Total Pageviews

Monday, 22 October 2012

Llanyrafon Market

Llanyrafon Manor is taking a step closer to becoming a Food Hub with the first of its regular Food and Craft Markets this Sunday.

The refurbishment of the listed building was financed through the Rural Development Fund and it is this close link with boosting the local economy that drives the Market. The producers will all be from the Torfaen area and it is encouraging to see 15 lined up for the inaugural event. The emphasis is on food though local crafters will also have a significant presence.

The Market is planned to run on the last Sunday of each month with some being designated special Seasonal Markets. Though Torfaen has a number of very good producers there has, as yet, been no central showcase for them, Llanyrafon Manor provides that focus and the Torfaen County Borough Council Crea te Team has been working hard to get the Market off the ground.

In its few months of being open to the public the Manor has become a focus and is attracting large numbers of visitors - encouraged by the Special Events held on a regular basis and the Raspberry Tea Rooms which serve a menu based as far as possible on local ingredients.

  But back to the Market. As a showcase for Torfaen the emphasis on local product is high and the decision to give priority to Torfaen based producers will ensure that this will be achieved. It is also recognised that the standard definition of “Local” food is within 30 miles radius so producers in both Cardiff and Brecon would be eligible to attend if the strictly local allocation of places is not fully utilised.

Another key issue is the limit on producers of the same product. There will not be 5 stalls each with a very similar range so a diverse Market is ensured.

One of the good things about Llanyrafon Market is the close working of community groups, for example the Co-Star partnership will have cakes and soups on sale. Some of the ingredients will have come from the Growers group which is encouraging gardening in Torfaen. Similarly Raspberry Catering will be using salad ingredients grown at the Manor in the tea room which will be open throughout the event. It is the co-operation that excites me.
With a need to encourage better eating and a reduction in food miles and greenhouse gasses local groups working together to supply good local foods has to be a way forward.

Now I have to declare an interest at this point. I have an ambition to open a Community Bakery as a Social Enterprise and one of the out buildings at Llanyrafon Manor would be a great base.

There is a real upsurge in interest in good bread as evidenced by the Real Bread Campaign and the popularity of the bread episode of the Great British Bake Off. But people are often afraid of bread seeing it as highly technical and time consuming. One aim of a Community Bakery would be to offer classes and show that not only is it perfectly manageable, but with only Flour, Salt Water and Yeast you can make a better loaf than those sold commercially with up to 27 ingredients!

Thanks to co-operation with Julie from Raspberry Catering I shall be selling bread at the Market and seeing how many people would like to be able to obtain Real Bread locally and how many would like to learn more about the craft. Come along and see Julie and I on our little stall.

Anyway enough about Bread. Other products will include Cheese, Meats (2 suppliers with different products), Fruit and Veg, Pasties of all varieties, Chili Jams and Chutneys, Beers and Ales, and on the sweeter side of life Cakes, Bara Brith, Brownies, traditional Candies and Snow Cones. On the craft stalls a range of handmade product will be available including Jewellery, Art Work, Cards as well as Bags, Candles and more besides.

As a first Market it is bound to be a little experimental but the range of producers and makers is good, the setting superb and the prospect exciting.

If you live in the area or are looking for a day out with a difference Llanyrafon Manor is the place to be between 10 and 2 on Sunday

Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

Visit UK Food Bloggers Association

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Brilliant Back Yard

Antonio Smith is a local food hero in Newport, and totally committed to his hometown.

This year Antonio demonstrated that commitment by becoming the main sponsor of the Newport Food Festival, doing a demonstration and serving up some damn fine food on the streets.

His company The Back Yard Company makes and sells authentic Jerk Sauces, with no artificial ingredients, for the real taste of Jamaica. Of his main rival, a sauce with a passing reference to the main musical genre of the Caribbean island, he says “It’s good for barbecue, but it ain’t Jerk”.

So how does a Jamaican come to be making the UK’s most authentic sauces in a small Welsh City?

Jamaican by birth Antonio has spent nearly all of his life in Newport and started using his Grandmother and Great Grandmother’s recipes to make his own sauces. As the business expanded he had to move production to the Food Centre Wales, in Hebron, but is keen to bring it back home. Newport City Council should get behind him and find suitable premises in town.

The name Back Yard Company is a direct tribute to Antonio’s Great Grandmother who never used the kitchen of her house but always cooked in the back yard. Using three stones and log wood she cooked often using a Dutch oven. As Antonio says Just listen to Bob Marley, he sums up Jamaican Cooking in No woman no cry:And then Georgie would make the fire light, Log wood burnin' through the night, Then we would cook corn meal porridge
Of which I'll share with you.
And here's the proof.

To make an authentic Jerk Sauce there are three essential ingredients, Thyme. Allspice and Scotch Bonnet peppers. If they aren’t in it, it isn’t Jerk. Though widely viewed as a hot sauce by varying the ratio of the ingredients a range of heats can be produced, The Back Yard Company currently do 7 heats with a new even cooler one – Mr Cool- just launched.

I asked my resident chilli wimp to try Jerk Chicken at the Food Festival after Antonio assured her that he would give her the cool Mango sauce, she had previously refused a tasting at the Hove Foodies Festival in May, but with Antonio’s assurances she went ahead.

“Oh that’s really good” she said, “I’m getting warmth across my mouth but no killer burn at the tip and no horrible after-burn in my throat”. So impressed was she that her Jerk Bap was gone before I managed half of my (hotter) one, and she was thrilled to discover that she had the second coolest sauce!. So the message is clear Jerk Sauce is about flavour and working with the main ingredient not just making the Jamaican equivalent of Phall or Napalm.

So is your mouth watering? Want to get your hands on “Di Real Ting”?

Back Yard Jerk Sauces are available along the M4 corridor and in Manchester! The stockists will expand but Antonio got a huge cheer at the Newport Food Festival when asked that question. “Anyone in from Tesco? Good, we only sell through Real Food shops”. True legend, and a man after my own heart. So look in good local shops and Afro-Asian supermarkets or go to a food festival, if Back Yard are there you can try the sauces and buy both them and some amazing Jerk Chicken.

Alternatively you could visit the newly opened restaurant Dutchy’s in Caerleon. Not the easiest to find but go to the side door of The White Hart and it’s upstairs. Antonio told me of a recent evening when three lads, first time diners, came in. “How did you find us” they were asked. “Well we drove around for 20 minutes, then parked the car and got out. After that we just followed our noses, literally!”

Caerleon is a small town with a long history and major Roman Remains, but upstairs at the White Hart you enter a Jamaican Beach Shack!

Photo from Backyard Jerk Sauces Facebook Page
With a menu featuring Pork, Chicken and Goat Dutchy’s also has Vegetarian and Vegan dishes on offer, so something for everyone. The only dishes I didn’t find on the sample menu were Goat’s Head Soup or Mannish Water though the latter is probably best suited to Stag Parties!

To find out more about The BackYard Company.
There is no doubt that Antonio Smith and his Back Yard Company are both Local and Great!
Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

Visit UK Food Bloggers Association

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Superb Seabass - Two Recipes you'll love

Seabass is widely regarded as the king of the seas, especially now that much Salmon is farmed, and it was a major hit with the chefs at the Newport Food Festival.

Matt Dawkins started the programme of demos with his take on the fish which features on the menu at The Star Inn Llansoy, Anand George produced his Tiffin Cup winning main course in his Master class, and Hywel Jones of Lucknam Park also used Seabass in his demonstration.

I must admit that due to pressures of time I didn’t get to see Hywel’s entire demo but the technique of filleting was well covered and his useful tip of resting the fillets in the fridge to allow the flesh to shrink a little making pin-boning easier was a winner. The importance of a flexible knife - to cleanly follow the bone line, and saving the head for a good stock was also emphasised.

Matt has a twist on his dish which combines pan fried Welsh Seabass with the oriental tastes of Jasmine Rice, a Lemon and Lime Panacotta and a Thai dressing. An unusual combination but one in which the clean taste of the fish is offset by the creamy citrus of the Panacotta and the sharp, hot sour dressing, the whole coming together to produce a mix of flavours and heats that give added depths to each mouthful.

Though the recipe is attached you really should book a table at The Star Inn Llansoy and try the dish at first hand to understand the tastes and textures so that you can reproduce it at home.

Anand George’s Tiffin Seabass is his signature dish and the one which won the House of Commons Tiffin Cup for the best Indian Dish. Regularly on the menu at Purple Poppadom in Cardiff, Anand’s award winning restaurant the dish is complimented by a Curry Leaf infused Mashed Potato and a zingy, but smooth raw Mango, Ginger and Coconut “Aleppy” sauce. Again a combination of flavours and textures that really do make you think again about the traditional ways of serving this popular fish.

Both are easily managed at home which emphasises that the best dishes are usually simple but work together so that each element is distinct but the dish blends them together to produce a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

I certainly learned a lot from the demonstrations and have reconsidered my approach to fish cookery.

My own little twist on Matt’s dish, and one that I frequently use, is to season the fish with Halen Mon Vanilla Sea Salt as opposed to plain Sea Salt. Vanilla may seem an unlikely companion to fish but it adds an extra depth of flavour and ‘lifts’ the fish.

Matt Dawkins Seabass on a bed of Jasmine Rice with Lemon and Lime Panacotta, served with a Thai Dressing.


Seabass Fillets

Pinch of Salt and Pepper

Dash of Olive Oil

For the Panacotta

450g Yoghurt

450ml Double Cream

2 Lemons

2 Limes

4 ½ Gelatine Leaves (Vegetarians and Pescetarians should use Agar Agar instead)


¼ Spring Onion

¼ bunch Fresh Coriander

2 Chillies

1” Fresh Ginger

1 Lime Juiced

25ml Soy Sauce

10ml Olive Oil

Jasmine Rice

25g Basmati Rice per person

1 Red Chilli

¼ bunch Fresh Coriander

Make the Panacotta first as it takes 1-2 hours to chill in the fridge.

Zest the Lemons and Limes. Boil the cream, zest and sugar together. When boiled add the pre-soaked Gelatine leaves and mix well to ensure that they are dissolved, Add the Yoghurt, stir well, pour into small moulds and chill.

Make the dressing (as it can be set aside)

Finely dice the Spring Onion, Chilli and Coriander. Grate the Ginger. Mix together the Onion Chilli and Coriander and add the Olive Oil and Soy Sauce. Add the Ginger and Lime juice to taste then season with a little Salt and Pepper.

For the Jasmine Rice I use the method which we learned at Ballymaloe Cookery School as it provides fluffy rice every time.

Bring water to the boil and then add the rice ensuring that it is well covered, Boil for 5-6 minutes then test a grain to make sure it is softening. Drain the rice and put into an ovenproof dish covered in foil before placing in a 150c oven for at least 15 minutes. Fluff and then add the Chilli and Coriander and re-cover with foil so the steam from the Chilli and Herb infuses the rice.


Season the flesh then fry skin side down in a pre-heated pan with a drop of oil until the skin is crispy. You may wish to hold the fish down with your finger or a spatula. Then turn to finish the flesh



Anand George’s Tiffin Seabass with Curry Leaf Mash Potato


50mls Oil

150g Onions

150g Raw Mango

10 Ginger (Julienned)

20g Kashmiri Chilli Powder

5g Turmeric Powder

300g Coconut Milk Powder

12g Salt

300mls Water

Curry Leaf Mashed Potato

30mls Oil

5g Mustard Seeds

10g Split Urad Dal (white dal not red)

100g Onions

10g Ginger

5g Green Chilli

5g Curry Leaves

6g Salt
450g Boiled Potatoes (skin removed and grated or riced)

50ml Water

For the Sauce

Peel and slice the Onions. Julienne the Ginger, peel the Mango and cut into small cubes. Mix the Coconut Milk Powder with 600 mils hot water and blend well. Heat the Oil in a pan add the Onions Ginger Raw Mango and Curry Leaves sauté until transparent on a high-ish heat. Lower heat and add the Chilli Powder, Turmeric and Salt. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the 300mls of water and bring to the boil. Once the mixture starts to thicken add the coconut milk and cook until a sauce consistency develops. Remove from heat and pass through a fine sieve.

For the Mashed Potato

Chop the Onions, Green Chilli, Ginger and Curry Leaf. Heat the oil in a pan then add the Urad dal and allow to crackle, then add the Mustard Seed, Chopped Ginger, Onion, Green Chilli and Curry Leaf. Lower the heat and add the Turmeric and Salt. Sauté for about a minute then add the water and potatoes, mash well together.

For the Fish

Cut the fillets in two, coat with Oil and Salt. Heat a pan and cook the Seabass skin side down before turning.

Plate by putting the Mash in the centre of the plate and pour the Aleppy Sauce over. Rest the fillets of fish on top.

Two top recipes from brilliant local chefs. They will bring a smile to your face and great tastes to your table.

To try the dishes in the restaurants check these websites:

Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

Visit UK Food Bloggers Association

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Newport Food Festival 2012

After a good start last year the Newport Food Festival was expected to be bigger and better and so it was! With a packed day of demos and masterclasses over four venues, 75 plus stalls on the streets, the Teen Chef final and a fringe venue organised by the Voice Magazine, one blog post will not do it justice.

A real buzz was around town and the usual Saturday shoppers got into the feeling and I heard nearly all positive comments all day, be they from visitors, stall holders, performers or chefs. Given the positivity the 2013 festival should build again and become one of the major fixtures on the South Wales calendar.

Let’s get the (minor) criticisms out of the way: better signage would help, particularly for people arriving by train and some banners outside the Market Hall would help. More maps in town showing all the stall sites – you might have missed some, and finally Newport City Council finishing their street furniture replacement and repair work would help. But these were minor distractions and ones which can be easily overcome.

I spent quite a lot of time in demos but still had time to get around the stalls and to catch the street entertainment which included a Bhangra band and the “Dinner Ladies”.

Definitely more stalls and a better mix of product, and it was good to see some producers sharing a stall so 75 stalls but probably 80+ producers. From Cheeses to Charcuterie, Breads to Beer visitors had a cornucopia to choose from, and there was more hot food available too. Sales seemed brisk and one or two had sold out well before the end of the festival. One stall holder told me that they had brought twice as much as last year and sold out by lunchtime!

People seemed to “get” the festival more so than last year and the locals were lapping it up, “bout time we had something good in Newport” an old friend that I met on the street told me, though they did confess that they hadn’t known about the festival until they came in to town centre for their regular weekly shop. “Will it be every year?” they asked “I hope so” was my response which pleased them!

Anyway back to my very busy day.

As I arrived stalls were still being set up (I was very early) but already people were talking about the event to come. We quickly went into the Market Hall where Matt Dawkins the head chef of the Star Inn Llansoy was prepping for his demo, which would kick the day off, and grabbed a coffee. Newport Food Festival had kindly given great support to food bloggers with our own little meeting point complete with free Wi-Fi, information and a chance to meet some of the chefs as they would use it as a greenroom.

Whilst Matt set up I was able to chat with Simon Wright (TV and Radio presenter and former partner in Y Polyn in Carmarthenshire) and Mike Morgan the owner of Llansantfraed Court Hotel – which has just secured its AA Rosette for the 16th year running. They would be compering many of the demos and were looking forward to seeing some top chefs and brilliant food. Simon would mainly cover the Market Hall whilst Mike would be over in the Riverfront.

As if to prove their point about seeing great chefs Hywel Jones of Lucknam Park and Bryn Williams of Odette’s arrived to talk about food and their demos and take a keen interest in Matt Dawkins’ demo. Hywel has been a huge supporter of the festival and the Teen Chef competition and this year would be joined by Bryn in judging the winners.

Matt’s demo used Seabass, a theme for several chefs this year so it will be the subject of a separate blog post. It was good to see a young chef cooking in an imaginative way and talking about his love of local and seasonal produce. The Star Inn Llansoy only reopened after a period of closure last year and has already won the CAMRA Community Pub of the Year award and, with Matt’s cooking an AA Rosette and recognition in the Guides cannot be far away.

Time was pressing so it was a quick trot to the Riverfront where I caught the beginning of Hywel Jones’ demo before moving into the foyer for Lisa Fearn’s Pumkin Patch Cookery School for children. Lisa runs a cookery and gardening school from her Carmarthen home and also cooks on S4C’s Wedi Tri. Lisa believes, as do I that cooking is an essential skill for life and that children should get involved as early as possible. Rather than a necessity squeezed in at the end of a busy working day cooking should be fun and Darina Allen has, as the motto of the Ballymaloe Cookery School where I trained, “Cooking is fun”.

A good number of children had gathered for the morning session on Pasta and I was pleased to see that they would be making Farfalle as that is my grandchildren’s favourite pasta and one that we have made a few times. Under Lisa’s guidance they made and rolled the dough, using Spinach and Beetroot, to produce Green and Red Pasta then cut them and gave the little pinch that produces the bow tie shape. There was neither time nor equipment to cook the finished pasta but each child had a bag of their own pasta to take home and cook for tea, and left proud with their efforts and product. The afternoon class would make bread and take it home still proving to bake later.

Both Lisa and I had reserved seats for Anand George of award winning Purple Poppadom’s master class and we hurried into the theatre for that. Anand’s demo and recipe will appear later as he was another chef using Seabass! The Masterclasses were intimate, a circle of chairs on stage around the work surface where you were up close and personal, able to see and smell every dish and process.

At the end we left and, despite the Food Festival having kindly provided Tiny Rebel Brewing beers and a selection of warm Indian snacks for bloggers in their Market Hall base I did not have time to get there so visited a few stalls by the Riverfront before heading back for another master class.

This time it was Malaysian Chef, and owner of Manchester based Ning restaurant and Cookery School, Norman Musa. Norman is an ambassador for Malaysian foods and regularly tours the country giving free demonstrations and introducing the ingredients and food of his home country.

The Dish Norman cooked was Kari Ayam Kapitan, the Captain’s Chicken Curry, and he explained the processes of cooking the Wet and Dry Ingredients separately and then combining them for the final dish. A number of people, myself and fellow blogger Carol Adams (Babettes Fest) got to join Norman behind the hobs and we all had a great time and enjoyed the tasting at the end. Norman had a number of copies of his book available “Malaysian Food” and you can get it yourself from his website

Time was pressing again so it was a dash to the stalls for a little shopping and catching up with producer friends.

On the way we called by the Voice quarter, set up in John Frost Square. The Voice is a Newport magazine and editor (and Newport City councillor) Chris Evans was keen to support local businesses. Voice arranged a number of stalls for local producers, including Elm Tree Foods who make award winning pies as part of the fringe. I would like to see more of this type of enterprise so that the Food Festival can add to regeneration in a way that large scale retail development can’t.

As I said previously the producers were happy, one attending for the first time told me that it was his favourite festival of the season and a one day fest was ideal as he had sold out already and was glad he didn’t have to work all night to replenish stocks.

Finally we got to have lunch, shortly before 4!

A range of hot foods were available but for us it had to be the Back Yard Company. Antonio Smith who runs the company, making a range of genuine Jamaican Jerk Sauces, is a Newport boy and, whilst production is currently outside the city he is looking for premises to bring it back home and was the main sponsor of the Food Festival – believing in his home town.

Antonio’s story and product is worthy of a blog post on its own but suffice to say that our Jerk Chicken in a bap was tangy, tasty and filling. One of the highlights for me was seeing the heat challenged Mrs K really enjoying her bap, “it was warm across your tongue but didn’t attack the tip of your tongue before you ate it, and it didn’t set your throat on fire!”, and her amazement and delight when told it was Antonio’s second coolest rub and sauce.

Just time then to catch the final Market Hall demo with Giacomo Cucinella from Ristorante Vittorio who had provided the dessert at the Supper.

This really has been a brief gallop through a packed day, and there was more that I could have done on the day but time did not allow.

My overall impressions, a bigger and better Festival, more stalls, producers and diversity and a festival that should strengthen and grow over the years, Really there is only one way to appreciate the Festival – Be there. I hope next year you will.
Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

Visit UK Food Bloggers Association