Chef for the evening

Thursday, April 23, 2009
"What's that? Oh it's the door."

It's always funny to see the reaction when I turn up as the suprise chef for the evening for someone's birthday, in this case a 60th between Moreton in Marsh and Shipston on Stour.

Salad of parma ham, pears and goats cheese was followed by fillet of beef with rosti and roulades of sole with mussel and saffron paella (left, before plating) and white wine sauce.

"I loved the dessert!" said one guest as I cleared up in the kitchen afterwards "It's like you don't have to decide which dessert to have - you just have all of them. "

Assiette of desserts

Each assiette of desserts is different depending on what guests (or the organiser of the event) choose. In this case we went heavy on the berries:

Mini vanilla creme brulée
Strawberry and champagne tartlets
Shotglass of tiramasu
Raspberry shortbread
Chocolate dipped strawberries

Canape sized tart cases cooked in the afternoon.

Related posts:

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


Roast tenderstem broccoli

Sunday, April 19, 2009
I had previously sauteed broccoli, but with the success of the roasted cauliflower tried roasting it instead. Crispy florets. Very nice.

I don't have anything against boiled or steamed vegetables, I just find other ways of cooking keep in the flavour instead of it being lost in to the boiling water which invariably is thrown away.

The stems being thicker take longer to cook, so I cut those into rondels and roast them seperately.

Tossed in a little olive oil and maldon salt.

Don't cook it too long or you loose the colour and the florets will be too crispy (like deep-fried). You want it still al dente.

You can finish with balsamic and toasted pine nuts (toasted in the same way as the sesame seeds) to give an extra flavour.

Related posts


Crushed Jersey Royal potatoes

Is there anything you look forward to more than the first Jersey Royals of the season?
They have a taste like no other. Here they are boiled and lightly crushed with the all important skin left on, and mixed with a little unsalted butter and chives.

Best eaten outside they can just make a meal in themselves. These accompanied fillet of beef and also sole in white wine sauce. Also great with trout and smoked trout (or salmon) though.

Related posts:

Roast courgettes..... that children like

In the peak of season, courgettes just grow at such a phenomenal rate - look at them in the morning and they're babies, look again in the evening at watering time and you'd think they'd been drinking miracle grow all day.

Leaving them to grow was never a problem for me when I was young - I preferred the steamed marrow rather than the fried courgettes, except maybe if they were mixed with onions, tomato and cheese.....

Last year when I was cooking for a family for a whole week I looked into different vegetable options for each day. Children, as you know, have a certain aversion to vegetables (it's a power issue), but I found with a few simple tricks, you can make something tasty that they like.

This week I have been cooking for a family for 4 days, so again, made sure we had different vegetable accompaniments each day.

These courgettes are peeled, sliced thin on the mandolin, sprinkled with olive oil and a little bit of maldon salt, and then roasted. I find it's the dark green skin that puts children off - looks are everything. Without the skin, it also tones down the taste, which, when your taste buds are young, can be a good thing.

Related posts

Steamed marrow
Children's dishes

Roast asparagus and pepper salad

Thursday, April 16, 2009
They say the simple things are the best.

They'd be right too.

Serve at room temperature or warmed in the oven with olive oil & balsamic.


Monday, April 13, 2009
What type of potatoes do you use for chips?

Not estima - that's for sure. While they make great mash or fondant potatoes, chips they do not make - they just don't taste right. Maris Pipers? I tried those last week, when desiree were unavailable, and, I concede they do work well - with a crisp outside and floury middle, but if you want a creamy dreamy middle I still desire the desiree.

Blanched at 140 oC till soft in the middle

Finished at 180 oC


Buffet lunch

Easter weekend is a popular time to be married or christened. Some people of course have their birthdays, and what better way to celebrate than to gather all 3 generations of the family together. The Cotswolds is an ideal location for families to join up in the middle - some coming from London and the south and some from the north as was the case at Wellacres last Saturday lunch time.
Red onion and St. Agnes cheese tart with oven dried tomatoes and sauteed baby plum tomatoes

Grilled asparagus with parmesan, and, in the far left top corner, melon balls in grenadine for the younger guests

Main courses were roast sirloin of beef with yorkshire puddings (which went in the oven as everyone sat down for the starter) and Smoked trout parcels - with smoked trout from Donnington trout farm just a few miles from Wellacres, and some chicken goujons and chips for the youngest members of the family.

Glazed lemon tart (ever popular), and chocolate nemesis topped with white chocolate and nuts

Then, after cheese was served, there was just time to finish off some miniture desserts for the assiette dessert to round off the 3 course dinner party delivery which we dropped off at Hill House on the way back to Upper Court where I dropped off another dinner party. Then there was just time to clear up before packing up the Sunday deliveries - after all there are 24 hours in a day......

Related posts:


Cotswold Way ale sauce

Michael Roux's book 'Sauces'. It's the stuff food dreams are made of. As Eddie and Mary Cadogan point out, recipes can be used just as inspiration, or as a guide - it's when you adjust them to taste that you make them your own. Such is the case with the books stacked up on my desk, on the bookshelf and lodged behind the sofa. I use the books for inspiration, ideas and flavour combining, add my own ideas and then go off and cook.
Half way through cooking a large order of frozen meals I realized rather too many were tomato based, so I hunted around and found the beer baked beans recipe. Beans - beer - beer batter - hake - hake and beans - beer and beans - hake and beer sauce.... it all seemed to fit together.

The beer sauce was one I had been looking at on and off for years in the 'Sauces' book but have never got round to making, so this seemed the ideal moment. Nice, but I needed something that could freeze, so as it is heavy on the cream I also added a little chicken stock I had left from the chicken chasseur and beurre manie to thicken it. You could also use vegetable or fish stock.

Originally this was going to be added to the beans entry to Bookmarked Recipes last week in a two for the price of one, but I just ran out of time in the pre-Easter rush, so here it is.

It has 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 this week hosted by Laurie, of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska.

Re: cipe

60g shallots finely sliced (onions are fine too)
1 small (fresh) bouquet garni
4 juniper berries
300ml mild light beer (but I used Cotswold Way ale - it works well for me)
200 ml double cream
60g butter
1/2 tbsp snipped flat leaf parsley (I had some english parsley growing so used that)
salt & pepper

Put the shallots, bouquet garni and juniper berries in a saucepan, pour in the beer and reduce by two thirds over a medium heat. Add the cream and bubble for 5 minutes, until the sauce will lightly coat the back of a spoon. If it seems to thin, cook it for a few more minutes. Pass the sauce through a conical sieve, whisk in the butter, a small piece at a time, and finally stir in the parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Good with braised/ baked fish and also good with roast cauliflower:

Related posts:

Hake with beer sauce
Roasted cauliflower in Cotswold Way ale sauce


Freezer filling

When I'm not busy cooking for dinner parties, making wholesale desserts for restaurants or preparing corporate buffets, I also cook meals for the freezer.
I have one regular client who likes to take frozen meals in large containers and frozen canapes to her holiday home in Cornwall so she can feed all the extended family of 12 (children and grandchildren) without spending all day in the kitchen - after all everyone needs a holiday from cooking.

Another local family ordered a month's worth of meals when they were having their kitchen re-built. With just a microwave to cook with in their utility room for a month - they found my home-cooked meals with meat from the farm just 4 miles away from them a godsend - so much so they reccommended me to all their local friends, and the fish pie they liked so much I cooked for 50 of their guests when they entertained just before new year.

These particular meals were for another regular client who has the family to stay in the Cotswolds during the major holiday periods - Christmas, Easter, Whit week etc., and again it saves spending all the time in the kitchen when you can spend it with the family instead.

Cottage pie

Preparation as seen in the shepherds pie post, just using minced beef from Home Farm instead of minced lamb.

Chicken Chasseur

This time using free range chickens from Madgetts Farm.
A traditional chasseur with onions, mushrooms, tomato, white wine and fresh tarragon. Sauce preparation is similar to the coq au vin - once the chicken has been taken off the bones, the bones are used to make a stock which is then reduced and added to the sauce after cooking, so you have an intense chicken flavour.

A few cherry tomatoes are placed on top of the sauce so they soften and burst as the meal is reheated.

Slow cooked shoulder of lamb with tabboulehAs seen in a previous post the shoulder of lamb is cooked for 6 hours will it's soft and delicious. Once chilled it can be sliced as above.

The canelle carrots and onions that were cooked with it are added on top with fresh rosemary from the garden and the sauce.

Taste the tabbouleh and you're almost back on Edgeware Road.

Tabbouleh - the ideal accompaniment to lamb

Lamb shoulder cooked whole

Salmon provençal

Like the gravadlax, this is marinated too - but only overnight, and in a classic tomato sauce, after which it is baked.

With this is provençal style vegetables made to an old family recipe. My grandparents who lived locally when I was young had a large vegetable garden, so we were pretty self sufficient harvesting in the summer months, blanching and cooking like mad and then freezing so there would be vegetables and fruit throughout the winter months. The provençal vegetables were always one of my favourites on it's own with freshly made bread, or as an accompaniment to fish, rabbit or chicken.

Fillet of hake with homemade beer baked beans and ale sauce

There's more on the sauce here, and the beans here. I think it's a winning combination.

Fish pie

Another family recipe - originally from my maternal grandmother who's been making it for 70 years or more, but which I have, again, improved a little bit. I did give away the recipe once to a group on a hen weekend after they raved about it so much, but that's as far as it goes at the moment.
Cod, salmon, king prawns. oven dried tomatoes, egg and parsley. Grain mustard and Gorsehill Abbey Farm St. Kennelm cheese potato puree is piped on top.


These were taken from our bistro menu, but as they are made to order it means I can make whatever anyone asks for, and can account for any allergies or preferences. They can be made at a clients house using their own dishes, or most often I make them at my premises fitting them in between everything else and then deliver them at a suitable time.


Roast cauliflower in Cotswold Way ale sauce

Thursday, April 09, 2009
Soggy cauliflower no longer.

Isn't it annoying when you sauce your cauliflower cheese and by the time it's browned you have a pool of water at the bottom of the dish. Like broccoli, sprouts, you name it, roasting is the way forward, keeping in the flavour (boil it and the flavour goes into the water), plus you get the caramelisation.

Roasted with olive oil, maldon salt and fennel seeds.
Nice with left over baked beans......

Vegetarian heaven.

Click here for Cotswold Way ale sauce recipe.

Related posts:

Roast tenderstem broccoli with balsamic and pine nuts

Beer baked beans

Sunday, April 05, 2009
So you're half way through cooking a large order of frozen meals for a regular client for the Easter week, and you suddenly realise that rather too many dishes are tomato based what do you do? I hunted around and found a baked bean recipe without tomato from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks. Beans - beer - beer batter - hake - hake and beans - beer and beans - hake and beer sauce.... it all seemed to fit together.

This has 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 this week hosted by Ivy at Greek hospitality.

I'm not sure if the berry beer (beer flavoured with berries) which she mentions has really taken off in the UK yet - though berry cider seems to have - and some can be really good. As I was accompanying these beans with hake I decided against the berry flavours and used Cotswold Way ale. I liked the idea of molasses - this is what you should use in a traditional Boston beans which gives it a deep strong flavour (it's hard to resist the assosciation with liquorice allsorts when you taste it).


If you're using red kidney beans, or, as I was here, cannellini beans make sure you bring them to the boil and boil them rapidly for 10 minutes before simmering/ braising - we don't want any nasty food poisoning outbreaks!..... I used:

500g cannellini beans
Olive oil
1 - 2 onions
1/4 cup of molasses (+ the little bit that spills over the top)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
Chilli - well you decide how much you like
A 500ml bottle of Cotswold Way ale
Chicken/ vegetable stock

Soak the beans overnight. Drain them. Add to boiling water, bring back to the boil and boil rapidly for 10 minutes. Then drain them and wash them through in hot water (keeps the heat). Meanwhile sweat the onion. Then add the rest of the ingredients to the pan (excluding the beans which are still boiling). Bring this the boil and transfer to a deep baking tin along with the beans. Cover with foil and bake in the oven at 180 oC for around 2 - 2 1/2 hours.

As Heidi mentions it's an idea to check them every 25 minutes after an hour or so to see if they are soft or have run out of liquid. If they have dried up and need more liquid add a little more stock or water.

Ideally you want the juice to be mostly all absorbed as above. If the beans are cooked and ready before this you can put them on the stove top, uncover them and boil off the excess liquid.

Season with salt and pepper, and paprika too if you like.

You could also add bacon/ pancetta lardons, kabanos, belly pork, sweetcorn - all these would give it an extra flavour.

Eat warm on their own as an accompaniment (I accompanied these with hake), with cold meats, or just on their own with fresh bread.

Related posts:

Beans means hake - tomato flavoured baked beans
Beer baked beans on toasted nettle gluten free rice soda bread
Beer sauce