Buffet photos from July

Monday, September 24, 2007
This was a specially created asian inspired buffet menu:

1. Conft of duck tortilla wraps, baked new potatoes with homous and asparagus

2. Tortilla wraps with loin of lamb and coriander yogurt

3. Crispy filo spring rolls of spiced minced lamb and hoi sin sauce

4. Open sandwiches of chicken coronation


Wedding at Upper Court, Saturday 22 September

Specially requested main course of coq au vin (free-range organically reared chicken, Oakfield organic portobello mushrooms, Home farm Bredons Norton bacon) with dauphinoise potato, french beans and baby carrots

Coq au vin sauce

The free-range chicken for the coq au vin is taken off the bone before sealing and adding to the tray with onions, the portobello mushrooms, fresh thyme and a couple of bottles of red wine . The bones are then roasted and made into stock - boiling for 6 hours. This is reduced, then seived and the bones put back into the pan, covered with water (refreshed) and boiled for a second time - so you are maximising the flavour. When the chicken is cooked this is seprated and chilled. Later the two stocks are added to the sauce which is then adjusted for flavour & seasoning, a drop of port added and it is thickened.


Fondant potatoes

How to make Fondant potatoes

"How do you make those amazing potatoes?" everyone keeps asking, "What's the recipe?" so this is how I make them (call it a recipe if you will):

How to cut fondant potatoes
Peeled or not peeled? If you're doing these at home, and you have relatively small potatoes you could leave the skin on. For cosmetic appearances, I cut them with a cutter as shown below. There is a link on the left sidebar to a great set of cutters ideal for fondant potatoes!
If you leave the skin on the potatoes while you cut you can make chunky oven bake chips with the trimmings as shown below. If you peel them before cutting you can use the trimmings to make mashed potato, which can be used fresh or frozen for future use.

Cut the top of the potato so you have a flat surface.

Turn around and do the same with the other side.
You cut out the potatoes with a cutter. Now, carefully with a small vegetable knife, run around the sides of the cutter to release the trimmings. Now with a potato peeler go around the edges so you have a 45 degree angle edge which prevents the edges from burning. If you are cutting these in advance you can store in water in the fridge.

How do you cook fondant potatoes?

They are cooked in chicken stock, a little butter (about 80 - 100g will do 12) and thyme. You can also add garlic, lemon, bayleaves, saffron etc. You cook them in this till the liquid is reduced to half, turn them and keep cooking till the liquid is reduced to a thick syrupy glaze.

The whole of the stove is taken up with cooking 180 fondant
potatoes for a wedding in August 2008
Then you transfer them to a baking tray and spoon the glaze on top to coat them - it should be like spooning syrup on top - then bake them till they are crisp and golden, about 15 - 20 minutes at 180 oC.
Served with the fillet of beef:

Fillet of beef with oxtail, caramelised shallots and fondant potato.
See more on this dish here.

6 Hour cooked shoulder of Home Farm lamb with roasted lamb cutlet served with leek stuffed fondant potato, steamed kale, broad beans and balsamic jus
Fondant potatoes stuffed with leeks - it's like the fondant potato suprise see more here.

Leek filled fondant potatoes at a wedding
Can I make fondant potatoes in advance?

Yes - you can also make these the day before, leave them to cool and refrigrate them. To reheat pop them in the oven on a baking tray for around 15 minutes at 180 oC.

What type of potato do I use for fondant potatoes?

For flavour - I always favour desiree. A good all rounder is maris piper. Estima are great too - depending on time of year. Near the end of the season they get floury and tend to fall apart when making fondants.

Can I freeze fondant potatoes?

Yes! Best way is to prepare them as above, transfer them to the baking tray and spoon the glaze over as above, but at this point let them cool down and the glaze set on top. Freeze them at this point - with enough space between so they don't stick together. They can go straight into the oven frozen to finish cooking - c 25 - 30 minutes till golden (and of course - hot in the middle). At first as they defrost they look soggy - don't worry however - it's the science of freezing starch. Once they are up to temperature they are completely back to normal!

Using the potato off-cuts

The off-cuts from the potatoes make great chunky potato wedges - roll in olive oil and maybe a little smoked salt:. Serve with homemade tomato ketchup.
FAQ - Why are they called 'fondant' potatoes?
It's hard to find a definition. If you wiki fondant it tells you fondant is water and sugar cooked to the soft ball stage. Fondant is a base ingredient all pastry chefs have stored ready to make sweets and icing. A similar proccess is taking place when you cook fondant potatoes but with stock (aka water) and butter instead of the sugar.
When I asked the first time I ever cooked them, at Charingworth Manor, I was told fondant means 'cooked in their own juices'. When we did them there, they were cooked just in butter (lots of), garlic and herbs - it turns the humble potato into almost a confection - so we're back to the origins of 'fondant' being in the pastry kitchen again. I prefer using chicken stock as well - it gives you more flavour. And less calories of course.

Cider fondant potatoes
Instead of cooking these in chicken stock you could use cider, or a combination of the two. Beer? Well I haven't tried, but it's an idea.......

Related posts:
Rosti potato
Dauphinoise potato
Rosemary roast potatoes pronto
Boulangere potato
Mashed/ creamed potato
Sunday roast
Grilled fillet of beef with oxtail, caramelised shallots and fondant potato

Wild blackberries

On the way back from a delivery I stopped to pick some blackberries from the fields before it got dark. The flavour is so amazing compared to anything you can buy.

Exotic mushrooms

One of the first things I learned at Claridges was "Flavour!" which came next to Seasoning ("more salt!"). To get the best flavour you have to start with sourcing the best quality ingredients. There are many mushrooms available from common (and rather bland) button mushrooms to the most expensive and rare ceps and girolles. The exotic mushrooms we use for our fillet of beef dish come from a farm in Leicestershire.

These ones are:

  1. Yellow oyster
  2. Buna-Shimeji
  3. Shiro-Shimeji
  4. Enoki (the thin straw like mushrooms - common in Japanese cookery)
  5. Grey oyster

The best ingredients have to have care in the preparation. Preparing mushrooms for such numbers at Claridges would be an afternoon job. We would wash them in luke warm water (cold water damages them), dry them on cloths to remove most of the excess water, then place them on trays underneath the hot lamps of the serving pass (on lowest setting). Now I cater for smaller numbers I have more time to spend on preparation, and prefer to brush any dirt off the mushrooms as below with a pastry brush specially kept for this task. Washing mushrooms is all very well, but with such delicate mushrooms as these it can destroy the texture.

These wild mushrooms also work brilliantly for breakfast or brunch cooked in a little cream and served on top of muffins as shown in an earlier entry.

Ref also: Chanterelle mushrooms: http://www.thecotswoldfoodyear.com/2007/12/chanterelle-mushrooms.html

Canape luncheon in Broadway

Monday, September 10, 2007
One family enjoyed our food so much last year they were eager to book us again this year. They chose canapes for the lunch with a barbeque delivery for the evening.

These canapes were cooked and served in the house:

1. Japanese spoons of Scottish lobster, mango and coriander

Lobster was taken along live and cooked on site.

Scottish lobster, as this one is, is by far the best quality, and for peak perfection it has to be cooked live, and cooked just before you serve it. Sometimes when you buy Lobster in a supermarket or have it in a restaurant and feel it is a little 'tough', this is because it has been pre-cooked and kept in the fridge overnight. Supermarkets even freeze them cooked which is sacrilege. At Claridges we always cooked them just before each service for cold salads, or cooked to order for main course dishes, and this is something I still do today.

The lobster is then boiled in very salty water ('it should taste like the sea' our chef always used to say), and this brings out the natural sweetness of the lobster. It only needs 9 - 10 minutes depending on the size. I cooked this one a little longer as I was cooking on an aga, and had used a lot of the heat from the top already.

After cracking the shell, the lobster is washed and cut, then placed in japanese spoons with diced mango, mango coulis and topped with a coriander leaf.

2. Avocado and (cooked) prawn sushi, and vegetable sushi wth wasabi, soy and pickled ginger.

Again, sushi must be made fresh just before you eat. The rice when refrigerated loses its fresh taste and lightness quickly. I rolled this about two hours before serving.

3. Herb rolled goats cheese roulades with homemade green tomato chutney and croutes of beef with rocket and horseradish

4. Coconut crusted fishcakes with curry mayonnaise

5. Harrissa marinated loin of lamb skewers

6. Goujons of fish with chips served in papercones

Sered with tomato ketchup (what else?), tartare sauce and lemon

7. Japanese spoons of wild mushroom risotto topped with parmesan

For a little extra flavour I add dried porcini mushrooms at the begining which release their flavour as the risotto cooks, then the fresh wild mushrooms at the end, with marscapone, grated parmesan and chopped chives.

8. Scallops wrapped in pancetta

To get the most amazing flavour from scallops you really have to sear them on a high heat. After cooking the risotto I closed both plates of the aga and put the covers on top to build up the heat. The result, as you can see is they browned wonderfully, and the smell was divine.

9. Dark and white chocolate dipped strawberries

These too were done on site to ensure they stayed fresh tasting as possible.


Candy floss machine - ideal for buffets/ weddings

We now have a candy floss machine which is ideal for buffets, childrens parties and weddings - a little childhood nostalgia. Great for kids and big kids.


Smoked salmon with lemon and tarragon blinis, creme fraice and lemon oil

Tuesday, September 04, 2007
A cassic from our bistro menu

Blinis are fried on a very gentle heat:

Then cooled, before cutting:

The finished dish: