Categories
Meat, Game & Poultry

Epic chef will champion Welsh beef and lamb at Llangollen Food Festival

A larger than life TV chef will be championing Welsh beef and lamb with an outdoor cookery demonstration at a top food festival.

Chris “Foodgasm” Roberts, who has his own television series on S4C, will also have a starring role at the popular Llangollen Food Festival on Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20.

He went from being a man who cooked on an old-fashioned spit roasting fire with his friends, without anyone watching, to overnight fame as a Facebook foodie with thousands of fans.

The first TV series, Bwyd Epic Chris, produced by Caernarfon-based Cwmni Da, was a big hit on S4C and the second series will be going on air in November.

Chris, who lives in Caernarfon, is looking forward to his first visit to the festival.

The event has now established itself as one of the highlights in the culinary calendar and has been named as one of the Top 10 food festivals in the UK.

According to Chris, the inspiration for his cooking style has come from Patagonia, the Welsh colony in Argentina.

He said: “My dad went to Patagonia and told me how they cooked. I never really thought about it at first but a couple of years ago I thought I’d give it a try and cook the Gaucho way. Gauchos are basically cowboys.

“It just took off really and people just seemed to like what I was doing. I was asked to do a TV series for S4C and we are just filming the second series.

Chris added: “There is always variation when cooking on an open-fire, instinct needs to be used when adapting to the climate outdoors.

“You must feel the food, the heat, test the temperature and be patient. When the food’s ready, it’s ready. I’m not just putting food in the oven and waiting for three hours, I work with the elements and the experience is always different.

“I want to show that we have amazing local produce, to showcase and celebrate the local food. Food is the best way of bringing people together, it makes life worth living and makes everyone feel good.”

“I’ll almost certainly cook up some Tomahawk Welsh Black steaks in Llangollen as well as some lamb. We have the best meat in the world in Wales. It comes from animals that have had a good life. A happy lamb is a tasty lamb in my humble opinion.

“Welsh lamb that has been out on the hillsides eating succulent grass, berries and herbs and that comes through in the flavour of the meat. It’s the same with grass fed Welsh beef.

“And if you buy Welsh meat that has the PGI mark – Protected Geographic Indicator – then it’s fully traceable right down to the farm and the animal it originated from. That’s important.”

 “I’m looking forward to Llangollen and showing people what an amazing product we have in Welsh meat and how to cook it Gaucho-style. I can assure meat lovers they won’t taste anything better!”

Llangollen Food Festival committee member Phil Davies says the festival is the perfect platform for Chris Roberts to demonstrate his love of Gaucho-style cooking.

He said: “The idea of the food festival is to inspire people to try new products, and see what we have to offer here in Wales.

“Chris’ Facebook videos have been viewed an incredible number of times and his first TV series was so popular we thought he’d be the perfect fit for the Llangollen Food Festival.

“We are delighted he’s agreed to come along and demonstrate his amazing cooking. There is no doubt that Welsh meat, be it lamb or beef, is a really high quality product and deserves to be championed.

“Cooking meat the way people of Welsh heritage learned to cook when they arrived in Patagonia just makes it extra special.”  For more information about the Llangollen International Food Festival please visit www.llangollenfoodfestival.com

Categories
Meat, Game & Poultry

Trout farm with “007” fame unveils tasty new treat at Llangollen

A trout farm and smokehouse whose delicacies once tickled the taste buds of James Bond has lined up a legendary new treat for visitors to a top food festival.

Chirk Trout Farm Shop and Smokery, which has supplied smoked trout to the Orient Express among other prestigious establishments, will be unveiling its luxurious new smoked pancetta at the 2019 Llangollen FoodFestival.

It will be the latest in a growing list of delicacies to have won the hearts of food lovers near and far – including iconic silver screen star Sir Roger Moore.

The late Bond actor, who became an international star after playing the secret agent a record-breaking seven times, once described Chirk Farm’s smoked trout as “the best he’d ever tasted” while tucking into lunch at a local restaurant.

Now the family-run farm is planning on inspiring a new legion of foodies at one of UK’s best-loved culinary extravaganzas.

The event, which has been named as one of the Top 10 food festivals in the UK, will be held at the international pavilion at Llangollen on Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20.

“It’s great to be returning to one of the loveliest food events in the country with a new product,” said former veterinary nurse Rachael  Simpson, 40, who joined the firm run by the Simpson family after marrying her husband Richard, 44, who manages the smokery and trout farm. 

“The smoked pancetta came about after an enquiry at a farmer’s market. The customer produced game pies and her supplier had stopped selling it. It’s not something we’ve done before but there was no reason why we couldn’t so we thought we’d give it a try.

“We probably started experimenting at the end of last year. Obviously, it takes a while to cure and turn the meat into smoked pancetta. It has to hang for six weeks in muslin cloth and we smoke it lightly to give it that extra flavour.

“Since the food testing results came back we’ve trialled it at some of our establishments and it really seems to have taken off. We’re looking forward to bringing it to Llangollen.”

One of the longest-established trout farms in Wales, if not the whole of the UK, Chirk Trout Farm supplies a growing list of high-end restaurants, hotels and delicatessens. One of the restaurants it supplied, the award-winning Sebastians in Oswestry, has provided catering for the Orient Express and Chirk Farm’s smoked trout featured on the menu.

The firm uses traditional methods to smoke a variety of fish including trout, cod, eel and mackerel as well as poultry and game, garlic and even quail’s eggs. Smoked camembert cheese is another new product in the pipeline.

Unlike artificial methods using smoked flavouring, Chirk Trout Farm carefully prepares its meat and fish with seasoning before placing it in a smokebox over a fire fed by mainly oak chips from the valley in Glyn Ceiriog.

The warm, smoky air gently dries and preserves the food during a 24-48 hour process, with the exact time and results dependent on wind, temperature and sunshine.  

One of its most successful contracts is with the Shropshire Cheese Company smoking its award-winning, creamy Abermwg cheese.

Its reputation for quality has grown rapidly and the farm now counts Gales of Llangollen, The Three Eagles in Llangollen, The Swan Inn at Pontfadog, The West Arms at Llanarmon and The Hand hotel in Llanarmon among its customers.

It was in 2003, while on tour and dining in The Hand hotel at Llanarmon, Sir Roger Moore discovered the region’s best-kept secret – Chirk’s smoked trout.

Such was his delight that he told staff it was the “best he had ever tasted”.

“There are not many people who don’t know who Sir Roger Moore is,” said Rachael, who has two daughters aged 12 and 14.

“The fact that 007 has actually tasted our food – and loved it – is really nice. It’s something we can always be proud of.”

The farm was bought by the Simpson family in 2000, originally for the purpose of trout farming. Two years later, a farm shop was built followed by the smokery the following year, which enabled the firm to develop a range of smoked products including trout, for sale in the shop and beyond.

“Fish farming is seasonal and trout farming in particular runs from March through until October,” said Rachael.

“We needed something to sustain us through the winter so we started the smokery and farm shop and started going along to all the food festivals and farmers’ markets.

“We’ve been coming to Llangollen for at least 12 to 13 years, if not longer. It’s an important part of the calendar and always helps to promote the farm shop. It’s a really good food festival.

“Business is always growing. We’ve picked up quite a few contracts from Llangollen. It’s all word of mouth.”

Over the years, the firm’s repertoire has expanded to include homemade meals including smoked salmon lasagne, fish pie, smoked salmon and trout quiche and the famous Chirk Trout Farm smoked trout sausages, which stock the shelves of the farm shop as well as being sold at food outlets across North Wales.

The farm has chosen Hamper Llangollen as a springboard for its new smoked pancetta and is eager to see the response.

“At the moment, because it’s a new product, we’re not sure how much to do, it’s still in its infancy,” said Rachael.

“The restaurants love it so it’s just gauging how much we actually need but it is a great product.

“Like all our products, it is freshly produced. There are no chemicals, it’s naturally made and you know exactly where it came from.

“The good thing about our pancetta, and all our products, is that they can be frozen. This is particularly helpful at Llangollen where lots of people are buying for Christmas.”

Llangollen Food Festival committee member Phil Davies is looking forward to tasting the new pancetta for the first time.

He said: “The festival is a great launchpad for new products because it is jam-packed with food lovers with discerning palates.

“Our aim is to provide a shop window for our growing army of artisan producers who are becoming an increasingly important part of the local economy.”

Categories
Drink

Scientist on mission to create perfect gin with new solar-powered distillery

A scientist is on a mission to create the perfect gin after setting up his new solar-powered distillery in time for a top food festival this autumn

Former university lecturer Kevin Flower will be unveiling the special edition gin at the popular Llangollen Food Festival on Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20.

Kevin, 53, who taught chemistry at the University of Manchester, has developed an eco-friendly distillery in the garage at his home in Conwy.

Three years ago he threw caution to the wind, alongside university pals Andy Whiting and Euan Noble, to develop a unique brand of gin based on decades of combined scientific expertise.

Their company, PHure Liquors, continues to go from strength to strength with a growing list of stockists including pubs, delicatessens and off licences across North Wales.

It will be their second visit to the Llangollen Food Festival which has been named as one of the Top 10 food festivals in the UK.

This time they will be launching the new Autumn gin flavoured with seasonal fruits and berries.

“We came to Llangollen for the first time last year and it seems like the perfect place to celebrate our “50th batch” with a special edition gin using our new solar energy distillery,” explained Kevin who formerly worked as a university research fellow in Auckland, New Zealand.

“The recent addition of solar power has been really important, enabling us to generate more electricity than we need during the distillation process. In this way, we make a small contribution to reducing our carbon footprint.

“You only have to look at what’s going on in the news and the impact human activities are having on the environment to realise every little helps. Everything we make now uses green energy generated by ourselves.”

Solar power is not the only environmentally-friendly benefit from Kevin’s method of making gin.

“We also distil at a lower temperature and lower pressure than other commercial producers,” he said.

“By reducing the pressure, you reduce the temperature at which the liquid boils which is the reason why water boils at 71 degrees on the top of Everest.

“Our distillation temperature is around 35 degrees lower than in a normal copper still distillation so uses less energy. The pressure we distil at is equivalent to about 46,000 feet up.

“As custodians of the planet we have a duty of care. If you can reuse and recycle everything then we create as little rubbish as possible.”

Kevin, who is originally from Sussex and completed his degree and masters in chemistry at Bangor University, was teaching at a local college when he decided it was time for something different.

“Like many in the teaching profession, I’d had enough,” he said.

“It wasn’t the teaching it was everything that goes with it, so I was looking for other outlets.”

The scientists set themselves a friendly challenge to create a unique gin based on their knowledge of science.

“We took the classic academic approach, looking at various scientific literatures about distillation processes and we used that as a basis for how we were going to start, basically turning it into a scientific experiment,” explained Kevin, who has also lectured at the University of Sussex and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST). 

Kevin borrowed an approach commonly used in medicinal drug discovery to find the perfect combination of flavours.

“It’s called “combinational” strategy,” explained Kevin, who divides his time between his business and private tutoring.

“In a sense, instead of deciding to put this much with that and doing it in a linear fashion you do it in a parallel fashion. We produced each of the botanicals individually. We then took out a fixed volume of each botanical and varied how much we added. We did the same with the second botanical and so on.

“We discovered that just by varying the amount you can achieve a very wide flavour range in a short space of time. It enables you to discover flavours very quickly or eliminate them far more easily, instead of throwing them all in at once and not liking what you find.

“The strategy, although new to gin making, has been around for donkeys’ years and is the way they search for active leads in chemistry.”

The result was the creation of its flagship pHure Gin, made from 96% organic wheat grain alcohol. It remains the company’s biggest selling gin thanks to its velvety smooth flavour and is the base for all its other gin products.

“One of my business partners runs a pub in Yorkshire and for nearly a year we trialled a small amount to see whether we could sell it,” said Kevin.

“Once we worked out people were buying it and coming back for more it was worth expanding and making more of it.”

The company produces occasional batches of Honey Gin and most recently launched strawberry and rhubarb flavours.

Euan, who lives in Yorkshire, is commercial director and looks after compliance/licensing issues while Andy, from Durham, is technical director and delivers presentations on gin production. 

“Sales are growing year on year. As we do more and go out more to food festivals we get more people interested in buying it,” explained Kevin, who is production director.

For now, Kevin is keeping tight-lipped about the special edition gin but says he’s looking forward to returning to the festival which has played a part in building the company’s reputation.

“Food festivals work very well for brand awareness,” he said.

“It’s basically good advertising and gives you the opportunity to go out and meet people who could become potential customers. Last year, we acquired a new delicatessen from just being at the festival. They’re really a great marketing and advertising exercise.”

Llangollen Food Festival committee member Phil Davies was delighted PHure Liquors had chosen the event to launch their special edition gin.

He said: “A major part of our role is enable our growing army of indigenous food and drink producers to have a higher profile by providing them with a shop window.

“I am looking forward to sampling the new, solar-powered gin at the festival and I wish them every success.

“Their eco-friendly approach is right on trend and I’m sure the taste will also hit the spot.”

For more information about Llangollen Food Festival go to www.llangollenfoodfestival.com

Categories
Drink Food Festivals

Hoppy homage to Welsh roots of Guinness is black and white issue

New dark ale being launched at Anglesey Food Festival

The reputed Welsh origins of the iconic Irish brew Guinness have inspired a new dark ale that’s being launched by the Anglesey Brewing Company.

Head brewer Tom Adamson will be unveiling the porter-style beer at the inaugural Anglesey Food Festival that’s being held on the Anglesey Showground from Thursday, May 30, to Saturday, June 1.

Tom, who’s based in Carmel, near Llannerch-y-Medd, has called it Gwin y Gwan which was the slogan used by Guinness in a series of Welsh language adverts in the 1950s which which was translated as Guinness for Strength in English.

According to Tom, a keen student of brewing history, Arthur Guinness developed his taste for the dark beer when he stopped off at a coaching inn in Llanfairfechan, near Bangor, on the last leg of his journeys back to Ireland following business trips to London.

The establishment where he stayed was called Gwyn Du which, allowing for some misspelling or corruption, translates into Black Wine.

Tom said: “When Arthur Guinness was staying over at the inn, the owner of it had been brewing this dark beer and apparently after a few years of travelling back and forth he actually asked for the recipe from the owner.

“The owner gladly gave it to him which led to the creation of the Guinness we know and love –  and the rest is now brewing history as they say.

”With Gwin y Gwan, I’m paying homage to a brewing legend and its Welsh roots.

“It’s  made from hops, barley and its secret ingredient – a special yeast – and the taste is earthy and chocolatey and at 4.8% it’s not too strong.

”I chose to call it Gwin y Gwan because that’s the affectionate name Welsh speaking people have for Guinness ever since those famous adverts because of its fortifying qualities.

“It even inspired a popular Welsh rock band, Eliffant, to use Gwin y Gwan as the title of their album that was released in 1980.”

The news that Guinness was invented by the Welsh is enough to drive the Irish to drink, especially on St Patrick’s Day on Sunday, March 17.

Appropriately, they’ll be raising a toast to their patron saint who was also said to be Welsh.

Patrick, or Padrig in Welsh, was born around 387 AD and was known as Maewyn (Welsh for devoted friend) Succat (a Pagan term for warlike).

He is believed to have come from Bannavem Taburniae, which could be Banwen in Neath Port Talbot, where every year a service is held in his honour.

Food festival organiser Davina Carey-Evans, managing director of Beaumaris-based Sbarc Event Management, said: “I wanted to give local and other Welsh producers an opportunity to show off the incredible foods, drinks and produce to a wider audience as possible.

“I believe there’s a real appetite for an Anglesey Food Festival and the public are going to have the opportunity to get a real taste of the very best of North Wales and Anglesey.

“It is the perfect location for a food festival because Anglesey is also known as Mn, Mam Cymru, or Anglesey, the Mother of Wales, because its fertile land, provided sufficient food for the whole of Wales.

“Appropriately, the festival will be taking place at the Anglesey Showground, the home of the island’s agriculture.

“We will be bringing together local fishermen, farmers, producers, restaurants and hotels to display the amazing variety of food and other produce source from the area.

“There will also be a range of cookery demonstrations with art and craft, music and children’s activities.

“The level of interest has already been huge so we’re looking forward to a great event.”