Category Archives: festival food

The Green Man cheese list

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snowdon pickle power (cheddar cheese with pickled onion)

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

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

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

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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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Anglesey Oyster festival

Celtic spirit liqueurs...Black Mountain is amazing!

Local food festivals here in North Wales do bizarrely seem to happen during he Autumn months when the weather is at its most unpredictable. The first day of the 13th Anglesey Oyster festival coincided with the Ogwen produce market (where I was cooking and selling my jams and chutney). It was a wet miserable day and I wondered if it was as slow over there as it was for us in Bethesda. It didn’t look good for Sunday and I didn’t much feel like a wet trip out, but as the new day dawned, the rain miraculously disappeared. Thankfully it stayed away for most of the day but by heck was it windy!

The Anglesey Oyster festival started as a small yearly social event where island residents gathered to eat lots of oysters, drink lots of bubbly and be entertained by the best of local bands and musicians. Over the past few years though it has become much more of a general local food festival, with less emphasis on the seafood element. This year even more so since oyster stocks have become so depleted. A well documented virus has hit the oyster beds hard (which might explain why the prices were so high!….£7 for one oyster and a glass of bubbly, is it just me or is that just too expensive?)

So I managed to get myself together and popped over for a well needed day of rest and relaxation. Unfortunately with a couple of reluctant kids in tow and my camera running out of battery on arrival, it wasn’t quite the chilled afternoon I’d hoped for. But hey, I was out! I know, I could have left them behind but I knew they’d enjoy it when they got there and having a family day was rather nice. I also wanted to meet up with some of the producers with whom I do regular business to chat about the forthcoming Conwy Feast.

It’s a small festival. More of a glorified two-day produce market really, but worth a visit if you are visiting Anglesey or happen to live in the area. I think it’s just as good for kids to a point; prepare to be fleeced and probably a few quid lighter by the time you leave and don’t expect to linger so you can watch demo’s. All I heard for the first half an hour was

“Mum, can I have this…mum can we get this apple juice, you know I love it…mum I really neeeeed these peppermint creams”

and by the time I’d stated that was IT, nothing else. They became quickly bored and wanted to go to the park. I didn’t get to watch any of the food demos because of their boredom. I should have come alone!

The other problem with food festivals is the cost. They are not for those without disposable income unfortunately. It would be nice to encourage more people to enjoy local produce, but sadly prices seem to be prohibitive. It is the same at Conwy, but at least there are lots of tasting opportunities and plenty of entertainment for the £10 weekend ticket price (£7 Saturday and £6 Sunday if you just come for the day).

I continued to amble slowly, trying and acquiring as I went along. I knew most people there and am very grateful to Cynan at the Mushroom Garden for the bag of wild mushrooms (to try out in my menu for next weeks demo), Ari for the bowl of olives “just to nibble as I walk round” and Carol at Condessa for the free sample of Black Mountain, a delicious heavenly apple and blackcurrant infused brandy. I wasn’t however going to pay £7 for bubbly and one solitary oyster.

The Conwy Feast in contrast is very much a family friendly event. It is now the second largest food festival in Wales and attracts the likes of Michelin star chefs Brain Webb and Hywel Jones plus Bryn Williams and Aled Williams who have flown the flag for Wales on the GReat British Menu along with Hywel. There are kids cookery classes, various events across the town on several stages, demos, live music across three stages and this year the festival coincides with Blinc the first Welsh digital Arts Festival. It really is all going on in Conwy next weekend and I am as excited as a five-year old in a sweet shop, at being asked to cook there! Lets just hope the rain gives us a break.

 

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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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Food, sun, rain, cider, mussels, tv chefs and local produce: the weekend had it all

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View of the quayside and the food festival marquees from the top of Conwy Castle

Conwy feast; two days of food, changeable weather, tv chefs and a variety of activities. Generally I love the Conwy feast but this year it felt a bit of  a scrum. I don’t know if it was because some of the marquees had moved from their previous location (squeezing in beside the rest on the quayside) or that there were just more people there, but it felt too crowded, which made it almost impossible for me to see or do half of the things I wanted to.

The weather didn’t bode well on the Saturday morning with lashing rain and sideways wind. Thankfully and against expectation it had cleared up by midday. This was also the time that I managed to get the teenagers out of bed and ready to leave. So much for the early start! I’d also had to make a last-minute dash to my neighbours who were checking the Welsh translation on my flyers, he’d lost the flyer so the pair of them had to do a quick run through in order for me to make some corrections. There were a few…Welsh mutations are baffling if you ask me!!!

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Conwy Castle

Giant pumpkin

By the time we arrived the festival was packed. Although it was good to see so many people there supporting local producers and having a great time, it was impossible with kids to get through the crowds. We all lost each other, my mate couldn’t find us and the kids started to moan, they were hungry, it was too busy, they wanted to sit down, they wanted to meet friends, it was boring. I found it rather stressful too as I obviously had too many priorities, kids, meeting producers and tasting, making contacts and so on. With hindsight I should have had a ‘me’ day and a family day. Oh well we live and learn! All in all Saturday was a wee bit stressful, but we did get to do a bit of tasting. Conwy mussels for lunch, nice but a bit too salty and buttery.

The favourites of the day were the Anglesey apple juice, chocolate pudding from the pudding compartment , the usual cheeses from Y Cwt Caws and Derimon and from the Snowdonia Cheese Company plus various alcoholic beverages from Condessa and plenty of spiced cider!!

We also chatted to Ian Sturrock, who provided us with our organic apple tress and signed up to receive our weekly bread supplies (including speciality sourdough bread for supper club) from local artisan baker Mick Hartley of Bethesda Bakers . I believe he has been mentioned in the Guardian and he does pretty much the same as us in the ‘pop-up restaurant’ world except he has a ‘pop-up’ bakery. For those in the Conwy Llanrwst area we found out that Conwy food direct are planning a local food delivery service.

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Conwy mussels (mine are better though; these were too buttery and salty)

Apple juice and local apples

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the lovely, helpful assistant at the Condessa stall

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Medieval food

Sunday was better. The teens decided not to come, so did the other half. I ended up going back to the festival with my friend, her daughter and the little un. We hung out in the castle looking at  medieval food, tasting medieval recipes and doing kid stuff. We then went off to the quayside and watched Bryn Williams (of Odettes restaurant in London) poncing around with umpteen film crews around. But i did manage to do a bit more tasting and some shopping in the farmers market. While doing so Bryn and his film crew turned up again causing maximum chaos in the packed out marquee as he ostentatiously sniffed at the vegetables (while I tried to hide from the camera. I’m sure they thought I was a stalker). Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to see any of his demonstrations, or those by Colin Presdee (author of Food Wales), or hand out that many flyers due to the masses of people and the stroppy kids. But it was a good weekend even if i’m skint now!!

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Bryn Williams doing his thing

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