Tim Wynne reviews the Welsh Winners from the 2018 Great Taste Food Awards at St David’s Hotel
I’ve often thought about what it might take to eat my way around an entire country. Luckily for me the cabinet secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths AM, had the same idea. Also luckily for us, for convenience, she decided to make the best of Welsh Entries into the 2018 Great Taste Awards right at home in Cardiff Bay’s St David’s Hotel.
The event, hosted by broadcaster Nigel Barden, brought a massive 110 products for us to try and for those of you with a smaller appetite or much less free time, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourites.
Teifi Cheese is the one that had my own father the most envious. For years now, every Christmas he’s received this as a gift from work. The beautifully crafted table cheeses are a must for anyone who’s looking to take a dish a step further. If you’re indecisive on which one to choose, of their many varieties, The Celtic Promise is a firm favourite of both my Dad and my old housemate. Leah described it to me as being both “flavourful and lovely and mild at the same time.”
What better an accompaniment for the mild creaminess of an artisan cheese, than the incredible Pen-Y-Lan Preserve’s delicious Jalapeno Jam. Before anyone calls me out on the last one, no this vegan doesn’t eat dairy cheese. What he does do is smother Jalapeno Jam on a slab of bread already drowning in dairy-free cream cheese. I think everyone, by now, is partial to cheeky cheese and chutney for a cozy mid-week lunch. It’s having a resurgence, trust me. I think of it as a grown-up reminder of a childhood of strawberry jam and white bread. But do dare to dip a toe into the flame, a bit of Philly will turn the heat down a notch.
If anything’s to write home about, it’s Forte’s Mango Sorbet, to tell both of my parents they’ve been living two minutes away from frozen liquid gold. Not at the showcase on the day, but incredible none the less. Besides their three-star winning Mascarpone & Caramelised Fig Ice cream, this delicious fruity kick gives you something indulgent and intense without sacrificing the lightness you’d want from a sorbet. It also won a respectable two-stars, so this dairy free option is not to be scoffed at. Think palate stimulator, not palate cleanser.
Gwynedd’s The Coconut Kitchen also took home a star for their Sweet and Sour Stir-Fry Sauce. But if you’re anything like me you’ll be even more excited about their Pad Thai kit, not only completely vegan but quite literally taking all the effort out of a dish with so many components. As the simplicity of the kit implies, add your fish, meat or tofu alongside some veg to complete. I bought this in a moment of nostalgia for my friend Anna. Whom I shared my first ever Pad Thai with in Bangor, of all places. So I’m lead to believe that contrary to common knowledge, Gwynedd may just be the best place for a Pad Thai without getting on a plane.
Unsurprising, for anyone living here, is how world focused the best of Welsh food really is. While some of it thrives on centuries of using the same lamb, muscles picked on the same shores, some of it really is about looking forward too – and that’s the bit I’m most excited about everyone getting to see. The Great Taste Awards is ground-breaking in their continued efforts to highlight this across the whole of the UK. For information on how you can get your hands on any of these products, greattasteawards.co.uk has links to everyone’s websites, so you can see all the other delicious things they have to offer.