Imbibe Live

imbibe live

imbibe live

July 1st, 2015 I had a lovely day out yesterday at Imbibe Live, the annual London trade show for the drinks industry held at Olympia.

sam sareen

sam sareen

I visited the show with my friend Oli and top London mixologist Sam Sareen (above left).

rioja

rioja

Just inside the venue were the wine tasting areas.

pikes reisling

pikes reisling

We tried some Riojas, sherries and other wines. I asked about dry Reislings, which I’d heard were quite different to the old days of fruity German wines, like Blue Nun and Black Tower. The above, Australian Riesling, Pikes, reminded me of a Sauvignon Blanc, with a slight lemon/lime flavour. I’d be very happy to drink that with fish.

tarquin's gin

tarquin’s gin

Past the wine we encountered stall after stall of new gins. Perhaps as much as 70% of the show was dedicated to gin. Above is Tarquin’s gin, made in Cornwall by the Southwestern Distillery. Note the still above, used to make their gold award winning gin. The beach in the background looks to be Constantine Bay, where I used to walk my parents’ dogs. The distillery also produces an award winning Cornish Pastis, made with local gorse.

tatratea

tatratea

Being tea lovers Tatratea had us intrigued. It’s a Slovakian drink made with black tea, raspberries and fruit essences.

Tatratea 52

Tatratea 52

I found the original 52% abv drink to be a bit sweet for my taste, but the 72% Outlaw contained a lot less sugar and reminded me of Chartreuse. While Tatratea is a relatively new company (founded in 2003), it is said to have already become the Slovakian national drink.

thistly cross cider

thistly cross cider

We came across some exuberant Scotsmen on the Thistly Cross Cider stand.

oli and thistly cross cider

oli and thistly cross cider

When they discovered that Oli is a Maxwell and likes cider they insisted he join them for some photographs.

stoli vodka lemonade

stoli vodka lemonade

Sam and Oli needed a quick vaporizer break, so we went outside, but you’ll be relieved to know that we didn’t have to stop drinking – outside there was a convenient Stoli Vodka Lemonade van, handing out cocktails made with real lemonde – nice and  sharp.

beckett's gin

beckett’s gin

Back inside we found Beckett’s London Dry Gin. Apparently Beckett’s is the only gin to contain juniper grown in England (hand picked in Box Hill) and mint from Kingston-upon-Thames. Reassuringly, it’s distilled and bottled in London (not a legal requirement for London Dry Gin).

agwa

agwa

Anyone hoping for a cocaine high from the above Agwa, might be a little disappointed. Whilst the drink is made with Bolivian cocoa leaves, like Coca-Cola, the cocaine alkaloids have been removed during manufacture. I found it a bit too sweet and fruity, but the coca content gives the drink a distinct selling point.

east london rum

east london rum

The East London Liquor Company produce a very smooth demerara rum

east london gin

east london gin

and premium London Dry Gin with distinct citrus flavours in a distillery next to Victoria Park. There has a been an explosion in new British distilleries in the last decade and gin has made a huge comeback. I believe gin is currently replacing vodka as the top cocktail ingredient.

zing vodka reinvigorated

zing vodka reinvigorated

Zing Vodka were causing a sensation with their dry ice vodka shots.

zing vodka with dry ice

zing vodka with dry ice

Oli proved that the spirit of Bobby Boris Pickett lives on!

yorkshire gin

yorkshire gin

Masons Yorkshire Dry Gin proved to be one of our favourites, especially the Yorkshire Tea flavoured one. The gin is made in the style of London Dry Gin – it has citrus top notes and a slightly creamy flavour.

pistonhead

pistonhead

We missed out on trying Pistonhead,

sour to the people

sour to the people

Sour to the People

poison

poison

and Poison, as the show closed before we found them. I did still have time to grab the photos, however and I’m sure you can see from the packaging what was so tempting about them. The others (worth a mention) that I tasted and forgot to photograph, were Pedrino Alcoholic Tonic, cardamom bitters, Audemus Umami Vodka (great for bloody Marys) Black Cow pure milk vodka (and the cheese they make was astonishingly good), Victoria’s Rhubarb Gin and Elephant Gin.

olympia

olympia

The sun streamed through the Victorian glass roof and we had a wonderful afternoon. It was  quite a shock when the show closed at 6 O’clock, so we made our way up to South Hampstead and The Arches for a relaxed bottle of rosé.

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Roti King

roti king

roti king

June 26th, 2015

Last night I went to Roti King in Euston, with my friend Oli from Barcelona.

the big smoke

the big smoke

Oli is in town for a mass portrait shoot tomorrow (27th June) where we will photograph 100 plus people for a book, somewhat like the one we did in Barcelona a few years ago – Homage to Cataluña. This time the title is The Big Smoke, the theme is London and participants will also be scanned in full 360º 3D by Phonk. All comers welcome with a suitable London theme, at Vout-O-Reenee’s from midday to midnight. Please R.S.V.P.

basement

basement

But I digress, so back to Roti King, serving Malaysian cuisine and packing a big punch. I’ve wanted to visit the restaurant since reading this Guardian review some time ago. The place is in a drab side street and basement, underneath a block of flats.

interior

interior

The interior is plain and the seats have seen better days, however, the service was fast (about 10 minutes) and the food is to die for! There’s space for about 30 people only – we arrived just in the nick of time and got the last table – after that people were queuing on the stairs outside.

roti canai

roti canai

We ordered chicken Roti Canai Special – 2 pieces of roti with chicken curry. Roti Canai is an Indian influenced flat bread found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. This is similar to the Indian Kerala Porotta. The bread is stretched until very thin, then pushed together like folded cloth before being deep fried in ghee. It’s somewhat like a Mille-feuille nan bread. The curry was delicious and the bread was crisp, flakey and buttery.

beef rendang

beef rendang

The Beef Rendang is a caramelised beef curry with aromatic spices and coconut. The sauce was thick like golden henna or even mud to look at, but the beef was beautifully tender and melted in the mouth. The dominant flavours in the spicy sauce were coconut, chilli, ginger and lemon grass.

kari laksa

kari laksa

We had all the food at the same time – the rendang and the roti came in small dishes, whereas the Kari Laksa came in a huge bowl. The Kari Laksa contained noodles in coconut curry with seafood and chicken. Little fish balls and tofu poke out of the sauce like dumplings. I’ve had the dish before, but this one blew me away. It was quite hot and spicy, but the chilli was tempered so that just enough taste buds remained in order to savour the fish, lemon grass and coconut. The noodles were excellent and I’d imagine they are made on the premises.

All the food was stunning, but the laksa was definitely our favourite dish. The food is very cheap at about £20 for two people and I will be going back for more – I can almost see myself going daily until I’ve eaten my way through the menu! They do BYOB with a £5 cover charge. Apparently this is the only place in London making Roti Canai and possibly the very best in Malaysian food too!

Roti King is at: 40 Doric Way, NW1 1LH (next to Euston Station).

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Barrafina

barrafina

barrafina

January 22nd, 2015

On Tuesday Sue invited me to lunch at Barrafina (Adelaide Street) and having read a glowing review by Fay Maschler, I didn’t need to be asked twice. Just a glance at the menu prompted a comment of, “I’d like to eat it all!”

barrafina interior

barrafina interior

Barrafina owners, Sam and Eddie Hart, say that the excellent Cal Pep in Barcelona was the inspiration for their restaurant. One sits behind a long bar and an army of cheerful chefs take your orders from a tapas menu which doubles as a place mat. Most of the food is prepared in front of you and a specials menu is handed round on a small blackboard. Barafina doesn’t take reservations, so it’s first come first seated. On a cold Tuesday in January we were lucky and had no trouble finding a place.

ortiguillas

ortiguillas

I was really looking forward to trying the ortiguillas de mar (sea anemones), very popular in Andalucia battered, or dredged in flour then deep fried. I’ve seen them occasionally in the Boqueria fresh and I know that top Catalan chef Albert Marimon sometimes cooks them with fried eggs, but I’ve never eaten one before. We were served about six of them in a little brown paper cone (like chips) with a wedge of lime and a pinch of course sea salt. They were wonderfully crunchy on the outside and had a softer middle, tasting of the sea, a bit like a fried oyster. I thought they were absolutely delicious – nothing icky or unpleasant here – I could eat lots of them!

croquetas de cangrejo

croquetas de cangrejo

Our second choice was croquetas de cangrejo (crab croquettes).

croqueta

croqueta

I adore good croquettes and these were to die for, as you can see from the detail above – beautifully crisp on the outside and soft in the middle.

alcachofas con allioli

alcachofas con allioli

We spotted the alcachofas con allioli (deep fried artichokes with allioli) being prepared and had to try them. They come with a little dish of home made allioli, sprinkled with pimentón. Even the allioli (an emulsion of olive oil and garlic) was of superior quality – I could have spooned it onto bread and eaten it as a standalone course!

tortilla de gambas, ajetes y setas

tortilla de gambas, ajetes y setas

We watched the chefs cooking mini tortillas, about 5 or 6 inches in diameter and ordered a tortilla de gambas, ajetes y setas (tortilla with prawns, mushrooms and garlic stalks).

tortilla

tortilla

The tortilla had a beautiful soft, runny middle, with a texture like melted cheese.

chipirones

chipirones

We had a plate of tiny, deep fried chipirones (baby squid) – crunchy on the outside and delicate in the middle. I had to order more allioli to go with these.

ensalada

ensalada

Sue had a craving for vegetables and ordered a salad of fennel, pear and radishes. I’m not a fan of fruit in salad, but was very happy to eat the fennel with radishes.

helado de turrón

helado de turrón

For pudding Sue had helado de turrón (turrón ice cream)

sorbete de limón

sorbete de limón

and I had a wonderfully tart and tangy sorbete de limón (lemon sorbet).

mazanilla

mazanilla

To wash down our lunch we drank Hart Brothers Special Selection Manzanilla Passada en Rama – a complex, nutty sherry, bottled unfiltered (en rama), raw, to preserve the original flavour. A lot of the natural flavours are lost through excessive filtering to create traditional, paler, clean looking sherries.

Executive Head Chef Nieves Barragán Mohacho is cooking food at Barrafino worthy of the very best restaurants in San Sebastian and Barcelona. Lunch/supper for two with wine or sherry will cost £60 plus, but it’s worth every penny.

Barrafino is at: 10 Adelaide Street, Covent Garden, WC2N 4SL

Posted in Barcelona, Drink, Eating Out, Fish, Food, Restaurants, Spanish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Season’s Greetings 2014

Christmas2014

December 22nd, 2014

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Abergavenny Food Festival 2014 (Sunday)

abergavenny clock tower

abergavenny clock tower

21st September, 2014

The previous day Tim had promise his dad and Zoe he’d cook Sunday lunch, so in spite of going to bed at 6am he was awake and cooking a couple of hours later. Fortunately Tim’s not a team chef so I wasn’t required – phew! I got to lie in until midday. After a spectacular roast chicken (infused with rosemary, sage and thyme) and home made onion gravy, we headed back to Abergavenny for day two of the food festival.

abergavenny market hall

abergavenny market hall

Today we went to the Market Hall (next to the clock tower, top photo) which was a lot less crowded than yesterday. The hall dates back to 1870 and houses the regular retail and flea markets, craft fairs and farmers markets. Note the fantastic pigs hanging from the ceiling.

demijohn

demijohn

We were instantly drawn to the Demijohn stall selling infused vodkas and gins from 5 gallon carboys.

seville orange gin

seville orange gin

I was particularly interested in the Seville Orange Gin, which tasted like marmalade (which is not surprising on reflection) and the tart Black Cherry Liqueur. These drinks are not cheap, but the presentation was stylish and professional. They had an endless queue of people buying a couple of bottles each. I would imagine a lot of them will be great Christmas presents.

chestnut meats

chestnut meats

Chestnut Meats specialise in goat.

goat meat

goat meat

Having cooked curry goat recently, I chatted to them about other goat recipes, which they just happened to be handing out in a useful flyer.

trealy farm british charcuterie

trealy farm british charcuterie

Trealy Farm had what was probably the largest charcuterie stall at the festival. It’s amazing just how much excellent British charcuterie there is being made these days. 20 years ago it would have been hard to find artisans here producing high quality cured meats.

blood, wine and chocolate chorizo

blood, wine and chocolate chorizo

As a lover of Spanish Chorizo I was drawn to trying the Blood, Wine and Chocolate Chorizo. It tasted deep and rich with spicy pimentón coming through afterwards. There was no hint of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, because (of course) they use raw chocolate and not sweetened confectionary.

hog's pudding

hog’s pudding

I was delighted to see them selling Hog’s Pudding (my grandfather’s favourite, sometimes called “Devonshire Haggis”) and Bath Chaps (cured pig cheeks).

real veal

real veal

 Bacaddon Farm Veal had brought their rose veal to the festival from Cornwall. Veal has a bad reputation from the 1970s, when calves were routinely shipped to Holland in small crates.

cornish rose veal

cornish rose veal

Veal is a by product of the dairy industry – cows produce milk after giving birth. Female calves become milk producers themselves, whereas male calves become veal. Without a veal industry most male calves would be shot shortly after birth. At Bocaddon Farm, the male calves are raised in the open air on diets of milk, cereals and straw. They are slaughtered at 6 – 7 months, which is older than most chicken, lamb and pork.

gwynt y ddraig cider

gwynt y ddraig cider

We sampled the cider at Gwynt Y Ddraig (The Welsh Cider and Perry Company)

cider and perry

cider and perry

and bought pints of Ancient Warrior, a dry cider with 6.5% alcohol by volume.

hobbs house organic sourdough

hobbs house organic sourdough

Hobbs House Bakery had some excellent organic sourdough bread,

hobbs house rye sourdough

hobbs house rye sourdough

along with a darker organic rye. Hobbs House Bakery is the family business of The Fabulous Baker Brothers and the “mother” of the sourdough is 58 years old.

the garlic farm

the garlic farm

I know The Garlic Farm from London farmers’ markets – apparently they are the largest specialist garlic producers in the UK.

beacons farm shop

beacons farm shop

Beacons Farm Shop at the Welsh Venison Centre

venison scotch eggs

venison scotch eggs

had some Welsh Venison Scotch Eggs. I’m slightly amused by Welsh Scotch eggs, since the Scotch Egg isn’t Scottish and was, apparently, invented by Fortnum and Mason in London… Regardless, these eggs are delicious.

the welsh venison centre

the welsh venison centre

Above is a selection of venison meat without my verbal ambiguity.

pembrokeshire beach food company

pembrokeshire beach food company

I came across a mermaid at the Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company. No kidding, her name is Fran Barnikel!

toasted laver

toasted laver

Fran very kindly let me sample her toasted laver (seaweed). The taste is very much like the nori seaweed sheets used for Japanese sushi. I was surprised not to see any laverbread at the festival, but Abergavenny is inland and not a coastal town. Fran must have swum up the river Usk

isle of wight tomatoes

isle of wight tomatoes

I came across another regular from London farmers’ markets – Isle Of Wight Tomatoes. It was nice to bump into Jeff Macdonald, who I’ve know since I first visited Islington Farmers’ Market back in 2000.

tipsy fruit gins

tipsy fruit gins

Tipsy Fruit Gins had a fabulous selection of 8 fruit infused vodkas and gins.  Colin Hingston, dispensing and selling the the liquors reminded me somewhat of a young Ginger Baker.

naga chilli vodka

naga chilli vodka

I’m sure I could see a devilish glint in Colin’s eye as he dispensed the Naga Chilli Vodka to unsuspected punters. There was a certain amount of merriment in the crowd too as people lost the ability to speak! Nevertheless, both the Sloe Gin and the Naga Chilli Vodka were excellent.

welsh faggots

welsh faggots

Very late in the day I came across the stall of N.S. James – Master Butchers. They were proudly selling their homemade faggots, “Recently served to over 300 Commissioners of the European Parliament at a major banquet hosted by the Welsh Assembly’s First Minister.” Sadly I was too late and they’d run out! Anyone unsure about what a  faggot is, should read my post here.

closing time

closing time

Suddenly it was all over and stall holders were packing up to go home.

bath soft cheese

bath soft cheese

We left the market and had a few more beers, before heading back to Tim’s for a supper of cold chicken and chorizo from Trealy Farm.

Big thanks to Tim for inviting me to Abergavenny for the Food Festival and to his dad Ieuan, for putting me up in the spare bedroom.

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Abergavenny Food Festival 2014 (Saturday)

cross street, abergavenny

cross street, abergavenny

September 20, 2014

Abergavenny (Y Fenni) is a beautiful Welsh market town about 7 miles from the English border (as the crow flies). There are remains of a Roman fort west of Abergavenny Castle and it’s thought that the town predates the Roman occupation of Britain.

The Abergavenny Food Festival takes place annually in September and was founded in 1999 by two farmers, Chris Wardle and Martin Orbach to promote local food after the BSE crisis. The event has grown to become a highlight on the British food calendar and this year had over 200 food and drink exhibitors. As usual celebrity guests, such as  Hugh Fearnley-WhittingstallThomasina Miers, Jay Rayner, Tony Singh and Cyrus Todiwala took part in culinary demonstrations, debates and radio broadcasts.

angel hotel

angel hotel

Tim and I entered the festival in Cross Street, by the Angel Hotel, where we’d had drinks the day before. The town had been transformed in 24 hours, from quiet to buzzing – it reminded me of St. Ives on a sunny August Bank Holiday.

welsh cakes

welsh cakes

The hotel had it’s own food stall on the street selling traditional Welsh Cakes, which, fittingly, was the first stall we saw.

market crowd

market crowd

We met up with Tim’s best friend (also named Tim Davies, confusingly) at the King’s Arms to discuss where to go first. Tim (the best friend) works for Vin Sullivan (a local food wholesaler) and he suggested we avoid the indoor Market House today (as it would be very busy) and concentrate on the food stalls outside. You can see from the above picture that even the outdoor sections were lively.

trethowan's dairy

trethowan’s dairy

We started with cheese, at Trethowan’s Dairy, who produce

gorwydd caephilly

gorwydd caephilly

a sharp and lemony raw milk Caerphilly called Gorwydd, described by Nigel Slater as: One of the great cheeses of the world.”

hafod cheese

hafod cheese

Holden Farm Dairy make Haford Cheddar, an unpasteurised organic cheese from the milk of Ayrshire cows.

haford cheddar

haford cheddar

This has a rich, buttery, nutty flavour which gives my favourite cheddar (Montgomery) a very good run for it’s money.

neal's yard creamery

neal’s yard creamery

Neal’s Yard Creamery (not to be confused with London’s Neal’s Yard Dairy) make a number of goat and cow’s milk cheeses.

finn

finn

Their Finn is a creamy, young, raw, cow’s milk cheese with a hint of walnut and mushroom flavours. I’d definitely buy this in preference to a Brie or Camembert.

dorstone

dorstone

The Dorstone is a raw ashed goat’s cheese with a sharp, creamy, taste. I know this well and have bought it a few times from Neal’s Yard Dairy.

godminster cheese

godminster cheese

Godminster cheese is made in Somerset from organic raw milk.

godminster organic vintage cheddar

godminster organic vintage cheddar

The vintage cheddar has a creamy, rich, full flavour and is wrapped in wax. Note the patriotic packaging.

white lake cheese

white lake cheese

White Lake Cheeses produce a range of cheese, the majority using goat’s milk.

white lake cheeses

white lake cheeses

Rachel (above left) is a washed rind goat’s milk cheese which is sweet and slightly nutty. This cheese won a Gold Award in the British Cheese Awards (2007). Two of the above cheeses, Farleigh Wallop and Goddess are made for Alex James.

caws teifi

caws teifi

Caws Teifi Cheese produce a range of cheeses from raw milk. The company was established by Dutch Cheese makers John and Patricia Savage-Onstwedder and Paula van Werkhoven in 1982, when they relocated from the Netherlands to Glynhynod Farm near Llandysul. 

teifi

teifi

Their Teifi range are Gouda style, multi award winning cheeses, some flavoured with laver (seaweed), nettle, cumin, garlic and onion, etc.

teifi blue

teifi blue

The Teifi Blue is described  as a continental creamy blue cheese, but I’d liken it very favourably to Stilton.

tracklements

tracklements

I tried unsuccessfully to get a closeup of Tracklements accompaniments stall, but at that point it time it was mobbed, so they must be good! Since I’m not a big fan of chutneys I moved on…

frome valley vineyard

frome valley vineyard

After years spent building up vineyards, British wine is now winning big awards and gaining international respect. Frome Valley Vineyard showcased their wines here

british cassis

british cassis

along with English Brandy and British Cassis. I can’t say I’m hopeful, but it would be nice if the government considered lovering the duty on these home produced gems, to give them a better chance of competing with international brands in UK shops.

butford organics

butford organics

Butford Organics moved to Hereforshire in 1999 to produce

organic cider and perry

organic cider and perry

natural and sustainable cider, perry and preserves. I tasted all their bottled cider and had to have a pint of draft to keep myself hydrated.

the real boar company

the real boar company

The Real Boar Company farms their boar on 20 acres of mixed woodland in the Cotswolds.

wild boar salami

wild boar salami

The wild boar salami and boar cigars are excellent and every bit as good as the best continental charcuterie.

wild plum tasting

wild plum tasting

The Wessex Wild Plum Company make a range of plum infusions.

the wessex wild plum company

the wessex wild plum company

I particularly like to try other peoples’ sloe gin, since I often make it myself. I was surprised by how strong this one tasted, since it’s only 23% vol. It was sharp, but not too sweet, so I’d quite happily drink it, sitting by an open fire on a cold winter evening. Tasters noted that some of the infusions seemed stronger than others and I concur. I’d have to suppose that it relates to the sharpness of the plum variety, since they all have the same ABV.

welsh mountain cider

welsh mountain cider

As I’d climbed a mountain this morning, Welsh Mountain Cider sounded like just the job for me.

welsh mountain vintage cider

welsh mountain vintage cider

I was intrigued to hear one of the ciders described as a breakfast cider. I wonder if that’s because it’s a good hangover cure, or if it’s because it has a light clean taste?

the parsnipship

the parsnipship

I didn’t spend much time at the Parsnipship vegetarian stall, but it’s worth noting that it was busy and they’d sold out of several products.

joe & seph's popcorn

joe & seph’s popcorn

I thought Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn would be too sweet for my taste buds,

popcorn

popcorn

but the Gin and Tonic flavour tasted just right and I see they do some other unusual varieties, such as Blue Cheese with Walnut & Celery, Cheddar & Smoked Paprika, Goats Cheese & Black Pepper and Madras Curry with Black Onion Seed & Lime, alongside the traditional Caramel!

bellota

bellota

Bellota are an Essex based company specialising in the finest gourmet foods from Spain.

spanish cheese

spanish cheese

In their cheese selection I noticed the Tetilla (teat) cheese (right) from Galicia, which is fairly unusual to find in this country.

spanish charcuterie

spanish charcuterie

The charcuterie selection was all delicious – I particularly liked the cured Morcilla.

upton cheyney chilli company

upton cheyney chilli company

The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company grow all their chillis on their chilli farm in the Cotswolds, fertilised by Gloucester Old Spot Pigs.

chilli sauce

chilli sauce

They produce a range of chilli chocolates, jams, oils and sauces. I tasted the above, moving from the centre to the right – medium to hot. Even the hottest was only a moderate hot, but it did allow me to appreciate the flavour of the chilli as opposed to a numb throat and endorphin rush.

pierogi not pasties

pierogi not pasties

Pierogi not Pasties surprised me somewhat. I’ve often thought that Cornish Pasties and Spanish Empanadas might have some connection, since the tip of Cornwall faces Galicia across the Bay of Biscay, but I hadn’t previously thought of a Polish connection.

pierogis

pierogis

I’ve eaten quite a few pierogis in my time, but only small ones cooked more like dumplings – filled, folded, boiled and then fried, not large filled and baked ones. I suspect there may be some poetic licence involved here, since my ex wife is half Cornish half Polish and she’s never mentioned it. Regardless, they have a unique selling point and I find it interesting that pierogi ends with ogi – ogi or oggy (from hoggan) is Cornish for pasty! There’s also a possible Welsh pasty connection here.

sam's rare breeds

sam’s rare breeds

Leaving the ticketed market area, in need of a sit down and liquid refreshment in the Kings Arms, we walked through the town, where more stall holders were selling food.

rare breed burgers

rare breed burgers

Sam’s Rare Breeds were cooking a mountain of venison and wild boar burgers.

oignons rosés de roscoff

oignons rosés de roscoff

Onion sellers from Roscoff had come from France to sell onions, shallots and garlic.

french onions

french onions

By the look of things they might have cycled…

abergavenny castle

abergavenny castle

After a few beers, we went back to Tim’s house (Tim of Vin Sullivan), for a few hours before the party later at Abergavenny Castle, promising an evening of music and food.

fireworks

fireworks

Fireworks provided a high point to the party and festival,

baila la cumbia

baila la cumbia

along with excellent music, firstly from The Brass Funkeys, a New Orleans style marching band, complete with sousaphone and based in London. Secondly we saw Baila la Cumbia (picture above), a Cumbia and Latin band from Bristol. Baila la Cumbia really endeared themselves to the audience during a 10 minute power cut – they continued playing throughout, getting down off the stage and dancing through the crowd.

chicken and peppers

chicken and peppers

The castle party ended at about 11pm and around midnight we were back at best friend Tim’s house for some more drinks and wholesome food, along with about 8 other guests. I was in my element when asked to help with the cooking (above).

Somehow the talking eating and drinking went on until 5am. We did make several attempts to call cabs, but ended up walking a mile or two back to the Mardy (Y Maerdy) before dawn. It was quite an adventure in itself, going up tiny overgrown footpaths where I could barely see my hand in front of my face and across fields fresh with dew. The very large glass of Zubrowka, in my hand, helped – I can’t imagine where that came from…

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Laverbread

laverbread

laverbread

September 20th, 2014

A couple of months ago my friend Tim invited me to Wales for the Abergavenny Food Festival. He said he’d sort out the tickets and accommodation, so frankly it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

welsh breakfast

welsh breakfast

I arrived on Friday and was promised a full Welsh breakfast and mountain climb, the following morning, before proceeding to the first day of the festival in the afternoon. I did think the mountain might finish me off, but the breakfast and perhaps more precisely, the laverbread (bara lawr) carried me through the day and late on into the night…

Incidentally, we listened to the live Radio 4 broadcast from the Abergavenny Food Festival while we ate.

laver label

laver label

 Laverbread is an ancient Welsh delicacy made from seaweed (laver). The main type of seaweed used is purple laver (Porphyra umbilicalis), actually a brownish colour, which becomes a dark green paste after washing (to remove sand) and boiling for several hours. A common method of serving laverbread is to mix it with oatmeal before frying it in cakes (see top photo). The above laver came from Penclawdd in Swansea, famous for its cockles since Roman times.

Laverbread is full of iron, iodine and vitamin B12. Supposedly it helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, while removing free radicals and aiding digestion. I really enjoyed the flavour, salty and savoury, reminding me of the Japanese nori seaweed used for making sushi (it is the same variety of seaweed, but prepared differently). The oats taste fairly neutral, but give the laverbread a good crunchy texture when fried (ideally with bacon or in bacon fat). It goes down very well with Welsh bacon, fried egg and Irish Clonakilty black pudding (how did that get in there?). No doubt laverbread is also good with fish. Richard Burton once described it as, “Welshman’s caviar.”

tim on the skirrid

tim on the summit

By 11 O’Clock we’d circumnavigated and climbed the Skirrid (Ysgyryd Fawr) on the eastern edge of the Black Mountains. I was hoping for a good shot of Abergavenny from the mountain, but everything was shrouded in mist and I couldn’t even get a decent shot of the Skirid itself.

misty morning

misty morning

Things were brightening up as we descended and walked back to Tim’s house through fields of grass, corn and sheep. I did think several times about Cecilia’s farm in America  (thekitchensgarden), as the lambs bleated and ran away from us.

By 12.30, when we got back to the house, the mist had lifted, just in time to visit the food festival…

Here’s Keith Floyd in Wales, featuring cockles, laverbread and cawl.

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