Each September Abergavenny is the centre of the foodiverse but it doesn’t stop there. Sure there is the Christmas Fair (December 11th this year) and talk of a spring event for 2012, but week in week out Abergavenny is a food destination.
Very good pubs and restaurants, several highly acclaimed Butchers (H J Edwards is my favourite) and an indoor market from which I usually source my (farmhouse) butter are all open year round and well worth a visit, particularly on Fridays when food is the key element of the market.
But it is the Abergavenny Farmers Market which drew me back this week. My employment as a Local Government Officer meant that Thursdays were difficult but my recent transformation to “Freelance Foodie” meant that I could now attend.
Pork and all things pig was the aim of the trip, my favourite meat, and well represented in the Market Hall.
First things first, a tour of the stalls, old favourites from Usk were there Elmtree pies and Burren Bakehouse, Ty Mawr Organics and Café Nativo, but the move just 10 miles or so up the road meant that the centre of gravity had changed and a number of producers from South Herefordshire and Powys were also there.
But back to the quest for pork, and ignoring the beautiful breads, charming cakes, verdant vegetables cracking chutneys and handsome honeys I concentrated an all things Pig.
I have been disappointed recently to discover that Elmtree had sold out of Pork Pies by the time that I hit their stall, but all that changed, and I was confronted by the last four pies and this just 15 minutes after the market opened.
The Elmtree Pork Pie is a work in progress. Collete has yet to settle on the perfect pie, all Lard or Lard and Butter crust? Jelly or no Jelly? Spicing?. The important thing here is the pies are really good and it is customer feedback that will determine the final outcome (or maybe a range?). The jelly question is largely self-answering, jelly makes for an extra depth of flavour and texture but the pies are so full of meat that there is very little room for any jelly to be added and, jelly lover though I am, a high meat content gives real value.
Mine did not contain any jelly though it honestly did not need it and good quality Pork delivered a good taste whilst the traditional all Lard pastry gave a crispness and crumbliness hard to beat. A good measure of Sage in with the meat completed a good pie enhanced by an organic tomato and Usk River’s Pearlilli on the side.
Pork Pie sourced I moved on to look for Ham Hocks. This most versatile cuts of meat allows for sandwiches and inclusion in classic recipes such as Ham Hock Terrine, Pea and Ham Soup and Chicken and Ham Pie. And, as a bonus, some highly jellified and flavour intense stock perfect for soups and gravies.
Glaisfer Uchaf Farm is located in Llangynidr between Crickhowell and Brecon, or just over the mountain from Ebbw Vale and they provided the Ham Hock. Just over 3lbs with a relatively low bone content this was an absolute bargain. Glaisfer have their own cutting rooms and welcome visitors to shop on the farm or try their product at Peterstone Court Restaurant.
Not far from Llangynidr is Talybont on Usk where Coity Bach have their farm. Again I was after Pork and from a wide range I chose sausage meat to make Mark Hix Meatloaf somewhere between a Scotch Egg and a mega sausage roll. Having made this with good free range eggs I wanted to get prime sausage meat for an improved dish. By choosing two types of meat I should be able to make a meatloaf which has depths of flavour and which offers a different bite each time.
Crossing the hall again I approached The Welsh Pig Company. Based just outside Raglan they offer snout to tail piggy perfection and process the meats into salami – the black peppercorn was epic!. It was the Smoked Belly Pork which caught my eye on this occasion, I love belly, especially slow roasted with a crisp crackling but haven’t cooked a smoked belly yet so this is an experience that I am really looking forward to.
There is another string to their bow, Coffee Roasting. From a small workshop they roast Columbian beans on a small but often basis providing extremely fresh coffee that shows in the taste just how fresh it is. Each bag has the date of roasting on it, not the “Best Before 2057” often found on supermarket offerings. Chef Wes Harris uses their coffee at The Charthouse restaurant and a bag is always in my cupboard, replenished regularly from Usk Farmers Market.
Finally one more producer.
I sometimes head for Ludlow, a great source of prime ingredients and a town which was the UK’s food destination before Abergavenny took the crown and induced Shaun Hill to abandon Ludlow for the Walnut Tree near Abergavenny!!
The butchers in Ludlow are my main reason for the visit, their product is always good and the shops tend to specialise in one type of meat ensuring that they sell the best Lamb or Pork, Beef or Game.
The Tudge family farm on the borders of Herefordshire and Shropshire raising free range chicken and Berkshire Pigs. They mainly sell through Famers Markets from Ludlow to Abergavenny and have an online presence too.
What I liked especially was the bits that you don’t always see in a butchers. Black Pudding from the pigs, large squares of perfectly set, deep golden jellied stock and squares of well fatted skin ready for roasting into crackling. I bought all of these and also some cocktail sausages in anticipation of snacky buffets as Christmas approaches.
Now for the Shaun Hill connection:
Shaun has used the Berkshire Pork from Tudges for years and the following recipe by him is taken from their website:
Loin of Pork with Whole Grain Mustard Sauce - for 4 persons
800g well-trimmed pork loin
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 pealed shallot
1 small stick celery
1 small carrot
1 tsp plain flour
1 tbsp. whole grain mustard
50ml. red wine
50 ml. water
1 tbsp. capers
Season the loin with salt and pepper, then brush with oil.
Heat a roasting tray, then place the vegetables and meat - fat side down - to sear. This may be a touch smoky, but the idea is to start crisping and caramelising the fat so that it is sweet and well done by the time the eye of the meat is just cooked.
Place the roasting tray in a moderate oven – 175C – cook until done – probably no more than 40 minutes.
Lift the meat onto a plate or rack to settle while you make the sauce. Pour off almost all the fat and, over a low flame, stir in the flour. Use a wooden spoon to dislodge any residues stuck to the roasting tray and then add wine and water. Bring back to the boil, stirring regularly and simmer for 2 minutes. Strain the gravy into a small saucepan and add the mustard and capers. Bring to the boil. Add any juices which may have seeped from the cooked pork and serve.
Overall a very good morning’s shopping and enough fresh ingredients to keep me busy for a few days yet.
Just one more stop, Rosin at Burren for a slice of her Porter Cake, made to her mother’s recipe but with a secret inclusion of her own. Just right to follow a Pork Pie for lunch!!
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