Category Archives: Food activities for kids

One day in Menai Bridge: The Seafood Festival in pictures

Today is the fourth anniversary of my blog. My very first post was a recipe for courgette chutney, (quite apt considering I currently have a glut in my fridge) but today I will mostly be writing about my amazing weekend.

What can I say? I keep finding myself smiling at random moments as I think back over Saturdays first ever Menai Seafood Festival. We thought people would come, we hoped it would be worth all the effort and hard work. We expected maybe three, four thousand but in the first hour we clocked 1,500 and stopped counting when numbers reached 8,500. We were gobsmacked (for want of a better phrase, but this perfectly describes our open-mouthed observations of the crowd that streamed into Menai Bridge). It didn’t just catch us, the organisers, off guard. Stall holders sold out in two hours, car parks overflowed and my demo tent had queues of people waiting to get in!

The total number of visitors was undoubtedly closer to 10,000. I’d call that a success, don’t know about you!

Sadly I didn’t get out to see much as I was so busy stage managing the demo tent, but here is small selection of the pictures I managed to snap on the day (between rounding up chefs, ingredients and getting the washing up done in-between demo’s)…I think the pictures speak volumes about how good our day was and how professional the event was.

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Demo tent at 10.30am packed already

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Rob Alexander from The Black Lion, cooking razor clams

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Aled Williams, Cennin….and his beautiful crab risotto served in a stunning Welsh slate bowl

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Neil Davies, Dylan’s Restaurant cooking clam chowder and drunken mussels

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The boatyard

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Rowan Clark, Coleg Menai tutor overseeing their demo

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Backstage discussions

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Young chefs Jake and Ioan do a double act as they cook up two mussel dishes….they had the audience in stitches. It was their first ever demo and they loved it (both are third year Coleg Menai students training as they work…one with the Bulkeley Hotel in Beaumaris and the other at the Hayloft Restaurant, Ye Olde Bulls Head in Beaumaris.

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Visitors enjoying the event

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The air sea rescue helicopter and boat do a quick fly past…

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Crowds in the boatyard give them a wave as they pass over head

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Bryan Webb from Tyddyn Llan, made four stunning dishes in just three-quarters of an hour!!

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Our wonderful compere Elliw Williams from ATOM PR…dropped in it by me, she did a truly wonderful job especially as it was her first time compering

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Matt White and I also did a double act…Matt is one of very few local fishmongers (he runs MJWhite Fishmongers) . He demonstrated how to fillet seabass and turbot

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…while I demonstrated how to hot smoke at home, then pan fry turbot and make a simple white wine and cream sauce to go with it. 

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mum watches on enthralled

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smoked seabass with beetroot slaw and a lime and ginger cream…the healthy option!

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….while Elliw enjoys the turbot dish

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Filed under British food, festival food, Food activities for kids, Food festival, Food travel, in the press, local produce, photography, Seafood recipes, sustainable fish, Welsh produce

Menai Seafood Festival: this Saturday August 31st!

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So, moving on very swiftly from the Green Man I’ve barely had time to draw breath before its full steam ahead with preparation for Saturdays Menai Seafood Festival, a day of FREE activities and entertainment for adults and children.

I’m booked to help team lead the chef demonstration tent where I will be introducing a host of talented chefs including Michelin star chef Bryan Webb (Tyddyn Llan), Aled Williams (Cennin), Rob Alexander (The Black Lion), Neil Davies (Dylan’s) and Rowan Clark with her team from Coleg Menai. They will be sharing tips on how to cook and prepare a variety of local seafood dishes. To conclude proceedings I will be doing a joint demo with local fish monger Matt White who will show you how to fillet fish while cook up two quick fish dishes. Recipe cards will be available to take home and lots of tasters handed out to try.

The demonstrations will be swiftly followed by live music performances by The Gentle Good, Gwyneth Glyn and Trwbador

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and this ain’t all folks…on Saturday night there will be a very special charity supper club hosted by Jess Leah-Wilson at Shop Cwtch with celebrated local chef Eamon Fullalove (previously head chef at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen and now at The Oyster Catcher, Anglesey) cooking up a superb seafood menu…

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…and finally to finish the weekend and wind up this inaugural Seafood Festival there will be one last night of live music on Sunday 1st September. Six local bands will close the festival with an eclectic mix of music. The Victoria Hotel, Menai Bridge are hosting this FREE event, although donations will be collected during the night which will go to supporting local community projects. What a great way to end a fab weekend….Hopefully see you there!!

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Elderflower Presse: recipe

I’ve often listened to my mother regale guests with the story of my elderflower ‘champagne’.  I took them a bottle as a gift on one of my regular trips to London, and although I gave my aging parents strict instructions to unscrew the top slightly every now and again if they weren’t going to drink it immediately they failed to pay heed to my warning.  One day, long after I’d given it to them they discovered the bottle tucked in the back of the cupboard. They decided it was time to give it a try. My father oblivious to the impending danger he was placing himself in unscrewed the cap enthusiastically, swiftly and dramatically the bottle exploded. A highly pressured spray of elderflower champagne shot from the spout covering the walls, ceiling, cupboards, floor and him. He stepped back in shock, dripping from head to foot as the bottle, so full of long contained gas, spun like a dervish on the work surface spraying its contents on to every available surface including the mirror on the opposite side of the room.

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Pretty elder flowers

A less hazardous alternative to champagne is elderflower cordial. It’s one of those things I imagine they made back in the middle ages seeing as the plant has featured in legend and folklore since the early days of Christianity. Text refers to it as the Judas Tree, because Judas Iscariot allegedly hung himself from an elder tree after betraying Jesus, and seen as a symbol of sorrow.

In Scandinavian folklore the elder has more magical connections with goddesses and spirits believed to inhabit its branches, while in Anglo-Saxon stories it’s described as a blessed and protected plant. The belief being that anyone who damages an elder would be cursed, and the only just cause for cutting one down or taking a part of it, was as a cure or to make a protective charm. In this case the dryads, protective spirits of the tree, would be entreated on bended knee and with bowed head, with a request, reciting the words  “Lady Ellhorn, give me some of thy wood and I will give thee some of mine when it grows in the forest” (Trogillus Arnkiel, a 17th century Germanic religious scholar, quoted in Grieve’s Modern Herbal)

Elder flowers have a firmly established place in the repertoire of herbal medicine; often used to treat inflammatory disorders, congestive conditions of the respiratory system especially when accompanied by fever, coughs, colds, flu, asthma and hay fever. The diaphoretic action helping to reduce fever and so ease the symptoms of measles, scarlet fever and other infections. The flowers, were also  added to a bath to soothe irritable nerves and itchy skin,  a tincture of them used as an eyewash for sore eyes, while a poultice made from the flowers could soothe ear ache.

These days the most common reason for collecting elderflowers is to make cordial. It’s sad that there’s such a short window of opportunity to do this. I always plan to get out picking in good time, but as usual life and work conspires against me and before I know it the end of the season is approaching, and I just have enough time to rush out and collect what I can before the sun scorches the remaining blooms to a grubby mucky brown. It’s not as if collecting them is an onerous job around here. Just a short walk around the block rewards with views most dream of, and usually yields more produce than one can cope with. In a half mile stretch of hedgerow and woods I can collect elder flowers (followed by elderberries),  blackberries, sloes, cob nuts plus assorted wild herbs and plants (sorrel, pennywort….the list goes on).

It’s funny how my kids love elderflower drinks but can’t stand the smell of the flowers. Aroma of ‘cats piss’ as the teen describes them, but still they are always happy to have freshly made cordial, which if I don’t hide it away disappears in a flash. This time I used my foraged flowers to make elderflower presse, rather than the slightly more explosive champagne and in addition to some cordial. A presse makes a refreshing drink, with less sugar than the cordial. I use limes instead of lemons, or as on this occasion a mixture of the two which produces a lovely citrussy drink for a hot summers day.

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A walk through the woods to find elder flowers

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bingo! Found a good tree full

I love the folklore and recurring theme’s of protection, mystery, witch craft, healing and superstition that run through every account of the elder in nature, but I guess the real message as I sit in the sun sipping my elderflower presse, is to treat the elder with respect and nature will give back in kind. This is a message that translates to all nature really and is important for us to remember now, at a time when so much of our natural resources are taken for granted, ignored and destroyed (do I sound like a bit of a hippy? Well, I don’t care, its true!)

Elderflower Presse:

about 8 large elderflower heads

8 litres water

2 and a half pounds / 1.2 k sugar

4 lemons

2 limes

4 tablespoons of mild white wine vinegar

You will need a big bucket with a tight-fitting lid and a fine sieve or large piece of muslin.

Dissolve the sugar in boiling water. Leave to cool then add the elder flowers, the juice of 2 lemons, 1 lime and then slice the others up and add along with the vinegar. Cover the bucket with the lid or with a cloth and leave for a day or two. Strain through a fine sieve or piece of muslin and store in screw top bottles. Leave for at least two weeks (but drink within a month or so).

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flowers and lemons steeping in a big bucket

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bottled

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Filed under British food, Food activities for kids, Foraging, home cooking, Recipes, seasonal food

Five food themed activities to keep the kids entertained this summer

So here we go, the school holidays are upon us and if you are anything like me (a bit last-minute) then you’ve barely begun to think about what to do with the kids. Its fine if you are lucky enough to have the summer off, but for me it’s such a busy time. With work most weekends its difficult to plan a big holiday, so what I tend to do is save that big holiday for spring or Autumn and just do day trips, activities and maybe the odd weekend away camping. One of the things that takes up a lot of time is the Green Man festival. My work period stretches for a tiring three and half weeks and I’m away the whole time. That makes for a big chunk of the school holidays, but there is still the odd week where there are no exciting plans and we want something interactive to do, or sadly we have to work. So how to keep my boy entertained?

Well he and I checked out a few ideas for things to do in over the summer …when his boring parents are otherwise engaged and there are no friends about to hang out with. Between us we came up with a list of five fun food themed and outdoor activities (he likes food and this IS a food blog after all) ranging from the most expensive to the almost-free. Reviews are by me, with added comments from Aidan age 10 and a half.

1. Young Cooks Holiday Kitchen at The Bodnant Welsh Food Centre  runs courses throughout the summer. Kids get the opportunity to make their own nachos with refried beans, guacamole, salsa from scratch, a five bean chilli to take home and bananas with chocolate chimichanga sauce.

Courses cost £45 which makes them a more expensive option but this includes all the ingredients. They run between 10am and 1pm and take place on the 30th and 31st July and 9th and 29th August. They do get busy so booking is essential.

Call 01492 651100

On the 27th/28th July the centre will also be hosting a children’s fun festival with games and lots of food themed entertainment for all the family.

If you don’t live in Wales check out your nearest cookery schools online or give them a call to see if they have special activites planned for the holidays.

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Photos courtesy of Bodnant Welsh Food Centre

2. On a similar theme, but a little cheaper…how about spending the day making your own chocolate lollies? North Wales based chocolatiers Baravelli’s are offering bespoke courses where kids get to create their own delights. Prices are £15 per child for an hour and a half session, with a maximum 6 to a group. Kids must be accompanied by a parent (as this is a hands on exercise it’s just as fun for parents to get involved) and at the end you get to take home the things you’ve made….if they last that long!

They also run 3 hour courses for older teens/adults where you can make your own chocolate truffles or learn cake decorating techniques. These run for 3 hours and cost £40 per person and again, you get to take home all you have made (which is apparently a lot).

To book a course call Mark on 01492 338121

3. For a fuller day of child care how about giving the kids a taste of the great outdoors? The aim of  Wonderwoods is to ‘get kids back outside being kids again’ and what kid can resist a bit of den building, some foraging and the lure of cooking on an open campfire?

Sessions will be running on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for the first two weeks of the school holidays starting this Tuesday (23rd July) and then the last two weeks.  Sessions cost £20 a day but they offer a £10 reduction for kids attending all three days (each week). The club runs from 10am until 4pm. For more information call Jon on the number on the poster below.

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My two guest reviewers Aidan (10) and his mate Maisy (11) spent the day and this is what they thought.

“The games at the beginning were a bit babyish for me, but it got better when we made fires and started cooking”. Maisy was the only girl and the oldest in the group. She enjoyed the hands on activities like fire and swing making and cooking pancakes the best but thought that perhaps it would be better to divide the kids in two age groups as she found some of the younger boys a bit annoying.

“I’d never made a swing or a hammock before and that was cool” Aidan was the second oldest, but was less irritated with the younger lads. He’s a laid back fellow generally and enjoyed all of the hands on activites, but agreed the games at the beginning were a little young for him. Nevertheless he want’s to go again so that’s as good a reference as any!

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chopping wood for the fire

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making the fire

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kids just love making fire!…Later they made and cooked pancakes and strawberry jam to go on top!

4. Celebrate fish! On the last weekend of the school holidays (31st August) it’s the inaugural Menai Seafood Festival. Based around the harbour and waterside in Menai Bridge it celebrates all things fishy, highlighting the coast and sea life that surrounds Anglesey and Gwynedd. Dylan’s Restaurant are the driving force behind what should be a busy, action packed, family day out. With rib rides, seashore safari’s with Anglesey sea zoo, educational talks from Bangor University marine biology team, watery themed art workshops, local music and a number of talented local chefs cooking up a  plethora of crustacean and pescatarian dishes to sample there is something for both adults and kids alike. All that and it’s free!

5. Last but certainly not least why not spend an afternoon picking your own fruit? Always fun. It whiles away a couple of hours in the sun (something we have plenty of at the moment), you can eat while you pick and still bring some home for tea. Hunt for your local pick your own farm online or ask at a farm shop, or just take a trip into the countryside surrounding you and see what you find….the two closest to me (one in Tregarth and one on Anglesey) are…

Moelyci Community Farm  is open for picking between 12 until 7pm everyday. They have plenty of strawberries, raspberries, loganberries and huge quantities of currants (red, white and black). Prices are very reasonable and the setting is stunning.

Hooton’s  PYO site is on the A5025 just one mile from Menai Bridge in the direction of Pentraeth – LL59 5RR (Look out for the signs). It’s open between 11am and 5pm during peak season.

Aidan says:”it’s great because it doesn’t cost much, you can eat loads and take stuff home to make all sorts of things like Eton mess” 8/10

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Blackcurrants ripe for picking at Moelyci

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***THIS POST WILL BE UPDATED WITH PICTURES AND COMMENTS AS AIDAN ATTENDS THESE ACTIVITIES. THE SEAFOOD FESTIVAL IS THE EXCEPTION AS IT DOESN’T HAPPEN UNTIL THE LAST WEEKEND OF THE HOLIDAYS

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Filed under chocolate, cookery courses, Food activities for kids, Food festival, Foraging for fruit, seasonal food, Travelling with kids