TRADITIONAL WELSH FOOD -
BWYD CYMREIG TRADDODIADOL
MODERN WELSH COOKING -
COGINIO CYMREIG CYFOES
18th Century Wynnstay and……
Chef Gareth Johns’ Scrumptious Shanks of Lamb
By Ken Thorne, Ninnau Food
Braised Lamb Shank With Minted Demi-Glace, Garnished With Par Boiled Leek Rounds!
Food Prep and Photo: Ken Thorne.
Machynlleth for real Welsh experiences – both spiritually and gastronomically!
The town fills your heart with Welsh pride – Owain Glyndwr’s coronation as
King of Wales occurred here in 1404 becoming his capital and seat of government.
This year the town plans to celebrate with several 600th Year Anniversary
events. The bounty, gastronomically speaking, is the fruits of labor of
award-winning Chef Gareth Johns who plies his trade at the restored 1780
Wynnstay Hotel. Endowed with almost an
played a major role in Welsh history starting with the iron-age settlements
through the Roman occupation to the times of Owain. Later centuries saw
prosperity from the wool trade progressing to the recent economy of tourism and
visiting Machynlleth, its Welsh history and culture affect me with such deep
feelings. Certainly, a very real sense of pride pervades. The creation of
momentous Welsh dreams originated here with Owain’s uprising! Today visit his
parliament building for a renewed sense of drama. For me, emotion reverberates
and the hiraeth - sense of longing never dims!
Wynnstay, a former coaching inn is an
historic Georgian hotel located in the center of Machynlleth. Sheila and Charles
Dark have invested considerable money and effort in its careful restoration. A
successful project, they retained the hotel’s rusticity and enhanced present
day guest comfort. The inn built on the site of a medieval building, has
retained the old cellars and cleverly incorporated them into its foundation.
Wynnstay represents one of the many 17th, 18th and early
19th century buildings on historic
hotel’s sparkling white Georgian façade, its bold sign - The Wynnstay,
the prominently placed Welsh flag featuring its Red Dragon captivate the
traveler. Moreover, this is only the beginning! Enter to discover a traditional
open-hearth fireplace, always well stoked, giving warmth and welcome to guests.
Approaching the main bar, one finds its rustic interior immediately appealing.
Meet some of the friendly locals and hear the latest gossip of the day. It is in
the style of a cozy well-to-do farmhouse of the period yet it also has the
distinctive features of an old Welsh pub. Admire the rich patina of the old
woods so prevalent on the floors, walls and rafters. Were the Wynnstay to have
existed, Owain Glyndwr and his entourage surely would have been regulars,
eagerly perhaps reaching for their mugs hanging from the rafters as they arrive
for an evening of companionship and strategizing!
dark rich wood theme continues in the dining room. The room, adorned with leaded
windows is bright and inviting. The cloth-covered tables are nicely spaced and
conversations are at a pleasant level. The ground floor also features two quiet
lounges with comfortable upholstered furniture. In George Borrow’s time
(1854), they might have been called parlors – this description, ring a bell?
in his book Wild Wales (pub.1862), Borrow refers to Wynnstay “as
the principal inn” in Machynlleth. He also wrote, “Machynlleth (sic)…. is
a thoroughly Welsh town” and “….the inhabitants speak the ancient
British language, Welsh (sic) with particular purity.” These observations are
still true today.
At dinner, seeing some of Chef Gareth’s well-known entrees on the menu, I asked if some tasting portion sizes might be available. Gareth is famous for several dishes, particularly his Radnor Rump of Lamb or any lamb dish including Lamb Shanks - on the lunch menu on the day of my visit. That night, Chef’s Peppered Duck Breast, Leg Lamb Steak, Medallions of Welsh Black Beef and Crusader Salmon were available – I tried sample portions of all four! Full flavored and perfectly cooked, they met all expectations. Wynnstay has a fine selection of wines, beers and ales. I choose an Italian red for the evening; owners, Sheila and Charles Dark have a great deal of expertise in these wines.
After dinner, it was a quiet time to download, edit my photos for the day
and finish some notes. To end the evening, I chose to enjoy a nightcap in the
bar. As earlier, I found groups of locals and travelers, most were drinking beer
from imperial measure pint glasses and mugs – full 20 oz! Conversation was
lively in both Welsh and English.
a spot with a little privacy, I was looking forward to a chat with Chef Johns
after the kitchen closed for the evening. Gareth, even after a long day in the
kitchen, was eager to talk. Gareth was born into a family devoted to
is the most enthusiastic person, but more so when discussing the Welsh food or
the art of Welsh cooking through the ages. Welsh speaking, he reads and collects
old Welsh manuscripts and cookbooks. Asked for a book suggestion, he said,
“For foodies, I would recommend The Great Dishes of the World by Robert
is a leading authority on the history and development of Welsh culinary arts. He
travels widely in
he explained, “In this relatively small country, we have such product
diversity from the sea, rivers and geographically different farms – both hill
and lowland. All can be available at the peak of their freshness. With improved
culinary skills now present at most good restaurants, it’s no wonder people
are flocking to
discussing lamb shanks, Gareth said, “They have become very popular as a
restaurant entrée in recent years on both sides of the
Mwynhewch Eich Garrau Oen – Enjoy Your Lamb Shanks!
Contact Ken Thorne: Email - WelshFoodie@aol.com.
Copyright © 2002/3/4 by Ken Thorne.
Wynnstay Website: www.wynnstay-hotel.com
LAMB SHANKS –GARRAU OEN WEDI’I FRWYSIO
Head Chef Gareth Johns, The Wynnstay, Machynlleth, Powys, Wales
ea Welsh Lamb
Shanks - about ¾ to 1lb (350 to 450g) each
oil or Welsh butter
onion, large carrot, stick celery- all chopped
1 ea clove garlic, crushed.
tbsp plain flour (optional)
and pepper to taste.
cup dry red wine
cup lamb stock to cover,
chicken stock also works well
sprig each of thyme and rosemary
a suitable ovenproof pan, melt the butter/ heat the oil and brown the shanks.
Remove. In the same pan, brown the vegetables and flour, replacing the shanks on
top. Season lightly, and add wine, stock and herbs (stock should come halfway up
shanks). Cook in a moderate oven 375° F /190° C /gas mark 5 until tender –
about 1 to 11/2 hrs. Remove lamb and keep warm. Skim fat from gravy, remove
herbs, and liquidize or pass through a sieve. Reduce to required consistency if
not using flour, season and pour over lamb. Gareth says Hyfryd! (Very Good!)
a cooked, diced beetroot to the gravy while reducing.
Substitute a Welsh cider for the red wine.
Replace the flour with 2 oz. red lentils, do not puree veg., and serve whole in the gravy.
a small leek, cut in rounds for use as garnish and in gravy.
freshly chopped mint to the gravy at the last minute for delicious mint taste.
Contact Ken Thorne: Email - WelshFoodie@aol.com.
Copyright © 2003/4 by Ken Thorne.