Culinary Causerie with Lesley Williams
WHO ATE ALL THE PIESWho ate all the pies? We did. Not only pies but quiche and vegetarian rolls too, and we are not apologetic at all.
Higgidy pies sent us a big sample box and as the saying goes – if you make it they will come – and come they did. Sarla, Simon, Liz and her partner and me all came to try out these little triumphs of pastry gorgeousness. The USP for Higgidy founder Camilla Stephens is that although she is making pies on a huge scale, she still insists that every pie contains only the very best ingredients and is hand finished in her industrial kitchen in Shorham-by-Sea in West Sussex.
As regular readers will know, the BAY gannets love pastry, so we were in heaven as Camilla’s pastry is crisp and short, just as it should be. The spinach, feta and roasted pepper crustless quiche is perfect for those that are trying to cut back on the carbs, as it only has a pastry bottom. Not a soggy bottom either – it just gently supports the spinachy, cheesy, peppery, eggy filling enough to make it a quiche and not an omelette.
Liz was charged with trying the sweet potato, feta and pumpkin seed pie and when I could get her to put her fork down and speak to me, she declared it ‘melt in the mouth’. I was rather taken again with the pastry crust that had the addition of poppy seeds – that will be some-thing I will be pinching the next time I make a veggie pie.
It wasn’t all about the vegetarians though, oh no! The carnivores were happily devouring steak ragu and chicken and ham pies which contained huge pieces of meat and chicken – there is nothing more disappointing than a pie that only gives a hint of the most important part of the filling. There are only so many superlatives you can use for a pie but suffice to say there wasn’t a scrap left. Sarla is of course the pastry queen – not I hasten to add the queen of pastry making but pastry eating. Her palate is fine tuned to sorting out the puff from the short, and she
can discern an all butter ruff puff from any inferior product. She wore a very happy smile as she left the studio.
So, in summary Higgidy’s were given the thumbs up by all – perfect for the heartiest appetites, whether you are meat eating or not, something from the range is guaranteed to please. The packaging also deserves a special mention with its folksy illustrations, recipes and proper serving suggestions.
Available from the Waterfront Sainsbury’s
Urban Zen is a little oasis of tranquillity in the heart of the city. Whether you consider your body a temple and are looking for healthy, nutritious and above all flavourful food or simply want a really good pot of coffee, then look no further than the new vegan, wholefood cafe in Little Gam Street.
Urban Zen opened late last year in what had originally been a car showroom on the corner of Little Gam Street and Western Street. Parking is easy – I parked right outside but if you need more than an hour then the car park opposite the Grand Theatre is just across the road.
After all the rain we’ve had in the past couple of months, it was great to sit and allow the sunlight to flood in through the huge windows. I’m hoping that when the summer comes they will be able to slide the huge windows open and allow for a bit of al fresco dining.
The emphasis of the menu is on whole food, organic and locally sourced wherever possible. I was slightly taken aback to see ‘massaged’ kale advertised, however later, a quick look on the internet informed me that this is a perfectly acceptable process for turning tough chewy kale into a sweet and delicate salad vegetable.
In the kitchen you’ll find Helen Wilson who is a vegan cook. Helen and her team produce everything from scratch – even the vegan sausages in the full vegan breakfast which also has home-made smoky baked beans, mushrooms, scrambled tofu with spinach and seeds, sweet potato wedges, avocado and cherry tomatoes.
Liz Barry, our photojournalist is a vegetarian so she happily accompanied me on my foray into the world of veganism. Although I am a meat eater I have no problem in going meat-free, in fact I often opt for the V marked dishes on a menu. We both love avocados so the club seeded wrap with avocado, tomato and homemade hummus was an easy option along with a Green Goddess Zen Buddha Bowl of quinoa, avocado, kale and toasted mixed seeds with spiralized carrots, cucumber and spring onion in a balsamic vinegar vinaigrette topped with more hummus. I’m certain that Buddha didn’t get his physique by eating anything as healthy but hearty as this. Liz and I were defeated, but the leftovers were squirreled away for later. We could have chosen any number of hot dishes such as black bean burger or lentil and coconut curry or a big bowl of homemade vegetable soup which were being ordered by our fellow diners.
The atmosphere is one of relaxation and very informal dining; we shared a trestle table with a young mum and toddler who was tucking into her sweet potato chips, while a couple of workmen in high-viz jackets enjoyed cups of organic coffee and tea. It’s good value for money too; a large cafetiere of organic coffee for two is priced at just £2.50. Lunch for two came in under £16 and included enough in our doggy-bag for another meal!
Urban Zen isn’t just about the food – it’s also has a yoga studio and treatment room offering many different therapies. Owner Emily Cole, has travelled widely and returned to Swansea to set up her business, based on similar places in Sydney, Australia.
For more information on all that Urban Zen has to offer and opening hours, visit
Urban Zen Yoga Studio and Cafe 2 Little Gam Street, Swansea, SA1 3HY Tel: 01792 514439
Culinary Causerie with Sarla Langdon
EXOTIC RESOLUTIONSWe are already a month into the New Year and most of us have not just abandoned our resolutions but have also forgotten what they were. I had determined to myself that to combat the staleness of mind that inevitably accompanies the aging process, I would try out a new idea, and challenge my old assumptions as often as I could in every arena of my life.
The easiest arena in which to practise my new faith is the kitchen. I intended that every time I ate, the food would be from a different region of the world.
My intention was made very viable by a visit to the ethnic store Exotica in St Helen’s Rd. The unprepossessing exterior belied the delights within: I stepped in to a clamour of aromas and colours confident that here I would find months of unfamiliar foods to help me keep my resolution.
An adventure into exotic cuisines boils down to three sectors: Fresh fruit and vegetables; ready to eat packaged/frozen foods; and foods that serve as ingredients involved in creating an unfamiliar dish.
In the exuberant aisles of Exotica, all three sectors are lavishly supplied leading you into trying Far Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian and Middle Eastern foods. The most familiar shelves are the fruit and vegetable displays although you frequently spot something you have never eaten before. As a first step I bought some fresh tur-meric, a handful of long spindly beans and a yam-like tuber that I could identify and find recipes for on the internet at my leisure. Encouraged by this, I bought a small pack of rainbow hued Indian sweets, and a selection of savoury nibbles whose main ingredients appeared to be lentils.
From the freezer cabinets, I picked up some ‘borek’ described on the pack as a cheese pastry of Lebanese origin, and a selection of savoury flatbreads. I bought a tin of ‘patra’, an indecently delicious tiffin dish with full instructions on the label.
Chicken sausages and some cheese from the Middle East went into my basket as a first ever experiment.
I can safely assume that Exotica will keep me supplied with affordable opportunities to expand my culinary horizons and experiment with a staggering range of new foods.
The good news is that prices at Exotica are low in keeping with the strength of Sterling. I bought four tins of chickpeas for a pound, high quality coconut milk at the lowest prices available and my entire experimental shop was under £15.00—–just as an indicator of how inexpen-sive it is to liven up your culinary repertoire, and your life.
Exotica, 33 St Helen’s Road, Swansea SA1
I discovered Exotica some years ago, and it is my go to place for many staples such as rice and pulses which are infinitely cheaper than the supermarkets. Preserved lemons are a fraction of the price that I would pay in Waitrose – I haven’t found them in any other super-market, but it’s the fruit and veg bargains that make a trip there very worthwhile. On my last visit I bought 10 avacados for £1 – yes they were ripe but if mixed with lemon juice they freeze beautifully ready for guacamole – 10 satsumas and 8 plums for £1 each.