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.
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)
May is the period of the hungry gap but at Blaencamel Farm where, during this period of summer anticipation , they continue to grow nourishing greens. Gem and pink, and green Battavia lettuce have appeared on the stall. There is spinach, sweetheart cabbage, wild and green garlic. Whilst the seasonal bouquet garni can complement the dill that makes this spring soup so special.
May’s recipe is a Greek traditional Easter soup with a Welsh and clean-eating twist! Mageiritsa is traditionally cooked with lamb’s liver and plenty of greens and salad leaves. This is a vegetarian version and could be made vegan if you choose to not use avgolemono, the egg-lemon sauce typical of many Greek recipes. If you live in Wales what makes this Mageiritsa extra special is using dried kelp from Pembrokeshire. And the final Greek note is the use of the tangy and sharp sea buckthorn berry, which is becoming a staple in my cooking this year.
Visit www.liaskitchen.com for more ideas and monthly seasonal recipes inspired by Blaencamel Farm’s crops.
Ingredients (4-6 portions)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 -2 leeks, finely chopped
- 1 green garlic or 1 bunch of wild garlic
- 500-700g finely chopped mixed Blaencamel greens, such as spinach, lettuce and/or sweetheart cabbage
- 500g mushrooms, Blaencamel farm or chestnut if they are not available
- 1 punnet of mixed Blaencamel farm herbs (fennel, sage, mint, thyme) (Optional)
- 1 finely chopped bunch of dill or 1 tbsp. tried dill
- 2 Tbsp. uncooked rice
- 1 heaped tsp. Pembrokeshire Beach Company Kelp or other dried/crumbled sea weed (optional)
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. sea buckthorn berries roughly chopped (optional)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Around 2 litres of stock
For the Avgolemono sauce:
- 1 small egg
- Juice of one small lemon
Preparation (45 minutes)
- Coat the base of a deep pot with olive oil and sauté the onion and leeks with one teaspoon of salt until soft and translucent.
- Add the cubed mushrooms (2 -3 cm chunks) and sauté for 2-5 minutes.
- Add the finely chopped herbs, wild or fresh garlic and greens, and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
- Then add the stock, stir well and (if you are using) add the dried kelp or other sea weed, pepper and sea buckthorn berries.
- Simmer for about 10 minutes and then add the rice.
- After 20 minutes (when the rice has softened and soup has thickened) remove from the hob.
- Beat the egg really well until it is fluffy and creamy (around 5 minutes), and whilst you continue whisking gradually add the lemon juice.
- Take one ladle of hot stock from the soup, strain through a fine sieve and add the hot stock slowly to the egg-lemon mixture whilst still whisking on low speed or by hand.
- Finally add the thinned egg-lemon and stock juice to the hot soup stirring in well to make sure it flavours and thickens all of the soup.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Rosemary Baron is keeping me company with her book about Greece and its food. I love reading others’ take on Greek food and this lady being an archaeologist is a very credible, unbiased source of information. She says, ‘the ancient Greeks regarded cooking as both an art and a science and throughput the ancient world Greek chefs were accorded the status and reputation that French chefs now enjoy. The principles and practice of fine cooking and gastronomy as we know it today were first established in the abundantly stocked and highly creative kitchens of Ancient Greece, and modern Greeks still enjoy the foods and tastes that inspired the chefs of antiquity’.
Rosemary Baron goes on to talk about the height of the Minoan civilization and trade with North Africa, which helped create a small garden of Eden in Crete that influenced Hellenistic cooking. At the height of the Roman civilization Greek chefs and teachers were sought after and employed in the Roman homes and kitchens, and according to Baron it seems under their tutelage the amazing, distinct Italian cuisine developed. Then the Byzantine empire helped the influence of Greek cooking influence travel further. And then during the occupation of the Franks, Venetians, Ottomans eastern and other influences arrived, and tribes like the Vlachs brought spices like my beloved paprika.
I am certain Greek chefs embraced new ingredients and influences from other cultures. The early Greek diet of olives, wheat, figs, grapes, wild greens, fish and a little meat was enriched with ingredients such as lemons, potatoes, aubergines, tomatoes, spinach, okra introduced by trade, but also war and occupation.
The silver lining is that even dark times of occupation were still characterized by culinary and cultural diversity. In her book Baron clearly asserts that the hybridity between Greek, eastern and even Balkan cuisine was mostly nurtured during the more peaceful Byzantine times rather than the Ottoman Empire. But I am sure that the Ottomans have helped many dishes travel through Greek chefs to new parts of their Empire where other cultures also embraced and adapted them.
What fascinates me is Baron’s explanation that during Ottoman times Greeks, who were forbidden to speak their own language, were forced to use Turkish names for dishes such as the now famous moussaka, boureki, dolmades, losing the connection of the dishes to their origins. As children we were taught about secret Greek schools during the Ottoman occupation. They were the underground hubs of language that kept Greek alive but I didn’t know that Greek chefs also took refuge in monasteries for their safety and to safeguard centuries of culinary knowledge!!! Apparently there they wore tall white toques which distinguished them from the monks – the toque is now the chef hat and symbol throughout the world.
Food and its love travel well even at the worse of times. It is a beacon of hope and should connect rather than divide. What I know as traditional and modern Greek cuisine is a real testament to that, and it is a lot more diverse than just the delicious feta and tzatziki.
You can now join my 2017 cooking classes telling you the story of my Greek kitchen. Classes include an Introduction to Greek Kitchen Basics; The Greek Flavours no one is telling you about; The Art of Greek Pie; The Magical Art of spice mixing.
Watch Rick Stein’s programme about Thessaloniki, Greece and its food to find out more about my city of birth and what you might get during our courses: http://bbc.in/2gnRaMQ.
This morning I thought I had missed call from someone I have worked during the last two very intense years of my water related job (which takes up most of my time during the week). He has accepted a job in a faraway warm rich place and I had sent him a farewell card. I called him back to wish him well, thinking it was his last day at work. At this stage of our testing professional relationship, having been through intense challenges, trials and tribulations, we could just be human, and focus on the person immigrating to a different country, leaving their home behind, regardless of whether this is done happily or sadly. So it was to my surprise that at the end of the conversation he chose to say something awkward. It aimed to question the role of the hard working organisation I spend almost all of my working week at to protect the interests of the public in a private UK water industry. Still I obliged him. It was not personal, he’s a good guy, it was probably his way of joking and he was making small talk whilst I was calling to wish him good luck from the bottom of my heart.
Straight after that I went to Oasis, a refugee charity in Cardiff, where hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers, migrants or immigrants, receive support and food every week. I found myself in the kitchen with women from Ghana, India, Uganda, Zambia, Albania whilst they were cooking a meal for ninety odd people who will have lunch at Oasis today. I met them for the first time. They all probably have interesting stories, perhaps some of these stories are harrowing. Some of them have their children at their home country whilst they work here. Still they opened their mind and their arms to me as soon as I walked in. You know that sense of that we are all in it together? That’s what I felt.
This morning I felt relieved as I was putting the phone down, being thankful for the bad signal that interrupted the awkward final bit of my discussion with a newly appointed ex-pat . And as I was leaving Oasis I felt grateful to Reynette and the women in the Oasis kitchen for opening their door to me, to cook, to share & record their recipes and listen to their experiences. As a human.
I think I know for good which conversation I’d rather be in.
Quinoa with sweet potato is becoming a real favourite at Lia’s Kitchen both when we are receiving guests but also when we are touring. This is an easy to make but very nutritious dish. It was on our September supperclub menu and last night this was a side dish at our dinner table when our Braunton family visited.
I am writing down this recipe for Miss Lyra May, or more accurately for her mom Beth, because she promised me that if her mommy cooks this recipe for her she will keep eating quinoa.
Now I know that this nearly four year old lady is a smart negotiator but , my dear Beth, I still think it is worth giving this a go. After all Miss Lyra’s one year old brother never objected at all to eating the quinoa.
1 cup red , mixed or plain quinoa
2 cups vegetable stock
1 large sweet potato coarsely grated
1 large onion finely chopped
1 (fresh) bay leaf
1/2 t mixed spices of cinnamon, cloves, pepper or a small pinch of each (optional)
1 garlic clove mashed (optional)
150 gr mince quorn (optional)
a couple of squeezes lime or lemon (optional)
1 small bunch parsley finely chopped
Boil two cups water and make vegetable stock.
Simmer the quinoa for up to twenty minutes, until cooked but not sticky.
Add enough olive oil to cover the base of a frying pan.
Add the onion and the bay leaf and sauté for a couple of minutes.
Add a pinch of salt.
Add the sweet potato and stir fry until soft -5 to 10 minutes.
Add the quinoa , parsley and if you need to some more olive oil.
Taste and season is necessary.
If you are using citrus juice add last.
Stir well and enjoy.
People were sunny last Sunday, like the weather. And the Made in Spring/Made in Roath crew did a grand job getting neighbours and friends out of their houses in an intimate gathering. Thank you so much for having Lia’s Kitchen there. It’s wonderful to be part of such a great event in my neighbourhood.
Also the wonderful Helia Phoenix, a wonderful creative force with a name that sounds like sunshine, came to see us and she honoured me with an entry on the We Are Cardiff blog. It had to happen like that!
Thank you all so much for making the second Lia’s Kitchen outing a success.
I look forward to more.
Spring is here! I am writing to you from one of our local cafés. Its wide French doors are open to an outdoor terrace. It’s still light and warm and a soft breeze just brought in scents of blossom (and something delicious cooking in a kitchen).
I have chosen to share with you the recipe for Tourlou, a mixed vegetable dish that tastes like spring and summer to me. A fridge chilled portion of it with some crumbled feta (surprise, surprise!) is just as nice to eat as straight after cooking or cooled to room temperature. But I’d prefer the chilled version today because it makes me think of Vourvourou, my friend Maria and resting in the shade in her company sipping a chilled beer (sigh!).
Back to cooking! Tourlou is an easy recipe and great for using a medley of vegetable. It can be a light evening dinner on its own or served with rice, a delicious side dish or alternative to salad, and a fantastic tapa or meze. And apparently Tourlou is the same as briam only it’s cooked on a hob- here’s something new for food geeks like me.
Serves 2 for main and more as a meze or side
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
1 pepper, chopped (optional)
1 carrot (optional)
200g ripe tomatoes, finely chopped or chopped in blender
1 can chopped tomatoes (400g mixed weight)
Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
Pepper (to taste)
Takes up to an hour
Wash all vegetable, peel the potatoes, and dice it all in five centimeter (large) chunks.
Sauté the onion and a pinch of salt in about two Tbsp olive oil for a couple of minutes.
Add one or two more Tbsp olive oil, the vegetable, toss and fry for about five minutes.
Add the garlic, let it fry for a minute without burning and add the tomatoes.
Add the sugar and also season with salt and pepper.
Stir well and cover.
Lower the heat and simmer for forty minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
Add the chopped parsley at the end or half way through the cooking.
- For a good Tourlou do not to stir during simmering to avoid breaking the vegetable as it softens.
- The tomatoes should have enough juice for all the vegetable to cook but halfway through cooking check if you need to add a couple of Tbsp of water to make sure the potatoes cook.
- Replace potatoes with other root vegetable such as parsnip if you like.
- I prefer cooking Tourlou with more aubergine and one courgette.
- Use any vegetable you like. Okra is fantastic in tourlou but might take a bit longer to cook.
- For Briam use the same ingredients, add a little bit of water and cover a baking tray with foil. Slow cook for about an hour in the oven.