Category Archives: produce markets

Abersoch Makers Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A busy food marquee, even quite early in the morning

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

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…and lots of tarts and cakes

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

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Nice home-made sausages from Busters Bangers

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Shabby chic and bunting

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Street Food North Wales

I was recently asked by Richard Johnson , Food Journalist, Independent and Guardian columnist, and author of Street Food Revolution (a book about the emerging street food scene in Britain) if I would like to review for the new British Street Food website and app. Of course I said yes, but having done so started to wonder if we actually had a street food culture here in North Wales.

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Providero’s coffee van…battered by the waves on a blustery day

A few years ago there wasn’t much of a Street Food culture in the UK at all. Burgers and chips selling from catering vans, Mr Whippy drove up and down playing tinkly child catcheresque music and doughnut stalls were actually quite exciting. That’s not to say there was never a culture of street food. Historically food was always served on the streets…in Norman times there were cookshops that sold hot food from market stalls and in London street-sellers strode about hawking their goods. This continued into Victorian times (think Oliver Twist and the who will buy? scene) where they sold all manner of food; everything from jellied eels to fruit pies, muffins to pea soup it was all there.

So why did it all disappear? Perhaps it was the ever more stringent food hygiene regulations that slowly crept in, or the lack of cash that crippled Britain after the war. Rationing and food shortage must have played a part with only the wealthiest able to eat out…and that would have been at the fancier restaurants in town. Average Joe Blogs couldn’t afford to buy ingredients to make the food let alone have enough customers that could afford to buy it. My essay on the decline of British food can be found in this earlier post, but I can imagine that street food was viewed as one of the worst examples of dull British food and shunned in favour of the new fad…French cuisine!

Now, with inspiration from exotic food vendors in the USA this is beginning to change. The British food scene has woken up and a new breed of food lover taken over. They are younger, more in tune with both British and world cuisine, less hampered by rules and regulations, more entrepreneurial and  inventive. Most couldn’t afford a shop rental in London so have found ways round it so they can bring their ideas to life….and its spreading. Major cities from Birmingham to Bristol, Cardiff to Manchester are following suit with their own crew of vintage van, quirky wagon and market stall sellers vending the kind of cheap and exotic dishes once only found in restaurants and cafes.

There are websites too…EatStreet (now Foodhawkers) set up by Petra Barran of Chocstar, lists markets and independent street food traders in London, while Richards new website (which should go live in the next couple of weeks) and app (due for release in April/May) will list traders across the UK giving fans the opportunity to seek out something cheap tasty and unusual.

Sadly here in North Wales we are still a little behind the trend and street food is still the domain of the old school burger and chip van outside the football ground, and the doughnut wagon on the trading estate.

Pinpointing ‘good’ street food is hard, like looking for a needle in a haystack since the area is wide and rural stretching from the borders of Cheshire all the way down to Aberystwyth. it would probably be something like a two hundred mile round trip to check out the area. Not easy then to nip about reviewing street food.

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Jon from Providero

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One thing I quickly discovered when I started talking to vendors is that they are strictly governed by the rules and regulations of the rather old-fashioned town councils. As Providero told me, licenses are limited on the grounds that there are plenty of ‘local’ cafes (albeit some not particularly great ones) and business should go to them and street sellers forced into ‘hidden’ spots. For traders like Providero: Fine teas and Coffees this has not been a problem. As a travelling barista, selling great coffee and home-made cakes from their converted vintage Citroen van they are much in demand and people travel to find them.

They advertise their location via Facebook and Twitter – one update states “North Wales Weekly News now, followed by North Wales Police office’s approx 3pm and Old Colwyn Prom from around 3.30pm” . Their Old Colwyn pitch (at the end of the promenade and just under the railway bridge) seems bleak and isolated but there was a steady flow of passing trade. From dog walkers and cyclists, to joggers and an enthusiastic crowd of regulars, they all seem to flock to their van to pick up a welcome, but generally hard to come by, ‘proper’ coffee, and at between £1.50 (for a 8oz cup) and £2.00 (for a 12oz) who could deny they are good value. Their coffee and cakes are worth seeking out if you are passing that way.

The best quality street food is still mostly found in and around the local produce and farmers markets and food events that pop up across North Wales. Unlike bigger cities, the area lacks the high density population, good weather and disposable income to have a burgeoning street food scene, but look closer and in the right places and you will find a few hidden gems. Small local markets with a regular clientele are friendly and welcoming with interesting food on offer, but don’t expect anything too experimental or fancy; a nicely cooked locally produced lamb burger, pulled pork or bacon bap attracts more attention than falafel, spicy wings or a bento box ever will (not saying there aren’t those among us that wouldn’t welcome this).

I run my ‘street food’ stall (or pop up cafe…however you want to look at it) and tend to stick to seasonal soups, local bacon and sausage buns and dishes made from ingredients sold at the Ogwen produce market. Good quality fresh coffee made by local roasters always goes down well, plus dishes such as spicy Welsh-made chorizo stew or wraps. It’s worth noting though, that  customers often prefer a nice leek and potato soup!

Dylans

Dylans bread van

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Robin and the sourdough bread selection

Another member of the cool van brigade is Dylan’s, a local seafood restaurant and pizzeria in Menai Bridge, Anglesey. Owners David and Robin also run a street food stall selling artisan bread and freshly cooked ‘dishes of the day’ found primarily on the third Saturday of the month at  Anglesey Farmers market.

Robin was on duty on the day I visited, but they didn’t have hot food just their artisan bread which is extremely good. Rows of sourdough, focaccia, buns and wholemeal grace the shelves of the van, all made by a lad that looks like he just stepped from the set of TOWIE… he is actually from Essex, but moved to Wales as a child (hence the hint of Essex/Welsh accent).

It was a shame I didn’t get to taste their famous fish chowder or lob scouse which I’d heard so much about from regulars at the market.  Robin explained that they only bring out the hot food and marquee during the busier market periods. But I picked up a bag of sourdough buns to bring home for lunch. They were beautifully soft and fluffy, with the distinctive sourdough tanginess and at 30p each were something of a bargain. The bread is pricier at £3 a loaf which might be a little steep for this area, but is definitely worth it.

Dylans restaurant is on  Twitter @Dylanspizzeria and their van, although mostly at the Anglesey market, they hope to move around to seaside areas such as Rhosneigr during the (hopefully) warmer months this year.

Mags and Maldwyn are not new kids on the block. They have sold their organic Welsh mountain lamb and mutton online for almost ten years and have run their mobile catering outlet Oen Aran lamb for around eight. They stick to a simple principle; to only sell quality meat produced on their own farm (which for your information is in Bala, North Wales). The menu is small and features just a handful of tried and tested dishes; dry cure bacon or sausage baps, roast lamb and lamb burgers which have something of a local reputation for being pretty damn good.

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Mags and Maldwyn of Aran lamb

Aran lamb burger

Brunch!

Aran lamb are part old school burger van, part local produce pioneer. The grease and chip fat are nowhere to be seen, replaced by their own high quality organic meat. It’s slightly disturbing, but also reassuring that they knew every single animal now being served in a bun.

Of course I had to try their famous lamb burger for myself. I’d skipped breakfast and moved straight to brunch…and oh what a brunch it was! Juicy, full of flavour and the quality of the meat shone through. Topped with lots of freshly cooked onion and a fab home-made mint sauce it was just what I needed to cure my stomach grumbles.

Mags and Maldwyn don’t do facebook or twitter, but they can be found at most local food events, from the Farmers market in Menai Bridge, Anglesey, to Porthmadog produce market on the last Saturday of the month. They certainly get about!

On another trip, this time to the Conwy Farmers market at the RSPB reserve I came across Harvies Ltd, a Mold based artisan bakery that sells rustic pies across North Wales and Cheshire. I didn’t manage to meet the owner Carole Harvie, but I was lucky to meet any of them at all; this was their first time at this market. I spoke to the woman running the stall and she explained that at some markets they sell hot pies but due to our wonderful Welsh regulations, this time those of the RSPB reserve which has an on-site cafe, the sale of hot food is discouraged.

It was a shame, the day I visited was freezing and I could have done with a hot pie but still I decided to pick up a selection to take home for later. With flavours such as ham and pheasant, steak and ale, courgette, feta and pine nut I was spoilt for choice. I eventually took one of each plus a hefty slice of macadamia brownie and lemon frangipane cake. Pies ranged in price between £3 and £4 which I think is pretty good value, considering the size of them. Pasties and sausage rolls cost slightly less and cakes were about £1.50 which was exceptionally cheap. Later, I warmed the pies in the oven and ate them for tea. They were delicious. Tasty filling, perfect pastry and I’m sure they would even be nice cold (on a less freezing day).

Harvies

Harvies pies

Harvies artisan pies….and cakes…

Now I know street food trade increases in the summer months and in some ways it’s a shame I was asked to do this review in the winter.  My visits to both Porthmadog and Dolgellau were hampered by snow and a number of markets close until March. I will try again later this month.

In the meantime if you know where the best street food is in North Wales drop me a line….email:moelfabansuppers@gmail.com or just leave a comment and watch out for the launch of the new look British Street Food website later this month.

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Filed under British food, event catering, home cooking, local produce, produce markets, seasonal food, street food

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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Filed under baking, British food, home cooking, living room restaurant, local produce, Pop-up cafe, produce markets, Recipes, seasonal food, secret supper, Sources and suppliers, Uncategorized, underground restaurant

The Real Food market at the Southbank Centre

Another day, another market! Even on holiday I can’t resist. This time it was the special Easter Sunday market on the Southbank and since I was heading to the Festival Hall to see Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf with my little man, mum and sister it was the perfect way to while away an hour before heading inside.

The Real Food Market is held every week on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and celebrates the best of British Produce and small producers…and what a variety there was! From food busker John Quilter (who sadly I didn’t get to chat to as he’d just nipped to the loo…maybe next time!)

There were local organic pork sausages cooked on the griddle and meat from farmers such us Galileo organic farm in Warwickshire

Plus a handful of bigger companies such as Riverford organics. Imagine my surprise when the first stall I came to was Petros Olives & Olive oil, a company totally familiar to me as their base is in North Wales. On the stall was owner Ari’s nephew and granddaughter! Petros is a family owned business importing olives and oil from their groves in Cyprus. They have regular stalls at the local produce markets in my area, but judging by this they are getting out and about and sharing their amazing olive oil and olives with more than just the Welsh foodies! We had a good chat about how small a world it is, but I wasn’t there to buy olives on this occasion, just a few snacks before the show.

What we did buy was a delicious creamy courgette dip from Arabica Food & Spice, a couple of filo pastry strudel (chosen primarily by my sister who wanted try everything!) filled with spinach and feta and red cabbage and ricotta which we shared. Served warm they were utterly delicious.

My sister bought a bag of pasta sauce seasoning and some almond pesto Calabrese from Breadtree, but I’m still waiting for her to experiment and report back! I didn’t get a picture of their exquisitely coloured pasta, the one below is from their website, but the rainbow colours were beautiful and I stared at it enviously wishing I had the skill to produce such amazing pasta.

Aidan wanted fresh lemonade and turkish delight and being nine years old of course he was allowed. As an adult I sensibly went for savoury sustenance over a big bag of sweet, tooth sticking cubes, but my how I wished I was nine again! I eyed the variety of cakes, patisserie, churros and chocolate on display around the market and even convinced myself that the wholesome looking Outsider Tarts would be better for me (check out those fab coloured whoopie pies)

..but then my sister reminded me that the performance only lasted an hour and in two hours we would be sitting down to eat a huge Easter Sunday dinner followed by lemon meringue pie. Instead I nicked one of Aidan’s turkish delight and forlornly forewent the sweet taste I craved. A gin and tonic in the festival hall cheered me up though 🙂

Due to other events taking place,  the next market will be held over the May bank holiday weekend (May 4th to 7th). In the meantime you can find a list of producers here

Go, enjoy and eat whoopie pies!

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A trip to Brixton Market

Its been a long time since I visited Brixton. Once upon a time, while I was a student in London, it was a regular haunt. My then boyfriend Gary was president of the student Union at Brixton College and he lived not much further up the road, so I often went over to visit and just as often went clubbing at ‘The Fridge’. Oh how I loved being a twenty-something in the 80’s! Back then the eclectic and vibrant market and Electric Avenue were a real revelation to me. I grew up in the suburbs and although we had several shops that sold Indian food, Brixton market with all its Caribbean delights were new, exciting and ready for exploration. The colourful exoticism of the market halls enticed me and kept me enthralled. My Jamaican boyfriend introduced me to patties and bun, curry goat and rice and peas and of course jerk chicken. I still love them to this day.

The recent history of Brixton market is one of degeneration, sell-offs and reprieves, followed by gentrification and trendy food establishments. When the council sold the market off in 2007, locals came together to save it from redevelopment. The Friends of Brixton Market (a voluntary not for profit group) was established by local resident Alex Holland in 2008. Made up of local residents, shoppers and people who just love the Market the aim was to see the market survive, thrive, improve and keep its character, while remaining affordable and culturally diverse.

The first four of these aims have definitely been achieved. The market is pretty much as I remember from my student days. The same riot of sound and colour greeted me and my teen and she was immediately captivated, just as I was twenty odd years ago. She loved it. The noise, diversity, characters and stalls!

The only thing that was noticeably different were the tiny cafe’s tucked in snugly alongside the breadfruit and akee, butchers, wig shops, fish, pattie stalls.

Hip cocktail bars such as Seven (fab mojito’s), kitchen shops selling local produce and shabby chic household goods (Brixton Cornercopia) share space with cafe’s such as Rosie’s deli, purveyor of great cakes.

Our lunch destination was French & Grace; a restaurant owned by Ellie and Rosie of salad club with whom I worked at Harvest last year. Seating only about twelve people inside (plus a few outside), it is small but perfectly formed. Informal and friendly it was like sitting down to dinner in my house. Cutlery brought to the table in a mug and food served on tin plates and dishes gave it an informal, picnic like quality.  It reminded me of their festival stall, but with a fixed counter, doors and windows.

It was great to catch up and see how full-time restaurant life suited them, plus the chance to eat their fab Mediterranean inspired street food (the lamb was delicious as was the toffee and ginger pudding with salted caramel sauce) and just sit and chill for a while as we watched the world go by before we headed back into central London for a trip to Tate Modern.

My return visit this Easter (the first time in about 15 years!) filled me with renewed hope for the future of Brixton market. It has survived with its charm intact and mercifully it still resembles the one I remember. The influx of creatives hasn’t taken away from the great stalls, great food and multicultural nature of the place.  The one thing I’m not sure about yet is whether it will meet those last two aims; to stay affordable and accessible to the local community. With the influx of trendy cafe’s and middle class chic comes the tourists looking for something new, the media types with plenty of disposable income. Brixton market was always the heart and soul of black Britain and I’d hate to see it become just another expensive fashionable foodie destination.

When it comes to prices though I’m probably not the best judge. I live in Wales where things are half the price of London and it always horrifies me how expensive food and drink is in the city. Still £7.50 for a cocktail; £8.00 for a wrap?….Call me a country bumpkin but I think this is quite expensive (back home no one would pay more than £3.50 for a wrap!)

The market arcades are open:

Monday – Wednesday from 8am – 6pm
Thursday – Saturday from 8am – 10pm
Sundays from 10am – 5pm

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Filed under British food, eating out, Eating out with kids, London Restaurants, produce markets, Uncategorized

*WIN* a gourmet Nantmor mushroom selection & grow your own shiitake block

Tucked away deep in the heart of Snowdonia, just a couple of miles outside Beddgelert in the Aberglaslyn woods is Nantmor; a sleepy village that is home to The Mushroom Garden, a wonderful, innovative company, that cultivates and sells Welsh grown exotic mushrooms. I’ve been meaning to go visit the owners Cynan and June for about two years now and yesterday I finally got round to it!

Just on the edge of the village you might just see their specially designed, temperature controlled units as you drive past, but you would never know just by looking what wonderful secrets lie hidden within. The green unprepossessing lock-ups contain lots of specially prepared fruiting blocks. They start their growing cycle in the “summer” container where the air is warm and humid. Once they begin to produce small popcorn like swellings (the beginnings of the mushroom fruiting bodies) they move into the “Autumn” container which is kept damp and cool and allows the mushrooms to grow in a ‘natural’ temperature. Within a couple of weeks the mushrooms are ready to harvest.

Cynan started The mushroom Garden in 2004 after taking part of a project which aimed to diversify agriculture in North Wales by looking at alternative crop options. The project flourished and the company has since won awards, including a bronze medal at the True Taste of Wales awards in 2011 and The National Trust Fine Farm Product Award in 2009 and fans UK wide. They are permanently on the menu at Castell Deudraeth (the Portmeirion restaurant) and have also been used by Peter Jackson at Maes y Neuadd and Aled Williams at Cennin.

Cynan has himself gained the moniker “the mushroom man” and is often used by the media as a fungi expert.

picure courtesy of The Mushroom Garden

Picture used with permission of The Mushroom Garden

I use these mushrooms all the time, whether its part of a supper club dish, a formal dinner or in my cooking at home. They are fantastic in a risotto where their earthy flavour is predominant, or added as a subtle undertone to a casserole. Last year they formed part of my Conwy Feast dish; slow cooked Venison with wild mushrooms, herbs and local dry cure bacon. It was a winner.

As a special treat, The Mushroom Garden and I have teamed up to offer one lucky reader the chance to win three tubs of  dried gourmet mushrooms, plus their very own mushroom growing block (complete with instructions).

To win just follow the instructions below.

Competition details

You can enter by any of the following methods…but only do it once per method!! If you enter using all four, you have a higher chance of winning. Good luck!

This competition is now closed. The lucky winner was Olivia Bier from Devon. Well done Olivia!!

TERMS & CONDITIONS
The winner will be randomly chosen by the Random website
The competition is only open to residents of the UK & Eire
If the winner hasn’t replied within two days to the organiser’s email, a new winner will be randomly drawn.

If you are not lucky enough to win this time and don’t live close enough to visit any of the produce markets where they are sold, The Mushroom Garden are now in the process of setting up an online shop which you can reach by clicking here.

Good luck!!

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Filed under British food, local produce, produce markets, seasonal food, slow food, Uncategorized

Aderyn Melys cakes

Aderyn Melys, or Sweet Bird to non-Welsh speakers is a 100% vegan cupcake company. Vegan! you butter lovers exclaim, surely not. But trust me, these are no ordinary cupcakes. These cakes would put a smile on the face of the most hardened dairy worshipper and knock spots off most  ordinary cupcakes.

Aderyn Melys is based in Anglesey and run by Lynwen Lloyd Hughes. One of very few cupcake manufacturers in the UK that solely produce vegan and allergy free cakes….its by far and away the best. With her commitment to quality, organic and local ingredients and her attention to detail and presentation Lynwen is carving out something of a reputation for herself and a loyal fan base here in Wales.

Imagine the pleasure of biting into a soft, sweet, almondy Bakewell tart cupcake and discovering a secret pocket of jam in the centre, a delightful bit of buried treasure hidden beneath an almost obscene amount of rich flavoursome icing…all fluffy swirls and pretty understated decoration and perfectly finished with a cherry and some slivered almonds…you would almost be forgiven for calling the icing ‘buttery’…but there isn’t a hint of butter in sight.

The family adores them, cake with everything we say!!! So what better way to celebrate Valentines Day than to receive a special bespoke delivery of delicious and beautiful cupcakes.  I used the excuse of ordering them for my other half…and the kids…but I was tingling with anticipation at their arrival.

When they arrived, beautifully boxed and labelled, we all had big grins on our faces.

As a vegan Lynwen knows how hard it is to find delicious cakes and treats, so she made her own. Now she has a fabulous array of exciting flavours with which to entice cake lovers; think vanilla, chocolate, lemon, apple crumble, apple and blackcurrant crumble, victoria sponge, chocolate orange, chocolate raspberry, strawberry and vanilla, blueberry lemon, carrot cake, chocolate banana, banana and chocolate chip, chocolate mint, strawberry lemon, lemon and blackcurrant, lemon and raspberry, lemon curd, cherry Bakewell.

You’ll find it hard to make a choice with all that lot!! Lynwen offers bespoke cupcakes for all occasions and events and she also hand delivers within a 15 mile radius of Llangefni.

My box of four cakes plus delivery cost £8.00 an absolute bargain!

If you would like to order cupcakes or discuss a special occasion you can give Lynwen a call on 07759 576739 or

email:  lynwen@aderynmelys.com

or you can pop down to the Ogwen Produce market, Bethesda on the second Saturday of the month and pick some up there.

 
 

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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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….and that was 2011: a review of our supper club year

Now that the dust has settled on Christmas and I’ve had time to sit back and think about the past year, I’ve realised just how much we’ve achieved….and wow its been a real rollercoaster! I thought I’d share a few of the many high’s (and far less low’s) of 2011 with you.

For those in the know we’ve come a long way in a short space of time…there can’t be many supper clubbers with such humble beginnings….I was made redundant, my money had run out and I was signing on…with fifteen job rejections, a mortgage to pay, two kids and a marriage that was under increasing pressure as the reality of living on one salary took its toll it was time to do something. Things were getting really tough and I was pretty down. But then I had this mad idea. “Let’s set up a supper club, there are lots of people doing it now in London”…I knew we could do it and I thought it would be fun at least while I was searching for a ‘proper’ job. The family went along with it and so I chucked the last of my cash and a great deal of dole money into funding and setting up the first Welsh supper club. We scoured charity shops and boot fairs to find plates and dishes as enthusiastically as I put my creative energy and love of writing into this blog. It was a risk but I had little left to lose. I didn’t know if it would work up here in the mountains of Wales, if anyone would read my work or come and eat my food so I gave it a year. That was October 2009 and a year on there was no going back.

Two things happened at the end of 2010 that made me carry on. First Rachel’s dairy emailed me and asked me to sample and write about some of their products; that made me realise that people were actually reading my blog and second ITV contacted me and asked if I would consider being part of Britain’s Best Dish.

2011 began with a whirlwind of auditions and TV filming. Had I anticipated how far I would get in the competition I might have attempted to cook something more exciting than a trifle! But it was amazing to win for Wales and a huge amount of fun. I met some inspiring people (Sarah of Food for Think, Julie who went on to start her own supper club the Raspberry bush supper club in Blaenavon and of course Conor the 14-year-old lad who eventually won over all). At the same time I started a Creative writing MA at Kingston University but as the success of supper club grew and the lack of academic jobs remained I took another bold step and registered as self-employed, this took my catering to a business level. Helped by a small business grant from Menter a Busness and financial help from an old and good friend (you know who you are) I had enough to buy basic equipment, stock and insurance and so I was away!

In between all of this….

the local produce market committee asked me to join them in establishing a monthly market for my town Bethesda (Gwynedd) and to run a pop-up cafe; both have been a roaring success and huge amounts of fun.

I’ve made jam and chutney by the vat-full and people have bought it and come back for more.

I’ve taken our supper club from being a monthly hit and miss dinner to being fully booked a month in advance, usually with a waiting list.

and I’ve cooked some lovely food, found and developed new recipes and surprised myself a lot!

Still our financial fortunes were not great…there were times I had to borrow money from family and friends just to fund supper club and I still had to cancel occasional dates due to low-interest and lack of money. These days we are so well established this no longer happens. I have also built great business relationships and trust with most of our local producers.

I have cooked for some lovely, wonderful people and have forged great friendships (including lots of the wonderful local producers that supply the most amazing produce) and supper club retains the same buzz and excitement it did when I began. I have worked with some wonderful local people…Gemma Brook, designer of my jam jar labels and business cards, she faultlessly transferred my ideas on to a jam label; Sophia Ingham of Phia designs for her wonderful supply of beautiful organic cotton table linen, aprons, bunting etc. and for standing in as waitress and jam seller when we need an extra pair of hands; Sean McClearn for chatting up the local ladies who bought jam in response and the small posse of teenage waitresses that are so keen (Rosie McClearn, Elin Cain and all the others that have helped out).

The summer arrived and through Ellie of salad club I got the opportunity to cook for the wonderful crew and production team at the Green Man festival. I met Delyth from Calon y Gegin in Cardiff. She contacted me when she was setting up her supper club so it was a chance to meet in person and work together. It was hard. Sixteen hours a day of flat-out cooking and a very steep learning curve but it was also one of the best months of my life despite the strain it put on me and the family. It was also the first time I’d paid myself properly since going self-employed so that was a major plus!

This was closely followed by more festival catering, this time Harvest at Jimmy’s where I finally met Ellie and Rosie of salad club after two years of email communication. They were the loveliest people to work with and we had a whale of a time. I also met some of my foodie hero’s; Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Stevie Parle and Jay Rayner.

Conwy Feast invited me to cook up a ‘supper club’  alongside accomplished chef Jimmy Williams. It was amazing to cook on the same bill as Bryn Williams, michelin starred chef Bryan Williams and Aled Williams from Cennin (above MooBaaOink). I also met Morfudd Richards and Sian Lloyd and made lots of new friends and fans, including twitter follows from some of my musician hero’s.

I catered for my first wedding and business lunch, both nerve-wracking and hard work but enjoyable and successful

I finished my creative writing MA with a distinction and hopefully my writing has improved as a result.

I finished the year with a nomination for the Daily Post food hero 2011 and although I didn’t win it was still a great honour to be held in the same esteem as the other amazing producers up for nomination and perhaps a fitting end to a year of hard work. The runners-up, Rhyd y Delyn cheese, Helen Holland from Mon ar Lwy ice cream and the clear winner MooBaaOink in Beaumaris were all totally deserving. They too work damn hard to make the best.

…..and on to 2012. What next you may ask. There are plans….lots of them. I want to write more, visit more people to see what they producing and am planning lots of collaboration! There are new supper club dates with a more formal set-up. We will be doing one weekend on and one-off with Friday and Saturday night dinners. I also have four weddings in my diary during the summer months and who knows what else!

For Christmas I was given a little note-book for writing down my recipes! Hopefully this also marks the beginning of what might eventually become a book on modern seasonal Welsh food (for all the family). All I need now is a decent camera and to remember to take some photos!

Also I’d love it if more readers posted their comments on this blog…a little bit of feedback from readers goes a long way 🙂

So a happy new year to you all and I hope it is fantastic, amazing and prosperous. Maybe I will see one or two of you around the supper club table

Much love

Denise & co xxxxx

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I’m back!…Christmas markets & supper clubs

Last week was a whirlwind of activity, beginning with a pop-up cafe and jam & chutney stall at the Ogwen Christmas produce and craft market and finishing with three back-to-back supper clubs.

The market was reasonably simple cooking lovely dry cure bacon baps, home-made Moroccan chick pea and spinach soup and Welsh rarebit (made with strong Welsh cheddar and ale) and chutney:….but it was a busy day. I hadn’t anticipated it being so busy and since we were not allowed to use the bigger chapel kitchen I ended up stuck in a tiny poky kitchen with very little surface space, no electric and a boiler that seemed to take for ever to heat! People queued for coffee and we waited….and waited….but all was well in the end and we sold out of bacon, baps and Welsh rarebit…I also sold out of jam & chutney which pretty much put paid to my second stall at the Moelyci Christmas fair…but Sophie of Phia designs (my wonderful seamstress friend that makes all my table linen, napkins, aprons and the most gorgeous little hemp bags which I used for my Christmas hampers) stepped in to sell her lovely fluffy scarves, hats, bags and other stuff made from recycled organic cotton and materials. All I had left from the market were enough jars and bags to make four hampers; which I also sold.

Jam and chutney depleted and with two days break, it was time for three back to back supper clubs. Now I like a challenge but on this occasion I was just plain silly…I got carried away at the planning stage because I wanted to cook everything, so I ended up not only offering a menu choice but three starters, three mains and three desserts; which I cooked on my own. Crazy woman…yep thats me! The dishes were as follows…but you have to forgive my lack of pictures…cooking and photography were one step too far!

Starters:

Beetroot soup with creamy goats feta

Classic Conwy moules mariniere

Chicken liver parfait with soda bread toast and fruity chutney

Mains:

Slow roast Moelyci pork, roast potatoes and slow cooked spiced red cabbage

Chicken breast stuffed with basil butter and wrapped in local pancetta, potato dauphinoise and ratatouille

Wild nantmor mushroom risotto with white truffle oil

Desserts:

Sticky chocolate brownie with mincemeat ice cream

Boozy blackcurrant trifle

Seasonal fruit crumble with creme anglaise

I spent the week cooking in bulk although  the menu was  actually a simple one with lots of scope for pre-preparation. The soup, trifle and brownie were Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipes; the mushroom risotto I adapted from a River Cafe recipe and the chicken from a Jamie Oliver recipe.

The mincemeat ice cream was my own, successful creation and the mussels, crumble, pork, dauphinoise and ratatouille are standard combinations I regularly cook. I made two different pate variations, one my own which I wasn’t totally convinced by and a second (a Raymond Blanc parfait recipe) that I liked even less. Everyone else really liked both, but I was looking for something lighter and creamier and both recipes I used made a rather strong pate.

For those that asked and are keen to know, the ingredients used in the meal came from the following local suppliers….

Smoked salmon – Derimon

Anglesey eggs

Calon Wen butter (salted and unsalted)

Home-made damson vodka, creme de cassis, tomato and tomatillo chutney, beetroot relish, carrot relish and tomato and chilli jam

Bramley apples, beetroot, red cabbage, potatoes, onions, parsley and garlic from Pippa & John at Tyddyn Berth

Sarporo Blue Danube potatoes, peppers, aubergine and tomatillos – David Shaw at Henfaes

Conwy mussels

Moelyci pork (very happy pigs)

Anglesey chicken, Chicken livers and Wrexham pancetta came via Williams the butchers or Johnny six as they are known locally

Nantmor shiitake and oyster mushrooms 

Thyme and rosemary and bay from my garden

raspberries and black currants from Moelyci

Halen Mon salt

Petros olive oil

Perl las blue cheese

Seriol and feta Y Cwt Caws

Caws and Farmhouse cheeses from Rhyd y Delyn

and I think that might be it!!….Truly a 30 mile Christmas menu! Here are a few pictures from the evenings…there aren’t many as we were so busy and no pictures of desserts which is an absolute crime!!

Christmas seduction cocktails (named by Rosie the waitress)...apparantly it was a 'sexy' cocktail that needed an appropriate name!!...

beetroot soup with goats cheese feta
pate with tomato & chilli relish and toast
talking to guests

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