It’s our friend Allan’s 50th birthday;
& to celebrate it in style he, along with wife Sue & son Barney, have come to Wales as they are hoping to move to the area in the next couple of years. We met Allan & Sue when they were here in February to be featured on the popular television series, ‘Escape to the Country’. We were asked to show them some ‘typical’ Welsh hospitality & explain what ‘fitting in’ to the local area had meant to us. Unfortunately, whilst serving up a batch of delicious Welsh cakes, cooked on the Rayburn’s griddle & complemented with home-made blackberry jam & clotted cream in front of a roaring fire on an inhospitably stormy day, we were all somewhat upstaged during filming by the unexpected arrival of the first-ever lamb to be born to our little flock (she was two weeks’ early but obviously not camera-shy!). Dubbed ‘Beeorchid’ as the show was recorded for BBC 2, we were all convinced the delicate little lamb would prove the star of the show when it was finally broadcast in June; but alas, it was deemed the weather was so bad that day, that we all ended up on the ‘cutting room’ floor. Nevertheless, we’ve discovered a wonderful new set of friends whom I sincerely hope will soon find a new home in the local area, so we can see them all the more frequently!
After finishing the morning chores with Tony in inexplicably foul mood (especially when one of our ‘hooligan’ goatlings decided to attempt to snaffle incarcerated Anthemis’s breakfast, & fell head-over-heels straight into her pen but by some miracle did not break her leg/neck/whatever), we released the goats to play in our sunny meadows before heading out to the picturesque seaside town of Cardigan for a bite to eat & to drop off a wee pressie for Allan’s momentous birthday. I did my usual dash round the local supermarket (generally only a monthly necessity as I grow the majority of our own food & recycle as much as possible) but managed to make Tony even more cross as I used the opportunity to purchase not only a bottle of champagne for Allan, but a few other essentials for us; such as a monster jar of Marmite which was located inexplicably in the Home Baking aisle rather than with Condiments & Sauces (why oh why??) – my muggy mouthfuls of breakfast toast just aren’t the same without it, & I’d almost run out (I’m sure Marmite accolytes everywhere can understand my plight).
But the light, leaping waves rolling across the blue bay of Cardigan’s cheerful sea as we drove to the clifftop hotel at Gwbert where our friends were staying could not fail to lift the spirits; & after dropping off the champagne & a suitable birthday card we indulged in a long G&T in the hotel bar before relaxing on the terrace with a tasty snack of Caws Wedi Pobi, aka Welsh Rarebit; & thickly-cut, golden sglodion (the Welsh word for piping hot, salt-&-vinegar-encrusted chips).
For those of you who have never come across it before, Welsh Rarebit is an essentially vegetarian dish which has absolutely nothing to do with rabbits – so here’s my home-cooked, yummy version of the recipe, which serves four as a starter, or two as a main course:
TRADITIONAL/VEGETARIAN/SNACK RECIPE: WELSH RAREBIT
half-lb strong, vintage Welsh Cadog cheddar, grated; 2 x tsp wholegrain mustard; 4 x tbsp fresh, creamy, unpasteurised goats’ milk; 4 x pieces thickly-sliced, homemade wholegrain bread spread with salted Welsh butter; 1 x tsp of the same butter, for the sauce; 2 x tsp Worcestershire sauce; salt & pepper, to taste; 2 x tsp plain flour; 2 x tbsp real ale (preferably Penlon Cottage Brewery’s excellent Ramnesia – but don’t be tempted to drink the rest of the bottle until you’ve finished cooking…!); & home-grown beefsteak tomato wedges, a fresh sprig of parsley & some hand-cooked sea-salted jacket crisps, to garnish.
After toasting the bread lightly & spreading it with your butter, heat the grated cheese gently in a saucepan until it melts. With the exception of the ale, stir in the other ingredients; then after a minute or so, add the ale to the sauce. Carefully pour the melted cheese sauce over the toast & place it under a medium-hot grill until it is golden brown, with the cheese bubbling nicely. Garnish with the tomato wedges & the parsley, with a generous handful of crisps on the side. What a tasty supper dish!
Our appetites thus satisfyingly sated, we dropped off the champagne & headed homewards. Tony finished building the dog’s new kennel whilst I took her for a walk; then we let her sample the delights of her new ‘des res’ whilst we knuckled down to the evening chores. As the sun blazed in pre-nocturnal glory over the Prescelli Mountains, I checked up on the four swallow chicks nesting in the stables of the Long Barn; the business of growing up is evidently hard work as they looked extremely solemn, but their chestnut bibs were clearly visible & they are now jostling for space in the little nest – I suspect it won’t be long before it is time to bid them a fond farewell, for another Winter. I’ll miss them. And I missed the blood-red lunar eclipse of tonight’s full moon; but that’s another story….