Tag Archives: crew catering

Black pudding regrets and other Green Man food stories…

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Early morning haze over Glanusk

Every August I disappear into the hills of Brecon to cook for the crew and production of the Green Man Festival. It’s a fantastic, frantic, hard-working month filled with highs and lows, time spent catching up with friends and making new ones, parties, hangovers, sleepless nights, topped finally by one big festival in the middle. Every year I intend to catch up with writing over the few days I have a break, but always I fail. Tiredness catches up and my brain just can’t compute.

This was my third consecutive year so I’ve pretty much cracked the routine bit and so with Lizzie my assistant from last year we ran like a well oiled machine! We even had an extra pair of hands to help with washing up! This gave me more time to think about being creative with the cooking. Even though we work to a budget I still like to experiment and try new dishes. Old favourites, big one pot meals and hearty pies make up the staple diet but it doesn’t take much to create well-flavoured, tasty grub and as ever our efforts are greatly appreciated. In fact even as we sat down to dinner at The Bear (our traditional first night on site evening out) talk turned to what was on the menu for my first week of cooking and everyone has their special request….fish pie, cottage pie and a good curry, which along with the Welsh cheese board, honey baked gammon and vast array of cakes, have become standard Green Man fare. I try to vary the menu to keep things fresh. This year I cooked my first crew roast dinner, finally getting over my fear of screwing up the timings for so many people so I braved it.

Spiced pulled pork with crispy crackling followed by warm chocolate torte with ganache was the triumph of the week…and the dinner that saw me peak too soon! The torte, as expected, was so good it broke a few grown men. Ben arrived in the morning claiming he would not be eating cakes and puddings this year..before devouring two lots of chocolate torte the same evening. Another was overheard declaring “holy shit!!” as he took a mouthful….I took that as a compliment).

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Spiced roast pork

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The cake that broke a thousand men…warm chocolate torte with ganache and strawberries

By Monday the numbers had increased and I never quite reached the heady heights of that dinner again.  Embarking on a lemon meringue pie for fifty with home-made pastry, nearly gave me a nervous breakdown as I struggled to get it ready on time and my battles with a temperamental Aga raged over the week…its constant use meant it cooled down rapidly refusing to cook the food. Fair enough if you have all the time in the world, not so good if you have half an hour until dinner and the carrots still haven’t come to the boil. We peered despondently into the pot willing them to be ready in time….they weren’t, and dinner was half an hour late.

Still, we hit a few high’s; poached pears with rum and cinnamon caused our dairy free crew member to come over all unnecessary, potato pancakes at breakfast got everyone a bit excited and of course cake formed the basis of everything…even a bit of sculpting to mark out the stage set-up

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Hi-tec design: main stage and speaker lay out in cake

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“How will I live without potato pancakes” (Tash)

and lots of black and white pudding was consumed…over heard from the kitchen…

“I’m having black pudding regrets”

“From eating it?”

No, from not eating it”

Being part of the Green Man experience is unique. It’s hard to explain to others the family feeling this festival evokes. As a group we spend time with people we might only see once a year, live closely together and share the excitement, the highs and the lows of building a festival. We see the love, care and attention that goes in to every bit of the build and the dramas that go with it. We gear ourselves up for the party, almost to the point of elation and then its over in a flash and we find ourselves on the other side tired, broken and bereft as the family goes its separate ways. Its hard and emotional but worth every second.

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The Green Man team (for the build): Claire, me and Lizzie

And as the tiredness creeps in, it gets harder to stay creative and on the ball. One kitchen, an Aga blasting out its heat twenty-four hours a day as the sun beats down outside, it’s easy to end up a bit hot and bothered, distracted and lacking focus…although to be fair on this occasion I can’t just blame that on the heat in the kitchen ….but that’s another story altogether.

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The Green Man cake diaries (part one)

Curry and tins of lemon cake photo courtesy of Lizzie Morrell

If there is one thing the crew of the Green Man love as much as their cheese its cake. Lots and lots of cake.

During my cooking stint I made more cake than I probably make at home in a year. I baked cake with fruit, cake without, steamed sponge cake, plain sponge cake, cake with jam, cake with cream, cake with caramel sauce and cake with chocolate. We made cake for lunch, for afternoon tea and various sponges for dessert after dinner. If we didn’t make cake we made pudding (bread pudding, sponge pudding) or flapjacks. We even made dairy free cakes (more on the challenges of that in another post).

Cake became such a fixation that it even penetrated the radio system used by the crew to communicate with one another….at four o’clock a lone voice could be heard crackling across the airwaves, “cake or death”? (For anyone unfamiliar with Eddie Izzard’s cake or death’ sketch check it out here…this is my nine-year old son’s favourite version).

Huge tray of Apple sponge photo courtesy of Lizzie Morrell

Anyway, now you understand how much they love cake you will perhaps get some insight into just how many we had to bake. It’s hard to keep the choice varied and although we are full of good ideas at the beginning this becomes increasingly difficult as the days roll on and our cake repertoire becomes depleted, our energy levels droop and our enthusiasm for baking cake begins to wane.

To ease the burden we bought in a few staples (bara brith and Welsh cakes from Askews bakery) but that crew are a picky bunch and they inevitably chose the ‘posh’ freshly made cakes over the simple buttered bara brith (even though it is delicious) leaving it rejected on the side of the tray.

At home I make dessert maybe once or twice a week and bake cakes even less often (unless required for supper club). At the Green Man there were times we made three cakes a day! And not just any normal sized cake either, but industrial quantities, six times the usual recipe, in huge trays. We made so much cake that Kate, from the production team really did start a cake diary!!

Over the past two years I have discovered that the crew have a few favourites….so with that in mind here is our very own cake diary with a list of our top festival bakes (with recipes for all of those that asked!)

1. Rich chocolate cake or chocolate mousse cake with strawberries and cream or chocolate brownies

All a variation on a theme, that theme being chocolate. Whether it be Nigella’s chocolate mousse cake or Hugh FW’s chocolate brownies (recipe below taken from his book Everyday), everyone loves something with chocolate in it and this version is very hard to beat!

  • 250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 275g dark chocolate (about 70 per cent cocoa solids), broken into pieces
  •  3 medium eggs
  •  125g caster sugar
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 150g self-raising flour (I use wholemeal, but white works well too)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

Grease a shallow baking tin, about 20 x 25cm, and line with baking parchment. Put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Set the oven to 180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4 and put the bowl in it until the chocolate and butter start to melt. Stir, then put back in until completely melted. Meanwhile whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until combined. Next beat in the melted chocolate and butter until smooth then fold in the sifted flour and salt gently with a large metal spoon. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The top should be firm but the underneath should still be a little moist. The heat will help finish the cooking process and if you leave it in too long they will become dry.  Remove from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool before cutting into squares.

2. Lemon trickle cake

Recipe taken from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s book Everyday as well. Its pretty similar to most other lemon trickle cake recipes, or in fact any Victoria sponge cake recipes.

175g unsalted butter, 175g caster sugar, zest of three lemons, 3 eggs, 175g self-raising flour, a pinch of sea salt and a drop of milk or lemon juice if needed.

Grease and line a 1 litre (2lb) loaf tin and preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170 degrees C.

beat together the softened butter and caster sugar with a hand blender. It should be very pale and creamy. Add the lemon zest and eggs one at a time with a spoonful of flour each time to prevent the mixture curdling.

Fold in the remaining flour and salt. If the mixture is a bit stiff add a drop of milk or lemon juice to make it looser. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 45 to 50 minutes. It should have risen quite well and started to split on the top.

While the cake is still warm pierce the top with a thin skewer  making lots of little holes all over the top. Mix together 200g icing sugar with 75ml lemon juice. Pour this over the warm cake slowly, so that it all soaks in. Leave in the tin to cool then cut into slices.

Lizzie icing lemon trickle cakes

3. Apple sponge with vanilla salted caramel sauce

For the apple sponge:

Peel and core 1k dessert apples and place in a pan with a couple of pinches of cinnamon, a tablespoon of brown sugar and a couple of tablespoons honey. Cook gently until pulpy and almost a puree. Spread this over the base of a deep oblong or square dish.

Cream together 200g caster sugar, a few drops of vanilla essence and 200g unsalted butter until light and fluffy. Beat in 4 eggs one at a time adding a little flour each time so the mixture doesn’t curdle. Fold in the remaining flour. Spread the mixture over the apple puree and smooth the top. Cover lightly with a piece of damp baking parchment and cook in a preheated oven, gas mark 4/180 degrees for about 25 mins. To ‘steam’ it in the oven place a tray of water in the bottom, this helps keep it slightly damp and prevents it drying out too much. Cut into squares and serve on top of some vanilla salted caramel with the apple puree on top.

For the caramel sauce: 150g unsalted butter, 400g caster sugar, 100g golden syrup, 250ml double cream, a couple of pinches of Halen Mon Vanilla Salt

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a heavy based saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the cream and vanilla salt and give it a quick stir. Test to see if it needs more salt. Cook for another minute or so and then remove from the heat and transfer to a jug. Pour a little over the sponge

4. Jamaican rum and ginger cake

Another Hugh FW recipe. The reason I’ve used his book so much is that the cake recipes are very simple, don’t have too many ingredients, are quick to prepare and are effective. Hugh knows his stuff so why change it? As they say ‘don’t fix it if it isn’t broken’.

This cake I did tinker with a little (by adding more stem ginger, Morgans spiced rum and a little cinnamon too)

100g unsalted butter, 125g dark muscavado sugar, 150g black treacle, 150g golden syrup, 75ml Morgans Spiced Rum, 2 eggs, 225g self-raising flour, 1 teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, a pinch of sea salt, 6 to 8 balls of preserved stem ginger finely minced (plus some of the syrup)

Prepare a loaf tin as per the lemon cake recipe. Preheat the oven gas mark 4 / 180 degrees.

In a saucepan melt butter, treacle, syrup and sugar. Leave to cool a little then mix in the rum then eggs.

In a large bowl sift the flour, salt and spices. Add the butter and syrup mixture and stir until smooth. Mix in the ginger plus some of its syrup. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake in the oven for about 50 minutes or until a skewer stuck into it comes out clean.

If it starts to go too brown on top you can cover it with a piece of foil. When cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool. Brush the top with a bit of extra ginger syrup.

This cake gets better after a couple of days. Warp in foil and keep in a sealed tin.

5. Banana and walnut loaf

200g soft butter, 200g soft brown sugar, 2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional), 4 eggs, 200g plain or wholemeal flour, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, 4 large mashed bananas, 150g chopped walnuts or pecan nuts

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one adding a spoonful of flour with each to prevent curdling. Fold in the rest of the flour and baking powder, followed by the bananas and nuts.

Spoon into two 1lb loaf tins, greased and lined with baking parchment. Level the top and bake in a preheated oven (gas mark 5 / 190 degrees C) for 20 to 25 mins. It should spring back when pressed lightly.  Leave to cool in the tin for a few mins before turning out on to a wire rack.

This keeps well wrapped in foil and is quite versatile. Spread with butter, or eat warm without.

6. Carrot cake

I made a couple of versions of carrot cake during my cooking stint but this is by far the best recipe I have ever used and modified

300g plain flour, 175g soft brown sugar, 175g muscavado sugar, 3 large eggs beaten, 175ml sunflower oil, 2 teaspoons vanilla essence, half a teaspoon grated nutmeg, 2 good teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon bicarb of soda, half a teaspoon salt, 300g grated carrots, zest of one orange and juice of half, 60ml sour cream (omit if dairy free)

For the icing: 120g cream cheese, 50g unsalted butter, 50g sifted icing sugar, juice of half a lemon or orange

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 / 150 degrees C. Line and grease a 20cm cake tin.

Mix together eggs, oil, vanilla, orange juice, zest and sour cream (if using) with a whisk until well combined. Add the sugars and mix well ensuring there are no lumps.

In a separate bowl mix flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, bicarb and salt. Fold dry ingredients into the wet and mix well. Then mix in the carrots. Spoon into the cake tin and bake in the oven for about an hour and a half. To see if its cooked insert a skewer, if it comes out clean its done.

7. Apple and orange sponge

  • 6 granny smith apples,peeled,cored and cut into quarters
  • 2 oranges,rind and juice
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 200g unsalted butter,softened
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs,large
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
Put the sugar and butter into a mixing bowl and beat until light and soft. Beat in the eggs one by one. Sieve the flour and baking powder into the mixture and mix well. Add the apple quarters, orange rind and juice and honey and stir together with a spoon. It will look rather chunky but don’t worry.

Butter and a small roasting tin. Pour the mixture in to the tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes until well risen or until nice and golden. The apple should now be nice and soft although still visible in the sponge, which will have risen around the chucks. Serve with whipped cream.

8. Cup cakes for which we managed to enlist some help. In between manic cooking we opened up the kitchen to a few of the kids for an impromptu baking session. Their fab efforts were greatly appreciated at tea time, with each crew member having their very own bespoke cake!

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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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Filed under British food, Butchers, festival food, local produce, Organic meat, Sources and suppliers, Uncategorized, welsh cheese