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Sunday, 27 February 2011

Sunday by the River

After the disappointment of Chepstow an early morning trip to Cardiff. The Riverside Farmers Market is held right in the centre, just over the Taff from the Millennium Stadium.

A linear market, some 20 or so producers had set up offering fresh Fish, Spices, Meat of all persuasions, Vegetables, Farmhouse Cheese, Breads and instant edibles from cake, crepes and coffee to burgers, falafels and smoothies.

I needed some more vegetables for Lunch and was pleased to see Ty Mawr Organics from Penpergwm near Abergavenny.

Kale, Savoy Cabbage and the last of the season’s Sprouts made their way into the bags carried by Janet “Sherpa” King who also doubled up as Second Assistant Director and took the shots that include me.

Welsh Apples and Pears took up another stall and the Egremont Russets proved irresistible and will provide lunches for a couple of weeks. A good dual purpose (eater/cooker) Crispin was also selected for the versatility that it will bring to cooking and healthy eating.

My favourite charcutiere, Trealy Farm, had their usual impressive range of smoked and cured meats so I left with their epic Hot Smoked Pastrami, Bresaola (air dried Beef) and Pancetta which will add depth of flavour to Pasta Sauce later in the week.

Interesting Beef, Garlic and a Hint of Chives sausages as well as smoked and Green Bacon came from a West Wales farm and Cave Aged Cheddar from the Teifi Valley.

Finally I spent some time purchasing fresh spices and organic pulses and discussing their origin with a very knowledgeable seller.

Riverside is a great market and when an outdoor market is as active in February as today proved , the warmer months and new seasons produce will make it a thriving, must go destination.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Chepstow on a wet Saturday

Maybe it was the wrong day, perhaps a wet February morning is not the best time to visit, but Chepstow Farmers Market was an immense disappointment.

Just five stalls, one empty an hour and a half after the official start. Of those that were there three sold bread or cakes, one home-made chutneys and jams and the last plants and flowers.

Yet Chepstow is in an area of really good producers, it should have been bustling and with a wide range of produce on offer.

Fortunately the trip was not wasted as there is a really good Farm Shop just a couple of miles away on the A48 to Newport in the grounds of the Chepstow Garden Centre and run by Newhall Farm. The shop was set up with the express intention of supplying local seasonal goods and reducing food miles and CO2 emissions.

The goods were local and seasonal, Parsnips, Carrots, Broccoli (standard and sprouting) and Kale (both green and purple)

and some wonderful early forced Rhubarb.

Stored vegetables included Onions and several varieties of Potato. My veg basket rapidly filled.

Two concessions also operate within the shop, HJ Edwards butchers, more about them when I write about Abergavenny, and Wigmore’s Bakery from Monmouth – one of South Wales’ finest.

Though I make my own bread these days and did not take advantage of Wigmore’s – not even their brilliant Cobber Cob- I make my own using Wessex Cobber flour

I did get a really nice piece of Brisket from the butcher and was delighted to find Horseradish to make the accompanying sauce.

Lunch tomorrow should be good if I can show the ingredients the respect that they deserve.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Brecon, Bread and Beef

A small market town like Brecon is a prime candidate for a Farmers Market, and it did not let me down. Conveniently just 30 miles away – local is usually defined as within 30 miles – and operating on the second Saturday of the month, it is an alternative to Usk.

As Brecon sits to the West of Torfaen it was likely that a different range of producers would be there and, indeed, only the fish stall attended both.

Whenever I try a new market I leave looking like a Sherpa on my way up to base camp and yesterday was no exception.

Several cheese makers had stalls which resulted in a range of new taste delights heading East, Hafod an extra mature cheddar type, a garlic and herb Gouda style cheese, and a cave matured cheddar being just three of the varieties selected.

Now, you can’t have cheese without bread and butter. A farmhouse salted slab of butter found its way into the bag ready for a taste off with the butter which I buy in Abergavenny Market, and on to bread. There were several providers offering a range of breads from Wholemeal through Focaccia but in the end I made my decision.

A Wholemeal loaf from Caroline’s bakery came home with us, along with a tasty looking Tea-cake which would be toasted and buttered as dessert. This bakery also had some good looking Soda Bread but made to a recipe which would provoke an uprising in Ireland. Yoghurt and Margarine instead of Buttermilk!!! Apparently the local EHO is not sure about Buttermilk - he or she should be grateful that Darina Allen does not live within 150 miles!

One of the ways that I judge good butchers is by their sausages. As Mrs K once said “A good Pork Sausage is often all you need”. Meat rich, well - seasoned and good looking a great sausage can indeed be a thing of beauty, far better than the ubiquitous euro-sausage which is all too often the staple of hotel or cafĂ© breakfasts. A little flair with leeks, or chilli, apple or fennel can create a true dish in its own right.

So, encouraged by the fact that one of the butchers offered bones for stock (or the dog) I bought both beef bones and Pork sausages. A tasty midweek supper with mashed potatoes or Colcannon and a rich Onion Gravy beckons.

So I had bones and an afternoon of stock making in prospect.

Along with roasted bones stock needs Leeks and Carrots, so off to look at vegetables, two suppliers present and a large range of local and seasonal veg on offer. The bonus was that one also offered home grown Chillis and sprouted beans.

So now I had the makings of a stock, lunch and a dessert though still lacked Tea or a main course to go with the gravy which I would make from the stock.

The problem about tea was solved by the discovery of a small stall offering fresh Pasta and homemade Pesto. The Pesto was the usual mix of Pine Nuts, Basil, Garlic and Parmesan but with a family recipe addition of Peccorino. This gave it an extra depth of flavour and a higher than usual percentage of garlic reinforced this. Rapidly purchased the Pesto was added to Lumarconi for a great and light tea.

A butcher on the way into the Farmers Market resolved the what goes with the gravy issue. A stunning looking bone in Rib of Welsh Black went into the bags and I beat a retreat, monetarily poorer but richer for the experience and laden with really good ingredients to convert to meals.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Farmers Market

Saturday morning means the farmers Market. My local one is in Usk and held in the Memorial Hall opposite the Prison on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month.

It is run by Farmers Markets In Wales - Fresh Local Produce
Fresh local produce from independent welsh suppliers organic, hydroponic and non organic products. fruit veg vegetables meat pastries jam eggs lamb beef pork pies sausages pasties, mean that around 20 producers are there every week.

Usk is particularly exciting as many of the producers have won True Taste awards for the quality of their foods. I will be covering them as individuals in future postings and this week will concentrate on the market as a whole.

So on a wet and windy morning the fact that it is mainly indoors was an added attraction. As always great produce was on offer and with added bonuses such as getting free carcasses for stock from the Organic Chicken stall, as well as fat for confiting and gizzards to enrichen stocks.

The vegetables, still with a covering of clay, were fresh beyond belief and varied, purple Kale being one of the things you will never see in a supermarket,salad leaves fresh from the poly tunnel that morning, broccoli still glistening from the drizzle,Jerusalem artichokes knobbly and enticing.

Fresh eggs including Duck were high on my list of ingredients and I left with 30 free range hens eggs and half a dozen Duck eggs- richest scrambled eggs ever? with some smoked salmon, dill and lemon?

The smoked salmon is provided by Jonathon of Black Mountain Smokery based in Crickhowell. An enthusiast Jonathon is happy to provide oak chips to any aspiring home smoker and my little one is powered by his chips. The whole range of foods is produced from cheese to duck and venison and of course fish of all sizes and varieties.

Jonathon also smokes for other producers, Barbara Warren's Welsh Black Beef and Tamworth Pork is smoked by him and Susan Fiandr-Woodhouse's Blaenafon Cheddar gets the Black Mountain Treatment.

Trealy Farm produce some of the best charcuterie in Britain and give the continentals a run for their money and also use Jonathon.Multi award winning produce comes from Raglan and the ever expanding range allows for a brilliant eating experience and offers amazing potential for local chefs to develop Welsh recipes.

Both Jonathon and Trealy Farm will have their own postings in the near future but they link in with my Ballymaloe Blog. It was because I used their fine products when competing in Britain's best Dish that I got the confidence to attend Ballymaloe and the rest is history. My actual recipe from BBD is available here:

The second link is that James Swift, one of the Trealy partners, told me that he had just had an asafone message from Darinal Allen asking to visit when she comes to the UK to launch the School of Artisan Producers.

It's a small world, but the world of food is exciting and I hope to share my excitement with you.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Local and Great

This is my new blog. After Ballymaloe had reignited my passion for food I thought it's time to spread the word.

This blog will be devoted to food. Local food, seasonal food,sustainable food, great producers, excellent eating experiences and some recipes using the foods that I discover.

The emphasis will be on locaity, usually within Wales but if I find great ingredients as I travel around they will also feature.

With concern about climate change eating locally will reduce our carbon footprint, eating seasonally even more so.

Asparagus is in season during May and June in the UK. It is a real treat for those weeks and the short window makes it even more so. Buying Peruvian or Kenyan Asparagus in February, just because we can, involves thousands of food miles and tomns of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Why not concentrate on the great winter vegetables available to us here?

I will be championing artisan growers and producers, local shops and restaurants and giving ideas as to improving our life styles, supporting local economies and eating better foods. I will also give you links to other websites and blogs so that you can explore the world of local food.

Along the way there will be the occasional rant and I hope some entertainment.

Come with me on a long and interesting trip, share the experience and get enthused. I am and hopefully that will wear off.