Tag Archives: Welsh cheese

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

Local food, foraging and an Autumn supper

One of the things I have noticed since I started hosting supper club is that I use the supermarket less and less…not just when sourcing for suppers but for all of my everyday purchases. Okay, there are some things I struggle to get elsewhere, or at least for a competative price, but the majority of the food that now enters my house is locally produced. As a result of this we as a family eat better, have great foodie contacts and are no longer drowing in a sea of plastic (since I stopped supermarket shopping my plastic recycling has been cut by two thirds). Carbon footprint successfully reduced!!

This weekend was the epitome of local. Hosting a harvest supper club made the most of everything local and seasonal…from the Nantmor wild mushrooms, to foraged blackberries and Bramley apples. Vegetables came from Moelyci as usual and extras from Hootons home grown in Anglesey…while over that way I bought sea salt from Halen Mon, arguably the best salt I’ve ever used and well worth the drive over (or the order on the internet). The chicken and dry cure bacon came from my usual Butcher Willams & son and the extras I used for experimenting with vegan dishes from a local whole food shop in Bangor.

We entertained a group of seven (one person was unable to join us on the night) with one vegan guest and two having travelled over from Chester (a good hour away!!) traeting them to five courses of hearty harvest fare.

The menu was as follows:

Margarita cocktails and Focaccia

Surprise Tatin with mixed leaves (another winning recipe from the Ottolenghi cookbook, although I changed the goats cheese for feta cheese on this occassion)

Chicken with dry cure bacon, wild mushrooms and marsala (a recipe I have made for supper club previously,  but since it is wild mushroom season I thought I’d reprise it)

Mushroom and Leek risotto (adapted from a recipe in an American Vegetarian book I was given years ago as a present called Fields of Greens) , buttered Kale

Blackberry and apple crumble with home made vanilla custard (the crumble was perked up with some mixed pumpkin and sesame seeds, pine nuts and flaked almonds and a hand full of rolled oats)

Local strong cheeses (Golau Glas, Caws from Rhyd y Delyn and Black Bomber) with apple chutney and spiced courgetter chutney) and coffee

Although we were entertaining a relatively small number, we ended up a bit stretched this time and I had a bit of a panic over the main course, which required me to have two sets of hands to keep everything stirred, turned and evenly cooked. The teen was still on crutches, leaving Sean to do the bulk of the running about,  but she bravely worked on (her choice, I did tell her she didn’t have to but her desire for pay outweighed the pain) and she did her best. She finally conked out after dessert, collapsing in a heap in the lounge upstairs.Pain got the better of her although I also wondered if the Margarita’s she’d mixed on the sly had contributed.

The Ottolenghi  tatin was amazing, even if I say so myself! I was so impressed at how well it turned out I had to take it out to show the guests. One said ‘wow, it looks fantastic’ and I replied ‘sorry, you can’t have it it’s not vegan’. She looked totally crestfallen, until I told her i’d made her some individual chick pea blinis with tomato and lime salsa which cheered her up again.

With the main course I realised that cooking too many things on the top of the stove at the same time was a monumental error. It almost led to the risotto spoiling, but mercifully with lots of shaking it stayed nice and wet and only stuck to the pan a tiny bit. I served the vegan portion before ladling in the butter, which added to the richness along with the wild chanterelles, shitake and chestnut mushrooms.

Dessert was a good old fashioned blackberry and apple crumble with some added nuts, seeds and oats in the crumble mix served with fresh vanilla custard. I wasn’t keen on using the vegan butter alternative. I’m sure it doesn’t taste as good and it feels like a bit of  cheat sometimes so I contacted Emma at Earth kitchen for some ideas on making vegan mousse, whips etc. She sent me a recipe for Anglesey Delight; a vegan, raw food dessert using coconut oil and Agave syrup as thickeners and sweeteners. I did a bit of experimenting and substituted slowly cooked blackberry and apple puree for her Avocado and Mango. The coconut oil, melted by warming in a bowl of hot water, whilst still in the jar, certainly thickened the fruit mixture and made a lovely smooth whip, but although it was nice tasting I thought the coconut overpowered the fruit taste too much. To tone it down I made a simple blackberry and apple compote and marbled the two together. I explained to our vegan guest that it was an experiment and if she wasn’t sure about it she could just have some compote. Thankfully she liked it. She liked the undertones of the coconut and said that it gave the dessert a creaminess that you obviously don’t get with a simple compote.

Later, while the others tucked into cheese (well those who still had enough room) Debbie, the vegan enjoyed her own little individual red pepper, almond and garlic pate.

Lessons learned. Don’t let the teen make Margaritas; don’t try and cook more than three things, on a four ring domestic cooker all at once and make sure any experimenting is done well in advance to avoid shredded nerves on the night!

cherry tomatos halved and ready for roasting

potatoes, tomatos, feta and fresh oregano layered and then covered with puff pastry

the cooked tatin

plating the tatins, with green mixed leaves and herbs and the vegan chickpea blinis with tomato lime salsa

plating chicken with dry cure bacon and wild mushrooms on risotto and kale

layering the blackberry and apple with crumble being sprinkled on

cooked and bubbling blackberry and apple crumble

our dinner guests enjoying dessert

The following day, instead of having a nice Sunday lie in, I was up bright and early and off to spend the day wild food foraging with Simon Maskrey, the Ray Mears of the Welsh Mountains. My hope was that in addition to spending a sunny day in the fresh air, I would learn more about edible wild plants and where to find them. In particular I wanted to learn more about wild mushroom habitats.

Anyone around these parts that likes food and foraging, and knows where to find wild mushrooms, especially chanterelles, tends to shroud their knowledge in a veil of secrecy! Dare to ask anyone where they get chanterelles and they will turn quickly away and tell you in no uncertain terms to go find your own patch. I have tried both stealth and innocence when attempting to ascertain the best location, “oh look at them, where did they come from then?” with an innocent look on my face usually has little success…so you can imagine my surprise when Rosie (one the other course attendees) happily chatted about the chanterelles she’d picked and when asked where she found them proceeded to give me the location of ‘her’ patch. I didn’t hint at my excitement. A little later Simon started to talk about mushroom foraging. He too explained that most people refuse to tell others about their secret locations. It was at this point that Rosie turned to look at me, the penny finally dropping as to what she had done. After staring long and hard she finally said “of course, you do realise I will have to kill you now”?

The course gave us the opportunity to find and pick a variety of edible wild plants, the type that I wouldn’t have usually thought of using and at the end of our collecting I made salad for my lunch. Most foragers are well aware of the usual finds; blackberries, damsons, plums, crab apples, sloes, ramsons (wild garlic) and even sorrel. But I always thought for example that yew berries were poisonous; it’s actually only the stone that’s poisonous, but to be honest I’d have to be desperate to want to eat them as they have the consistency of slug slime and snot. We did pick a variety of plants and herbs (sorrel, bitter cress, fat hen, chickweed and something I’ve forgotten the name of but it looks like a navel!!). We also found burdock (the root can be used in the autumn for dandelion and burdock and of course all parts of the dandelion can be used) and got very wet feed searching for wild mint but unfortunately found no edible wild mushrooms.

The most important lesson I learned was that the best time to pick plants is according to the growing season, for example, in the spring the plant puts its energy into producing new growth, therefore in the spring pick the fresh shoots and leaves, in the summer it’s the flowers and in the autumn and winter the fruit, berries and then roots.

Bitter cress

a sorrel leaf

The bizarely named 'fat hen'

navel wort

bitter cress in situ

foraged salad in he woods...with Moelyci tomatoes (the best toms I have EVER tasted)

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Menu for the 28th, British summer supper

Don’t forget our next supper will be held on August 28th and there are still spaces, but filling fast now, so if you’d like to join us please let me know ASAP by the usual method (email or txt)…the full menu for our British summer dinner will be

Pimms by the jug full

Slow roasted plum tomatos with mixed leaves, basil, garlic and goats cheese pearls

Wild salmon wellington with french violette and borlotto beans, rhubarb chard, chilli, chives, lemon and mustard seeds

Summer pudding

Local cheeses, home made chutney and crackers

Coffee

All the fruit and veg are from local growers and most will be harvested on the day of eating…cant get fresher than that!!

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Reviews of the Underground Farmers market…and new Farmers market in Wales

Article on the Underground Farmers Market in the London Evening Standard….

and I will also be selling cheese and posh buns at the Hendre Hall farmers market on Easter Monday…come down to try and buy from 9 til 4

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The Underground Farmers market

I will be selling local Welsh cheeses, two-seed crackers, seed cake and Bara Brith at msmarmitelovers Underground Farmers Market in London on Sunday….

To get tickets go to http://www.wegottickets.com/location/2522

Look forward to seeing you there

Denise xx

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