The WasteLess Diaries #1

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On 14 October 2017 the first and pilot WasteLess dinner took place in the heart of Cardiff at LittleMan Coffee Company Café. It was fun, it was epic, it was inspiring and most importantly it was tasty! But what is WasteLess and why am I telling you about it?

WasteLess is a collaborative pop-up event which involves more than one food businesses in the delivery of a feast using food surplus, food that would have been wasted and food that is produced in a less wasteful manner. The pilot WasteLess feast collected over forty kilos of food that would have been wasted in the week leading up to the event. The food was then safely handled, stored, distributed and cooked by the participating chefs/businesses and volunteers to offer a five-course feast presenting eleven dishes. All participating chefs and cooks contributed ideas to the menu as collections went along. WasteLess tapped into their culinary culture, business practices and the creativity of their teams to bring a wonderful menu together .

I co-run WasteLess with Rebecca Clark from Green City Events. And after years of working together on food waste reduction projects through community cook ups with food destined for the bin, roadshows, school lunch clubs and pop up street food stalls, we wanted to set up a platform that helps local businesses tap into their creative and sustainable practices and to showcase elements of Cardiff’s existing and emerging ‘wasteless’ food movement. There are many fantastic businesses already doing great things and many more who could be supported to do more. We want to bring new businesses to the table and to inspire and assist them in taking a wasteless approach.

The fantastic businesses which contributed to the first WasteLess event include Penylan Pantry, a sustainable café and grocery store which implements the low-waste approach in its practices; Mezza Luna, an award winning, independent, Middle Eastern restaurant; the Little Man Coffee company, an ethical coffee shop which is a hub of community activity and of course, moi, Lia’s Kitchen. Many more were involved in other ways. The Cheese Pantry donated cheese close to its use by date. TOAST Ale provided the event with beers and ales brewed from bread that would have been wasted, The Bottle Shop Cardiff advised on the sourcing of ethical wines and Get Wonky Juices, donated their delicious juices made from ‘scrap’ fruit and veg.

‘Food waste is bad business practice- akin to throwing money in the bin. It’s unsustainable for future generations, and breeds bad habits in an already throwaway society’, says Melissa from the Penylan Pantry. ‘Being part of Cardiff’s first Wasteless dinner was a huge honour and a very exciting prospect, working with others to help raise awareness, offer support and encourage businesses, and the public to think differently about food waste.’

Anna and Zac from Mezza Luna said, ‘As a food business, we at Mezza Luna believe it is our social responsibility to be at the forefront of the fight against food waste.And by doing so encourage people to have better awareness of food and the environment. Middle Eastern cuisine is a great example of the WasteLess approach. For example, all parts of an animal are used for cooking in different dishes. We strongly believe in this approach and we aim to encourage greater respect for food.’

It is not just the businesses that we worked with that really believe in what we do.

Celine Anouilh from the Chartered Institute of Waste Management in Wales said, ‘ I much enjoyed this first WasteLess dinner raising awareness of food waste. Lia and Rebecca used of the right ingredients to produce a taste meal and an inspiring event: a partnership between enthusiastic and ethical businesses, forgotten food from super markets shelves, great cooking skills, creativity and passion! I ate a delicious meal, met wonderful people. CIWM Cymru wishes every success to this fantastic project and look forward to attending the next dinner’.

The October event was just a test to see if our WasteLess vision is truly possible. We are now ready for the next step. Partly supported by Sainsbury’s Waste Less Save More fund Green City Events and Lia’s Kitchen will help deliver more WasteLess events in 2018.

The first WasteLess dinner entertained thirty guests and raised over £600 for Cystic Fibrosis in memory of Tom Woollam (Better Life Appeal Llandough Hospital).

We would like to thank all businesses who donated prizes to a charity raffle: John Lewis, Snact, Get Wonky, HangFire Southern Kitchen, Milgi Cardiff, Penylan Preserves, Colourfiled, Twin Made, Nelly’s Treasures, Ellicopter Hoops and Sustainable Studio.

Lia Moutselou, Lia’s Kitchen and Rebecca Clark from Green City Events co-design and co-run WasteLess. Our partnership on food waste and ethical ventures is well established. Over the three years we joined forces to deliver a series of food waste projects and initiatives in Cardiff, in collaboration with Love Food Hate Waste campaigns and other local organisations and businesses. From community cook ups with food destined for the bin, to roadshows, school lunch clubs and pop up street food stalls, we have inspired, engaged and educated to encourage action and behaviour change relating to food waste.

Lia’s Kitchen is an ethical food venture inspired by sustainability, Greek cuisine and world flavours: www.liaskitchen.com. Green City is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company based in Cardiff, hosting a range of exciting and inspiring environmental and sustainability events and workshops: www.greencityevent.co.uk

 Sign up to our mailing list for future WasteLess events or email liaskitchen@gmail.com.

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October Recipe – An autumn stew delight

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Last week our box from Blaencamel Farm looked like a picture of autumn itself. Whilst new crops like squashes are being harvested some of the summer crops like the last of the tomatoes and chillies are still going. The greens, such as Cavolo Nero, are a darker shade. My seasonal compass is navigated towards deeper flavours, with spice combinations that help us transition seasons comforting us during the first frosts.

This dish I cooked and loved a lot last year. It grew from my fascination with how spices and ingredients fuse and connect culinary cultures. And it uses some of my most loved ingredients. Dill as herb much loved in Northern Greece where I am from but also prolific in Iranian and Ukrainian cuisines. Cumin for us Greeks of the eastern side (just a pinch mind). Caraway, a key spice for the soothing borscht and much Ukrainian cooking. Sour grape powder typical in Iranian cooking. Goji berries instead of the Iranian barberry. Turmeric, ginger, beetroot, pomegranates, tomatoes, parsley… You can see where this is going. It’s a tasty cure on a plate. You can replace some of the fresh turmeric and ginger with powder although I think it is much nicer when fresh is used. I serve this dish with brown rice.

Order your seasonal Blaencamel veg box online www.blanecamelbox.com or by email to Tom Frost (Tom@blaencamelbox.com).  Find out more about Lia’s Kitchen and subscribe on Lia’s newsletters here www.liaskitchen.com

Ingredients (Feeds 6 people)

  • 1 small Hokaido butternut squash
  • 250g beetroot (raw grated or small cubes or pre-cooked and cubed)
  • 200g cherry tomatoes halved or whole (1 Blaencamel punnet –)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic roughly chopped
  • 200-300g of autumn greens, roughly chopped (kale, Cavolo nero or Japanese greens will do as)
  • 1 Hungarian wax chilli (optional)
  • 5cm turmeric chunk grated OR 1tsp. turmeric powder
  • 3cm ginger chunk grated OR ½ tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika powder
  • Pinch of cumin or cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh dill OR 1 tsp dried dill (both heaped)
  • 30g fresh parsley chopped
  • ½ tsp sour cherry powder (optional – available at middle eastern shops)
  • Pinch of oregano
  • 1 small handful of dried goji berries
  • Juice of one lemon or half an orange
  • 1 can pre-cooked beans (recommend borlotti or cannellini but use what you have)
  • Up to 2 cups hot water or vegetable stock(500ml)
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • 2tsp sea salt

Preparation (approximately one hour)

  1. Place the goji berries in citrus juice for the duration of the preparation.
  2. Peel and grate or cube the beetroot. If using cooked beetroot cook an hour before prep starts.
  3. Halve the squash and remove seeds with a tablespoon. Peel, slice and cube in 5 cm chunks (not too small).
  4. Stir fry the onion, 1 tsp salt and spices (cumin, caraway, paprika, turmeric, ginger and sour cherry &chilly if using) for five minutes on low heat to soften and release aromas.
  5. Add the garlic and oregano stir fry for a couple more minutes.
  6. Add the squash, beetroot and beans and stir well.
  7. Add the softened goji berries with the citrus juice, the chopped dill and parsley. Stir well.
  8. Add the hot water or stock with another tsp of salt.
  9. Stir well, cover and simmer for thirty minutes. Then add the greens and simmer for another fifteen minutes.
  10. Enjoy with a dollop of Greek yoghurt, walnuts and honey and pomegranate seed or apple if you fancy a fruity taste.

Spetzofái – the last of Blaencamel Farm’s Broad Beans Crop

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Whilst I may have skipped a month of sharing recipe ideas with you inspired about one of my favourite places in Wales, it seems that the summer crop that has done so well on Blaencamel Farm’s land this summer keeps going strong this first week of September. This year the almighty broad bean has inspired various summer version of one of my favourite Greek dishes, Spetzofai, a stew which hails from beautiful Pelion on the Greek mainland (the land of the Cyclopes).

 

This simple sausage stew requires flavoursome, good quality sausages containing at least leek with a hint of spice, fresh seasonal vegetable and beans. The freshly podded broad beans make for a lighter and quicker version of the dish. To replace the broad beans chose either giant (Lima/Butter) beans or cannellini. As I am always inspired by my Greek heritage, Welsh producers and my local farmers’ market so I recommend you use Charcutier’s Italian fennel or their Thyme sausages for this recipe. The stew follows the same cooking method as the July 2017 Fasolakia dish which is popular in Greek cuisine. You can adapt it to make your own vegan, vegetarian and meat dishes Greek-Stylee. As usual you can source most of the recipes at the Roath and Riverside Farmers’ Market in Cardiff as well as other farmer market locations supplied by the farm in Wales.

Order your seasonal Blaencamel veg box online www.blanecamelbox.com Find out more about Lia’s Kitchen and subscribe on Lia’s newsletters here www.liaskitchen.com

Ingredients (for 4 people)

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pack Charcutier Italian Fennel or Thyme sausages, in chunky cubes (280 g)
  • 1 bag Blaencamel farm broad beans, podded (250g when podded)
  • 2 Blaencamel bell peppers, halved, seeded and sliced
  • ½ Blaencamel Hungarian wax pepper
  • 4 Charlotte potatoes, washed and halved with skin on
  • Optional – half a pack of Blaencamel farm spinach (200g)
  • 1 bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste or 1 large tomato grated
  • ½ glass white whine
  • 1.5-2 tsp. sea salt
  • 0.5 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 parmento/all spice berries
  • Olive oil or extra virgin olive oil

Preparation (60 min)

  1. Coat the base of a wide pot with enough olive oil to cover it.
  2. When the oil is hot add the cubed sausage and sauté until browned.
  3. Add the onion, peppers, one teaspoon sea salt and sauté until the onion softens.
  4. Add the tomato paste or grated tomato and fry for a couple of minutes stirring well.
  5. Add the chunky cubed potatoes, beans of your choice and roughly chopped spinach. Stir fry for a couple of minutes until they are well coated in tomato paste and oil.
  6. Add the wine and the chopped parsley. Stir well.
  7. Add half to one tsp of sea salt and enough boiling water to almost cover the veg and meat (but don’t submerge them).
  8. Stir well but before you place the lid on the pot to simmer for around 40 minutes, try to push the meat and potatoes to the bottom of the pot and the beans and courgettes closer to the top so that they steam.
  9. From this point on do not stir so that your vegetable does not fall apart when cooked.
  10. The dish is ready when the water has reduced but not fully evaporated.
  11. Set aside for 20-30 minutes. Or for a real Greek meal enjoy (cold or in room temperature) the next day.

Enjoy with a chilled glass of Greek Agiorgitiko Wine .

What about Perek?

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A few months ago, when I sat at the table with Maria Mouratidou to talk about Perek Farm near Thessaloniki, Greece I thought I would hear the story of a cooperative, a successful entrepreneurial model, which flourished in a Greece of adversity. But my conversation with Maria told me more about how food could help reframe our lives and reality. How important it is in preserving heritage, the recollection of which is starting to dwindle together with the lessons it has to offer. And how a different way of producing, farming and living could be one of the ways for a brighter personal and global future.

Greece is often branded as one of the most biodiverse, fertile and blessed soils in Europe which apparently can yield more produce per square mile than many of its neighbours. Yet it is in crisis. And the Greeks are running to supermarket chains offering them mass produced food from far-away lands. What has gone wrong?

Recently as I listened to BBC Food programme Sheila Dillon’s voice narrating the struggles and opportunities facing Greek agriculture I was reminded how hope is reborn by necessity, simplicity and through turning to the land. I come from a generation of Greeks whose parents left the countryside for a better future accessible through academic education. And here I am asking myself how many educated ‘fools’ does it take to break a country? Or could we turn our skills and knowledge to tools that could help us reframe reality for the future in Greece and around the world.

So what about Perek? Here’s my take on its story as a family business and an example of how our life, economy and nutrition could be reimagined.

What about Maria?

Maria is a sprightly, ageless lady, who left her academic career in 2003. She worked in molecular biology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Medical School. This gave her a sound basis for understanding the links between intensified agricultural practices, the use of pesticides and the increasing health impacts experienced by many of the farming communities where agriculture grew in concentrated pockets of land mass. Maria was also looking to change the pace of her life. ‘We wanted to live’, she says, ‘to enjoy the sunsets and to take time to breathe in the lavender. We never imagined that we could do so much for the people around us. We never knew’.

Maria Mouratidou of Perek Farm

And so was Perek set up. Initially as a small business that produced traditional pasta and pie products typical of Northern Greece and the Pontos such as Trahanas (often fermented Greek pasta grain); Verenika (tortellini -like dumplings with various fillings encountered in other neighbouring cuisines such as that of the Ukraine); Ivristos (vegan pasta similar to tagliatelle but broken, dehydrated and toasted to enhance preservation); Perek pastry (large, thick filo pastry toasted and filled with greens or cheese or other goods); sourdough breads and specialty cakes flavoured with Tsipouro. All these goods used specialty wheat and rye varieties carefully selected for each product, grown and milled locally by farmers carefully chosen for their practices.


‘Subconsciously I looked at what my mother did’ says Maria. ‘I wanted more than just a business and to preserve methods, foods and practices from our long-lost homes in Pontos, Kerasounta’. There were many women in the area of the same micro-heritage that Maria could work with. So a workshop was set up and the reputation of its quality produce grew and grew. People visited to stock up on supplies, the place was like a magnet pulling in those seeking to reconnect with tradition and practices that Perek had to offer. The quality and flavour was unparalleled.

‘It was as if we had made a Nobel prize discovery, when all we had done was use resources grown in tune with nature. We made what we knew from our grandmothers and mothers – recipes and traditions handed down generation to generation. Gradually people started asking why they could not taste recipes with food they bought, why there was no restaurant on the premises. We were lead to growing as a business. As we say in Greece ‘the route leads the walker’.


Perek’s growth (?)

Maria applied her scientific knowledge in seeking wheat, dairy and meat produce that was uncompromised. ‘As a scientist I felt it was essential to make an alternative suggestion to society to help rectify the damage done to our ecosystems, society and health.  We have an obligation as scientists to talk about the impacts of chemicals on our food and genetics. And I wanted to also talk about the ‘science’ of tradition. To look deeply into our heritage and see how it leads us back to understanding the basis of longevity and how to enhance biodiversity’, Maria says.

‘All you need to do is watch and listen to each place (the Topos). The hint is often in the names of places, Ampelotopos or Agrampelo (the vine meadow), Karpouzlouko (the water melon field), Kapnohorafo (the tobacco plot). There is a reason for these names. People observed what grows and doesn’t grow well. Then they rested the land. They swapped crops’, she continues. ‘And you must remember, tradition does not focus on loss and profit and mass production. It is about making do, health and wellbeing’.

With the help of her daughter, a food scientist who researched Meznikof’s work and returned to Greece to be part of the business, Perek grew. Today the business employs over forty people. There are at least five regular animal farmers it collaborates with as well as an array of carefully selected artisan businesses.

The Perek Restaurant, a beautiful stone building with a large cyclical fireplace/oven in the middle, overlooks Thermaikos Bay and looks at Mount Olympus. It feeds up to 2,500 people each week and is supplied by the Perek workshop which continues to provide employment to many women and communities in the area. Perek supports free range farmers whose produce it uses for the restaurant, whilst it has also set up its own small farm mainly focussing on the rearing of black pig pork, indigenous in Maria’s home land. The pies, including the amazing Perek pie, often use wild greens (Horta) such as purslane, amaranth and nettle. Stipa (Toursi), fermented cabbage similar to sauerkraut and kimchi, feature on the menu. Katsikisio tyri, goat’s cheeses from free range animals and Greek varieties of chickpeas, lentils and other pulses also feature on the menu. It is the place to visit if you want to taste the land’s flavours.


‘One of the positive impacts of the crisis, was the lack of money to buy some of the expensive, industrialised animal feed which increased productivity and commercialised dairy and animal farms. This hit farming in Greece badly. But the remaining farmers downsized and turned to grazing and traditional methods of feeding. Production rates decreased but quality improved. The taste of the milk and cheese for example is now more distinct of the land’s vegetation’, Maria explains.

With a model so successful there could be temptation for Perek to grow and expand. Make no mistake, Maria is a business woman, savvy, clever and resourceful, but her message is unequivocal. ‘We supply twenty to thirty external businesses at the most. There are limits to how far we can go without compromising quality and the ethos of our business. We will produce enough for our restaurant, our own shop and some suppliers but we cannot supply everyone. There would be costs to that and we have to be careful’.

The meaning of life…  

When Maria left her academic career for a different life she was ill. ‘Cancer made me revaluate life. I asked myself why I am running around like a mad woman. Why do I never have time? Why do I struggle?’, Maria told me. Can you relate to this too?

To me Perek is more than just a food business. It is a model and a way of business the depths of which might not be appreciated by everyone but its restaurant service for example remains accessible to the average Greek living in the area. And this is what makes it so amazing. That you can have quality in flavour, produce and life. That you can support ethical practices and communities through a conventional business model which is not willing to compromise its ethos. That you are able to preserve the elements of different segments of Greek traditions and tribes which shed light into who we are, how we can live more healthily and how we can connect to our neighbours.

I am not going to demonise where we are as a global society today, it gets tiring.  There is a reason we made this journey through progress and perhaps now we are better equipped to move on into the future. Take Perek and Maria’s story as an example of how our and future generations could take academic excellence, skills and knowledge and apply it towards a different direction awar from our conditioned aspirations of achievement and wealth. Towards a more meaningful future for us, our friends, our nature and our children. Just take that.

Visit Perek farm all year around from Monday to Sunday. For more information here: http://www.perek.gr/ . Visit Perek on facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Perek-Restaurant-Monopigado-Thessaloniki/387257144667373

July Recipe – Fasolákia with Beef

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Fasolakia is one of the ultimate summer Greek dishes. The combination of new potato crops, the abundance of parsley, the tender freshness of the fasolakia (french or runner beans) is delightful in a summer stew. When I walked past the farmer market stalls last week I just knew this dish had to return. This meal is fully inspired and sourced at the Roath Farmers’ Market. So for the rest of the Saturdays and Sundays in July, do yourself a favour and head over to Blaencamel Farm’s stall or order their box online. At the moment everything at their stall has an extra special scent and flavour – the flavour of sunshine and summer.

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You can make a vegan or vegetarian version of this dish but this time I have included one of my favourite, top quality meats too – dexter beef from Cig Lodor West Walian farm.  Like many Greek dishes it is enjoyed in room temperature or even cold straight out of the fridge to cool you down. Get some Riverside Sourdough bread (Malted Wheat & Seeds) or some of Nata’s corn bread with this and you might be having one of your best summer meals yet. Trust me.

Order your seasonal Blaencamel veg box online www.blanecamelbox.com Find out more about Lia’s Kitchen and subscribe on Lia’s newsletters here www.liaskitchen.com

Ingredients (for 4 people)

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pack of Cig Lodor cubed beef (400-500g)
  • 2 bunches of French or runner beans (fasolakia), stringed, ends chopped off and halved
  • 4 small to medium potatoes, peeled and chunky cubed
  • 1 large or 2 small courgettes, large cubes so the don’t fall apart when stewed
  • 1 bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste or one large tomato grated
  • 1.5-2 tsp. sea salt
  • 0.5 tsp. ground black pepper
  • Olive oil or extra virgin olive oil

 Preparation ( 60 min)

  1. Coat the base of a wide pot with enough olive oil to cover it and a bit more.
  2. When the oil is hot add the beef and sauté until browned on both sides.
  3. Then add the onion, one tsp sea salt and sauté until the onion softens.
  4. Add the tomato paste or grated tomato and pepper and fry for a couple of minutes stirring well.
  5. Add the chunky cubed potatoes and beans of your choice. Stir fry for a couple of minutes until they are well coated in tomato paste and oil.
  6. Finally add the cubed courgettes, chopped parsley and stir well.
  7. Add half to one tsp of sea salt and enough boiling water to almost cover the veg and meat (but don’t submerge them).
  8. Stir well but before you place the lid on the pot to simmer for around 45 minutes, try to push the meat and potatoes to the bottom of the pot and the beans and courgettes closer to the top so that they steam.
  9. This is the biggest secret for this dish! From this point on do not stir so that your vegetable does not fall apart when cooked.
  10. Cook on low flame or heat for at forty-five minutes or until the water has reduced but not fully evaporated.
  11. The dish is ready when the meat is really easily cut with a fork (almost falling apart).
  12. Set aside for 20-30 minutes. Or for a real Greek meal enjoy (cold or in room temperature) the next day.

Enjoy with a chilled glass of Greek Agiorgitiko Wine , Gerovasiliou’s Avaton Limnio grade red or a Tsantali organic cabernet.

June Recipe – Pea, Broad Bean and Courgette summer risotto

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A good risotto is a great dish to showcase seasonal ingredients from all parts of the world. Lia’s pea, broad bean and courgette summer risotto is inspired by Blaencamel farm’s seasonal, organic vegetable box and a popular Greek blogger video (Cucina Caruso) summing up the correct method for an authentic Italian risotto step by step. The result is a risotto recipe where Greece meets Wales and Italy in one plate. 

Make sure you make time to enjoy the process of your risotto making selecting some nice music and a beautiful crisp white wine. Now more than ever we implore you to make time for the little joys in life and to enjoy the dolce vita. Eat seasonally, be positive and feel happy!

Order your seasonal Blaencamel veg box online http://www.blanecamelbox.com 

Ingredients (for 4 people as a main)

• 1 onion, finely chopped

• 125g butter

• 300g Arborio or other risotto rice

• 400g courgettes, coarsely grated

• 300g fresh peas and broad beans

• 1-1.5 litre vegetable stock

• 15 g fresh mint leaves

• 1 tbsp dry dill or the tips of half a small fresh bunch finely chopped

• 100 ml white wine

• Some extra virgin olive oil

• Salt

• Freshly ground pepper to serve

• Grated parmesan cheese

• Some unwaxed lemon zest

Preparation (40min)

1. Prepare the hot stock and add the herbs to infuse it during the first stages of risotto preparation.

2. Coat the surface of a wide and deep pan with just enough olive oil and add the 50g of butter.

3. Once the butter melts add the onion with a pinch of salt and slowly sauté on low heat until it caramelises.

4. Turn the heat up and stir in the rice. Sauté for a minute making sure that every grain is coated in butter.

5. Pour a ladle of the warm stock and stir whilst the rice slowly absorbs it. Only add another ladle of stock once the previous has been absorbed.

6. When one third of the way through the stock add the peas and broad beans together with another ladle of stock and stir until the rice absorbs it. To blanch the peas and beans place in in hot water off the hob for 5 minutes. You can skip blanching if you prefer the beans al dente.

7. Two thirds into the stock add the grated courgette, stirring and allowing the vegetable juice to slowly seep out flavouring the risotto.  

8. Then add the wine, stir and when it is absorbed continue adding the stock until you are left with one ladle.

9. Add the last ladle and immediately remove the risotto from the hob.

10. Add the rest of the butter(75g), stir and let the risotto set for a few minutes to create the creamy finish.

11. Serve this delicious risotto with grated parmesan, the grated rind of one lemon and freshly ground pepper.

Enjoy with a chilled glass of Greek Malagouzia/Malvasia or Assyrtiko white wine.

MealSq Menywod – Cooking from our Heartland

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On 21 May 2017 Melissa (Penylan Pantry), Sam and Shauna (Hangfire), Bettina (Brød-The Danish Bakery), Goldie (Samosaco), Ericka Duffy (cocktail and taste expert), Ashli (Spillers Records) and I worked together to deliver a unique night of food, drink and music.  What united us, apart from our extremely worthy cause to raise money for Action Against Hunger, is our passion about women leading the way in food business and good, ethical, tasty food. We delivered this event under the banner of Meal Squared, a format that delivers collaborative events and which Melissa set up last year to strengthen Cardiff’s growing independent business community.

The inspiration for Cooking From the Heartland came from the ‘Severn Sisters’ Bristol dinner organised by Romy Gill MBE and Kim Somauroo in autumn 2016. It involved women from different food cultures to create a female feast. ‘We were so inspired by our experience [of attending the event] that we decided to have our own version in Wales. Our feast, ‘Cooking from our heartland’ is inspired by the international drinks, food and music makers we know and love’, say Sam and Shauna. For me and the other women who were approached to participate in this evening there was no doubt that this was going to be our kind of fun.

This is the story of our coming together. It tells you why we chose Action Against Hunger, what ‘Cooking from the Heartland’ means to us and why we think it is so important that women work together…

I would particularly like to thank Oliveology, Blaencamel Farm, Cig Lodor Meat, All Greek Delicatessen, CocoCaravanCocoCaravan for donating ingredients for the mezze platter and dessert I prepared for the event. A massive thanks to all the other women who volunteered and worked hard on the night . And to Kas of Waterloo Tea who gave us access to his amazing restaurant/coffee house in Wyndham Arcade to run the event.

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We chose Action Against Hunger because

‘165 million people suffer from childhood malnutrition. If they joined hands, they could form a complete circle around the earth. I think this says it all.’ (Mel, Penylan Pantry)

‘When we started Hang Fire, we sofa surfed for the first year, ploughing every penny from the last pop-up back into next. Now that we have a roof over our heads, we think if you have two quid, you have a quid to share. It’s important to always give a something back. Action Against Hunger does amazing work all year round, both at home and further afield. It is our chosen partner charity this year. With everything happening in the world right now, we need to keep looking out for each other and help those who aren’t as fortunate as us.’ (Sam & Shauna, Hangfire)

‘We’re told that we’re living in exciting times of such progress and achievements in the sphere of technological development and medical advancements, yet so many children are going hungry and die of malnutrition.  That isn’t right. Thank goodness for Action Against Hunger for making it their business to help those who are less fortunate.’ (Ashli, Spillers Records)

‘Nobody is immune to misfortune. People’s lives change overnight through war, unemployment, illness. People go hungry in Wales. Refugees walk thousands of miles to safety, water and food.  In Greece people like us bin-dive to find food. Recently, at food community project in Uganda I often drove past international relief lorries transporting food to South Sudan and Yemen on a massive scale. I support Action Against Hunger with all my heart’.  (Lia, Lia’s Kitchen)

Cooking from our heartland means ….

‘Seasonal, free thinking, creative cooking inspires me. I love nutritious, wholesome ingredients, that are good for your health, soul and mind.  My heartland is wherever I happen to fall. I like to cook with local produce from the surrounding area. I feel strongly that the best way to know a new place, is to get stuck into the local food culture.’ (Mel, Penylan Pantry)

‘We are Celts and experts in the art of slow cooking and smoking. Cooking from our heartland brings those two things together to create our own version of Southern Wales style BBQ using great local produce. We take the best that the UK has to offer and couple it with the cooking techniques we learned in the States all to a soundtrack by Dolly Parton!’ (Sam & Shauna, Hangfire)

‘Baking is an important connection to my birthland. Moving to Wales in 1998, I quickly felt at home but always missed Danish bread. The rubbish Danish Pastries in the UK meant I had to set the record straight. My heartland is with my grandfather (FarFar) who was a baker in central København. My mother, grandmother and I baked to his tales of making bread (brød), pastries and cake. I’ve kept going and now I can do the same for you through Brød.’ (Bettina, Brød)

‘We live in an age where access to “stuff” in unlimited.  Every thing’s a commodity. You can hear music from a culture a million miles removed from your own.  You have access to ingredients from lands far and wide. Anything goes.  This creates an exciting palette for a music fan or food lover. But if something is made with passion, with heart and soul oozing out of it, it hits you in the solar plexus and resonates. That sort of passion is the difference between wholesale, mass produced for the highest margin return and the real deal.  I think that the unifying thing about the team bringing this event together is that we are only interested in the real deal.  It’s all about passion.’ (Ashli, Spillers Records)

‘The Heartland theme meant exploring my connection to Wales which for me revolves around art and literature. My cocktails are inspired by the Davies sisters who contributed much to the artwork and culture that enthrals me about Wales. They bought whole galleries of artwork (Monets, Manets, Rodins). They established Gregynog Hall as a centre of excellence for the arts, crafts and music. Most importantly, the Davies Sisters took in Belgian refugees including the sculptor George Minne, and the painters Valerius de Saedeleer and Gustave van de Woestyne. All three artists were to spend the rest of World War I largely dependent on the Davies family for support. You can visit the Davies Galleries at National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.’ (Ericka Duffy, Cocktail and taste expert)

‘Cooking from the heartland brings you the taste of my Greece whilst mixing it with world food influences, and good Welsh/UK produce I discovered in the past twenty years living away from the birth land. My platter is about ingredients from some of the businesses involved in the collaboration, whilst I introduce you to some of my favourite Greek and Welsh, UK- based businesses. And every dish reminds me of someone I love. My Yaya (Grandma) for the boozy tzatziki, my Mana (Mom) for the meatballs and my Aderfo (brother) for the fava dip.’ (Lia, Lia’s Kitchen)

Women should work together …

‘Women make up 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, and account for about two-thirds of the world’s 600 million livestock keepers. Still to this day millions of women and girls around the world are discriminated against simply because they are born female. Events like International women’s day send a message of unity, solidarity and compassion. I hope MealSq Menywod sends out the same message on a smaller scale.  Gender discrimination should not be accepted in this day and age.’ (Mel, Penylan Pantry)

‘We have always championed the idea of bridging the gender gap in any industry, and the hospitality industry is no different. We’re surrounded by talented, courageous women who are a daily inspiration to us. It’s a great privilege to come together and produce an event that is not only authentic but heartfelt from some incredible women truly passionate about what they do.’ (Sam & Shauna, Hangfire)

‘In the words of Poly Styrene “Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard. But I think “oh bondage, up yours!”. Being a go-getting female with a lot of knowledge in your field, you often have to play down your expertise and shrink below your ambitions.  With politics at the forefront of many people’s minds at the moment, it’s important to remember that not so long ago women were denied the basic human right to have our say.  But let’s not forget we are the lucky ones. Many women worldwide still do not have the right to exercise their own choice. In the face of regressive steps the world has taken lately we must continue to fight for our rights and demand equality.’ (Ashli, Spillers Records)

‘I like working with inspirational people, both men and women. But I think this is an event that shows how we women can support each other in business.’ (Bettina, Brød)

‘This meal presents females who work in flavour and taste – each of us in traditionally male-dominated fields. Between our different skillsets, point-of-view, and aesthetics there is a collaboration occurring – from baking, Greek cuisine, smoking, cheese pairing, cocktail mixing, and the music selection by the World’s Oldest Record shop.’ (Ericka Duffy, Cocktail and taste expert)

‘I have had fun and struggles being a female immigrant claiming my place in Britain! As a Greek girl, I was often stereotyped to suit the service industry just fine but some people were shocked I was also a law graduate, a young lecturer or that I chose to start my own food venture. I have had many lives. I refuse to be pigeonholed. And women should fight together against prejudice. Antagonism is not a female trait so it’s time to resist being turned into alpha-males. Our global village relies on running it together. There is space for everyone. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.’ (Lia, Lia’s Kitchen)