5 Foodie Minutes With … Joanna Morgan (Radnor Preserves)

Every now and then we are going to hang out with some of the cool foodie folk we get to work with or who we have bumped into along the way to find out a little bit more about what makes them tick, both on the ‘shop floor’ and in life more generally.

We call the series “5 Food Minutes with …

Six miles down the road from The High Street Delicatessen is the workplace of Joanna Morgan, the creative talent behind Radnor Preserves whose ‘local, Welsh and handpicked‘ preserves and marmalades have been on our shelves since the day we first opened. Joanna’s products have won enough awards to fill several mantlepieces and are popped into enough shopping baskets to fill even more tummies! From Pink Gin Marmalade to Welsh Cider and Leek Chutney, Roasted Beetroot and Horseradish Relish to Raspberry and Crushed Cardamom Preserve, these are tastes savour and relish.

We were delighted to catch up with our local Queen of Marmalade for ‘5 Foodie Minutes‘, though Joanna’s genuine desire to not miss anybody out of her roll of honour means this is probably a smidgen over 5 minutes!

 

Hi, who are you and what foodie mischief do you get up to in your day job?

Hello, my name is Joanna Morgan and I and my team make award-winning deli-cious marmalades, preserves and chutneys called Radnor Preserves. We’re particularly delighted at the moment as Olive Magazine has just chosen Radnor Preserves as one of the ‘Top 10 Finest Artisan Food Producers in Britain’ in their Best of British Issue – it’s very humbling and a great honour.

A while ago, when I lived in a cottage with no electricity, I had to become rather inventive as I had limited ways of storing food (no fridge, no freezer). I taught myself how to cook on an old Rayburn and soon started making preserves using a recipe book given to me by my grandfather. Simone de Beauvoir described the poetry in preserves, as capturing “life in jars” and it’s true, there is a wondrous alchemy to snaring the tastes of summer to savour in the depths of winter.   Soon I had built up a store cupboard of wonderful produce which I shared with family and friends.  Their friends started asking how they could buy my preserves which led to some trials at Farmers’ Markets and Radnor Preserves was born.  The jars soon took over my house so I moved to a Food-Grade Unit in mid-Wales and shortly afterwards won Double Gold at the World Marmalade Awards in 2015.  Listings swiftly followed with major Food Halls in London, namely Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges (where I was called the Alchemist of Preservers) and Partridges, Fenwick in Newcastle, and our Giftboxes were sold last Christmas at Marks & Spencer’s Food Halls across the British Isles.  We will launch into Ocado next month and also at Caviar House at Heathrow Airport.

Our World Champion Marmalade – Smoky Campfire Marmalade – is designed to accompany sausages, nutroasts, barbecues or a full monty breakfast (Dan Lepard said at the Award ceremony that it would take the world by storm, and it has certainly appeared on the best menus across the globe).

When our Raspberry & Crushed Cardamom Preserve won again at the Great Taste Awards – the judges called it ‘Jam with Attitude‘ which we feel rather sums things up.

What inspires you?

I hate waste – when I was a student I designed an outfit made out of Evian bottles for a Rainforest Ball – and I particularly cannot understand food waste. I spent many school holidays with my grandparents who never lost the war discipline of creating delicious food out of very little; as a child, I also lived in Cyprus during the coup where our food was rationed … both of these experiences made a deep impression on me so I relish the fact that we can use practically all the fruit and vegetables in our products and throw very little away.

Where in the world do you get to hang out doing your foodie thing? Can you tell us a little of what is so special to you about ‘place’? 

We are based in mid-Wales – which is an extremely beautiful place to live.  I find the welsh landscape incredibly inspiring – it makes my heart sing. Many people associate Wales with Cardiff or Swansea, the coastline, or the mountains and hills of Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons, but here in mid-Wales you can drink in the landscape and your soul will never be thirsty.  It is also timeless.  The Radnor Preserves labels are based on an engraving of the Welsh Hills by the romantic landscape artist Henry Gastineau and the view is exactly the same now as when it was drawn 200 years ago.

Which food or drink producers should the foodie world know more about?

Wales is bursting with the most incredible food producers, whose passion, skill and sheer brilliance never cease to fill me with awe and I try to celebrate that by collaborating with the best (such as Halen Mon sea salt for our Smoky Campfire Marmalade, Penderyn Brecon Botanical Gin for Pink Gin Marmalade, Pembrokeshire Beach Food Co and Barti Ddu Rum for Bara Brith Marmalade and, most recently, Liz Knight of Forage Fine Foods for our new Strawberry & Rose El Hanout Preserve).

The High Street Delicatessen is brilliant at celebrating all this talent, and it is hard to separate my list from those at the heart of yours, based as we both are in the heart of Wales.

Here are some of my favourites {to be fair to Joanna, Mr Deli may have forgotten to mention he was looking for 3 recommendations … so there’s the odd bonus in this list and you can catch up with Radnor Preserves at your nearest food festival to hear more tips}:

The Christmas before last, friends and I were discussing the gap in the non-alcoholic market and that if I wasn’t so busy making marmalade, I would definitely be inventing a new drink.  Not long after, I was introduced to Seedlip.  I’m a tiny bit jealous that I didn’t create it, but am full of massive admiration for Ben Branson.  It is the perfect sophisticated grown-up non-alcoholic drink, a clever aromatic blend of distilled bitter botanicals.  There are two varieties; in summer I prefer the 108, which is named after the number of days it takes from pea seed to pea harvest and is totally delicious with a splash of tonic water, a good squeeze of lime, mint and lots of ice.  It has really stunning graphics and that to me is very important in a brand.

I recently started drinking coffee again and fell in love not only with Coaltown Coffee  Black Gold blend, but their story and desire to bring a new form of black gold to a former mining community in South Wales (Whitechapel Coffee Company from London also got an honourable mention in the coffees to note).

A friend introduced me to Mariage Freres tea (Sakura) an incredible Cherry Blossom Tea and it immediately went on my Christmas wish list.  It makes you feel you have died and gone to heaven and I adore it.  I also love the smokily decadent Meert Shanghai Lapsang Souchong Crocodile Tea, a taste which transports you to faraway lands.

Unencumbered by Mr Deli’s usual numerical boundaries, Joanna also wholeheartedly recommended the preservative-free Kite Wholefoods Free Range Egg Mayonnaise from Wales; Shirgar Welsh Salted Butter (as the Great Taste Award judges said “butter doesn’t taste any better than this”); seasonal Cornish Yarg wrapped in damson leaves from Lynher Dairy and tangy, creamy Papillon Roquefort add a cheese course to Joanna’s other delights, to be eaten – no doubt – with walnut and rye loaf from the Hedonist Bakery from Ross-on-Wye.

Where was your last holiday … any ‘hidden gem’ recommendations?

I rarely take any time off so a special memory for me is a long weekend last year with my family in Portugal eating at Dos Passos, a restaurant dramatically built on stilts on the Ancão Beach in the Ria Formosa Natural Park.  We had their house speciality, sea bass baked in a massive salt crust.  The baked fish is wheeled out in its entirety and the salt crust hacked off in front of you, total theatre against the backdrop of the sun setting over the ocean and the fish is so succulent and melting, just thinking about it transports me immediately back to the restaurant.

What is your favourite meal?

My mother’s roast beef and my father’s barbecues are the best.  However, for a celebration at home recently we had the most fabulous Moroccan lamb fillet with potatoes roasted in cumin and turmeric, followed by a Persian Love Cake strewn with cardamom, pistachio and rose petals … simply out of this world.

You have £30 in your wallet/purse and an open mind about supper – where do you head to locally and what do you buy?

Llanidloes Saturday Market … it’s important to support local shops and local producers.  I don’t just say that because I’m a small producer myself, but I do genuinely believe that small shops need our custom.  A digital shopping revolution is taking place that makes it easy to ignore our local shops and miss out on amazing service, knowledge and freshness.   Llanidloes is a pretty market town in mid-Wales and I can buy everything I need here for the whole week for £30. First, into Great Oak Foods where – top of the list – is a wholemeal sourdough by local baker, Andy’s Bread (as a treat i might sneak in a Pain au Chocolat or Olive & Perl Las (creamy Welsh Blue cheese) Focaccia. I’ll also buy some pastured eggs  (for a simple omelette fines herbes) plus some delicious organic vegetables, whatever’s in season.  Then I’ll wander down to the Market Hall Butchers and buy a chicken which I’ll roast stuffed with lemons and thyme, and serve with a salad of warm puy lentils and ribbons of courgette and lemon zest.  The chicken will last all week, some of it might become a curry transformed by one of NONYA’S SECRET delicious sauces, and, saving the best for last, the carcass will end up being made into stock for extra flavour in a risotto ai funghi.  Further down the street, I’ll pick up some succulent sweet prawns or scallops from the brilliant fishmongers, The Fish Deli which will be pan-fried and served with some of the freshest asparagus grown on the Hawarden Estate (I’ve just returned from the Bank Holiday Producers’ Market at their farm shop) and The Bridge Lodge Wild Garlic Pesto – a vibrant glorious green.

Favourite food writer?

{This was THE most tricky bit of editing to do … Joanna is absolutely inspired by EVERYTHING … and fabulously, she even discovered and loved Thom Eagle’s book ‘First, Catch’ from our recent blog post and is finding new inspiration between its covers}

Ian Kelly’s visceral ‘Cooking For Kings‘ introduced me to Antonin Careme, the first celebrity chef, inventor of the meringue and the chef’s hat; his descriptions of towering displays of food that no one actually ate create amazing pictures in your head.

I always want to devour the food section of the FT Weekend Magazine (with columns by Rowley Leigh, Honey & Co and Tim Hayward). Felicity Cloake’s “How to …” column in the Guardian is always fascinating and a brilliant guide. Lindsey Bareham’s ‘Dinner Tonight’ piece in the Times was the source of a particularly proud moment when our Smoky Campfire Marmalade appeared in her Bonfire Night recipe, both in The Times and her book  ‘Dinner Tonight’.

Now we come into the section marked “and, finally“, in which Joanna lists another bunch of favourite writers to take her tally to a baker’s dozen!

Elizabeth David has to go on this list as her description of being in a French market evokes sunshine, chaos and the sheer wonder of being confronted by amazing sights and smells. Alice B Toklas makes me hoot with laughter, Dorothy Hartley whose book ‘Food in England‘ evokes “an old-fashioned kitchen, not impressive but a warm, friendly place, where one can come in at any time and have a chat with the cook”; I’ve also just enjoyed reading  ‘The Land Where Lemons Grow‘ by Helena Attlee.

My favourite books when I was teaching myself to cook were Ursula Ferrigno’s ‘Risotto‘ and its thirty delicious vegetarian risottos; I’ve used it so many times that I probably could cook them blindfold! Sarah Raven’s ‘Garden Cookbook‘ is so seasonal, garden and kitchen hand in glove and, finally (yep, actually, finally), Lindsey Bareham’s ‘A Celebration Of Soup‘.

Most comforting ‘comfort food’?

Apart from Toast and Marmalade, it has to be risotto.

 

Phew! Great use of ‘5’ minutes, Joanna, thank you. One of our local food heroes as well as being a recognised and respected food producer at a national level, there’s not doubt in our minds how much Joanna fits our ‘local, Welsh and handpicked‘ sourcing philosophy.