Wednesday, June 26, 2013
The Welsh cook from the heart, using fresh and simple ingredients. This part of The United Kingdom has an amazingly diverse range of unspoilt landscapes, including a long coastline; hence it boasts a vast array of produce that can be proclaimed as local and organic. Fortunately for me I came across some awesome produce and producers on a one stop shop on my trip to Wales where I spent an entire day with my family!
A ONE STOP SHOP
As I arrived from London onto wales my first stop was at the Hawarden Estate farm shop in Flintshire which includes a butchery section, delicatessen and coffee shop and they stock approximately 250 products from 60 Welsh producers making them one of the largest stockists of Welsh food in the region. The deli boasts of everything that is Farm fresh and home-made and sourced from local trusted suppliers i.e. Fruits, vegetables, pies, puddings, cakes, chutneys, meat, bread, cider, beers, wines, spirits and oils. Most of the locals ( read like us tourists )also spend an entire day here as on offer at the Estate are also cookery workshops, a cafe, nature trail, children’s play fort and food tastings aka a family day out all under one roof!
Luckily for me it was the strawberry season so I picked up my punnet and rushed to the fields (a part of the so many acres of this large Estate). The lush, red strawberries lay quietly beneath their leaves and I thoroughly examined each fruit carefully before accepting it. Only the brightest, plumpest choices would be going back with me. After getting them weighed and paying for it, I dug into them, absolutely delicious and more so in comparison to those in the supermarket, these were about hundred notches ahead on the flavour scale. Rosy, sweet and juicy, freshly picked by my own green fingers if I may add.
Soon it was time for lunch and between my family and me we ordered a ‘Meat Platter’ which included slices of home cooked meats, marmalade ham, rare roast beef and butter poached chicken. A ‘Cheese platter’ which was a selection of five Welsh cheeses including Black Bomber, Mr Bourne’s Cheshire, Caws Cenarth brie, Bouncing berry and Per Las all served with Pant Glas Bach farmhouse pickle, grapes, celery and chunky bread…delicious to the core! Interestingly ewes’ milk is used to produce gorgeous yoghurt and cheeses and goat’s milk cheeses are also widely available. The Homemade beef and beer pie seemed tempting so ordered that as well along with some ciders and Hawarden Estate pressed apple juice. One of the most enduring Welsh traditions is the weekly bake and items like ‘bara birth’ aka speckled bread eaten on its own, buttered or as I did with cheese, and cakes like ‘teisen lap’ which is a fruit cake and reisen sinamon i.e. cinnamon are tea time delights. So after a slow browsing at the store and the Estate tea time was a divine dip in the pool of indulgence with ‘sultana scones with jam, butter and Cornish cream’, ‘Coffee & walnut Bakewell tart’, ‘Carrot cake’ along with pots of Tea. After a delightfully amazing day we bought some Welsh cakes and bottles of freshly squeezed Apple juice , some freshly caught fish to take back home for dinner that night!
MUST TRY WHEN IN WALES
LAVER: Not really a Nation of seaweed fans and the closest the welsh get to seaweed is Samphire. The one unique ingredient in the Welsh kitchen is the ‘laver’, delicate purplish seaweed harvested from the rocks in South Wales and yes the nori sheets in which sushi rolls are wrapped is from the same seaweed. Once cooked it is called ‘laver bread’ though I couldn’t figure out why as it has nothing to do with bread and it is served with mutton, grilled or steamed fish or as a side dish. As for me I thought they paired best with cockles.
COCKLES: Welsh Cockles are highly rated across the United Kingdom and the Penclawdd Bury inlet is supposed to be judged a sustainable rated fishery and an environmentally responsible area by the Marine Stewardship Council. Anyways the best time to try these cockles at their best is during autumn as they are sweet and absolutely plum then.
WELSH RABBIT: Yes it’s ‘Rabbit’ and not ‘Rarebit’ and for those who do not know Dorothy Hartley’s ‘Food in England’ (1954) and Hannah Glasse from 1747 confirm that it’s the original name for ‘Cheese on Toast’. I guess the ‘rarebit’ adaption must have been a joke that caught on. Caerphilly cheese makes the best refined cheese on toast or ‘rabbit’ with savoury additions.
published in TLF