Foodie

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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Roast Cauliflower with Blue Cheese or Pistachio Sauce – Narberth Breeze magazine article Dec 2016-Jan 2017

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roast-cauli-carrots-and-cheese-sauceHere we are, ready to celebrate the end of another year with a host of festivities including the shortest day and a welcome return to longer daylight hours. Celebrating and feasting with friends and family will get us through the dark months!

Flavour-wise, warming spices like cinnamon and cloves, fresh oranges and cranberries and rich Stilton and port are a blast of winters past. Smells that warm us, from the first spiced whiff of a mince pie to the rich aromas of a traditional roast dinner. Whilst bright, colourful foods are in the spirit of celebration – this month’s recipe brings greens and reds to light up your table.

I love a roast dinner (except the meat) with all the trimmings. Everybody has their own ‘must-have’ dishes, roast potatoes are surely in everybody’s top three, right?! I suggest this recipe for whole roasted cauliflower as a great replacement for meat when serving a roast dinner to vegetarians and an excellent addition for omnivores too. If cooking for vegan/dairy free diners replace dairy ingredients with the alternatives suggested.

The flavour of roast cauliflower is more complex, richer and caramelised then plain old boiled cauli (and doesn’t leave the kitchen with that distinctive sulphur-y aroma.) Alternatively, to speed up cooking time (and save energy) you can cut the cauliflower into florets, coat in oil and roast, leaves and all, on a baking tray for 20-30 minutes. Same great flavour but not such a wow-factor when serving.

If you can find a Romanesco cauliflower this really is a dish to show off its fabulous conical spirals. Serve with gravy or one of the sauce recipes and colourful garnish suggested here, alongside all your favourite trimmings for a roast.

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Whole Roast Cauliflower

Romanesco/white cauliflower (small will cook in 30mins, large around an hour)

1-2 tbsp rapeseed / sunflower oil

25-50g butter / 2-4 tbsp olive oil

Method

Oven heated to 220c / fan 200c

Remove really tough outer leaves from the cauliflower then cut the base from the cauli so it stands flat, wash the cauliflower.

You will need an oven-proof pan/dish with a lid/foil to cover, that the whole cauliflower fits into. Heat the pan on a medium heat on the hob, add rapeseed/sunflower oil, stand the whole cauliflower in the pan and cook for 5 minutes until you can smell the base start to caramelise (not burn!)

Take off the hob, smear butter/olive oil over the top and rub in all over, use as much as you need to coat the florets. Cover with lid/foil and roast in the oven. Check after 20 minutes and baste, test with a sharp knife, if it’s softening remove the lid so that it browns. Brown for 10-20 minutes.  However, if still firm leave lid on, checking and basting every 10-20 minutes. Depending on size it can take 30minutes-1 hour.

It’s cooked when it’s soft (or al dente if you prefer) and browned outside, with the leaves crispy.

Blue cheese sauce

25-50g softish blue cheese (I used Boksburg Blue)

2-4 tbsps Greek yogurt/creme fraiche/similar

Mash the cheese with a fork then stir in yogurt/creme fraiche to taste, you want a spoonable consistency and creamy flavour with a spike of blue cheese.

Pistachio sauce

2-4 tbsps pistachio/other nut butter

2-4 tbsps unsweetened soya yogurt/similar

Mash the nut butter with a fork then stir in soya yogurt, you want a spoonable consistency and creamy, nutty flavour.

To serve

Serve with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds/dried cranberries and roughly chopped pistachios/roasted cashews to add brightness and crunch.

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

Narberth foodie visitor’s guide

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A couple of weeks ago I attended the Real Bread Campaign’s ‘Real Bread Uprising’, a conference bringing together bread-heads and foodies from across the UK united by a passion for bread (made from four simple ingredients; flour, water, salt and yeast/starter) rather than highly manufactured industrial loaves (with a host of extra ingredients added to aid mass-production). I met so many interesting people and had a great time chatting about bread, flours, bakeries, food projects and food festivals across the UK.

Many people I spoke to were discussing upcoming food festivals they were heading to and I recommended one which takes place right here in Pembrokeshire as well as extolling the many foodie treats our far south-west corner of Wales has to offer. These conversations inspired me to write a (very overdue) blog post. So… here it is!

Narberth Food Festival, which is coming up this weekend on Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th September, is a gem of a food festival. I’ve visited for the last few years, the first time while on holiday before we moved to Pembrokeshire. As food festivals go it’s not the largest, compared to the packed streets of Abergavenny it’s tiny, and I think that’s one of reasons I enjoy it so much. Many stallholders are from Pembrokeshire with some from further afield, offering a wonderful array of Welsh produce.

This year I’m really excited to be involved with the Education Day, on the Friday before the festival proper begins. Another great feature of Narberth Food Festival is the invitation extended to local primary school children to get involved. They experience talks, demos and hands-on workshops run by a range of local food businesses. For my workshop I’ll my challenging their sensory perceptions as they choose, smell and taste foods. It’s going to be surprising, don’t want to give too much away..!

I moved to Narberth last year, drawn to it as a buzzing little town with great live music and arts venues and strong community spirit (last year a grassroots campaign saved the swimming pool from closure and it’s now run as a community enterprise). Wander around town and you’re spoilt for choice with independent food shops and producers, upmarket clothes and gift shops and a host of vintage clothes and furniture shops.

For anyone new to town I’d recommend trying Spanish deli Ultracomida on High Street and taking a seat at a shared table in the cafe at the back of the shop to sample the tapas and Er Boqueron on tap – the world’s first beer made with seawater. On James Street the eponymous owners of Plum Vanilla cafe offer an interesting menu including great salads and cakes. Across the road Fire and Ice have a juicy selection of Welsh and West Country ciders, lots of local ales and Welsh spirits alongside their award winning homemade ice creams produced in small batches of seasonal flavours and refreshing cider and cocktail sorbets.

Lovers of Welsh cakes can pick up a bargain at Tan Y Castell’s factory shop on Redstone Road, besides your mamgu’s (Welsh for ‘grandma’) these are the best around. Anyone visiting Narberth on a Friday should pop in to Queen’s Hall for the local producers market, the veg stall is a highlight and there are a handful of other food stalls most weeks alongside craft makers and the teddy bear doctor – a lovely curiosity. Wisebuys delicatessen on High Street is a treasure trove of local and exotic delicacies and can be relied upon to stock the most obscure ingredients (liquid smoke anyone?!). Even the Spar has a good selection of local foods and beers alongside their standard stock.

I love showing visiting friends around town, especially those from big cities who are pleasantly surprised that a small Welsh town has so much on offer. Do get in touch if you’re visiting and want any local tips, I’ll help if I can..!

Sourdough bread

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The Real Bread Campaign are working tirelessly to promote good, honest, tasty bread in the UK. I’m proud to be a member and planned to support their Sourdough September promotion. I am a little late..!

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I hope this addition to the plethora of sourdough bread recipes available will prove useful, I have illustrated it with lots of photos as I think this helps if you’re trying it for the first time.

Over the past few years I have honed my recipe based on my life at the time. The long fermentation and proving process is adaptable and I’ve been able to fit it around a busy working day, lazy weekends and now the demands of a small child. The process relies on time but demands very little from the baker, probably an hour of your time over 24 hours. I now use a food mixer but it’s not much more work to mix and knead by hand.

You will need:

665g (250g+115g+300g) strong bread flour (white, wholemeal or a mix)

230g sourdough starter (make your own or beg some from a friend/friendly local bakery!)

415g (300g+115g) water (use bottled if your tap water is especially high in chlorine, my tap water works fine)

10g fine sea salt

Create the sponge; put 250g flour into a large mixing bowl/food mixer bowl, add starter and 300g water. Mix/whisk until smooth. Cover and leave overnight, it should be sticky and bubbly in the morning. (Refresh starter by replacing 115g bread flour and 115g water).

Sourdough sponge ingredients                    Bubbling sourdough sponge

To make the dough add 300g flour and the salt to the mix.

If kneading by hand, it will be sticky to start with, try not to add much extra flour as a wetter dough will make a better loaf. Knead until a smooth, stretchy dough is formed.

If kneading in a food mixer, use dough hook on low setting to start with, when a dough forms increase the speed to medium for a few minutes then return to slow for a few more minutes, until a smooth, stretchy dough is formed.

Cover and leave to rise until double in size, timings will vary depending on the temperature, a few hours in a warm room, and longer if cool.

Final sourdough ingredients                    Mixing sourdough

Smooth kneaded sourdough                    Sourdough before second fermentation

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and deflate and ease it into a rectangle shape by pushing it with your hands. Fold the bottom third up over the dough, fold the top third down (like making puff pastry). Rotate 90 degrees and repeat twice. The dough should become smooth and springy.

Shaping sourdough 1  Shaping sourdough 2  Shaping sourdough 3  Shaping sourdough 4  Shaping sourdough 5  Shaping sourdough 6  Shaping sourdough 7  Shaping sourdough 8  Shaping sourdough 9  Shaping sourdough 10  Shaping sourdough 11

Create a proving basket by laying a tea towel in a large bowl. Dust with flour and place the dough smooth side down on the tea towel, dust the top of the dough with flour and cover with the overlapping tea towel. Leave to prove until doubled in size, probably around one and a half to three hours (depending on room temp, you can slow down/speed up to suit you by placing in fridge/warm place).

Improvised proving basket

Before proving sourdough                    Sourdough ready to bake

Heat the oven to the highest setting, 250 c/Gas 10. Place a large cast iron pan with lid in the oven, to warm up as the oven heats up (the pan will create similar conditions to a bread oven, giving the loaf extra lift and great crust. If you don’t have one just bake on a baking tray).

When the oven is full temp, remove the pan and dust inside with flour, tip the dough straight in, place lid on pan and return to the oven.

Cast iron pan to bake bread in                    Sourdough in cast iron pan

Bake at full temp for 10-15mins then reduce temp to 200c/Gas 6, bake for a further 20-30mins then check. The loaf should have risen well and a good crust should be forming, it will probably still be quite pale. If the loaf seems well risen and crusty, you can remove it from the pan and return to an oven shelf to finish browning for 5-10mins. If not quite firm/crusty enough, leave in the pan with lid on for a few minutes before removing from pan and browning in the oven. The loaf should be quite dark and crusty; it will lighten and soften a little on cooling. (Ideally you will hear it cracking and sighing as it cools, this is a great sign!)

Sourdough loaf                    Crusty sourdough loaf

Elderflowers

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Early on a sunny day is a good time to pick elderflowers, as they are fresher and juicer, before the sun frazzles them throughout the day. Having said that I often used to pick them on the way home from a day at work and still made wonderfully scented cordials, so not sure it matters too much. Having recently moved I am still seeking good spots to pick my favourite hedgerow treats. I recently noticed a huge elderflower tree nearby and have taken advantage..!

Fortuitously a more prepared forager had already beaten a track through the brambles and nettles so I could reach the tree relatively unscathed in my shorts and sandals. Here are some photos of what to look for if you’re a first time elderflower hunter. The flowers are creamy white, face the sky from the bush or tree and smell distinctive, sometimes with a slight urine hint to the bouquet, not as bad as it sounds, really. Also notice the shape of the leaves and the rough bark. Not to be confused with similar looking hedgerow plants such as cow parsley.

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The recipes for Elderflower Cordial and Champagne are from ‘The Preserving Book’ by Lynda Brown (publisher Dorling Kindersley), and have worked well for me, although the yields are inaccurate – recipes make more, not sure how they expect 8 litres of water to reduce to 4 litres..?

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