Politician Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas will be serving up a treasured old family recipe at a St David’s Day celebration at a Welsh centre of excellence.
The former Plaid Cymru leader is joining forces with Dai Chef at Bodnant Welsh Food Centre on March 1 to mark the feast day of Wales’ patron saint.
The peer and Assembly Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd admits he loves to cook for his family after learning kitchen basics when he was a student.
Diners will be served cawl taid made to his grandmother’s recipe from bacon and root vegetables, with Bodnant’s Aberwen cheese. It will be followed by lamb raised in nearby Llanwrst and stuffed with locally picked wild garlic, then a chocolate sculpture of Snowdonia, crafted by Dai.
The event will also feature Lord Elis-Thomas, who grew up in Llanrwst in the Conwy Valley, reminiscing about the area and its produce.
“When I was growing up I spent a lot of time with my aunts, and I learnt from them how important it was to eat up all the food they grew, the fresh produce from the land,” said Lord Elis-Thomas.
“So this is the origin of the soup, which was my grandmother’s recipe — it is based on the bacon from the pigs they reared and the root vegetables from their garden.
“I love it and the taste is so healthy,” added Lord Elis-Thomas.
Dai is an ambassador for Welsh food, and has cooked many times for Lord Elis-Thomas. He is looking forward to celebrating St David’s Day with the peer.
“This is a celebration of all things Welsh, from the soup through to the dessert. I am Welsh through and through and love promoting the great produce from Wales, and especially from here in the Conwy valley, on the edge of Snowdonia,” said Dai, who recently showcased Welsh produce in front of dozens of international chefs at a travel trade fair in Las Vegas.
“I am hoping that on the day we will have some readings and poetry as well. What a way to celebrate our patron saint, with Welsh produce and Welsh culture.”
Lord Elis-Thomas first began cooking while a student — though he admits to a few mistakes along the way.
“I recall one time cooking a chicken only to discover that the giblets were still inside. I quickly realised that wasn’t the way to do it!
“I started to read Elizabeth David’s cookery books and it went from there. I love cooking for the family and I have made sure that my children know to fend for themselves in the kitchen.
“The soup is one that I cook up now, and force-feed to my grandchildren! I tend to make a large batch and then it will last me a few days, kept in the fridge. It’s one of those handy things to have — though I am looking forward to tasting Dai’s version of it,” said the politician, who divides his time between his base in Cardiff while the Senedd is sitting, and the family cottage in Betws y Coed when he gets back to the constituency.
He added: “One of the great benefits of my job is that I have travelled to many areas of Europe, such as Catalonia, and while there been the regional government always ensures that you are served local dishes.
“So I’ve been able to sample many, many wonderful regional food — my aim is to ensure that Wales’ produce is up there with the best of European food.”
A former researcher and teacher in adult and higher education, Lord Elis-Thomas is Chancellor of Bangor University and President of Coleg Llandrillo. He is Vice-President of the National Trust Snowdonia Appeal which invests in sustainable farming and conservation in Snowdonia. He is active in the Church in Wales.
Dai, who lives in Colwyn Bay, famously cooked for Pavarotti when the opera star returned to perform at the International Eisteddfod in 1995. A native of Aberystwyth, he has worked in some of the largest hotels in London’s West End and by the age of 21 he was the youngest chef saucier — in charge of the creation of delicious sauces — at the world famous Carlton Club in St James’s.
He trained the likes of Rhodri Williams, executive sous chef at Raymond Blanc’s legendary Oxfordshire eatery, Le Manoir aux Quat‘Saisons. In 2008 Dai was awarded an Honorary Fellowship at Glyndwr University in Wrexham,
The £6m Bodnant Welsh Food Centre at the converted Furnace Farm, Tal-y-cafn, in the Conwy valley, was formally opened by Prince Charles in July 2012 and has seen revenue rise to £2.4m, up 35% from £1.77m in the centre’s first year of trading. It also welcomed 243,000 visitors — up from 214,000 (13.5%) on the previous year.
More than 80 people are employed in the farm shop, wine cellar, tea rooms, Hayloft restaurant and farmhouse accommodation along with the Welsh Bee Centre, while more than 100 artisan food producers are represented at Bodnant.
More details at www.bodnant-welshfood.co.uk or call 01492 651100