Comedy night at The Underground Restaurant

Tuesday, December 14, 2010
"Have you got any more marmite?" I ask. "Are you kidding?" Ms M opens a drawer. Ha - she ain't called Ms Marmitelover for nothing you know!
Marmite, pinenut and parmesan palmiers
Sweetcorn cakes with rice wine vinegar dip
(the recipe for the sweetcorn cakes? Don't worry - it's in the book coming out soon.)

What an amazing idea - why go out to a comedy club when you can bring it to your own front room? I loved the idea of the last comdey night back in September - comedy doesn't get more intimate than all being in the same dining room - much more down to earth. Who needs a stage? So this time round, asked if I wanted to help out at this one I jumped at the chance.

When I was asked for menu ideas I thought along the lines of the last one where the food was a 'joke' - nutty soup, gnocci gnocci who's there, Stinking bishop & Wensleydale (Wallace & Gromit's fave cheese of course) & custard pie. What fun. But how to follow that?

Curry in a hurry - plantain curry

Driving between Lechlade and Blockley early on a foggy Monday morning in the middle of November (Lakes by Yoo looked just like you'd slipped in to a Tarkovsky film - delicious) I drove past a pub advertising a curry night - 2 for £10 and remembered my curry in a hurry. Adam still wants to do a rhyming menu one day.
This one was plaintain curry that Ms M had made the day before - is much better the next day when the flavours have developed. Last time she had made it with banana and served in the skin (comedy - banana skins?). This time she tried it with plaintains. Because they are firmer it doesn't break down so much - better texture. This is a proper curry - takes a long time to make - but is so worth it. Unfortunately some of the guests couldn't make it to the evening due to snow affecting trains, so there were a few left to try. Lucky us! Real curry like this is such a world apart. What was that curry book again?

Moules in minutes - Thai style mussells with sweet potato wedges

But what could we do for a starter?.... I rolled through some other rhymes as I left the fog bank behind and the late autumn sun lit up the Cotswold hills. What about Meals in minutes >>>>> Moules in minutes. In the end we swapped it round so the moules became the main course. I had recently done a thai night, so still had the thai flavours alive and found this recipe. Mussells and chips? You can't beat a classic. I've still got this thing about sweet potato either grilled or chips after barbecuing them for the first time back in the summer. So these went in the aga earlier in the day so we could have the heat later in the evening for cooking the plaintains.
Next time I do the thai me up thai me down salad I'll dry salting the carrots and mouli first to take off some of the water before adding the dressing. Live and learn!

A nice cup of brie

The cheese course was easy. I'd been wanting to try the cup of brie since January when I made the truffled macaroni bries. We went for this recipe. Rich, but seriously tasty. St. John's sourdough made the perfect accompaniment. It's true what they say about it - it's awesome. So need to try sourdough. Hopefully find time next year.

Brie came from Borough market - this was the real deal. Forget trying to do this with supermarket cheese.

English breakfast - black pudding with fried egg, ketchup & OJ

Dessert? Totally stumped. Couldn't think of any more rhymes - what rhymes with dessert or pudding? There is my 'Dessert Warefare' idea - but I'm saving that for another day. Then again pudding... pudding.... black pudding?
I remembered this post from the British Larder last year, and how similar it was to our age old family Jul Kake recipe.

Christmas was a big cooking time in our house back in the day and when it came to Christmas cake, mum's Guiness cake was all very well, but if only for the marzipan and icing - the actual cake, I could either take or leave it. Leave it more often (sorry if you're reading this :') ). No - it was the Norwegian Jul Kake which I saved myself for - chocolate, creamed coconut and eggs layered with biscuts, dried fruits, nuts.... oh and fruit jelly sweets. We have Norwegian family friends and had spent Christmas over there when I was 5 and Adam 3 months in 6ft of snow. This chocolate Jul kake sure warms you up after hours of snowplay!
Tradionally we would layer these up in a 1/2 lb loaf tin so it looks nice and neat - but here it was just mixed all in one and rolled into a 'black pudding'.
What do you have with an english breakfast? Fried egg (aka fried egg sweets), a glass of OJ (aka orange sorbet - link to recipe here) and ketchup (aka raspberry coulis). Fun - no?

It's the real eggs in it that make the difference.

See more from the evening on Ms Marmitelover's blog post.

In London at Christmas Eve - why not try out the original Underground Restaurant? -

Oh yes - one last thing. That rice wine vinegar? Home made apparently. What an amazing flavour!

1001 Kitchen Tips #62 - Make your own stock cubes

Wednesday, December 08, 2010
These were made back in September following this pig roast. After everyone has had their fill of the pig roast I slice up whatever is left and leave it in the fridge for guests to eat later or to take home for the next day. Sometimes the hosts/ guests like to keep the bones - dogs love them - or I take the remaining bones away and use them for stock. Roasting the hog for 6 - 8 hours does makes the most amazing stock!

Keep the stock going for 6 - 8 hours so all the flavour comes out of the bones. Then strain and bring it back to the boil and reduce it till it is a thick glace. Pour this into a baking tray, cover with greaseproof paper (why? see this tip here) and let it chill then refrigerate it till set hard. Cut into squares and freeze in a freezer proof bag.

Next time you are making a sauce or casserole just drop the stock cube in. When melted bring the sauce/ casserole back to the boil for 30 seconds (safety reasons).

You don't have to have bones from a whole hog roast of course - if you're making these at home every time you have a roast, or if you've been cutting meat off the bone prior to cooking, freeze the left over bones till you have a sufficient amount to fill your stock pot and you can make a batch all in one go.

South American beans on toast

They say chefs have some of the worst eating habits - must be something to do with the hours. You can spend all day making amazing food for your customers, but when it comes to cooking for yourself it can be quite a different thing. I often find I'm eating sometime between 1 and 4am when I get home - if you don't you're on go slow later in the day.

My great aunt's south american pie (corned beef, baked beans, tomato, cheesy mash) was often a pre-cub night snack when I was young - great fast food & also great when camping.
So for last night's (well this early morning's) scooby snack I just adapted it slightly to make an even quicker version - soft bap with corned beef flashed under the grill so the corned beef warms & softens. Then some of my beer baked beans warmed & put on top finished with grated St. Kenelm & reflashed under the grill. Subway would be proud........

Thai style seabass and pineapple & cucumber salad near Stratford on Avon

Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Seabass poached in ginger wine, soy, thai fish sauce, lime, ginger, garlic, ginger
Cucumber and pineapple salad with red onion, chilli, lime, thai basil and mint

Thai style bread - used coconut milk topped up with water, some dessicated coconut, mango, coriander etc. Coconut milk seems to give it a great sheen.

Wing beans for the vegetable pad thai. Raided the Globe supermarket in Cheltenham

There were also canapes before too and a thai green curry - but no photos of those - rather busy with 4 other parties going on that night which I'd been setting up before I arrived at this one. So we were halfway through serving the canapes and I went to check the seabass which should have been nearly ready..... oven was stone cold. OK then - that's why the curry and and pad thai wasn't cooking too fast either. This is why cooking on gas is so good - when you're cooking for a large number you need everything firing up at once, but with electric ovens & hobs it often overloads the electrics. Had to search high and low, inside and out for the fuse box (first time at that house). By that time I'd found it, valuable time had been lost. But that wasn't the end of it. 10 minutes later I went back to check it again (things on hob bubbling away by this time) - oven was still stone cold. You needed to set the clock first before the oven would work. Madness. AND that wasn't the end of it either - it tripped the fuse again about 5 minutes later, but I was ready for it that time. Phew - all in a night's work.....

The game is afoot - dinner party chef in Chipping Campden, venison saddle and venison faggots

Thursday, November 18, 2010
"My family are flying in from Iceland and we wanted to try something traditionally english, especially interested in game - what can you do?"

After a lot of suggestions this is finally what we arrived at to celebrate the head of the family's 70th birthday.
Roasted saddle of venison with venison faggot and blackberries, creamed cabbage and leek, fondant potato and french beans wrapped in pancetta.

Don't caul us we'll caul you.
Finding the caul to make the faggots was actually more diffuclt than expected. As it was a rather late booking, by the time the menu was confirmed the race was on to secure ingredients. I had spoken to the Meadows at Home Farm about it, but by the time the menu had been confirmed Micky had been to the abbatoir where he could have picked up the caul. All the local butchers (even Halfords where they make their own faggots) I tried too couldn't help either, saying if I ordered it now they could get it for next Monday - that was fine, but the event was that Saturday. There was nothing for it but to try making them in pudding tins. It's not like London where you can find whatever you need somewhere in the city whenever you need it.

Then as I picked up the week's meat order from Home Farm next day, Micky said he had to go to the trade butcher in Toddington the next day and would ask there. Next morning first thing - phone call - "I got the caul fat, but I could only get a whole case..."
Wow - that is going to be a lot of faggots......

All part of the behind the scenes drama. There's more to it that just turning up for 4 hours on a Saturday night.......

We had actually been talking about making faggots for the farm shop for a couple of years, but never getting round to it. They end up with so much pigs liver that doesn't sell (much more tasty than lambs tbh, but nobody seems to want to buy it) so now it looks like now they'll be coming to a farm shop near you. If you live near Tewkesbury that is.

Faggot recipe? Something similar to this one. If you make more than you need the leftover makes a nice meatloaf. Apparently.

Beer poached prawns with warm potato salad & watercress, radish & fennel

The beer was... er... Piddle In The Hole from the nearby Wyre Piddle brewery.
Along with that was soy, thai fish sauce, ginger, garlic, parsley (normally coriander but the host was not a coriander fan) and chilli. This marinades in the afternoon and is then cooked in the marinade. We also take lime to squeeze over the top. Instantly popular since the first time I did it a couple of months ago.
They are threaded on lemon grass sticks which impart their flavour as the prawns cook.
We cook the potatoes when we get to the venue so the potato salad is still warm as it goes on to the plate.

Shotglass of mango sorbet
Glazed lemon tart
Chocolate tart
Spoon of sticky toffee pudding
Strawberry meringue roulade

Oh yes strawberry meringue. Oops. Just as I was leaving I realised it was still in the kenwood mixer - I had been busy setting up the other two parties, so just clingfilmed up the whole thing and took it with me and made the meringue at the house after rolling the venison in parma ham and getting that in the aga. Fresh is best they say.

All cooked on the aga at Meadowbank (with a little help from the fan oven too).


1001 Kitchen tips #61 - Easy way to peel onions

Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Oh dear - you're in hot water now!......
Can you tell it's hot? Lens steamed up - classy pics all the way.

Soaking them in hot water though for a minute or two sets the skin so they're much easier to peel. Saves a lot of prep stress - tried and tested. See - you do learn things at college you know. For other onion tips see in the links below.

Related posts:

1001 Kitchen tips #13 - Cooked onions pronto
1001 Kitchen tips #59 - How to grill onions
Other 1001 kitchen tips

1001 Kitchen tips #60 - The secret ingredient in (vegetarian) mushroom risotto is.......

Sunday, November 07, 2010

It was OK - just needed something a bit.... more. Using vegetable stock rather than chicken or fish you lack a certain depth of favour. Had a look in the cupboards, the fridge. Then on the sideboard spotted a jar of marmite. The best discoveries are made by accident.

Lentil and bacon salad

Thursday, November 04, 2010
Served back in June (a smaller version of this one) in the Cotswold Water Park near Cirencester while the other guests had blue cheese souffle.....

Strawberry and pistachio tart & clementine tart

Another blast from the past. June in fact, when the sun shone (this is a rare enough occurance in our country so is always worth noting).
English strawberries. Creme patisserie filling. You want tart case making tips? Try these. On top of the strawberries a little champagne glaze - champagne set with gelatine. There's no point doing things by half.....
Similar idea with the clementine - creme pat underneath and the segments on top. Although when I got to the house I removed the pistachio 1/2 (couldn't have both tarts with pistachio), sprinkled the top with demerara and glazed with the blow torch.

Game pie/ terrine/ Game pate en croute

Sunday, October 31, 2010
An excellent example of how far behind on blog posts I am - this is from 49 weeks ago. Where does the thyme go eh? [answer - in the game pie]

Another recipe from the Readers Digest bible. It uses sour cream (can substitute creme fraiche) instead of water - really changes the texture.

200g plain flour
50g butter
50g lard
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp/ 45ml sour cream/ creme fraiche

The first couple of times you tend to stick to the recipe for the filling. After you've got a feel for it you can just make it without measuring or add anything else you want - pistachios, mushrooms, apricots soaked in brandy, sauteed apples, cranberries etc.

250g cooked ham
750g boneless game
30ml white wine/ vermouth
45ml brandy

1kg minced pork - equal quantities fat & lean (belly or shoulder is ideal)
125g chicken liver (save from the giblets when you buy whole chickens) finely chopped
2 eggs
2tsp ground allspice
1tsp ground nutmeg (1 tend to use mace instead)
Approx 1tsp salt
Approx 1tsp ground pepper
Half the ham & game from filling 1 above is but into 1/2 in strips, the rest cut smaller then marinade in the wine & 1/2 the brandy for 30 mins.
The other half of the ingredients is a bit all-in-one. I find it easier to put the chicken livers through the mincer with the pork. After mincing mix together with the egg, other 1/2 of brandy, spices & fresh thyme/ sage (or both) & seasoning. You can make a small piece of the mix as a mini burger to test seasoning - should be quite spicy - flavour lessens when cold.
Roll out your pastry & line the greased terrine mould (springform ones are great for this - solves problem of turning out). Spoon in 1/3 of the pork mince mix and smooth off. Place in 1/2 the strips of game & ham, add another 1/3 of the pork mix, another layer of the game and ham and finish with a layer of the pork mix. Place the pastry lid on top and seal the edges. Make a small hole in the top for steam to escape or the pastry bursts open. Refrigerate for 1/2 - 1 hour for the pastry to set (this also helps seal it). Then cook in pre-heated oven at 200 oC for 15 minutes then turn down to 175 oC for c. 1 hour. Easiest to use a temperature probe (see more on previous blog post) and test the middle. Food safety guidelines suggest 70 oC for 2 minutes or 74 oC for 30 seconds.

Cool down after cooking & keeps in fridge up to 5 days. Slice & allow to come to room temperature before eating. Nice with celariac/ parsnip remoulade and lemon and lavender chutney.

Related posts

1001 kitchen tips #32 - using a temperature probe
Lemon and lavender chutney
Some other terrines

Morroccan style lamb buffet catering for a 60th birthday near Evesham, Worcestershire

Tuesday, October 26, 2010
2010 - the year of the lamb and hog roasts. But of course there are another ways of cooking it.
How could we cook it without the need of a roasting machine? The lady we were cooking for at Littleton Manor liked the idea of a moroccan theme, and this is what we came up with.....

I picked up the lamb from Home Farm on the way back from a delivery meal for BP (some of the same team members I had cooked for 4 years before).

Then butchered the lamb down into individual cuts - saddle, rump, legs, shoulder, neck, flank.

The bones I kept for later in the day (was 2am by then) to roast and make stock for the tagine.
It was finished the next night after another delivery (3 day event). The boned & rolled legs rubbed with ras el hanout and the saddle and rump marinated with harissa and yogurt. The shoulders (also boned and rolled), neck & (diced) flank were slow cooked for 6 hours as tagine similar to this but with the addition of orange, cinnamon, ground coriander seed and ground cumin.

Canapes (Moroccan stylie)

Za’atar bread with baba ganoush
Za'atar recipe I used.

As luck would have it just a few days before I caught this baba ganoush recipe from Helen which improved on the old one - leave the aubergines on for longer - more smoky.
The first time I saw aubergines being cooked like this it was being done by Madonna's personal cook and I couldn't believe the difference in taste to normal roasting. It's addictive.

Saffron chicken, almonds and sultanans wrapped in filo pastry
I really wanted to try this chicken dish too so turned it into a canape. The filo was left open at the ends unlike a spring roll. Should really try this as a main dish without the filo.....

Vegetarian tagine with cous cous in Japanese spoon
No photo of this one sadly. As we were doing tabbouleh with the lamb I thought we could do cous cous as one tof the canapés. We used Iranian cous cous – which surprised a few people. “The best thing I ever tasted” said one guest. The customer is always right.

Main Course

Homemade morrocan style fennel and honey semolina bread rolls


Whole lamb roast
Lamb butchered and broken down into joints:
• Shoulder, neck, breast and flank slow roasted lamb tagine with toasted almonds – shoulder to be whole to slice
• Saddle marinaded in harrissa and yogurt roasted pink sliced to order
• Roasted legs marinaded with ras el hanout, lemon & garlic cooked pink

Baked butternut squash filled with chickpea tagine
Garlic field mushrooms
Cucumber, yogurt and mint salad
Tabbouleh (incorporating chickpeas)
Spicy potato salad
Grilled and roast vegetables

Half flour and half semolina for the bread rolls with roasted diced fennel and fennel seeds and honey.

The legs, saddle and rump of lamb were roasted once we got to the house on the Saturday afternoon while we set about preparing the accompanying salads.
Sadly the night before the camera had had another camera-meets-water accident so was out of action while it dried out, so all we have are a few photos Ethan managed to get - shame because the whole day was quite epic (Gill was doing another event near Bath).

The shoulder, neck and flank tagine we served in the chafing dish (right) and then I sliced the legs and saddle while guests came up to the buffet while Joe and Ethan started prepping the dessert and Holly started operation clear-up.


Gazelle horns
Crescent shaped almond cookies flavoured with orange flower water (try finding that in Tewkesbury - last minute dash to Cheltenham the night before - was the last one let in the supermarket) from this recipe. I was making these as soon as I had served all the lamb - fresh is best.

Orangeflower and cinnamon rice pudding with spiced strawberries in shotglasses
Rather like the shotglass of Eton Mess that was so popular. Should do this one again - everyone loves rice pudding.

Fruit salad served in a watermelon
Pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, passionfruit and mango in rosewater syrup
After all the indulgence they also wanted something lighter too.


Coffee, tea and homemade coconut and
almond truffles


1001 Kitchen tips #59 - How to grill onions / Aaaah! The onions have fallen apart there has to be a better way of doing this.....

Sunday, October 24, 2010
Good for when you're doing a barbecue or special meal, not so important when you're making onions for burgers or hotdogs.
1. When cutting the onion make sure the root is kept in tact. Each wedge should be attached to the root - this keeps it together while you grill.
2. Put a cocktail stick exactly through the middle (after the first 100 you get faster) so it holds each segment of the onion together. Then roll in a bit of olive oil and salt.
3. Grill. Best turned over with a pallette knife underneath. Tongs are too inprecise and the onions have this habit of falling apart - not fun.
4. When browned on both sides it is quite probable they still need to be cooked through (if they're grilled onions you expect them to be soft - not crisp). Best way to do this is on a baking tray with baking mat and cover them with foil to stop them burning. Cook till soft.
5. Off they go.

P.S. This was taken back in June in asparagus season, but as business took off there is a nice backlog of blogposts.

Related posts

1001 Kitchen tips #13 - cooked onions pronto (don't use a tin make your own)