Adam Rees samples the finest Welsh fayre, perfect for the festive season
BUY IT: From £23.32 for 16 bottles. Amazon (www.amazon.co.uk)
Source of nature Llanllyr Source Natural Mixers Spring water-based drinks and mixers. They seem to be everywhere at the moment. Llanllyr’s, Ceredigion spring water certainly adds something extra to this range of mixers proclaimed to be “the best on the planet”. Both the Tonic Water and Ginger Beer play their role superbly, with subtle flourishes of quinine and spice respectively, while the Lemonade has a fresh dexterity with the Sicilian lemons adding a late twist to the delicate fizz. The Fiery Ginger Beer is perhaps the biggest surprise, giving an instant and prolonged burst of heat. It’s delicious on its own but it could potentially overpower the high market cocktails it’s aimed at. Whether they live up to their world-beater tag is for you to decide, but Source is certainly as good as the much-lauded Fever Tree range.
BUY IT: From 99p each. The Coconut Kitchen (www.thecoconutkitchen.co.uk)
Crisps n’ dry Banana Joe chips Joining the countless other fruit and veg that are vying to challenge potatoes as the chip of choice, Banana Joe’s come in a range of flavours with plenty of nutritional benefits for diet conscious snackers. Though the Hickory BBQ and Thai Sweet Chilli varieties have an abundance of flavour, the key ingredient sadly does not make the best crisp. With a very stale texture, rather like a regular crisp left in a bowl overnight, these exotic packs are quite disappointing, with even the expected banana taste failing to come through convincingly. Interestingly the simpler Sea Salt option is the strongest, albeit working best with a dollop of calorific dip. Though adequately filling there are more satisfying healthy mid-afternoon snacks out there.
BUY IT: From £3.80. The Coconut Kitchen (www.thecoconutkitchen.co.uk)
Thai fighting fit The Coconut Kitchen Pad Thai Kit From its home in Abersoch on the Llŷn Peninsula, The Coconut Kitchen has won a host of awards for its range of Thai sauces, pastes and creamy coconut milk – helping you achieve the same results as the restaurant in your kitchen at home. And now they’ve made it easier still but combining them into these handy kits which include a detailed recipe and instructions for making South East Asian favourite Pad Thai. The chunky rice noodles and toasted peanuts both pass the test, while the Pad Thai sauce, which you can buy in a separate 250mg bottle, is the crucial component. It has a delicate chilli kick, with a fruity flavour that’s imperative to the sweet and sour appeal. With minimal preparation and cooking time, this kit is a winner for a delicious homemade success.
BUY IT: From £1.95 for 20 bags. Welsh Brew Tea (www.welshbrewtea.co.uk)
When hot can be cool Murroughs Welsh Brew Infusions Having gone from strength to strength over the past decade with their traditional tea, the Swansea family-run Welsh Brew dip their toes into the realm of flavoured teas. The Peppermint, Green, Lemon & Ginger and Mixed Berries flavours of the Infusion collection all hit the mark, with the perky Peppermint and deep, refreshing Green Tea the stand outs. The Welsh take on English Earl Grey packs a clout that wouldn’t be out of place during a Six Nations rivalry. However, it’s the Green Tea with Coconut that’s the real surprise. That unusual tropical flavour really adds a new dimension, bringing an exotic slice of sun to warm you on those cold Welsh winter nights.
BUY IT: From £6.79. Fat Dragon (fatdragoncoffee.com)
Tough and scrummy coffee Fat Dragon Coffee Rugby has been an integral part of Welsh culture for over a century, but increasingly local coffee companies are also putting their stamp on our national identity. Set up by current Cardiff Blues front rowers Dillon Lewis and Brad Thyer, Fat Dragon Coffee is one of the latest to tackle the market. While they offer a classy selection of Nespresso capsules for your home machine, we tried out the well-received bean varieties in our cafetiere. The namesake house brand from South America has some hearty depth with a few sweet piques of toffee and fruit, while the Raging Dragon tames the bitter robusta tendencies with a much smoother taste while still offering a sturdy caffeine hit. Once they’ve hung up their boots these boys have got a hell of beast to fall back on. BUY IT: From £6.79. Fat Dragon (fatdragoncoffee.com)
BUY IT: From £16.32 for 12 bottles. The Drink Shop (www.thedrinkshop.com)
Comeback cola Lurvill’s Delight BotanicalSodas Originally set up by twins Harold and Iolo Lewis in the Rhondda 120 years ago and ended by a dock leaf shortage in 1910, the re-emergence of Lurvill’s Delight offers a wonderfully nostalgic success story. With just the right amount of fizz for a bit of zip, the Original’s blend of nettle, rhubarb and juniper has a wholly new yet familiar fruity twang akin to an adult version of cherryade. Touted as an alternative to ginger beer, the Lavender Spice contains a dizzying treat of fruits alongside the kick of ginger and horseradish, capped off by the sweet, fragrant lavender. On more familiar turf, the Union Cola has a mature, refreshing kola nut and apple taste with a lingering malty sensation that’s more welcoming than the likes of the popular Fentimans cola.
BUY IT: From £29. Celteg (www.celticwines.co.uk)
Striving for liqueur Blue Moon and Shipp’s Tipple liqueurs Based out of Henllan, Ceredigion, Celtic Country Wines have a wide roster that covers wines and fine honey mead, alongside zesty vinegars and preserves. So it’s no surprise to see these daring drink merchants extend their hand to luxury liqueurs. Not to be confused with the vodka-based cocktail of the same name, the Blue Moon combines gin and blueberries, while the exotic Shipp’s Tipple looks to the high seas of yesteryear bringing together passion fruit and rum. While the latter pairing make perfect bedfellows giving a titillating fragrant taste where the fruit takes centre stage, the same cannot be said for the Blue Moon. Despite being only 29% it packs a serrated thump, but with very little of either the gin or blueberry making a stand.
Meat free jollity The Vegan Survival Kit Christmas can be a tricky time for vegetarians or vegans, making these excellent kits from The Parsnipship more than worth their weight. No one will miss out on the gaiety as you tuck in alongside flimsy cracker hats and terrible jokes. Choosing a main centrepiece as well as four sides from an intriguing list of seven, we opted for the Wild Mushroom Nut Roast main that is full of distinct consistencies and savoury bite. Meanwhile the eye-catching festive Beetroot Bomb is packed with fresh aromas, the Moroccan Cashew & Walnut Roast offers a sweet and salty balance, and the sausage-inspired Glamorgan Crumble adds a gooey counterpoint. Oh, and let’s not forget the Tandoori and Lentil Chick Pea Mash-Up which is packed with fragrant spices. BUY IT: From £24. Discover Delicious (www.discoverdelicious.wales)
BUY IT: From £4.95-£13.50. Siwgr a Sbeis (www.siwgrasbeis.com)
Let them eat pud Luxury Christmas Pudding Siwgr a Sbeis has become one of the best producers of baked goods in Wales, with an embarrassment of awards they’ve acquired over 30 years to prove it. As you’d expect then, their Luxury Christmas Pudding has also picked up accolades. From the moment you unwrap it from its linen packaging it’s easy to see why. Ranging from 1/2lb to 2lb in weight, this moist and rich pudding is worthy of the praise. Whether steamed slowly or quickly microwaved the taste is just as good particularly with lashings of custard. With orange and lemon featuring strongly and the rum and brandy more subtle, this Christmas classic really has been given a modern lease of life.
BUY IT: From £17.50. www.discoverdelicious.wales
Sea salt in a spritz Pure Strong Brine Spray This is a novel idea that could well take over your kitchen in no time. Though seasoning is integral to the best tasting food, not everyone appreciates the intense crunch of coarse sea salt on their food. Instead family-run Halen Môn from Anglesey have come up with this Brine Spray to pep up everything from salads to bread and even deserts without any of the extra crunch. There’s still a concentrated taste and so it’s easy to add a wealth of pizzazz in just a quick spritz. All the company’s products are made using the fresh seawater on their shore and have been such a resounding success that they’ve been awarded Protection Designation of Origin status: so you know you’re getting the most authentic flavour from Halen Môn. halenmon.com
Welsh institution goes nuts Walnut & Ale Bara Brith We couldn’t leave out this Welsh favourite from our list of new products. Baked By Mel founder Mel Constantinou was handed down the distinctive recipe of this classic national loaf, and it’s proved so popular that her fares are now enjoyed far beyond her Llantwit Major home. With the ingredients given a generous soak, the local ale flavour powers through on each mouthful, while the walnut adds a flattering crunch. Above all though it’s the light loaf that’s so delightful. With a dab of butter and hot afternoon drink it’s just perfect. Mel’s take on the classic fruit loaf is second to none.
BUY IT: From £2.35. The Bottle Shop Cardiff (www.thebottleshops.co.uk)
Winter tipples Monty’s Ales Having acquired a range of awards throughout 2018, these Powys hop masters have carved a strong position amongst the avalanche of new, independent breweries flooding shops and pubs throughout the country. The Dark Secret is one of Monty’s premier beers, a gorgeous oatmeal stout with notes of coffee adding to the luxurious quality and as an extra bonus it’s gluten- free as well. The seasonal additions to the roster are the distinct Ding Dong and Figgy Pud. The former contains champagne yeast which delivers a different kind of golden winter cordiality, while the fruity and spicy Christmas-inspired Figgy Pud does exactly what it says on the label, warming and filling you up with a hearty distinct flavour.
BUY IT: From £12.50 for three cartons. Discover Delicious (www.discoverdelicious.wales)
Are you crackers? Cradoc’s Crackers Coming from cheese-obsessed mother and daughter Allie and Ella, these quirky flavoured crackers add a completely new dimension to your after-dinner cheeseboard. They come in a variety of tangs that expand on their colourful vegetable range. Lovely pink Beetroot and Garlic, the exotic flavours of Miso & Wasabi seasoning and Szechuan Pepper, Fennel & Red Onion are all unique, giving your tongue multiple kicks even before you add a slice of creamy cheese on top. Our favourite was the more rounded Lemongrass, Coconut & Chilli, which, while still full of intensity has a far smoother blend of alchemy to complement the snappy texture. Head to Discover Delicious, suppliers of the best Welsh food and drink, for some great ideas on how to make some eye-catching and delicious Cradoc’s canapés using them.
BUY IT: From £3.99. Discover Delicious (www.discoverdelicious.wales)
Just the chocolate tonic Gin-Dulgence Dark Chocolate There’s no doubt that Haverfordwest-based Wicked Welsh Chocolate Company are this country’s Willy Wonkas. You don’t even need a golden ticket to do tours of their factory where they squash every conceivable flavour into their superb award-winning confections, (though luckily without the orange-faced slave labour and singing). Referring to their latest creation as ‘devilish’ is an understatement, with the deep, cocoa-heavy dark chocolate almost taking a backseat to the swirls of juniper that permeate without being overpowering. Though alcoholic confections are hardly new, those jumping aboard the ever-accelerating gin bandwagon need look no further for a better example of a sweet treat, striking the balance between surprising and smooth. A lot of dark chocolate is best eaten in small quantities, but this screams of its moreish superiority.