A Visit to Halen Môn Sea Salt PDO on Anglesey

A Visit to Halen Môn Sea Salt PDO on Anglesey – One cold but sunny morning, I set off to Anglesey, just an hour from where I live in North Wales, to visit Halen Môn Sea Salt Saltcote, for a private behind-the-scenes tour and a salt tasting experience. Today’s post is an overview of my visit with some associated recipes using this deliciously pure Anglesey sea salt. 

Anglesey Sea Salt Halen Mon

Anglesey Sea Salt, from Tide to Table…..

Welsh Leek and Chicken Casserole with Halen Mon Salt

“Add salt to taste” is one of the most used ingredients in a standard recipe, and is an essential seasoning in nearly all savoury (and some sweet) recipes; but, how often do we shop for salt as we would shop for meat, cheese, vegetables or any other recipe ingredients? True, there has been a recent trend towards “fancy” and “alternative” salts, such as Pink Himalayan Salt, Natural Rock Salt, Atlantic Sea Salt, Sea Salt Flakes and the famous Fleur de Sel from France, and that’s all to the good, as I have always thought that a good salt enhances any home-made recipe…….and I am a HUGE fan of British sea salt flakes, especially my local salt, Halen Môn Sea Salt PDO, from Anglesey. And there is good reason why this has always been my favourite salt, it has a very distinctive flavour, and the crystals are so pure and white, that they almost sparkle, which is a direct result of the way it is harvested and finished in their Saltcote, on the banks of the Menai Strait in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, next door to Anglesey Sea Zoo in Brynsiencyn.

Anglesey Sea Salt Halen Mon

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to have an early morning private tour to see the process of how this sparkling white salt is harvested and produced; production manager Ronan was there to show me around the plant and the trip was fascinating……as regular readers may remember, I have highlighted where our food comes from in past posts, and I am always incredibly interested to see how ingredients and produce that we use daily, some that we may take for granted, are made and processed before they land on our tables. Sea salt has been made on the island of Anglesey for centuries, indeed right up until the 18th century when it was discovered that makers were adding Cheshire rock salt to pure Anglesey seas salt, for which they were fined, and which halted salt making for a time; that is until Alison and David Lea-Wilson resurrected this age-old craft by combining traditional hand harvesting with brand new technology to produce the crunchy white flakes of Halen Môn, but unlike their predecessors, they don’t add anything, other than natural herbs, spices and flavourings in some of their special flavoured salts.

Anglesey Sea Salt Halen Mon

My trip took me around the whole hand-harvesting and processing plant, and I even had a chance to scoop some of the salt crystals out of the brine for a further filtering process. The behind-the-scenes tour also touches on the history of salt making on Anglesey, as well as how salt has been affected by culture, global events and local food production. At the end of the tour, you also have a chance to sit down and compare salts in a tutored blind salt tasting, which was not only interesting, but very illuminating just how each type of salt tastes so different, and the feeling that each salt leaves in your mouth afterwards. Plus, I loved hearing how Halen Môn Sea Salt was born, when in 1997, Alison and David left a pan of seawater to boil on their Aga, and as the salt crystals started to form, they knew they’d struck culinary gold. It’s now sold in some the UK’s best delicatessens, and in premium supermarkets such as Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and Harvey Nichols. And, their sea salt can be found in more than 22 countries across the globe as well as on the tables of some of the world’s top restaurants like The Fat Duck.

In 1997, we left a saucepan of seawater to boil on the Aga in our family kitchen agaand as the salt crystals started to form, we knew we’d struck culinary gold. In 1999, we started supplying Halen Môn Sea Salt to Swains, our local butchers in Menai Bridge on the Isle of Anglesey.

Image: Halen Môn Sea Salt

Anglesey Sea Salt Halen Mon

Before I share a couple of recipes with you, where one of the main ingredients is Halen Môn Sea Salt, I’d like to talk you through the process of how Halen Môn Sea Salt is made. 

Using pure charcoal-filtered seawater drawn from the Menai Strait around Anglesey, before the water even reaches the Salt Cote, it has already passed through two natural filters: a mussel bed and a sandbank.

• Once naturally filtered, the salt water is gently heated in a vacuum so it boils at a low temperature.

• Gradually, the water releases steam and turns into a very salty brine.

• When the concentration of the salt in the water is high enough, we release it into shallow crystallisation tanks and leave it there to allow the sea salt crystals to form.

• Once the crystals have formed, we then harvest the sea salt by hand. (This is where I scooped some of the crystals out of the tank)

• Finally, we rinse the flakes in brine until they shine.

Anglesey Sea Salt Halen Mon

How Halen Mon Salt is made

Image: Halen Môn Sea Salt

Anglesey Sea Salt Halen Mon

A simple procedure it may be, but it does take time, and temperature is crucial all the way through the filtration process. The process results in a very fine, pure white salt crystals that reflect the purity of the salt from tide to table; and due to these special properties, as well as the geographical area where Halen Môn Sea Salt is harvested and made, in 2014 Halen Môn Sea Salt was awarded Protected Designation of Origin Status (PDO) in recognition of the fact that the salt is made from the clean, clear seawater that surround the beautiful island of Anglesey in North Wales, and that every organically certified flake of their sea salt is harvested by hand, before they are rinsed to give them their characteristic, brilliant gem-like appearance, with a perfect balance of delicious minerals and not a hint of bitterness, which is one of the reasons I love to use this salt in all my cooking and baking.

Cawl

You can use Anglesey Sea Salt in all your cooking and baking as I do, as well as having it on the table for additional seasoning, but I’d like to share three lovely Welsh recipes with you before I leave, where the addition of Anglesey Sea Salt makes the dishes sing, preferably in Welsh! (By the way, to avoid confusion, the brand name is Halen Môn, which is the Welsh translation of “Anglesey Salt”, just in case you were puzzled) I hope you have enjoyed your quick virtual trip around Halen Môn in Anglesey, they also have a wonderful shop on site, which is stocked with all of their salts, as well as a fabulous range of artisan gifts, cookware, textiles and cards, with lots of items being made in Wales, and you can order from the shop online too. See you soon with another recipes and more traveller’s tales. Karen 

Anglesey Eggs

Anglesey Eggs (Ŵyau Ynys Môn)

Serves 4 to 6
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 50 minutes
Allergy

Egg, Milk, Wheat
Dietary

Vegetarian
Meal type

Breakfast, Lunch, Main Dish, Snack
Misc

Child Friendly, Serve Hot
Occasion

Casual Party, Christmas, Easter
Region British

By author

Karen Burns-Booth
This classic Welsh recipe of mashed potatoes with leeks & hard boiled eggs, is baked in a cheese sauce with a crisp crumb topping, and makes a thrifty and tasty midweek supper dish for all the family. (Please note, that the prep and cooking time is the time it took me to make this dish, and is a guideline only!)

Ingredients

  • 8 hard boiled eggs (shelled and quartered)
  • 1 large leek, or 2 small leeks (trimmed, finely diced and rinsed thoroughly)
  • 50g butter (cut into 2 x 25g pieces)
  • 1 kilo Co-Op Lilly mashing potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks (or mashing potatoes that are available)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 150g Caerphilly cheese (crumbled and separated into 2 portions)
  • black pepper to taste

Sauce

  • 25g butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 600ml milk
  • sea salt to taste (I used Halen Môn Anglesey Sea Salt)

Topping

  • 50g breadcrumbs

Note

This classic Welsh recipe of mashed potatoes with leeks & hard boiled eggs, is baked in a cheese sauce with a crisp crumb topping, and makes a thrifty and tasty midweek supper dish for all the family. NB: Can easily be halved to serve 2 people, using 4 eggs, the prep and cooking time will be slightly reduced too.

(Please note, that the prep and cooking time is the time that it took me to make this dish, and is to be used as a guideline only!)

Directions

Step 1 Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6. Grease a baking dish or tin with a little butter. Fry the leeks in 25g of butter over a medium heat until they are soft, about 5 minutes.
Step 2 Whilst the leeks are coking, boil the potatoes in salted boiling water for about 10 minutes, or until they are soft but still hold their shape; drain them and add the remaining 25g of butter and milk. Mash them with a masher or with a hand held whisk until smooth, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Step 3 Add the cooked leeks to the mashed potatoes and mix well. Spoon the mashed potato mixture into the prepared baking dish or tin and arrange the quartered hard boiled eggs on top of the mashed potatoes.
Step 4 Using the same pan that the leeks were cooked in, add the milk, flour and butter, and beat together over a medium heat with a wire whisk continuously until the sauce thickens and is smooth. Allow to simmer for a further 2 minutes. Add one portion (half) of the Caerphilly cheese, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for further minute stirring well. Pour the sauce over the mashed potatoes and eggs.
Step 5 Mix the remaining Caerphilly cheese with the breadcrumbs, and sprinkle over the mashed potatoes, eggs and cheese sauce. Bake in pre-heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and the dish is bubbling and golden brown.
Step 6 Serve immediately for brunch, lunch or supper.
Step 7 NB: Can easily be halved to serve 2 people, using 4 eggs, the prep and cooking time will be slightly reduced too.

Cawl

Welsh Cawl (Lamb & Vegetable Stew)

Serves 6 to 8 servings
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 2 hours, 15 minutes
Total time 2 hours, 45 minutes
Meal type

Lunch, Main Dish, Snack, Soup, Starter
Misc

Child Friendly, Serve Hot
Occasion

Casual Party, Christmas, Easter, Formal Party, Halloween, Thanksgiving
Region British

By author

Karen Burns-Booth
Welsh Cawl (Lamb & Vegetable Stew) – Cawl is often seen as being the national dish of Wales, my recipe is based on a traditional Welsh recipe for Cawl, but uses lamb steaks in place of a lamb joint.

Ingredients

  • 600g Welsh lamb steaks, diced (or lamb neck fillets)
  • 1 tablespoon flour (mixed with salt and pepper)
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 4 large potatoes, or 8 to 10 smaller potatoes, scrubbed and diced (no need to peel them)
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 swede, peeled and diced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 3 leeks, trimmed, sliced and rinsed thoroughly (greens and white)
  • sea salt and pepper to taste (I used Halen Môn Anglesey Sea Salt)
  • freshly chopped parsley (to garnish)
  • crusty bread (to serve)
  • Caerphilly cheese (to serve)

Note

Welsh Cawl (Lamb & Vegetable Stew) – Cawl is often seen as being the national dish of Wales, my recipe is based on a traditional Welsh recipe for Cawl, but uses lamb steaks in place of a lamb joint, as was commonly used in times gone by. A bowl of cawl is usually accompanied by crusty bread and Caerphilly cheese.

Directions

Step 1 Dredge the diced lamb in the seasoned flour, and in a large stockpot, heat the oil until hot; add the floured, diced lamb and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring all the time, until the lamb has a golden brown crust.
Step 2 Turn the heat down, add 2 litres of water, before adding the diced potatoes, carrots, swede and parsnips. Season to taste with salt and pepper, place a lid on the pot and simmer for 2 hours, or until the meat is tender and the vegetables are cooked. 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the chopped leeks, replace the lid and continue to cook.
Step 3 Check and adjust the seasoning, scatter the chopped fresh parsley over the cawl, then serve in warmed soup bowls, giving each person some meat, vegetables and the broth. Delicious with crusty bread and Caerphilly cheese.
Step 4 Better is made the day before serving; to serve, skim off any fat and reheat gently until piping hot. Serve as before.

Welsh Leek & Chicken Casserole with Baked Herb Dumplings

Welsh Leek & Chicken Casserole with Baked Herb Dumplings

Serves 4 to 6
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 1 hour, 10 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 30 minutes
Allergy

Wheat
Meal type

Lunch, Main Dish
Misc

Child Friendly, Serve Hot
Occasion

Casual Party, Easter, Formal Party, Halloween
Region British

By author

Karen Burns-Booth
Using locally sourced ingredients with provenance, this recipe is a real winter warmer, and would be perfect for any family supper to celebrate St David’s Day. Organic Welsh chicken is paired with locally grown Welsh leeks and shallots, which is cooked in a rich chicken stock before being finished with baked herb dumplings.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
  • 125g smoked lardons (or smoked streaky bacon cut into small pieces)
  • 4 shallots, peeled and diced
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 3 leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced (use the white and the green)
  • 450ml chicken stock
  • sea salt and pepper to taste (I used Halen Môn Anglesey Sea Salt)
  • chopped fresh parsley

Dumplings

  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbs (such as parsley, sage, thyme, majoram and rosemary) (or 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs)
  • sea salt and pepper to taste (I used Halen Môn Anglesey Sea Salt)
  • 110g shredded vegetable or beef suet
  • water, to mix

Note

Using locally sourced ingredients with provenance, this recipe is a real winter warmer, and would be perfect for any family supper to celebrate St David’s Day. Organic Welsh chicken is paired with locally grown Welsh leeks and shallots, which is cooked in a rich chicken stock before being finished with baked herb dumplings.

Directions

Step 1 In a large oven-proof shallow saute pan that has a lid, heat the oil and then add the lardons and shallots; fry over a gentle heat until the bacon fat is crisp and the shallots are soft. Push the bacon and shallots to one side, or remove, and add the chicken thighs, increase the heat and cook the chicken until it is a pale golden brown. Add the bacon and shallots back into the pan if removed, before adding the chopped leeks.
Step 2 Saute the leeks for 2 to 3 minutes and the add the chicken stock, season to taste with salt and pepper, cover with a lid and simmer over a low heat for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken and leeks are cooked.
Step 3 Whilst the chicken casserole is simmering, pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6 and make the dumplings; Mix the flour with the salt, pepper and herbs in a mixing bowl. Stir in the suet and then add water VERY carefully and slowly – mixing in between, until the dumpling dough is soft, but not sticky. Shape the dough into 8 round dumplings.
Step 4 Take the casserole off the hob, take the lid off, and drop the dumplings on top of the chicken and leeks, place the casserole dish in the pre-heated oven and bake for 20 minutes until the dumplings are well-risen , crusty and golden brown.
Step 5 Remove from the oven, scatter the fresh parsley over the casserole and serve straight away with steamed Blas Y Tir baby Welsh potatoes.

*Collaborative post with Halen Môn Sea Salt*

Anglesey Sea Salt Halen Mon Shop

Anglesey Sea Salt Halen Mon Shop

Anglesey Sea Salt Halen Mon

Welsh Rugs

Anglesey Sea Salt Halen Mon

Anglesey Sea Salt Halen Mon

 

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