The best of regional food. This week: The Vale of Glamorgan, Wales
With the area’s warm climate, miles of pasture and beautiful coastline, you would expect the shops in the Vale of Glamorgan to teem with vegetables, beef, lamb and fresh fish. It is not that local people don’t care – they especially lament a lack of fishmongers that forces them to head to Cardiff’s market to stock up. And it is not a question of money. Judging by the property prices displayed in estate agents’ windows, the Vale is a popular and expensive not-quite suburb to the city.
But Tesco’s branch in the pretty market town of Cowbridge sells absolutely no local produce. It has apples from Brazil and Germany, mushrooms from Ireland and strawberries from Spain. Not one vegetable hails from Glamorgan, not even a leek, (although I have always doubted any true Welsh passion for eating leeks).
The local Spar shop is no better. None of the region’s famous lamb or beef can be found there.
But farm shops are flourishing, bringing a lively atmosphere to the former mining villages and towns. In Llantwit Major, near the coast, is Britain’s smallest, prettiest butcher’s shop. And among the food producers of Glamorgan is a gem: a fruit farm making ice cream with wild fig among its flavours.
Not unusually, there is little to report on this front. Tesco says its stores near Cardiff are shortly to stock more Welshsourced produce. At present its Cardiff stores, which are not in the Vale, stock Cadog milk and cauliflowers, leeks and daffodils from the Really Welsh Trading Company. Sainsbury’s sells “Taste the Difference” smoothies and juices made by The Serious Food Company, sausage rolls and savoury pastries made by Peter’s and cakes from Memory Lane. Morrisons stores in Llanishen and Grangetown (Cardiff), Neath and Caephilly stock sticky toffee, strawberry and triple-chocolate ice cream from Thayers in Cwmbran.
Neither Waitrose nor Asda has shops in the region but both have a reasonably good record supplying south Welsh Stores with Welsh produce. Waitrose has a store in Abergavenny and Asda’s store in Swansea sells quite a wide range, including Parson’s cockles, mussels and laver bread, Tan y Castell Welshcakes, Barry’s confectionary and Adwell Welsh Brew tea bags.
Farms, farm shops and farmers’ markets
Farmers’ markets are held in the Vale of Glamorgan every Saturday, in the following venues: 1st Sat – Cowbridge; 3rd Sat – Penarth; 4th Sat - St Fagans, near Cardiff; 5th Sat – Barry. For more information, call 01446 774036 or see www.valefarmersmarkets.co.uk. Tytanglwyst Farm, Pyle, Bridgend (07968 565 881; www.tytanglwystdairy.com) Rhys Lougher and his family milk 80 pedigree Holsteins at his dairy farm near Bridgend. Realising the dairy business was in trouble, he invested heavily in a pasteurisation plant for the farm. Now it produces half a million bottles of milk a year and distributes to the doorstep, schools, hotels, restaurants and shops. Slade Farm Organics, Southerndown (01656 880048) From their beautiful farm overlooking the dramatic coast at Southerndown, Peter and Rosamund Davies produce organic lamb, beef and Gloucester Old Spot pork. They sell their slow-grown meat locally and encourage farm-gate sales (but do telephone beforehand). They also supply organic lamb to Waitrose stores. Pencoed Farmers & Growers, Felindre, Pencoed (01656 861956) John Roberts and Yvonne Leslie run a vegetable-box scheme from their 34-acre smallholding on the edge of the Vale. From May until December they serve more than 100 customers weekly with everything from strawberries, spinach and lettuce to cut flowers. The pair also sell their wares at the Riverside farmers’ market in Cardiff. Cocoa & Co, Veritys Court, Cowbridge (01446 775729) That a small market town can sustain a small specialist chocolate shop is heartening and Cocoa & Co is often heaving with people. Mary Roberts sources nationally and internationally and sells Fairtrade chocolate. She also sells a range of coffee and locally produced ice cream. Ty-Talgarth Organics, Nantymoel (01656 840436) Nantymoel is the most unlikely place for a farm shop. This former mining village is fairly dour and depressed, but drive to the top and there’s a delight waiting for meat lovers. The butchery is adjacent to the 2,000 acres that Jonathan Pugh farms. The shop operates a box scheme and will deliver free within a 20-mile radius. It has a pedigree herd of Welsh Black cattle, cures its own bacon and
rears its own lambs. The Fruit Garden, Groesfaen Road, Peterston-superEly (01446 760358) Lucy George and her parents run the Fruit Garden, which was originally a fruit farm, and have diversified into ice cream (contact for stockists) and pick-your-own (June and July). An all-yearround farm shop opened on Thursday. It promises to stock produce from local farmers and growers as well as its own wild fig ice cream.
Strawberry Fields, 6b Penny Lane, Shopping Precinct, Cowbridge (01446 772675) Paul and his son Joel Preece run this fruit and vegetable shop, which sells local goose, duck and chicken eggs as well as Gower cauliflowers, local plants and shrubs. In the summer, the soft fruit is locally produced. This is a nice old-fashioned greengrocer with lots of fresh, loose produce and virtually no packaging. Farthings at Home, 31 High Street, Cowbridge (01446 773545) A well stocked delicatessen in the middle of the town, with a good range of Welsh cheeses and cakes, Continental oils and charcuterie. It also makes bread on the premises. Alan Young Family Butcher, Church Street Llantwit Major (01446 792356) A tiny butcher’s shop that sells local meats to a loyal and passionate following. It specialises in Welsh lamb, beef and organic Oakland chicken.
Cooking with Glamorgan produce
Make an unusual braise using Welsh lamb, finished with leeks and cockles from the Gower Peninsula. The cockles contribute a little of their saltiness, but must only be added in the last moments of cooking. You will be surprised how well this works — fish and meat often get on well together.
Brown 8-12 pieces of lamb chump or neck in dripping and add two sliced onions and two finely chopped sticks of celery. Cover with lamb stock (which is made by stewing bones with water, carrot and onion) and simmer for 1½-2 hours.
Ten minutes before serving, add one very finely sliced leek and two handfuls of live cockles in their shells.
Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes, then serve with parsley thrown over the top and plenty of bread.
Live cockles are only sporadically available from fishmongers, but you can buy them online from www.martinsseafresh.co.uk.
Spot-on: Rosamund Davies of Slade Farm Organics with a young Gloucester Old Spot; chocolates at Cocoa & Co (above); and Welsh cheeses at Farthings deli (above right)