Wedding in the Cotswolds

Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Hello James, I can't thank you enough for the wonderful wedding buffet you provided for Paul and Sophie at Wellacres on Saturday. The food was amazing and everybody was so impressed with the quality. You certainly helped to make the day one to remember. Good luck for the future and we will certainly recommend you to our friends.
Kind regards
25kg of goose foie gras. There's some things you never forget, and the divine aroma of 25kgs of foie gras filling the Claridges larder on the week of Joan Collins' most recent wedding (8 years ago? You can not be serious) is one of them.

For this event two days ago at Wellacres (which I know now better than my own kitchen at home) I was emailed a wishlist of what the bride and groom would like. Quite traditional - which is fine. As it is the wedding couple's special day I am always quite happy to cook whatever they want. Even simple food can be made special if you bring the best out of your ingredients. As they wanted to serve and clear up themselves, I just set up everything ready for them.

The best thing about holding a wedding reception at a luxury holiday house rather than a hotel or wedding venue is that in the holiday house you have exclusive use, all day, and all weekend, so it can be much more relaxed as a result. I always feel in wedding venues you are rushed through so the next wedding party can arrive, so if something overruns, the time of your reception gets cut. In the holiday house this never happens - because you're the only party there, and you have the freedom. There was a wedding we did at Wellacres a couple of years ago when the weather was once again favourable and after eating some of the younger guests dived in the swimming pool and hot tub while others relaxed on the terrace in the sun - that's how to enjoy a wedding.

Crudités with dips - blue cheese, onion and chive, tatziki

It took quite a while for them to decide whether they wanted canapés or not. In the end they asked for crudités and dips which they tucked into after the champagne had been flowing and the band had been playing on the terrace.

Homemade walnut and raisin bread rolls, soda bread, sun dried tomato, olive and basil knots and clover rolls, granary bakers knots, sesame and poppy snail rolls, lemon and dill bread.

All they had put was 'Selection of breads (i.e. granary, white, wholemeal, baguettes and fancy etc.) ' . So this is what I came up with, and two large interlocking bread rings (shame I didn't snap those). As the soda bread (left) is so easy that was made first thing in the morning.

Platter or cooked meats – beef, ham, chicken with homemade chutney

For the ham I used a piece of gammon from Home Farm and cooked it in cider, apples, onion, carrot etc. which gives it a sweet flavour, then finished it off in the oven with the skin scored and studded with cloves and coated with a molasses and wholegrain mustard glaze.

The chicken was a Madgetts farm chicken ballottined and roasted.

The beef was roasted last thing, timed exactly so it would be ready just before I left, and could rest on the way. I sliced the other two meats but left the beef whole so they could carve it themselves at the table - this would stop it drying out or discolouring, but also add a little theatre to their dining.

Smoked salmon

.....and poached salmon too. Some crème fraîche, chive and lemon dressing to go with it.

Nicoise vegetable tart - as seen here

King prawns with cocktail sauce

These never fail to please. They actually went out with the crudités in the end.

Potato salad - Like this one we served at Wellacres in February with the whole lamb roast

Rice & pearl barley salad

Adzuki beans and fresh (uncooked) peas in there too along with peppers, onions, raisins, coriander, cumin etc.

Tomato and mozzarella salad

Grilled vegetables

A bit like these from February but with asaparagus as well. They were cooked fresh on the morning.

Cucumber, yogurt and mint salad - Like the one served for a barbecue last month

Green salad with vinaigrette


Summer pudding -
like this one but larger

Chocolate brownie

Same recipe as the one seen here, but cooked in individual tins - like the one, left, from Easter.

Berries with crème fraîche

Strawberry tart

Well this wasn't on the original proposal, but you know how it is - you see recipes on food blogs and you bookmark it, but never get round to making it. Well this one I did. When I saw it over on Kevin's blog, I knew it would fit perfectly on this wedding buffet. Without the nuts though, as there were nuts in other things.

Fairy cakes

They had asked for these for the children, so while the grilled vegetables were grilling, the roast vegetables roasting, the base for the rice salad sweating, the soda bread baking, the beef roasting and the salmon poaching I made these fairy cakes. Think they call that multi tasking.

Must be over 20 years since I made any. I remember making and entering them for a cub scout county craft fair when I was about 9, and that was a while ago, so I had to look up a recipe and found this one. I didn't use their icing recipe, but instead used equal quantities of butter and icing (confectioners) sugar and a drop of vanilla essence. As I had some candied orange zest on the shelf I sprinkled those on top. One taste, and it was like being transported back in time. Should make these more often.

As we had a spare lemon drizzle cake from the day before, I cut this up and added it as well.


After this it was a quick clear down and back to base to whip up 3 strawberry meringue roulades and 2 duck ballottines for the evening while Adam packed up everything we both needed. Soon enough I was back on the road to Blockley again, and Rock Bank Cottage, while he was at Upper Court. Now that's a lot of food in 2 days!

Related posts:

Buffet, afternoon tea cakes and barbecue in Gloucester

Monday, June 29, 2009
Dear James

Thank you once again for a superb job last Friday. We received so many nice comments about the food and the dicreet and professional way in which you worked. We still have a few cakes left and will be enjoying those with our afternoon cup of tea this week! I did not have a chance to see the two ladies who helped out at lunch time so could you please pass on my thanks to them.

Thank you again and I wish you every success for the future -maybe one day it will be you celebrating a Queen's Award.

Best regards


SMI Labhut just outside Gloucester were awarded the Queen's Award for Enterprise: International Trade 2009. The Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire was presenting the award to them last Friday on behalf of the queen, and we were there providing the food for 3 different functions that day. Firstly a lunch buffet for 38 following the award presentation, then afternoon cakes for 50 guests from their neighbouring businesses at the Steadings Business Centre, and finally an evening barbecue for the owners and their staff's families and friends - another 50.

12:30 Lunch Buffet Menu

Open sandwich of parma ham, rocket and parmesan - as seen here
Confit of duck wraps with hoi sin sauce - as seen here
Open sandwich of vine tomatoes and mozzarella

The first two plates of these went so fast we had to reload twice.

Homemade mini quiche

I find individual ones work much better - they hold together as you eat them. Cases were made in muffin tins on Tuesday, and the filling (nicoise vegetable and also ham, onion and cheese) added and baked just before we left on Friday so they were fresh.

Homemade pork pie using Home Farm pork

Made Wednesday into Thursday so they had time to set up. I use the good old Gary Rhodes recipe from the New British Classics book, with sage picked fresh from the garden that morning, while I was picking the wild strawberries. I doubled up the amount of sage, mixed spice and mace (an excuse to use mace is always good) - it really gives it a flavour boost.

On the same day I was de-boning 8 Madgetts farm chickens to use for a ballottine for a wedding on Saturday, and the chicken in elderflower Adam cooked for two parties - one on Friday night at Kempley Barns while I was doing the barbecue, and the other on Saturday night at Upper Court while I was back at Rock Bank Cottage. This meant I could use all the chicken bones to make a serious flavoursome jellied stock which I could then use for the pork pie.
The pork pies are cooked with a metal piping nozzle in the middle which lets the steam out as they cook so the pastry doesn't burst, and also becomes the funnel to pour in the warm stock after it has cooked and rested. You keep filling it up slowly and the pork mixture inside absorbs it which gives it moistness, and the extra stock fills the gap between the pork mix and the pastry, and sets overnight in the fridge. So just as you see on shop brought pork pies but with a much better flavour and texture - and a fresh taste.
I was worried I had made a little too much, but once the first one had gone out, they asked for more immediately, and both of them just went - think they must have liked it!

Salmon and king prawn terrine with herb crème fraîche and lemon bread

Wrapped in smoked salmon, with salmon and smoked salmon mousse. Layered with king prawns, asparagus and dill.

Pear and almond tart - as seen here

Chocolate nemesis - as seen here


15:00 Afternoon cakes – 50 people

Lemon drizzle

No picture of this one - it was 2:30am on Friday morning by the time it was finished - but the recipe came from A Pot Of Tea and a Biscuit blog - very apt name. How can something so simple be so tasty?

Chocolate brownie

This photo is actually from a few months ago. As you can see I make industrial amounts of these (each of those trays does 8 - 12 as a dessert or 16 as an afternoon tea cake), as I also sell them to a restaurant in Cheltenham. The restaurant get through that quicker than anything else (one of their regular customers comes in just for the chocolate brownie in fact) and sure enough, it was the chocolate brownie that we couldn't see a trace of when I returned to the venue later in the day.

At room temperature it's chocolate heaven.

Date and walnut slice

All through the autumn and winter months (and occasionally in the summer too), everyone loves the sticky toffee pudding - it's the decadence. Here it's turned into a cake with sticky toffee sauce and walnuts on top. There were very few left overs of this also.

Raspberry shortbread

A variation of the raspberry shortbread I do for the assiette dessert. Only this time with lemon curd rather than crème patisserie as they had to last through the afternoon and the crème pat really wouldn't. Shortbread recipe can be found here (without the hazelnuts). You could make raspberry curd of course, but lemon works just as well - like lemon tart with raspberries.

Blueberry muffins - as seen here


20:30 Barbecue menu – 50 people

The first outing for the budget barbecue menu. With 177 covers in 2 days I had really run out of fridge space, so we picked up the burgers and sausages that Ann Meadows had made the night before (Herefordhire cows for the beef, Gloucester Old Spot and Berkshire cross pigs for the pork) on the way back from the lunch, then it was a quick rush to pack up everything for the 2 evening events, and back to Gloucester with barbecue in the back.

Chicken fillet (marinaded in barbecue sauce)
Home Farm Bredons Norton sausages
Home Farm Bredons Norton beef burgers
Homemade black bean and bulgar wheat burgers

Tomato and basil salad
Potato salad

After that (23:00) it was just a quick trip to the 24 hour supermarket on the way back for last minute provisions (now I'd cleared some fridge space), unpack, clean up, a quick rest and back to work on a wedding buffet for Saturday lunch, and 2 parties on Saturday evening. "Sounds like you're in demand" said the hens at the hen party I cooked for the following evening when I was relaying all this to them. They had a point.

Related posts:

Corporate Lunch buffet
Vegetarian lunch buffet
Easter buffet 2009
Previous barbecues


Wild strawberry and coriander sushi

Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Strawberries and coriander - who would ever think of putting those two ingredients together?
Mr Brooks might. And did - that's where I got the idea for doing this. I was going to use normal strawberries, but as I went through the garden this morning in search of rosemary and sage to go on top of foccacia I saw the recent sun had ripened up all the wild strawberries so I just had to pick them......

As this is a sweet version of sushi I used coconut milk to cook the rice rather than water. I'm not sure this is quite authentic - maybe in malaysian cuisine, but it tastes good. If you want a savoury version (with normal sushi rice) tuna and strawberry sushi is a classic.

No nori on this one - though if you google strawberry sushi - you can see some quite interesting versions and some 'interesting' ones too.

Rolled in toasted dessciated coconut. Best to toast it in a frying pan - if you put it in the oven you'll remember it's in there only when black smoke is wafting through your kitchen.......

Let it cool down too before you roll. Roll tightly in cling film - this helps you cut the round shapes easily.
Balsamic syrup makes a nice accompaniment (as above), but you could also sieve some strawberries to make a coulis as a dip.

This has been submitted to the Strawberry Feast at My Kitchen Treasures.


Bakers knot bread rolls - get knotted!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Right over left and under, left over right and under. Oh wait a minute, that's a reef knot. These are bakers knots - granary bread rolled into a long rope, like the snail shapes last week, then made into a figure of 8 with the ends tucked in.

Vegetarian sausages

Monday, June 22, 2009
You can buy vegetarian sausages in supermarkets - but have you ever tasted them? The cardboard boxes they are sold in probably have more flavour. I couldn't really bring myself to serve those. So like everything else I make my own.
I've always liked the pearl barley in black pudding - and these vegetarian sausages have pearl barley in too. I used the vegetarian kofta recipe I had used last year, replacing the bulgar with pearl barley, and the aduki beans with a mixture of chickpeas, black eye beans, cannellini and red kidney beans (the aduki beans turn out a little too dark for this purpose), and rolled the mix into sausage shapes in cling film as above. I didn't really measure any of the ingredients - and probably added more ground coriander and cumin that they say, and added some ground ginger too.

Thinking they might set up over night (well a few hours in the morning as the sun rose on the longest day as it turned out) I left them in the fridge. I found they don't set raw as the mix is quite wet. This means you get tasty and moist vegetarian sausages - rather than adding extra bread crumbs which will dry them out. So as I got to the house on Sunday morning, I dropped them in to the freezer to make a firm layer around the outside, setting them into a sausage shape. They have recently invested in new fridge freezers in a couple of the houses at Upper Court, and the freezers chill things down faster than a blast freezer. So once they had set I could unwrap them, put them on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven - and then serve them with everything else you need for a vegetarian Sunday breakfast - homemade baked beans, hash browns, Oakfield organic portobello mushrooms, locally grown tomatoes & scrambled burford brown eggs.
Vegetarian sausages with homemade baked beans

Related posts

Other vegetarian dishes
Breakfast delivery

Beer baked beans
Baked beans (tomato flavour)
Brunch - top 5 flavours
Hash brown (with baked potatoes)
Potato rosti
Breakfast muffins
Almond and cranberry granola

Keeping your finger on the pulse

Saturday, June 20, 2009
How nice are these!
They're sprouting chickpeas, lentils, adzuki and mung beans from And so on..... which I just found the other day. That's found as in brought. Wonderful just to eat raw (fresh crunchy texture. Healthy eating too), or you can cook with them. I added them to a bean salad we served with a barbecue earlier while Adam was 83 miles away cooking for another party near Northampton.

Snail bread rolls

Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Sesame and poppy seed bread. You roll it in to a long thin rope and then roll it up tucking the end underneath which gives it the little height it needs.

Clover leaf shapes - sun dried tomato, olive and basil bread.

Related posts

Normal bread recipe & spelt bread
Gluten free nettle soda bread
Soda bread - buttermilk vs. vinegar & water
Cinnamon, raisin and candied orange bread crown
Thyme bread

Hash browns

Normally I make potato rostis for the english breakfasts we either deliver ready to heat, or that we cook and serve in the house. Last Friday though I was packing up 3 meals (2 course bistro meal, cooked breakfast and a 3 course dinner party meal) for a budget weekend catering package which was delivered in a catering size cool box to a group taking it away Derbyshire for the weekend. As they had the rostis on one of the evening meals, I made the hash browns for the breakfast slightly differently.

These were made almost the same way as the rostis, but with baked potatoes and softened red onions.

The baking potatoes give a wonderful strong flavour, and once cooked you cool them down for a good few hours in the fridge (this stops them falling apart) before cutting them into large slices. Like the rostis, a little egg and cornflour helps keep them together. You could also add pancetta, ham or smoked salmon in the potato mix.

Breakfast menu

Related posts:

Rosti potato
1001 Kitchen Tips - Red onions pronto


Saffron potatoes

A little saffron added to the turned new potatoes as they boil results in a wonderful flavour. The colour is good too.

These went with the scallop dish last Saturday.

Related posts:

Scallops with saffron potatoes and pea puree
New potatoes with chives

1001 Kitchen Tips #49 - Chicken and Duck stock - save the livers

Sunday, June 14, 2009
A frugal tip possibly, but I had always added all the giblets to chicken, duck or game stock until last year, when I realised it might be a good idea to keep back the liver.

It's amazing how chicken livers are so hard to find these days - so full of flavour people don't know what they are missing out on. But the duck liver - you never see those. Foie gras, as you know, is from force fed ducks, but the regular duck livers inside whole ducks are amazing too, sautéed with a little duck jus, hoi sin or balsamic. And they seem to go so well with pearl barley risotto......

This way you get just that few extra meals from a duck or chicken.

Related posts

Other 1001 Kitchen tips
Duck and chicken ballottine
How to bone a turkey

Parmesan shortbread

Fancy a biscuit?

Made as Friday was becoming Saturday, these parmesan shortbreads were the base for a beef, rocket and horseradish canapé last night.

The good thing about the shortbread recipe rather than a pâte sablée is when you re-roll the scraps with the pâte sablée if you have too much air in it, it makes huge air bubbles when you cook them - so you end up with a mountain effect, no good for putting canapés on top. With the shortbread that just doesn't seem to happen.

Canapés. What a useful book. This is where these come from:

60g Plain flour (although I'll try ½ wheat flour and ½ rice flour next time).
Cayenne pepper
45g cold butter
60g parmesan cheese, grated

You can pulse these in the food proccessor, or as I prefer, mix them by hand. Once you have a smooth dough, roll it out to 5mm thickness and stamp them out with a cutter - canape size is a 3.5cm cutter. Shapes would be good too. Place them on baking mats on baking trays 2 cm apart, and refrigerate for 30 minutes (this holds the shape when the go in the oven rather than spreading). Bake at 180 oC for 7 - 8 minutes.

Sesame beef salad with soy and chilli

Admittedly this looked far better about 7 ½ hours ago when the fillet was fresh from the oven when we served it at Wellacres earlier.

Julienne of cucumber, celery, peppers, spring onion, radish, baby gem lettuce, mint and basil are bound with a dressing made from a little of the caramel from cooking apples for tarte tatin with soy, oyster sauce, chilli, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil.


Happy birthday - 3 years old today!

Friday, June 12, 2009
Yes - it's my baby's third birthday. Monday 12th June 2006 I opened the doors for my first day of business.
Photo courtesy of Miette who also started their business at the same time as me

What a day that was. No phone calls, no emails, nobody calling in. Nothing. Zip. Had I done enough marketing in the previous weeks? You don't want to do too much before you're set up and ready, but on the other hand, especially when you don't have a shop front, you have to let people know you're there. It was a nerve racking day.
You can't wait for business to come to you though - you have to be proactive. The next day I got down to organising some promotions for the fathers day which was on the Sunday. On the Wednesday I got 2 orders from the 'Take Home Friday' promotion I had advertised around the 2 business parks in Tewkesbury figuring that Friday might be a good day for people to order meals to take home, then on the Thursday I got my first email order 'We'd like to try some of your yummy food please'. And on the Friday 3 orders for the Fathers Day came in. I had begun.

Business Plan

Interesting article in the Sunday Times business a couple of weeks ago, following up a few years on from 3 people who had started their own business. One said having a business plan is all very well but it's not till you hit the market you really know where your market is - then you can tear the business plan up and start again. That is exactly what I found. What I do now bears little resemblance to the original plan.

From Barcelona to Broadway

The original plan drawn up in 2 hours on a table in Barcelona was similar to the ready meals businesses like Cook! and two others they profiled in the Sunday Times that we had picked up in the airport at Stansted as we waited for our flight out. But unlike those business models which were based around their own shops and selling to farm shops, I could deliver the meals direct to people's homes. That is how it started. A few weeks into doing this people were saying 'that's great, but could you actually come and cook and serve it at our house'. So with help from friends and family in the begining that is exactly what I did - giving customers what they want rather than what you think they want is a simple, but essential principle.

1 or 2% Return

They say you only get a 1 or 2% response from leaflet and flyer drops. I can say that that figure is absolutely spot on. But that 1 or 2% when you are a small, and, especially new business can be all you need. I had been dropping those leaflets everywhere I could think of around the local area. At the same time I was starting up, so were Michael and Catherine Foster of The Big Cottage Company. They were getting enquiries for catering, and they came accross a couple of leaflets I had posted up. Other people they had called had been to busy to come and see them, I went over that morning when they phoned, and my business took a side step to the left and went in a whole new direction.

What's next?

The question they always finish with in interviews. The diary is already pretty full for the rest of the year now. Next year is starting to fill up and I've almost got the first booking for 2011 - that should keep me busy for now.


Big thanks goes to my parents, brother, grandmother, friends and clients who have given support and helped make it all happen over the last few years!


Blink and you'll miss it. The elderflower season can be here and gone before you realise it. I picked a lot today up from the river Severn a couple of miles from Tewkesbury. Here some are soaking in water (right) for poaching chicken and salmon, and in gin, sugar and lemon (left) to make an elderflower liqueur (let you know how that turns out).

Weather permitting I'll be picking more on Sunday..... not that rain really stops me - I picked the absolute last of the crop a couple of years ago in rain ending up wet through and covered in elderflower pollen ..... which to be fair is no bad thing - the van smelt great driving back.

Related posts

Elderflowers 2007
Elderflower poached chicken


Breakfast muffins

Sunday, June 07, 2009
Contrary to what you may have heard 6:30am on a Sunday does exist. That's what time these muffins went in the oven for a breakfast delivery this morning.

  • Double chocolate
  • Apple and cinnamon
  • Blueberry (and orange)



I came accross this recipe on Joanna's Food when I wasn't specifically looking for it, but bookmarked it for this morning. I did add the orange zest for the blueberry ones, though as I didn't have yogurt I used crème fraîche. No sugar - with the bluberries you don't need it. For the chocolate ones I missed out the blueberries and added a couple of teaspoons of cocoa and some white and dark chocolate pellets. For the apple ones, 2 diced golden delicious apples and a teaspooon of cinnamon - though that could have been 2 tsp really.

It has been bookmarked for anyone else who wants to try it on the virtual recipe drawer that is Bookmarked Recipes - where anyone from anywhere can blog about a recipe they had bookmarked from a cook book, food magazine, food blog, food website, from TV etc, make it and submit it to a weekly roundup.

Greek style baked field mushrooms with tabbouleh and pesto

Saturday, June 06, 2009
Amazing what you can make from left overs in your fridge. Feta, sun dried tomato, olives and lemon thyme and, of course, olive oil topped Oakfield organic portobello mushrooms in a quick lunch dish on bread making day.

Involtini of veal

A quick picture before rolling up the veal last Friday. I have a hole in the back of my kitchen clock at the moment, and all the time seems to be falling out of it, so in the rush this was all I was able to take.Batted out veal escalopes rolled in pancetta, with roasted peppers and red onion, mozzarella, parsley and basil.

Once rolled (left) you refrigerate it to help it set in shape, then unwrap and roast on a roasting rack/ trivet at 200 oC. 20 minutes was medium, 30 well done.

This went with parsley pesto, grilled vegetables, tomato and basil salad and garlic bread.