I’d like to blame my dad’s army career as the reason for me leading a fairly nomadic existence but I’d be lying. I was born in Swindon, grew up in the Forest of Dean, moved to the Cotswolds in my teens, and then to Cardiff for uni. I then helped write for a Cardiff magazine (then a Bristol one) in Bath, and most recently I have moved to the border of West Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire to lead the good life, oh, and write about food. And despite having moved around so much (albeit all within the relatively close confines of the South), I love it. It means that I really do feel at home wherever I lay my chef’s hat – as long as I’ve got The Other Half and the cat.
Wales, though, really does have a really special place in my heart. I love Cardiff’s buzz, its shops, its friendly people, the Welsh cakes! I love Barry’s arcades and beach. I love Swansea’s contrast of industry, green hills and beautiful coastline. I LOVE its market and I LOVED its most recent food festival – The Welsh Menu Live.
The Welsh Menu launched earlier this year as a new online magazine celebrating the best food and drink of Wales. I’ve had the honour of writing a few of the articles on there. Click here for one of my latest offerings. Over the August Bank Holiday I was invited along to the launch of its inaugural food festival in Swansea. The meal was gorgeous tasting menu of some of the best producers in Wales and included delicacies such as deep-fried cockles, Pendragon smoked salmon, a medley of salt marsh lamb, and a Welsh cake parfait with a Merlyn (Welsh liqueur) Anglaise. Jamie Owen set the perfect tone for the evening as compere – ask him about the time he tried to save some sheep – before giving us an inspirational pep talk on the importance of demanding local produce. When we eat out, he says, we should always ask if we are eating produce that is locally, or at the very least British, produced. And if we’re not, why not? The man had a point.
And that’s why the producers tent at this year’s The Welsh Menu Live were so fantastic. There was a range of Welsh meat producers – including that gorgeous Welsh salt marsh lamb, which is reared here on the Gower – preserves, cupcakes, Welsh slate, cheeses, street traders and more. There was also a range of demonstrations, from the likes of Fiona Faulkner, Sophie Grigson, Jo Wheatley (who I helped out behind the scenes) and Bryn Williams.
And there were also a few, shall we say, “less well known” cooks, err, me. On Saturday afternoon I taught the good people of Swansea how to make fresh pasta in the ‘chefs unplugged’ tent, which was all about cooking with no gadgets, no gizmos or gimmicks. In 30 mins I showed that you can make fresh pasta from scratch, with two different ravioli fillings and no machinery. All you need is good ingredients. Here is the basic pasta recipe and I hope you and enjoy – and for those who came along to the demo, let me know how you got on making it at home! I will try and do a video blog showing all of the demos soon.
PS Archfarchnad is the one Welsh word I learnt while at university. It means supermarket!