Wheat free and gluten free baking

Monday, July 27, 2009
Another Saturday and another outing for the bistro menu. For one party there were two guests on wheat free and gluten free diets. As the idea of choosing two starters was to swap them with their partners half way through, both the red onion tarts and the blinis for the smoked trout were made with wheat free flour (see below) and I made some wheat free walnut, raisin and rosemary bread rolls too. In all the best gluten free baking I have done so far.

Even if you are not on a gluten free diet this pastry is really worth making - with the potato in it crisps up and the rice flour adds a great flavour too. It's quite like parmesan shortbread. Next time I make it I'm going to add parmesan too. It's not for the faint hearted though - it can be quite breakable. But the good thing about it is because there is no gluten content it doen't really shrink when cooking, so you can cut it out to the size of your baking tin, and any holes you patch up will stay patched up as it cooks.
I remember the first time I used this recipe and didn't use the xanthan gum - I had a few kitchen nightmares that day. You really need the xanthan gum for this to help it glue together.
There's more about the St. Agnes tart in a previous post.

Unlike normal bread this is quite a moist mix (500g of flour to 420ml water) so it is mixed in the electric mixer rather than by hand kneading.

A third rice flour, a third tapioca flour and a third potato flour for these and a couple of teaspoons of xanthan gum (which replaces the effect of the gluten), 7g intant dried yeast and 1 tsp salt, sugar and baking powder.

I mixed in the walnuts, raisins and rosemary after this and left it to prove before rolling out. To roll out you need to flour your hands really well with rice flour as the dough is very soft. Remember to use rice flour as well to sprinkle on the tray to stop them sticking - easy to use normal flour out of habit, and then you have to start again.

They came out really smooth which is amazing for gluten free bread and tasting great with all those ingredients. If you are going to keep them they start to go hard even if kept in an airproof container so you just need to 'refresh' them in the oven, microwave or by toasting them before eating them.

I used the same rice/ tapioca/ potato flour mix in place of normal flour in my blinis recipe and added a couple of teaspoons of xanthan gum as well. Again, the different tastes of the flours was really good.

Holiday chef

Tuesday, July 21, 2009
'We take the catering out of self catering, leaving you time to spend on your self'.

A personal chef for your holiday - all or some of your meals taken care of: breakfast, lunch, childrens meals and evening meals are all possible - you decide how much you want us to do. It's like being in a hotel but with the flexibility of your own home. No taxis to restaurants to organise and no baby sitter needed for the children - and it doesn't cost as much as you think!

We have menu ideas using the links below, but are happy to make whatever you would like - after all it's your special holiday!

Previous dishes made to request can be seen here: Special request .

You can also find dishes we have served in the past by clicking on starters, main course, dessert etc on the right sidebar or by using the search engine on the top left.

For weekends we also have weekend catering packages here: Benson of Broadway weekend catering pacakges and special offers

If you are interested in just one night - ideal for a celebration because you can spend your evening with your guests rather than toiling in the kitchen - we have menus here: Benson of Broadway menus.

We can either cook you meal in your home with chef and waiting staff or deliver it chilled with simple instructions for you to heat and serve.

You can see our previous clients' feedback here: Benson of Broadway recommendation letters.

See a previous holiday chef menu post - click here


11 - 16 August 2009

Last week we cooked for a lady celebrating her 70th birthday at Wellacres. Adam cooked for them on Saturday when her family were there while I was barbecuing in Stroud. Then the family left on the Sunday and Monday, and her friends arrived on Tuesday and I cooked for them on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

It was a week of bistro menus. They chose the Saturday menu but left the rest of the days to me so I tried out a few new bistro dishes.

As always there were different chocolates to go with the coffee & tea each day and different flavour bread rolls, but this time even different shapes for the rolls.


Homemade sundried tomato, olive and basil bakers knot rolls

Asparagus and gruyère tart

You can see more about this on a previous post.

Slow cooked shoulder of pork with lentils, spinach and chorizo......

Pot roasted for 6 hours - like the pork belly. The foil is taken off the top for the last hour so the crackling can crisp up. There is some spinach hiding underneath the pork.
..... and turnip and carrot salad

Cut on the mandolin. Bound with mayonnaise and vinaigrette a bit like coleslaw, but with turnips. Salted over night and then drained the turnips take on a new character - you could just mix them with olive oil and lemon and use them like celariac.

New York vanilla cheesecake with cherries in cherry brandy
I took the cherries raw and whole, and pitted them when I got there. Dropped in a little thickened sugar syrup with a good amount of cherry brandy and cooked for just a couple of minutes till soft (but you don't want them to puree!). I left them to cool naturally while we served the rest of them meal so they could remain at room temperature.

Coffee, tea and handmade white chocolate and blueberry fudge

Homemade onion bread rolls
Smoked chicken and orange salad with orange dressing
Donnington trout fillets in cider and apple sauce with baked cannellini beans, runner beans, broad beans and mangetout

When I was updating a few pages on the website recently I came accross this long forgotten dish, something I did in the months before I started. I thought it was time for a revamp. This is after all a sustainable fish - and in the Cotswolds about the only local fish, although I saw they had eel there as well.
The trout were still alive the morning before we served this. I had picked them up at Donnington on the way the previous evening - you have to let them rest overnight so the bones relax enough to pin bone them. I still can't forget the night I tried to pinbone them a few hours after they had been caught. The fillets are cooked skin side up (you need to scale them for this) so you can eat the crispy skin with a ladle of cider on the tray as well which poaches them from underneath.

Banana tarte tatin with homemade rum and raisin ice cream
After the success of the barbecued bananas recently I thought it would be good to try a banana tarte tatin. I still had some caramel left from cooking apples for tarte tatin and pineapples for the barbecue. All the flavour from cooking those was imparted to the bananas. The combination of this and the rum and raisin ice cream was just pure decadence.

Coffee, tea and handmade chocolate and coconut fudge


I had saved the lamb and lemon tart till the last day - everyone's favourite. Always good to finish on a high note.

Homemade pesto bread rolls
Pearl barley risotto with wild nettles, roasted purple sprouting broccoli, artichokes and nettle pesto

After so many days in the kitchen it was nice to get out in the morning to pick nettles along the river. I found the first blackberries too - just a single bush that was directly in the sunlight, while the rest were still bitter green or still in flower. I sautéed the nettles and used some in the risotto itself and some to make pesto to go with it.

Shoulder of lamb with tabbouleh and grilled vegetables

Exactly the same as this one pictured a couple of months ago.

Glazed lemon tart with raspberries and raspberry sorbet

Coffee, tea and handmade elderflower Turkish delight

There is more on the turkish delight here.

"We have to go home tomorrow" said one guest at the end "and cook our own meals again - it just won't be the same". "Well you'll just have to come back again" I said. One of the other guests was already noting down our details and those of the house to do just that......

Beef olive with nettle, sun dried tomato and basil stuffing

Monday, July 20, 2009
Almost too good to eat. As I still had some nettles from my last foray along the river (I still have the nettle risotto to post) I added those in the stuffing too.

You can see more on how it's made on the previous beef olive post.

Because the skirt beef is hard to come by at Home Farm (there's only so much you get from one cow) it's going to remain on special request only for now.

Elderflower turkish delight

Friday, July 17, 2009
Of all the things I've made this year (that's quite a lot) this has to be my new favourite. So engrossed in picking nettles this (yesterday) morning that I forgot about picking up some rosewater to make turkish delight. Rosewater is not something you can find anywhere. The health food shop has it, but when I was in picking up some more xanthan gum and tapioca flour last week I forgot. And the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. Anyone would think I was busy.

I first thought of elderflower turkish delight when I called in at Dove Cottage last month to pick up some pink grapefruit marmalade. The smell of roses in the garden hit you at the gate, and then again when you opened the front door, for rose petal jelly was in production - the National Trust jams & jellies book still open on the kitchen table at the rose petal jelly page. What a book. I wanted to make everything in it straight away. Rose petal jelly - turkish delight - elderflower champagne - why not make elderflower turkish delight? But it was a bit of a rainy patch at that point. It's never much good when you pick anything when it's raining - all the aroma and flavour is lost, so I had to wait a while.

With no rose water, now was the ideal time to try the elderflower turkish delight. I had some vintage Dove Cottage elderflower cordial in my fridge and just exchanged the two in the recipe, though probably used more cordial. I wouldn't try making it with commercial cordial - it has none of the aroma or flavour that the home made one does.

It was a little soft - don't think I cooked it long enough, but that could also be because it didn't really have enough time to set. By later on today it'll probably be firmer. Maybe you could make an elderflower essence - one for next year now.


Onion bread rolls knots

Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I've always done different flavour bread rolls each day when I cook for the same people all week long or part of the week as their holiday chef. Now I do different shapes too.

Pesto bread roll twists


Asparagus and gruyère tart

Started making these 20 minutes before the guests sat down and they came out the oven just in the nick of time. Now that's fresh. Definitely a new bistro classic. Recipe here.


Chocolate fondue with fruit and marshmallow kebabs

Sunday, July 12, 2009
There are some things that just should not be allowed and chocolate fondue is one of them. Or is it? You decide.

Chocolate, cream and a little cointreau (you could use orange zest if you wanted to go alcohol free).

Fruits were melon (honeydew and canteloupe), strawberries, pineapple and grapes.

There was also strawberry meringue roulade with strawberry ice cream. What more could you ask? *

Related posts:

Dry snacks served with cocktails
Barbecue main course

* Strawberry meringue drizzled with chocolate fondue? We tried that. Wow - that shouldn't be allowed either.......


Fish and chips........ on the barbecue

Looking for some other barbecue ideas to suggest to the organiser of the hen party I googled fish recipes, but kept coming up with fish and chips. What good would fish and chips be on a barbecue? But then I thought how good would fish and chips be on a barbecue!You just have to think laterally. And in this case - on a stick. I baked potatoes in the oven and refrigerated them overnight so they 'set' then cut them into pieces. The fish was salmon (skin on), cod and tuna marinated in hoi sin. Skewering the potatoes through the skin meant they held together. As they cook the salmon skin and the potatoes crisp up.

This would have been barbecued if it hadn't started raining as I set off to Stroud. As it was they were cooked indoors under the grill. We only had a domestic sized grill to play with and 21 people eating so I started cooking early and then flashed everything through the two ovens just before serving. Putting foil over the top and bottom of the skewers stopped them from burning.

Nicoise salad, spinach salad and potato salad accompanied this, along with lamb kofta tortilla wraps and cajun chicken (marinated overnight - definitely do that again too).

Related posts:

Dry snacks served with cocktails
Fruit and marshmallow kebabs with chocolate fondue as a dessert
Other hen party barbecue

Other barbecues we have served


Palmiers and allumettes

If Christmas wasn't busy enough, the new year was the busiest yet - altogether a three week block of events.
After the first Saturday night of the year I then had 10 days before the next block of busy weeks. 10 days to catch up with all those other things - updating the website (refreshing all the links, adding new photos, adding new pages - like a weddings page - and deleting old ones, adding a site map which helps the search engines etc etc), catching up with all the correspondance that had built up, and looking at new menu ideas for the rest of the year (re-structuring the breakfast menu, adding a spring menu, new summer dishes, re-designing and re-pricing the barbecue menu etc).

One of the things I had thought of was adding a selection of dry snacks that people could have with pre dinner drinks as a more economical choice to canapés. Real ones. Made fresh. But at the time I had to prioritise, and this went down the list of priorities as the enquiries kept coming in.

This week the hen party we cooked for near Stroud had asked us to make cocktails with recipes and ingredients they provided, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out some dry snacks from the canapés book - a staple for many canapé makers.

Palmiers - 4 flavours: Anchovy, sun dried tomato, artichoke and black olive.

Black olive (left) and anchovy (right) and sun dried tomato (far right)

There's only one problem with these - they're so nice straight from the oven there might not be any left to serve by the time you guests arrive.....

You roll your puff pastry out to a 15 x 35cm square and spread whatever topping you are using and aprinkle with parmesan. Then roll both ends tightly to meet in the middle and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes so they firm up. After brushing with egg on all the sides, you cut them into 1cm pieces (I egg washed the tops at this point too) and bake at 200 oC for 10 minutes.

I was about to make a pesto version, but at the last moment remembered there were a few nut free guests - so the pesto wouldn't have been such a good idea. I puréed some marinated artichokes instead and used that. The artichoke flavour kicked in almost after you had eaten them - like an after taste, which I liked. The anchovy ones were my favourite though.


Very much like the parmesan shortbread I made a couple of weeks ago - but rolled out thicker and cut in strips.

Cheese and tomato baked tortilla chips

I also tried the cheese and tomato baked tortilla chips that I'd seen on the Good Mood Food blog a few days before - hen party heaven. No photo of these yet though......

Lamb kofta with millet seed, cherry tomato and watermelon salad

Some people say you shouldn't trust a slim chef. Well I'm sure my chef jackets shrunk in the wash recently.
When I'm talking to the guests I cook for one of the most common things they say is along the lines of 'do you cook for yourself as well' or 'when do you ever get time to eat yourself' or 'you can't want to cook for yourself after all this.....'. But it's when you cook for yourself you throw things together and come up with new flavours or combinations, or quicker, more efficient techniques. 24 hours a day, 363 days a year (there was one day - the first day of holiday last year when I didn't cook) you eat, sleep (I've done a record number of functions in my sleep this week) and live food so not cooking would be like not breathing.

I cracked the 5 minute lunch when working at Claridges - if there wasn't a queue in the canteen I could be away from the larder, grab lunch and be back in 5 minutes. There was no time for lunch yesterday really - Adam who was helping me pack up and then cooking at Wellacres was stuck in traffic getting back from Wales, but I knew I had to fit in lunch somehow because it would be so long till I could get time to stop again (and sure enough it was after 2am), so it was 2 minutes of getting it together and 3 minutes eating while answering an email at the same time. Busy.

I'd been experimenting with millet seed earlier in the week (I've really become a new fan of grains & pulses this year) and still had some left so combined it with left over cherry tomatoes, watermelon and basil from the goats cheese starter. Added some sesame oil and coriander. It needed some acidity - lime zest/ juice would have been good, but as I put the sesame oil back on the shelf I passed over the rice wine vinegar so added this instead. Millet, being similar to cous cous, worked well with the left over lamb kofta.

Related posts:

1001 Kitchen Tips # 50 - How to make crispy crackling

Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Everyone (bar possibly vegetarians, pescetarians and vegans) loves crispy crackling - but how do you get it crispy everyone always wants to know.
If you are roasting your pork you'll need to score the skin really well with a sharp knife (butchers use a stanley knife for this), and salt it well - the salt brings out the moisture - and it's that moisture which will stop the crackling from crackling.

If you load up your oven with roast pork, roast potatoes and roast vegetables you're going to create a lot of steam - as outlined in an ealier kitchen tip, and the crackling needs dry heat.

There are several ways you can get round this:

  • I cook it seperately. Esepcially when barbecuing pork. Trim the skin and a little fat from the pork before you cook it. Cut it into strips and cook it in the oven on a baking tray on it's own on high heat - 240 oC. You can also do this under the grill but you have to watch it doesn't burn.
  • Sue, who works in the farm shop at Home Farm where I get most of my meat these days suggested cutting up the skin as above and mixing with the potatoes when roasting so the fat renders as it cooks, then both the potatoes and the crackling crisp up. I have yet to try that - but it sounds so good. These would need high heat too - see roast potatoes.

  • If you've left the crackling on your pork joint while roasting and it hasn't crisped up you can carve off the un-crackled crackling and finish it under a hot grill...... or microwave it. I know what you're going to say - but it works. If the crackling hasn't crisped up you can blast it in the microwave like cheese crisps and it crisps up. Haven't tried it for c. 13 years, but I remember it working on busy Sunday lunch services at Goblets.

One more thing - when cooking a whole pig, possibly the tastiest part of the whole animal is the snout, ears and trotters - try them next time.


Barbcued bananas in toffee sauce

Sunday, July 05, 2009
You can order the barbecue, but you can't order the weather. Luck was with us last night at Upper Court and the weather held, so we set up tables for the 37 guests right by the lake - always a great back drop.

After the pork (as seen in a previous post), Donnington trout marinaded in coconut and lime (24 hours marinading and it really takes on the flavours) and chicken poached in plum and brandy wine and wrapped in parma ham had finished cooking, there was just enough heat left in the coals to cook these bananas and caramelised pineapple.

The bananas just go on raw, and because of their natural sugar content caramelise on the outside and go wonderfully soft in the middle.

Then they were served with warm toffee sauce on top, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, and chopped mint from the kitchen garden just a few steps away from where I was barbecuing. There was also malibu ice cream which I had been making over the previous 3 days.

You could also do these indoors on a grill pan - instant dessert, well almost.

Related posts:

Budget barbecue
Other barbecues we have served
Whole roast lamb
Barbecue July 2008
Marquee barbecue for a wedding of 120 guests

Where to eat in Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds

Thursday, July 02, 2009

For more venues we cook at regularly click here

Seen here from the bank of the River Severn, Oddas Barn in Deerhurst, just outside Tewkesbury, and around 8 miles from Cheltenham is the perfect location for a dinner party for your family and friends. It's your evening: Your Menu. Your Wine. Your Chef (that could be me!)

Renovated around 25 years ago by the architect who went on to design the Canary Wharf Tower, Oddas Barn, named from the historic Oddas Chapel next door, blends the traditional with a contempory feel. There are two reception rooms on the second floor - which allow good views over the meadow to the river beyond. Perfect for 8 - 12 guests, there is even a grand piano if you want music while you dine. The owner, Kim, said they had recently had a jazz pianist to accompany a dinner party for friends and it made for a great atmosphere because unlike in traditional restaurants, here you have the freedom of being the only party there - so it really is your evening.

For those really warm summer evenings or lunch times (like now) there is also dining space outside - with a wood burning oven and outdoor kitchen at the back. This photo was taken by them in April, but for the summer they also have drapes which can be attached to the sides of the arbour.

If you are planning a small intimate wedding - up to 12 guests - Deerhurst church, also dating back to Saxon times and much revered in the area is situated next door to Oddas Barn.

So if it is a birthday, anniversary, a dinner party for friends or small wedding you are hosting near Cheltenham, Tewkesbury or Gloucester, Oddas Barn is the place for you!
Contact details click here