Tag Archives: Moelyci

Quick guide to finding and buying locally grown veg…(and what is in my 30 mile radius)

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This week I wrote a piece for the New Bangor Plus website about where to buy locally grown vegetables and it got me thinking about how we find out where to shop. I often hear people say that they would buy local seasonal veg but it just isn’t possible because it’s not in the supermarket, or isn’t convenient to go hunting elsewhere, or just that they don’t know where to go to get it. So how do we find out about local supermarket alternatives?

I guess the place to start is your local produce or farmers market. Most places now have one fairly close by and its a great way to get to know what is grown locally. Although they don’t always run on a weekly basis and you can’t necessarily base your weekly shop around them, they are great places to get chatting to sellers and to find out what farm shops or box schemes are in operation in your area. For me word of mouth was all important when it came to sourcing local veg!

If you are lucky enough to live in a place abundant with markets and shops it’s not so much of an issue (in London you can find pretty much anything!) but what if you live out-of-town, or in a small suburb that isn’t near a market or farm? But how can you be sure the produce you are buying from your ‘farm’ shop is genuinely local? Out of interest I paid a visit to my mother’s ‘farm’ shop with her over Easter. She lives on the border between London and Kent…so you’d think she would be close enough to the countryside to pick up plenty of local produce…Kent is the ‘Garden of England, right?’ Not so. The owner of the farm shop did in fact also run a wholesalers and this is where most of the fresh produce came from. It wasn’t British let alone Kentish. I questioned her about this and she explained that they struggled to get small amounts of veg from local farmers as they preferred to sell their stock in bulk to the London markets (better price etc.). So, the farmers are more concerned about getting the highest price. Well, I can understand this to a point, business is business. She also said that local custom was poor with not enough people buying it to make it worth their while. This farm shop competes with three large supermarkets in one town centre so I can see why. The old breed of greengrocer has been slowly edged out.

Ok, in some places its hard to find local produce, or get to a farm shop or produce market. What if you are busy and don’t have much free time? Well if you want to avoid the supermarket the next best thing is to search online. There are websites that will help you find markets and contacts like Local Foods or Local Farmers markets nationally, plus lots of local markets also have their own website like the Bethesda market I sell at.

If you are still stumped try one of the well established suppliers that sell veg boxes online, the two most popular companies being Abel & Cole who also stock and deliver a variety of other British products and Riverford Organic. Both companies sell a variety of boxes in different sizes, prices and with different content. Most contain staples (potatoes, carrots, onions) plus a variety of seasonal vegetables. I find that in most cases prices are less than you would pay in the supermarket and the produce of a higher quality.

Even with this information I admit it’s not always easy at this time of year.  As a parent sticking to my principles often causes all out warfare as the kids rebel over my seasonal choices. The leafy greens and root vegetable diet can also become a little tedious leaving a yearning for something light and summery…what harm in the odd mango or citrus fruit? My other constant worry that drives me to non-seasonal buying is that my daughter will end up with scurvy if I stubbornly avoid buying the things she ‘likes’ (mostly only available in the supermarket).

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New seasons seedlings @Tyddyn Teg

Still, buying local makes sense. I don’t want my food to have travelled a million miles before it  arrives in my local supermarket. I want my veg fresh. Its tastier, better for you (as it hasn’t been force grown, picked when unripe, refrigerated and only ripening once it hits the shelves) and better for the local economy, because yes, however much we try to ignore it, money spent in supermarkets is not re-invested in the local economy. So I hear you say, how can we change things? How is it possible to eat locally grown fruit and veg? Well, with a bit of flexibility and the creation of new shopping habits it is possible. Just think how many people have returned to buying meat from the high street butchers after the horse meat scandal. What if we were to find out exactly what supermarket veg is sprayed with? Would it take a scandal to start buying local again?

There are several farms around the Bangor area that do grow and sell local produce on a largish scale and sell weekly veg boxes to a growing list of customers. Here is a list of the best farm shops that are open in addition to the local farmers market ….(sorry, this is the local bit, especially to keep my home readers happy. Just look at it as the niche post bit, i.e. only for those that live within a 30 mile radius of Bangor, North Wales).

Moelyci even now has a polytunnel full of spinach, winter leaf lettuce, kale, chard and the more unusual kohl rabi (use grated in salads or coleslaw; looks like a Sputnik and tastes a bit like a radish with a white cabbage hint) despite the late cold snap. Slowly the last of the winter produce is fading out (celeriac, leeks, purple sprouting broccoli) and as May creeps in so does the brief but delicious asparagus season. Hootons grow their own and I buy as much as I can before it disappears just as quickly as it arrived.  I’m also addicted to wild garlic (which is very late growing in my garden) and rhubarb, which will be in abundance at Moelyci soon. All of these signal the beginning of the summer growing period and hope of bright new things to come.

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Kale and Chard @Moelyci

Moelyci market garden

Moelyci is a community owned farm that has grown in stature over the past few years and is now firmly established as a great place to buy fresh local vegetables. Paul, the market garden manager is a talented gardener and grows the kind of produce you won’t find in a supermarket (heritage tomatoes, purple beans) and produces a weekly vegetable box during the summer months. This year it is due to restart in June (due to the late growing season).

As a community farm Moelyci also provides volunteers with the opportunity to get hands on with volunteer days, courses and be part of creating their own food. They also have a pick your-own fruit field which sells a variety of berries throughout the summer (and frozen during the autumn/winter months).

Although the farm, like many co-operatives is ailing in the current financial crisis, it is still up, running and preparing for the summer season. The market garden shop is normally open for business from Thursday until Saturday. Drop in and pick your own veg.

Moelyci Farm, Lon Felin Hen,
Tregarth, Bangor Gwynedd LL57 4BB UK

Phone: 01248 602793  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/111101588937283

Twitter: @Moelyci1

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planting seeds for the new season @Moelyci

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plant nursery @Moelyci

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Young tomato plants enjoying the warm weather in one of the polytunnels

Hooton’s Homegrown

Hooton’s are a very well established farm shop and local produce supplier. They opened their farm shop in 1998 having outgrown their roadside farm stall and later opened a second shop in Fron Goch Garden Centre in Caernarfon.

The farm shop is a haven of local produce, but their locally grown veg is for me the main attraction.

Gwydryn Hîr, Brynsiencyn, Anglesey, LL61 6HQ

Phone: 01248 430644

Farm Shops opening hours
9.30am to 5.30pm (Sunday 10am – 5.30pm)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hootons-Homegrown-Farm-Shop-Cafe/407744002633289?fref=ts

Twitter: @HootonsFarmShop

Village veg

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picture courtesy of village veg facebook page

Based in Waunfawr near Caernarfon, they run a vegetable box and bag delivery scheme which aims to offer the quirkier seasonal vegetable, such as purple carrots, blue potatoes and flower sprouts.

To order your veg box and find out where they deliver check their website here. They definitely deliver in Bangor so there’s no excuse! To order and discuss contact Emma Duffy, Tyn Cae Newydd, Waunfawr, Caernarfon, LL55 4BX

Phone: 01286 650369 / 07962214314
E-mail address villageveg@sky.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/villageveg/

Tatws Bryn

Chris sells his own locally grown produce mixed with other seasonal produce and delivers in and around the villages surrounding Bangor.

Check his website for details and to contact call Chris on 01248 605027 or

email: tatwsbryn@yahoo.com

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A night of moules and music…Moelyci benefit night

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On Friday 1st February I will be donating my time to support Moelyci Environmental Centre. They are one of my primary local suppliers and hold the unique title of being the first community owned farm in the UK, a model which has helped and inspired other similar and perhaps more well-known projects such as Fordhall in Shropshire (which was England’s first community owned farm). Moelyci is a very special place. As a pioneering community enterprise where every member is an equal (whoever they are and whatever their background) it is a shame it has never been able to reach its full potential. There are many reasons for this, but a significant one is their lack of working capital. The future vision is there but with high mortgage payments, little spare income to increase staffing levels, geographical isolation and perhaps a certain lack of effective marketing its true potential has not yet been realised.

As a working farm it has always been at ease with its small, sustainable, peaceful cooperative ethos but sadly now that is not enough. The present economic climate is making life difficult for businesses small and large to survive. Moelyci like many non-profit making social enterprises are struggling for survival and as someone who works closely with and respects their work, the last thing I, or the rest of the community want to see is another community enterprise go under.The likelihood is that the land would be lost to developers and the mountain no longer accessible for the community.

We are all working hard to save the centre and I am helping in any way I can. Their situation is precarious but not yet dire; they survived Christmas due to a local groundswell of support and a huge amount of voluntary action, but we need more of this.

The building of a much-needed education centre (and one which has taken up a lot of the financial reserves) is one step to bringing in new and increased revenue, the mortgage is paid up til March, a green burial site is in preparation, but the bills are still mounting and the regular members of staff have all been on reduced hours since the end of November to meet financial commitments around the farm.

So now I have said all this all I can add is that….If you are local come and join us for a night of food (local Menai moules mariniere with bread) and quality music in the form of Bandabacana and the Racubah DJ’s; two prodigious local talents and purveyors of dance, funk and afro-latin grooves.

If you are not local maybe you could spare a few pounds to help us buy the mountain and farm. Money raised will enable us to finish building the barn and allow us to forge ahead with future developments that will ensure sustainability, so the local (and wider) community can continue to enjoy this beautiful Welsh mountain farm.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MOELYCI OR MAKE A DONATION PLEASE CLICK HERE

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Love foraging…How about a fungi foray this weekend?

 

fungi found at last years forage

…Well if you do come along to Moelyci’ Environmental Centre’s annual Fungi Foray this Sunday the 14th October.  This year is a special 10th anniversary edition and as its one of the most successful events in their yearly  calendar you’d be a fool to miss it! Its great fun, family friendly and hugely educational!! What John Harold (Moelyci ecologist) and Nigel Brown (of Treborth Botanic Gardens) can’t tell you about fungi really ain’t worth knowing!

The afternoon kicks off at 2pm with a brief introduction to fungi and their importance for the planet, after this eager foragers will be let loose around the farm, hill and woods to search the rich habitats of Moelyci for fungi large or small. The record for this event was set in 2006 when 126 different species of fungi were found in a single afternoon, lets see if we can beat this on Sunday!

Foragers should bring with them a shallow basket or tray to keep your precious finds in perfect condition. Once collecting has finished the resident experts will help foragers identify their finds and learn a little about the different life cycles each specimin represents.

The event is free and runs from 2pm til about 5pm. Knowing our weather it would be wise to bring wellies (an absolute must) and waterproofs, plus a shallow collecting basket or tray. This really is a great family friendly event for all ages but children must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

Directions to Moelyci can be found here

Foragers

Images courtesy of Moelyci Environmental Centre

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Hot sprout top and flower sprout salad with crispy belly pork, red onion, pumpkin seeds and croutons: recipe

Sprout tops have long been a winter favourite, but as far as new vegetables go flower sprouts are quite intriguing. According to a website dedicated entirely to the flower sprout, Tozers the seed company spent some 15 years developing them as a more subtle alternative to the Brussel sprout. They certainly grow like a sprout, attached to a main central stem, but their little purpley-green shaggy leaves are more akin to curly kale.  Health wise flower sprouts they class as a superfood (both kale and sprouts are superfoods) and are jam-packed with vitamins and iron. Even Marks and Spencer got in on the act when they launched a year or so ago claiming that they would be stocking them.

Market garden manager Paul started growing them this year for the first time and I have watched their development with interest. The tiny fluffy buds have now turned into delicate deep purple flowers pretty much the same size as a sprout and they are just right for picking. I thought it was time to give them a try so I dropped in at Moelyci to collect a bag with a yummy weekend lunch in mind.

Saturday was the first clear day we’d had in a while, no supper club, no rain and no other plans so it was perfect for getting on with clearing the veg plots and doing a bit of pruning and weeding. With the excess of Christmas still fresh I’ve been craving salads and fruit, but with some fresh air in the lungs I’d worked up an appetite for more than a few leaves, so in the kitchen I went to rustle up something with a little more oomph.

For me hot salads are the perfect solution to my salad craving during the chilly winter months and so I came up with this. To my little bag of sprout flowers I added a good helping of sprout tops from my vegetable box, some crisp fried (Moelyci) pork belly and a good handful of croutons to keep up my trength for working out in the cold. An earthy mustard dressing with a drop of truffle oil finished the dish.

To make a hearty lunch for two to three people …or four if it forms part of a meal or you want a smaller serving,  you will need;

250g sprout tops or flower sprouts (I used a mixture of both. Make sure you wash them well as the tiny flowers heads tend to hold the dust and soil)

150 – 200g good bread, cubed and made into croutons.

300g diced pork belly (or you can use bacon, pancetta or even chorizo)

1 small finely chopped red onion

a handful of pumpkin seeds

For the dressing I used: 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, a teaspoon of whole grain English mustard (but Dijon is good too), 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon ground nut oil, half a dessertspoonful white truffle oil (omit if you don’t have this) half a teaspoon honey and seasoning.

Put a large pan of water on to boil. Chop pork belly into cubes and put a frying pan on to heat. You don’t need any extra oil to cook the pork belly as it is already quite fatty and will cook in the fat released.

Make the dressing mixing all the ingredients in a screw top jar and giving a good shake. Don’t forget to taste it for seasoning and balance. If it’s too acidic add a tablespoon more of olive oil.

Once the water comes to the boil add the sprout tops to blanch. Bring the water back to the boil for thirty seconds to a minute and then add the sprout flowers. They are more delicate so blanch quicker. Leave for a minute, but make sure the sprout leaves remain bright green and the flowers keep their purplish colour. Drain and plunge into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.

Put another pan of water on to boil or save the first lot of water and keep hot.

Once the pork belly starts to crisp remove from the pan and put to one side. If there is a lot of fat in the pan drain most of it off. Toss in the cubed bread and fry over a highish heat until they start to turn golden. If you prefer you can make your croutons by coating in the remaining fat and then cooking in the oven for 20 minutes (gas mark two, 150 degrees C, 300 F) until crisp and golden.

Towards the end of the cooking time throw in a handful of pumpkin seeds and the finely chopped red onion. The idea is that they are just lightly warmed and not cooked until crisp.

When you are ready to assemble the salad, plunge the leaves into boiling water just to reheat and then drain well. Return to the hot pan and toss over a low the heat to dry slightly. Pour over the dressing.

Return pork to the pan and toss everything together so it is hot. Pile the dressed leaves in warm bowls or on to plates and scatter over the pork and crouton mix.

Eat greedily and feel virtuous about feeding yourself such healthy seasonal produce. Even the nine-year old liked it (apart from “those crispy nut things”…he mean’t the pumpkin seeds) 🙂

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Filed under British food, family budget cooking, home cooking, local produce, Recipes, seasonal food, slow food, Uncategorized

Out with the old and in with the new: a seasonal solstice supper

the end of the night...this time lots of food pics, but no people!!!

Now that midsummer is upon us and half the year is already gone, its time to bid farewell to some of my favourite early produce. Asparagus, which only pays a fleeting visit, sadly finished cropping this week and it seems the strawberries at Moelyci have almost finished too. I’m sure elsewhere they will continue for a while yet but I’m glad I have used and preserved plenty. But before I start to pine for these wonderful summer treasures, it’s a happy hello to all the rest of the joys of June. Redcurrants are plentiful in the fruit fields of Moelyci and in my garden at home; elder flowers are still with us and a new batch of black currants are on their way. I have been out collecting plenty of the elder flowers this week for cordial, champagne and to use in the dessert I made for supper club.

I also paid visits to my three favourite vegetable suppliers: Pippa and John who give me my weekly veg box currently have an abundance of beetroot, tender courgettes, sweet young carrots, new potatoes, lettuce, a variety of chard, basil; Paul at Moelyci who has all that wonderful fruit in the market garden shop as well as lettuces ready for harvesting and lots of fresh parsley (something I don’t have much luck with) and Hootons farm shop, which is where I’ve got my asparagus, and now they also have broad beans too.   All those vegetables have kept me busy chutneying, and I did have a good few jars of spiced courgette and beetroot relish until I sold it all on Sunday, but that’s another story! I also finally got round to bottling all the liqueurs that have lurked in the back of my cupboard since the beginning of March (Creme de Cassis, raspberry vodka, loganberry vodka and sloe gin) as I wanted to crack open the Cassis for supper club.

Supper club was also the perfect opportunity to try out my new toy. Inspired by Dave’s smoking exploits at Derimon I ordered myself a little Cameron’s stove top smoker; they aren’t cheap at £43 a go for a small one, but my goodness it was worth it. It came with two small tubs of smoking chips (Alder and Hickory) and a big bag of oak.

my new smoker

I decided to try salmon as a  first attempt and so following the instructions, and using Alder chips as suggested, I set up the smoker. Twenty five minutes later I gently slid back the lid to reveal a lightly cooked, delicately and perfectly smoked piece of salmon. It was remarkably simple, yet pleasingly effective. Once it had cooled I gently pulled the salmon apart, tossing it with some new potatoes and salad, olive oil and a dollop of horseradish cream. This then formed part of my pick nick to take to the teens sports day on Saturday afternoon so I could test it out on friends . The unanimous verdict was that it was absolutely gorgeous!

doing its thing

perfect hot smoked salmon

There was a full house at supper club this weekend, which saw us celebrating the solstice or midsummer, a birthday dinner, an anniversary, and a welcome visit from two regulars and a new friend. It was moderately boisterous and it was nice to see people relaxed enough to come and chat in the kitchen. The menu for the evening of course celebrated the best of the season

Prosecco with Cassis (does that make it a Kir Royale, or a Prosecco Kir or just plain Kir?) with ricotta, parma ham, basil and balsamic vinegar topped bruschetta

The we said goodbye to the asparagus in style with mini asparagus and parmesan souffle tarts ( a variation on my souffle-gratin recipe) served with beetroot relish and carrots and courgette slaw

tarts ready to bakeplating tarts on the bench in the kitchen

For main it was hot smoked salmon with pan-fried new potatoes, baby broad beans, asparagus and chard and topped with horseradish cream. I collected the salmon bright and early from Mermaid seafood in Llandudno (sadly our only decent fishmongers locally) who stock a fantastic array of local and sustainable fish. The fillets were a really good size, unlike those you might get in the supermarket. I cannot  emphasise how much better it is to buy fish and meat from a specialist: It is fresher, often local and the portions are so much bigger. I don’t think there is much difference in price bu if buying on the high street is more expensive…well you certainly get more for your money!

All I did was season the salmon with salt and pepper and squeeze over some lime juice. For the horseradish cream I used a tub of creme fraiche which I seasoned with salt and pepper and a pinch of cayenne then stirred in enough horseradish to taste, but not so it is overpowering. I used English Provender horseradish which was excellent.

Ideally, if I’d had the finances, I would have bought the large smoker, but i had no idea how accommodating the small one would be. In the end I was only able to fit three salmon fillets in it at a time, so had to cook in four batches, but I gave myself plenty of time and kept the salmon warm in the bottom of the oven. It was a simple dish; but in this case less was definitely more!

The elder flowers heads were wrapped in muslin and chucked in to heat with milk and cream, to impart a delicate flowery taste to another simple, but effective dish; Elderflower pannacotta. The light creaminess complimented the sweet sharpness of a strawberry and red currant coulis and fresh berries. I think I even saw one person rubbing his finger across the plate to get every last flavourful bit of coulis.

As ever we completed the meal with local Welsh cheeses, crackers and coffee. This time we included two hard but mild goats cheeses from Y Cwt Caws, our usual smoked brie from Derimon, a blue Perl Las from Caws Cenarth in Cardigan and we were lucky enough to be asked to sample a new Brie from Rhyd y Delyn, which was delicious although needed to be slightly riper we all thought.

A few lovely comments about the night, the first from Paola (of Dr Zigs Dragon Bubbles…if you ever need seriously GIANT bubbles these are the guys to call!)

“Just had the most awesome scrummy yummy tastiest glorious omgoodnes meal EVER at Moel Faban secret supper club. And met the most wonderful people! And we Bubbled too!! This is one of those things that just must be experienced to be believed – and really should be on everyone’s bucket list”

and from Anouska whose birthday it was…

“I’ve been eating out with Non for the last ten years and she usually complains about something. This is the first time I have ever heard her say that everything was delicious”

Thanks everyone it was a great night xxx

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Filed under British food, Foraging for fruit, home cooking, local produce, secret supper, Sources and suppliers, sustainable fish, Uncategorized, underground restaurant, welsh cheese