Tag Archives: Moelyci environmental centre

Preserving workshops, Morrison’s magazine, BBC Radio ‘Wales on the Menu’ and a simple plea

So, another busy week ends and I have lots more exciting things to report, plus a heartfelt plea to my readers.

But lets start on a high note! Last week, as some people have mentioned to me already, there was a little piece in Morrison’s supermarket in-store magazine about supper clubs. Moel Faban was one of four mentioned and asked to contribute to the article. I’m not a big fan of supermarkets as most will know and tend to only use them for basics, so it’s slightly strange being written about by one, but also nice at the same time. It’s only a small mention mind (and they spelt Faban wrong), but its nice to have some recognition for starting the trend in Wales 🙂

On that note, it will be our third birthday this coming October. How time flies!! Keep an eye out for dates as we might have to have a special celebration!

The other thing that happened last week was that BBC Radio Wales’s Wales on the Menu programme contacted me. In it Simon Wright challenges home cooks to get their speciality dish on the menu of a top restaurant.  I like this programme myself, so when they asked me to pass the word out to my followers, or anyone that might be keen to take part in the new series I was happy to oblige. Lets see a few more North Walean cooks getting themselves on the map!

If you want more information about taking part, or know anyone that might be up for a challenge, you can email them at walesonthemenu@presentable.co.uk 

I finished the week catering for a big birthday bash on Saturday, followed by a day of preserving workshops on Sunday. Organised  by Moelyci Environmental Centre and the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, they were a way of welcoming Autumn and celebrating the harvest.

Workshop photos taken with my camera by Emily @Moelyci: picture 1 showing a less than glamorous me (oh how I wish I was a little photgenic) with the morning group; then measuring out the fruit, Moelyci strawberries frozen during the summer months and then defrosted for jam making; and finally everyone in action!

When I say harvest it is with a little sadness that our British one is rather depleted this year. It is noticeably thin on the ground with the apple yield down (my tree only grew two very small apples), hardly any black currants in comparison to last year and most soft fruit faring badly in the face of a deluge of rain with little sun to even things out. Earlier in the year my Mum complained about the ruined Kentish cherry crop. Usually her little tree is positively bowed under the weight of fruit. This year they failed to grow…and when they did get going they failed to ripen. I missed out totally and have had little to turn into jam. The only thing I have plenty of is gooseberries which I picked and froze before I went away for the summer. They will soon be turned to jam and made into other lovely desserts.

On the day of the festival the heavens opened again and drowned us all day. Thankfully my two preserving groups (eight in the morning and eight in the afternoon) and I remained dry in our little catering marquee, warmed by three gas stoves and cheered by a heavenly aroma of fruit and spices which greeted the senses of anyone entering. We didn’t care about the rain.

When asked to run the workshops I doubted my own abilities. I thought that seasoned preservers would know more than me and put me to shame, but I surprised myself with the amount of jamming knowledge i have stuffed away inside my head. I not only passed on basic tips but encouraged experimentation and bravery. Each little group chose different spices and seasonings for their chutney; a little indian pickle spice here, some chilli flakes there, a bit of star anise and mustard seeds a plenty. In our jam session we tried different quantities of sugar (to see if it affected the set) and ways to tone down the sweetness of strawberry jam. Most of all we had fun. Which is what cooking is all about after all!

Moelyci is a regular host for such events but sadly it is, like many small organisations in the UK, being threatened by the recession. In recent months it has lost income streams that make proactive fundraising approaches necessary to make sure it survives.

Moelyci was once an industrious Welsh upland sheep farm owned by Penrhyn Estates. In 2003 the last tenant moved out no longer able to make a living from the farm. The farm was at risk of being sold and developed into a holiday home complex which would have destroyed the natural landscape (250 of its 340 acres now have SSSI and SAC European status). Instead the community got together, raised the income and a mortgage and saved the site for the local community. These days Moelyci has received critical acclaim for its conservation management, its social enterprise principles, educational opportunities, preservation of the areas natural heritage, market garden and abundant fruit fields. It’s been visited and filmed by Iolo Williams for S4C, BBC Countryfile and is a small hub of cultural opportunity. Everyone involved with Moelyci (not just myself) would like to see this grow and expand.

Sadly critical acclaim doesn’t pay the mortgage (which is a large one), or staff to run the place and take these plans forward. The centre is run by a small paid workforce, plus a dedicated band of volunteers who help with its upkeep and development. An elected group of volunteer ‘directors’ (of which I am one) help make and drive plans forward. Readers will know that I get a lot of produce from the market garden there and have been a visitor to the place long before I became a director. I have a vested interest of course, as do the employees who are keen to continue working there, but this is a valuable natural resource for the whole community too. Better this than a holiday home complex?

So why am I writing about this? Well this is the heartfelt plea I mentioned earlier. Anyone can become a member of Moelyci Environmental Centre. It has Industrial & Provident Society (IPS) status and it’s  co-operatively owned by its members. Like the Centre for Alternative Technology you can ‘buy’ non-profit making ‘shares’ which brings you membership. You will receive regular information, discounts on courses and the opportunity to rent an allotment on the site. If you don’t wish to do this you can make a one off donation, or just come along and buy produce from the market garden (they run a small veg box scheme) or bring along your green garden waste for composting. Moelyci is also an open access site so you are welcome to go for a walk across the hills and in the woods that surround the farm. All of this support will help make sure that Moelyci Farm, the land and the Mountain survives and develops for the benefit of the community, the environment and the future generations that will learn about its heritage. For more information email office@moelyci.org or phone 01248 602793 or simply pop in and visit this historic farm.

Thanks all xx

Image courtesy of Steve Jones @ Ultra(lazy)runner blog

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Slow roast shoulder of Moelyci pork with apple and sloe gin jelly

Earlier this year visitors to Moelyci environmental centre were surprised to stumble across six very large, happy pink pigs, brought in to turn over the land as a precursor to planting. They were a popular addition and Aidan loved them. He braved the electric fence (very low voltage worried parent readers) to climb in and make friends with them and in one delightfully malicious moment named one of them Roisin (after his beloved sister!!)

Roisin the pig

We paid those pigs a few visits over the summer so imagine our dismay when one very wet and windy day, while showing my Peckham dwelling cousin and his family the joys of mountain life we found the pigs were gone!

“oh no, they must have escaped” Aidan said…but us adults all caught each others eyes and inside we all knew the truth.

So did Aidan after we paid a visit to Moelyci at the end of the summer, for there in the freezer we found those happy pigs packaged and ready for buying.

I think its important for kids to know where their food comes from. Despite spending many years as  vegetarian I am I suppose, quite unsentimental these days. If we are going to eat meat then having some awareness of where that meat is produced, reared and slaughtered helps us make informed decisions about what we eat and where we buy it.

I watched Country file the other night and discovered that Britain imports 60% of the pork we eat. British pig farmers are apparently losing around £7 per carcass due to rising feed costs and the lack of appreciation in pork prices making it hard for them to continue producing, although pork remains the most popular meat globally taking up 42% of the market. Some of this is down to a continued lack of confidence in British pork following two foot and mouth bouts and an export ban, but also because European production methods are not so stringent. Intensive pig farming and lack of welfare guidelines in Europe mean that costs are kept low; they can cram more pigs into a smaller space, cut the energy they expend by not letting them run around and therefore feed them less.

In 2013 things will change as new regulations come into effect bringing European production into line with us, so levelling the playing field. But in the meantime we in Britain can be discerning consumers. If we buy locally, or at least British, not only will it help our struggling pork farmers, but at least we know our meat has come from happy, well cared for animals, not ones forced into pens with little room to move and no chance for exercise!

Our pork shoulder was totally delicious. It was quite fatty which made great crackling, which I simply rubbed with plenty of sea salt and some crushed and ground spices.

As we sat down to eat we wondered whether it was Roisin we were having for dinner….the real Roisin (an on-off vegetarian) looked less than pleased and Aidan said “that’s sad”, before tucking into a plateful. I’m now looking forward to receiving my half a pig for Christmas.

Slow roast pork:

I used two cloves of garlic, some pink and black peppercorns, coriander seeds and fennel seeds which I ground to a paste/powder in a pestle and mortar. I then rubbed it over the fat pushing it into the slits. Preheat the oven to gas mark 8 / 230 degree C. Place the pork on the top shelf uncovered. Roast for about 20 to 30 minutes until you can see the skin starting to puff up a bit and harden into crackling then turn the oven down to gas mark 3/170 degree C for about 3 and a half hours. If the crackling gets too dark or begins to burn cover with a piece of foil and wrap loosely.

Move the pork to a serving dish to rest and cover with foil. Pour off all but a tablespoon of the fat from the tray then put it on the hob to make the gravy. Add vegetable stock to the meat juices and bubble away until you get a nice dark gravy. Strain and serve with the meat and crackling.

I served mine with some potato and swede colcannon, roasted parsnips and hone-made made apple jelly. The perfect Sunday dinner.

Apple and sloe gin jelly:

2 kilo of cooking apples (I used mostly windfalls which are fine for this)

1 pint of water

rind and juice of a small lemon

454 grams sugar to each 500ml (1 pint) juice

Cut and trim the apples removing any bad bits (you need to do this as adding them will cut the shelf life of your jelly) and put in a large preserving pan. You don’t need to peel and core them. Add the water and the grated lemon zest (make sure not to add the pith as this could make the jelly bitter).

Simmer until the apple is soft and mushy. Line a large sieve or colander with muslin or a jelly bag and put to stand over a clean bucket or pan. Fill with the apple pulp and allow to drip into the container. I often fold over the muslin and put a plate on top with weights just to help the process.

The following day, remove the plate and weights and with a pestle, end of a rolling-pin or your hand, give the muslin a good squeeze to get as much juice out as possible. Some say don’t do this as it makes the jelly cloudy but to be honest I don’t mind cloudy jelly and I would rather squeeze out as much flavour as possible. Measure the juice into a jug and pour into a large pan adding the proper amount of sugar and lemon juice. Heat gently stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for five minutes before testing for a set. If it needs longer continue to boil until it wrinkles when you put a teaspoon full on a cold saucer.

Once you have reached the setting point switch off the heat and leave to cool for about five or ten minutes. Add a good glug of slow gin (or two) and transfer to warm sterilised jars. It should keep in a cool dark place for several months and store in the fridge once open.


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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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Gardening, farms, markets and wild dining

Unfortunately due to a lack of bookings, supper club didn’t take place this weekend. It’s a shame as I do look forward to it, but hey every cloud has a silver lining and the lack of supper club simply meant more time in the garden, pruning, digging, planting up the veg patch and thinking of new ways to use the free wild produce growing there.

purple sprouting

spring cabbages

last of the winter lettuces, amazingly survived the snow and the cold protected in the polytunnels

On Friday afternoon I’d already taken advantage of the sunny weather and extra time on my hands to spend an hour at Moelyci environmental centre with the little one, the teen and their mate. I’d originally popped in to see if their rhubarb was ready (which I wanted to use to make rhubarb and ginger jam for my produce stall at the Moelyci spring fair this Sunday 17th April) and by chance also got the opportunity to visit their six new residents. The teen was less than enthusiastic so in honour of her swinish behaviour we named one after her….the littlun had a whale of a time pig herding and chasing them round a rather muddy enclosure, but was very sad to learn that in due course we would be enjoying Moelyci bacon!

Aidan pig herding

Roisin the pig, named after the teen 🙂

My love of local produce doesn’t end at Moelyci and I spend lots of time hunting down new and exciting goodies. The markets (at Ysgol David Hughes on Anglesey and Conwy RSPB reserve) are a must, whether its to pick up some well-loved favourites or to hunt out something new, like the Rhyd y Delyn Caerphilly (not for sale yet but got myself a sample and its pretty damn yummy).

Derimon smokery
locally cultivated shiitake mushrooms

Back in the garden my wild garlic and sorrel patches expand every year, as do the nettles. While trying to keep them from creeping across the rest of the garden I also keep in mind that they are a very useful addition to the garden and a great free natural resource for cooking. Nettles are apparently high in iron and natural histamines and are a diuretic so good for detoxifying. They are probably the best free spring tonic you can get, although whether their histamine properties mean they ward off hay fever (which is just starting to kick in now the sun is out and the blossom is on the tress) I don’t know…but its worth a try! So off I went armed with a pair of thick gloves and a carrier bag to collect enough of the tips (it’s just the young tops that you want) for a big pot of soup. Today then on the menu was rhubarb, nettles and ramsons.

nettles and ramsons for the soup

For my nettle soup I melted 50g butter in a pan and sweated a large chopped onion, 2 sticks of celery and half a small head of fennel for about 10 minutes. I then added a large peeled and chopped potato (about 400g) half a carrier bag of nettle tops and a litre of chicken stock (but you could use vegetable stock) and allowed it to simmer for about 15 minutes until the potato was cooked. Once cooked I chucked in a small bunch of chopped wild garlic (ramsons) and salt and pepper then blitzed in the blender until smooth. Finally check the seasoning and add about 100ml cream. The soup has a light, delicate flavour, a bit like pea soup. I didn’t want to over do it with the wild garlic for fear of smothering the taste of the nettle (like a mild spinach) but you could add more if you wanted a stronger chivey sort of taste. All you need to enjoy is a sunny spot and maybe a glass of something cold.

creamy nettle and wild garlic soup

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Date changes and upcoming events

Sorry all but our dinner planned for 3rd April is cancelled due to family illness. On a more positive note we have added a new dinner date on Saturday 9th April instead…lots of lovely new season produce as per the Sunday dinner menu added before….

We will then be taking a little Easter break. Things have been very hectic lately what with filming commitments in London, plus many interesting opportunities under discussion. These are exciting times for Moel Faban, but we still need a little rest and time to reflect on where we want to go. That all sounds very enigmatic so sorry about that, but really you will just have to watch this space to see what emerges!!

Our next dinner dates after Easter will be on Saturday 14th May, then Saturday 4th June

If they seem rather spread out I will also be selling home-made produce at the Moelyci spring fair on Sunday 17th April and the first Ogwen farmers market (planned for 28th May in Bethesda). I will also be giving a talk and a trifle making demo at the Underground Farmers Market (at msmarmitelovers Underground Restaurant) on Friday May 6th.

Other events or dates will be added as and when they arise so do keep an eye on the blog / facebook for up to date information

Denise x

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The Joys of Pumpkin (Pumpkin soup with chilli and ginger)

Halloween, followed closely by bonfire night, is a well entrenched tradition for our children and their friends, highly anticipated, planned and enthusiastically enjoyed by all. Therefore it was with some disappointment that I reluctantly cancelled our Halloween dinner. I’d looked forward to a vampire theme menu and dressing up but the usual problem prevailed, not enough bookings. Themed nights are still a bit hit and miss for me, but that doesn’t stop me trying and so I will continue to do so.

Despite no ‘official’ dinner, the night was duly marked and enjoyed with all the trappings of a traditional Halloween; pumpkin carving, masses of sweets (for trick or treaters), dressing up in spooky costumes, the consumption of plenty of hot pumpkin soup, followed up by tarte tatin with its luscious caramel apple centre.

Vampires abound

Gruesome gangsters

a few hags…well two actually. Notice the teen looks rather beautiful, hhmmm

Pumpkin itself tends to be overlooked and hugely underrated. Most people will simply carve theirs out and throw away the flesh, under the impression that it is a watery and insipid vegetable. I’m amazed at how many people I hear say they don’t like pumpkin, but I often wonder what kind of experience they’ve had of it.  Perhaps in a bland and tasteless pie, or mashed to within an inch of its life, or even in a thin, uninspired and under seasoned soup. I simply think that with the right kind of advice on what to do with it most people will warm to pumpkin soup.

My own Pumpkin  soup with chilli and ginger (adapted from a River Cafe recipe) seems to have won many Pumpkin haters over recently. With the glut we’ve had at Moelyci I seem to have a constant pot of it on the go. It’s so easy everyone should have a go at making it!

Simply peel and finely chop a couple of red onions and fry gently in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and 50g butter. When soft add a couple of crushed garlic cloves, the leaves from a few sprigs of fresh marjoram, about an inch or two of fresh ginger peeled and grated and cook for 30 seconds before adding 1.5kg (that’s about 3 and a quarter pounds) of pumpkin and 150g scrubbed and diced new potatoes. I say new, but generally its main crop potatoes at this time of year and I can’t see much difference really. Cover the vegetables in the pan with good vegetable stock and season with salt, pepper and a small crumbled dried red Chilli (or use fresh if you would like it to knock your socks off). Simmer gently until cooked, about 20 minutes or so. Allow to cool briefly before blitzing in a blender. Check the seasoning then serve with toasted crostini (basically ciabatta, crisped in the oven or toasted under the grill, drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic), and a bit of grated parmesan.

This soup cries autumn! It’s warming and comforting, not just for Halloween, but for the whole of the season, well at least until those pumpkins run out.

Even Vampires and hags need pumpkin soup!

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The beauty of the market garden

Onions drying

On a very wet and rainy day in July (yes I know it was supposed to be summer) we were visited at Moelyci by the very lovely Lucy Devereaux…friend and amazing photographer, who came along to take some promotional pictures for us. Her pictures captured the natural beauty of Moelyci perfectly…making simple vegetables look like works of art…and even creating the impression that the sun might actually have been shining!! I just wanted to share a few of her stunning images

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Some of you will know that when I’m not cooking and supper clubbing I am working for Moelyci environmental centre as customer service and publicity administrator in the market garden (in other words I’ve jumped into bed with one of my suppliers!!)….

Moelyci is a foodie haven, not just for the local community, who are welcome to pop into the farm shop and buy fresh produce any day of the week, but also for people far and wide who often join us for environmental/food related courses…I recently met a young lady who’d travelled up from Cheltenham especially.

Many of our events are free, or extremely well priced so I just thought I’d spread the word. Whether you wish to come to a free day event (such as the annual fungi foray) or book in for an accredited course (such as the grow your own food course, accredited by Coleg Menai or a two-day introduction to Permaculture) book in soon. Some of the courses are very popular so really do need to be booked quickly. For the Autumn/winter timetable check out the course list on the Moelyci website

If you want to attend, but live a way off, there is a brilliant B&B 2 minutes walk away…you could make a weekend of it in Wales!!!!

As for supper club….we had two great nights on Saturday and Sunday (write up to follow) and now look forward to our next event on September 25th…Autumn Equinox harvest supper….I am currently taking bookings and will do up to a couple of days before the event, then only by phone…I have recently missed last-minute emails as I haven’t been on-line so do feel free to call 07775 828769

Best wishes everyone

Denise x

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