Ballottine of duck with cumberland sauce as served near Chipping Norton

Sunday, August 30, 2009
The ballottine of duck quickly became my favourite dish to cook. Luckily it also seems to be everyone's favourite dish to order - I cooked and served it on two consecutive evenings this week first in Enstone between Chipping Norton and Woodstock, Oxfordshire on Wednesday, then in Bourton on the Water (The Venice of the Cotswolds) on Thursday where I will be cooking on Christmas Day too.
This (left) is the bistro version with grilled vegetables and new potatoes in chive butter.

The duck came from Madgetts Farm via Home Farm which cuts down my food miles even more, and along with the duck from the Smallholding in Chadbury is the best duck you will ever taste. You just couldn't get the same results with a supermarket bird. And the smell of it roasting always gets the guests in the mood for food.

For the Cumberland sauce once you have boned the duck you roast the bones and make a duck stock (same way as the chicken stock for the coq au vin - more info there). I take that to the venue and then finish it there with port (plenty of), julienne of orange and lemon that has been brought to the boil 3 times (removes the bitterness), the juice of the orange & lemon, julienne of fresh ginger, redcurrant jelly, and at the last minute, the best part - the roasting juices from the duck when is has been cooked and rested.


I almost posted photos of my new 'interesting' shaped hen party bread rolls the other night, but stopped myself just in time while I still had a bit of credibility. But if you're planning a hen party they're available! There's another stag party shape too......

Related posts:

What does ballottine mean / How to bone chicken & duck
How to bone a turkey
1001 Kitchen Tips # 49 - Chicken and duck stock - save the livers

Wedding catering between Evesham and Pershore in Worcestershire

Monday, August 24, 2009
If it's a wedding reception venue with unique charm and atmosphere you are after - a barn might be just the thing - the old oak beams and Cotswold stone give a rustic feel, and when you have all your friends and family around you, you feel very cosy. The Barn at Springhill Farm between Evesham and Pershore in Worcestershire has been re-furbished just this year - and I couldn't believe the transformation when I saw it again a few weeks ago. Light, airy and vast it makes for a wonderful venue with excellent facilities.
The wedding blessing ceremony was held by the lake, and champagne and dry snacks served on the terrace outside the main house afterwards by the party angels while we set up for the wedding breakfast for 100 guests behind the scenes in the barn. After so many marquee weddings, it was so nice to have a solid floor, walls (no wind blowing through the place), a catering size sink with running water and lots of space to cook in.
Dry snacks

The economic alternative to canapés. Here they are (below right) a couple of days before just after baking.

  • 3 types of palmiers - Anchovy, sun dried tomato and black olive
  • Gruyere allumettes
  • Roasted almonds and cashews
  • To see more on how they are made click here

As the wedding couple wanted to keep the menu very simple to please all their guests they had requested pâté as a starter. I made a smoked trout pâté rolled in cold smoked trout for a starter with trout from the local Donnington trout farm. This was served with marinated cucumber and dill, salad and the melba toast we had made on the preceding Wednesday night.

Then for Grandma who could only eat pureed food I made the above right version - with milk soaked bread, cucumber jelly (cucumber juice set with agar-agar in canapé size muffin tins) and the trout pate without the cold smoked trout around the edge.

For the vegetarian guests they had chosen red lentil pâté. I added a few breadcrumbs to the recipe too so it set a little firmer then wrapped it in leeks. This was really a revelation - it tasted so good with all the spices and lemon - like an enhanced hoummous. I left out the nuts as there were a few guests with nut allergies, but added some olive oil which lightened it too.

Main course

As is so often the case, there was a lot of work involved in getting the main course out quickly and hot, so it was only after we had served it we remembered we should have take a photo. If you have been to a music festival recently you may have come accross Pieminister pies. The wedding couple are Pieminister fans and that was what they had requested for their main course - Matador (beef and chorizo) & mushroom and asparagus for the vegetarian guests. As it is the wedding couples special day I always like to prepare whatever they want - so that is exactly what we did, and plated them with new potatoes in chives, Chantenay carrots and french beans in red onion butter. There were sole goujons and homemade chips for the children which looked like the one seen here last year (scroll to Monday or Thursday).

For Grandma who could only eat pureed food, I had pureed one pie filling and topped it with mashed potato and served it with carrot puree. Very delicious. Really!

Dessert They had enjoyed the raspberry sorbet so much when I delivered their bistro meal a few months before they had asked to add that as part of their raspberry trio dessert.
  • Dark chocolate and raspberry tart
  • Shotglass of raspberry and marscapone trifle
  • Raspberry sorbet
A little raspberry coulis is dotted in between.

Of everything we did this proved the most challenging. Luckily the equipment hire company we use (chairs, crockery, glasses, cutlery, oven etc) is just down the road from us so they picked up my 6 ft upright freezer and took that to the venue along with all their equipment. That meant we could pre-ball the sorbet using my ice cream tip, and then place it in the tuile baskets (stops it melting accross the plate) just as they were being taken by the waiting staff.

I made the tart cases (above left) for the chocolate tart in muffin tins on the preceding Tuesday evening while my dad made the tuile cases (above right), shortly before we cut all the new potatoes. The chocolate tarts were baked on Friday, then flashed in the oven after the main course had gone and then topped with the raspberries. The shotglassess were made in 2 stages - the base just after the starter had gone, and the top after the main course had gone - fresh is best!
Benson of Broadway wedding catering
Related posts:
Some previous weddings we have cooked for
Edit 10/06/09
There are more photos from the wedding couple including the main course and dessert here:

Buffet in Slimbridge near Stroud

Monday, August 10, 2009
With a pig roast on Friday and a hen party on the Saturday night it was on to Rectory Park in Slimbridge near Stroud early on Sunday (the weekend before last) to cook breakfast then Sunday lunch and leave a large buffet for the guests to serve themselves in the evening.

It's always difficult deciding what to have on your buffet menu. So why not just choose everything? That is almost what we served - a buffet with 21 different items, all made from scratch either on the day or the preceding days. It wasn't all for that night though - the family was staying at the house for a week so it was going to go over a couple of days.

With so much going on there was scarce time for photos so I just got a few quick snaps of the buffet items that haven't appeared here before......

Chorizo, sweetcorn and cheese bakes

I can't quite remember now where I got this idea - I think it was seeing them in a bakery, but I loved it. They are made with puff pastry, and I use welsh rarebit for the cheese part - if you chill it you can cut it and mould it on top of the chorizo and corn, then it melts as it cooks.

Mini burgers with carrot and cumin sesame buns

Everyone loves a burger. Even more when they're hand made. These were made with Home Farm minced beef, cooked onion, chopped italian parsley and seasoning. Once chilled into shape they were grilled.

I was looking for a good burger bun recipe (you need milk in there with the water to make the buns soft), and came accross this one which I really liked. What Dan Lepard doesn't say in the recipe though, is it's best to use his pastry scraper technique to knead the dough. It's so wet that if you try and do it by hand it will just stick. Yes you can add more flour - but if you do that you end up with a drier, heavier texture. Using the pastry scraper instead of your hand to stretch and knead the dough is much easier, and you keep scraping it up and turn it round as you go.

Ham and pineapple pizza

I leave the pizza toppings open to whatever anyone wants, and this is the one they asked for. I grilled a piece of gammon and used some fresh pinepple.
A good tip from the pizza expert is to halve the amount of yeast so the dough doesn't rise too much. The simple tips are always the best.


Of course the day wasn't finished then though (there are 25 hours in a chef's day after all) there was just time to get back to Upper Court and cook a barbecue with tarte tatin for dessert for another party.

Related posts:

Assiette of desserts

Sunday, August 02, 2009
As served earlier today at Rectory Park in Slimbridge near Stroud. Each assiette of desserts is different depending on what guests (or the organiser of the event) choose. This time we did:

Lemon tart
Shotglass of tirimisu
Japanese spoon of crème brûlée
Strawberry meringue roulade
Raspberry shortbread

Related posts:

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

Pig roast/ Hog roast in the Cotswolds

If you want the best ever tasting roast pork you really have to go the whole hog!

See more details on our hog & lamb roast catering on our website - click here

We went the whole hog for a birthday celebratory evening at Upper Court near Tewkesbury a few days ago. The pig was Berkshire/ Gloucester Old Spot cross from Home Farm, so had been reared around 2 - 3 miles accross the fields from where we were serving it.

There are two ways we do them - like this (above) is the more economic version which is cooked in the local bakery ovens which have the high heat (and space) to crisp up the crackling while cooking the middle like a confit in the pig's own fat (it renders as it cooks). This is then kept warm over the barbecue and carved while the guests watch (and pick......).

The other way is the way we cooked the whole lamb a few months ago - on a roasting machine which is set up at the venue and you can watch it cooking - you can see more phoptos of that by clicking here.

Either way the whole hog (or lamb) roast is a great talking point - both while your pre-dinner drinks and watching (and picking at the tit-bits), while your eating, and afterwards too (there's always seconds!) and tastes amazing.

Carving the hog

The crackling is the first thing to take off - the bit that everyone loves. This was cut into small pieces and finished off under the grill.
Then you can take down the pig (above), carving each section at a time - loins, shoulder, legs, knuckles, belly, ribs etc.

This is part of the loin (left). You could not get a more tender, more flavoursome piece of pork if you tried.

The parts of the animal with the most serious flavour though are, as I found out at the first hog roast I did, the trotters, tail, cheeks, snout and ears. While I was cutting the crackling, everyone was eager to get a taste, so I cut off the cheeks and trotters and gave them that on a small plate to nibble with their drinks while I carried on carving. It was gone in a flash.

Crispy pigs ears - if you love crackling you'll love these too!.......

...... and the same goes with the the tail.

This was served with homemade bread rolls (walnut, raisin and rosemary; Granary; Sun dried tomato, olive and basil), stuffing, apple sauce, mustard and mayonnaise. Accompanying it were nicoise salad, tomato and basil salad and cous cous and pearl barley salad.

Dessert was strawberry meringue roulade (made fresh that afternoon) with strawberry ice cream (made over the preceding 3 days).

As it was a relatively small party for the pig roast I carried on carving and left all the remaining meat in their fridge for them to eat the next day.

Related posts:

Whole lamb roast
Some roast Sunday lunches we have served
1001 Kitchen tips #50 - How to get crispy crackling
Slow cooked shoulder of pork with lentils, spinach and chorizo
Honey and mustard Home Farm pork loin steaks with glazed apples on the barbecue
Slow cooked belly pork in cider with creamy lentils
Pork curry