Tag Archives: chutney

North Wales Daily Post food hero nomination and Welsh blogging awards

I was very excited to find myself nominated as a Local Food Hero in the North Wales Daily post on Tuesday.

It was a lovely piece that made me feel rather proud to have started my little supper club. I still love doing it as much as when I started, which unbelievably will be two years in October. We’ve come a long way since our first dinner. I’ve learnt many things; tried many new recipes, making up many of my own along the way as part of the journey and I’ve met some wonderful people from across Wales and further afield (Belgium springs to mind!) who I would never have met had it not been for these dinners in my living room.

There have been lots of nice articles about us in the press and of course the infamous Britain’s Best Dish appearance, which came about by an ITV researcher reading my blog.

Of course that’s not all, so many other things have sprung out of the experiment: I now sell my own jams and chutney (that have always been so popular at supper club) at the Ogwen local produce market and run a monthly pop-up brunch there, I have an increasing number of requests for private dinners and have bookings to cook for two weddings!

What next you ask? Well on the third of August I’m off to Crickhowell for ten days to cook for a very hungry Green Man festival crew, followed by another 5 day stint after the festival. More on this to follow. This will take me to the end of August when I will take my well-earned holiday!!

In the meantime, for those of you that enjoy reading my blog, have read my reviews or used my recipes, it would be fantastic if you could drop a line to the Welsh blog awards suggesting little old me!

Thanks everyone…keep reading and enjoying my foodie ideas and supper club dinners

Denise x

 

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Filed under British food, home cooking, living room restaurant, local produce, Pop-up cafe, preserving, produce markets, secret supper, underground restaurant

Baking, birthday dinners and spring fairs

I always say it but it has been a busy week. This weekend saw two big events take place, the first a private birthday supper club and the second my first ‘official’ produce stall for which I have slaved over a hot stove for the last two months. Planning and prepping for supper club, as well as the stall proved a challenge in itself, but on top of that I have worked with my marketing and publicity expert (the lovely Gemma) on jam jar labels (in the printers in time for the fair) and business cards. To make life that bit more complicated my broadband went down on Wednesday hence my lack of blogging and the need to do all things by blackberry (very fiddly and annoying).

As Friday afternoon approached I wondered if I had taken on too much yet again, but just as it always does everything worked out well in the end. We collected the cards and labels at four and were back home in time to watch me embarrass myself on national TV. Oh well, every programme needs stockings, lace and tears…if only it hadn’t all been added by me!

I spent the rest of Friday until about midnight labelling jam and writing ingredients in not one, but two languages (I am resolutely bilingual when it comes to selling produce locally). I gave up at about midnight having fretted over how to say ‘best before’ in Welsh and guessing that my friends would not take kindly to a text at that time asking this.

Saturday started with an early trip to the farmers market for cheeses and fresh vegetables and then a visit to Moelyci for the rest. Gemma (mentioned above) had made some specific requests for her birthday dinner: Beef, halloumi, celeriac, purple sprouting broccoli,lots of garlic and cheese. She was less specific about dessert, stating

“I’m all about the main course”

but she did say she liked dark chocolate…and maybe chocolate mousse. The menu went like this

Smoked halloumi salad (compliments of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)

Braised fillet of beef with garlic, rosemary and Copa di Parma

Celeriac gratin

I then added to that mashed potato with wild garlic and an amazing asparagus and parmesan gratin which was basically a souffle mix with asparagus laid into it. This was for particularly for the lone vegetarian, but it went down well with the others too and as this was the first of the new season asparagus, I was unable to resist. It wasn’t cheap, but it was certainly worth it. The light delicate tips and thin spears perfectly fused with the parmesan, encased in light and fluffy souffle.

local asparagus, first of the season

table setting

cocktails

plating smoked halloumi salads

basic souffle mix with asparagus and parmesan ready to go in the oven

beef fillets wrapped in Copa di Parma braising on red Barolo wine with red onions and celery

plating beef and wild garlic mash

Dessert was a bit of a disappointment for me even though everyone seemed to love it . Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason why something works perfectly one day and doesn’t the next and on this occasion the dark chocolate mousse, which I have made many times before,  resolutely refused to set perfectly, remaining stubbornly gloopy much to my annoyance. It was served with some buttery home-made shortbread which at least made up for the annoying mousse. While I was at it I made a good batch of biscuits for the Moelyci spring fair the following day.

chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce and shortbread

This was by far the most glamorous dinner I have hosted. Gemma and gang pushed the boat out turning up in their best long and floaty summer dresses, hair adorned with flowers and sporting sky-high heels oblivious to the uphill trek to my house. They all looked gorgeous. Dinner itself was, apart from that damn mousse, a great success. At one point Gemma was overheard making loud noises of appreciation…I said “well I think that’s gone down well” as she appeared in the doorway and exclaimed  “oh my God, that is the BEST bit of beef I have EVER had”. The next day I spotted comments on Facebook stating that “I am never eating anywhere else again” which confirmed that she’d had a great night.

cheese board of local produce and home-made chutney

Cheese and coffee were followed by birthday cake, made not by me but one of Gemma’s friends, in the shape of a giant Jaffa cake, complete with orange and Cointreau jelly in the middle and I giant flamethrower, firework, candle thingy on top. I feared for my safety and watched the low beams in the living room for signs of charring but mercifully the fire alarms stayed silent and the beams remained white and unburnt. I like the fact that all the stray kids that littered our house gathered to peer through the banisters, probably in the hope that something very dramatic would happen.

highly dangerous flamethrower candle

you can see the kids in the background waiting for it all to go wrong!

By about 11.30 they all teetered off down the very steep hill in their very high heels. I watched and wondered if my insurance covered broken ankles.

The following morning started bright and early and as glorious sunshine beamed down, I packed the car up with Jams, biscuits and fresh meringues for my first day as a produce seller at the Moelyci spring fair. I hoped the good weather would mean that everybody would be out for a day in the sun and I wasn’t wrong. The beautiful mountain surroundings of Moelyci farm on a hot sunny day appeared to bring out half the local population: kids, dogs and every hippy within a 10 mile radius turned out for a picnic on the hillside. Giant bubbles drifted on the breeze, morris dancers with jangling bells and silly outfits entertained, as well as a variety of local acoustic musicians. Even though us stall holders were somewhat confined to our covered marquee, we still had a very good day, so good that in fact I sold 52 jars of jam, marmalade and lemon curd. Amazing!!!

the stall

a few other goodies

All in all it was a fantastic weekend!

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Filed under baking, British food, home cooking, local produce, Organic meat, secret supper, Sources and suppliers, Uncategorized, underground restaurant

Local food, foraging and an Autumn supper

One of the things I have noticed since I started hosting supper club is that I use the supermarket less and less…not just when sourcing for suppers but for all of my everyday purchases. Okay, there are some things I struggle to get elsewhere, or at least for a competative price, but the majority of the food that now enters my house is locally produced. As a result of this we as a family eat better, have great foodie contacts and are no longer drowing in a sea of plastic (since I stopped supermarket shopping my plastic recycling has been cut by two thirds). Carbon footprint successfully reduced!!

This weekend was the epitome of local. Hosting a harvest supper club made the most of everything local and seasonal…from the Nantmor wild mushrooms, to foraged blackberries and Bramley apples. Vegetables came from Moelyci as usual and extras from Hootons home grown in Anglesey…while over that way I bought sea salt from Halen Mon, arguably the best salt I’ve ever used and well worth the drive over (or the order on the internet). The chicken and dry cure bacon came from my usual Butcher Willams & son and the extras I used for experimenting with vegan dishes from a local whole food shop in Bangor.

We entertained a group of seven (one person was unable to join us on the night) with one vegan guest and two having travelled over from Chester (a good hour away!!) traeting them to five courses of hearty harvest fare.

The menu was as follows:

Margarita cocktails and Focaccia

Surprise Tatin with mixed leaves (another winning recipe from the Ottolenghi cookbook, although I changed the goats cheese for feta cheese on this occassion)

Chicken with dry cure bacon, wild mushrooms and marsala (a recipe I have made for supper club previously,  but since it is wild mushroom season I thought I’d reprise it)

Mushroom and Leek risotto (adapted from a recipe in an American Vegetarian book I was given years ago as a present called Fields of Greens) , buttered Kale

Blackberry and apple crumble with home made vanilla custard (the crumble was perked up with some mixed pumpkin and sesame seeds, pine nuts and flaked almonds and a hand full of rolled oats)

Local strong cheeses (Golau Glas, Caws from Rhyd y Delyn and Black Bomber) with apple chutney and spiced courgetter chutney) and coffee

Although we were entertaining a relatively small number, we ended up a bit stretched this time and I had a bit of a panic over the main course, which required me to have two sets of hands to keep everything stirred, turned and evenly cooked. The teen was still on crutches, leaving Sean to do the bulk of the running about,  but she bravely worked on (her choice, I did tell her she didn’t have to but her desire for pay outweighed the pain) and she did her best. She finally conked out after dessert, collapsing in a heap in the lounge upstairs.Pain got the better of her although I also wondered if the Margarita’s she’d mixed on the sly had contributed.

The Ottolenghi  tatin was amazing, even if I say so myself! I was so impressed at how well it turned out I had to take it out to show the guests. One said ‘wow, it looks fantastic’ and I replied ‘sorry, you can’t have it it’s not vegan’. She looked totally crestfallen, until I told her i’d made her some individual chick pea blinis with tomato and lime salsa which cheered her up again.

With the main course I realised that cooking too many things on the top of the stove at the same time was a monumental error. It almost led to the risotto spoiling, but mercifully with lots of shaking it stayed nice and wet and only stuck to the pan a tiny bit. I served the vegan portion before ladling in the butter, which added to the richness along with the wild chanterelles, shitake and chestnut mushrooms.

Dessert was a good old fashioned blackberry and apple crumble with some added nuts, seeds and oats in the crumble mix served with fresh vanilla custard. I wasn’t keen on using the vegan butter alternative. I’m sure it doesn’t taste as good and it feels like a bit of  cheat sometimes so I contacted Emma at Earth kitchen for some ideas on making vegan mousse, whips etc. She sent me a recipe for Anglesey Delight; a vegan, raw food dessert using coconut oil and Agave syrup as thickeners and sweeteners. I did a bit of experimenting and substituted slowly cooked blackberry and apple puree for her Avocado and Mango. The coconut oil, melted by warming in a bowl of hot water, whilst still in the jar, certainly thickened the fruit mixture and made a lovely smooth whip, but although it was nice tasting I thought the coconut overpowered the fruit taste too much. To tone it down I made a simple blackberry and apple compote and marbled the two together. I explained to our vegan guest that it was an experiment and if she wasn’t sure about it she could just have some compote. Thankfully she liked it. She liked the undertones of the coconut and said that it gave the dessert a creaminess that you obviously don’t get with a simple compote.

Later, while the others tucked into cheese (well those who still had enough room) Debbie, the vegan enjoyed her own little individual red pepper, almond and garlic pate.

Lessons learned. Don’t let the teen make Margaritas; don’t try and cook more than three things, on a four ring domestic cooker all at once and make sure any experimenting is done well in advance to avoid shredded nerves on the night!

cherry tomatos halved and ready for roasting

potatoes, tomatos, feta and fresh oregano layered and then covered with puff pastry

the cooked tatin

plating the tatins, with green mixed leaves and herbs and the vegan chickpea blinis with tomato lime salsa

plating chicken with dry cure bacon and wild mushrooms on risotto and kale

layering the blackberry and apple with crumble being sprinkled on

cooked and bubbling blackberry and apple crumble

our dinner guests enjoying dessert

The following day, instead of having a nice Sunday lie in, I was up bright and early and off to spend the day wild food foraging with Simon Maskrey, the Ray Mears of the Welsh Mountains. My hope was that in addition to spending a sunny day in the fresh air, I would learn more about edible wild plants and where to find them. In particular I wanted to learn more about wild mushroom habitats.

Anyone around these parts that likes food and foraging, and knows where to find wild mushrooms, especially chanterelles, tends to shroud their knowledge in a veil of secrecy! Dare to ask anyone where they get chanterelles and they will turn quickly away and tell you in no uncertain terms to go find your own patch. I have tried both stealth and innocence when attempting to ascertain the best location, “oh look at them, where did they come from then?” with an innocent look on my face usually has little success…so you can imagine my surprise when Rosie (one the other course attendees) happily chatted about the chanterelles she’d picked and when asked where she found them proceeded to give me the location of ‘her’ patch. I didn’t hint at my excitement. A little later Simon started to talk about mushroom foraging. He too explained that most people refuse to tell others about their secret locations. It was at this point that Rosie turned to look at me, the penny finally dropping as to what she had done. After staring long and hard she finally said “of course, you do realise I will have to kill you now”?

The course gave us the opportunity to find and pick a variety of edible wild plants, the type that I wouldn’t have usually thought of using and at the end of our collecting I made salad for my lunch. Most foragers are well aware of the usual finds; blackberries, damsons, plums, crab apples, sloes, ramsons (wild garlic) and even sorrel. But I always thought for example that yew berries were poisonous; it’s actually only the stone that’s poisonous, but to be honest I’d have to be desperate to want to eat them as they have the consistency of slug slime and snot. We did pick a variety of plants and herbs (sorrel, bitter cress, fat hen, chickweed and something I’ve forgotten the name of but it looks like a navel!!). We also found burdock (the root can be used in the autumn for dandelion and burdock and of course all parts of the dandelion can be used) and got very wet feed searching for wild mint but unfortunately found no edible wild mushrooms.

The most important lesson I learned was that the best time to pick plants is according to the growing season, for example, in the spring the plant puts its energy into producing new growth, therefore in the spring pick the fresh shoots and leaves, in the summer it’s the flowers and in the autumn and winter the fruit, berries and then roots.

Bitter cress

a sorrel leaf

The bizarely named 'fat hen'

navel wort

bitter cress in situ

foraged salad in he woods...with Moelyci tomatoes (the best toms I have EVER tasted)

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Filed under baking, Foraging for fruit, home cooking, local produce, secret supper, Sources and suppliers, underground restaurant, welsh cheese