Tuesday, 20 March 2012

New website coming soon!!

Sadly, this blog has now come to an end. I've hugely enjoyed writing it and communicating with the kind people who have got in touch. HOWEVER... I am launching a new food website which will cater for individuals, families, communities and businesses such as schools and nursing homes. It is currently under construction but you will find it at...



Thursday, 29 December 2011

Cockles and Mussels Welsh Style

Serves 4

 A luxurious but economical dish with a lovely Welsh flavour. This is perfect over Christmas as it is a celebration of all the wonderful flavours that we have in this part of the world, and isn’t that what Christmas should be about – luxury and celebration. Swansea market is the best place to get the ingredients as there a 3 excellent fishmongers and wonderful bacon from Abraham’s. We had this on the big day itself but without the cockles and served with frites.


What you need

1kg mussels, cleaned and de – bearded

250g cockles in the shell, cleaned under running cold water to remove grit

100ml Welsh cider

125ml double cream

2 rashers Welsh streaky bacon, diced

½ onion, finely diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

Handful of chopped parsley

Knob of butter

How to do it

1)    With cockles and mussels, ensure that any that are open, and don’t shut with a sharp tap, are discarded as they are dead and unsafe to eat.

2)    In a very large pan with a lid, heat the butter and fry the bacon and onions until the bacon is coloured and the onions soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute being careful not to burn it.

3)    Add the cockles and mussels and then the cider. Bring to the boil then simmer with the lid on until the cockles and mussels open, discarding any that don’t. Lift out the cockles and mussels with a slotted spoon and set aside while you add the cream and boil until it is thick. Taste and when you are happy put the cockles and mussels back in for a minute. Add the chopped parsley and serve in large bowls with crusty bread and a glass of white wine.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

Cheap and cheerful food doesn’t need to be boring as this stunning Shepherd's pie demonstrates. I made this last week and I really think humble food like this wonderful Shepherd's pie is up there with the best if you get the right ingredients and treat it with love and care. For my Shepherd'd pie I used Welsh lamb mince and I also made a pastry topping using suet, potatoes are great but try this and you might never go back

This incidentally, is a protected geographical product, in the same way Parma ham must be from Parma. Ever wondered what that little blue and yellow symbol on the food produce you buy stands for? A new campaign is underway to help consumers recognise the PGI food label which is a mark of quality found on foods with a guaranteed regional origin.

Protected Geographical Indication – or PGI - is a European status which is only awarded to food produce with a specific regional origin as well as authenticity and traceability. PGI products in the UK include Welsh Lamb, Cornish Pasties, Cumberland Sausages and Whitstable Oysters.

The UK-wide campaign is backed by the European Union and aims to make people think about the origin of the produce they buy.

“The origin of food has a significant part to play in its quality and it is important that consumers ask themselves where the food they are buying comes from,” said Laura Dodds of Meat Promotion Wales which is leading the PGI campaign in the UK after being awarded PGI status for both Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef.

PGI is a mark that food producers hold in considerably high esteem and it protects regional food products with a quality, reputation or defined characteristic specific to that area. PGI also prevents other food producers from giving their produce the same name when they can’t guarantee its origin and may very well be unauthentic.

Laura continued: “PGI is a relatively new quality mark to the UK so this campaign aims to help consumers recognise the status and what it means. Consumers are already becoming more selective about the food they buy and both restaurants and retailers are increasingly labelling their food with distinguishing characteristics that will not only inform their customers but appeal to them. This trend will continue so consumers who care about food origin can be assured of a product’s PGI status by looking out for the blue and yellow PGI label on the packaging of their product or clearly displayed at butchers and local markets.”

For more information on PGI and on Welsh Lamb, including recipes, Welsh Lamb Club restaurants in your area and the heritage of Welsh Lamb farming, visit www.eatwelshlamb.com

What you need

500g Minced lamb
1 Onion, diced
1 Carrot, diced
1 stick celery, diced
2 tbsp Flour
250ml Lamb stock
125g Plain flour
100g Suet
1 egg mixed with 1 tbsp milk

 How to do it

1)    Fry the onion, carrot and celery with a little oil in a large pan for a few minutes. Add the minced lamb and brown, stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the stock gradually and simmer the whole lot for an hour, adding a little more liquid if it is to dry.

2)    Make the pastry. In a large bowl mix together the flour and suet. Make a well in the centre, add the egg / milk mixture (reserving a little for eggwash) and mix together to form a dough. Pop in the fridge to rest for ½ an hour.

3)    Preheat your oven to gas 5 / 180. Place the filling in a pie dish, roll out your pastry and pop it on top, crimping the edges. Brush with eggwash and bake for 40 minutes until golden brown.

Monday, 21 November 2011

My Dream Kitchen Part 2...

Well the wait for my new kitchen is finally over. We have endured a few ups and downs but I finally have my version of a dream kitchen. All Ali wanted from a kicthen was for it to be warm with seating for one or two (so she can watch me cook with a glass of wine). My requirements for my dream kitchen differed from Ali's as I actually want to do some serious cooking in it.

I managed to win the battle to keep the kitchen's original pantry, a beautiful large larder with space for everything you could possibly need. I have fantasised about hanging hams from the beams and keeping my cheese, salad and vegetables on the terracotta slab and out of the flavour destroying fridge. Well I am waiting for the paint to dry in the pantry so tomorrow I can enjoy it.

I don't need much space to cook in, as most chefs can knock out meals in the tiniest of spaces, and a 3 metre run of worktop is enough for me. My biggest expense though has been my cooker. We had a tiny budget of three grand to do everything - building work, painting, flooring, units and new appliances so spending £800 on an 8 burner range cooker ate up a fair bit of our budget. It has been worth it though - cooking is my only real passion, save the odd game to see the Swans and a cocktail now and again - so why not get the best I could afford. In addition to the many rings, it has 2 ovens and a separate grill, all gas.

All in all it is the perfect cook's kitchen - a proper pantry, ample workspace, somewhere to perch and a fab cooker and as I've waited 4 years for it I think the time has come to do some serious cooking. If you love food do you find that people ask you 'what would be your final meal' ? I have been asked that many many times and have often given different answers each time. In  a sense my first meal in my dream kitchen is similar to that question. What do I love, what do I cook. And do you know what you can keep your fancy meals and molecular gastronomy all I wanted to cook and eat was a proper roast dinner. And so that is what I made - Slow roast shoulder of pork with onion dauphinoise, roast pototoes, roast parsnips, peas and real gravy.

What would you have cooked?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

My Dream Kitchen part 1...

My wait for a real kitchen is almost over. We moved into our current home in April 2007 and renovated where necessary. The house is a 1936 semi that hadn't been touched for years and we had to rewire, put a central heating system in, plaster the living and dining room and sort the bathroom out. You soon realise that £10 k doesn't go terribly far when doing up a house. No dream kitchen for me then.

Our, no my poor kitchen was ripped out but with no money to refit. And so I have blogged, written recipes and created lovely food from a kitchen that was not fit for purpose. I had a hob, a small butchers block and a sink and that's it really.

Ali and I ummed and ahhed for four years as to what to do with it. Ali, who lets say is not the cook in our house, wanted to knock through to create a larger kitchen. But there was a major flaw in her plan - she wanted to knock out the kitchen's original pantry! I can hear audible gasps from fellow foodies. I made the right noises knowing full well that I would lay in front of it if the builders tried to knock it out. So I got my way and while my kitchen is hardly anyone's idea of a dream kitchen, its my dream kitchen and look forward to making use of it...

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Super Quick Curry with homemade Bhaji's

I make absolutely no apologies for taking shortcuts when making Indian curry. The balance and depth of flavour is always elusive to me in a way that Thai food isn't. So I have cheated here and used a nice curry paste, but I did make some homemade onion bhaji's to make up for it! Add a little ginger, garlic and fresh coriander and you will never know the difference (ok you will but its fine for a midweek tea).

Chicken Korma with Rice and Homemade Onion Bhaji

Serves 4

3 - 4 Chicken breasts, diced
1 large onion
1 large tbsp Patak's korma paste
100ml water
100ml cream or coconut milk
thumb sized piece of ginger, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
chopped coriander
200g basmati rice
1 tbs oil

For the Bhaji's
200g gram flour
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 sliced green chilli
1 tsp salt
2 tsp chopped coriander
oil for frying

To make the curry, fry your chicken pieces in a wok or large frying pan until coloured all over. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry for 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft. Add the curry paste and stir in and then add the water and cream. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 - 20 minutes, ensuring the chicken is cooked through. You can add the coriander just before you serve to retain its colour and flavour. I always cook rice according to packet instructions and if you do it before the curry is ready don't worry, just drain it, return it to the pan, pop a lid on and it will sit happily for 10 minutes or so.

To make the bhaji's, combine the gram flour with enough water to make a thick batter like paste. Then add all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. In a very large pan heat an inch of oil and place a tablespoon of mixture in at a time and cook until crisp - you may need to turn them over. Drain on kitchen towel, sprinkle with a little salt and serve.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Mumbles produce market - Roast lamb with root vegetable mash and red wine gravy

I love the atmosphere of produce markets and could happily spend hours pottering about in them. To be honest I don't feel the same way about the supermarket, where I am in and out as quick as I can. I had two quite different experiences doing my food shopping on Saturday. Seren and I were up and off to Mumbles Produce Market early (I was up at 5.30 to watch Wales beat Ireland in the Rugby World Cup) to get the best stuff and to beat the traffic.
We spent a pleasant hour buying food for tea that evening and meat and veg for Sunday lunch. We tried a few samples of olives and tapanade and bought both, I chatted to a few of the stallholders about their produce. I love to hear the passion in their voice when proudly showing off their best lamb or magnificent romanesCO cauliflower. You know that the dedication they put into growing, rearing or making their produce will reward you on the plate, and give you lasting satisfaction.
That feeling of satisfaction lasted until I went to Sainsbury's to do the rest of my shopping. I have, like most people, a negative or at best, nuetral experience when inside these giant food stores. People don't seem to be enjoying themselves, the food is not sold with knowledge or passion, and customers seem accept it as an unpleasant but necessary part of their week. To top it off I had a row with another customer and her husband who brazenly pushed in front of Seren and I at the checkout (I later got my own back by waiting by the crossing for them to stop for us and Seren and I proceded to inch our way across the crossing at a snails pace).
Buying local is important to me, I'm not too interested in whether the food is organic or not, but I like to feel that I contribute to the local economy rather than line the pockets of a huge corporation. I am not anti supermarket and they have a place in our food landscape but they have come to dominate, as big business is wont to do. Small producers cannot compete with them on price or convenience, but are head and shoulders above their bigger, greedier brothers when it comes to personal service, knowledge, quality and choice. I think to buy local at a produce market is logical and to me, a 'no brainer' as they say. You get cracking produce, grown, made or reared with care, it is a sustainable choice, keeps our communities alive with interest and stops our towns and cities from being just another identikit place to live. I have included some of the best producers in the Food shopping section at the top of the page.

Roast lamb with root vegetable mash and red wine gravy

It is quite satisfying to know that all the ingredients I needed for this dish all came from Wales (except the Rioja). Indeed it is the very best produce from this area and deserves a simple approach so that you can taste the love and dedication that has gone into producing this food. I think that food is more than just fuel because you can show your love for your family through it and support your community while your at it. Just a meal huh!

You can use any cut of lamb you prefer, but I chose breast because I am on a budget. The cooking principle will be the same for tougher cuts like breast or shoulder i.e. slow long cooking but you will need a shorter time for a premium cut like leg. The root veg mash works with any veg you fancy. I used a little potato, swede and parsnip but could have chosen celeriac, carrots or butternut squash - whatever you fancy really but I'd keep it to 3 maximum or the flavours will be lost. By the way if you just use the white or pale veg you can fool your kids into thinking it is just mashed potato.

1 roasting Lamb joint (breast, shoulder or leg)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary
125 ml red wine
100 ml stock (I used veg)
25 ml oil
3 - 4lb vegetables of your choice for the mash

1) Set your oven low to moderate. Pour the oil into your roasting tin and heat on the hob. Season your meat and brown all over. Pop the veg in and give them a little colour too. Add the red wine and stock. Cover and cook in the oven for about 4 hours.

2) While the meat is resting make your gravy by straining the juices from the tin and reducing a little. Thicken with a little cornflour if you prefer. I don't.

3) For the root veg mash - peel and chop about 3kg of the veg of your choice and boil until cooked. Drain, mash and season with a little butter, cream if you wish, salt and pepper. Do this about half an hour before the end of the lamb cooking time so they are ready roughly the same time.