Wales is making a name for itself as a top-quality food and drink destination, with its array of Michelin-starred chefs, Great Taste Award winners and a variety of produce that’s considered so unique it’s been honoured by protected food status.
This means the food and drink scene in Wales is flourishing, and Welsh Government is keen for the industry to remain strong post-Covid-19 by setting out an ambitious vision around sustainability.
The past year has highlighted the challenges food and drink producers face in the UK, but it has also sparked a passion for shopping local as we’ve come to rely on our local butchers and greengrocers.
Living off the land is something we’ve done for centuries, but there is a bigger picture and things like environmental responsibility, sustainability, traceability and social justice really do matter.
Global research has found people are now craving a more sustainable way of living and want to eat better and drink better by knowing where their food comes from.
This is food and drink the Welsh way
In Wales, chefs have embraced this notion and more kitchens are adopting sustainable practices. The restaurant at Palé Hall, in Bala, Gwynedd, was awarded the new Michelin Green Star in January 2021 for its low-waste approach.
Head chef Gareth Stevenson explained: “Sustainability is really important to us, so we focus on local, seasonal and sustainable produce. For example, we use whole animals where possible, we have an orchard on site that provides all the apples for our chutneys, we grow things like salad vegetables, and the restaurant’s food miles are low as we use local butchers.
“All the electricity in the kitchen is also produced via an on-site hydro-electric generating plant and we have two fast-charging points for electric vehicles that are free of charge for people to use.”
Gareth was delighted that the restaurant was awarded a Green Star and believes that sustainability will continue to grow in kitchens in Wales and the rest of the UK.
He said: “I think in five to 10 years, people will look for the Green Star as then they know they are going to eat a nice meal and have a clear conscience about what they are eating.
“When you compare the quality of produce you are getting from a reliable source, so if meat, fish or vegetables have gone through the correct cycle and been nurtured, you can definitely taste the difference.”
Quality you can trust
So, what makes food and drink from Wales special?
“It’s the freshness and quality,” said Gareth. “In the grand scheme of things it’s still pretty local for people in England and the quality is outstanding. By buying food and drink from Wales you are sustaining and supporting a fantastic British industry. The feel-good factor of eating a meal produced on your doorstep is one of the greatest things.”
Indeed, if someone is seeking produce from Wales, look out for the UK GI (Geographical Indication) scheme logo. There are currently 16 Welsh products with GI status, which can claim the distinctive quality, authenticity and heritage of their natural place of origin. So try Halen Môn / Anglesey Sea Salt (PDO), Carmarthen Ham (PGI), Traditional Welsh Caerphilly (PGI), PGI Welsh Beef and PGI Welsh Lamb for a taste of Wales. Learn more about some of the unique food and drink products of Wales.
There are plenty of delicious Welsh recipes to try, from making your own Glamorgan sausages to grilling some mackerel with garlic bean puree and Welsh laverbread yoghurt. The mackerel can then be served with lightly steamed samphire or seasonal green vegetables. If you have a sweet tooth, try making some iconic Welsh cakes by cooking them on a bakestone or griddle as this is a common practice in Wales.
If you choose to cook some PGI Welsh Lamb, Gareth is on hand to offer his top tips for cooking this delicious meat.
He explained: “I would recommend getting a nice leg of Welsh lamb, then add some beautiful Pembrokeshire early potatoes, steam them and toss them in some butter before serving with some vegetables.
“I always tell people that there are three important things when you are cooking meat. Firstly, don’t let your pan be really hot when you are sealing off the lamb as this will damage the taste of the meat and it won’t be cooked evenly.
“Secondly, remember to season it really well and thirdly it’s important to rest your lamb. Then keep turning it so that the heat distributes evenly while resting.
“That will give you a little taste of what good quality produce tastes like, and hopefully encourage you to come to Wales and try some great food from our restaurants!”