Culinary Causerie

with Lesley Williams  

Culinary Causerie

WINTER2015A.CulinaryCauserieLesley-PopUppic

Supper Club

Social media does have its benefits as I discovered last month when I was contacted via Twitter and told about a pop-up restaurant hosting a supper club in Moruzzi & Co’s Coffee Shop in Neath. Chef Andy Addis Fuller had designed a Welsh wild harvest supper using local produce from land and sea.

Andrew has been a chef for 22 years and in this time has worked in Michelin starred restaurants such as Llangoed Hall in the Wye Valley and Laguiole in France. Since 2004 he has run his own company Fuller Flavour which is involved in food consultancy, product development and the training of chefs. He also produces products for the caterers including pates, pies and terrines and has recently developed the production of artisan air-dried meats.

Pop-up restaurants aka supper clubs have been on the increase since their inception in the early 2000s. They are a great opportunity for chefs who don’t have their own restaurant to showcase their skills without the commitment of full time premises.

Andy had gathered a team of chefs together to create a menu that was really exceptional. Canapés included charcuterie meats that had been cured by Andy, smoked salmon toasts, tiny fish cakes and croquettes. The danger was that I would devour too many of these tasty morsels that I wouldn’t have room for the follow-ing five courses.

The ballotine of chicken and lobster with black truffle was a culinary triumph. The oohs and ahhs could be clearly heard from the surrounding tables and conversation ceased. It’s only when you taste a sauce or gravy that has been made by the long process of roasting bones, then simmering them for hours that you realise just how worthwhile it is.

See where Tatiana Bento gives instructions for a basic brown bone stock for her take on French onion soup.

The lobster, we were told was caught off Oxwich Point. The chicken encased a succulent portion of lobster meat – not a marriage I would have thought made in heaven, but it simply was.

Pan fried scallops with butternut squash and bacon sounded pretty ordinary but proved to be anything but. The Carmarthenshire bacon elevated this dish to another level with its salty, savouriness being the perfect foil for the creamy scallops and tiny flourish of butternut squash puree.

Known as ‘poor man’s asparagus’ salsify is not a vegetable that is often seen on restaurant menus but here is was served with wild Welsh venison. I’ve tried to buy salsify locally to no avail – it is available to order, but I’m not sure I could eat 5kg. I will have to have a go at growing it next year as it has a very distinctive and yet subtle taste. I was a little apprehensive about trying the venison as in the past it has been a little on the dry side, but not on this occasion.

Tender chunks of savoury meat were served with a chou farci of duck – cabbage leaves stuffed with minced duck and the most precise potato terrine I have ever come across. Hat’s off to the kitchen hand who prepped the potatoes for this – they must have had a very sharp knife or mandolin and infinite patience.

The cider washed Caerphilly with quince jelly was my last course – I simply couldn’t eat another morsel so the dessert of apples and hedgerow fruits passed me by.

This autumnal feast was just one of the events that Andy has put on this year, and I’m anticipating something special in the spring.

WASABI

JAPANESE CUISINE IN THE HEART OF UPLANDS

Hallowe’en in Uplands was a little like stepping onto the set of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video that had been gate-crashed by the cast of the Wizard of Oz. Fighting my way through the ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night I crossed the road from Noah’s Yard with the Tin Man and swept into Wasabi on my broomstick. Well even a witch has to eat.

Japanese cuisine was influenced by the Chinese in 300 BC – they introduced chopsticks, tofu – a type of soya bean curd, soy sauce and most importantly they taught them how to cultivate rice. A Western influence came in the mid-16th century when Portuguese explorers brought with them the use of batter or tempura.

I had been to Wasabi a couple of times in the past, but on those occasions the menus had been in other people’s mitts and I hadn’t been able to order for myself. Tonight was to be different – I’d get to choose my favourites. If Japanese food is new to you there is always helpful staff on hand to guide you through the menu – the bento box option is good if you just want to get a feel for the food and are happy to take pot-luck.

Soft-shell crab is the term used for crabs that have recently moulted their shells and are still soft. Here they were coated in a crisp tempura batter and served with a soy based dipping sauce – you’d hardly know you were eating crab as there was no distinctly crabby flavour, just a slightly fishy crispiness. Tuna sashimi is simply prime cuts of the fish served raw – the secret is in its freshness. Add to this a little shredded white radish and a spoonful of fiery wasabi and there you have it. My warlock companion hadn’t experienced the heat of wasabi before and before I was able to advise caution, had spread a generous dollop onto his tuna – the ensuing coughing and spluttering shouldn’t have been funny – but that’s witches humour for you.

Archaeological evidence shows that the Japanese have been eating wasabi since 14,000 BC. It’s part of the brassica family which includes horseradish and mustard. In fact as wasabi is the most expensive of all vegetables – about £10 for 40g at the time of going to press – horseradish and mustard with a bit of green food colouring is often used as a cheap alternative.

I kept with my seafood theme and continued with a huge bowl of thick Udon noodles with seafood. It was crammed with scallops, mussels, prawns, squid and vegetables in a light broth. Fortunately it was accompanied by a large spoon as my chopstick prowess leaves a great deal to be desired. The warlock who had fully recovered tucked into a big bowl of meaty Ton Katsu Don – a pork fillet served on rice with a dinky pot of miso soup.

Wasabi is pretty informal and an ideal place for those that want an oriental meal without resorting to the ubiquitous chow mein from the take-away – in fact they also do takeaway.

Wasabi, 49 Uplands Crescent, Swansea SA2 0NP  Tel: 01792 464999

All Articles