Welsh food and bluebells

bluebell woods 034Yesterday Sarah and I headed for a bluebell wood just outside Crickhowell – a couple of miles from Abergavenny. We found the bluebells and they were truly spectacular even on a damp greyish day. But on the way there and back we also found masses of delicious food. I’m sorry if this piece is a bit like a puff for the Welsh Tourist Board, but we just found so much good stuff in such a short time.

To get to Crickhowell we drove through Hay-on-Wye and remembered just at the right moment that Thursday is market day. The fish stall had some sparkling fresh tuna and I got 5 generous steaks. Last night that became the star of a fresh tuna Salade Nicoise. I boiled some new potatoes and green beans (bought later in the day at Crickhowell) and tossed them with some baby gem and capers in a mustard & honey vinaigrette. I then soft boiled some of our neighbour’s hen’s eggs, quartered them and arranged them around the plates of salad. I seared the tuna steaks so they were still totally pink in the middle and plonked them in the middle of each plate of salad. Really delicious and simple.

Anyway, back to the market at Hay. So, after the fish stall I picked up a couple of marmande tomato plants at an organic veg stall (my son’s seedlings are looking disconcertingly dead so I thought a couple of fallback plants was a good plan) and a bag of mixed leaves including plenty of wild garlic and some mustard leaves.

On to Talgarth for lunch at The Bakers Table. If you don’t know this excellent café and working mill  and you live within reach of the Welsh Borders be sure to search it out.. We shared an excellent tapas plate. Both the Welsh brie (something I’d normally be suspicious of being a confirmed Brie-de-Meaux addict) and the parma ham were really very good as were their own breads (we bought a couple of loaves to take home). Having found that the parma ham came from the local butcher we stopped there next and bought 10 slices cut to order for an unbelievably reasonable £1.68. It turned out that the lady who runs the deli side of the business had been on the staff at our local farm shop in Herefordshire the day Sarah nearly gave birth to our daughter there 11 years previously. It’s a small world in the Herefordshire/Wales borders!

Anyway, from Talgarth we made our way to the bluebell woods at Coed-Cefn which luckily we didn’t have to pronounce. What a place. And then we had an hour at Tretower which combines a medieval manor house with a Norman castle and a beautiful garden.

Another food stop at a butcher’s in Crickhowell where I meant to just buy the veg for the Salade Nicoise, but was seduced by some deliciously dark looking welsh topside. The colour was such that you knew it had been properly hung – the ’28 day beef’ sign was much more than the marketing ploy if feels like sometimes. And finally a couple of Scotch eggs (from the Handmade Scotch Egg company) and pot of fantastically good home-made yoghurt made with milk from their own cows, at the Church Barn Farm Shop at Whitney-on-Wye.

We are so lucky to live where we do with so much delicious and real food. Hip Hip Hooray for Herefordshire and the Welsh borders!