Category Archives: Pop-up cafe

Food Bloggers Connect…a weekend to talk, listen, meet and eat

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Ren Behan’s pop-up Polish

I don’t often get the opportunity to meet fellow food bloggers. They are something of a rare breed here in North Wales so I was very excited about my trip to London for the Food Bloggers Connect conference.

I do little networking with food bloggers outside of Wales so it was this, and the invite to speak, that were my main motivations for attending. Usually I am the first to introduce myself, strike up conversations and generally get chatting but I felt strangely shy. It didn’t help that I’d been suffering from a stomach bug earlier in the week and hadn’t totally recovered, that humidity levels were through the roof, the heat was almost unbearable and my hay fever terrible. I felt lethargic, out of breath and generally out of sorts. Consequently I was extremely lazy with my photography, I ran out of business cards on the first day and it was all I could do to hold a conversation.

A missed opportunity? Definitely not. I made the very most of what was an enjoyable and valuable weekend. I strongly believe that every experience in life is a chance to learn and grow, and I listened to some wonderful speakers who inspired me. I picked up tips, met some fantastic people and if I had been in the mood for eating would have stuffed myself silly. I gave it a good go anyway.

It was great listening to David Lebovitz talk about how he started his blog back in the 90’s. He made his name with his genuine, warts and all approach. He focuses on his successes and failures in equal measure, keeps it real, personal and writes from the heart; something that I empathise with. I tried to have a chat with him after the session but ended up feeling like an irritating groupie among all the others wanting to talk to him, so gave up and let the man move on.

It was also great finally getting to meet Niamh Shields. Her blog has long been an inspiration to me. Like David she keeps it real. Her Eat Like A Girl blog is down to earth and funny, and so is she in the flesh. With her southern Irish accent and dry sharp wit it was like being among my family down in Cork, I felt at home with her. Sadly, I only got a brief opportunity to talk to her; mostly about Cork, random tweets and a love for Canada. She wooed me with the divine maple syrup brought back from her travels, then nearly killed me with a shot of pear au de vie. Her talk about travelling Canada was frank and funny, with lovely images to match. It  made me want to go back and see more.

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Niamh with her lethal pear au de vie

I listened avidly to the Food Cycle talk from Kelvin Cheung and Aine Morris from the Sustainable Food Trust. Later speaking to both about my attempts to cook and live in a sustainable way, and my own adventures in ‘Freeganism’. Further conversations with other bloggers led to an interesting meeting of minds; talk of local produce, growing our own and hatred of supermarkets plus a nice glass of cold Prosecco perked me up at the end of a long hot day.

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Kelvin Cheung talking food poverty

Saturday morning started with a talk by Penny De Los Santos. Penny is one of the most inspiring food photographers I have ever seen. Her pictures are expressive, vibrant stories of food, culture and for me verge on being works of art with their vivid colours, honesty and ability to make me salivate just by looking at them.  Her pictures are most often seen in The National Geographic and Saveur magazine and she has won many awards. It’s easy to see why. These are pictures I would love to take. Again I tried to strike up a conversation but felt like a blustering groupie so left it at a compliment at how much I love her photography.

Next up was MsMarmiteLover (Kerstin Rogers) who’d been booked to talk about monetisation and launching a food career. I guess it was inevitable she would include running a supper club, although she almost sailed through much of my talk. Kerstin gave me advice when I set up my supper club back in 2009 and I have remained in contact with her since, working with her on Global Feast event in London last year. She is funny, outrageous, enthusiastic and her frank, ‘don’t give a toss’ attitude has won friends, enemies and admirers (probably in equal numbers). Whatever you think of her she is a great raconteur and good to listen to.

By the time I stood up to do my talk I was feeling pretty exhausted. It was almost quarter to six, I had stomach ache and although the heat had started to subside I felt quite drained. Then the computer network started playing up making my presentation unplayable. I began to think it would all be a disaster. Then somehow it all came together; the adrenalin of talking to a group of people kicked in and suddenly I was up there telling my story. I can’t remember much of what I said, but it all went well in the end.

There were other presentations that I liked too. Aoife Cox of The Daily Spud, Ren Behan and Emily Jonzen with her shocking stories of food styling (I will never look at a roast turkey on a TV advert in the same way again….that’s all I’m saying, but you other bloggers that listened to her talk will know what I mean).

By Sunday I was done in. Plus my prodigal teen called with tales of woe and stolen purses from Glastonbury (where she’d been working) and needed rescuing from Paddington station on Sunday morning so I missed Regula Ysewijn from Miss Foodwise (who I really wanted to listen to).

I also met some wonderful people with whom I had some great conversations. Karen Burns-Booth from Lavender and Lovage , Jane Sarchet from The Hedge Combers and Louisa Foti from Chez Foti were among that first ‘meeting of minds’ group that chatted after the Food Cycle and Sustainable Food Trust talks, Regula with whom I talked British food history (anyone remember Gypsy tart?) and Rachel Brady from Well Worn whisk who became my partner in crime on day two…sneaking off like two naughty school girls for a fag behind the bike sheds and talking about how hard it is to juggle kids, family and food blogging. We definitely clicked and it will be nice to meet up again on her turf or mine.

As for the food…my highlights were Bethany Kehdy’s table of Persian, Moroccan and Middle Eastern delights. ‘Please come and join me for my book launch after this…I’ve been cooking for it for two weeks!’ she implored us. How could I resist when I adore middle eastern food.  Bethany is the author of Dirty Kitchen Secrets and her first book The Jewelled Kitchen is out. I will have to get a copy, which I should have done on Saturday evening, but what with one thing and another I just wanted to collapse in a heap. I did try the food and I only wish I could have eaten more. I loved the tiny pastries, but anything else was beyond my stomach at that point. It was so bad I couldn’t even manage a glass of wine!

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Delicious food from The Jewelled Kitchen

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More delights from The Jewelled Kitchen…beautiful, light nests…I didn’t manage to try one so can’t remember what they were topped with

On Friday Ren Behan’s Polish pop-up had me drooling over beautiful light plum-cake and traditional polish stews and canapes, while in-between we snacked on Pig a Chic skewers, Chobani yogurt and fruit, Luchito with cheese, salami and crackers. I took home some of their wonderful chilli paste.

On the last day I took home a goodie bag so heavily laden I could barely lift it. Predictably the beer, chocolate and drinks disappeared quickly. Dove chocolate was a hit with the teen and the amiano choco Bella fair trade chocolate spread has been well used; I particularly liked the sundried tomato puree from the Olive Branch Greek Mezze range which has been liberally added to all kinds of dishes.

I leave you with a few pictures….not as good as I would have liked due to my tardiness on both days, but a small taster of a great weekend.

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Ren Behan again…with delicious plum cake

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Pig a Chic working hard to feed everyone

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delicious cheese from La Fromagerie….I love that shop!

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Giant cookies

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Luchito stall with lots of toppings and wonderful chilli paste…their chilli honey was delicious

 

 

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Filed under Food festival, in the press, middle eastern food, photography, Pop-up cafe, reviews, street food

Wing Asylum…pop-up cafe

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Home Made hot crossed buns and brownies Photo courtesy of Kate W photography

This was the second excursion for Nina Farrell and Asa Medhurst’s Wing Assignment...this time in a very different venue to the Red Bull Studio’s where the exhibition was first shown and now with a new name.

Asylum chapel in Peckham this time played host to Wing Asylum, where work from the first exhibition hung alongside new pieces and installations. Children’s art workshops took place on Good Friday run by artists and directors of Asylum,  Dido Hallett and Jo Dennis of CBBC ‘Deadly Art’ fame.

After helping at the first exhibition Nina approached me with a proposition. Would I run a pop-up cafe for attendees at the workshops? Of course I agreed. Art is almost as big a passion as food and writing and being part of this growing exhibition is very exciting. Had I known just how cold it would be I might have reconsidered, but probably not. On Thursday night (the private view) temperatures plummeted and we almost developed hyperthermia. Only the numbing effect of Courvoiser punch (and an emergency bag of hot chips) kept us warm. For the workshops I stocked up on hot drinks (lots of tea, Providero artisan coffee and Anglesey apple juice…sadly the microwave gave up the ghost so hot chocolate was off the menu), donned the fur coat and thermals and stuck on my gloves to combat the chill of what had turned out as the coldest Easter on record.  Kids queued for fairy cakes while coffee  heated the adults inside and out (and combated the hangovers of those who were there the previous evening).

Instead of going on endlessly about the exhibition and cafe, here are a few pictures…more a of a postcard from Peckham if you like!

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Baba Yaga Hut Maria Strutz

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The food table

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Wing Fairy Cakes Photo courtesy of Kate W photography

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Photo courtesy of Kate W photography

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Bird installation

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Atomique Florence Garrabe

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Wings Christopher Baxter

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Fledgling Shaun McGrath

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Detail of slate wings

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Jo Dennis

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The Rapture Elodie Lefebvre

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Jo Dennis

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On a Cloudy Day Tisna Westerhof (the teens favourite)

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Lift Off 2 Soforbis

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Here, but I cannot stay for long Gillian Swan

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Armour Fiona Michie

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The Wing Assignment will soon be having its last outing entitled FINAL FLIGHT – SELECTED DRAWINGS, PRINTS, PHOTOGRAPHY AND SCULPTURE at the William Road Gallery, 7-9 William Road, London NW1 3ER. from 8-26 April 2013 / 9-6pm Monday – Friday

As this closes work will begin on the new project The Scent Assignment. Having got myself a sneak preview of the scent itself, I eagerly wait to see what will transpire. Sorry, not allowed to give anything away…you either have to take part or wait for the exhibition.

If you wish to hire Moel Faban Suppers to run a pop-up cafe or vintage tea stall at your event just drop me an email

moelfabansuppers@gmail.com or give me a call on 07775828769.

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Next event: Pop-up 1930’s Berlin dinner and dance

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Filed under event catering, Pop-up cafe, secret supper, Uncategorized, underground restaurant

Menu for Saturday 10th November Vegetarian Italian supper club

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

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

Tomato & basil and tapenade bruschetta & Rossini cocktails

Pumpkin and crispy sage risotto

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

With CiabattaZabaglione ice cream & biscotti

To finish…coffee and chocolate salami

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

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

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My Global Feast dish: Apple and cinnamon tart with bara brith ice-cream and Welsh Penderyn whisky

It’s rather remiss of me not to have posted this recipe yet. The glitz and excitement of Global Feast, the Olympics and Paralympics have already faded as Autumn kicks us up the backside with its sudden chill and yet more rain.

So what better to refresh the memory than a recipe that transcends that moment, staying with us well into the chillier months of the year. It is aptly seasonal, warming and British, but also light and full of the exotic spices that remind me of that hot and heady night back at the beginning of the Olympic celebrations.

Sponsored by Penderyn Welsh whisky the dish was accompanied by a shot of their Madeira finished single malt. Whisky isn’t always my drink of choice, but this is to die for! Smoother than some whiskies and with the toffee and honey undertones, this is definitely my kind of whisky! So nice was it that I kept making people try it (even though it was only 10 am!!), most claimed it was too early for whisky, but Kerstin (msmarmitelover) happily joined me for a taster.

I’m no going to pass over the recipe for everything I served on the night. A simple slice of apple and cinnamon tart, a bit of ice cream and some salted caramel sauce is more than enough to satiate the sweetest tooth and topped off with a shot of that damn fine whisky the dish is complete.

For one loaf of Bara Brith….of which you will need about 100g

200ml Strong Cold Clipper English Breakfast tea

50ml of Penderyn whisky

175g mixed fruit

200g brown sugar

425g Doves Farm self-raising flour

2 beaten eggs

A large teaspoon mixed spice (I used Steenbergs. Their spices are probably the best I’ve ever used!)

Soak the fruit in tea and whisky for at least an hour.

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl then put into a 1 litre greased, lined loaf tin. Bake for about an hour and a half gas mark 5/150 degrees C

For the ice cream:

1 litre double cream

1.2 litres single cream

8 egg yolks

200g caster sugar

3 vanilla pods split lengthways

Put the cream in a large heavy bottomed pan and heat gently. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pods out with a sharp knife and add to the pan along with the pods. Heat until it just starts to come up to boiling point then remove from the heat and allow to infuse.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl for about 5 to 10 minutes until pale and thick.

Remove the vanilla pods from the cream and pour a little of the cream on to the eggs. Whisk slowly to mix in then continue adding the cream until it is all combined.

Return the pan to the heat and cook slowly stirring constantly until thickened. Once it has thickened pour the mixture into a large cold bowl. It needs to cool quickly to stop the egg over cooking and to speed up this process you can also stand the bowl in a washing up bowl full of cold water or ice. When cold transfer to an ice cream machine and churn until almost frozen.

Once the ice cream starts to thicken crumble in about 100g of cooled bara brith, plus an extra shot of whisky (if required). Serve with the apple and cinnamon tart.

Vanilla salted caramel sauce: ….for decorating the dish really…

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.

Swirl some of the sauce on a plate and top with a slice of apple and cinnamon tart and a scoop of ice-cream

Apple and cinnamon tart:

Now, this isn’t really a Welsh recipe, but it does reflect my Kentish origins. I grew up in the garden of England before decamping to Wales so I suppose in a way i’m fusing food from my English upbringing with the Welsh produce that influences my cooking now. This recipe is really a variation on Canterbury tart, very traditional down that way!

400g sweet short crust pastry (200g plain flour, pinch of salt, 100g butter, 60g caster sugar, 1 egg yolk, iced water: Mix the flour and butter together, add sugar when the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and add egg yolk and a couple of tables spoons iced water. Mix with a flat knife until it forms into a ball. Rest for about half an hour then roll out to fit a 9 to 10 inch tart tin. Bake blind for about 15 mins gas mark 6/200 degrees C. Remove from the oven and take out the baking paper and beans then return for a further 5 minutes.)

6 or 7 good-sized dessert apples (Discovery & Worcester Pearmain are early UK varieties although the apple harvest isn’t so good this year)

2 lemons (finely grated zest and juice)

2oog caster sugar

50g butter

125ml double cream

3 large eggs

40g demerara sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon (plus 1 extra)

Coarsely grate the apple into a large bowl and mix with lemon zest and juice.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs and caster sugar together for a couple of minutes. Add the melted butter, cream and apple mixture and a couple of pinches of cinnamon.

Carefully fill the pre baked pastry case (see above) with the mixture.

Mix the Demerara sugar and extra cinnamon and sprinkle it on the top of the tart. Bake in the oven gas mark 6/200 degrees C for about 40 minutes (maybe less) until the apple looks soft and the top is golden brown and set.

All photo’s courtesy of Kate Withstandley freelance photographer

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Filed under baking, British food, cakes & Baking, event catering, home cooking, local produce, Pop-up cafe, Recipes, Uncategorized, underground restaurant

Olympic opening ceremony and Global Feast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

waitresses at our field kitchen and Col from lovefood

plating main course

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

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

The finished dish, completed with glass of Penderyn Welsh whisky

Kerstin’s world pop’s

My roll call of sponsors and suppliers:

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

Thank you to you all x

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Keeping it raw

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

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

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

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

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

The totally awesome Raw Dave and Gill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gill using the spiraliser (not the best picture sorry)

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

Courgette spagetti with marinari sauce and raw pesto

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

Pete’s extrodinarily long piece of courgette pasta

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

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

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

“chocolatey joy in a bowl”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Global Feast 2012

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Arno Maasdorp of the  SaltounSupper club (representing South Africa)

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

Moel Faban supper club (representing Wales)

Plus Six Five supper club (representing Singapore)

Sabrina Ghayour supper club (representing Persia)

Uyen Luu of Leluu supper club (representing Vietnam)

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

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

Carina of Russian Revels supper club (representing Russia)

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

Caroline Hobkinson (representing Poland)

Pistachio Rose (representing Indian desserts)

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

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A trip to market, a French supper, a mini croquembouche and a chicken liver and cognac parfait to die for

It was our first day back outside with the Ogwen produce market and hooray!! The sun shone bathing us in a few glorious rays. Outside was warmer than it had been inside the church hall (our winter home), so we were happy to be back there; and so it seems, were the market visitors. All of a sudden we were busy again. On such a gorgeous day though who wouldn’t enjoy whiling away an hour or so; picking up some great local produce and soaking in a bit of vitamin D over a panad (that’s cup of tea to you non-Welsh speakers…but our coffee is popular too!).

The market square with its wrought ironwork and raised flower beds has become the ‘heart’ of Bethesda and no one was happier to be back than I. Once more ensconced in my purpose-built kitchen and out of the ‘cupboard’ at the front of the church hall. I was happy. You can tell from the picture as I’m smiling for a change.

As usual the market was an eclectic and sometimes eccentric mix of food and local crafts

There was local veg from Tatws Bryn, and Moelyci who had loads of spinach, rainbow chard and kale (pretty much the only thing that’s really great in the garden at this time of year). There was fab bread from Becws Alun and Model Bakery, who also tempted us with Kurdish pasties laced with piri-piri sauce. They were huge enough to sustain even the hungriest hiker!. Of course Lynwen was there with her amazing vegan cupcakes from Aderyn Melys, plus more traditional cakes, flapjacks, Madeline’s etc. from Cegin Brysur;  there was cheese from Caws Rhyd y Delyn, traditional greek pastries, meat from Tom at the local farm (his pork and tomato sausages are our favourites) and chocolate from Cariad.

On the craft side there were my usual favourites; all kinds of pretty things made with buttons from Miss Marple Makes, cards, badges and jewellery from Dyfal Donc and Phia Eco plus cards, cushions and lots of lovely bits and bobs.

…and then there was me, back at home in my little cafe selling local bacon baps, tomato and pork sausage baps with red onion marmalade and simple vegetable soup with wild garlic puree and creme fraiche, plus organic fair trade tea and coffee

Back home I didn’t have time to collapse in a heap, I had plenty to do for the evenings supper club. A private party for twelve with a French themed menu. I wouldn’t normally do two jobs back to back, God no…some would say I’m a masochist, but it was the only date our guests to make and the market is always the second Saturday…what could I do! I decided to go with it. You probably think me insane (and after doing it I’d probably agree!)

I prepped a fair bit the day before to get a head start. I made chicken liver and cognac parfait, red onion marmalade and the bread. All of which would be good the day after. But I still had to make the mini bite sized wild garlic and balsamic red onion tarts (Amuse Bouche) served with sloe gin slings…not very French I know. Gin sling hadn’t been the intention. I was planning on making Damson Martini’s but I discovered much too late that the last drop of Damson vodka I’d used to experiment with, was in fact the last bottle in the house. I thought I had more hidden at the back of the cupboard (away from the teen), but clearly I was mistaken. Instead we cracked open the sloe gin.

Starters all plated up and ready to go.

As a special birthday treat I decided to make a croquembouche for dessert (a French dessert made from cream filled profiteroles and caramel piled into a cone shape).  I’ve made profiteroles lots of times so didn’t think it could be that hard. I studied the pictures in my Raymond Blanc book (even though I wasn’t expecting to emulate his effort!) and decided how I was going to decorate it. I’d read somewhere that you shouldn’t attempt to make one if it’s raining…so I prayed for the weather to hold up. I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to make it…or how soon in advance I should make my choux pastry so on Saturday afternoon, when I hadn’t even started, everyone else was panicking and telling me I was an over-ambitious fool… but I held my nerve and got to it. It was far from perfect and was much smaller than I’d anticipated, but I was quite proud of my effort, even though it looked more like a small hillock than a mountainous cone.  Still, the orange patisserie cream filled profiteroles glistened with golden caramel, as spun sugar wrapped the choux pastry balls in a delicate web. I finished the little mound with a sprinkle of edible gold stars. At least it was too small to collapse!

I’m not sure if it was the promise of help for the evening (from a keen friend), or tiredness from a day of cooking, but I remained remarkably calm throughout, much to the surprise of all those around me.Our  guests loved the food and this is a snippet from the email they sent me the next day…

"the food was way way out of the ordinary, and in that category of one off meals that you never forget 
as they stand out so obviously from the rest and the most !....the best pate I've ever tasted in my life!
...and I would probs say that that was the yummiest dessert I've ever had........I was so full but yet it
was SO light and slid down so easily that I had seconds"

I think towards the end of the night I got a little too comfortable with the bottle of wine in front of me and didn’t end up going to bed until 1.15am….I regreted it the next morning I can tell you…Clearing the last of the debris with a hangover was definitely not what the doctor ordered…but it was a damn good Saturday.

Chicken and Cognac pate (the best pate ever…allegedly. Serves 12 in small ramekins, or make one large dish)

1 large Echalion shallot finely chopped

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 teaspoon walnut oil

500g chicken livers (washed, cleaned and drained well)

4 tablespoons cognac

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

150g melted butter (plus 25g for cooking and 50g or so to finish)

a teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

a pinch of cinnamon, salt & pepper

Sweat the shallot and garlic gently in 25g butter and teaspoon walnut oil. When soft and turning golden add the well-drained chicken livers. Cook over a medium heat until browned all over, it should take about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the chicken livers with a slotted spoon and put in the bowl of a food processor. Add the Cognac to the hot pan and cook down until thick. Scrape any stuck bits off the bottom of the pan as these will add flavour. Adds this to the food processor with mustard, thyme, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Melt the 150g butter and add this to the processor too then blitz everything well until smooth. Transfer to a terrine dish or individual ramekins. Melt another 50 g butter and use to finish the pate pouring over the top to create a lid. This will stop it discolouring.

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To Market, to market..

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few pictures from the day…

Wendy from Johnny 6

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

cooking chorizo!

Cariad chocolate

Rhyd y Delyn cheese

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

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