September 2012 was the first time I visited Narberth, attracted by the annual food festival. We were staying near Little Haven and looking for things to do on holiday. It was also a reconnaissance trip as we were thinking of moving to Pembrokeshire. On that first visit we were really impressed by the thriving town we found; the bustling food festival; community centre, swimming pool and music venues; lots of independent shops and businesses. Many elements drew us here.
One of my priorities, when we were thinking about where to settle, was having food shops within walking distance. On this front we’re pretty spoilt here in Narberth! The High Street mini-supermarkets, butchers and grocers keep us well supplied. Wisebuys, that foodie treasure trove, has delivered the most obscure ingredients I’ve asked for – liquid smoke was the most unusual and yep, they had it in stock! Popping by the veg stall at the Friday market is always a delight, chatting to the couple who have harvested the veg from their plot. Whilst Fire and Ice and Ultracomida are great for a treat.
Having two butchers, a fish counter and numerous places selling fresh fruit and veg is a luxury compared to other local towns and villages. Worth valuing when you consider just north of here, in Clunderwen, the only grocery shop closed recently.
Vegetable Bolognese sauce (serves 6)
This recipe continues the theme of vegetarian dishes fit for a meat eater – it also happens to be vegan and gluten free, great if cooking for a crowd with various dietary requirements. My secret ingredient for the ‘meaty’ flavour is smoked tofu, my preferred brand is ‘Taifun Tofu‘ because it’s very dense and full flavoured (happily Wisebuys stock it!). The tofu isn’t essential but does add an extra depth of flavour.
As last month, this recipe is really a guideline; adapt to suit your tastes. I always use the trio of onions, celery, carrots as the base and then whatever other veg I have. It’s great simply on toast, served with pasta, smothered in mash and baked or layered up in a luscious lasagne, whilst leftovers freeze well.
1 large onion, carrot & celery stalk, finely diced (&/grate carrot)
500g mixed veg (eg mushrooms, peppers, courgettes…), finely diced/grated
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
100g red lentils (use 200g if not using the tofu), rinsed
1 pack smoked tofu, grated
1 stock cube/powder equivalent
1tbsp tomato puree + pinch of sugar/1tbsp ketchup
2 tsp dried mixed herbs/2tbsp chopped fresh herbs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can of tomatoes + a can full of water
1 – Heat a large saucepan on med-high, add the oil, then the onion, carrot and celery and fry for 5 mins, stirring occasionally, until they look softened and are starting to brown a little. Add the other vegetables and cook until they are softened and starting to brown.
2 – Add the garlic, stir in and fry for a minute or so, until you can smell the garlic-y aroma.
3 – Add the lentils, tofu, tomato puree + sugar/ketchup, herbs and pepper (don’t add salt/stock until the end otherwise it hardens the lentils while cooking) and stir to combine. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, so everything heats through.
4 – Add the tomatoes and water. The liquid should just cover the mixture, add more water if needed as the lentils will absorb quite a lot as they cook. Simmer for 20 minutes until the lentils are softening. Add with crumbled stock cube/powder and cook for a further 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened, add salt to taste and serve.
This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.