The Menai Bridge Seafood Festival came and went in squalls of rain, blustery showers and a head of hair that stood on end stiff with salt off the straits – that or too much conditioner and mousse. Following a lovely lunch with Huw on a flying visit; ( well Huw was lovely the lunch was ok) after he left and the sun peeked through, we decided to venture with Tess. I have to say that the Food Fair was not as good as last year’s: the layout was more cramped, it was hard to find a litter bin and some charities were so far around the corner of St George’s Pier that they were practically in the water! They might as well have been – they were soaked and chilled with precious little shelter.
For a seafood festival there were surprisingly few seafood stalls – well one, serving Fritto Misto, Smoked Salmon, mackerel in a bun, with sides of aioli, lemon mayo, samphire and salad. Other places (the pub), sold pots of shrimp or prawn or cockles. The cockles were delicious served with vinegar and white pepper – a taste of home or at least a taste of Swansea Market.
The main fish tent was awash with lemons, tabasco, hot sauce, seaweed, oysters, mussels, crab and lobster and the smell of oysters being deep fried. I was tempted but the thought of cracking open a lobster, without the necessary cutlery was daunting; as were the logistics of carting 4lb of crustacean, a sheep dog & some carrier bags to the car a mile or so away. But the tent was small and we shuffled like supplicants ever closer to the altar of dressed crab at the head of the tent, then shoved and pushed our way past yet more lobster where one waved a claw. ‘Lobster Killer’, my daughter muttered. ‘Murderer, Murderer.’ she whined – parodying her favourite cooking movie, Julie and Julia. And the moment was lost. I suddenly didn’t feel like a lobster salad. So, yes, a slight food obsession which culminated in a culinary disaster yesterday.
In pursuit of small ribs which were unavailable in the organic shop – they also had a cooking stand at the seafood festival; I ended up buying lamb shanks for a recipe I had seen on TV. Cooked in wine,rosemary, thyme, garlic,balsamic vinegar,chorizo and an extra dollop of paprika, the TV presenter assured the camera with a huge smile that, ‘The oven does all the work’. She lied! Because it doesn’t do the washing up! Neither did it drain the sauce into a pot to reduce. Neither did it fish out the carrots to serve with the food.
Equally (perhaps it was because I had splashed out on organic produce), the shanks did not ‘cook down’ as much as they seemed to on television. So when we were faced with essentially giant, steroidal drumsticks, that were propped by mash on a plate, in a sauce so rich it could have been deposited in a bank, our appetites disappeared and I have to say the taste of the lamb did not live up to the pleasure of preparation. Moreover it was billed as an ‘Autumn Dish’ and as I plated up the sun began to shine. It was simply too much meat, too rich a sauce, too much faffing. It was just too much.
My friend Nan said, ages ago, that she only ever uses Delia recipes. And I have to say, I have never had a cooking disaster with Ms Smith. She taught me how to cook Moussaka, Boeuf Bourguignon, lasagne and how to time backwards in preparation for sunday lunch – invaluable for when my inlaws visited.
Then I wondered what is it with food rituals? Chopping dicing mincing mixing are soothing especially when confronted with an array of colours and I think this meal was more about the idea of something Spanish. It was about the idea of holidays, of get-togethers, it was more about having something exotic on a plate. About a different flavour. But, it just didn’t work and as we cut into the meat I had that sinking feeling which accompanies the words’Epic Fail!’
I now think it is time to donate my cookery books to Oxfam – all four boxes – and resurrect Delia and stick to egg and chips.