Wales on the Menu
It started with a random tweet asking if anyone had a recipe which highlighted Welsh produce. As Local and Great is dedicated to promoting high quality local produce my attention was grabbed and I followed the link to an email address.
A brief exchange of emails and a phone conversation later I was submitting a recipe for consideration.
A couple of weeks ago one of the highlights of Local and Great Live (see earlier post) was the Smoked Salmon Quiche which I made using local products so I suggested that this would be suitable.
It was, and soon other details emerged – I would be cooking for “Wales on the Menu” a programme for Radio Wales. Simon Wright the force behind great welsh restaurant Y Polyn would present and would be arriving at my house with a production crew to record my making the Quiche and to interview me as I went.
The next stage would be cooking the recipe again in a restaurant where a tasting panel would determine whether it was good enough to go “on the menu” of that particular restaurant.
So to source the ingredients, balancing the dish and ensuring the very best of Welsh produce.
The Pastry for the quiche would require the best of butter so off to Riverside Market where I knew that I could obtain both Farmhouse Butter and Organic Eggs. The Smoked Salmon was simple Jo and Jonathon Carthew at Black Mountain Smokery produce the finest of smoked product in Crickhowell and sell through the local Farmers Markets as well as having an online presence. Ty Mawr Organics and Pen Coed Farm would provide the salad leaves, tomatoes and cucumber needed for the accompanying salad, and the small but important amount of salt involved would, of course be Halen Mon from Anglesey. It would be only Flour and Crème Fraiche that I could not guarantee to be Welsh.
The ingredients certainly fit the bill, would the finished product be good enough to get “On the Menu”.
On the day a small crew Simon, Carolyn the producer and Terry the Soundman arrived and my home became the temporary sound studio as well as a kitchen. “There’s a nice sound quality in the conservatory” was an early comment though this was amended later when rain falling on the roof proved too loud.
Over coffee we chatted and Simon got background information on me, the recipe and the ingredients and why they would fit the Wales on the menu concept.
As the pastry was difficult to handle I had pre-made some but had to demonstrate that I could and had made it myself so some kitchen action took place before I blind baked the pre-made shells and entered a discussion on the basis of blind baking.
The filling was put together quickly as the blind bake happened, with a discussion on the importance of good ingredients and the relevance of locality and seasonality. Terry needed a retake of the sound of whisking so I invented the culinary equivalent of Air Guitar, the Air whisk, desperately whisking an empty bowl.
A quick Cucumber pickle and some mixed leaves, chosen to give a balance to the richness of the quiche, later the quiche had cooked and cooled for a few minutes it was ready to serve.
Would Simon like it? Would it be deemed good enough to compete? If so which of the many great restaurants, that a former editor of the AA Guide knew, would be chosen?
As it was Simon approved and, with a few minor tweaks, suggested that it could compete for a place on the menu of a restaurant of his choice. That choice turned out to be http://www.ypolynrestaurant.co.uk/ Y Polyn the multi award winning Carmarthenshire restaurant, and I had a week to practice before facing a panel of judges who would determine the success or failure of my idea.
Crammed into a small car with the production crew, their equipment and my ingredients we headed down the M4 and then into the leafy lanes surrounding the National Botanical Gardens to find Y Polyn.
Met in the car park by Simon, I was introduced to Mark Manson the chef/proprietor before walking up to the door. Immediately I was struck by the menu which included as a starter Black Montain Smokery Smoked Salmon with a Cucumber Pickle! So not only did I have to get my dish on the menu but, in order to do this, I had to produce a better dish than the one already on the menu!
I could see why Y Polyn had been chosen as my test bed. The menu featured dishes which reflected both the seasonality and locality that I support and as Mark put it “We do as little as possible to the ingredients to bring out the quality of the food”.
Meeting Sue the chef and co-owner over coffee I was shown into the kitchen. On a Monday the restaurant is closed so I would be on my own with Sue – and the fitters who were carrying out some refurbishments! This led to their having to stop work any time that we were actually recording in the kitchen.
Obviously in a strange kitchen finding things is not easy, and the commercial ovens would work at different heats and speeds than my own domestic set up. These though are the challenges of the programme and you just have to suck it up and deal with it.
Time flew as I cooked, this time individual starter dishes as opposed to one large quiche and made my amended dressing – the Cucumber pickle had been pre-made as it takes 5 hours to develop and we had only 2 hours cooking time before presentation. Helpful hints and questions from Sue made me reconsider a couple of issues but, just about on time the dishes were ready to present to the panel.
Simon had assembled some fearsome critics, Peter Thomas a regular at Y Polyn, Cardiff based food blogger ed Gilbert (Gourmet Gorro) and Mark himself.
Having presented I was asked to leave whilst they tasted and deliberated.
On my return I was given the result, and unlike my previous experience of critics when William Sitwell and Charles Campion made their comments to camera and I did not hear them intl transmission, I had to face my judges.
The result…. Both Peter and Ed had reservations but Mark liked the dish and with a couple of minor amendments, possibly to cooking time and thickness of pastry, suggested that it would get on the menu.
Me, I shall be off to Y Polyn to see whether it does get On the Menu!
To hear the programme go here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01mhrqx
and, if you want to cook it here's the recipe
Warm Smoked Salmon Quiche
225g Plain Flour
1 Free Range or Organic Egg Yolk
Chill your bowl and the butter for 30 minutes before starting.
Sift the flour into the bowl and add the butter cut into small chunks. Rub in until breadcrumb texture is achieved.
Using a fork add the egg a little at a time to just bring the pastry together. Form into a ball with your hands then clingfilm and chill for 30 -40 minutes.
Roll the chilled pastry on a lightly floured work surface until a circle 2 inches wider than your flan ring can be cut out. Fit into the flan ring and push some of the overhanging pastry forward to make a small lip on the inside. Press the remainder away from the ring to cut it. Return the ring to the fridge for a further 30 minutes to chill thoroughly.
Heat the oven to 180c and then bake the flan blind for 15-20 minutes, remove, take out the baking beans. Brush the base and sides with egg wash to seal, return to oven for 5 minutes.
150-175g Smoked Salmon (I use Black Mountain Smokery, in Ireland I would use Frank Hederman, Bill Casey or Sally Barnes salmon)
4 or 5 Free Range/Organic Eggs
Zest of a Lemon
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
A sprinkle of Halen Mon Sea Salt
4 or 5 tbsp Crème Fraiche
Cut the salmon into strips around ½ cm wide. Combine these with the lemon zest and black pepper and set aside to marinate for a while.
Beat the eggs and combine with the crème fraiche.
Line the base of the flan with the salmon and then add a sprinle of Halen Mon salt. Pour over the custard and bake for 30 minutes or so or until the top is set but the quiche still has a spring.
Cool on a rack but remember to serve warm.
As the quiche is rather rich it should be served with a mixed leaf salad and a cucumber pickle.
The quiche can also be served cold and is ideal for late summer picnics.
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