vegetarian

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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Keep it local, or not – with stock and soup recipes to help you digest the big issues

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In my pile of must read books, which I optimistically keep adding to, are a few titles which might be categorised as ‘ethical eating’. There are intersecting issues to consider and finding a diet that addresses multiple ethical concerns can be a balancing act.

Take local food as an example. It reduces the environmental impact of transporting food however local unseasonal or exotic foods may have high energy needs. Supporting local farmers, food producers and retailers maintains employment in our area and keeps money in the local economy. Whilst farmers and food producers from further away need a market for their food and supporting FairTrade and similar schemes benefits people and communities around the world. If these sort of dilemmas interest you I recommend my current read, Sustainable Diets by Pamela Mason and Tim Lang.

Pamela Mason is one of the founders of the Food Manifesto for Wales, along with Jane Powell (www.foodmanifesto.wales @maniffestobwyd on Facebook and Twitter). They started a conversation which is growing to become a Welsh food network. Everyone with an interest in food is welcome to join. At this time of policy change, with our political departure from Europe imminent, a hub for discussions and debates around food policy and the future of food, farming and how we feed ourselves in Wales is welcome.

These recipes were inspired by a handful of local businesses with a few exotic ingredients to balance it! The free-range chicken I bought was reared by Martin and Danielle in North Pembrokeshire and Andrew Rees’ butcher prepared it for me; into breasts, legs and carcass (a great reason to use local butchers shops, particularly as I’m vegetarian but cook meat dishes for my family of omnivores). Most of the vegetables I bought were grown organically at Ritec Valley in South Pembrokeshire with additional organic ingredients from the Spar and Plum Vanilla Deli, in Narberth and more exotic ingredients from the Spice Box in Haverfordwest.

Chicken Stock

Ingredients

  • Chicken carcass, incl. giblets if you have them (from a roast/uncooked – some butchers will give away/sell chicken carcasses)
  • Vegetables, I usually use 1-2 onions, 1-2 carrots, 1-2 sticks celery
  • Peppercorns and hardy herbs (bay leaf, parsley stalks…)
  • Water

Method

  1. Place the chicken carcass and giblets into a high sided pan, break into pieces to fit in the pan if necessary.
  2. Wash and chop the vegetables into large chunks and add to the pan along with the peppercorns and herbs. Pour over cold water to cover all the ingredients.
  3. Place on a high heat until the water boils then reduce heat so it simmers. Simmer for an hour. Skim off any froth that appears from time to time.
  4. Drain off the stock and you will have a rich chicken stock which you can use for gravy, adding to dishes like soup, risotto and making sauce for a chicken pie. The stock keeps on the fridge for 2-3 days or can be frozen.
  5. You can repeat the process, add fresh water to the pan and simmer again for an hour. The stock will have a milder flavour and still be good for the recipes suggested above.
  6. When you have finished making stock you can pick over the carcass for bits of meat. This meat and the vegetables can be used for the soup recipe below.

Vegetable Stock – follow the recipe above but leave out the chicken, you can add additional vegetables such as mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers…

Chicken noodle soup with burdock noodles, left. Vegetable noodle soup with rice vermicelli, right.
Chicken noodle soup with burdock noodles, left. Vegetable noodle soup with rice vermicelli, right.

Chicken Noodle Soup (for a vegetable variation leave out the chicken and use vegetable stock)

Ingredients (use quantities to satisfy the number of people you’re feeding)

  • Oil
  • Onion
  • Garlic, ginger and chilli – fresh/dried/sauce etc
  • Some fresh vegetables, e.g. carrots, broccoli, peas, peppers, mushrooms, bean sprouts…
  • Vegetables from making stock
  • Cooked chicken meat from making stock/roast leftovers
  • Chicken stock + water
  • Noodles (you could use pasta/rice)
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Prepare your fresh vegetables, peel if necessary and slice into long thin strips. Finely chop/grate the garlic, ginger and chilli (if using fresh).
  2. In a wide pan heat the oil on a medium heat and fry the onions followed by other vegetables. Cook gently so they don’t brown, until they’re slightly softened. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and stir in.
  3. Slice the vegetables from the stock and chop the cooked chicken into bitesize pieces, add them to the soup pan and stir in.
  4. Add the stock and top up with water so all the ingredients are covered. Bring to the boil them add the noodles, cook for as long as indicated on the noodle packet.

Vegetable Noodle Soup – use vegetable stock and add cashew nuts/tofu/egg instead of chicken.

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine and Saundersfoot Breeze magazine.

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.

cauli-roasting-with-carrots

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.