Tag Archives: Moelyci spring fair

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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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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Filed under British food, family budget cooking, Foraging for fruit, home cooking, local produce, Sources and suppliers, Uncategorized