Spinach and feta canapé spring rolls

Thursday, January 29, 2009
Pictures taken from preparation for a wedding at Upper Court last year.

We used baby spinach from Zenith Nurseries in Evesham (steamed, chilled and squeezed dry)and feta cheese, as this was the cheese that had been requested, although when I did them again, I used our local St. Agnes. You could use goats cheese as well.
Seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg, the mix is layed out on filo pastry. I use two sheets of filo together - a single layer bursts easily while cooking.
Filo pastry dries out fast so as mentioned on the duck filo roll post, while I'm making the first batch of rolls, I keep the remaining filo for the next batch under cling film or a damp cloth.

The sides are brushed with beaten egg and folded over.
Then the ends are brushed with beaten egg too and rolled.
They go on to a tray (all 120+ of them) with a baking mat. If you put them on to greaseproof they most often stick to it, so you have to tear them off - it's messy and you can leave paper on the rolls if you're not careful. They slip off baking mats (one of the most important pieces of kitchen equipment) like a dream.
When they are assembled as above I brush the tops with a little more beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
You can also deep-fry them, but baking reduces the fat content, and they don't taste oily.

Related posts:

Wedding catering in Tewkesbury, Cheltenham, Cirencester, Gloucester, Gloucestershire and accross the Cotswolds and Midlands

Salad of parma ham, pears and goats cheese

Sunday, January 25, 2009
Pears are poached in a light syrup (more water than sugar because this is a savoury dish) with a cinnamon stick, cloves and star anise. Once cooled, and just before serving they are wrapped loosely in the parma ham - any earlier and the poaching liquid leaks into the parma ham and it takes on a rubbery concistency.

Goats cheese is glazed as explained in a previous entry. For more info on the balsamic see this kitchen tip.

Assiette of desserts

Our collection of 5 mini desserts has quickly become popular. This latest line-up was served at Rectory Park last night on their wonderful Booths china - where we served the first assiette of desserts last year.

Each time we serve it, it is slightly different depending on what guests choose. While the assiette of desserts I delivered to Upper Court, on the same night, was the same as the one I served in December because they liked the look of that, this one consisted of:
  • Mini crème brulee in Japanese spoon
  • Chocolate dipped strawberries
  • Glazed lemon tartlets
  • Mini chocolate éclairs
  • Raspberry shortbread (with crème patisserie piped in the middle)
Mini chocolate eclairs The secret to successful eclairs is beating the mix after adding the flour and returning to the heat - that gets the air in there which means you have light airy eclairs rather than shortbread.

Piping éclairs earlier in the day

The thing that puts me off supermarket, and even some bakery eclairs is the thin coating of chocolate icing on top that, in any case, normally sticks to the bag on the way home. I prefer the Hugh version here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/database/chocolateeclairs_82376.shtml. With this thick, rich chocolate coating you've just died and gone to heaven! Related posts:

Previous assiette desserts we have served
What does 'assiette' mean? Assiette of desserts 12 July 2008


1001 Kitchen tips # 42 - How do I stop the edges of my pie burning?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Beacuse the crimped edges of a good pie are raised, they burn easily.

I use a tip I picked up from the best pastry recipe - http://www.myhomecooking.net/apple-pie/Baking-Apple-Pie.htm. I cut a long strip of foil and fold it over on itself and gently place them over the pastry edges before the pie goes in the oven. Take them off about 10 minutes before the pie is due to finish cooking, so the pastry edges finally are allowed to brown.
Related posts


Cinnamon, raisin and candied orange bread crown

This particular bread has been gazing out of the 'Readers Digest Complete Guide To Cookery' book for as long as I have had it.

It's been bookmarked for anyone else who wants to try it on the virtual recipe drawer that is Bookmarked Recipes - your one-stop shop for tried and tested recipes from the food blogger community updated every Monday.

The page stayed open in the middle of a pile of books while I looked at some new spring menu items, and, as it turned out I had some leftover bread dough, so the time had come to make it.

What I didn't have though was mixed glacé mixed peel, so it was almost put on hold once again, until I found a pot of leftover candied orange zest (made the same as the lemon zest here) from new year and an assiette of desserts. By this time however, it had dried out - no good for garnishing chocolate tart that weekend, but ideal for this bread.
Makes 1 large loaf

125 ml milk
60 g unsalted butter
7g (1 sachet) dried yeast
60ml lukewarm water
375 g bread flour
¾ tsp salt
45g sugar
1 egg


60g currants
60g sultanas
2 tbsp chopped glacé mixed peel
45g dark brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼tsp nutmeg
grated zest 1 lemon
Heat the milk and butter until the butter has melted. Let this cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile dissolve the yeast in the warm water.

Sift flour into bowl. Add salt and sugar and make a well in the centre. Add the yeast mixture, milk and egg. Mix by hand, gradually drawing in the flour to form a smooth dough. If the dough is sticky work in more flour.

Knead the dough as for normal bread doughs, around 10 minutes. Leave it to rise for ¾ - 1 hour.
Roll it out on a floured board or work surface to 9 x 16in / 23 x 40 cm rectangle. Mix together ingredients for the filling and sprinkle over dough, leaving a ¾in / 2 cm border all around. With a rolling pin press the filling lightly into the dough. Roll the rectangle like a cooked swiss roll and press the seam to seal it.
Now curve the roll into a circle [as shown above here], overlapping and sealing the ends.
Transfer the circle to a greased/ floured baking tray.
Make a series of deep cuts around the circle with a sharp knife without cutting right through the circle. Pull the slices apart slightly and twist them over so they lie flat revealing the sprial design.
Let the dough rise - around ¾ - 1 hour - then bake it in a pre-heated oven at 200 oC till deep golden brown and a skewer comes out clean - around 25 - 35 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
Glazing - there's two ways you can glaze this:

1 - Egg wash just before you put it in the oven.
2 - Don't egg wash it, but while still hot after you have baked it, brush with soft icing made with 60g icing sugar mixed with 2 - 3 tbsp water.

This was served as part of a Sunday brunch.

New Year 2008

Monday, January 05, 2009
Our busiest ever new year saw 4 events on New Years eve, and another to a regular customer delivered the day before, on the way to cooking for a group of 26 deep in to solving a murder mystery.

While my brother, Adam, was cooking at Upper Court, my New Year's eve was spent cooking in the luxury of Kempley Barns near Ross-on-Wye. As I was both cooking and serving, and had two options per course to contend with there was scarce time for photos, until desert time.


Seared scallops champagne with parsnip puree and sauce - as seen last year.

It is still one of my favourite dishes, and suits the luxury feel of new years eve so well. So they are served at their best the scallops are pan-fried as the guests have been seated.

Roast butternut squash risotto with toasted coconut and chilli -

Also as seen last year, but with an enhanced method. Instead of tinned coconut milk which I have used previously I used the coconut milk straight from the inside of the coconut used to make the dried cocnut flakes that go on top. This gave you a real coconut flavour, but a more savoury, and natural one. The remaining coconut that wasn't used to make crisps, I grated and added. Caribbeans use coconut as a savoury ingredient - almost like a vegetable, and that is what I did here, and it turned out very well - as reflected in the comments from the member of the party who had chosen it.

Risotto ingredients - roast butternut squash, chilli and coconut

Main Course

Breast of pheasant with cointreau and orange sauce served with dauphinoise potato, roast celeriac and french beans

An enhanced version of my own Christmas lunch which I cooked late on Christmas Day evening, after getting back from my Christmas lunch deliveries in London.
The pheasant is wrapped in streaky bacon to protect the breast meat. It is left to rest, bacon removed and then flashed back in the oven.

Cointreau sauce - As it happened, our delivery meal to Littleton Manor on the same day was coq au vin for 20, so I used some of the coq au vin sauce as a base for the pheasant. To see how that sauce is made see previous entry. For the pheasant sauce I added the roasting juices from the pheasant, cointreau and a little grated orange zest. This is possibly the most flavoursome sauce I have made to date. The left over pheasant carcass, and those from another party we were cooking for at Wellacres were used to make the stock used in the foie gras and chicken terrine a couple of days afterwards.
Loin of lamb with spinach and black pudding stuffing served with dauphinoise potato, roast celeriac and french beans -

An alterative version of our ever popular lamb dish


Sticky toffee pudding with sticky toffee pecan sauce and Cotswold clotted cream
The most popular dessert again this year - an updated version of our previous presentation.

Pear and blackberry tart with crème anglaise

Related posts:

Foie gras and free range chicken terrine
New Year's Eve 2007
Other scallop dishes we have served
Sticky toffee pudding - tuile basket recipe
Pear and almond tart


Foie gras and chicken mosaic terrine wrapped in parma ham

The secret of this is, that although it can be made a couple of days in adavance, it always tastes much fresher (and better, naturally) when mde fresh on the day of serving, as this one was, made and served on the first Saturday of the new year.

Free range chicken came from Madgetts Farm.
Roasted on the bone it is always much more succulent than using chicken supremes. When cooked I rest it out of the oven, turned upside down so the roasting juices drain through the breat meat.
Foie gras is brought to room temperature so it softens whereupon the main veins, and other smaller ones, can be removed. You take care not to break the skin on the outside which holds the foie gras lobe together.
Then it is seasoned with salt, pepper, brandy and port.
Cooked at 100 oC in the oven, on a rack and covered loosely with foil, it is brought to 48 oC core temperature using a probe. This took about 20 minutes - though you need to keep checking. After probing the middle I also probed a larger denser mass on the outside to make sure it was evenly cooked. There is more useful info on foie gras here: http://www.hudsonvalleyfoiegras.com/finecooking.html
Once cooked, the fat (foie gras butter) that renders off can be kept and used instead of oil where you want to add a lxurious flavour - add to mash potato, use to fry fillet steaks etc.
Building the terrine:

With the foie gras still warm, I always start with a layer of foie gras at the bottom which gives you a good base. Put it skin side down. Then you build the rest of the layers on top:
The chicken breasts cut down the middle
Sautéed exotic mushrooms, globe artichokes......
Port soaked raisins
And pheasant stock - made from the pheasant carcasses from new year's eve. As this has been so reduced it sets - so holds the terrine together when chilled while also adding a great flavour. These layers are repeated swapping the order so what goes in first is the opposite to he last layer which gives you the mosaic look. I always fit in a piece of foie gras in the middle of the terrine too. A also added a couple of ladels of the pheasant/ Cointreau sauce to add a depth of flavour -it trickles through the ingredients, also helping bind them together.
A final layer of foie is added on top, and the terrine is chilled. Just before cutting and serving it is rolled in parma ham - wrapped any earlier and the moisture in the terrine affects the ham, and perfection is everything.

Plum purée made an ideal accompaniment - if you make them like my vanilla poached plums, but without the thickening and cook them more so they purée. When cold this can be chopped finer with a large cooks knife.

Assiette of desserts

Dark chocolate tart with gold leaf
Homemade orange sorbet
Japanese spoons of crème brûlée
Mini strawberry meringue roulade
White chocolate and blueberry cheesecake

White chocolate and blueberry cheesecake as served as part of our chocolate trio dessert for last Valentine's Day menu. White chocolate is blended into our normal vanilla cheesecake mix and fresh blueberries added - similar to blueberries in blueberry muffins.

It was nice, at last, to be asked for orange sorbet. Orange ice-cream was the first ever ice cream I made in my machine when I got it when I was about 15. I was amazed at how fresh the taste was - like eating chilled oranges picked staight from the tree - something you could never hope to get from a shop-brought product. I found the orange sorbet exactly the same - so fresh tasting (maybe helped by the fact it was made on the morning of the day we served it), and like an essence of orange. I added 2 more oranges than the recipe and added a 'little' Cointreau. It is topped with crystallised orange zest, made in the same way as lemon zest shown here.

Mini strawberry meringue roulade
A smaller, thinner version of our favourite summer dessert, as seen last year. Always cooked fresh on the day, it starts off like this:

Related posts:

Previous assiette desserts we have served
What does 'assiette' mean? Assiette of desserts 12 July 2008

Birthday cake served as a dessert

Italian meringue and berries based, created by Daniela at Decadence Cakes.

The cake made a great centre piece in the dining room of Littleton Manor on 30 December 2008.
After it had been presented to our hosts' aunt whose birthday it was, we sliced it behind the scenes to serve as dessert with berries and raspberry coulis.
This idea is also popular for wedding catering.

Irish stew and dumplings

Irish stew, 29 December 2008, before adding sauce on top

Although we have many dishes to tempt on our bistro menu, we do occasionally get asked for special requests, such as this one between Christmas and New Year for Irish stew and dumplings.

Made in almost the same way as my lamb and apricot. I used lamb neck rings from Home Farm. A I arrived to pick it up they were in the middle of cutting lamb dice in their butchery so Iwas able to take a few discarded lamb bones too which added even more flavour.

The lamb was seared like the beef for the beef pie, then cooked with onions, celery and canelled carrots for 3 - 4 hours in lamb stock. The advantage of cooking it on the bone is that the bones impart all their flavour to the meat, and the sauce while cooking, and on the whole, just like cooking duck or chicken on the bone, it is just much more succulent.

After that you drain the sauce and leave the lamb to cool. You can add the potatoes and dumplings in 30 minutes before the end of cooking, or, as I did, cook them afterwards so they are cooked perfectly. While the lamb meat was cooling, the sauce was split in half and returned to the boil with potatoes - one pan containing diced estima potatoes, and one pan with turned new potatoes. Once cooked these could be chilled.

The same sauce was then used to cook the suet dumplings.

When the lamb is cool enough to handle you can take the meat away from the bone, sinew and fat. These bones can then be re-boiled to make an additional stock which can be reduced and added to the finished stew.

When cooled the meat is cut into bite-size morsels, and the sauce adjusted to taste.

If you are eating straight away drop the lamb, carrots, onions, potatoes, dumplings and maybe a little chopped rosemary back in to re-heat, or if not, leave to cool in the fridge and re-heat the next day (always tastes better heated up, when the flavours have had time to develop ovenight).

Related posts:

Lamb and apricot casserole