Cooking in London, The Algarve (Portugal) and Cheltenham

Tuesday, February 23, 2010
2. The Algarve, hotel Quinta Jacintina

"Is there any possibility you could help us out?.... we have a lunch party for around 25 and canape party for 65....."
"Yes - when did you have in mind?"
".....There's a flight from Stansted at 7 o'clock tomorrow morning.... or 3:30 in the afternoon from Gatwick...."

This was 7pm on Monday. I was still 70 miles from the Tewkesbury base.... and there were so many loose ends to clear up.... and was my passport still in date? I like a challenge. I took the Gatwick flight. The next 24 hours were rather busy.

The menus were all in place already from the previous chef, so I emailed them a shopping list. I touched down in Faro at 6:30pm and was in the kitchen by 8:00pm trying to decipher the portugese ingredients. After 4 years it was odd being back in a hotel kitchen again - you get used to cooking in houses, marquees and other various venues (the car showroom where we had to climb under the cars to get to the kitchen was memorable as was the disused air control tower). The only thing missing was the salmon which Alex, the Portugese apprentice chef I had working with me found at market whole, so it was good to do a bit of fish filleting - it's been a while. By the next lunch time we had two starters, two main course and desserts ready to go. And then there were a few diners in the restaurant for the evening too.

Have mini yorkshire pudding tins will travel

The canape party on the Friday was for an englishman's 70th birthday so the canapes they had chosen were all english favourites. As I guessed they wouldn't have the mini yorkshire pudding tins I took my own - I do like to make everything from scratch.

  • Mini yorkshire puddings with fillet of beef and horseradish
  • Chicken piri piri (I kept the piri piri marinade we made and used it to cook prawns for the evening for someone else)
  • Tempura prawns
  • Smoked salmon blinis with creme fraiche
  • Honey and mustard glazed mini sausages
  • Crab cakes in [white and black] sesame with chilli and pepper dip

Everything was made between the day before and on the day itself in between helping out with a lunch someone else was providing at the hotel (Noelia who normally looks after the catering in their Portugese holiday villas) and cooking for the hotel guests in the evening.

I went with this recipe for the tempura - always better with bicarbonate of soda. After 50 prawns though, I did get the feeling that I was in a fish and chip shop :-) The prawns were absolutely the biggest I have ever seen - more like mini lobster. Even cut in quarters they were still big.


I also made lots of bread while I was there - it was the first thing I did c. 8:30pm the first night I got there so it was ready for the next day. I suddenly realised why continental bread always tastes so different (better?) - different flour. This one was extra fine - in more ways than one. I also used a 'OO' flour as well - using up what was there. Both tasted so different to our english flour - and the extra-fine quality of the flour really added something to the texture of the bread too. For flavourings raided their storecupboard again and found coriander seeds which I added to the first batch, sesame seeds for another and some branched of oregano that had dried for another.

So I cooked for a few people on my own on the Friday night after the canape party, Alex joined me for the Saturday night, we did Sunday lunch as well and then a Valentine's menu for the Sunday night.

Again, the menus were in place I couldn't get snaps of everything - it's difficult sometimes as the food is going and you're moving quickly into the next thing.

Twice baked Roquefort souffle - Just amazed at how these turned out. It'd been a while since I'd done a souffle. If you're on the ropes you need a tried and tested recipe - there's no second chances - so I went for this one. Definitely be doing that again. [shame the photo doesn't show how high it was - almost bursting out of the oven].

Home cured salmon with asparagus, egg custard and horseradish cream

Grilled turbot with panfried polenta, baby gem, oven dried tomatoes and pea puree.

As the turbot was delivered whole, once I'd filleted it I had the bones to make stock with. Once the stock was reduced I could use that to make a white wine sauce - it was like being back with the stargazy pies all over again. I really like the baby gem with this too. It's something I do occasionally in the summer - after first trying the pan fried raddichio treviso a couple of years ago. And when you make your own polenta you can really get some flavour in their too - I cooked it with chicken stock and organo and added parmesan & a little 'cous cous seasoning' that I found on the shelf - much better.

Chocolate mousse with homemade sherry ice cream and praline

Related posts

London, the Algarve and Cheltenham in 2 weeks

Hotel Quinta Jacintina -

Cooking in London, The Algrave (Portugal) and Cheltenham

Thursday, February 18, 2010
1. London - The Underground Restaurant, Stargazy pie

"...... I want to catch this!...... on so many levels!"
Working with @MsMarmitelover was a hoot! Am I the only person who hasn't been there?
The front door opens and you feel immediately at home. Everyone who did the kitchen tour after the meal wanted it for their own - it's pretty special.

So it was back in June last year when I caught the melanzane parmigiana evening that Shuna Fish Lydon cooked at and it looked so good, I thought 'yes - that would be fun to do', but it had to wait till February - normally the only quiet month of the year (but as it turned out - not so this year).

The English Can Cook has been an avid read for a while - it's quite easy to relate to as I also spend all my time cooking in the home environment - although it is other people's home for me. Actually going there though I can see how cooking dishes that you will never see in a restaurant really works there. And the theme evenings are great - you just won't find that anywhere else - running a home restaurant gives you a lot more freedom in what you can do. And that's why people love it - and rightly so. Although while some people knew what they were coming to (some even dressed for the part), others had no idea - so a mixed group. If you live in a world where you have Saturday nights off I suppose there is this circuit of home restaurants, and maybe some people book because it's the place to go, rather than doing the homework beforehand to see what the week's theme is. Either way though, everyone ends up having a good time - and that's what its about.

'What about the Patrick O'Brien night?' Ms M had said back in December. Patrick O'Who? He wrote a mere 20 novels centred around the tales of Jack Aubrey in the late 1700's / early 1800's, and food features heavily as their pre-battle meals are always well described. Mmm 19th Century ship's food! Well you can read much more about him here (the pre-meal info) - and it all sounds like a great read.

Well I had never made Stargazy pie before. I remembered Helen's langoustine stargazy pie from a while back which was the first time I had come accross it, so I googled a few pics and recipes around midnight the night before as I finished up getting everything ready for the next day in my abscence. Ms M printed off a couple of recipes and we compared those with the recipe in the Lobscouse and Spotted Dog book (the recipe companion to the series of books) and came up with our own. Originally it was made with pilchards, but in fact they have quite a short season, so the pie is also made with mackerel or herrings, which we used. They had already been canoed by the fish monger (de-boned from the top) - so that was a good start.

I had brought my trusty pastry recipe with me, so while I got on with making the pastry Ms M went shopping for last minute supplies.


(recipe from here - adapted for UK measurments)

2 cups (220g) plain flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

170g butter (I use half butter/ half lard normally [85g each] but as this was vegetarian I just doubled up the butter)

90ml ice water

As it was so many people I multiplied that by 10 and then did it two halves - by hand.

"Have you been drinking this?" says Ms. M as she gets back with the shopping. The bottle of white wine on the work surface was now 3/4 empty. And then she smells the pot on the aga with the begining of the sauce - white wine reducing nicely. Trust me - it's all under control......


Very like the beer sauce I made here - only with white wine instead of beer. It's a classic. Pepped up with some veg bouillon

Spring onion
White wine
Vegetable bouillon
Double cream
Lemon (this really perks it up)
Caraway seeds
Coriander seeds
(maybe?) fennel seeds
Other various spices on the shelf - there was a really nice homemade curry powder.

I built the pies in the enamel dishes previously used at the Brixton pop up - it felt very authentic - with the sauce on the bottom, fish on top and quail eggs (c. 11 per pie) that Ms. M had been peeling. A bit more sauce on top and chopped dill, tarragon and parsley and the pie lid on top. Then you push the fish heads and tails into place under the pastry lid and cut around them so the poke through the top (find out as you go along).

But I went into auto-pilot pie mode at this point with crimping the egdes, and as try as I might, I couldn't make the fancy wave patterns - so Ms M took over. She also thought the stars on top would look good - stars for a stargazy pie. And ever being the astrologist thought a moon would look good too, so I cut one for each pie. What a pie-fest - they looked great lined up on the kitchen table.

Just in case there were any vegetarians we made a vegetarian pie too. There were mushrooms in the fridge and garlic bulbs hanging up in the kitchen, so I thought of garlic mushrooms and we used the same cream sauce base as the other pies. Then Ms. M put in the last of the Stinking Bishop cheese from the week before. Yes Stinking Bishop! As there was only one vegetarian in the end there was some left to try afterwards - wow that had to be the tasiest pie in the world..... ever! If you never make a stargazy pie - at least try this one.

Meanwhile, while I'd been making the pies, Ms M had been making the boiled baby - a giant boiled (vegetarian) suet pudding -just what you need to keep you going on board ship all day.

"Wouldn't it look good if I formed it into a baby shape?" says Ms M - what a sense of humour! And that's just what she did. Here I am - nursing the baby. Rrrrrrrr. Becuase the recipe had been trippled up to feed the 31 guests, it was so big it wouldn't quite fit in the largest saucepan so had to go in feet first. You can read into that what you will......

We just needed a custard to go with it. I pulled one of Nigella's books off the kitchen shelf. Probably similar to this recipe except I put the milk & cream on to heat with a vanilla pod, whisked the yolks and sugar till thick then after the milk had been infusing for 15 mins or so whisked it in to the yolks and put it back on the aga to cook. And Ms M added rosewater - what we used at the time before vanilla. Rosewater custard - it could be a dessert just by itself!

While I juggled stargazy pies between top shelves and bottom shelves, top and bottom ovens (aga cooking is fun), it gave Ms M chance to give the intro to the meal to the diners - certainly helped to get everyone in the ship's food spirit, or was that the rum cocktail first?

It seemed odd when guests started leaving around 11pm. London transport on a weekend - one of the things about London I don't miss. Normally for the meals we do the guests are staying at the house, so it's normally us that leaves. By 11:30pm the last guests had left - it felt so early. Time to wash a few more glasses and head off up the M1 for a family visit (killing 2 birds with one stone - it had been 3 - 4 months). There are 24 hours in a day after all......

By tickets for the Underground Restaurant here on We Got Tickets.
The Underground restaurant on Facebook

Meat Free Monday #6 - Boston Bean Hotpot

Boston bean hot pot at my Mum's house (I was visiting on the way back from London) - one of the old family classics. We'd just got back from our evening audience with nana banana and I started this off while I phoned the hotel in Portugal. Minutes later it was confirmed - I was off the next afternoon. Suddenly so many things to do.......

There was an aubergine which needed using up so I roasted this with a little olive oil - the two seem to to well together.

Mum's original handwritten recipe (without the german sausage and with vegetable stock rather than pork stock in this case):

More info on Meat Free Monday here.

Related posts

Other Meat Free Monday dishes

Meat Free Monday #7 - Pepper, mozzarella and basil tart

So fast food can be good food - when you make it yourself!And it doesn't come much faster than this. After a week working in Portugal I flew back last Monday (now writing a few days later). Touched down at 1:30pm and was back at work by 3. 122 emails awaited (and they didn't stop coming - as fast as I answered more were coming in) and there were 4 parties to organise for the Saturday.

So when it came to eating it had to be fast, and looking through the fridge for left overs I came accross homemade tomato sauce, peppers and mozzarella.... and this is what it became, using the same idea with puff pastry as the asparagus and gruyere tart from last year. As I have basil growing in a few pots it was still going strong, and some larger leaves went on top of the tomato sauce. The peppers were fried in a little olive oil and balsamic added at the last minute and you cook for 20 mins. The puff pastry pizza - how can you go wrong?

More info on Meat Free Monday here.

Related posts

Other Meat Free Monday dishes
Asparagus and gruyere tart


Oh flip - Shrove Tuesday aka Pancake Day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Are you a crepe or an american style pancake person? I've got both versions here: .

There's also sticky toffee pancakes (add dates soaked in hot water & coffee essence) and serve with sticky toffee sauce - it's ok you can shrive for the next 40 days

Or one of my favourites caramelised pinapple pancakes with malibu ice cream. You add some of the caramelised pineapple to the pancake mix & leave a bit more to go on top. You can drizzle the syrup you cooked the pineapple in over the pancakes. For the ice cream I use the same recipe as the Baileys ice cream but just change the baileys for malibu, and use coconut milk instead of regular milk.

Edit 10:15pm

Gingerbread pancakes with grilled mango

Cross Kevin's recipe with (1/2) Nigella's and you get this:

15g butter
110g flour
1tsp baking powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses (or coffee essence if you don't have it?)
150 ml milk (could do with more - maybe 175ml)
1 tbsp ground ginger
1tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves (pestle and mortar was at the house so I used ground mace)

Put all these ingredients in a blender and blitz. You can cook these in rings for perfect pancakes, or just ladle the mix into the pan. I start the pan off on ¾ heat, so it sizzles as you add the pancake mix, then turn it down to half so it cooks through. As the edges on the top start to solidify and there are bubbles emerging on top flip it over to cook the other side. If you are using a ring it’s much easier - slide a palette knife under bottom.

1/2 the mango was grilled, the other half chopped and blitzed in the mini proccessor to make a mango coulis.

If you have stem or crystallized ginger add that to the pancake mix too.


Nutella in toast - Espresso, nutella and hazelnut brioche crown

Friday, February 05, 2010
Coffee then toast or toast then coffee - so which do you make first in the morning?
So last year I was mixing up the bread dough while Adam poured the coffee on the other side of the work bench..... and I thought why not add the coffee to the bread. One year or more later here it is - AIGT (all in good time).

I was considering a caffe latte bread - 2 parts milk to 1 part espresso, but changed to an espresso brioche - who can pass up making brioche, after all calories don't count on a Friday - especially when it's Nutella Day.

Based on brioche recipe from Bread by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno. An egg is c. 55ml so I swapped 2 eggs for the espresso and the 2tsp water they used - hence 140ml.

375g Strong white flour
2 1/2 tsp dried yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
140 ml espresso
175g softened unsalted butter
Flaked hazelnuts (I used whole ones cut on the slicing side of the grater)

Because it was quick action yeast I combined all the dry ingredients and mixed in the egg and espresso. 10 minutes kneading - because it's quite a wet mix it's easier to do this with the pastry scraper - as seen here.
Grease a large bowl with 15g melted butter. Place dough in the bowl and turn to coat it. Cover with a cloth and leave to rise for 1 - 1 1/2 hours till doubled in size.
Then knock back and incorporate the softened butter (fun part). Knead again till butter is evenly distributed and brioche is silky smooth.Roll out on a floured surface.Spread on nutella and hazelnuts on top. Then you roll it like a swiss roll.

At this point I was hoping to leave it in one long line and fold some pieces left and some pieces right.... but..... well it wasn't quite working, so I ended up turning it into another bread crown - which is no bad thing after all. Just means I'll have to try again.

But that's not all.....

The best chocolate digestives are made with plain digestives spread with nutella. It gets you through a late night in the kitchen - tried and tested. Andrea who I once worked alongside, came from the area of Italy where Nutella originate from - needless to say he was a fan.... and soon we were too. He'd make these normally around 10:30pm.

Find out more about Nutella Day here:
World Nutella Day
Ms Adventures in Italy,
Bleeding Espresso

Related posts

BNT brioche crown - homecured bacon, nettle and tomato

Cinnamon, raisin and candied orange bread crown

Dairy free assiette of desserts

Thursday, February 04, 2010
Always like to go the extra mile - I think it's important that those with dietary requirements should have as close to everyone else as possible. It really helps if we know well in advance so we make the neccessary arrangements.
This was an assiette of desserts we served at Hill House in January - I was there 3 out of 5 Saturdays that month (with other events going on elsewhere). Very very quick photo just as it was being taken into the dining room.

For this assiette I made:
  • A dairy free ice cream with soya 'cream' and Delia's hedgerow jelly rather than the Baileys ice cream we served the other guests (hard to tell which was better though).
  • A chocolate tart (hiding from view behind the shotglass) was made with a base of nice biscuit (which is dairy free) and soya pure, then chocolate and soya 'cream' for the filling, almost like the chocolate tart we served for everyone else but fridge set rather than baked.
  • Strawberry tartlet with a little dairy free creme patiserrie
  • (Toffee flavour) dairy free creme brulee in a japanese spoon - similar to the creme brulee we served for everyone else.
  • Chocolate dipped strawberry
Related posts:

Other assiette of desserts we have served
Our facebook assiette of dessert photo album

Homemade frugal crisps

Wednesday, February 03, 2010
A good kitchen they say has no waste.....
..... even when it comes to potato peelings. There's only so much my compost bin will take after all.

A lot of the fibre and vitamins are in or under the skin of potatoes. Adam made these last November (that's how far behind I am with blogposts).

Rolled in a little olive oil, maldon salt and smoked paprika (watch out though - the one we had was like rocket fuel!) and baked in the oven till crisp, turning a few times so they cook evenly.

Better than deep frying. Why are they are pushed to the side of the tray? Heat trasfer - in a gas oven it cooks from the outside in, so pushing them to the side (like the roast potatoes) ensures they will cook evenly. If you have a convection oven there's no prob.

So what do you do with your potato peelings?

Meat Free Monday #5 - Jerusalem artichoke and pak choi stir fry with potato and okra curry

Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Jerusalem artichokes. Love them. But there's more to them than just soup - honest!

Jerusalem artichoke and pak choi stir fry (sprinkled with a healthy amount of coriander) - recipe from here. The lemon and coriander with artichokes is just too good - could you eat this every day?

Potato and okra curry. Saw the okra there - and who can resist? Recipe from here.

More info on Meat Free Monday here.

Related posts

Other Meat Free Monday dishes