Tag Archives: Ogwen produce market

Street Food North Wales

I was recently asked by Richard Johnson , Food Journalist, Independent and Guardian columnist, and author of Street Food Revolution (a book about the emerging street food scene in Britain) if I would like to review for the new British Street Food website and app. Of course I said yes, but having done so started to wonder if we actually had a street food culture here in North Wales.

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Providero’s coffee van…battered by the waves on a blustery day

A few years ago there wasn’t much of a Street Food culture in the UK at all. Burgers and chips selling from catering vans, Mr Whippy drove up and down playing tinkly child catcheresque music and doughnut stalls were actually quite exciting. That’s not to say there was never a culture of street food. Historically food was always served on the streets…in Norman times there were cookshops that sold hot food from market stalls and in London street-sellers strode about hawking their goods. This continued into Victorian times (think Oliver Twist and the who will buy? scene) where they sold all manner of food; everything from jellied eels to fruit pies, muffins to pea soup it was all there.

So why did it all disappear? Perhaps it was the ever more stringent food hygiene regulations that slowly crept in, or the lack of cash that crippled Britain after the war. Rationing and food shortage must have played a part with only the wealthiest able to eat out…and that would have been at the fancier restaurants in town. Average Joe Blogs couldn’t afford to buy ingredients to make the food let alone have enough customers that could afford to buy it. My essay on the decline of British food can be found in this earlier post, but I can imagine that street food was viewed as one of the worst examples of dull British food and shunned in favour of the new fad…French cuisine!

Now, with inspiration from exotic food vendors in the USA this is beginning to change. The British food scene has woken up and a new breed of food lover taken over. They are younger, more in tune with both British and world cuisine, less hampered by rules and regulations, more entrepreneurial and  inventive. Most couldn’t afford a shop rental in London so have found ways round it so they can bring their ideas to life….and its spreading. Major cities from Birmingham to Bristol, Cardiff to Manchester are following suit with their own crew of vintage van, quirky wagon and market stall sellers vending the kind of cheap and exotic dishes once only found in restaurants and cafes.

There are websites too…EatStreet (now Foodhawkers) set up by Petra Barran of Chocstar, lists markets and independent street food traders in London, while Richards new website (which should go live in the next couple of weeks) and app (due for release in April/May) will list traders across the UK giving fans the opportunity to seek out something cheap tasty and unusual.

Sadly here in North Wales we are still a little behind the trend and street food is still the domain of the old school burger and chip van outside the football ground, and the doughnut wagon on the trading estate.

Pinpointing ‘good’ street food is hard, like looking for a needle in a haystack since the area is wide and rural stretching from the borders of Cheshire all the way down to Aberystwyth. it would probably be something like a two hundred mile round trip to check out the area. Not easy then to nip about reviewing street food.

Jon Providero

Jon from Providero

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One thing I quickly discovered when I started talking to vendors is that they are strictly governed by the rules and regulations of the rather old-fashioned town councils. As Providero told me, licenses are limited on the grounds that there are plenty of ‘local’ cafes (albeit some not particularly great ones) and business should go to them and street sellers forced into ‘hidden’ spots. For traders like Providero: Fine teas and Coffees this has not been a problem. As a travelling barista, selling great coffee and home-made cakes from their converted vintage Citroen van they are much in demand and people travel to find them.

They advertise their location via Facebook and Twitter – one update states “North Wales Weekly News now, followed by North Wales Police office’s approx 3pm and Old Colwyn Prom from around 3.30pm” . Their Old Colwyn pitch (at the end of the promenade and just under the railway bridge) seems bleak and isolated but there was a steady flow of passing trade. From dog walkers and cyclists, to joggers and an enthusiastic crowd of regulars, they all seem to flock to their van to pick up a welcome, but generally hard to come by, ‘proper’ coffee, and at between £1.50 (for a 8oz cup) and £2.00 (for a 12oz) who could deny they are good value. Their coffee and cakes are worth seeking out if you are passing that way.

The best quality street food is still mostly found in and around the local produce and farmers markets and food events that pop up across North Wales. Unlike bigger cities, the area lacks the high density population, good weather and disposable income to have a burgeoning street food scene, but look closer and in the right places and you will find a few hidden gems. Small local markets with a regular clientele are friendly and welcoming with interesting food on offer, but don’t expect anything too experimental or fancy; a nicely cooked locally produced lamb burger, pulled pork or bacon bap attracts more attention than falafel, spicy wings or a bento box ever will (not saying there aren’t those among us that wouldn’t welcome this).

I run my ‘street food’ stall (or pop up cafe…however you want to look at it) and tend to stick to seasonal soups, local bacon and sausage buns and dishes made from ingredients sold at the Ogwen produce market. Good quality fresh coffee made by local roasters always goes down well, plus dishes such as spicy Welsh-made chorizo stew or wraps. It’s worth noting though, that  customers often prefer a nice leek and potato soup!

Dylans

Dylans bread van

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Robin and the sourdough bread selection

Another member of the cool van brigade is Dylan’s, a local seafood restaurant and pizzeria in Menai Bridge, Anglesey. Owners David and Robin also run a street food stall selling artisan bread and freshly cooked ‘dishes of the day’ found primarily on the third Saturday of the month at  Anglesey Farmers market.

Robin was on duty on the day I visited, but they didn’t have hot food just their artisan bread which is extremely good. Rows of sourdough, focaccia, buns and wholemeal grace the shelves of the van, all made by a lad that looks like he just stepped from the set of TOWIE… he is actually from Essex, but moved to Wales as a child (hence the hint of Essex/Welsh accent).

It was a shame I didn’t get to taste their famous fish chowder or lob scouse which I’d heard so much about from regulars at the market.  Robin explained that they only bring out the hot food and marquee during the busier market periods. But I picked up a bag of sourdough buns to bring home for lunch. They were beautifully soft and fluffy, with the distinctive sourdough tanginess and at 30p each were something of a bargain. The bread is pricier at £3 a loaf which might be a little steep for this area, but is definitely worth it.

Dylans restaurant is on  Twitter @Dylanspizzeria and their van, although mostly at the Anglesey market, they hope to move around to seaside areas such as Rhosneigr during the (hopefully) warmer months this year.

Mags and Maldwyn are not new kids on the block. They have sold their organic Welsh mountain lamb and mutton online for almost ten years and have run their mobile catering outlet Oen Aran lamb for around eight. They stick to a simple principle; to only sell quality meat produced on their own farm (which for your information is in Bala, North Wales). The menu is small and features just a handful of tried and tested dishes; dry cure bacon or sausage baps, roast lamb and lamb burgers which have something of a local reputation for being pretty damn good.

Mags and MAl Aran Lamb

Mags and Maldwyn of Aran lamb

Aran lamb burger

Brunch!

Aran lamb are part old school burger van, part local produce pioneer. The grease and chip fat are nowhere to be seen, replaced by their own high quality organic meat. It’s slightly disturbing, but also reassuring that they knew every single animal now being served in a bun.

Of course I had to try their famous lamb burger for myself. I’d skipped breakfast and moved straight to brunch…and oh what a brunch it was! Juicy, full of flavour and the quality of the meat shone through. Topped with lots of freshly cooked onion and a fab home-made mint sauce it was just what I needed to cure my stomach grumbles.

Mags and Maldwyn don’t do facebook or twitter, but they can be found at most local food events, from the Farmers market in Menai Bridge, Anglesey, to Porthmadog produce market on the last Saturday of the month. They certainly get about!

On another trip, this time to the Conwy Farmers market at the RSPB reserve I came across Harvies Ltd, a Mold based artisan bakery that sells rustic pies across North Wales and Cheshire. I didn’t manage to meet the owner Carole Harvie, but I was lucky to meet any of them at all; this was their first time at this market. I spoke to the woman running the stall and she explained that at some markets they sell hot pies but due to our wonderful Welsh regulations, this time those of the RSPB reserve which has an on-site cafe, the sale of hot food is discouraged.

It was a shame, the day I visited was freezing and I could have done with a hot pie but still I decided to pick up a selection to take home for later. With flavours such as ham and pheasant, steak and ale, courgette, feta and pine nut I was spoilt for choice. I eventually took one of each plus a hefty slice of macadamia brownie and lemon frangipane cake. Pies ranged in price between £3 and £4 which I think is pretty good value, considering the size of them. Pasties and sausage rolls cost slightly less and cakes were about £1.50 which was exceptionally cheap. Later, I warmed the pies in the oven and ate them for tea. They were delicious. Tasty filling, perfect pastry and I’m sure they would even be nice cold (on a less freezing day).

Harvies

Harvies pies

Harvies artisan pies….and cakes…

Now I know street food trade increases in the summer months and in some ways it’s a shame I was asked to do this review in the winter.  My visits to both Porthmadog and Dolgellau were hampered by snow and a number of markets close until March. I will try again later this month.

In the meantime if you know where the best street food is in North Wales drop me a line….email:moelfabansuppers@gmail.com or just leave a comment and watch out for the launch of the new look British Street Food website later this month.

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A trip to market, a French supper, a mini croquembouche and a chicken liver and cognac parfait to die for

It was our first day back outside with the Ogwen produce market and hooray!! The sun shone bathing us in a few glorious rays. Outside was warmer than it had been inside the church hall (our winter home), so we were happy to be back there; and so it seems, were the market visitors. All of a sudden we were busy again. On such a gorgeous day though who wouldn’t enjoy whiling away an hour or so; picking up some great local produce and soaking in a bit of vitamin D over a panad (that’s cup of tea to you non-Welsh speakers…but our coffee is popular too!).

The market square with its wrought ironwork and raised flower beds has become the ‘heart’ of Bethesda and no one was happier to be back than I. Once more ensconced in my purpose-built kitchen and out of the ‘cupboard’ at the front of the church hall. I was happy. You can tell from the picture as I’m smiling for a change.

As usual the market was an eclectic and sometimes eccentric mix of food and local crafts

There was local veg from Tatws Bryn, and Moelyci who had loads of spinach, rainbow chard and kale (pretty much the only thing that’s really great in the garden at this time of year). There was fab bread from Becws Alun and Model Bakery, who also tempted us with Kurdish pasties laced with piri-piri sauce. They were huge enough to sustain even the hungriest hiker!. Of course Lynwen was there with her amazing vegan cupcakes from Aderyn Melys, plus more traditional cakes, flapjacks, Madeline’s etc. from Cegin Brysur;  there was cheese from Caws Rhyd y Delyn, traditional greek pastries, meat from Tom at the local farm (his pork and tomato sausages are our favourites) and chocolate from Cariad.

On the craft side there were my usual favourites; all kinds of pretty things made with buttons from Miss Marple Makes, cards, badges and jewellery from Dyfal Donc and Phia Eco plus cards, cushions and lots of lovely bits and bobs.

…and then there was me, back at home in my little cafe selling local bacon baps, tomato and pork sausage baps with red onion marmalade and simple vegetable soup with wild garlic puree and creme fraiche, plus organic fair trade tea and coffee

Back home I didn’t have time to collapse in a heap, I had plenty to do for the evenings supper club. A private party for twelve with a French themed menu. I wouldn’t normally do two jobs back to back, God no…some would say I’m a masochist, but it was the only date our guests to make and the market is always the second Saturday…what could I do! I decided to go with it. You probably think me insane (and after doing it I’d probably agree!)

I prepped a fair bit the day before to get a head start. I made chicken liver and cognac parfait, red onion marmalade and the bread. All of which would be good the day after. But I still had to make the mini bite sized wild garlic and balsamic red onion tarts (Amuse Bouche) served with sloe gin slings…not very French I know. Gin sling hadn’t been the intention. I was planning on making Damson Martini’s but I discovered much too late that the last drop of Damson vodka I’d used to experiment with, was in fact the last bottle in the house. I thought I had more hidden at the back of the cupboard (away from the teen), but clearly I was mistaken. Instead we cracked open the sloe gin.

Starters all plated up and ready to go.

As a special birthday treat I decided to make a croquembouche for dessert (a French dessert made from cream filled profiteroles and caramel piled into a cone shape).  I’ve made profiteroles lots of times so didn’t think it could be that hard. I studied the pictures in my Raymond Blanc book (even though I wasn’t expecting to emulate his effort!) and decided how I was going to decorate it. I’d read somewhere that you shouldn’t attempt to make one if it’s raining…so I prayed for the weather to hold up. I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to make it…or how soon in advance I should make my choux pastry so on Saturday afternoon, when I hadn’t even started, everyone else was panicking and telling me I was an over-ambitious fool… but I held my nerve and got to it. It was far from perfect and was much smaller than I’d anticipated, but I was quite proud of my effort, even though it looked more like a small hillock than a mountainous cone.  Still, the orange patisserie cream filled profiteroles glistened with golden caramel, as spun sugar wrapped the choux pastry balls in a delicate web. I finished the little mound with a sprinkle of edible gold stars. At least it was too small to collapse!

I’m not sure if it was the promise of help for the evening (from a keen friend), or tiredness from a day of cooking, but I remained remarkably calm throughout, much to the surprise of all those around me.Our  guests loved the food and this is a snippet from the email they sent me the next day…

"the food was way way out of the ordinary, and in that category of one off meals that you never forget 
as they stand out so obviously from the rest and the most !....the best pate I've ever tasted in my life!
...and I would probs say that that was the yummiest dessert I've ever had........I was so full but yet it
was SO light and slid down so easily that I had seconds"

I think towards the end of the night I got a little too comfortable with the bottle of wine in front of me and didn’t end up going to bed until 1.15am….I regreted it the next morning I can tell you…Clearing the last of the debris with a hangover was definitely not what the doctor ordered…but it was a damn good Saturday.

Chicken and Cognac pate (the best pate ever…allegedly. Serves 12 in small ramekins, or make one large dish)

1 large Echalion shallot finely chopped

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 teaspoon walnut oil

500g chicken livers (washed, cleaned and drained well)

4 tablespoons cognac

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

150g melted butter (plus 25g for cooking and 50g or so to finish)

a teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

a pinch of cinnamon, salt & pepper

Sweat the shallot and garlic gently in 25g butter and teaspoon walnut oil. When soft and turning golden add the well-drained chicken livers. Cook over a medium heat until browned all over, it should take about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the chicken livers with a slotted spoon and put in the bowl of a food processor. Add the Cognac to the hot pan and cook down until thick. Scrape any stuck bits off the bottom of the pan as these will add flavour. Adds this to the food processor with mustard, thyme, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Melt the 150g butter and add this to the processor too then blitz everything well until smooth. Transfer to a terrine dish or individual ramekins. Melt another 50 g butter and use to finish the pate pouring over the top to create a lid. This will stop it discolouring.

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To Market, to market..

We didn’t go to buy a fat pig or a fat hen….although we did cook some lovely dry cure bacon and chorizo!

We missed the Ogwen Produce market, Bethesda during the January break, so it was with great joy that I packed up my boxes and headed off early Saturday morning to cook for the market faithful. Usually I sell jam and chutney and run the pop-up cafe, but this month I was giving myself a bit of a break and just sticking to the cafe, which gave me time to take some pictures, an unusual feat for me…and how nice it was to have time to browse and catch up with other producers.

The Bethesda market is lovely because it combines local crafts and food. You can pick up your Sunday dinner and buy a few extra treats and gifts and this month, with Valentines day being just round the corner there were so many pretty bits and bobs to buy. They had everything from heart-shaped biscuits at Cegin Brysur, to felt hearts, cards, red heart jewellery from DyfalDonc, gorgeous cute egg cosy’s, chocolate at Cariad chocolates and those beautiful valentines cakes that I’d seen on Aderyn Melys’s FB page…I made a beeline for them!

As well as sweet treats, crafts and the usual vegetables, cheese (from Rhyd Y Delyn), local honey and bread, two local butchers joined us for the first time.  Johnny 6 came along with their Welsh made chorizo, lamb merguez and other gourmet sausages, while I cooked up samples in the kitchen. I’m loving their Welsh dragon (leek and chilli) variety at the moment. We also had Tom Pritchard, from Parc Farm (in the next village to us) selling his home reared pork and lamb. It was good to have fresh meat on sale.

It was a cold day and I’m sure the hall was chillier than it was outside. But we kept ourselves warm with plenty of hot tea and coffee, plus bacon and sausage baps, chorizo and chick pea stew and spiced parsnip and apple soup.

Here are a few pictures from the day…

Wendy from Johnny 6

Sophie from Phia designs with her lovely fluffy scarves and wraps, recycled fleece slippers and hats and totally cute and gorgeous egg cosys…a perfect gift for Easter

cooking chorizo!

Cariad chocolate

Rhyd y Delyn cheese

Paul from Moelyci environmental centre in the foreground and our cafe at the back

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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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