Giving thanks to farmers and food producers with a Welsh Harvest Cake

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Rhubarb pie with cheese webWhen writing articles for Breeze magazine I have been inspired by foodie people and places in Pembrokeshire. I recently attended an event which brought together teachers, college staff, farmers and food producers, all wanted to ensure children and young people know about their food and where it comes from.

Examples of schools visiting farms, and farmers going in to talk to pupils were good to hear – especially after one local teacher told us a pupil in her class thought tomatoes grew underground and another thought milk was made in factories. These stories surprised me, I naively assumed that children growing up rurally would have a better grasp of how food gets to their plates.

Whilst there is some great work taking place to inform and educate about food production, barriers remain – such as funding or health and safety. More worryingly, some farmers and food producers expressed frustration and sorrow at the misunderstanding and hostility they can encounter when off their farms. Talking with them it became clear that it is not only children and young people who know little about these industries that we all rely on.

I’m reminded of an adage told by a farmer friend, ‘All being well you’ll need a doctor and a solicitor a handful of times in your life, but you’ll need a farmer three times a day’. I suggest we could all learn more about where our food comes from and value the people who produce it for us. Encouraging more young people into the food and farming industries would be great too, across Wales they employ 1.5 million people, offering varied and interesting careers. I started working in catering 20 years ago and I still love it.

This is my final article for Breeze magazine, thank you for reading (thoughts and recipes will continue to flow here on the blog!) I’ll sign off with a sweet goodbye recipe. Tarten Planc (Griddle Tarts) or Teisennau ar y Maen (Bakestone Turnovers) aka, as with the large version in this recipe, known as a Harvest Cake – most suitable for this time of year! They would have been made on a planc or bakestone traditionally, but a frying pan works as well. Use whatever fruit you have available, rhubarb or cooking apples work well, and you could add berries too. I like to eat it with cheese (it’s a Yorkshire thing..!)

Welsh Harvest Cake

Ingredients

150g plain flour (I used 100g white + 50g wholemeal rye flour)

80g butter

3 tblsps cold water

1 large stalk of rhubarb / 1 large cooking apple

1 tblsp butter

1 tblsp sugar

Method

1 – First cook the fruit (or use leftover cooked fruit). Wash the fruit, peel if necessary then cut into even chunks.

2 – Place fruit into a pan and sprinkle over the tablespoon sugar and butter, cover with a lid and gently simmer until soft. Leave to cool, strain off excess liquid, taste and add more sugar if needed, to your taste.

(I cooked my rhubarb in the oven, as it was on for other stuff. To cook in the oven – Heat oven to 160c. Place fruit in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the tablespoon sugar and butter, cover with a greaseproof paper/a lid and bake for 15-20mins until soft. Leave to cool, strain off excess liquid, taste and add more sugar if needed, to your taste.)

2 – To make the pastry, put the flour into a large mixing bowl, dice the butter and mix into the flour. Rub the butter with the flour between your thumb and fingers, until it resembles sand and there are no more large lumps of butter. Pour in the water, mix and press together into a ball. Wrap the ball of pastry and place in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to rest (pastry will last about a week in the fridge, if you want to prepare it in advance).

3 – When ready to make, split the pastry into two large and two smaller pieces. Roll them all out to about the thickness of a £1 coin, the large/small should be equal sized pairs. If you like to be neat cut them into rounds, using a saucer/pastry cutter for large/small.

4 – Prepare the small pie (Tarten Planc) first – this will be your tester! Place a spoonful of fruit mix onto the bottom pastry circle, spread it out leaving a 1cm edge. Dab a little water around the edge then place the second piece of pastry on top and seal around the edge, gently squeeze out any air trapped inside before you finish sealing.

5 – Warm a frying pan over a low heat and place your Tarten Planc in the centre. Cooking low and slow is the trick with these pies (as with Welsh cakes). You’ll notice the appearance change a little, they’ll puff up slightly and appear a little greasy as the butter in the pastry melts. Turnover when you think it’s ready, when it’s golden on both sides and the edges have changed colour too they pie’s ready. Allow it to cool a little (the filling will be very hot), then eat while still warm with cream, ice cream or cheese (this maybe a Yorkshire eccentricity!)

6 – Repeat this process with the larger pastry rounds to make a Harvest Cake. You can use any pastry scraps and leftover filling to make Teisennau ar y Maen – roll into a round, add filling to half the pastry round then fold the pastry as if making a pasty.

This article was the final part of a series in Narberth Breeze magazine.

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