* Rachel Simpson with new Smoked Pancetta product outside the farm shop.
A trout farm and smokehouse whose delicacies once tickled the taste buds of James Bond has lined up a legendary new treat for visitors to a top food festival.
Chirk Trout Farm Shop and Smokery, which has supplied smoked trout to the Orient Express among other prestigious establishments, will be unveiling its luxurious new smoked pancetta at the 2019 Llangollen Food Festival.
It will be the latest in a growing list of delicacies to have won the hearts of food lovers near and far – including iconic silver screen star Sir Roger Moore.
The late Bond actor, who became an international star after playing the secret agent a record-breaking seven times, once described Chirk Farm’s smoked trout as “the best he’d ever tasted” while tucking into lunch at a local restaurant.
Now the family-run farm is planning on inspiring a new legion of foodies at one of UK’s best-loved culinary extravaganzas.
The event, which has been named as one of the Top 10 food festivals in the UK, will be held at the international pavilion at Llangollen on Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20.
“It’s great to be returning to one of the loveliest food events in the country with a new product,” said former veterinary nurse Rachael Simpson, 40, who joined the firm run by the Simpson family after marrying her husband Richard, 44, who manages the smokery and trout farm.
“The smoked pancetta came about after an enquiry at a farmer’s market. The customer produced game pies and her supplier had stopped selling it. It’s not something we’ve done before but there was no reason why we couldn’t so we thought we’d give it a try.
“We probably started experimenting at the end of last year. Obviously, it takes a while to cure and turn the meat into smoked pancetta. It has to hang for six weeks in muslin cloth and we smoke it lightly to give it that extra flavour.
“Since the food testing results came back, we’ve trialled it at some of our establishments and it really seems to have taken off. We’re looking forward to bringing it to Llangollen.”
One of the longest-established trout farms in Wales, if not the whole of the UK, Chirk Trout Farm supplies a growing list of high-end restaurants, hotels and delicatessens. One of the restaurants it supplied, the award-winning Sebastians in Oswestry, has provided catering for the Orient Express and Chirk Farm’s smoked trout featured on the menu.
The firm uses traditional methods to smoke a variety of fish including trout, cod, eel and mackerel as well as poultry and game, garlic and even quail’s eggs. Smoked camembert cheese is another new product in the pipeline.
Unlike artificial methods using smoked flavouring, Chirk Trout Farm carefully prepares its meat and fish with seasoning before placing it in a smokebox over a fire fed by mainly oak chips from the valley in Glyn Ceiriog.
The warm, smoky air gently dries and preserves the food during a 24-48 hour process, with the exact time and results dependent on wind, temperature and sunshine.
One of its most successful contracts is with the Shropshire Cheese Company smoking its award-winning, creamy Abermwg cheese.
Its reputation for quality has grown rapidly and the farm now counts Gales of Llangollen, The Three Eagles in Llangollen, The Swan Inn at Pontfadog, The West Arms at Llanarmon and The Hand hotel in Llanarmon among its customers.
It was in 2003, while on tour and dining in The Hand hotel at Llanarmon, Sir Roger Moore discovered the region’s best-kept secret – Chirk’s smoked trout.
Such was his delight that he told staff it was the “best he had ever tasted”.
“There are not many people who don’t know who Sir Roger Moore is,” said Rachael, who has two daughters aged 12 and 14.
“The fact that 007 has actually tasted our food – and loved it - is really nice. It’s something we can always be proud of.”
The farm was bought by the Simpson family in 2000, originally for the purpose of trout farming. Two years later, a farm shop was built followed by the smokery the following year, which enabled the firm to develop a range of smoked products including trout, for sale in the shop and beyond.
“Fish farming is seasonal and trout farming in particular runs from March through until October,” said Rachael.
“We needed something to sustain us through the winter so we started the smokery and farm shop and started going along to all the food festivals and farmers’ markets.
“We’ve been coming to Llangollen for at least 12 to 13 years, if not longer. It’s an important part of the calendar and always helps to promote the farm shop. It’s a really good food festival.
“Business is always growing. We’ve picked up quite a few contracts from Llangollen. It’s all word of mouth.”
Over the years, the firm’s repertoire has expanded to include homemade meals including smoked salmon lasagne, fish pie, smoked salmon and trout quiche and the famous Chirk Trout Farm smoked trout sausages, which stock the shelves of the farm shop as well as being sold at food outlets across North Wales.
The farm has chosen Hamper Llangollen as a springboard for its new smoked pancetta and is eager to see the response.
“At the moment, because it’s a new product, we’re not sure how much to do, it’s still in its infancy,” said Rachael.
“The restaurants love it so it’s just gauging how much we actually need but it is a great product.
“Like all our products, it is freshly produced. There are no chemicals, it’s naturally made and you know exactly where it came from.
“The good thing about our pancetta, and all our products, is that they can be frozen. This is particularly helpful at Llangollen where lots of people are buying for Christmas.”
Llangollen Food Festival committee member Phil Davies is looking forward to tasting the new pancetta for the first time.
He said: “The festival is a great launchpad for new products because it is jam-packed with food lovers with discerning palates.
“Our aim is to provide a shop window for our growing army of artisan producers who are becoming an increasingly important part of the local economy.”