Vegetarian corporate lunch menu

Tuesday, November 25, 2008
"Re: Corporate lunch menus
Hi James,

I just wanted to thank you for the fantastic catering at the weekend. Everyone loved the food it was a great success, if and when I do this again I will use your company.
Once again many thanks it was great.



This particular event dates back to the end of September (26 - 29th). I had done an all vegetarian buffet before, but this particular event was a corporate buffet lunch for four days in a row, so needed a little research before I submitted menus.

Friday Menu

Open sandwich – White bean paté and roast pepper
Closed sandwich – Curried egg salad
Foccacia with mozzarella and roasted butternut squash
Green and black olives


Spiced carrot cake - as shown before
Blackberry and apple crumble tart with crème anglaise - also now supplied to the Red Lion in Hellidon

Saturday Menu

Open sandwich - French bread croutes of glazed goats cheeseClosed sandwich - Roasted aubergine and hoummous [and sun dried tomato and fresh basil which give it a flavour boost]Falafal, salad and tahini stuffed pitta breadFalafal - best made using raw chickepeas soaked overnight.
They did turn out remarkably well.
Stuffed vine leaves


Chocolate nemesis - as seen before
Pear and almond tart with white chocolate sauce - as seen before

Sunday Menu

Open sandwich – Guacamole and cherry tomato

Closed sandwich - Carrot and nut sandwich on homemade pumpkin seed bread - recipe here.
Blackbean and bulgar kofta tortilla wraps with yogurt and coriander
Black bean and bulgar wheat koftas freshly made and baked on the morning. They may look a bit 'different' but taste fantastic (who needs meat) with the yogurt and coriander. Tortilla wraps were grilled on the bar grill as shown before. Kofta recipe can be found here:

Baked new potatoes topped with blue cheese and asparagus - similar to the ones seen previously.


Strawberry and pistachio tartlet [plus a few shortbread which I had left from the previous evening's dessert]
Date slice

Monday Menu

Open sandwich - Pickled mushrooms and artichoke
French bread was spread with hoummous as a base. The artichokes were fried to get a good caramelisation colour/ flavour, and the mushrooms pickled in vegetable stock, vinegar, thyme and bayleaves, then drained:Closed sandwich - Cheese and apple
Avocado and vegetable rice paper wraps with soy and chilli dip
Tzatiki with pitta


Banoffee sponge - as shown before

Glazed lemon tart with raspberries - as shown before

Buffet delivery and catering in Tewkesbury, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and accross the Cotswolds.

Related Posts


Slow cooked belly pork with creamy lentils

Monday, November 24, 2008
Slow cooked belly pork is a long standing dish on the Benson family repertoire - which dates back to when I was a toddler. Back then we coated belly pork slices in flour, egg and dried sage and onion stuffing mix (I liked this because you could get your fingers messy) and layered them up with onions, potatoes and gammon stock and cooked it for as long as possible.

These days however, a more sophisticated slow cooked pork belly dish is a best seller on my bistro menu. We use a whole piece of Berkshire/ Gloucester Old Spot cross pork from Home Farm on Bredon Hill. Once I have trimmed off any excess fat/ sinew, cut the pork in half, then season it with salt, pepper and a little five spice, and roll it like the lamb saddle then tie it with string, and seal it in my old roasting tin:
After the pork, I add some onions and carrots (I like using Chantenay) so you get a good caramelisation colour and flavour, and then it is braised in cider, gammon stock and a little sage from my garden and cook it on 180°C for 5 hours or more (3 - 4 hours is OK if you're in a rush, but it really doesn't get as soft as 5 hours).
You can either cut it warm, or, as shown below, cold. If you want to pre-cook it the day before, you can re-heat it with a little stock in either the microwave or oven. If you like crackling you can trim off the rind from the pork and cut it into pieces and crisp it up under the grill.
Meanwhile the braising liquor is thickened up to make the accompanying sauce.
[shown before adding onions, carrots and sauce]

Green lentils are the lentil of choice for your creamy lentils - they are the variety that stay whole when cooked. These are cooked with onion, carrot, garlic and pancetta, chicken stock and a little cream for about 15 minutes till all the moisture has been absorbed. You can then add a couple of spoons of crème fraîche. These lentils have rapidly become my favourite dish.

Related posts:

Pork tenderloin in parma ham (ballottine)
Roast pork loin

Pork curry


Vanilla poached plums

Sunday, November 23, 2008
After much trial and error (and plum puree) I found the best way is to cut your plums into segments first (or halves if you prefer).

I make a sugar syrup first and thicken it - which you can do with either cornflour or arrowroot. Then remove from heat, scrape the seeds from a vanilla pod in to it, and leave the pod to infuse for ½ an hour.

Then re-heat thickened syrup, cut plums (firm ones are better - less likely to puree) and drop them in to the syrup and cook for around 5 minutes. Keep checking them - they overcook to a puree very easily. It is best to take them off the heat before they are cooked, as they carry on cooking while they cool down. Place in to large roasting tray to cool - the more more surface area they are in the quicker they will cool/ stop cooking.

Ideal served with panna cotta.

Assiette of desserts

Glazed lemon tartlets
Strawberry and champagne tartlets
Mini strawberry meringue roulade
Shotglass of tiramasu
Mini creme brulée (Japanese spoon)

As served at Hill House last night

Related posts:

What does 'assiette' mean? Assiette of desserts 12 July 2008
Murder mystery weekend, assiette of desserts, 7 June 2008
Assiette of desserts 27 September 2008


Smoked Donnington Trout Trio

Ballottine, smoked trout fillet with lime and smoked trout tartare
Salmon and smoked trout roulade (ballottine)

Fresh salmon..... rolled, as described for my canapé roulades.....

Then poached in water at 80⁰C, off the heat. As the roulades are so small the residual heat in the water cooks them in about 8 - 10 minutes. This way the salmon stays soft - if you kept the water on the heat they boil and become hard and overcooked.
When cooled the roulades can be unwrapped and rolled in smoked trout.
These ballotines are then left to rest in the fridge, so they stay together when you cut them. I garnish them on top (as shown above) with a little crème fraîche and caviar.

For this I ask the trout farm at Donnington for whole (unsliced) sides of smoked trout. I then cut thick d-cut fillets and cut these into 2 or 3 depending on size (i.e. how far up from the tail you are). These are sprinkled with grated lime zest (which I also do for barbecued fresh trout) and milled black pepper.

As guests are tucking into their homemade bread rolls which we always serve as they sit down, I pop the trout fillets into the oven for just 2 - 3 minutes, so they are warm, the last thing to go on the plate before the waitress takes them away. If you warm the fillets through, the texture changes - it softens like the ballottine. You can leave them in to cook fully if you prefer, but they are best served like this at the last minute, just warmed through.

The fillets sit on thinly sliced cucumber, and the richness of the smoked trout is off-set with the crème fraîche, lemon and chive dressing

Chef in Venice # 6 - Sole meuniere

It just wouldn't seem right leaving Venice without having eaten sole. There are indeed so many fish dishes you can make, but sometimes, if you have quality ingredients less is best.

If you have a grill pan, or contact grill/ indoor barbecue like the one shown previously, you can grill them, using my flour tip. Or you can cook them meunière style.

The fishmongers will often fillet them for you, but cooking whole on the bone will give you a much softer, moister favour. Although you can remove the skin, I like to leave it on - the skin of the sole, like chicken, is the tastiest part.

This is how to cook your sole:

1 - Firstly you need to scale them. Use the tip of a filleting knife and go against the grain of the scales.
If you leave the scales on, these can stick to the pan, so when you try and turn them the skin rips.

2 - Take the roe out. This can be done leaving the head on (some people like to eat the heads too). Make a slit by the gills and you can pull out the roe.
.... or you can cut the head off and remove the roe, dropping the fish head into your fish stock.
3 - Then wash and dry them and coat them in seasoned flour or polenta. As described earlier this stops them sticking to the pan.

4 - Add a little oil to you pan first, and then butter. The oil increases the temperature at which the butter will burn - as sole take a good 15 - 20 minutes to cook the butter may burn before they are cooked. Medium heat is best for this - too high and they will be cooked on the outside while being raw in the middle. Aways cook the presentation (white) side first, so that side cooks in a clean pan.

5 - An easy way to tell when your sole is ready to turn is that it is opaque (i.e. cooked) from the base to the middle bone. A minute or two before turning, I add a little more butter, so they brown well. Turn with a roasting fork skewered through top end (spatualas can damage/ break up the fish, which you don't want to do with the presentation side).
[sole finishing cooking once turned]

6 - You know when your sole is cooked when it starts to split slightly at the top:
7 - You can then use a spatula to take it out on to a clean board for filletting. This is the difference to some local restaurants who serve them whole, leaving you with a plate of bones at the end, another reason why I prefer cooking my own (another being you can choose a much larger sole on the market than a restaurant will serve).

8 - Sauce meunière - Strain the remaing pan juices in to a small pan. You should have a beurre noisette by now. When hot add lemon juice and chopped parsley. It is now ready.

9 - Filletting you sole - I clamp the knife down on the side bones and ease them away, taking care to keep the skin in one piece. Then run the knife latterally through middle, on top of the bone. You can then remove the top two fillets (in one piece) using the knife as a palette knife, and put them to one side.
Then remove the bones in one piece - add them to your fish stock pot. Slide the top two fillets back on top, and you have a finished sole as shown at the top, there served on top of crushed potato and sautéed pak choi. Spoon your meunière butter over the sole.

For more dishes from Venice see here:


Chef in Venice #5 - Grilled langoustines with aubergine caviar and rocket salad

Wednesday, November 19, 2008
“You go” says my holiday companion (in all fairness she does organise the whole holiday) “while I get changed….”
What? On my own? In a food market? You should have seen the dust move.

Food markets for chefs are like the row of chic jewellery, clothes, textiles and glass shops that run from the Rialto to San Marco’s are to the rest of the world. You need it.
You’ll know about the Rialto of course. Even if you haven’t been to Venice. It is the market, the meeting place - and that’s back in the times of the Merchant of Venice. But as you become a more experienced itinerant (as Venetians call visiting tourists) you start to learn the secrets. And one of them is the market stalls in the Campo Margherita.

Venice is really just a serious of very small islands all joined together by bridges. Each of these small ‘islands’ has its own campo (square) and church. The Campo Margherita is one of these secrets. The new glass bridge in Venice, much ridiculed for it’s over-spend and delays, has sealed the fate of many traders in that it takes visitors directly from the Piazzale Roma (the main entrance point, and the end of the road literally - for any road vehicle at least, to Venice) over the bridge and on through Cannaregio passed the Rialto to Piazzale San Marco. If you there just for the day (perish the thought) you might never cross onto the San Palo/ Dorsoduro side.
This is why, walking through the Campo Margherita, you see mainly locals. At the weekends you see the Italian locals too. And when you see the locals you know you’re on to something good. Like the Rialto the fish stalls (there were 3 of them there) start early - while the rest of the city is waking up, and by lunch time they’re packing up. But unlike the Rialto, the prices are much more reasonable. On Saturday and Sunday you see a real market place - antiques, clothes, fabrics, Murano glass - everything you see elsewhere in the city - again, everything but the inflated tourist prices. Yes - the Campo Margherrita is really the place. And while you’re considering your purchases you might just rest in one of the many tavernas for a cappuchino. There’s so many things you can do with langoustines. But sometimes they are such good quality you want to just enjoy them as they are - less, as they say, is more.
I went down the simple route. Turn them oven and cut them straight through the middle.

Then place on a baking tray. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and place under the grill till cooked. And I served them with aubergine caviar as shown in the last entry and rocket (dressed with olive oil and lemon juice).

What else could you do with my langoustines?

  • You could also grill them on a flat grill, or griddle - the taste that the cooking shells impart - there can be no better taste.
  • You could also sprinkle over chilli and garlic as they cooked, or chilli oil.
    You could also serve them raw as sashimi (not advisable for children, the elderly or pregnant ladies).
  • You can also drop them in court bouillon for a minute so they cook that way, leave the body on but peel the tail, so you pick them up by the head and dip the tail in flavoured mayonnaise.

Always buy your langoustines live. As soon as they die the flesh deteriorates. Like lobsters the flesh goes to a mush. They may be cheaper in a supermarket, but it’s worth finding out a real fishmonger who sells them live.

It’s hard to find a good high street fishmonger these days in the UK - the old business model just doesn’t work with the reality of supermarket shopping. Many fishmongers have moved from the high street to obscure sites on industrial estates from where they serve the catering trade. Many of these are also open to the public - such as Simpsons in Stratford opn Avon and New Wave in Cirencester which I have been to - though I see now that New Wave have opened a shop in Cirencester (which I will have to investigate) - that is a good step forward.
It’s worth looking these up in the yellow pages, and you can phone them an order to pick up, or if you‘re on their delivery route they may well deliver.

Chef in Venice #4 - Aubergine caviar

Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Cut your aubergine (I used the local variety) in half, then score down to the skin (taking care not to actually cut through - you don’t want to dice it).

Drizzle generously with olive oil (aubergines really soak it up) and season with salt, pepper, and any spice if you want to - cumin is nice. As we had rosemary in abundance I studded it with these, pushing them down in to the flesh, so as they cooked it would impart the flavour. You can also use whole garlic cloves. These roasted for around 45 minutes or so at 180 oC.
Once cooked you can take a dessert spoon, and run it along the skin to scoop up the roasted flesh. Then chop it, mix with crème fraich/ or marscapone/ yogurt (depending on what you have), olive oil, lemon juice and season. Ideally you add chopped fresh coriander too.

What else to do with aubergine puree

  • If you want a strong roasted flavour leave them uncovered - if you want a lighter taste and colour cover the tray of aubergines in foil while they are cooking.

  • You could puree the cooked aubergine in a food proccessor and add the resulting puree to you red wine sauce.

  • It makes a great vegetarian sandwich topping.
  • Instead of roasting like this you can put it directly on the gas flame of your stove. Keep turning every 5 minutes or so. By the time it is cooked in the middle it will be well charred on the outside. This gives the resulting puree the most wonderful smoky flavour.

For more Venice dishes see here -