The Welsh might be well known for their singing talents, but it seems they’re also the best cooks, if the result of NFYFC’s national cookery finals is anything to go by.
All the winners in the national final hailed from Welsh counties with Brecknock and Carmarthenshire taking the first place positions and Pembrokeshire placing second over all.
The competition, which was held at the Malvern Autumn Show and is supported by ADM, required teams to cook a meal for two people, using local produce, for a day at the races. They were only allowed one hour to create their feasts and with only the assistance of a camping stove!
Brecknock’s were named overall winners after impressing the judges’ chefs Ben Axford, Hettie Ziegler Jones and Simon Penson from ADM. The judges all agreed the team were “on point with everything they did,” including their communication, cleanliness, and speed.
The team, made up of Isobel Hood, Megan White and Alys, also picked up the award for Best Presentation.
Their meal included canapes of ham wrapped in a seaweed cheese from Wales, with a beetroot chutney and rocket, followed by a trout with garlic mushrooms and homemade dill mustard, and a main of venison on a bed of black pudding and red cabbage, with crispy parsnips and mini parsnip balls with a blackberry coulis.
“We met up to three times a week cooking altogether and did a few bits on our own with our helpers. It’s taken a lot to get here and a lot of practising,” said Isobel Hood.
I think this competition is important because it helps younger members learn how to do cookery skills. It’s a life skill, and they need to know how to do it. This way it makes it fun as well as competitive. It gives us another skill to learn and they can take that with them for the rest of their lives. I do more cooking at home now, and with going off to university, I have had to cook a lot more.
It was their intricate dessert that astonished the judges and earned the Best Presentation as the apple design was made using tempered chocolate and filled with apple and salted caramel. Alys who made the apple, also won the Best Presentation last year for a tempered chocolate teacup design.
“The winners produced a dish that would have been worthy of a fine dining restaurant let alone a day at the races,” said chef Ben Axford. “They did some incredible tempering of chocolate again, which they did the previous year, but this time they took it up a notch – a tempered chocolate apple, filled with toffee and they used goats’ cheese in the filling as well to kind of balance that sweetness. So, some really interesting concepts that they brought into their dishes.”
It was a cheese pate that tickled the judges’ tastebuds the most – securing a Best Dish of the Day win for Carmarthenshire. The winning cheese dish was made by Sion using two different cheeses and displayed in the shape of a horse shoe.
“There’s a spicy cheese and an extra mild cheddar cheese, with some chopped celery and apple inside, and black onion seeds and walnuts on top,” said Sion. “We were really shocked and happy when I heard I had won.”
The team also incorporated local produce into their dishes, including Welsh cheese and ham local to Carmarthenshire. But it wasn’t just the food that caught the judges eye, as the team also won the Best Display for their cube, which was decorated with an original horse racing painting, and dishes were displayed on hurdles made of steel.
“We made hurdles out of steel so we could elevate the dishes and we also put the main dish on a long dish so it looked like a running course,” said Sioned Bowen who helped with the original painting which was created by their club leader.
The Cookery competition was supported by ADM and Simon Penson, Technical Director at ADM Milling, was a guest judge. He said:
“This is the first time I have come to an event like this and been involved in the judging. I have been blown away by the quality of the dishes that have been produced, by the teamwork and just the enthusiasm of the young people involved.”
The Cookery competition is held at the Malvern Autumn Show by kind permission of the Three Counties Agricultural Society.