Category Archives: welsh cheese

Glamorgan sausages, a Welsh vegetarian favourite

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January and February are traditionally lean months so I often avoid (or at least restrict) the amount of meat I eat. Stuffed from Christmas and recovering from financial overindulgence its nice to pare things down a bit and appease the vegetarian in me.

As a teenager and into my early twenties I was vegetarian. No fish and no meat. In fact I even made a foray into vegan living, but as a fussy teenager with a mother who had no idea what to feed a girl of such persuasion, it meant eating very little. Not a healthy option for an adolescent girl and after a six months I saw sense and returned to a less restrictive veggie diet.

My mother gave vegetarian cooking a good go. Being quite creative in those days and an avid collector of Sainsbury’s recipe cards (circa 1980 something) she tried out all kinds of strange and wonderful recipes on us kids.  One of her favourite and regular creations was something called “Glamorgan supper”  a breadcrumb, cheese, egg and spring onion mixture, rolled into balls and fried. We couldn’t get enough of them back then, but it was only as I got older I discovered they were in fact a variation on the Welsh classic, Glamorgan sausages.

Now I have my own kids, one of whom is an avid meat hater, Glamorgan sausages have once again become the perfect lunch or supper dish of the day, avidly devoured with a rich home-made tomato sauce..or indeed good old ‘sos coch’ (which translated is red sauce. In other words plain old tomato ketchup). I prefer mine with a nice tomato chutney, or even red onion marmalade and a lightly dressed salad.

Glamorgan sausages: recipe makes approx 8

175g breadcrumbs

110g Gorwydd Caerphilly

1 small leek finely chopped and cooked gently in butter until soft but not browned (or a bunch of spring onions if you prefer)

1 teaspoon of Welsh honey grain mustard

1 teaspoon fresh thyme chopped

a small handful of finely chopped flat leaf parsley

2 large eggs beaten

a drop of milk (if needed)

Halen Mon sea salt

black pepper

To coat:

1 egg beaten

panko crumbs

3 to 4 tablespoons of sunflower oil

To serve:

A lightly dressed salad, some nice tomato relish (or sos coch…tomato sauce…as the kids prefer)

Mix the breadcrumbs, herbs, spring onions (or cooked leek) and grated cheese in a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs and mustard, with a little salt and pepper, to the bowl and mix until you have a stiff doughy mixture.

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Mix breadcrumbs, thyme, parsley and a lovely chunk of Gorwydd Caerphilly in a large bowl

Divide into eight sausage shapes.

Beat the remaining egg in a shallow dish and spread the panko crumbs on a plate. Dip each sausage in the egg, then roll in the crumbs. Heat sunflower oil in a shallow frying pan until quite hot and just sizzling but not smoking, then lay the sausages in the pan in a single layer and cook until nicely browned on all sides.

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nine fat sausages sizzling in the pan…turning a lovely golden brown

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Perl Las, flame roasted peppers with charred little gem (an Ethicurian delight)

Ok this is my very last post about The Ethicurean cookbook.

My mother informed me that my last post was rather harsh….I didn’t mean it like that. I was simply being my usual brutally honest self, saying out loud the things that popped into my head while I was reading the book. I have probably managed to alienate them with my comments forever, but I still like the book, want to visit the restaurant and have already latched on to recipes that are fast becoming favourites.

I’ve found that it’s the simpler ones that make the best everyday suppers. They take little time to rustle up after a busy day at work and make the perfect summer dish. What I crave is something light on a hot summers evening and we’ve had enough warm sunny weather to justify my pushing the light summery suppers!

This salad is perfect paired with a glass of cold crisp Pinot Grigio or Prosecco and is also elegant enough for a dinner party / supper club starter (I’ve made it several times I like it so much).

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To serve four people as a main, or 6 to 8 as a starter:

2 romero peppers

250g new potatoes

6 to 8 little gem lettuces (one or two per person, cut in half lengthways)

Rapeseed oil (I just invested in some Cotswold Gold, which is just the best)

Salad dressing:

100g rapeseed oil

60g cider vinegar

8g dijon mustard

Coriander flower heads (I used boarge and chive flowers to decorate as coriander flowers were not available)

crushed coriander seeds (1 teaspoon) plus a little ground coriander

Perl Las sauce:

100g Perl Las

50g Creme fraiche

sea salt and pepper

To flame grill the peppers: either cook on a barbecue, under a hot grill, or directly over the flame of a gas cooker using a pair of tongs to turn, until the skin is blackened all over. Place peppers in a sealed plastic bag for about 10 minutes. This helps the skin come away from the flesh.

When cool rub the skin from the peppers removing all the black bits, cut in half and scoop out all the seeds then either tear the peppers into pieces or chop roughly.

Cook the new potatoes in their skin in a pan of salted water. They should be just tender and offer a bit of resistance when pierced with a knife. Very fresh potatoes will cook quicker (10 minutes or so) than ones that have been in the supermarket a while (15 minutes).

Make the blue cheese dressing by putting the chopped cheese, creme fraiche and seasoning into a blender and whizzing up (or mix together in a bowl with a fork).

Heat a griddle pan over a high heat. Brush the little gems with some rapeseed oil and place in the griddle pan. Leave until some chargrill lines form and then turn. Make sure you don’t over cook them. I sprinkled some salt and pepper, crushed coriander seed and ground coriander over the little gems at this point.

Put some mixed leaf salad on to each plate with the charred little gem, scatter with potatoes and dress with the salad dressing. Add some of the flame roasted peppers and dot with the blue cheese dressing. Finish with a scatter of edible flowers and enjoy!

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The Green Man cheese list

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snowdon pickle power (cheddar cheese with pickled onion)

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

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

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

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The Irrational Season

No, i’m not referring to strange voting strategies, Olympic hype or Jubilee madness when talk about what Madeleine L’Engle calls the irrational season, instead I refer to marriage.I read this passage at the last wedding I attended, my brothers last year,

But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take…It is indeed a fearful gamble…Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.

To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take…

If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation…It takes a lifetime to learn another person…

When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.

We kicked off our very own ‘irrational season’ this weekend with the first big function of the summer.

Jonathon and Viv’s wedding was held at Nant Gwynant, a campsite with a stunning complex of converted barns in the middle of North Wales. The beautiful, dramatic, lakeside location is undeniably scenic, surrounded by a circle of  craggy mountain peaks rising and falling and is the perfect backdrop for a wedding. Having said this, the location is not for the faint hearted and only the brave and hardy would take a risk on the weather so early in the season. This is because the ample guest accommodation is in tents, camper vans or the bunk house above the barn! You could reasonably predict that a mid-summer wedding would have warm dry weather, but not so early May.

Luckily for the wedding party the weather was good to them. It was dry and mostly sunny, although the temperature was not so forgiving. We all shivered even in the kitchen where our hands went numb chopping tomatoes and avocados. Eventually we decided to light the open fire which warmed us up a little.

In the main barn a fire roared, but it needed a room full of bodies to really stop it being so chilly. The hall and kitchen acted as a wind tunnel funneling an icy breeze through the building. Ladies in strappy dresses shivered, including the bride who looked beautiful in her blue flowered dress but stood wrapped in a cosy shawl by our kitchen fire as she took a few moments to compose herself.

I didn’t envy the guests their tents.

The menu for the event was a two course vegetarian feast for 100. The bride and groom shunned the meat since they and lots of their friends were vegetarian, opting instead for a hearty choice of universally popular Vegetarian favourites and a few specials of my own.

We served a range of tapas style starters, plus home-made bread and extra buns. A white bean and traditional hummus sat side by side, a platter of marinated olives from Petros, goats cheese pearls with chill & garlic and herbs from Y Cwt Caws, semi-dried tomatoes with garlic/oak smoked tomatoes from the tomato stall, guacamole, baba ghanoush with smoked derimon paprika

One of five huge mezze platters

I made so many tarts I was sick to death of rolling pastry….Nantmor wild mushroom and thyme; asparagus and parmesan; tomato, red onion, basil and Welsh cheddar; Savory tatin with potato, cherry toms and feta from Y Cwt Caws, garden herbs and wild garlic with feta and a section of very hearty salads…..oasted beetroot, goats cheese and pomegranate, potato salad with French dressing, Moroccan couscous with fresh herbs, roasted vegetables, sun dried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts, Green salad, Italian farro with pesto (pearled spelt) salad.

A sample of dishes on the table

Guests baked cakes to bring for dessert, each labelled and served on one of what seemed like a hundred cake plates.I briefly wondered where they’d got them all. Surely no one person can own so many!

Cakes galore

We provided the Welsh cheese board served as either an alternative to cake, or an additional main course choice. On it were our favourites; Snowdonia black bomber, Green thunder, Y Fenni (mustard seed and ale), Camembert and Smoked brie from Derimon and green tomato chutney and red tomato relish from the tomato stall.

The piece-de-resistance was the enormous wedding cake. A huge three-tiered  chocolate creation adorned with the most amazing chocolate roses. This is a skill I have yet to master being a rather heavy-handed chef so I totally admire those with the ability and patience to create such masterpieces.

The meal finished with a selection of Clipper teas and coffee.

I was very happy with the finished table and we presumed we had plenty. It was only when my helper came into the kitchen in a panic saying

“there’s a man out there demanding more Quiche”

that we realised we’d been a victim of our own success. We made enough for a hundred and thirty, but everyone wanted some of everything!!

Lessons learned:

  • If the weather is a bit chilly people eat more.
  • No one sticks to one or two pieces of Quiche (if it looks nice and if they are eating it instead of meat)
  • bake more bread
  • and one for me…try not to cut your finger so badly it needs stitching the day you are starting wedding prep (in the end I didn’t have time for stitches so it was constantly wrapped in blue plasters and plastic gloves…but it hurt like hell and still does).

As we knocked off work and the guests (and my waitresses) ceilidh’d into the night all the stress melted away. I knew then we’d done a great job. The bride and groom were over the moon and we even got a round of applause for the food! I was extremely proud…How often does that happen at a wedding?

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Recipe: Beetroot tart tatin

One of the hits of supper club this weekend were the little beetroot tart tatin’s I served as a starter. Beetroot is another of those quintessentially English ingredients that have fallen out of favour, but right now it is in season and if people only knew how delicious beetroot is they would be flocking to buy it.

Its lack of popularity these days has a lot to do with the pickled variety. Horrific memories of jarred beetroot tasting of malt vinegar were enough to put a person off for life, but put these thoughts out of your head and look deeper and you will soon discover that there are so many other ways of preparing and eating beetroot. It has a natural sweetness that makes it versatile in so many dishes and has a long growing season which means it retains its place on the menu almost all year round.

In the summer months it is perfect just scrubbed and grated in a salad, you don’t even need to peel it. It makes a delicious and unusual hummus or cooked in a risotto adding a lovely reddish pink colour. If you desperately want to save it for the late winter/early spring when the season ends then you can preserve it, not in the awful malt vinegar but as a chutney or relish, or for a more exotic dish try making the famous Ukrainian cold soup borscht, topped with a little sour cream.

It makes an equally good hot soup in the winter, topped with plenty of crumbled feta or goats cheese, or you can use it in a cake like you would carrots in carrot cake (check out Hugh Fearnley Whittingstalls chocolate beetroot brownies or seek out a recipe for red velvet cake that uses beetroot).

I am a huge tatin fan (it might well be one of my signature dishes!) and as far as i’m concerned anything round or sliceable makes a good tatin topping. Why stick with apple when there are so many other things to try!…I’ve made pear tatin with vanilla salted caramel, potato and cherry tomato tatin and traditional of course traditional apple, but this time beetroot was my ingredient of choice; freshly picked from Pippa and John’s small-holding in Bethel and baked in a case of crisp rough puff pastry (which is much easier and quicker than puff pastry). Served simply with some fresh baby spinach leaves, deliciously creamy goats cheese pearls from Y Cwt Caws and a sweet and sharp apple balsamic vinaigrette. The small tarts made a fantastic and striking starter but you can easily turn it into a larger tatin for a wonderful lunch or supper or supper for friends or family.

Beetroot tart tatin:

For the rough puff pastry I used Hugh Fearnley Whittingstalls recipe in everyday…its a good basic recipe;

300g plain flour, pinch of Halen Mon sea salt and 150g cold unsalted Calon Wen butter.

Cut the butter into cubes and toss with the flour and salt until just coated. Add really cold water drop by drop until the mixture comes together into a stiff dough.

Shape into a rectangle and roll out until it’s about and inch thick then fold into three like I have in the picture below, then give it a quarter turn so the seam is on the left…like a book.

Repeat this procedure 5 times and then wrap the pastry in cling film and place it in the fridge to rest for about half an hour.

For the tatin topping:

500g small beetroot, scrubbed and trimmed. No need to peel.

1 tablsepoon olive oil

25g butter

1 tablespoon soft brown sugar

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon apple balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190 degrees C. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan or roasting tin, add the beetroot and toss to coat. Add sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper and taste…it may need a little more sugar or vinegar. Cover the pan with foil and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until tender.

Once cooked remove from the oven and arrange neatly in a large tin….if the beetroot are large they may need chopping in half, or if you are using individual tins like I did, they can be neatly sliced to fit.

Pour over any juices adding a little more balsamic vinegar if desired.

Roll out the pastry and cut a circle slightly larger than the pan (or pans). Place carefully over the pan and tuck in any excess around the sides of the beetroot. Return to the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and crisp. Leave to rest in the tin for a couple of minutes and then place a plate over the top of the tin and quickly turn it over. The tatin should come out pretty cleanly. Stand back and admire the results…they always look so effective and have that wow factor…probably why I love them so much!

For the vinaigrette:

1 teaspoon whole grain English mustard

1 tablespoon apple balsamic vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

chopped spring onion when in season or a small shallot…finely chopped

Mix the ingredients in a clean jam jar and shake well. Trickle over the tatin and serve with some scattered goats cheese pearls, salad leaves or baby spinach leaves

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Recipe: Creamy roast tomato soup and smoky Welsh rarebit

Cheese and tomatoes, weren’t they just made for one another? A perfect partnership like apple and cinnamon, beef and horseradish, lamb and mint, you get the idea? And I don’t mean sliced and shoved between two bits of limp bread, but paired exotically and deliciously so that all the flavours complement one another; the sweet, juicy and slightly acidic tang of the tomato with the creamy, salty, biting cheddar.

The two ingredients are also cheap staples from which many a delicious meal can be made. They also make perfect family supper ingredients as kids tend to unanimously love the combo. Imagine the clean simplicity of fresh pasta topped with a sweet tomato and basil sauce and salty parmesan cheese, or as a filling in a simple cheese and tomato tart. Perfect for lunch or a summer picnic…or even as a home-made margarita pizza topping…tomato sauce and mozzarella. You can’t go wrong. This time I craved something different, something quick and so I came up with the winning combination of creamy tomato soup with a smoky Welsh rarebit.

It was a visit to Moelyci that started this craving. Sadly their gorgeous supply of tomatoes is finally come to an end and so in a last bid to prolong the taste of summer I zoomed in and grabbed a massive bag. I half heartedly meant for them to last the week but once home that tomato soup craving took over. Hugh Fearnley Whittingstalls book The River Cottage Cookbook has a very simple recipe, one that you can literally throw together in about 5 minutes flat! To make four average sized bowls of soup he uses….

1 kilo tomatoes (mine were a combination of plum, beef and a few cherries) which I washed, quartered and threw in a roasting tin with a good glug of olive oil poured over. Then I added some Halen Mon sea salt some black pepper plus 3 or 4 cloves of peeled garlic. I also chucked in a small quartered onion. These were then roasted in the oven on about 200 degrees until they were soft,  collapsing and beginning to turn pulpy, maybe about 45 mins. I then chucked them in a pan with about a pint of chicken stock (but you can use good vegetable stock) and blended using a soup blender. You can do this in a normal blender as well or if you haven’t got a blender you can push it all through a fine sieve. This would remove the seeds and skin which Hugh suggests, but I don’t think this is totally necessary.

That done it was a case of what to have with it? Boring old bread wasn’t for me so I scoured the fridge and cupboard to see what I could come up with. Its amazing what you can make with some left over smoked butter (which I got from Dairy Mon), half a block of strong cheddar, a glug of beer and a few store cupboard staples.

Most people are unsure about the origins of name Welsh rarebit. Some suggest it started out as an 18th century pub, or tavern dish known as Welsh rabbit, but wherever it came from I love it. It is basically glorified cheese on toast but with added ingredients.

I have found two methods for making Welsh rarebit, one which uses a bechamel sauce, the other cheese blended with beer. I’ve tried both but eventually came up with a method of combining the two to great effect so that there is both a slightly bitter hint of beer and a sweetness gained from a good grain mustard and Worcester sauce. The last two were always added to the mixture when I was given it as a child, which must then also make it comfort food…anyhting given by my Mum or grandparents qualifies as comfort food!!

My recipe not only made enough rarebit mixture for supper, but also for my lunch until the end of the week!

30g ordinary or smoked butter

30g plain flour

quarter of a pint of milk, plus a splash of ale or beer

a teaspoon of grain mustard

a tablespoon of Worcester sauce

200g strong Welsh cheddar (Black Bomber or Dragon cheddar is good)

Melt the butter over a pan and stir in the flour cooking to make a roux. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk and then a good glug of beer. Put the pan back on a gentle heat and stir until thickened, slowly adding the grated cheese. Continue to stir until the cheese has melted and you have a thick but smooth paste. Stir in the mustard, Worcester sauce and season with salt and pepper. Leave to cool.

Toast a couple of slices of bread of your choice lightly. Remove from the grill and spread a think layer of the paste over one side. Put back under the grill and cook until it is hot bubbly and just starting to turn brown in places. Serve alongside your tomato soup and enjoy!

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Welsh produce in the Brecon Beacons

Welsh cheeses and home made chutney

As most regular readers of my blog will know I am a fiercely vocal advocate for the buying of local seasonal produce. This was no exception during my Green Man crew catering stint. I admit I had a lot of help before hand, having been sent a pretty thorough list of local businesses who were the most lovely, helpful bunch. So lovely in fact, that I thought I’d share them with my readers. Just in case you ever visit the Brecon Beacons, or if you live close to Crickhowell, or even if you are looking to buy your food on route to the Green Man festival you may want to pop along and sample their fabulous produce.

First stop would be Cashell’s (01873 810405); a fantastic family butchers and delicatessen stocking all things Welsh. I used an absolute  mountain of their smoked bacon, sausages, beef, lamb, mince and gammon. They supplied a never-ending choice of Welsh cheese for our popular lunchtime cheese board, which comprised cheeses from Caws Cenarth, the Snowdonia cheese company (Black Bomber and Green Thunder were firm favourites) and the Blaenavon Cheddar company, whose Taffi was a winner. Combined with both mine and Del from Calon y Cegin’s chutneys they went down a storm.

On to Askews family bakery (01873 810345), who supplied our bread and rolls. The rolls were soft, fresh and floury and everyone commented on how nice they were. We also sourced a lovely, cakey, bara brith from them which proved itself to be a very good staple for afternoon tea and a firm favourite with the crew.

enormous vat full of carrot and coriander soup…served with Askews buns

Our dairy man Carl (01873 810881) kept us supplied with milk, eggs, cream and lovely butter, although it would have been nice if the butter had been Welsh.

The only disappointment was the lack of local/British produce from the vegetable wholesaler. Quality was at times variable (very under ripe pears for example, which could have been locally sourced and would have been seasonal and ripe and tomatoes which are plentiful in the UK) and a lot was from overseas. On the other hand they were a lovely, friendly and helpful bunch who tried to make sure we had what we needed promptly.

Del and I brought a lot of our own ingredients such as preserved lemons, smoked paprika, sumac, Keralan chicken spices etc. but there came a point when even we ran out. I tried to avoid supermarket ordering on the whole, but there are some things you just can’t get in the local shop and without a market stocking exotic produce the next best choice was Waitrose in Abergavenny. They supplied most of the unusual ingredients we wanted such as Orzo, Tagine spices like Ras al Hanout, Harissa and balsamic vinegar. Anything that could be bought in bulk we picked up from Bookers, the local cash and carry.

Our suppliers didn’t let us down and so we had great, local food to offer the crew we cooked for. They felt like part of the family we spent so much time on the phone to them and its a shame that I won’t get to see them again until next year (hopefully).

The food wasn’t fancy. It was simple, well cooked and wholesome, think well-flavoured freshly made soups, stews, tagine, chilli and curries. On our last night, by popular demand I made a massive creamy fish pie with a fennel and endive salad followed by lemon meringue pie. Cashell’s supplied the fish at cost price and for that both I and the rest of the crew are eternally grateful. It made our week. I think and I hope we made people very happy and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

sliced, freshly cooked gammon…a lunch time staple along with soup, cheese and a couple of enormous salads

Denise x

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It’s those simple things…

A simple supper

I can cook up the most extravagant, adventurous feast, using every exotic ingredient known to create something really special for supper club and dinner guests.  I take my time, take extra care to produce something that looks as beautiful as it tastes and really give it my all. I love doing this. I love experimenting and trying out new things, but there are times when less is definitely more. Sometimes its the simplest of things that leave a lasting  impression. No fuss, complex dressings, drizzled sauces or coulis, just fantastic fresh unadulterated food.

A MASSIVE (half eaten) Manchego from Spain...yum with some home-made onion relish

As I lazed in the sun on Sunday afternoon, with a Tanquaray and Tonic clutched in my hand, it was simplicity that I craved. The lingering heat and appearance of some fiery Welsh sun shine inspired a supper with a distinctly Mediterranean feel…. some Spanish Manchego brought back as a thank you present by friends whose boat we looked after while they were away, some seriously strong black bomber left over from Saturday’s produce market; home-made onion marmalade and beetroot relish, new potatoes with lashings of butter and mint, herb-marinated mozzarella and tomatoes and a hearty salad of lettuce from the garden, cucumber, olives, very lightly steamed mangetout from the weekly veg box, crisp chorizo and a good glug of Welsh Rapeseed oil.

The food disappeared in no time and even the little-un steamed in for more. At the end of supper I was about as satiated and happy as I would have been if I’d eaten something more elaborate.

Marinated mozzarella and tomato: An Ottolenghi inspired favourite (serves 2-3)

250g good buffalo mozzarella

A couple of large ripe local tomatoes

half a teaspoon fennel seeds, zest of a lemon or a teaspoon of white wine vinegar , small handful of shredded basil leaves, 2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves, 2 tablespoons Welsh Rapeseed oil 1 crushed clove of garlic and a pinch of Halen Mon salt and black pepper.

Dry roast the fennel seeds until they begin to pop. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and grind roughly. Place in a bowl with the other ingredients. toss the sliced or roughly torn mozzarella with the marinade and leave for 10 minutes or so, Serve with sliced or wedges of tomatoes as a starter or part of a cold supper.

mmmmmm....dinner 🙂

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The pop-up brunch club

My very first pop-up event and wow!! I’m totally overwhelmed by its success.

Supper club packed its bags and moved into the new Llys Dafydd square on Bethesda High Street, for the first of many monthly produce markets which will be held on the site. Llys Dafydd is almost a work of art in itself with many members of the community (artists, builders, gardeners) involved in its construction. From the beautiful wrought iron gates, to the stenciled slate designs, Bethesda has a rich history. A history so closely entwined with the slate industrythat it was only fitting that this be commemorated in its design.

My little slate kiosk and menu board...bilingual of course

My little slate kitchen was a pleasure to work in even though all the fixtures and fittings hadn’t quite arrived in time. The two ring electric hob was painfully slow to heat up and wasn’t big enough for a frying pan and a big saucepan side by side. Pete, my helper for the day went home and fetched his electric George Foreman griddle thing…which needed a drip tray, but we didn’t have one. We wedged tea towels round the base, which are now in the bin!. We couldn’t fit a coffee pot under the tap of the urn (so had to fill the coffee pots cup by cup). The stainless steel work surface hadn’t arrived so we used a trestle table, which was far too low to chop vegetables on and I made three times as much soup as I needed since the sun came out, making soup less desirable.

Other than these few teething problems the day went amazingly well. So well in fact, that we ran out the local butchers lovely dry cured bacon so had to run up the road to get more, 5 minutes before he closed for the day.  The butchers apparently had a huge queue of people outside, that had gone to him from the market. Many of the stall holders had sold all their stock by 11.30am (we only opened at 10) including myself (my jam and pickle reserves have run dry for the rest of this month) and I ran out of coffee in the cafe. One person said

“wow! proper fresh coffee from a pot, you don’t get much of that round here”. Half an hour later it had gone.

My suppliers really need a mention as they were fantastic for getting me the best local produce, at a great price. Moelyci that provided lettuce and onions, Pippa and John for carrots, coriander and beetroot, Mintons wholefood wholesalers in Llandrindod Wells for organic tea, coffee and sugar and Pobty Cae Groes, (Pobty is bakery in Welsh for all you non-Welsh speakers), the most local bakery anyone could wish to have at the end of their street and providers of the most ENORMOUS rolls and baps. So kind are they that they threw in a free bara brith (Welsh fruit bread), pack of lemon and poppy-seed muffins and loaf with my order. Green Fox supplied all of my environmentally friendly / biodegradable packaging and finally a massive thank you to Gavin at the local Londis who helped me out in my hour of need (after I’d been let down by a supplier) with Welsh butter, milk and Snowdon Black bomber cheese which made up my Welsh ploughman’s in a bun along with lettuce and my onion marmalade.

We had giant bubbles from Dr Zigs and music from local musicians Gwibdaith Hen Fran and of course a timely visit from the sun, which we’d feared would not appear at all, as we erected the marquees in torrential rain the night before.

As for food, the local community go for hearty fare. We are country folk and like to eat well, so tea, coffee and  bacon baps went down a storm. The BLT mawr (Welsh for large) and ploughman’s in a bap did OK too. Even though we will be eating carrot and coriander soup for the rest of the week, I don’t mind at all. Those that had it, loved it and I will be a better judge of quantity next time.

The one sad thing about the day was that I hardly took any pictures. I’m just hoping I can get a few from others that did and then I will share them with you.

Market dates for the rest of the summer are:

13th August

10th September

8th October

and then hopefully we will find an indoor venue for two pre-Christmas markets before we end for the winter.

Other dates for Moel Faban suppers and the supper club are as follows:

22nd, 23rd and 24th July: Pop-up cafe at  Gwyl Gardd Goll festival a lovely little festival on the Faenol Estate with Gruff Rhys, Badly Drawn Boy, Echo and the Bunnymen and Cate le Bon,  plus a host of my favourite local musicians…Mr Huw, 9Bach, Gwibdaeth Hen Fran.

29th/30th July: secret suppers…spaces still available so book soon to secure a place

Then for the duration of August I will be off on a little jaunt to Crickhowell as crew caterer at The Green Man festival followed by what will be a well needed holiday eating my way around Ireland.

Dates for September have not yet been set as I have other plans that need firming up, but don’t worry supper club fans, I know I sound horribly busy but we will be back with a vengeance by the end of the month.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under British food, Butchers, eating out, local produce, Pop-up cafe, produce markets, Sources and suppliers, welsh cheese

Out with the old and in with the new: a seasonal solstice supper

the end of the night...this time lots of food pics, but no people!!!

Now that midsummer is upon us and half the year is already gone, its time to bid farewell to some of my favourite early produce. Asparagus, which only pays a fleeting visit, sadly finished cropping this week and it seems the strawberries at Moelyci have almost finished too. I’m sure elsewhere they will continue for a while yet but I’m glad I have used and preserved plenty. But before I start to pine for these wonderful summer treasures, it’s a happy hello to all the rest of the joys of June. Redcurrants are plentiful in the fruit fields of Moelyci and in my garden at home; elder flowers are still with us and a new batch of black currants are on their way. I have been out collecting plenty of the elder flowers this week for cordial, champagne and to use in the dessert I made for supper club.

I also paid visits to my three favourite vegetable suppliers: Pippa and John who give me my weekly veg box currently have an abundance of beetroot, tender courgettes, sweet young carrots, new potatoes, lettuce, a variety of chard, basil; Paul at Moelyci who has all that wonderful fruit in the market garden shop as well as lettuces ready for harvesting and lots of fresh parsley (something I don’t have much luck with) and Hootons farm shop, which is where I’ve got my asparagus, and now they also have broad beans too.   All those vegetables have kept me busy chutneying, and I did have a good few jars of spiced courgette and beetroot relish until I sold it all on Sunday, but that’s another story! I also finally got round to bottling all the liqueurs that have lurked in the back of my cupboard since the beginning of March (Creme de Cassis, raspberry vodka, loganberry vodka and sloe gin) as I wanted to crack open the Cassis for supper club.

Supper club was also the perfect opportunity to try out my new toy. Inspired by Dave’s smoking exploits at Derimon I ordered myself a little Cameron’s stove top smoker; they aren’t cheap at £43 a go for a small one, but my goodness it was worth it. It came with two small tubs of smoking chips (Alder and Hickory) and a big bag of oak.

my new smoker

I decided to try salmon as a  first attempt and so following the instructions, and using Alder chips as suggested, I set up the smoker. Twenty five minutes later I gently slid back the lid to reveal a lightly cooked, delicately and perfectly smoked piece of salmon. It was remarkably simple, yet pleasingly effective. Once it had cooled I gently pulled the salmon apart, tossing it with some new potatoes and salad, olive oil and a dollop of horseradish cream. This then formed part of my pick nick to take to the teens sports day on Saturday afternoon so I could test it out on friends . The unanimous verdict was that it was absolutely gorgeous!

doing its thing

perfect hot smoked salmon

There was a full house at supper club this weekend, which saw us celebrating the solstice or midsummer, a birthday dinner, an anniversary, and a welcome visit from two regulars and a new friend. It was moderately boisterous and it was nice to see people relaxed enough to come and chat in the kitchen. The menu for the evening of course celebrated the best of the season

Prosecco with Cassis (does that make it a Kir Royale, or a Prosecco Kir or just plain Kir?) with ricotta, parma ham, basil and balsamic vinegar topped bruschetta

The we said goodbye to the asparagus in style with mini asparagus and parmesan souffle tarts ( a variation on my souffle-gratin recipe) served with beetroot relish and carrots and courgette slaw

tarts ready to bakeplating tarts on the bench in the kitchen

For main it was hot smoked salmon with pan-fried new potatoes, baby broad beans, asparagus and chard and topped with horseradish cream. I collected the salmon bright and early from Mermaid seafood in Llandudno (sadly our only decent fishmongers locally) who stock a fantastic array of local and sustainable fish. The fillets were a really good size, unlike those you might get in the supermarket. I cannot  emphasise how much better it is to buy fish and meat from a specialist: It is fresher, often local and the portions are so much bigger. I don’t think there is much difference in price bu if buying on the high street is more expensive…well you certainly get more for your money!

All I did was season the salmon with salt and pepper and squeeze over some lime juice. For the horseradish cream I used a tub of creme fraiche which I seasoned with salt and pepper and a pinch of cayenne then stirred in enough horseradish to taste, but not so it is overpowering. I used English Provender horseradish which was excellent.

Ideally, if I’d had the finances, I would have bought the large smoker, but i had no idea how accommodating the small one would be. In the end I was only able to fit three salmon fillets in it at a time, so had to cook in four batches, but I gave myself plenty of time and kept the salmon warm in the bottom of the oven. It was a simple dish; but in this case less was definitely more!

The elder flowers heads were wrapped in muslin and chucked in to heat with milk and cream, to impart a delicate flowery taste to another simple, but effective dish; Elderflower pannacotta. The light creaminess complimented the sweet sharpness of a strawberry and red currant coulis and fresh berries. I think I even saw one person rubbing his finger across the plate to get every last flavourful bit of coulis.

As ever we completed the meal with local Welsh cheeses, crackers and coffee. This time we included two hard but mild goats cheeses from Y Cwt Caws, our usual smoked brie from Derimon, a blue Perl Las from Caws Cenarth in Cardigan and we were lucky enough to be asked to sample a new Brie from Rhyd y Delyn, which was delicious although needed to be slightly riper we all thought.

A few lovely comments about the night, the first from Paola (of Dr Zigs Dragon Bubbles…if you ever need seriously GIANT bubbles these are the guys to call!)

“Just had the most awesome scrummy yummy tastiest glorious omgoodnes meal EVER at Moel Faban secret supper club. And met the most wonderful people! And we Bubbled too!! This is one of those things that just must be experienced to be believed – and really should be on everyone’s bucket list”

and from Anouska whose birthday it was…

“I’ve been eating out with Non for the last ten years and she usually complains about something. This is the first time I have ever heard her say that everything was delicious”

Thanks everyone it was a great night xxx

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Filed under British food, Foraging for fruit, home cooking, local produce, secret supper, Sources and suppliers, sustainable fish, Uncategorized, underground restaurant, welsh cheese