Tag Archives: Conwy Feast

Burmese spiced fish, Conwy Feast and writers block

Writers block is a terrible thing. I want to write. I have lots to say and many stories to write-up of events I’ve attended and people I’ve spoken to in recent weeks. But as soon as it comes to sitting down and transferring my thoughts to paper its like the shutters come down in my head and the words wont flow. This is the reason for my recent silence. Writing, even food writing, needs a bit of mental space and freedom so my thoughts can roam and explore ideas. If I feel stressed, upset, preoccupied with problems or constrained my thoughts are otherwise engaged….no mental space, no writing. Its frustrating. So rather than spend weeks on a full essay, here are some pictures from my Conwy Feast demo and the recipe for the Burmese inspired spiced fish I cooked at the Feast.

Bear with me…I will be back with a vengeance soon….once some of the chaos going on in my life has subsided.

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Burmese spiced fish with coconut milk (to serve 2 people): Takes 20 mins to cook

The prominent flavours that you find in Burmese dishes are heavily influenced by the countries that border it. With Thailand on one side and Bangladesh on the other, both Asian and Indian flavours fuse to create a distinctive and colourful cuisine. This is a favourite dish that I’ve cooked for years and although of course I’ve added to or tinkered with the original ingredients it remains true to the original recipe I found in an old cookbook. These days I often use Thai / sweet basil to enhance the Asian flavours, while of course the vivid yellow colouring created by the turmeric is specifically Indian in origin.

2 thick white fish fillets (monkfish, cod or haddock)

Sunflower oil

1 small onion

1 clove of garlic

Half a thumb sized piece of ginger

Teaspoon turmeric

A small red chilli (home-grown)

Salt to taste

Half a can coconut milk

A small handful of Thai sweet basil (home-grown)

1 juicy lime

Finely chop the onion. Mince garlic, ginger and chilli (seeds removed).

Heat 2 tablespoons sunflower oil in a pan until hot. Add onions and fry quickly over the heat moving continuously for about 5 to 10 minutes, it doesn’t matter if they brown a little. Add garlic, ginger, chilli and turmeric and stir for one minute. Move the onion and garlic mixture to the side of the pan and add the fish fillets skin side down. Fry for 5 minutes or so until the skin starts to turn a golden crispy brown. While its cooking coat the top of the fish with the onion and garlic mixture.  Turn the fish briefly and add the coconut milk and salt to taste. Allow to bubble for about 10 to 15 minutes without covering. Check seasoning and then finish with the juice of a lime and a sprinkling of Thai basi. Serve with plain white rice and perhaps a minty cucumber and tomato salad.

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This fragrant plateful was divided up and between all the avid tasters at the demo!

Photographs courtesy of Kate Withstandley …photographer and art blogger at Exploring Art in the City

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Filed under Asian cookery, Food festival, home cooking, in the press, Indian cooking, local produce, Recipes, Seafood recipes, sustainable fish

Spicing it up with Steenbergs at Conwy Feast

Conwy Feast is my most favourite food festival. Official.

I admit I am somewhat biased. Conwy Feast has a lot going for it. It’s set in the most stunning surroundings, within the walls of Conwy Castle and overlooking the Conwy Estuary, and is right on my doorstep. This of course makes it even more personal because a lot of my friends attend, as do many of my regular supper club / food suppliers. I can’t move but end up in conversation and I love that!

What makes it even better is the superb variety of local music, performance and  entertainment from folk to reggae, latin, capoeira and giant bubbles (yes, lots of friends again…Bandabacana and Tacsi were my two must-see bands this weekend) to enthrall between the tasting and drinking and then just as it starts to get dark and you think it’snearly all over comes the grand finale; Blinc digital arts festival which uses buildings and spaces around the old town as a massive art installation.

Conwy Feast is the second largest food festival in Wales (the biggest in North Wales) and attracts the likes of Bryn Williams of Odettes, Hywel Jones of Lucknam Park and this year Laura Coxeter, vegan and raw food chef from Coxeters Fayre, who cooked along with several well-known local chefs; Jimmy Williams, Elwen Roberts, Angela Dwyer & Ian Watson…plus Gareth Jones, Great British Menu finalist and me!

With this year’s focus on seasonal foods, vegan cookery and local produce I suggested a preserving master class. I’ve run a few designed for beginners and the more advanced, but I wanted to make this one a bit different. For this demo I introduced a variety of more unusual spices kindly provided by the wonderful Steenbergs, UK specialists in organic and fair trade products. I love them and they certainly know their stuff not skimping on quality or beautiful packaging!

I used chilli flakes, mace, star anise, ginger, pink pepper corns and yellow mustard seeds to enhance the flavour of my tomato chillijam and pumpkin marmalade  and a sneaky vanilla pod (plus apple pectin) to pep-up my sugar-free strawberry jam.

I wasn’t sure if the latter was brave or foolhardy as I’d never gone completely sugar-free before, but I thought it was a good opportunity to test it out to see if it would work. In front of a live audience!!

Helped by Stephen, one of the very capable kitchen team from Llandrillo College, compered by Rhun ap Iorwerth BBC journalist, broadcaster and presenter and with my own personal photographer in tow (Kate W photography), I was so busy coordinating chopping, talking to Rhun and stirring three bubbling jam pots simultaneously that I was barely aware of how quickly my demo zoomed by. Before I knew it I had three set jam’s and tasters had been served out to the audience. The pumpkin marmalade was a big hit, the strawberry set even without sugar (proving you can, even if it is a little tart…I’m sure I saw Rhun wince as he tasted it). My one cock-up… testament to my total concentration on stirring and talking… one keen-eyed audience member said to me at the end,

“did you put the cider vinegar in the tomato jam?” to which I turned pale as I realised I hadn’t. Oh well, I’m only human and there was an awful lot to concentrate on. Everyone seemed to like it even without the cider vinegar, although in contrast to the strawberry this one was a bit sweet!!

 

At the end of the demo I promised the recipes, so here they are

Sugar-free strawberry jam:

1 kilo fresh ripe strawberries (mine were frozen ones from Hootons homegrown)

1 vanilla pod split in half

juice of one lemon

half a jar of Ciro apple pectin (available from any large supermarket)

Put all the ingredients into a large pan. Warm gently over a medium heat until it begins to bubble, then turn up the heat so it bubbles a little more fiercely. Stir occasionally until it begins to thicken. Don’t let it stick on the bottom. Test for a set by dropping a teaspoonful on a cold saucer. If it sticks and doesn’t run off it it’s set enough to jar.

** This jam is more volatile than one containing sugar so should be stored in the fridge. It’s more like a compote than a jam really, so you can eat it with toast or stirred into yogurt. If you find it a little too tart and you want to sweeten it with something, perhaps add a dessertspoonful of Agave nectar as I did when I made it again at home. It cuts through the sharpness just enough and has a lower GI than refined sugar making it a better alternative for those avoiding it.

Tomato chilli jam:

1 kilo ripe tomatoes (I used a selection of Moelyci heritage tomatoes)

a small chunk of fresh ginger (finely grated)

3 cloves garlic finely minced

1 fresh chilli minced or a couple of pinches of dried chilli flakes

1 blade of mace

1 star anise

half a teaspoon of crushed coriander seeds

500g granulated sugar

200ml cider vinegar

Warm the tomatoes, ginger, chillies, garlic and spices in a wide preserving pan with the sugar and vinegar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer over a medium heat so it bubbles quite briskly, stirring regularly, for about 20 minutes or until the jam has thickened. Pour into sterilised jars and store.

All photographs copyright Kate W photography. Kate is a London based freelance photographer and is available for commissions. Her photographs have been published in The Stage and The Voice magazines.

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Filed under British food, cookery courses, festival food, Food festival, home cooking, local produce, preserving, Recipes, seasonal food, slow food, Uncategorized

….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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Supper club at Conwy Feast

As I mentioned in my earlier post Conwy Feast this year was bigger and better than ever. I’m a regular attendee and love to discover all the new features they add each year. They know how to keep it fresh and it’s always a lovely surprise to see old favourites and new additions, so you can imagine my excitement at being asked to take part in a special new event. A supper club which was held on the Saturday evening before Blinc.

It all began at the beginning of October when the organisers approached me with the idea of cooking a six dish tasting menu with matched wines alongside Jimmy Williams, Welsh culinary squad gold medal winner and head chef at Signatures restaurant in Conwy and Morfudd Richards, wine expert and restauranteur….home cook versus accomplished chef. I’d originally mentioned that I would like to do a demo so this idea came as a pleasant surprise!

Eeeek… I admit initially I was slightly terrified, rather daunted but also delighted that they’d asked me.It sounded ambitious, but I like a challenge so I didn’t hesitate when I said yes!

Guests paid five pounds a head and since we were very much testing the waters tickets were limited to sixty.  None of us knew what was going to happen, whether people would be interested, whether costs would be covered, so it was a real shot in the dark, but within three days of the tickets being released, half were gone; snapped up presumably by eager supper club and Signatures fans. It all looked very good.

Jimmy and I met, discussed menu’s and planned. He opened up his kitchen to me for preparation, which is where I spent best part of the Friday afternoon and Saturday.  I fretted over not being able to source all my produce locally, not being able to contact my mushroom supplier and whether my venison was too dry and Jimmy spent hours measuring perfect 4cm portions to fit into the tiny tasting dishes. Neither of us had done anything like this before so we were winging it from day one.

Our supper was to take place at 5pm in the True Taste kitchen immediately after Michelin starred chef Bryan Williams. I left the jam stall at 1.30 in order to head over to Signatures to meet up with Jimmy and finish off our prep only to discover my car blocked in. The culprit? The same Bryan Williams. I refrained from having a hissy fit. I kept my cool as he returned to his car looking a little sheepish. Car abandoned I managed to get a lift from one of the festival assistants. I can’t remember his name, I think it was John, but whoever my knight in shining armour was I was very grateful!

We’d been allocated an hour in the prep-kitchen to do our final preparations before the demo at five.  By four o’clock we were all packed into our borrowed van, trays of food precariously placed in the back with commis chef Sam wedged in beside it all in the hope he would stop the stuff from sliding around and my helper Mark driving. It’s all glamour you know!!

Jimmy and Sam in the prep kitchen

We arrived into a busy prep kitchen and promptly had to find ourselves fridge space, oven space, work surface space and plating space. Jimmy seemed to know everyone and I felt like the rogue cook in the camp for a bit, but the Llandrillo college staff and students were really helpful and I soon settled down to what I needed to do.

A little while later Morfudd arrived and grabbed me saying,

you must be Denise” as she planted a couple of kisses on either cheek before dragging me off to taste all the wine she’d selected for my food.  Next I was introduced to Sian Lloyd ITV weather and TV presenter who was hosting the event. With about five minutes to go before we were due to cook Sian asked,

so what are we doing”?

Jimmy and I looked blankly at each other “dunno” we both replied.

“Who’s directing?” she tried again. We still looked blank.

“well does anyone know what’s happening?”

waiting in the prep kitchen

We grabbed Fiona the organiser, who helped us map out a rushed itinerary, the ordering of how the dishes would be served and when the wine samples would be handed out and Jimmy and I decided who would cook first. While outside the they tried to work out who had paid for their tickets and who hadn’t. It was all done on the hoof, but by 5.15, only fifteen minutes late we were ready to go.

I described how to hot smoke fish and put my trout on to cook, Jimmy prepared his sea bass and the first samples were sent out to the waiting group of guests. We talked about our main courses and then I demonstrated my caramel (which for the record did end up burning…but not during the demo, it jut didn’t cool down quickly enough at the end).  All in all though for a new, untried event I think it came off very well. If overheard comments were anything to go by the guests loved it, they thought the food was fantastic and I for one didn’t even have a hint of nerves, in fact I had a ball.

Yes of course there were a few glitches, but hey it was a pilot and we all learnt from the experience. Jimmy says if we do it again he will put away his ruler and I reckon I need to work harder on my food ordering and costings (I definitely over spent on the venison!).

So are we doing it again next year I hear you ask? Well that is in the hands of the organisers. We have a year to work on it so watch this space!

 

Jimmy's perfect portions 🙂

The menu’s and wine:

Me:

Hot smoked local rainbow trout with horseradish cream on a bed of carrot and beetroot slaw (courtesy of Ellie and Rosie at Salad Club) and winter leaves

  • Las Medallas Manzanilla, Spain

Roast venison haunch with wild mushrooms, dry cure bacon and herbs, potato dauphinoise and buttered wilted kale

  • 2008 Rasteau, Cotes du Rhone villages, Dom de Escaravailles, France

Pear tatin with vanilla salted caramel and Black Mountain cream

  • 2007 Royal Tokajii Aszu 5 putt, Hungary
Jimmy:
Seared Anglesey sea bass on fresh tagliatelle with a Conwy mussel broth.
  • 2010 Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur lie, Loire, France
Shoulder of Welsh lamb, root vegetable dauphinoise and red wine sauce.
  • 2010 Zarcillo Pinot noir, Chile
Glazed lemon tart with raspberry sorbet.

  • 2007 Ballet D’Octobre, Dom Cauhape, Jurancon, France

My suppliers:

  • Beetroot & carrots and potatoes – Pippa and John small holders in Bethel who run a vegetable box scheme (otherwise known as ‘them two over there’)
  • Local venison-Williams & son, butchers in Bangor
  • Wild mushroomsThe Mushroom Garden
  • Dry cure bacon – Williams & son butchers, Bangor
  • Fresh herbs (parsley & thyme) and kale – Moelyci environmental centre (market garden)
  • Butter (unsalted) – Calon Wen
  • Salted butter-The Victorian Farm Food Company, Shropshire
  • Sea salt and vanilla salt – Halen Mon
  • Black Mountain liqueur –Celtic spirit company
  • Olive oil – Petros

On a personal note I want to say a massive thank you to all the producers that gave me free samples to use in my demo, to Mark and Sam for making lovely looking samples in the tiniest of dishes and for being the perfect commis chef’s, to the staff and students of Llandrillo college for being helpful and professional and being lovely to this strange woman who breezed in, in her flowery sundress and tights, to the organisers of Conwy Feast for taking a chance with this (and me), to Sian and Morfudd for being generally lovely and making the event relaxed and informal, to Jimmy for opening up his kitchen to me and of course to Sean, Sophie, Rosie and Becky for holding the fort, flogging my jam and chutney and being the perfect PR assistants for supper club.

Denise x

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Conwy Feast & Blinc in pictures: just a few of my favourite things

I think you will see a few posts popping up here over the coming week about the fantastic Conwy Feast. There was so much to see, hear and taste that it was a weekend that fed all the senses. With both Conwy Feast and Blinc (Wales’s first digital arts festival) running concurrently its no surprise that the usually sleepy, walled medieval town of Conwy saw around 25,000 people visit over the weekend. Even the sun shone for us!

And what a weekend it was!.Since it began in 2003 the Conwy Feast has rapidly grown into the second largest food festival in Wales. It attracts a wide array of foodies from all over the country and its patron Bryn Williams of Odettes in London returns to demonstrate year after year. Other regular visitors include the two Sian Lloyd’s (from BBC and ITV), chefs Aled Williams (of Cennin in Beaumaris) and Hywel Jones (Michelin starred chef from Lucknam Park) who like Bryn have flown the flag for Wales as part of the Great British Menu and Bryan Webb, chef and patron of Tyddyn Llan Michelin starred restaurant in Llandrillo near Corwen. This year also saw Morfudd Richards attend for my ticket only supper club event, where Jimmy Williams from Signatures restaurant and I cooked a three course tasting menu with wine. More on this in my next post.

For now though I want to share some of the sights and images that summed up the weekend for me. From the huge array of fantastic Welsh produce just waiting to be tasted, the great array of local musical talent that played across two stages and culminating in the amazing Blinc projections on Conwy Castle on Saturday night. What more can I say…we had a brilliant time.

Conwy mussel boats in the harbour

my little jam stall in Fresh: the new producers tent

Vegan cupcakes from Aderyn Melys...taste totally divine and look beautiful as well

yummy truffles on my next door neighbours stall

Pretty patterns on the handmade butter, churned on site from the Victorian Farm Food Co. in Shropshire

Gemma looking pleased at punch to see the labels she designed for me on the jars

Welsh produce from around the festival, old favourites and new discoveries

Pen-y-Lan sausages…very very moorish

The outdoor cafe with its ’30 mile menu’. Three courses made with exclusively local produce.

Apples and honey at the Anglesey Apple Company…they do the most fab fresh pressed apple juice

Cynan selling his local shiitake and oyster mushrooms from The Mushroom Garden…now regularly bought by Michelin star restaurants. I used his mushrooms in my supper club menu, they are the best.

Beautiful bread from Scilicorns bakery in Llanrwst….their polish bread is my favourite.

everything you always wanted to know about apples from Ian Sturrock grower of rare, organic, Welsh fruit trees and discoverer of the Bardsey Island Apple (which led to a resurgence in interest in rare breeds). I have two of his trees in my garden.

A bar full of Welsh draught beer

Charcuterie from Trealy Farm….Love by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall I can see why; I loved their sweet chorizo and venison chorizo so I just had to buy a selection while I had the chance.

Fantastic shutters in Elizabethan town house Plas Mawr, one of the fantastic locations for some of the Blinc digital installations.

And the grand finale….

Blinc: projections on Conwy Castle

Blinc projections on Conwy Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Anglesey Oyster festival

Celtic spirit liqueurs...Black Mountain is amazing!

Local food festivals here in North Wales do bizarrely seem to happen during he Autumn months when the weather is at its most unpredictable. The first day of the 13th Anglesey Oyster festival coincided with the Ogwen produce market (where I was cooking and selling my jams and chutney). It was a wet miserable day and I wondered if it was as slow over there as it was for us in Bethesda. It didn’t look good for Sunday and I didn’t much feel like a wet trip out, but as the new day dawned, the rain miraculously disappeared. Thankfully it stayed away for most of the day but by heck was it windy!

The Anglesey Oyster festival started as a small yearly social event where island residents gathered to eat lots of oysters, drink lots of bubbly and be entertained by the best of local bands and musicians. Over the past few years though it has become much more of a general local food festival, with less emphasis on the seafood element. This year even more so since oyster stocks have become so depleted. A well documented virus has hit the oyster beds hard (which might explain why the prices were so high!….£7 for one oyster and a glass of bubbly, is it just me or is that just too expensive?)

So I managed to get myself together and popped over for a well needed day of rest and relaxation. Unfortunately with a couple of reluctant kids in tow and my camera running out of battery on arrival, it wasn’t quite the chilled afternoon I’d hoped for. But hey, I was out! I know, I could have left them behind but I knew they’d enjoy it when they got there and having a family day was rather nice. I also wanted to meet up with some of the producers with whom I do regular business to chat about the forthcoming Conwy Feast.

It’s a small festival. More of a glorified two-day produce market really, but worth a visit if you are visiting Anglesey or happen to live in the area. I think it’s just as good for kids to a point; prepare to be fleeced and probably a few quid lighter by the time you leave and don’t expect to linger so you can watch demo’s. All I heard for the first half an hour was

“Mum, can I have this…mum can we get this apple juice, you know I love it…mum I really neeeeed these peppermint creams”

and by the time I’d stated that was IT, nothing else. They became quickly bored and wanted to go to the park. I didn’t get to watch any of the food demos because of their boredom. I should have come alone!

The other problem with food festivals is the cost. They are not for those without disposable income unfortunately. It would be nice to encourage more people to enjoy local produce, but sadly prices seem to be prohibitive. It is the same at Conwy, but at least there are lots of tasting opportunities and plenty of entertainment for the £10 weekend ticket price (£7 Saturday and £6 Sunday if you just come for the day).

I continued to amble slowly, trying and acquiring as I went along. I knew most people there and am very grateful to Cynan at the Mushroom Garden for the bag of wild mushrooms (to try out in my menu for next weeks demo), Ari for the bowl of olives “just to nibble as I walk round” and Carol at Condessa for the free sample of Black Mountain, a delicious heavenly apple and blackcurrant infused brandy. I wasn’t however going to pay £7 for bubbly and one solitary oyster.

The Conwy Feast in contrast is very much a family friendly event. It is now the second largest food festival in Wales and attracts the likes of Michelin star chefs Brain Webb and Hywel Jones plus Bryn Williams and Aled Williams who have flown the flag for Wales on the GReat British Menu along with Hywel. There are kids cookery classes, various events across the town on several stages, demos, live music across three stages and this year the festival coincides with Blinc the first Welsh digital Arts Festival. It really is all going on in Conwy next weekend and I am as excited as a five-year old in a sweet shop, at being asked to cook there! Lets just hope the rain gives us a break.

 

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Conwy Feast and Keralan spiced squash in the press

I’m very excited to announce that I will be cooking at this years Conwy Feast. On Saturday 22nd October ITV weather presenter Sian Lloyd will be hosting  a ‘secret supper’, where chef Jimmy Williams from Signatures restaurant and myself will be preparing and serving a range of dishes in the True Taste kitchen. Starting at 5pm we will cook a selection of simple, but delicious dishes that you can recreate at home to impress your friends and family. Wine expert Morfudd Richards will then lead guests through a guided wine tasting with wine specially chosen to match the food.

Tickets will be available online soon and will cost £5, but be quick as numbers are restricted to 50 to keep the feel of the dinner small and intimate.

On the theme of cooking at home, the North Wales Daily Post recently published my recipe for a seasonal Keralan spiced squash with coconut and beetroot and yogurt raitha. I last cooked this for a vegetarian / vegan dinner back last year and it went down very well so give it a try this autumn.

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Hello i’m back!!…and here’s what’s in store for September and October

Phew!! Its been a whirlwind month at the Green Man festival and it feels somewhat strange being back in my own house and not having to get up at six every morning to cook breakfast lunch and dinner for 50 people every day.

What with the long hours and intermittent internet access I have little time to think about the outside world, living in a self-contained little bubble, where everyone becomes family (albeit a somewhat dysfunctional one at times).   I made a lot of great friends, had a whale of a time but I’m glad to return to the real world.

But now that Autumn is creeping up on us, the kids are going back to school and holiday time is drawing to a close its time to look ahead. With so many exciting things coming up I have no time to feel sad about the end of summer and I really can’t wait for the Autumn and Winter!

Our next scheduled supper club is Saturday 1st October and unfortunately (or fortunately for me) it is already full. But do not fear, there will be plenty of other opportunities to attend.

On Saturday 5th November we are planning a bonfire and fireworks supper club where we will be serving lots of yummy warming food for a cold November, mulled wine, spiced punch, treacle tart and parking topped off with a bonfire and some fireworks to ooh and aah to.

and then Saturday 26th November which will have lots of hearty, wintry dishes

During September look closely and you will also find me at the Ogwen local Produce market (Saturday 10th September and Saturday 8th October) with freshly made jams and chutney’s; I will also be helping out Ellie and Rosie from Salad Club with their food stall at Harvest at Jimmy’s in Oxfordshire (9th – 11th September)  and at Conwy Feast doing a food demo and again with my Jam and Chutney stall (22nd -23rd October) more details to follow.

On 13th September and 22nd November I will be running a seasonal cookery course for  Moelyci Environmental Centre. Contact Naomi in the office for more details.

If none of these dates suit then feel free to call or email to discuss private bookings and bespoke cookery courses.

Look forward to hearing from youor seeing you over the coming months

Denise xxx

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Filed under baking, British food, cookery courses, home cooking, living room restaurant, local produce, produce markets, secret supper, Uncategorized, underground restaurant

Food, sun, rain, cider, mussels, tv chefs and local produce: the weekend had it all

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View of the quayside and the food festival marquees from the top of Conwy Castle

Conwy feast; two days of food, changeable weather, tv chefs and a variety of activities. Generally I love the Conwy feast but this year it felt a bit of  a scrum. I don’t know if it was because some of the marquees had moved from their previous location (squeezing in beside the rest on the quayside) or that there were just more people there, but it felt too crowded, which made it almost impossible for me to see or do half of the things I wanted to.

The weather didn’t bode well on the Saturday morning with lashing rain and sideways wind. Thankfully and against expectation it had cleared up by midday. This was also the time that I managed to get the teenagers out of bed and ready to leave. So much for the early start! I’d also had to make a last-minute dash to my neighbours who were checking the Welsh translation on my flyers, he’d lost the flyer so the pair of them had to do a quick run through in order for me to make some corrections. There were a few…Welsh mutations are baffling if you ask me!!!

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Conwy Castle

Giant pumpkin

By the time we arrived the festival was packed. Although it was good to see so many people there supporting local producers and having a great time, it was impossible with kids to get through the crowds. We all lost each other, my mate couldn’t find us and the kids started to moan, they were hungry, it was too busy, they wanted to sit down, they wanted to meet friends, it was boring. I found it rather stressful too as I obviously had too many priorities, kids, meeting producers and tasting, making contacts and so on. With hindsight I should have had a ‘me’ day and a family day. Oh well we live and learn! All in all Saturday was a wee bit stressful, but we did get to do a bit of tasting. Conwy mussels for lunch, nice but a bit too salty and buttery.

The favourites of the day were the Anglesey apple juice, chocolate pudding from the pudding compartment , the usual cheeses from Y Cwt Caws and Derimon and from the Snowdonia Cheese Company plus various alcoholic beverages from Condessa and plenty of spiced cider!!

We also chatted to Ian Sturrock, who provided us with our organic apple tress and signed up to receive our weekly bread supplies (including speciality sourdough bread for supper club) from local artisan baker Mick Hartley of Bethesda Bakers . I believe he has been mentioned in the Guardian and he does pretty much the same as us in the ‘pop-up restaurant’ world except he has a ‘pop-up’ bakery. For those in the Conwy Llanrwst area we found out that Conwy food direct are planning a local food delivery service.

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Conwy mussels (mine are better though; these were too buttery and salty)

Apple juice and local apples

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the lovely, helpful assistant at the Condessa stall

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Medieval food

Sunday was better. The teens decided not to come, so did the other half. I ended up going back to the festival with my friend, her daughter and the little un. We hung out in the castle looking at  medieval food, tasting medieval recipes and doing kid stuff. We then went off to the quayside and watched Bryn Williams (of Odettes restaurant in London) poncing around with umpteen film crews around. But i did manage to do a bit more tasting and some shopping in the farmers market. While doing so Bryn and his film crew turned up again causing maximum chaos in the packed out marquee as he ostentatiously sniffed at the vegetables (while I tried to hide from the camera. I’m sure they thought I was a stalker). Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to see any of his demonstrations, or those by Colin Presdee (author of Food Wales), or hand out that many flyers due to the masses of people and the stroppy kids. But it was a good weekend even if i’m skint now!!

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Bryn Williams doing his thing

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Filed under festival food, Food festival, local produce, produce markets, Sources and suppliers