How do I love north Wales? Let me count the ways …
Especially Aberdaron. And, yes, I’ve written about it before. Once or twice.
That endless sea, bound by a long bay that keeps it from being melancholy.
Swallows’ nests in the cliffs.
Seals that I’m certain pop out only when I’m not looking.
Memories of the poet-priest, RS Thomas, lingering in the wind-lashed chapel – and living in books on sale in the Post Office.
I love it for the peace that a visitor like me finds there, knowing I can’t go any further unless it’s by boat.
And taking that boat to Bardsey, to commune with its countless saints.
Oh, yes, I love Aberdaron.
So why did a post from Elladee on her needs-must, creative response to a kitchen equipment failure inspire me to write this post?
Well, we’ve had plenty of good things to eat in the village.
Lobster halves and gurnard goujons from the chippy.
Delicious, ever-reliable (in our experience) meals at the Ship Hotel.
Family enterprises, both.
If you’re self-catering, though, and imagine you’ll find a greengrocer and butcher, you’re going to be disappointed. The village food shops are not – last time we were there, anyway – a gourmet’s dream.
But the bakery’s always been worth a visit (their cakes are far too appetising).
And the bigger convenience shop in the village sells good quality meat and a decent range of fresh vegetables. Which is (ahem) convenient.
Because when we stay there, to keep costs down, we mostly cook for ourselves and try to buy our ingredients from the local shops. And that can require ingenuity. A needs-must approach.
On the penultimate night on one of our stays we felt the urge to eat Welsh lamb. The shop had chops. We bought four tiny ones. Each not more, really, than a chunky mouthful of meat and a slick of tasty lamb fat.
Yes, fat. I know, it’s bad for you.
But lamb fat tastes so good when it’s browned and sticky. Just nibble a teeny-weeny bit and you won’t go to hell for it, honest.
When I was little, as well as sneaking titbits of lamb fat, I used to stick my little finger into the lamb leg bone when no-one was looking and scoop out a morsel of marrow – mmm!
Anyway. So far so good. We had lamb. Now, what to eat with it?
We had a bag of couscous. That sounded like a good combination.
The shop had red onions and I bought two, plus a huge bunch of parsley and one of mint. It had tinned ratatouille, tinned chick peas, tinned peaches in juice – I bought one of each.
We’d brought ground coriander, hot smoked paprika and cinnamon with us.
It was quick to make and really delicious – I say this with an element of surprise as some of the things I make up on the hoof are interesting but not experiences I’d wish to repeat.
A year later the handwritten list of ingredients is one of the most food-stained recipes in my ring binder – I heartily recommend it. (It’s a casual recipe – interpret as you see fit.)
Aberdaron couscous serves 2
4 lamb chops
1 tin ratatouille
1 small tin chick peas or half a 400 g one
2 small-ish red onions either halved and sliced or chopped
Ground cinnamon, coriander, hot smoked paprika – or sweet smoked paprika & Tabasco
Chopped parsley (not essential)
Couscous (portion size up to you)
1 small tin of sliced peaches or halved apricots in juice
Small amount of chopped mint (not essential)
Fry the lamb chops for a minute or two either side to brown them then put the onions back in the pan, or stir them back into the mainstream, depending on what you did with them.
Add the ratatouille.
Add the drained and rinsed chick peas.
Add the seasonings, to taste (I use a teaspoon of coriander, half a teaspoon of hot smoked paprika, half a teaspoon of cinnamon and sometimes a bit of Tabasco too). If you feel it’s necessary (I do) add boiling hot water to thin it out.
Cover the pan and simmer.
While the lamb cooks make up the couscous according to the instructions on the packet of the variety you buy. Chop some peach or apricot and a little fresh mint and stir into the couscous before you serve it.
Stir as much chopped parsley as you fancy (or none – it’s optional) into the lamb mix after about fifteen minutes, cook two or three minutes longer and then serve.
Thanks to Elladee for reminding me that the joy (mostly) of cooking is a great thing to share.