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The Welsh Menu Live launch dinner featuring salt-marsh lamb from the Gower

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.

GBBO

Great British Bake Off winner Jo Wheatley and me!

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.

My fresh pasta demo at The Welsh Menu Live

PS Archfarchnad is the one Welsh word I learnt while at university. It means supermarket!

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A very quick post to say that I’ve written my first article for the Guardian website today. It’s an overview of the Welsh dining scene. I’d really like to know what you think, so feel free to leave comments on the Guardian comments box. And if you like it, please feel free to share or RT it. I’d like this to be the first of many articles, after all! Thanks in advance, and here it is bit.ly/L04duu.

One of the most beautiful things about living at the Barn is watching the seasons change. When we moved in on 29 December we had spectacular frosts, roaring fires and dramatic walks with blankets of crispy leaves. Now, as we approach spring we have daffs bowing their heads to the sun, the sheep are fit to burst and the smell of wild garlic from the surrounding woods is cruelly tempting. So, I couldn’t resist sharing a few photos I managed to snap quickly after work tonight as a taster. Just a few reasons why I am loving life this month.

Sheep Surrey

The flock are due to give birth in the next few weeks

Orchard, sunset, West Sussex
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Fabulous Food January February 2012 magazine recipes

Fabulous Food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve never been one to make new year resolutions. If I haven’t already made the change – let’s face it – it’s not going to happen. But this year I have made more than a few life-changing decisions.

I’ve moved house, not just down the road but to a whole new county. This Cotswold Caper has just moved to the border of West Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey. I’ve moved from a one-bedroom flat in a town to a two-bedroom barn conversion in the middle of nowhere.

   I’ve also, probably more importantly, changed jobs. For the past four-and-a half years I worked for a wonderful publishing company in Bath first as an assistant editor, then as an editor) producing local lifestyle magazines. Now, as of 3rd January, I am a food writer at Fabulous Food magazine: a national, newsstand magazine which includes more than 100 recipes each issue. If you like food, you’ll love this magazine.

   And, so I am pretty happy. I love my house, I love my job, and I love Mr Cotswold Capers who has moved right along with me. I am even more obsessed with food than before and I will be furiously blogging about my new adventures now I have some precious time on my hands. Did I mention I only have a 10-minute commute now? Joyous.

   So readers, apologies for the smug nature of this post but I just wanted to give you all a quick update (all 14 of you). Keep reading, commenting and if you want to know more, follow the Fabulous Food FB and Twitter pages (I’m contributing to those too!).

This is a short and sweet post but a very excitable one nonetheless. One of the reasons I’ve been so slack on the blogging front recently (aside from the demanding day job, thrice dog sitting, lover in London, blahdiblahdiblah) is that I have also been writing my debut article for Lovefood.com.

     The website is a great guide to British food: whether you’re looking for a top producer, an innovative cafe, or just enjoy reading about the latest foodie trends, this place has it all. And now, it also has an article by me. It’s a little price comparison to show the real cost of food at the moment. We all go to supermarkets, I’m guilty as charged, but there are a whole host of really affordable alternatives out there. In the article I compare the price of five staples we all buy on a regular basis at four supermarkets, four specialist online retailers and four farmers’ markets across the country.

    I’d love to know what you think. There’s a comments box beneath the article, so feel free to post there or here. So, here it is – Price Wars. Enjoy!