Abergavenny Food Festival is a feast for visitors

 

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Cyrus Todiwala PICTURE: Huw John Photography

 

From top chefs and food writers to TV presenters and a former star of the Great British Bake Off – this year’s Abergavenny Food Festival will be a feast for its tens of thousands of visitors.

Last year’s event attracted 30,000 people, and this year’s festival will run from Friday night (September 16) to Sunday.

This year’s line-up has a taste of cooking from India, Italy, France, Spain, Malaysia, Poland, Japan, Korea, and the UK.

MasterChef: The Professionals presenter and former Le Gavroche senior sous chef Monica Galetti talks about her new book, The Skills, and stages a masterclass at the Borough Theatre on Friday evening.

On Saturday, Abergavenny Food Festival favourite Cyrus Todiwala will be at the Borough Theatre showing visitors how to get 120 dishes out of 10 spices with recipes from his new book, Mr Todiwala’s Spice Box. The chef, restaurateur, and author has been called the UK’s best Indian chef.

Acclaimed chef and restaurateur Jose Pizzaro will share culinary secrets from his new book, Basque, during a session at the Borough Theatre on Saturday.

Founder of the Riverford Field Kitchen, Jane Baxter, will give a taste of her new book, Leon Happy Salads, at the Masonic Hall on Sunday.

 

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Tim McDougall

 

What To Eat Now star Valentine Warner returns to the festival with new fish recipes at the Priory Centre on Sunday, and Llansantffraed Court chef Tim McDougall will be demonstrating recipes with Usk Valley beef, Monmouthshire lamb, and Bristol Channel sea bass at the Priory Centre on Sunday.

If you’ve been diagnosed as a coeliac, Naomi Devlin will be holding a masterclass at the Priory Centre on Saturday called River Cottage Gluten Free. She will be preparing some of the 120 recipes in her book – which don’t compromise on taste.

Miss Foodwise blog editor Regina Ysewijn will prepare 17th Century puddings from her book, Pride and Pudding, at the Masonic Hall on Saturday.

You could learn Japanese cooking with food writer and chef Kimiko Barber at the Borough Theatre on Saturday.

 

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Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn

 

Or you could pick up expert barbecue tips from the dynamic funders of the Hang Fire Smokehouse at the Priory Centre on Saturday. Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn will also be sharing tales of their cooking misadventure from their book, Recipes and Adventures in American BBQ.

 

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Richard Burr

 

Builder-turned-baker Richard Burr, a finalist in last year’s Great British Bake Off, will tell you how to be a star baker during a session at the Masonic Hall on Saturday. He will demonstrate recipes from his first cookbook, Bake It Yourself.

Norman Musa will demonstrate recipes from his book Amazing Malaysian at the Priory Centre on Saturday, Marie Cheong-Thong and Jon Old will be talking about sake and wasabi at the Masonic Hall on Saturday, and Eleonara Galasso will talk about modern Roman cuisine at the Priory Centre on Saturday.

Vegetarians will find a feast of ideas from Alice Hart when she talks about her new book The Modern Vegetarian at the Masonic Hall on Saturday.

Also on the bill: pop-up restaurateurs Terry and George; food writer William Sitwell; writer and recipe developer Eleanor Ford; Zuza Zak; Brad McDonald; Martha Collison.

The festival features a packed programme of forages and tours, tutored tastings, and sessions at the Artisan Kitchen School.

See the full list of exhibitors here.

Find out more about the festival here.

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Welsh brewers win prizes at UK’s top beer awards

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A North Wales brewery scooped a prestigious award in tonight’s Champion Beer of Britain Awards.

Heavy Industry Brewing based at Henllan won the strong bitter category with its ale, 77, at the awards staged at the Great British Beer Festival in London.

Founder Tom McNeill set up the brewery in 2012 after completing a course in British Brewing Technology at Brewlab in Sunderland.

He learned he loved brewing cask ales and worked for the summer of 2009 at Purple Moose Brewery in Porthmadog. There, he learned about running a brewery.

Heavy Industry Brewing started out with a ten barrel brew kit and now produces 10 beers including 77, Diawl Bach, Nelson’s Eye, Pigeon Toed Orange Peel, and Dr Jekyll’s Last Waltz.

The winning beer, 77, is an amber IPA brewed with pale and crystal malts and has a flavour of dark Seville marmalade spiked with pepper. Find out more about the brewery here.

It was a good night for Welsh brewers.

Aberdare’s Grey Trees Brewers picked up a silver in the golden ale category for Digger’s Gold.

Newport’s Tiny Rebel Brewery – the winner of last year’s champion ale title with its beer Cwtch – picked up two awards. It won silver in the bitter category for Hank, and joint bronze in best bitter category for Cwtch.

The Great British Beer Festival is run by CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale.

This year’s supreme champion brewery is Bingham’s of Runscombe in Berkshire for its Vanilla Stout.

MARIA WILLIAMS IS A COPYWRITER, BLOGGER, PR, AND JOURNALIST. VISIT HER WEBSITE HERE.

Mad Dog Brewing has the recipe for success

 

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Alexis Jones

Passionate brewer Alexis Jones has been cooking up a great 2016 for his company, Mad Dog Brewing.

The Goytre company is currently brewing the official beer for the National Eisteddfod 2016 which will be staged in nearby Abergavenny. Europe’s biggest cultural festival is expected to welcome 160,000 visitors between July 29 and August 6.

He’s also poised to take on his first two staff, both experienced brewers, and to expand into a nearby unit as his business grows. He also has plans to open a family venue in Abergavenny.

The company’s beers can now be bought across South Wales. Mad Dog Brewing supplies Wetherspoon’s pubs from Llanelli in the west to the English border in Monmouthshire.

It’s a DIY success story born from home-brewing in his kitchen after watching a number of videos on YouTube. After learning his trade, qualifying in microbiology for brewing, and working for a brewery in Caerphilly, he started his own company just two years ago.

Now, he’s begun his eight brews of the Eisteddfod beer Iechyd Da, a red ale which tastes of oranges and chocolate and has a spicy finish on the tongue.

“It’s clean and crisp and is 4.1%,” he says.

The beer has a lower AVB than some other craft ales because it is designed to be a refreshing drink for the Eisteddfod maes, where Mad Dog will have a bar. It will also be sold in bars in South Wales.

The brewery is making 160 casks for the festival, along with 1,000 500ml bottles.

Iechyd Da will be launched at The Bridge in Llanfoist on June 4 – and Alexis will also be showing off one of his most popular beers, Bohemian Hipster.

“I was asked to brew the beer by Monmouthshire Council. When I first got the email, I thought it was a wind-up, but I went to a meeting two days later and found out it was serious,” Alexis says.

“As well as having a bar on the Eisteddfod field, we’ll be staging a brewing demonstration on the first Saturday of the festival.”

The event will provide a huge audience for Mad Dog’s beers – and a massive boost to the company’s profile.

The secret to Mad Dog’s success is the fact Alexis is a perfectionist who uses unusual and local produce, like juniper berries and granola, as part of the brewing process to create unusual and delicious tastes.

 

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Brewing begins on Iechyd Da

 

The brewery carries out a pilot brew on its ales as they perfect the recipes, ensuring all its beers meet Alexis’s exacting standards. Even its used mash doesn’t go to waste – it becomes cattle feed for a nearby beef farm.

The brewery is planning its own beer festival with guest ales from around the UK in September at its site in Goytre, to raise funds for mental health charity MIND.

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In July, Mad Dog will also be involved in a ‘tap takeover’ at Cardiff’s Urban Tap House, and Alexis is in the process of planning a Christmas event too.

“Our two new brewers start work in the next few months, which will help us meet the growing demand for our beers,” Alexis says.

He can’t reveal more details about his plan for an Abergavenny venue as yet – watch this space!

For more details about Mad Dog’s beers go to http://maddogbrew.co.uk/

Maria Williams is a copywriter, professional blogger, and PR for small business: www.wordsyoucanuse.co.uk

Cook the box with top chef Alexlouise Brown

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Alexlouise Brown (pictured) was trained by Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc, she ran her own pub-restaurant and her own catering company.

Now, she is sharing her passion for food by teaching people how to go back to basics and make delicious meals from scratch.

Once a month, the owner of Alex’s Supper Clubs hosts Alex Cooks The Box at her base in Pontypridd.

Riverford Organic Farms vegetable and meat boxes are the centrepieces of every session. The contents change every month – produce is seasonal and from Riverford’s network of farms.

Alexlouise, 35, has just a few days to come up with mouth-watering recipes which are simple enough to be demonstrated to and remembered by her visitors without a recipe.

Remember how our mothers and grandmothers created meals from available ingredients without ever looking at a recipe?

Alexlouise is taking cookery classes back to the future.

When I visit, the vegetables include wild garlic, cabbage, courgettes, carrots, rocket, cucumber, spinach leaves, purple sprouting broccoli, onions, potatoes, and mushrooms. The vegetables are supplemented by Riverford organic meats and organic free range eggs, milk, and cream. The only non-UK fruit and vegetable ingredients are bananas – which, of course, have to be imported.

Alexlouise’s philosophy is simple: cook using organic produce and cook from scratch.

“Food doesn’t have ingredients, food is ingredients,” she says.

We’re greeted with a glass of prosecco or her own kombucha, a fermented tea which is slightly sparkling. Alexlouise has added berries to the probiotic drink. It’s refreshing and good for the digestive system.

As she expertly slices the potatoes into wedges and sprinkles them with garam masala and cumin, we talk about the toll food processing can take on ingredients.

Alexlouise shows us how to spatchcock a chicken within minutes. Her cooking doesn’t require complicated kitchenalia – just a roasting tin or two, a frying pan,  a saucepan, one sharp knife, a sharp grater, and a hand mixer.

As the chicken and potato wedges roast in the oven, Alexlouise sets to making us her mouth-watering mushroom soup.

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Solid coconut oil is heated to become liquid, and onions fried until translucent. If no vegetarians like me attend, Alexlouise could use lard. Then, Alexlouise grates in the mushrooms. Water, rather than stock, is added, and the soup is seasoned. It simmers until ready for hand blending and is served in tea cups with a dollop of sour cream and a square of homemade rosemary focaccia. It’s fresh and delicious.

We all marvel at how much taste Alexlouise packs into a simple soup.

Our six courses include a home-made coleslaw with soft-boiled eggs which lives on a different planet from the runny affair we buy in tubs in supermarkets.

The grater is king – carrots and cabbage are grated, mayonnaise is added, and everything is seasoned to perfection.

We are also treated to linguini with a tangy lemon and chilli sauce and a crunchy topping of cob nuts, a salad of leaves topped with a balsamic syrup and Indian paneer cheese griddled in Indian spices, roasted, spatchcocked chicken and potato wedges, and Alexlouise’s pudding, a caramelised banana fool.

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We’re shown how to caramelise sugar correctly – never leave un-melted sugar grains – and how best to coat the banana slices. Cream is whipped and Alexlouise assembles the pudding in champagne flutes, topped with an orange physalis berry on the rim of the glass.

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At the end of the three-hour session, we’re enlightened, full, happy, and determined to put Alexlouise’s simple recipes into action in our own kitchens.

The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed enough to reassure even the most timid would-be cook. Vegetarians like me are welcomed.

It’s the perfect foodie night out with friends or family.

 

‘Everyone wants to order boxes after the event’

Riverford Organic Farms franchiser in South East Wales Janet Mier, who is also at the Alex Cooks The Box night, says the sessions have inspired visitors to order regular vegetable and meat box deliveries.

“Some people who come along are already customers and have heard about the events through us, but others are inspired by the recipes and the produce and sign up,” she says.

“They see the quality of the produce and taste how good it is. We’ve been involved in the nights for a few months now, and it’s been excellent.”

Janet serves customers from Penarth and Sully to the Heads of the Valleys and Monmouthshire border to the east, delivering around 850 boxes a week.

To learn more about Riverford South Wales, see their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/RiverfordSouthWales/ and to order boxes call 01633 867661.

 Alexlouise’s culinary career

At 15, Alexlouise went straight from school into a job in a kitchen after a work experience placement at 14. She washed dishes and prepared vegetables, but soon realised she could work her way up.

“If you stay in kitchens long enough and you learn, you will progress,” she says.

She went on to work in restaurants like those at the Celtic Manor, then worked under Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons near Oxford. By the time she was 22, she was running her own pub-restaurant Y Draenog in Pontyclun.

A spell running her own catering company followed, then a move to Switzerland, the home of the hospitality industry.

Alexlouise catered to exclusive ski chalet clients like Prince Andrew, the President of Kazakhstan, the Saudi royal family, and billionaire businessmen and women.

When she returned to Wales, she began working at her other love, property development. Cooking went on the back burner for a while, but her love of food eventually drew her back to the kitchen.

She started her Alex’s Supper Clubs business, where a group of people visits her base in Pontypridd, each bringing an ingredient. Everyone cooks together.

Then came Alex Cooks The Box.

Now, Alex is also spreading her love of cooking by teaching families how to cook with affordable, fresh ingredients in Llanhilleth.

Maria Williams is a professional blogger, copywriter, and PR for small businesses. Go to www.wordsyoucanuse.co.uk.

 

Welsh piemaker’s talent recognised at top awards

 

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Judging of the Speciality Pies Class at this year’s British Pie Awards.  ALL PICTURES: Mepics Photography

A North Wales delicatessen famed for its home-made produce has been highly commended at the British Pie Awards in Melton Mowbray.

Leonardo’s Delicatessen Limited in Ruthin was recognised for its lamb, coriander, and apricot pie in the lamb pie category at the prestigious awards.

Leonardo’s makes its own quiches, puddings, sausage rolls, patés, and ready meals, alongside its meat pies including chicken, leek and laverbread pies.

The deli was founded in 200 by Ceris Brunzel-Roberts and her chef husband Andreas Brunzel. It uses seasonal fruit and vegetables from the owners’ garden, Tyn y Celyn free range chicken, Welsh black beef from Bala, Mochyn Merllyn pork, and Coed Du Farm milk and cream. Other local ingredients used include Clyttir Farm free range eggs and Snowdonia cheddar.

The awards saw top honours given to a ‘Beef Skirt & Vegetable Pastie’ made by A.F. Huddleston Butchers.

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Chef Andy Bates (left) tries a pie during judging

The Cumbrian firm took home the title of Supreme Champion, beating 815 other pies to secure the coveted trophy. This pasty had the judges’ mouths watering for its even bake, beautiful glaze and well balanced flavours.

Matthew O’Callaghan, Chairman of the British Pie Awards and Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, said: “I know many will be surprised to see a pasty winning the British Pie Awards, but the definition of a pie is a filling totally encased in pastry – pies come in all shapes including round pies, square pies and pasties.

“Pasties have been a feature of British cuisine for centuries ranging from the Forfar Bridie in Scotland through to the Midland’s Bedfordshire Clanger and down to the iconic Cornish Pasty. I’m pleased that we now have an award-winning pasty to shout about from Cumbria.

“The winning pasty was outstanding.”

British Pie Awards: Judging
Judges tasting the pasties

The eighth annual British Pie Awards took place in Melton Mowbray during British Pie Week for the first time in the awards’ history. On Wednesday, 816 pies were entered from 132 professional bakers, butchers, and chefs and judged by over 100 top pie perfectionists –  including leading food critic Charles Campion, chef Rachel Green and TV chef Andy Bates.

Turner’s Pies Ltd in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, had four entries achieving first place within their individual classes. These pies were – Steak & Stilton Pie, Highland Top Rump & Potato Pie, Chicken, Ham Hock & Stuffing Pie, and Steak & Ale Pie. If you think football clubs are all about meat pies, think again. Morecambe Football Club won the dessert pie category with its apple, sultana,and cinnamon pie, and was highly commended twice.

Judging at the 2016 British Pie Awards
Two judges taking their job very seriously

The Speciality Class at this year’s British Pie Awards encouraged pie makers to create showstopping pies fit for Her Majesty The Queens 90th birthday celebrations.  A Victorian Corset Pork & Chicken Pie produced by Walker & Son was crowned as the class winner.

A selection of judges from this year's British Pie Awards
The judges at this year’s British Pie Awards. From left to right: Pete Lawrence (TV producer), Andy Clarke (food blogger and TV producer), Rachel Green (chef), Stephen Hallam (British Pie Awards event organiser), Andy Bates (TV chef), Neil Broomfield of the Great North Pie Co (2015 British Pie Awards Supreme Champion) and Neil Davey (food journalist).

 

THE RESULTS:

Award
Supreme Champion Beef Skirt & Vegetable Pastie –

A.F. Huddleston Butchers

Best Overall Small Producer Steak & Ale Pie – The Wheatsheaf

 

Class Class champion Highly Commended Highly Commended
Class 1 – Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Melton Mowbray Pork Pie – Dickinson & Morris Melton Mowbray Pork Pie – F. Bailey & Son Melton Mowbray Pork Pie – Leesons Family Butchers
Class 2 – Pork Pie Tesco Finest Extra Large Melton Mowbray Pork Pie  – Walker & Son Pork & Egg Pie 440g  – Walker & Son Pork Pie – Keelham Farm Shop Ltd
Class 3 – Steak & Kidney Pie Steak & Kidney Pie  – Wessex Pantry Steak, Kidney & Ale Pie  – Proper Pies Limited Steak & Kidney Pie – Turner’s Pies Ltd
Class 4 – Beef & Any Flavour Combination Pie Steak & Stilton Pie  – Turner’s Pies Ltd Beef, Venison & Red Wine Pie – The Outdoor Pig Company Steak Mushroom & Truffle Oil Pie  – Turner’s Pies Ltd
Class 5 – Beef & Ale Pie Steak & Ale Pie  – The Wheatsheaf Steak & Ale Pie – Tom’s Pies Steak & Ale Pie – Chef’s Kitchen
Class 6  – Meat & Potato Pie Highland Top Rump & Potato Pie – Turner’s Pies Ltd Meat & Potato Pie  – Morecambe FC Steak & Potato Pie – Middleton-in-Teesdale Fish & Chip Shop
Class 7 – Lamb Pie Lamb, Mint & Rosemary Pie – Robert Bowring Farmer & Butchers Lamb, Coriander & Apricot Pie – Leonardos Delicatessen Ltd Braised Lamb, Rosemary & Roast Potato Pie – Dunkleys
Class 8 – Chicken Pie Chicken, Ham Hock & Stuffing Pie – Turner’s Pies Ltd Chicken Pie – Plenty Pastry Ltd Chicken Pie – Robert Bowring Farmer & Butchers
Class 9 – Chicken & Vegetable / Herb Pie Luxury Chicken Pie – Nice Pie Chicken & Leek Pie – Thomas the Caterer Chicken & Leek Pie – Robert Bowring Farmer & Butchers
Class 10 – Chicken & Other Meat Pie Chicken, Bacon & Mushroom Pie – Walker & Son Chicken Pie – Plenty Pastry Ltd Chicken, Ham Hock, Maderia & Wild Mushroom Pie – Proper Pies Ltd
Class 11 – Speciality Meat Pie Game Pie – Mud Foods Ltd Venison Pie – Plenty Pastry Ltd Game Pie -Madaboutpies.co.uk
Class 12 – Savoury Pie Pork & Apple with Layered Turkey & Sage Crust – Roberts Country Fayre M&S Fluted Oval Pork & Chicken Layered Pie – Walker & Son Tesco Ultimate Pork Pie 440g – Walker & Son
Class 13 – Fish Pie Posh Stargazy with Prawns Pie – Fuller, Smith & Turner Smoked Salmon & Caviar Pie – Katherine Walmsley Fine Foods Salmon & Cream Cheese Pie – Cossack Cuisine
Class 14 – Vegetarian Pie Lentil & Sweet Potato Pie – Sandersons UK Limited Spinach & Mushroom Pie – Sanderson UK Limited Saag Pie – Pieminster
Class 15 – Pasty Beef Skirt & Vegetable Pastie – A.F Huddlestons Butchers Pork & Apple Pasty – The Outdoor Pig Company Traditional Cornish Pasty – Warrens Bakery
Class 16 – Dessert Pie including Bramley Apple Pie Apple, Sultana & Cinnamon Pie – Morecambe Football Club Bramley Apple Pie  – Morecambe FC Traditional Apple Pie – The Rutland Pie Company
Class 17 – Pub Pie Chicken, Brie & Cranberry Pie – Kentish Mayde Ham Hock & Smoked Chicken Pie – Kentish Mayde Highland Top Rump with Kidney – Turner’s Pies
Class 18 – Football Pie Steak & Ale Pie – Turner’s Pies Ltd Steak & Ale Pie – Kentish Mayde Steak & Stilton Pie – Turner’s Pies Ltd
Class 19  – Free From Pie Gluten Free Goats Cheese & Spinach ‘Heidi’ Pie – Pieminster Gluten Free Beef & Ale Pie – Pieminster Moroccan Spiced Vegetarian Pie – The Biddestone Arms
Class 20 – Speciality Class: Pie Fit For The Queen Marks & Spencer Victorian Corset Pork & Chicken Pie – Walker & Son A Royal Stamp of Approval Pork Pie – Walker & Son Three Tiered Regal Pie – Walker & Son

 

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Judging the pork pies

Some upper crust options for British Pie Week

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As it’s British Pie Week, we’re taking a look at the places in Wales where aficionados of the crust can purchase the perfect pie for them.

For lovers of steak pies:

Butcher’s Martin Player of Cardiff has award-winning steak and kidney, and steak, pies made on site at their shop.

The shop also offers Welsh ox cheek, stout and mushroom pies.

http://www.martinplayer.com/pies-and-cooked-meats

For lovers of pork pies:

Former London restaurateur Rob Didier, who trained under Raymond Blanc, is the founder of Orchard Pigs based in Wrexham. His company has a trademark Tractor Wheel Pie made from rare breeds pork, along with a range of mutton, beef and game pies.

https://www.facebook.com/Orchard-Pigs-150180525054619/?rf=218278868276247

Or try the Hunstman Pie, which contains pork, turkey, and a topping of sage and onion stuffing from Edwards of Conwy – their pie has impressed judges at the Royal Welsh Show.

http://www.edwardsofconwy.co.uk/shop//Pies/huntsman-pie

Edwards also has a black pudding and egg pork pie which has won top honours in the paste at the True Taste Awards.

http://www.edwardsofconwy.co.uk/shop//Pies/black-pudding-and-egg-pork-pies

For pasty lovers:

There’s a great range of pasties at the Little Welsh Deli in Swansea.

They even have traditional Welsh cawl in a pasty! From corned beef to Mexican chilli and the vegetarian Italian Job with courgettes, aubergines, and sweet potato in a tomato and basil pesto sauce.

http://www.thelittlewelshdeli.co.uk/lwd%20web%20stuff/savourybakes.html

Or you could try a traditional Welsh lamb oggy with a hint of mint at Conwy’s Tan Lan Bakery.

http://www.tanlanbakery.co.uk/pies.php

For lovers of chicken pie:

Try a chicken, leek, and laverbread pie from Leonardo’s Deli in Ruthin.

http://www.foodtrail.co.uk/members/leonardos-delicatessen/

For veggies:

Parsnipship in Ogmore Vale has a plethora of pies and other goods for vegetarians and vegans. Try their mushroom bourguignon pie, made with puy lentils and porcini mushrooms. They suggest serving it with olive mash. Their Mexican pie is made with kidney beans and cayenne pepper, and has a paprika crust. They suggest serving it with sautéed potatoes and either lime crème fraiche, or soya yoghurt for vegans.

Their Indian summer pie has chickpeas, butternut squash and cumin, and they suggest serving it with broccoli stems pan fried in lime, ginger and chilli.

https://theparsnipship.co.uk/

 Maria Williams is a professional blogger, copywriter, and PR for small business at www.wordsyoucanuse.co.uk.

Show some love with a lasting gift for your foodie this Valentine’s Day

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If a box of chocolates simply won’t hack it this Valentine’s Day, Welsh food and drink experts have some perfect ideas for lasting gifts:

For the wine lover

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White Castle vineyard near Abergavenny has a scheme where you can adopt a vine for your loved-one. That gives them a personalised certificate of adoption valid for a year, a plaque with their name on their adopted vine, a conducted vineyard tour for two people to include a glass of wine to toast the adopted vine, and the chance to join owners Robb and Nicola Merchant at harvest to handpick the grapes from your adopted vine.

The package also includes a bottle of wine from your adopted grape variety to take home and a warm welcome to events taking place throughout the year at The Cellar Door.The price is £45.00 Contact Robb or Nicola on 01873 821443 or email: info@whitecastlevineyard.com. See more details here.

For the chocolate lover

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Book a chocolate tasting and making course at Black Mountain Gold based in Crickhowell.

Your loved one can join a three-hour course for £85, or have a one-to-one workshop with master chocolatier Jules for £250. The courses include an introduction to truffle making, tempering, hand rolling and piping ganache, enrobing and detailing, using dipping forks, mouthfeel and cocoa butter, and chocolate moulding techniques. To book and pay for your place please call the shop on 01873 812362. See more details here.

For the fish lover

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Book  your Valentine a Welsh fish and shellfish cookery course at Bodnant Welsh Foods at Conwy.

The course teaches people how to cook and prepare sustainably-sourced fish and learn techniques such as skinning, filleting and boning. For lunch your Valentine will try the fish and shellfish they have cooked and pair them with matching wines from Bodnant’s onsite wine cellar.

 

The next course is on February 27. Your Valentine will learn to cook lobster bisque, citrus cured salmon, poached pollock and black curry powder, halibut wellington and baked scallops and coconut. The day course costs £115. See more details here.

For the cake and bread lover 

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Your Valentine can hone their baking skills at a half day bakes and cakes course at The Culinary Cottage at Pandy, Abergavenny.

The course will cover beer and soda bread, sweet and savoury pastries, and a chocolate genache-covered creation. The half day course cost £65. See more details here.

For the meat lover

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Book your Valentine a place at a Weber Essential course at Angela Grey’s Cookery School in Llanerch Vineyard, Vale of Glamorgan. The course teaches American barbecue, low ‘n’ slow cooking and smokehouse cuisine skills, creating deliciously authentic dishes from scratch. Dishes will include barbecued beef brisket and a side of signature slaw, spicy buffalo wings with gorgonzola dip, stacked ribs, and Bourbon and smoked bacon chocolate brownies.

During the four hours, your Valentine will get hands on with an array of different meats, expand your cooking repertoire on the barbecue and also use the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. The cost is £129. See more details here.

For the veggie lover

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Your Valentine will love the vibrant veggie recipes taught at Kather’s  Kitchen cookery school in Monmouthshire. The dishes will be seasonal The day course costs £85 per person. Call 01292 650801 to book. See more details here.

Maria Williams is a journalist, copywriter, and professional blogger www.wordsyoucanuse.co.uk

 

 

UPDATED: Sup a new red ale to support Wales in the Six Nations

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UPDATE: Monmouthshire brewery Mad Dog has been chosen to create the official beer for this year’s National Eisteddfod in Abergavenny.

Founder Alexis Jones says the decision was made by Monmouthshire County Council and the Eisteddfod board. The ale will use Welsh ingredients, and, like its Six Nations ale, it will be red.

Cwrw Steddfod will be available in cask and bottles in pubs in Mid and South Wales, and there are plans for a brewing demonstration at the July event.

Six Nations ale goes red for Wales:

If you want to show your Six Nations support for the Welsh rugby team while supping a local craft ale, the Mad Dog brewery has come up with your perfect tipple.

The brewery based in Penperlleni near Abergavenny has brewed a Welsh cask ale called Scrum Sox which it is distributing to a select group of pubs. In honour of Warren Gatland’s side, it’s red.

Brewer Alexis Jones says the ale is made using chocolate rye malt, which gives it the distinctive colour.

“I’ve made about 1,000 litres, and it will be available in the Boar’s Head, Brecon, the Horseshoe in Mamhilad, and the John Fielding in Cwmbran,” he said.

Mad Dog has made a name for itself by creating delicious craft ales from unusual ingredients, many of which are sourced locally. Its All Day Breakfast granola stout, available between October and March, uses handmade granola from the Wye Valley.

all_day_granola_stout_bottle

Afternoon Sunshine, which has citrus notes, is an American Pale ale which is dry-hopped to the finish. Alexis said this is to give the beer “extra bark”.

Full-bodied stout John Peel, available between September and March, is infused with fresh orange peel, and is named after one of Alexis’ musical heroes.

“I listened to John Peel’s programme when I used to drive a truck,” he said.

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Submissible Anarchy, available between September and March, is a golden crafted ale made with local honey, and added flavours of citrus and juniper berries.

A keen home brewer whose passion for creating beer was re-ignited by YouTube videos, Alexis learned his craft at Caerphilly’s Celt Experience brewery. He also completed a microbiology course in beer at Brew Lab.

He started Mad Dog Brewing Company Ltd in October 2014, initially creating four beers from his home kitchen – Afternoon Sunshine, Bark Like A Bird, Dirty Dog, and Now In A Minute.

He moved the brewery to a unit in Penperlleni in February 2015. The business has taken off, and now he’s expanding, and hopes to take on two members of staff.

A number of Mad Dog’s bottled beers are available in a number of shops as well as cask ale being available in pubs.

“We’ve got around 26 different wholesalers situated across the UK,” Alexis said. Close to home, the beer is sold at The Marches Deli in Abergavenny.

Find out more about the beers at http://maddogbrew.co.uk/beer-range/

Customers can buy the brewery’s bottled beer, including John Peel, Now In A Minute, Bohemian Hipster, and It’s All Propaganda, online at http://maddogbrew.co.uk/shop or through Beer Revolution http://www.beerrevolution.co.uk/

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Maria Williams is a professional blogger, copywriter, and PR for small business. Visit www.wordsyoucanuse.co.uk

 

 

Telling the sparkling tale of a Welsh cider revival

 

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Wales’ craft cider revival is set to be recorded in a new project backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Welsh Perry and Cider Society (WPCS) is recruiting for the project, ‘The Heritage of Orchards & Cidermaking in Wales’.

The aim is to enlist community groups to develop orchards, to build a comprehensive list of Welsh perry and cider fruit varieties, and collect oral histories to build digital stories about the revival of cidermaking and the orchard tradition in Wales.

The society is looking to recruit a heritage project manager and project support assistant based at Blaengawney Farm near Hafodyrynys, Caerphilly county borough, and a heritage project officer based in north Wales. The jobs are full time and for a fixed two-year term. The deadline for applications is January 14, and anyone interested should email heritage@welshcider.co.uk or call 07702 942587 for more details.

Cidermaking in Wales, which had been established by the Normans in the 14th Century, went into decline after the Second World War.

The orchards remained standing, and the first of a new wave of craft cidermakers started to use the fruit from the old trees in the 1980s.

Mike Penney’s ‘Troggi Seidr’ began to make cider and perry with his Victorian machinery, and in Radnorshire Ralph Owen’s ‘Ralph’s Cider’ pressed local cider apples on an antique mobile twin-screw press. The national society was founded in the Clytha Arms near Raglan in 2001, and the first Welsh Perry and Cider Festival was staged in 2002.

There are now around 40 Welsh cider and perrymakers. Welsh cidermakers have won awards including CAMRA Gold Awards for Cider for Gwynt-y-Ddraig and Ralph’s, and CAMRA Gold Awards for Perry for Gwynt-y-Ddraig and Seidr Dai.

Welsh cidermakers use Welsh varieties of apples and pears including ‘Frederick’, ‘Breakwell’s Seedling’ and ‘Perthyre’. The ‘Broom Apple’ of Monmouthshire, and ‘Pen Caled’ from West Wales had to be propagated at Paul Davis’ Dolau-Hirion Nursery at Llandeilo.
Perry pears like ‘Monmouthshire Burgundy’ and the ‘Potato Pear’ have also been rediscovered. The work of the cider and perrymakers helps preserve heritage apples and pears, ensuring their future survival. The society has established a Museum Orchard with more than 20 varieties acting as a genetic bank.

For more information on the society and its work, and Welsh producers, click here.

Watch a video on the society’s work here.

 

 

Six things for a Welsh foodie to do this bank holiday

This bank holiday is the perfect time for a food-lover in Wales to try something new. But….what to do?

Here are my suggestions to sweeten the three-day weekend with some top-notch Welsh food and drink activities:

1. Take a trip to Selwyn’s Penclawdd Seafoods in Marsh Road, Llanmorlais, Swansea, to pick up some world-famous Penclawdd cockles, laverbread, or crispy seaweed for a real taste of the Gower. You could  also bring home some seaweed soap.

2. Make your way along the Clwydian food trail, showcasing the gastronomic delights of the north Wales area of outstanding natural beauty. The trial which can be easily driven in a day goes from Loggerheads through the market towns of Ruthin and Denbigh, on to Llandyrmog and back through the Vale of Clwyd. It starts at Caffi Florence in Loggerheads Country Park, takes in Rhesgoed Farm Shop and Leonardo’s Delicatessen in Ruthin, Denbigh Chocolate Shop, Rosies Cider, Patchwork Pate and Llaeth y Llan.

Find out more at http://www.foodtrail.co.uk

3. Visit the pop-up street food night market in Cardiff city centre, which is running throughout May and June.

The street food circus is open between 5pm and 11pm at the old stable yard, John Street, and includes food from Hokkei Box – Baos, Purple Poppadom Street Kitchen, Hangfire Smoke House, Mr Churros, Slow Pig, El Salsa, Ffwrness, Tipi Pizza, Patagonia Steak Shack, and Nelly’s Barn.

4. Check out the Welsh perry and cider festival at Caldicot Castle and sample some of the 120 perries and ciders on offer. See previous Gusto post for details.

5. Treat yourself to a gorgeous ice cream  from Verdi’s  at the Mumbles. The ice cream parlour has fantastic sea views and is the perfect pit-stop after a day’s walking. The Turkish delight ice cream is a personal favourite.

6. Stroll through the vines at Parva Farm vineyard in Tintern, sample and buy some of the winery’s award-winning vintages.

Enjoy your bank holiday!