So I’m sitting around minding my own business a couple of weeks back when an email clatters into the mail box. It’s from Cynan: can I supply trenchers for a mediaeval feast for Gwyl Owain Glyndwr? My reputation for mediaeval bread must have gone before me. For a number years I supplied bread for an annual celebration of William Morgan (1545-1604) of Penmachno who first translated the bible into Welsh.
Cynan Jones is (amongst other things) proprietor of Yr Ardd Fadarch (The Mushroom Garden) which produces the fabulous shiitakes that inspired my mushroom focaccia:
But this time he was in his role of acting chief officer of Partneriaeth Ogwen a local regeneration organisation who were organising the event.
Trenchers were basically plates made of bread. At Mediaeval feasts the food was served on trenchers, the juices soaked into the bread which were then passed on to the lesser guests, thrown to the dogs or given to the poor. A Trencher Man was someone who scoffed the lot himself.
A bit of research showed that trenchers weren’t individually or purpose made, they were simply slices of old bread. So the starting point was a loaf and we weren’t looking for authenticity beyond using ingredients that would have been available at the time and trying to produce something of the spirit of the age.
Cwrw Ogwen (Ogwen Beer), Bethesda’s first microbrewery, has only been around a matter of months but it provided the opportunity to make it a beer bread with local connections. As a representation of the coarser flour of the time I used a mix of strong bread flour, wholemeal and rye and the dough was stuffed with whole wheat grain soaked in the beer which was kindly supplied by Cwrw Ogwen.
They also wanted a bread to go with the opening soup course so I thought it had to be a total contrast to the heavy, chewy beer bread. I was thinking of an olive oil bread but, although olive oil would have been available to the rich, they used it for frying fish. When it came to enriched doughs butter and eggs were used. White flour was also there for the rich so I decided Owain Glyndwr was sufficiently generous a host to use not only the whitest of flours but also to flavour the dough with saffron.
As usual I end up with the runt:
I also ended up half a bottle of Carodog with which I made a beer batter and went on to fry a fantastic posh fish and chips – cod, squid and prawns from Pysgod Mark. – fresh fish, Friday nights, Bethesda Rugby Club.
Interesting things happening in Bethesda these days …