Welsh cuisine flourishes at Festival of Food

Stepping into the Festival of Food, I was met with a concoction of exotic aromas reminiscent of  international cuisine at Camden Market. Surrounded by a string of stalls selling freshly-made food, my breakfast of Coco Pops suddenly seemed so inadequate.

My passion for Welsh food saw me make a beeline for Wigmore’s Bakery. They offer a variety of traditional and contemporary bread loaves, ranging from the Traditional White and the Granary Burst to the Sweet Pepper and Basil and the Cheese and Onion. Based in Monmouth, the bakery recently celebrated its 110th anniversary, and picked up the Welsh True Taste Award for Best Bread and Baker in Wales to celebrate. Looking to the future, husband and wife Richard and Louise plan to sell their products at Wally’s Delicatessen and Riverside Market.

Richard shows off his buns

Using Welsh local produce to produce authentic Indian dishes were Samosa Co, a brand made by Pontyclun-based Sims Foods Ltd. This family business boasts the first and only purpose-built samosa factory in Wales. They recognise the value of using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, and their suppliers include Swansea-based wholesalers, Bako, and P&P Freshly Prepared Veg Ltd., Tredegar. Their curried leek and potato range shows the potential for authentic spices to compliment staple Welsh ingredients. 

Tee Sandhu has samosas to smile about

Also placing a special focus on Welsh food was La Crêperie de Sophie, professional French crêpe makers based in Llantwit Major. In between tending to crêpes sizzling away on two purpose-built griddles, Brittany-born founder Loic says, “It is very unusual for a French man to be living in Wales and married to a Welsh woman,” describing his specialty food as “a mixture of French and Welsh cuisine.”

Crêpes are cooked freshly as the drooling customer looks on

As I take some pictures of Loic pouring fresh batter mix onto a griddle he reveals, “We started off doing one farmer’s market with only two of these griddles, and now we do 12 markets and other food events.” When asked which savoury pancake he would recommend, he is sure of his answer: “ham and cheese.” For those with a sweet-tooth, however, I’d be tempted to opt for the Caramel Breton or a traditional Welsh cake.

Luic stops for a snap between cooking crêpes

Noticing Falafel Wales handing out free food, I hot-foot it to their stall in the style of Heather Trott (Eastenders). “We are simply the best in falafel,” Essam claims as he hands me a generous chunk of his specialty dish. It tastes absolutely delicious, and I can see why Essam is so confident about his falafel. I will never look at my beloved Cauldron Foods variety in the same way again.

Essam is proud to represent Falafel Wales 

From his takeaway shop in Canton, Essam also produces fresh houmous (or ‘hummus’) as well as Middle Eastern pastries known as fatayers. His customers enjoy his Baba Ghanouj, a dish containing roast aubergine, and Kushari, an Egyptian dish containing rice, lentils, pasta, fresh tomato sauce, garlic and fried onion.

After getting all flustered over the falafels, I needed to calm down and Cafe Atma had just the remedy for me. Run by the friendly Hare Krishna group, the cafe is situatued on Crwys Road in Roath, Cardiff , and specialies in vegetarian and vegan goodies. 

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Visiting Cafe Atma helped me chill out after the food frenzy

Handing me a slice of delicious banana cake, the stall-owner introduces herself to me as Delyth, but also tells me that her Sanskrit name is Dhyanamrta, meaning ‘nectar of meditation’. On the topic of relaxation, she explains that the cafe also features a Soul Centre providing yoga classes and mantra meditation. Barely able to reply through mouthfuls of what can only be described as the best banana bread I have ever tasted, I eye up the other treats on offer – from indian fudge cookies to incense, there was something for everyone.

 The Festival of Food took place yesterday in Cardiff Student’s Union as part of the university’s Refresh your Diet day, which forms part of Refresher’s Week (January 31- February 4). Other events throughout the week include Refresh your Health and Wellbeing, offering Indian head massage and reflexology to name just a few activities, and Refresh your Creativity, aimed at encouraging students to unleash their imagination through writing, music or dance. For full event listings visit www.cardiffstudents.com or join the ‘Refresher’s Week 2011’ group on Facebook.

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