three buckets of hummus (using 50 cans chick peas), cheesecake and chocolate cake mix for 60 plus 100 cupcakes,  40 onions finely chopped, 20 heads of garlic, plus bunches of parsley, mint, coriander all finely chopped….would have been beyond the capabilites of my poor old machine so my new machine truly was a LIFE SAVER!!

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Looking for an alternative to the Jubilee? Try Kaya Festival in sunny North Wales

If you are looking for something different and eager to avoid the plethora of union flags and street parties, look no further, Kaya festival is where you want to be. Set against a backdrop of beaches, mountains and lush greenery on the Vaynol Estate in North Wales, it’s about as far from the Jubilee hype as you could hope for.

That is certainly where I will be next weekend as we set up shop to sell our hot and cold food. Kaya is a brand new festival that fuses African & Caribbean music from around the world, with acts and talent from closer to home. It is a festival that really is drawing inspiration from every part of the local community and that includes food and drink provision!

As well as selling good home cooked food I will be hosting cookery demonstrations along with Andrew the chef from Cottons Caribbean restaurant in London. The demos will take place on SUNDAY where we will showcase Caribbean cooking alongside dishes made with local Welsh produce. I will be taking my favourite ingredients from our local producers and using them in quick, easy to prepare dishes. Andrew will be talking us through how to cook good old Caribbean favourites such as jerk chicken

On the stall we will be selling freshly made summery dishes, salads, baps and wraps made with local cheeses, chorizo and lamb merguez sausage and cold drinks from the Anglesey Apple company.

As you can imagine its all systems go!!….orders are placed, a new team of young cooks has been trained and were all raring to go. All we need now is a healthy dose of sunshine plus some friendly faces to come and say hello, buy their lunch and watch us cook!

Thanks everyone and see you there

Denise xx

Tickets for Kaya are still available here

Weekend camping tickets cost £75  (£55 for students and unemployed) and day tickets cost £45 (£40 concessions).

Trains run directly from London Euston to Bangor and take about three and half hours, or four hours with one change at Crewe. Check out the trainline  or National Express for times and tickets.

Vaynol Estate…the location of Kaya

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Conwy Feast & Blinc in pictures: just a few of my favourite things

I think you will see a few posts popping up here over the coming week about the fantastic Conwy Feast. There was so much to see, hear and taste that it was a weekend that fed all the senses. With both Conwy Feast and Blinc (Wales’s first digital arts festival) running concurrently its no surprise that the usually sleepy, walled medieval town of Conwy saw around 25,000 people visit over the weekend. Even the sun shone for us!

And what a weekend it was!.Since it began in 2003 the Conwy Feast has rapidly grown into the second largest food festival in Wales. It attracts a wide array of foodies from all over the country and its patron Bryn Williams of Odettes in London returns to demonstrate year after year. Other regular visitors include the two Sian Lloyd’s (from BBC and ITV), chefs Aled Williams (of Cennin in Beaumaris) and Hywel Jones (Michelin starred chef from Lucknam Park) who like Bryn have flown the flag for Wales as part of the Great British Menu and Bryan Webb, chef and patron of Tyddyn Llan Michelin starred restaurant in Llandrillo near Corwen. This year also saw Morfudd Richards attend for my ticket only supper club event, where Jimmy Williams from Signatures restaurant and I cooked a three course tasting menu with wine. More on this in my next post.

For now though I want to share some of the sights and images that summed up the weekend for me. From the huge array of fantastic Welsh produce just waiting to be tasted, the great array of local musical talent that played across two stages and culminating in the amazing Blinc projections on Conwy Castle on Saturday night. What more can I say…we had a brilliant time.

Conwy mussel boats in the harbour

my little jam stall in Fresh: the new producers tent

Vegan cupcakes from Aderyn Melys...taste totally divine and look beautiful as well

yummy truffles on my next door neighbours stall

Pretty patterns on the handmade butter, churned on site from the Victorian Farm Food Co. in Shropshire

Gemma looking pleased at punch to see the labels she designed for me on the jars

Welsh produce from around the festival, old favourites and new discoveries

Pen-y-Lan sausages…very very moorish

The outdoor cafe with its ’30 mile menu’. Three courses made with exclusively local produce.

Apples and honey at the Anglesey Apple Company…they do the most fab fresh pressed apple juice

Cynan selling his local shiitake and oyster mushrooms from The Mushroom Garden…now regularly bought by Michelin star restaurants. I used his mushrooms in my supper club menu, they are the best.

Beautiful bread from Scilicorns bakery in Llanrwst….their polish bread is my favourite.

everything you always wanted to know about apples from Ian Sturrock grower of rare, organic, Welsh fruit trees and discoverer of the Bardsey Island Apple (which led to a resurgence in interest in rare breeds). I have two of his trees in my garden.

A bar full of Welsh draught beer

Charcuterie from Trealy Farm….Love by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall I can see why; I loved their sweet chorizo and venison chorizo so I just had to buy a selection while I had the chance.

Fantastic shutters in Elizabethan town house Plas Mawr, one of the fantastic locations for some of the Blinc digital installations.

And the grand finale….

Blinc: projections on Conwy Castle

Blinc projections on Conwy Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alex James’s Harvest: the full foodie round-up

The Salad Club stall....it looked so pretty at night with all the fairy lights lit up....so much more alluring than many of the big food stalls

Another weekend another festival…well that’s kind of how it feels at the moment!  This time though I was working with award-winning food bloggers Ellie and Rosie of Salad club on their street food stall. There were four of us, helping the two of them, making a jolly band of six. The team members included Kirstin whose day job is at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen, Izzi, who writes Shepherd Market Sweet Tart food blog, Clare, a friend of mine who stepped in at the last-minute after a helper dropped out and myself. It was a lovely gang and we all got on immediately, sharing our passion for good food and promptly adopting the role of protective foster parents over Ellie and Rosie’s ‘baby’. I don’t think I have ever been surrounded by so many avid foodies (with the exception perhaps of my appearance on Britain’s Best Dish) and it was a great feeling just being on the same food loving wavelength.

The festival itself was a strange one. Not at all typical or what I expected. It was predictably all about the food, while music from the likes of Fat Freddy’s Drop, the Kooks, KT Tunstall, Benjamin Francis Leftwich (the ones I got the opportunity to see) provided an added bonus. It was clean, polite and considerably posher than the usual festival I tend to frequent. Wellies were more a fashion accessory than necessity. I guess all this was understandable since the Cotswolds is a pretty affluent area and food festivals tend to attract visitors with a higher than average disposable income. It was clear that many of the visitors lived in the Oxfordshire and Cotswolds area as indeed did most of the traders. It’s not a festival than I would have chosen to go to had a not been working there, but we had fun all the same.

It was on the Friday evening as we got ready to open for business, that it all became a bit weird. Rebekah Brooks (of News International phone hacking scandal) wandered past the stall and Alex James, once cool bass player with Blur stood at an inflatable tent flogging cheese on toast, the cheese being from his less than convincing Asda range.  Jeremy Clarkson rolled up in his Range Rover and on Saturday David Cameron wandered past baby strapped to his chest. So having got myself all excited over hugging and being photographed with Alex I promptly went off him, after seeing his choice of friends and tasting his curry flavoured cheese (heavy on the cumin and not much else). You can call me fickle if you like, but I like a man with taste and a high moral code.

Alex chatting to Rebekah Brook.....unfortunately didn't manage to snap her and the PM cosying up in the same field..he appeared on Saturday

As a few of us stood around his stall tasting samples from his range, while being given the hard sell by his publicist. I felt quite depressed about the fact that people actually want to buy bread shaped cheese slices flavoured like tomato ketchup. I wondered what was the matter with ‘normal’ cheese, good old-fashioned mature cheddar and when did we lose the ability to cut our own cheese or add tomato ketchup when it’s cooked? As for curry flavoured cheese….less said the better I think.

The chefs table...which sadly I didn't get to sit at

I guess Alex’s cheese, and not getting the chance to eat at the chef’s table (a rather lovely festival ‘restaurant’ featuring dishes created by Stevie Parle and Yotam Ottolenghi to name two), were the two culinary low points of the weekend but the rest of the foodie stuff was just fantastic.

So good in fact that I don’t know where to begin: Brewed Boy selling the smoothest, creamiest Square Mile coffee…..

Real proper burgers from Meat Wagon…thank you Yani for keeping us fed….

Meat Wagon

Real proper burgers

Brownies and ice cream from Choc Star gave us just the sweet kick we needed as we grew tired on the Sunday afternoon…perfect with yet more coffee, this time from the Little Green Coffee Machine, our lovely adrenalin and caffeine fuelled, pirate themed, hoolahooping next door neighbours….

choc star menu

fudge brownies yummy

brownies and ice cream...even more yum!

The Little Green Coffee Machine

I came home with a whole smoked Brie offered at traders price by Hall’s Dorset Smokery. It was absolutely delicious, possibly even subtler in flavour than from my usual provider…..the excellent Prosecco from Saltyard….beautiful dried rose petals and buds for the wedding i’m cooking at this weekend from Herbal Pantry and Fair Trade chocolate from Plush.

Whole Smoked Brie from Halls Smokery

beautiful dried flowers and herbs from the Herbal Pantry

I was like an excited schoolgirl meeting Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, which as some readers might have gathered is my strange foodie crush and watching him cook and tasting the food from his demo made my day. Yes I did become a touch giggly, tongue-tied and a hot and bothered imbecile when I actually got to talk to him. I was slightly more composed meeting Stevie Parle from the Dock Kitchen and even managed an intelligent conversation about visiting his restaurant and the lovely Tamarind sorbet he made. Sadly I didn’t get to meet Yotam Ottolenghi, but I did watch his demo and taste one of his dishes, a simple prawn and feta topped stew which was lovely. He really is the master of spices.

Stevie Parle's demo

photo opportunity with Stevie

Yotam Ottolenghi

diving into his dish as it was passed to the audience

 

Hugh with phallic vegetables

me getting all hot and bothered

Jay Rayner Observer food critic and friend of Ellie and Rosie’s paid us a visit at the stall on Sunday. I didn’t tell him I knew his mother (having once worked with her in my earlier career) and I’m ashamed to say I totally abused my position mercilessly bending his ear about Moel Faban Secret Supper Club and thrusting my card into his unsuspecting hand while serving him wraps. I couldn’t resist. It was an opportunity not to be missed. He was very gracious but got his own back when I insisted I HAD to take a picture of him (for the blog of course). When he left the girls laughed at me and told me I was shameless. Oh well, you don’t get anywhere by being coy!!

Jay Rayner at the stall...is that two wraps you wanted? 🙂

It was also great to catch up with Charlie Beldam of Cotswold Gold. He’s come a long way since we first met at Ms Marmitelovers produce market two years ago, now having no less than nine Michelin starred chefs using his Rapeseed oil! It was great to discuss our personal triumphs and long may his continue, he has a great product.

All in all it was a brilliant, if slightly surreal, weekend. We all worked hard and the salad club wraps flew…the Saturday rush left us feeling like we’d been hit by a truck! It must have been one of the most popular foods on sale at the festival (it certainly felt like it) and deservedly so. We ate a few ourselves. The simple combination of flavours worked perfectly; hot smoky chorizo or halloumi, a creamy butterbean and rosemary hummus, fresh beetroot and carrot slaw with sesame and Nigella seeds and sharp salsa verde with a little kick of chilli…all wrapped up in a holy land bakery flatbread.

filling the wrap

finished and wrapped up...ready to eat

Ellie and Rosie had worked hard to perfect the formula and it was spot on. They were also the loveliest people to work with and for and they looked after us well; they fed us, kept us in beer, tried to make sure we had plenty of fun time and bought Prosecco for us all to celebrate. Even the sun shone, a nice little bonus considering the forecast had promised rain, storms and hail….which finally arrived on Sunday night…as we headed home after a  fantastic weekend.

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For the love of food and music

The Green Man

Food, as you might have guessed is my main passion in life, but this is closely followed by my love of music. What better way to combine the two than a music festival, with a taste for good grub.

The Green Man festival (yes, I know, this is my third Green Man post, and I’m sorry if I’m getting boring, but there was so much more to my time there than just cooking for the crew) ticked both the boxes for me and I thought I’d just share a few of my musical and gastronomic highlights from the weekend. With so much to choose from it was hard to know what to eat; chorizo, smoked produce, Goan fish curry, falafel, Italian…mostly we ended up choosing from the stall that was closest to whichever stage we were at!

olives, garlic and dolmades to nibble

I felt truly spoilt to be awarded the festival ‘off’ and so I had the privilege of whiling away my time eating great food and listening to some amazing music…certainly a few drinks also passed my lips…you really can’t top a hot brandy chai on a chilly Sunday evening, particularly when accompanied by some amazing electroswing from the up and coming band The Correspondents.

Another Sunday highlight was the roast dinner my sister and I had promised ourselves, from Harefields Bakery and Roast. Owned and run by Davey Chambers, last seen on The Great British Bake Off, who assured us of the quality and provenance of the grub they serve.  We weren’t disappointed as we tucked into a massive plate of gammon, roasties and fresh veg, washed down with a glass or two of red wine as we watched Laura Marling, who held as rapt with her beautifully haunting voice and melodies. A strong follow-up to the bass heavy, Mercury music prize nominated, James Blake, one of my personal favourites of the weekend

Harefields...purveyors of fine festival roast dinners

With the heat of the sun on Friday we consumed plenty of ice cream and icy cold smoothies whilst lazing on the grass by the Green Man pub stage where we took in a great performance by The Ramshackle Union Band and nibbled on olives, dolmades and preserved garlic…phew I’m sure we reeked by the time we moved over to the far out stage for Admiral Fallow and Lia Ices. The highlight of Friday night for me was Bellowhead. I’m a great lover of rousing folk and a bit of sea shanty thanks to my acting and shanty singing step-father Brian. They didn’t disappoint one bit and there was a great deal of jigging about done by all.

A quick trip to the fantastic Thali cafe followed for a post band snack (which they very kindly gave me for free as crew caterer…the owner said “well if you feed them, we’ll feed you” …they’ve always been a favourite of mine and now I know why. Not only are the thalis fantastic, they are just bloody lovely people) before heading back to Chai Wallahs for more dancing, this time to Featurecast and Don Headicutz. My memories are vague about when I returned to my tent, I think I went round in a circle for a while, but suffice it to say I didn’t feel too well on Saturday morning.

Social interaction skills eluded me the next morning as I donned dark glasses to head to the main stage to watch the angelic voiced Lisa Jen Brown and 9Bach. Perhaps not quite enough to blow the cobwebs away, but a lovely start all the same. It was only a beef and onion pie, with lashings of gravy from pieminister, that made me feel slightly human again, as I headed off for a bit of Chailo Sim at the far out stage. A perfect set, by a perfect band. Ropey as I felt, there wasn’t much that could top that mornings music.

All hail pieminister...best hangover cure ever!

Later we returned to the far out stage for a sadly disappointing Polar bear and some jerk chicken.

jerk chicken rice and peas

I wasn’t ready for spicy and it nearly killed me off, nice as it was, while Polar Bear failed to hit the spot either. The highlight of Saturday for the teens was Noah and the Whale and Fleet Foxes…i’m not a massive fan of either but both were good.  I only made it through a small part of the Fleet Foxes before lack of sleep the previous night caught up with me and my tent and blow up bed called…

Of course Sunday was a different matter and following our lovely Sunday dinner….our main stage encampment moved up to Chai Wallahs yet again for the sublime Submotion Orchestra (another massive hit with all of us), followed by far out stage headliner Gruff Rhys. Poor Aidan, determined to stay up for the fireworks slept curled under a blanket, until it was time for the burning of the Green Man.

The Green Man burning

At half past midnight there was just enough time to stop off at the tea and toast wagon, a Green Man institution, for a tomato, basil and mozzarella toastie…the perfect end to the best festival weekend.

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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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Giant suppers and inspired food….crew cooking at the Green Man

The Lodge

Apologies for my relative quietness lately but I’ve been tucked away for the past week and a half in the beautiful surroundings of Glanusk Estate in the Brecon Beacons, cooking four meals a day for the hungry crew members that put together the Green Man festival.

The estate pre festival

The job came about through Ellie of salad club who cooked for them last year. I’d always fancied trying my hand at festival catering and the Green Man is my most favourite festival so I emailed her to say if she was doing it again, I’d love to do it with her. A year passed by and then out of the blue I got a message from her saying Green Man were looking for a caterer but she wasn’t doing it, did I want the job? Of course I phoned the organisers immediately and the rest is history!

I promptly set to looking for helpers. For the first ten-day feat Welsh supper club host Delyth from Calon y Cegin in Cardiff stepped in.   We’d never met before but through our Facebook link I contacted her and asked if she would be interested. She jumped at the chance.

Despite being privileged in that we got to stay in the Lodge, a  lack of internet access (a fault on the line) and the relentless workload kept me from the computer. Cooking for between 30 and 50 a day it was monumentally hard work. Up at six to prepare cooked breakfast, a brief sit down before starting on lunch, which consisted of soups, bread, salads, cheese, ham, Quiche, fruit and cakes, followed by afternoon tea at four and then straight on to dinner which was usually a big pot of tagine/goulash/stew/ chilli accompanied by potatoes, rice, couscous and various other salads and dessert. The last bits of clearing up and the night security pack lunches were usually done by nine, at which point we collapsed in a heap.

trays of cake for afternoon tea

massive trifle with home made sponge, custard and blackcurrant coulis

 

home-made focaccia and salads

cheese board and home made chutney

Delyth making industrial quantities of sponge...one with lime marmalade and coconut and the other with plum jam. We were also given a bag of plums from a tree on the estate that we turned into plum compote

chocolate brownie in massive quantities

our last lunch....didn't matter how much cheese we put out, it all went

We cooked everything  from scratch using supplies from the local producers plus we both brought with us some of our favourite ingredients, equipment, knives and a few odd extras such as special spice blends, black currants from my garden and toffee vodka (which went into a sticky ginger and toffee vodka cake)!!

Everyday we put our heads together to get creative. I’d worked out basic meal plans on a spread sheet but we often ad-libbed, changed things according to what we had in, or what needed using up. Food waste was minimal as numbers grew day on day. Five days in we asked the crew for feedback. What had they liked so far. They responded

we like cheese and we like cake….and we like cheesecake

We knew we were on to a winner…seeing as I’m a bit of a cake fiend myself.

It was a steep learning curve for both of us and at times a struggle to keep the energy levels high enough to keep going. We both had days where we felt like death and providing enough food on budget was my biggest headache.

There were days when we ran on caffeine and cigarettes. We sometimes worked through hangovers. Most of the time I didn’t get enough sleep, lured by the hypnotic charm of the crew camp fire and a cold beer, but despite all that Delyth and I made a great team, produced some fantastic inspired grub and didn’t fall out.

26 litres of carrot and coriander soup

a few of the crew

more crew...getting lunch. They were all the hardest working bunch EVER

The best bit of all was seeing how gratefully received our meals were. There’s nothing that makes a dedicated cook smile more than to see people enjoying their creations. In the words of Bill (designer and builder of the main stage)

I love you…you keep me alive!

Bill in the cherry picker at main stage

My three-day break back at home with the kids is drawing to a close and I’m back off the Brecon tomorrow for the festival and five more days cooking. More tales of crew catering will follow…

Main stage

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