Tag Archives: The Green Man festival

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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For the love of food and music

The Green Man

Food, as you might have guessed is my main passion in life, but this is closely followed by my love of music. What better way to combine the two than a music festival, with a taste for good grub.

The Green Man festival (yes, I know, this is my third Green Man post, and I’m sorry if I’m getting boring, but there was so much more to my time there than just cooking for the crew) ticked both the boxes for me and I thought I’d just share a few of my musical and gastronomic highlights from the weekend. With so much to choose from it was hard to know what to eat; chorizo, smoked produce, Goan fish curry, falafel, Italian…mostly we ended up choosing from the stall that was closest to whichever stage we were at!

olives, garlic and dolmades to nibble

I felt truly spoilt to be awarded the festival ‘off’ and so I had the privilege of whiling away my time eating great food and listening to some amazing music…certainly a few drinks also passed my lips…you really can’t top a hot brandy chai on a chilly Sunday evening, particularly when accompanied by some amazing electroswing from the up and coming band The Correspondents.

Another Sunday highlight was the roast dinner my sister and I had promised ourselves, from Harefields Bakery and Roast. Owned and run by Davey Chambers, last seen on The Great British Bake Off, who assured us of the quality and provenance of the grub they serve.  We weren’t disappointed as we tucked into a massive plate of gammon, roasties and fresh veg, washed down with a glass or two of red wine as we watched Laura Marling, who held as rapt with her beautifully haunting voice and melodies. A strong follow-up to the bass heavy, Mercury music prize nominated, James Blake, one of my personal favourites of the weekend

Harefields...purveyors of fine festival roast dinners

With the heat of the sun on Friday we consumed plenty of ice cream and icy cold smoothies whilst lazing on the grass by the Green Man pub stage where we took in a great performance by The Ramshackle Union Band and nibbled on olives, dolmades and preserved garlic…phew I’m sure we reeked by the time we moved over to the far out stage for Admiral Fallow and Lia Ices. The highlight of Friday night for me was Bellowhead. I’m a great lover of rousing folk and a bit of sea shanty thanks to my acting and shanty singing step-father Brian. They didn’t disappoint one bit and there was a great deal of jigging about done by all.

A quick trip to the fantastic Thali cafe followed for a post band snack (which they very kindly gave me for free as crew caterer…the owner said “well if you feed them, we’ll feed you” …they’ve always been a favourite of mine and now I know why. Not only are the thalis fantastic, they are just bloody lovely people) before heading back to Chai Wallahs for more dancing, this time to Featurecast and Don Headicutz. My memories are vague about when I returned to my tent, I think I went round in a circle for a while, but suffice it to say I didn’t feel too well on Saturday morning.

Social interaction skills eluded me the next morning as I donned dark glasses to head to the main stage to watch the angelic voiced Lisa Jen Brown and 9Bach. Perhaps not quite enough to blow the cobwebs away, but a lovely start all the same. It was only a beef and onion pie, with lashings of gravy from pieminister, that made me feel slightly human again, as I headed off for a bit of Chailo Sim at the far out stage. A perfect set, by a perfect band. Ropey as I felt, there wasn’t much that could top that mornings music.

All hail pieminister...best hangover cure ever!

Later we returned to the far out stage for a sadly disappointing Polar bear and some jerk chicken.

jerk chicken rice and peas

I wasn’t ready for spicy and it nearly killed me off, nice as it was, while Polar Bear failed to hit the spot either. The highlight of Saturday for the teens was Noah and the Whale and Fleet Foxes…i’m not a massive fan of either but both were good.  I only made it through a small part of the Fleet Foxes before lack of sleep the previous night caught up with me and my tent and blow up bed called…

Of course Sunday was a different matter and following our lovely Sunday dinner….our main stage encampment moved up to Chai Wallahs yet again for the sublime Submotion Orchestra (another massive hit with all of us), followed by far out stage headliner Gruff Rhys. Poor Aidan, determined to stay up for the fireworks slept curled under a blanket, until it was time for the burning of the Green Man.

The Green Man burning

At half past midnight there was just enough time to stop off at the tea and toast wagon, a Green Man institution, for a tomato, basil and mozzarella toastie…the perfect end to the best festival weekend.

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Welsh produce in the Brecon Beacons

Welsh cheeses and home made chutney

As most regular readers of my blog will know I am a fiercely vocal advocate for the buying of local seasonal produce. This was no exception during my Green Man crew catering stint. I admit I had a lot of help before hand, having been sent a pretty thorough list of local businesses who were the most lovely, helpful bunch. So lovely in fact, that I thought I’d share them with my readers. Just in case you ever visit the Brecon Beacons, or if you live close to Crickhowell, or even if you are looking to buy your food on route to the Green Man festival you may want to pop along and sample their fabulous produce.

First stop would be Cashell’s (01873 810405); a fantastic family butchers and delicatessen stocking all things Welsh. I used an absolute  mountain of their smoked bacon, sausages, beef, lamb, mince and gammon. They supplied a never-ending choice of Welsh cheese for our popular lunchtime cheese board, which comprised cheeses from Caws Cenarth, the Snowdonia cheese company (Black Bomber and Green Thunder were firm favourites) and the Blaenavon Cheddar company, whose Taffi was a winner. Combined with both mine and Del from Calon y Cegin’s chutneys they went down a storm.

On to Askews family bakery (01873 810345), who supplied our bread and rolls. The rolls were soft, fresh and floury and everyone commented on how nice they were. We also sourced a lovely, cakey, bara brith from them which proved itself to be a very good staple for afternoon tea and a firm favourite with the crew.

enormous vat full of carrot and coriander soup…served with Askews buns

Our dairy man Carl (01873 810881) kept us supplied with milk, eggs, cream and lovely butter, although it would have been nice if the butter had been Welsh.

The only disappointment was the lack of local/British produce from the vegetable wholesaler. Quality was at times variable (very under ripe pears for example, which could have been locally sourced and would have been seasonal and ripe and tomatoes which are plentiful in the UK) and a lot was from overseas. On the other hand they were a lovely, friendly and helpful bunch who tried to make sure we had what we needed promptly.

Del and I brought a lot of our own ingredients such as preserved lemons, smoked paprika, sumac, Keralan chicken spices etc. but there came a point when even we ran out. I tried to avoid supermarket ordering on the whole, but there are some things you just can’t get in the local shop and without a market stocking exotic produce the next best choice was Waitrose in Abergavenny. They supplied most of the unusual ingredients we wanted such as Orzo, Tagine spices like Ras al Hanout, Harissa and balsamic vinegar. Anything that could be bought in bulk we picked up from Bookers, the local cash and carry.

Our suppliers didn’t let us down and so we had great, local food to offer the crew we cooked for. They felt like part of the family we spent so much time on the phone to them and its a shame that I won’t get to see them again until next year (hopefully).

The food wasn’t fancy. It was simple, well cooked and wholesome, think well-flavoured freshly made soups, stews, tagine, chilli and curries. On our last night, by popular demand I made a massive creamy fish pie with a fennel and endive salad followed by lemon meringue pie. Cashell’s supplied the fish at cost price and for that both I and the rest of the crew are eternally grateful. It made our week. I think and I hope we made people very happy and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

sliced, freshly cooked gammon…a lunch time staple along with soup, cheese and a couple of enormous salads

Denise x

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Giant suppers and inspired food….crew cooking at the Green Man

The Lodge

Apologies for my relative quietness lately but I’ve been tucked away for the past week and a half in the beautiful surroundings of Glanusk Estate in the Brecon Beacons, cooking four meals a day for the hungry crew members that put together the Green Man festival.

The estate pre festival

The job came about through Ellie of salad club who cooked for them last year. I’d always fancied trying my hand at festival catering and the Green Man is my most favourite festival so I emailed her to say if she was doing it again, I’d love to do it with her. A year passed by and then out of the blue I got a message from her saying Green Man were looking for a caterer but she wasn’t doing it, did I want the job? Of course I phoned the organisers immediately and the rest is history!

I promptly set to looking for helpers. For the first ten-day feat Welsh supper club host Delyth from Calon y Cegin in Cardiff stepped in.   We’d never met before but through our Facebook link I contacted her and asked if she would be interested. She jumped at the chance.

Despite being privileged in that we got to stay in the Lodge, a  lack of internet access (a fault on the line) and the relentless workload kept me from the computer. Cooking for between 30 and 50 a day it was monumentally hard work. Up at six to prepare cooked breakfast, a brief sit down before starting on lunch, which consisted of soups, bread, salads, cheese, ham, Quiche, fruit and cakes, followed by afternoon tea at four and then straight on to dinner which was usually a big pot of tagine/goulash/stew/ chilli accompanied by potatoes, rice, couscous and various other salads and dessert. The last bits of clearing up and the night security pack lunches were usually done by nine, at which point we collapsed in a heap.

trays of cake for afternoon tea

massive trifle with home made sponge, custard and blackcurrant coulis

 

home-made focaccia and salads

cheese board and home made chutney

Delyth making industrial quantities of sponge...one with lime marmalade and coconut and the other with plum jam. We were also given a bag of plums from a tree on the estate that we turned into plum compote

chocolate brownie in massive quantities

our last lunch....didn't matter how much cheese we put out, it all went

We cooked everything  from scratch using supplies from the local producers plus we both brought with us some of our favourite ingredients, equipment, knives and a few odd extras such as special spice blends, black currants from my garden and toffee vodka (which went into a sticky ginger and toffee vodka cake)!!

Everyday we put our heads together to get creative. I’d worked out basic meal plans on a spread sheet but we often ad-libbed, changed things according to what we had in, or what needed using up. Food waste was minimal as numbers grew day on day. Five days in we asked the crew for feedback. What had they liked so far. They responded

we like cheese and we like cake….and we like cheesecake

We knew we were on to a winner…seeing as I’m a bit of a cake fiend myself.

It was a steep learning curve for both of us and at times a struggle to keep the energy levels high enough to keep going. We both had days where we felt like death and providing enough food on budget was my biggest headache.

There were days when we ran on caffeine and cigarettes. We sometimes worked through hangovers. Most of the time I didn’t get enough sleep, lured by the hypnotic charm of the crew camp fire and a cold beer, but despite all that Delyth and I made a great team, produced some fantastic inspired grub and didn’t fall out.

26 litres of carrot and coriander soup

a few of the crew

more crew...getting lunch. They were all the hardest working bunch EVER

The best bit of all was seeing how gratefully received our meals were. There’s nothing that makes a dedicated cook smile more than to see people enjoying their creations. In the words of Bill (designer and builder of the main stage)

I love you…you keep me alive!

Bill in the cherry picker at main stage

My three-day break back at home with the kids is drawing to a close and I’m back off the Brecon tomorrow for the festival and five more days cooking. More tales of crew catering will follow…

Main stage

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North Wales Daily Post food hero nomination and Welsh blogging awards

I was very excited to find myself nominated as a Local Food Hero in the North Wales Daily post on Tuesday.

It was a lovely piece that made me feel rather proud to have started my little supper club. I still love doing it as much as when I started, which unbelievably will be two years in October. We’ve come a long way since our first dinner. I’ve learnt many things; tried many new recipes, making up many of my own along the way as part of the journey and I’ve met some wonderful people from across Wales and further afield (Belgium springs to mind!) who I would never have met had it not been for these dinners in my living room.

There have been lots of nice articles about us in the press and of course the infamous Britain’s Best Dish appearance, which came about by an ITV researcher reading my blog.

Of course that’s not all, so many other things have sprung out of the experiment: I now sell my own jams and chutney (that have always been so popular at supper club) at the Ogwen local produce market and run a monthly pop-up brunch there, I have an increasing number of requests for private dinners and have bookings to cook for two weddings!

What next you ask? Well on the third of August I’m off to Crickhowell for ten days to cook for a very hungry Green Man festival crew, followed by another 5 day stint after the festival. More on this to follow. This will take me to the end of August when I will take my well-earned holiday!!

In the meantime, for those of you that enjoy reading my blog, have read my reviews or used my recipes, it would be fantastic if you could drop a line to the Welsh blog awards suggesting little old me!

Thanks everyone…keep reading and enjoying my foodie ideas and supper club dinners

Denise x

 

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Filed under British food, home cooking, living room restaurant, local produce, Pop-up cafe, preserving, produce markets, secret supper, underground restaurant