Thursday, 21 February 2013

We are the pigs - Recipe for Tatws Pum Munud

Martin Player Butchers, Cardiff. Back Bacon
Martin Player Butchers, Cardiff. Back Bacon

Sometimes a really simple recipe is what is needed. Don't get me wrong, mastering a complex dish, or a recipe in an unfamiliar cuisine is hugely satisfying, but there's something about the alchemy of taking 4 or so ingredients and conjuring something tasty and frugal that is joyful. Here is one of my favourite storecupboard recipes requiring just potatoes, onions, stock and bacon.

Finding great bacon isn't easy. Pop a supermarket rasher into a dry frying pan and you end up with a puddle of water which boils the meat rather than frying it (whether labelled as 'dry cure' or not). For great bacon, you might take advantage of your local farmers market, in Cardiff, Riverside Market is a good Sunday morning out. It should still be an economical purchase but being able to get a good caramelisation on the meat and a crisp rind makes all the difference.

Here in Cardiff we also have Martin Player Butchers in Whitchurch. This is a butcher where provenance is king. Every supplier is carefully chosen. Their bacon is amazingly good, a world away from even the 'finest' of the supermarket stuff and this recipe makes the best of it.

I got this recipe, shortly after moving to Cardiff, from my boyfriend's mother, the daughter of a farm labourer in Carmarthenshire where this was a traditional meal. I now understand that it was often eaten in winter when root vegetables and cured bacon might be what was available. It is called Tatws Pum Munud or Five Minute Potatoes, but as you will see, this is a bit of misnomer.

Tatws Pum Munud (Serves 2)
  • Potatoes - 4 medium, thinly sliced
  • Onions - 1 medium, thinly sliced
  • Back Bacon - 4 rashers, diced
  • Stock (whichever you fancy, I mainly use chicken) - about 300ml or so
Tatws Pum Munud, ready to cook
Tatws Pum Munud, ready to cook
  1. Fry the bacon well in a deep frying pan or chefs pan, let it 'catch' a little on the bottom of the pan
  2. Remove the bacon leaving the fat behind, then add the onions to soften for a few minutes
  3. Add the sliced potatoes and plenty of black pepper (no salt needed!) to the pan and mix through, then scatter the bacon over the top
  4. Add the stock so that it comes a centimetre or two below the bacon
  5. Simmer for about 25 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through and most of the liquid is gone
Bacon, potatoes and onions - ready to eat!
Bacon, potatoes and onions - ready to eat!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Cellar Funk - The Lansdowne Pub, Cardiff

The British pub is in decline, figures from The Campaign for Real Ale show that they are closing at a rate of 12 a week. Conversely other figures show that Real Ale is growing in popularity for the first time in 20 years, particularly in community pubs that focus on 'wet sales'. Here in Cardiff we have a prime example in 'new old pub', The Landsdowne.

Purchased 3 years ago by The Chameleon Group (The Meating Place, North Star, Vulcan Lounge et al), the upper floors have been converted into flats. The Chameleon Group has a track record of breathing new life into interesting and neglected buildings, and in a town that has a reputation for demolishing beautiful architecture and replacing it with steel and glass homogeneity (cf. St Davids 2, 97% of Cardiff Bay), this is to be valued.

Following public opposition to the original plans, the ground floor has been reopened as a rather marvellous pub by Spoon Cardiff Ltd, the directors of which include local councillor Cerys Furlong, and the team behind The Potted Pig Tom Furlong, Alexis Myring and Gwyn Myring.

The bar at The Lansdowne Cardiff
The bar at The Landsdowne complete with
cheery jugs of daffodils
I finally have a good pub within walking distance of my front door and I've made several visits to The Lansdowne since it reopened. It is testament to what can be done when free of the often choking hold of a brewery. Just as with Chapter on the other, posher side of Cowbridge Road East, the bar offers an interesting and changing line up of ales, lagers and ciders. 

On my last visit there was an ale from Okells brewery, one from Tomos Watkin, Cwrw Celt and Cwtch from Tiny Rebel micro brewery. Last weekend, having left it late to book somewhere for Sunday lunch, we decided to try the local. There are no reservations, no menus, no starters here. On Sundays the brief menu is augmented by a Sunday roast. By the time we arrived at 12.30 several extended family groups had already claimed the larger tables, so we found a small table in the back bar and ordered a Homemade Burger with Chips (£6) and the Rare Topside of Beef with Roasties, Yorkshire Puds, Proper Gravy, Cauliflower Cheese (£8.95) and beers.
The simple blackboard menu at The Lansdowne Cardiff
The simple blackboard menu
The food, for the most part, is simple home cooking. The Sunday Roast along with crispy roast potatoes, simply boiled carrots and cabbage and a decent gravy. Unfortunately the slice of beef was well done, rather than the advertised 'rare' and the cauliflower cheese strangely un-cheesy.
Sunday Roast with crispy potatoes at The Lansdowne Cardiff
Sunday Roast with crispy potatoes
The burger and chips was fine but unremarkable. The patty needed seasoning and the chips not homemade which was a shame. It was exactly what you expect when paying the austerity friendly sum of £6.
Burger and chips at The Lansdowne Cardiff
Burger and chips
If all of this sounds negative, let me clarify. The food is good value and consistent with the pricing but it is not the main reason people come here. It is a sideshow to the main event which is in the cellar not the kitchen. The impression I get is that The Lansdowne wants to be a pub not a restaurant and this makes me very happy. If you want a great meal go to The Potted Pig. If you want a great pint and maybe a quick, simple Welsh faggots and peas on the side, then this is the place for you. You won't be disappointed.

The Lansdowne
Lansdowne Road, Canton, Cardiff, CF5 1PU
02920 221312

Twitter: @thelansdownepub

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Breakfast in America - American Banana Granola Pancakes

At last it's February so January austerity can do one, and indulgent weekend breakfasts are back on the menu again. Last September we spent a couple of weeks travelling through Arizona, Nevada and California and if there's one thing Americans do well it's breakfast.

In San Francisco there was a lovely little place in North Beach, just round the corner from our hotel called Pat's Cafe where the eponymous, colourful Pat serves hearty breakfasts, brunches and lunches.

When we went I had the Banana Granola Pancakes, an order which was rewarded with an approving "Good choice ma'am". They were delicious served with real maple syrup and this is my attempt at recreating them. This is a great brunch recipe and is handy for using up fruit that is too ripe for eating, in fact overripe is best!

Banana Granola Pancakes
Giant American Breakfast Pancakes - in SF an
order would be 2 of these plus fruit salad!
Banana Granola Pancakes (makes 4 small or 2 large pancakes)
  • Plain flour - 135g
  • Butter - 25g, melted over a gentle heat before you start plus a little extra for greasing and serving
  • Egg - 1 large
  • Milk - 130ml
  • Caster suger - 1 tablespoon
  • Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
  • Sea salt - large pinch teaspoon
  • Banana - 1, very ripe bananas are best
  • Granola - 2 handfuls
  • Maple syrup
Pancake batter
Pancake batter
  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, mix the wet ingredients in a jug then combine, mixing until smooth. The batter benefits from resting, 20 minutes at least but you could make it the night before and leave covered in the fridge until needed.
  2. Heat a heavy based pan over a medium heat.
  3. Slice the banana thinly and add to the batter along with the granola
  4. Butter the pan lightly and evenly and once hot add spoonfuls of the mixture to the size of pancake you want.
  5. The pancake is ready to turn when you see lots of bubbles on the uncooked surface
  6. Flip the pancake and cook for a couple of minutes on the other side. You may need a little more butter.
  7. To serve, let a small knob of butter melt on the hot surface and pour over some maple syrup. The Americans would add icing sugar too!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Amor Amor - Bar 44 Penarth launches

Since confessing my love for sherry on this blog last year, this Cardiff food blogger was thrilled when a number of kindred spirits who have contacted me on Twitter. If you are one of those people, or if you just like good food and great drinks, then the second Bar 44 which opened it's doors in December will be of interest.
Classic Tio Pepe and Soberano brandy adverts
Classic Tio Pepe and Soberano brandy adverts

Owned and run by brothers Tom and Owen Morgan, Bar 44 Cowbridge was already a well regarded fixture on the food scene in South Wales, when the announcement came last year, that a second bar would be opening, this time in Penarth.
Bar 44 Penarth
Tom (Owner) and Tommy (Head Chef)
at the tapas bar Bar 44 Penarth

This has been a carefully managed expansion. Having built the business from the ground up, and defying expectations over the last 10 years, the brothers are working to ensure that the new offering maintains standards.

The new place bears the marks of their experience, and has a style distinct from the Cowbridge offering. Customers can take a seat at one of the tables or at the bar which runs alongside the open kitchen.

Their recent recruitment drive, adding to an experienced front of house team, resulted in the addition of 3 chefs, all of whom bring experience of fine dining and Michelin level cooking to the table. Only one of these chefs (Rita) had previous experience of Spanish food at this level. Tommy Heaney, the new Head Chef across both sites, has been able to add to an already extensive CV, by way of some time in London with Jose Pizarro. The famous chef just appeared in the bar one day 2 years ago (to Owen's utter amazement!) and has provided valuable advice along the way. The third chef, yet another Tom, is Head Chef for Penarth following 5 years as sous chef at J Sheeky and Scotts.

I was fortunate to be invited along to their launch party last Thursday, co-hosted with Gonzalez Byass and attended by the likes of James Sommerin and Stephen Terry. We had the opportunity to sample some of the tapas as canap├ęs including some amazing jamon croquetas (I have managed to extract a promise of a lesson in croquetas which I intend holding them to!)

I was so impressed that I ended up back there on Saturday, skipping my usual pre-theatre dinner in the Bay in favour of tapas y copas (tapas and drinks) in the bar. We worked our way through a tortilla, some prawn and chorizo croquetas, braised ox cheeks in oloroso with olive oil mash and a goats cheese and it was all excellent.

bar 44 Tapas del dia
Tapas del dia - croquetas essential!
Classic tortilla
Classic tortilla, the mainstay of any tapas bar
Balanchares Cordoba
Balanchares Cordoba - goats cheese with a green plum jelly

So what next for the Bar 44 team? For now making a success of the new venture, maintaining quality at Cowbridge, feeding and watering us well is the priority and long may it continue! ¡Salud!

Bar 44 Tapas Penarth on Urbanspoon
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