Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Kitchen Cabinet comes to Cardiff

The Kitchen Cabinet is a Radio 4 panel show about food presented by Jay Rayner. Each week, the programme travels round the country. Last night it was being recorded in Cardiff, at The Gate Arts & Community Centre. I went along to find out more about this popular radio show, which completes its fifth season with the Cardiff episode.

The four panel members for this programme were local representative Angela Gray, from the Cookery School at Llanerch vineyard in the Vale of Glamorgan; the Cambridge-based food writer Tim Hayward; the chef and cookery teacher Angela Malik; and Peter Barham, a food scientist from the University of Bristol.

The panel lined up on a stage set up for The Gate’s annual Christmas production of Aladdin, and this was very much the programme’s Christmas episode. Therefore, it was a bit of a missed opportunity to focus on Welsh food, although bara brith and the Welsh-Italian connection featured as key parts of the discussion.

On arriving, all audience members were asked to answer questions (e.g.,'What is your culinary Christmas wish?’) and write down a question for the panel. Recently, we ate Haggis Pizza at a St Andrew’s Night event at the Murchfield Community Hall in Dinas Powys. This inspired my question to the panel: ‘Is there a limit to what can be put on a pizza base?’ Among the other audience members who put questions to the panel was Cardiff’s Ed Gilbert (aka @gourmetgorro). Alternative Christmas meals, cocktails, and cooking with coca cola were among the topics raised.

The recording was efficient and audience involvement was central to the show. The contribution by Angela Gray and an Italian restaurant owner on Italian food in Wales was particularly interesting; Angela Malik proposed some intriguing Asian twists to traditional Christmas classics; Tim Hayward’s had useful tips on baking and the use of rhubarb in drinks; and Peter Barham provided scientific context and had to field the trickiest questions like ‘is there a cooking gene?’. No, is the resounding answer to that question, by the way.

To find out more, I recommend you tune in next Tuesday 17 December (3pm) or over the following week on the BBC website:

Jay Rayner is a genial host, who gets the panel to explain culinary terms so no audience member is left behind. It’s the inverse of the recent food panel show with experts displaying their erudite knowledge of obscure food items. I believe that ran for one series, whereas The Kitchen Panel could potentially have the longevity of a show it liberally borrows from – Gardeners’ Question Time.

I thank Dan Allsobrook (aka @eggynewydd) for taking this photo of me and Jay Rayner:

Monday, 2 December 2013

Morgan Arcade, Cardiff

Morgan Arcade was opened in 1896. It was originally known as the New Central Arcade. Today, it is owned by Helical Bar, who also own the Royal Arcade. This is one of Cardiff’s beautiful series of Victorian arcades, which are home to many independent local businesses.

Walking up The Hayes, from our previous walking tour destination the Royal Arcade, enter the first entrance to Morgan Arcade, between Moss Brothers and Moulton & Brown. On the left is a plaque with some history about David Morgan, after whom the arcade is named:

Further along on the left is Tabernacle Lane, which links the Royal and Morgan Arcades (collectively, the Morgan Quarter). By Capital second-hand bookstore, the three sections of Morgan Arcade join, with one pushing through to St Mary Street. At this junction:

The Plan
28-29 Morgan Arcade, Cardiff CF10 1AF (2039 8764)
The Plan Café Bar has been running in this prime Morgan Arcade location since 2002. The owner is David Nottingham (no relation). There are tables downstairs and upstairs and they serve breakfast and lunch, locally-made cakes, and the café is fully licensed. The Plan is particularly noted for its specialist coffees and, to a slightly lesser extent, teas. It has been listed among the ‘Top 50 Coffee shops in the UK’ in The Independent and in a similar Top 50 list in The Guardian. Head Barista Trevor Hyam, who started working at The Plan in 2007, writes a specialist blog on coffee called ‘The Bean Vagrant’; he came fourth in the 2010 UK Barista Championships; he experiments with brew methods using his Mahlkonig Tanzania grinder; and he sources craft-roasted traceable coffee beans. In other words, he knows his stuff. You can explore a range of single estate coffees on the specialist menu, with recent coffees on the menu coming from estates in Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Bolivia, Columbia and Costa Rica.

The stretch of the arcade along to St Mary Street has no food outlets, but there are many interesting shops, including Bang & Olufsen, (quality Danish sound systems – no MP3 players), Fountain Fine Arts (where you can buy affordable art by Welsh artists), an Oxfam clothes shop, the Camera Centre, and Neal’s Yard Remedies.

Entering the second arm of the Morgan Arcade that connects back to The Hayes, on the other side of The Plan, is Spillers Records (31 Morgan Arcade). Spillers Records was established in 1894 by Henry Spiller. The shop moved to its current location in 2010, from its previous location by the The Hayes entrance to Morgan Arcade.

Jam, Marmalade, Bread, Hot Chocolate, Cream, The Sweet, Meatloaf, Tangerine Dream. Now those were the days - when bands named themselves after food!

Next to Spillers:

33 Morgan Arcade CF10 1AF (2039 5007)
Crumbs is Cardiff’s oldest vegetarian restaurant. It was opened on 3 Dec 1970 by Judi Ashley, at a time when most people had not heard of brown rice.  Crumbs came under new ownership earlier this year. I believe the new owner is called Paul. It has been spruced up, with new tables and décor, and rebranded as Crumbs Vegetarian Kitchen and Coffee Shop, but the original ethos has been preserved. Large bowls of salad are still a main feature and servings are still generous, though possibly not as huge as in the olden days and prices have gone up. I had the large mixed standard salad bowl last week, which as before, comprised layers of different salads (six on this occasion) in a wooden bowl, with grated carrot, shredding cabbage, apple and brown rice. There was plenty of cheese on top, though the amount of brown rice was less than I remember. Crumbs also do breakfast, soups, jacket potatoes and other lunches, and have good bread. It is essentially the same healthy food as served since 1970: it was reassuring to know that Crumbs is still Crumbs. They do take-away. There are two small rooms upstairs, so Crumbs is bigger than it looks from the outside.