Christmas lunch delivery or cooked and served in your home by chef and waitress in the Cotswolds, Gloucestersire, Cheltenham, Cirencester and London

Friday, December 26, 2008
Chocolate Christmas 'card' from Miette

Your Christmas day lunch or dinner in the Cotswolds & Gloucestershire sourced locally.

Dear James,

Many thanks for the fantastic Christmas dinner you delivered for my father-in-law and his mother. They both really enjoyed it and were very pleased with the generous portion sizes! For Granny to say she really enjoyed it is very hig praise indeed..... previous attempts at change have not gone well....

Many thanks, once again - a great service & wonderful food.

Yours sincerely

Jane Freeman

Pumpkin and cranberry bread rolls

dough before being rolled

Cushion of Smoked Donnington trout.

The fish are reared in crystal clear spring water at Donnington trout farm which is free of pollution so they taste delicious, with none of the muddy flavours sometimes associated with river-farmed trout. They smoke it on site in their own smokery. Smoked trout is similar to smoked salmon but softer and more delicate.
Garnished with caviar, the cushions have cold-smoked trout on outside, and a mix of hot-smoked trout, crème fraîche, cucumber dice and lemon zest on the inside.

Roast turkey ballottine - breast meat and leg meat - to see how this was made click here. Sadly, after the sudden death of Bob Buckingham in November, his wife, Elizabeth, was understandably under severe pressure this Christmas at the Smallholding in Chadbury, so our tukey came instead from Ann & Micky Meadows at Home Farm on Bredon Hill, whose family has been rearing turkeys for over 50 years.

It was accompanied by chipolatas and bacon also from the Meadows farm. They make their own sausages from their Gloucester Old Spot/ Berksire cross pigs, and the sausage casing is the traditional vareity made from sheeps intestine. They also cure their own bacon with a dry cure using salt and demerara sugar - no added water there!
Hazelnut stuffing was made with some of their sausagmeat, breadcrumbs, chopped hazelnuts, pices and fresh herbs.
This was accompanied by creamed leeks & onions, honey roast parsnips and glazed roast sprouts and chestnuts as seen last year, and rosemary roast potatoes.

For the turkey gravy I used the stock made from the roasted bones, along with red wine from Three Choirs vineyard in Newent:

Chilled, the fat from the stock can be removed

Christmas pudding with brandy sauce - awaiting photo

After dinner

To serve with coffee after Christmas lunch, I always favour something light, such as handmade marshmallow from Miette in Stow on the Wold:
Although, for the owners of Miette themselves, as I thought they would be chocolated out by the time they closed on Christmas Eve, I made some canapé sized version of my frangipane and almond topped mince pies for their Christmas lunch delivery:

Related posts:

Christmas menu
Christmas 2007
Sunday lunch in the Cotswolds


Turkey ballottine - How to bone a turkey

I do realise this post may have been useful about 2 days ago, but there wasn't much time between finishing at 03:30 on Christmas Eve and starting again at 05:30, so you will have to bookmark it for next Christmas, when you dine in 2009.
Sadly, after the sudden death of Bob Buckingham in November, his wife, Elizabeth, was understandably under severe pressure this Christmas at the Smallholding in Chadbury, so our tukey came instead from Ann & Micky Meadows at Home Farm on Bredon Hill, whose family has been rearing turkeys for over 50 years.

Why do you bone a turkey?

Have you ever found turkey breast to be dry? The problem with roasting turkey on the bone is that the breast meat, being much thinner cooks quicker than the thick thigh meat, so by the time the thigh meat is cooked, the breast meat is overcooked. Cooking the breast and legs seperately avoids this. Boning them means they are both easier to carve and you can slice large slices that stay together i.e. it looks better when plated.

How to bone a turkey

1. The legs are taken off first.
2. Cut through the knuckle, then put the legs to one side.
3. Next, turning the turkey so it's sitting breast side down, the breast meat is taken off the bone, while keeping the skin in tact. This is like jointing a duck or chicken for saute, but in reverse. You just need to keep the knife as close to the bone as possbile. You take it to the top of the breast bone, then turn the turkey round and do exactly the same on the other side.
as shown in the duck ballottine (for more info see duck ballottine entry):4. You trim down the very top of the breast bone - where it is connectd to the skin. This removes the carcass which goes into a roasting tin, then the bones are roasted before being added to the stock pot (for more stock/ sauce info see Christmas 2007 entry)
5. Now the wingbones, still attached to the turkey are removed. Run the knife down the bone prising the meat away from the bone. At the knuckle, run the knife right around the skin to release the bone - which can be added to your roasting tray for stock.
6. The wing meat will still be attached to your turkey ballottine. Prise this away from the skin, using the knife if neccessary. This is saved for later.
wing meat removed
7. You now have just the turkey breasts. You will notice they have a thick and a thin end - thick at the neck and thin at the wing. If you roll them up like this when you serve your guests a slice of turkey, some of them will have a nice portion of breast meat, whilst others will get short shrift. To avoid this, ease one of the turkey breasts from the skin, first by hand, then finishing off with the knife, and put it to one side. Then prise up the second turkey breast. Now you can season the inside of the skin with salt and pepper, dot it with cubes of butter, and sprinkle with chopped fresh thyme which bastes the inside of the turkey as it cooks.
8. Then you can put back the turkey beast, turning one round so you have a thick end to a thin end. Roll it and tie up string:
Here it is placed on a potato trivet - potato, lemon and thyme, so the lemon and thyme aromas would be going up into the turkey as it cooked, and the butter and thyme would be basting it from the top.
Ballottine tukey leg - how to bone a turkey leg:

1. Run the knife down the bone as if you're scraping the meat from the bone. The more acurately you do this, and the sharper your knife is, the more it stays in tact.
2. Once you get down the the knuckle, pull back the meat you have already trimmed - i.e. turn the leg inside out. This exposes the inside of the knuckle, then you can cut around it, making sure you don't puncture the skin, then procede on down the bottom half of the leg.
3. Once you have removed the bone completely, you are left with small bones which are very like the cuttlebones in squid. Prise these up and run the knife down either side to remove them.
4. You now have a boneless leg, and you can trim off any sinew you can see:
5. Stuffing, here is sausagemeat, aricots, spices and fresh herbs:
6. To hold the stuffing in place, I add a piece of the reserved wing meat (see 6 above) to make up for the small amount of skin:
7. Then they are rolled, tied and roasted:

When is my roast cooked?
A temperature probe is your one surefire way. See more info on using a temperature probe on kitchen tip #32.
Christmas lunch delivery 2008

Christmas lunch delivered chilled to your door with simple heating instructions, or cooked and served in your home by chef and waiting staff -

Related posts:

Christmas Day 2008

King prawns in filo canapé

If it's not the canapé yorkshire puddings with roast beef, or scallops in pancetta, king prawns in filo are the next in line in the top 5 most popular hot canapés.

Shown before egg washing, sprinkling with sesame and deep frying.

Related posts:


Tenderloin of pork wrapped in parma ham - personal/ private chef for a dinner party in Cheltenham

Saturday, December 20, 2008
As served in Cheltenham last Monday with pork from Home Farm in Bredons Norton. The beautiful plates the hosts let me use also deserve a mention - the full 12 piece dinner set was hand carried out of Korea in the 1940's.

Apple and potato puree is piped at the back. The pork sits on roasted swede and celery (celery is a too often unused vegetable). And cider sauce (from our next-door county I used Westons vintage special reserve cider - it has the depth of flavour you need) with diced apple.

To see how the pork is put together see previous post below.

Related posts:

Pork tenderloin in parma ham (ballottine)
Assiette of cheese
Slow cooked belly pork with creamy lentils
Roast pork loin
Pork curry

Assiette of cheese

As served last Monday, 15 December at a dinner party in Cheltenham.

3 of the 4 cheeses were local - from Gorsehill Abbey Farm in Broadway. Why buy continental cheese when what you find on your doorstep can be far better?

Michael and Diane Stacey have been farming at Gorsehill for over 35 years, though it is only in the last 5 years they have started selling their organic cheese.

St. Eadburghs - Won silver at the World Cheese Awards, 2007. Similar to brie and camembert, but in my opinion surpasses both. They always have a variation of ages to choose from depending on how soft you like your cheese. This one is mature -absolutely perfect, still a bit semi-hard in the middle, but creamy & soft on the outside, kept together by the rind.

The freshly made St. Eadburghs are similar to their St. Agnes cheese, which in turn is similar to feta, and this can be used for cooking, such as cheese and onion tarts, or a canape, in exchange for goats cheese for those who do not like the 'goat' flavour.

St. Oswold - best English cheese and best semi-soft cheese at the British Cheese Awards 2007. It is a rind washed cheese.

St. Kenelm, similar to cheddar, but so much better. Lightly pressed, it develops the unique rich nutty flavour and crumbly texture as it matures with age.

Blacksticks Blue
accompanied them - my new favourite blue cheese, with oatcakes, Miller Damsel wafers, prunes, apricots, grapes and celery.

Related posts:


Assiette of desserts

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Strawberry and Champagne tartlets
Mini Rum Babas
Mini Strawberry Meringue Roulade
Shotglass of Tiramasu
Mini Crème Brûlée

As served a couple of hours ago at The Guildhouse in Stanton, the grade II manor house, at which I have served many memorable events. In the summer guests can have pre-dinner drinks on the terrace looking out over miles of the Cotswolds valleys and hills below, while in the winter there are the open fireplaces, which, along with the Cotswold stone, create such a cosy atmosphere.

Rum babas freshly cooked earlier in the afternoon, using the same tins as for the mini yorkshire puddings.

Rum baba is a cross between brioche and cake, in that it is yeast based, enriched with butter and eggs. The 'rum' in the name comes from the rum syrup you spoon over after it has been cooked. It should be well soaked & moist. An old French classic, it suits the winter dessert plate perfectly. I also do another verison - normal sized dessert - with Cointreau instead of rum and served with caramelised oranges.

For other assiette desserts we have served see here:


Best beef and Cotswold Way ale pie

As I said once before, the good thing about being asked to make the same dish again and again is that you can perfect it, and make it better and better each time you do it.

A week ago I made my best apple pie, yesterday, or in fact, two days ago now, I made my best beef pie.

I found a new pastry recipe - For shortening I use lard - the traditional english pastry ingredient. This pastry is just so good to work with - and tastes great! N.B. For savoury pies I don't add the sugar.

For the best beef filling use shin beef - see my earlier post here: Beef and Cotswold Way ale pie It needs long cooking (4hrs min) but is so worth it.

How do you stop your pie burning on the outside before the pastry is cooked through? See my post here: 1001 Kitchen Tips # 42 - How do I stop the edges of my pie burning?

1001 kitchen tips # 41 - Top tips for Yorkshire puddings

Friday, December 12, 2008
How can you tell a true Yorkshireman?

As we’d all be tucking into our roast beef on a Sunday afternoon (vegetables dug from the garden earlier that morning), my grandad (a Yorkshireman born and bred) would have just 2 or 3 yorkshire puddings on his plate, maybe a little gravy if he was feeling decadent. For that was the origin of the Yorkshire pudding – you ate them before anything else to fill you up so you would eat less meat – which just shows how times change. And in the days before electricity and central heating, they needed something to keep out the cold.
Top tips for Yorkshire puddings:

1 – Instead of adding all milk, do half milk, half water. The water lightens the mix, and they are more crisp. James Martin has a great recipe here:

2 – Make the mix at least ½ hour in advance – it can be done the day before. This allows time for the flour to absorb the liquid (i.e. thicken up).

3 – DRY HEAT – Like roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings really like dry heat. When you open your oven door with the roast beef cooking you’re likely to get a good head of steam escaping. If you try and put the yorkies in with the roast they always have trouble rising because there is too much moisture. My gran always had the perfect solution, and it’s the one I still use today too – you take your meat out and leave it to rest, then you put in the Yorkshire puds. They like high heat, about 210 oC. If, in the meantime, your roast meat has cooled down, just flash it back in the oven for 4 - 5 minutes at 150 oC.

4 - Two ovens are better than one. Another answer to the above problem is to cook the yorkshire puddings in a seperate ovens. Many domestic ovens have a small oven at the top.

5 – Hot oil. Lard seems to have gone out of fashion these days for health reasons, but it does produce the best Yorkshire puddings. Add your oil/ lard to the Yorkshire tins and heat in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes till very hot, before you add your batter mix. The oil should sizzle and start to cook the puddings as soon as the batter mix is dropped into it. Put the yorkshire pud tin on a baking tray so any oil that spills out is collected on the tray – instead of dripping on the bottom of the oven where it starts burning and fills your kitchen with smoke.

6 – If your oven is very full, it takes too long for the oven to regain temperature, so the Yorkshire puddings cook more slowly, hence they won’t rise as well, so why not do them in advance? They can be cooked the day before and kept in the fridge or weeks before and kept in the freezer. From fridge cold they only take 3 – 4 minutes to re-heat in the oven. From frozen just a little longer – around 5 – 6 minutes. The difference in taste of making your own is worth it!

7 - Yorkshire pudding with pork. Yorkshire puddings go with more than beef. My gran would make sage and onion yorkshire pudding to go with pork - cooked onions, chopped fresh sage and fresh breadcrumbs. into yorkshire pudding batter. It didn't rise as well obviously, and was a cross between stuffing and yorkshire pud, but for them, and us 'southerners' as well it made a welcome addition to roast pork.

Related posts:

Roast beef for Sunday lunch
Canapé yorkshire puddings with grilled fillet and horseradish
Potato trivet
Crispy rosemary roast potatoes
Royal Society of Chemistry definitive Yorkshire pudding recipe


Canapé yorkshire pudding

Thursday, December 11, 2008
Mini yorkshire pudding with grilled fillet of beef and horseradish.

The all-time favourite canapé, here set up for delivery earlier this evening. For our finger buffet menu they are made slightly larger.

It helps to have two doors to your kitchen, so you can bypass the guests crowding around the first door waiting for these to come out - that way your guests at the other side of the room get a chance too. And it always helps to have more of these than anything else.

Once made up they need just 3 - 4 minutes in the oven to heat. Any more, and you risk the yorkshire puddings taking on the characteristics of charcoal......

Link to recipe & top tips to make the best yorkshire pudding on our Kitchen Tip #41. Here's how they were made.
Cooked in a miniture bun tin (look in your local kitchen shop), they are left to chill.
If, after chilling, the bottom of the yorkshire is no longer flat, slice a tiny slither off so it will sit flat on the plate. Not too much though - as you don't want a hole in it.
Fillet steak seared on the grill pan, then finished in the oven for 8 - 10 minutes, is here resting after cooking....
... then sliced, and then the slices are cut smaller so they will fit the mini yorkshire puddings. They are finished with horseradish. A small parsley sprig can be added too after re-heating - presentation is everything.

Related posts:

1001 kitchen tips # 40 - How much does an egg weigh?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Around Christmas time your fridge fills up with all sorts of things, half of which may end up being wasted two weeks later when you can't shut the fridge door any longer and decide to route your way through furry tubs of leftovers.

Making crème brûlée, crème caramel, zabaglione all use egg yolks, so you’re left with a load of whites in the fridge. That can be a good thing – you can use these to make meringues, sorbet, mousse, marshmallows, pavlova etc.

How do you measure how many left-over egg whites/ yolks you have?

Measure them on the scales. An average medium egg is 47g in weight – 28 grams white and 19 grams yolk.

So if you need 5 egg whites it’s 28g x 5 = 140g

Amended 3/10/2011
** Since writing this I have discovered on the side of the pasteurized egg white carton they measure 1 egg white as 25g. Last Saturday I used that measurement to make italian meringue (this recipe) and I have to say it was the best italian meringue I'v ever made. So the 25g measurement seems to be the best for pasteurizd egg whites. The jury's still out on real eggs.....

Strawberry meringue roulade with Three Choirs Cuvée sorbet (Summer menu)

Uncooked eggs for pregnant ladies
High risk groups – pregnant ladies, children and the elderly are advised against eating dishes using raw/ uncooked eggs - homemade sorbet, crème anglaise, mousse, hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise etc. In these cases you should use pasteurized eggs (pasteurizing destroys salmonella) which is what commercial products are made with. I use pasteurized (also known as liquid-) egg as a matter of course for all dishes where eggs are uncooked - such as the meringe roulade with sorbet above (meringues are dried out rather than cooked so don't reach the neccessary temperature).

Related posts:



1001 Kitchen tips # 39 - Oven dried tomatoes

Thursday, December 04, 2008
Peel your tomatoes (plum are best for this - but whatever type you use they should be ripe and tasty!). Then you set up a production line:

  1. Trim the tops and bottoms
  2. Remove the seeds - run the knife around the inside/ seeds and remove them. This way the flesh should remain whole
  3. Lay the tomato flesh out flat on oven trays
  4. Sprinkle with maldon or Halen Mon salt, pepper and olive oil. Not too much salt - because as they dry, they reduce in size, so the salt will be more intense.
  5. You can dry overnight in the oven at 50 oC, in a drying oven of an aga, or (if you're in a hurry) in a normal oven at 150 oC for an hour - an hour and a half, turning the tray round half way through so they don't burn. Keep the door slightly ajar, so steam is allowed to escape.

Done like this above they are great in terrines.

You can also just slice them quite thickly and dry them in the same way - great for salads, pasta, fish pie, and so many other uses.

The middles and ends, shown above can be cooked down to become tomato sauce (the universal kitchen sauce) or ketchup. Or use them raw to make gaspacho.


Potato rosti

Yes. You can if you want to. Use a normal grater that is. But it just won’t be as good.

Fillet steak with rosti and roast artichokes, Rectory Park, June 2008

My ideal rosti potato is crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. And for this I use the mandolin to cut spaghetti like strands. If you use a grater, by the time the rosti is cooked, the potato has disintegrated to mash, so you may as well have used mash potato in the first place. If using a mandolin whatever you do use the guard - it saves a trip to the local casualty department. Half a baking potato just does one portion – so it’s an idea to have a another one as spare. Salt it quite well, then leave it to macerate for 10 - 20 minutes. The salt brings out the water.

Then squeeze the potato in a tea towel, a little bit at a time so it is really dry (without the water content they go crispy). Mix in corn flour and a beaten egg (I probably use about one whole egg for 6 - 8 rosti, and maybe 2 tbsp corn flour, but I never measure) and black pepper. The egg and cornflour bind it together so it doesn’t fall apart. If you have egg white left over in your fridge after using just the yolks, use this for your rosti - it's an ideal opportunity for using left overs.
Then you fry them like my crispy noodles - there are some good tips there on frying them.

When cooked on both sides place rostis on a baking tray, then they just need about 5 - 10 minutes in the oven to finish cooking the middle. Then you can chill them if doing them in advance. They need just 5 - 10 minutes in the oven to re-heat when you are ready.

Additional notes

  • How to make a stainless steel pan non-stick
  • If you make very thin, crisp ones, they don’t need extra cooking in the middle.
  • If you leave the raw potato salting for more than 20 minutes it will start discolouring badly.
  • A lot depends on the type of potato you use. Desiree, King Edwards, Estima are all very good.
  • You can make a large one - the size of the whole frying pan and cut it into pieces.
  • They also freeze very well - so you could do them in advance. Just put them flat on a tray in the oven frozen like you do roast potatoes.

Related posts:

Hash browns
Fondant potato
Dauphinoise potato
Rosemary roast potatoes pronto
Boulangere potato
Mashed/ creamed potato
Sunday roast


Salmon rillette

From an old tried and tested recipe. Ideal for pregnant guests who are advised against eating smoked fish, shellfish, anything but well done meat, raw eggs etc. It can also be made in advance, although this particular one was made just 2 hours before serving.

There's a very similar recipe here: . Among other things, I also add fresh tarragon, but missed out the smoked salmon as it was for a pregnant guest.