It's your special event - your menu

Sunday, March 28, 2010
So much repeat business at the moment, and guests at some parties recommending us to their friends when they are organising events - must be doing something right then!

While we have lots of menu suggestions on the website (it's grown over the years as more guests have suggested more ideas), as it is your special occasion we really like to serve whatever you want. Some previous examples can be seen here.
This was one we cooked for last night at Wellacres. We had cooked for this particular family 2 years ago at Wellacres. Like many groups they liked the house so much they came back, and we cooked for them (3 generations) on this occasion as well.

Smoked salmon
While there are lots of different dishes we can do with smoked salmon or trout (the smoked trout trio or the pink peppercorn cured trout and the smoked salmon parcels are just 3 examples) this party wanted plain smoked salmon which was fine. Plating it up I did have flashbacks to the larder kitchen of the Lygon Arms and Claridges where I had done these in the hundreds. There were full size ones for the adults, smaller ones for the children and a tiny one sliced into smaller pieces for the 2 year old. Served with (what else?) chopped onions and capers

Whole roast fillet of beef and ballottine of free range Madgetts Farm chicken

"Flipping 'eck that smells great!" said one of the guests as he wafted through the kitchen getting pre-dinner drinks. Ahhh the roasting of beef - it gets them every time.
"Cooked to perfection!" Said the host - well I had to agree really. It suddenly vanished and all I was left with to snap was the piece on the left. Don't worry though that went about 10 seconds later.
Most of the dinner parties we cook for are plated up and then taken to the table - just like a restaurant in your home. Occasionally we are asked to serve it like this too - as a buffet which is great for a more informal event.

Cutting the beef fillet earlier in the afternoon (left) into steaks for another party, a tail piece to make stroganof for a frozen meal, and the large piece to roast for this party. There is only one place I will buy fillet from and that is the Broadway butcher. I would buy it from the local farms (and did to start with), but its not really fair as I then deprive all their other customers, as there is only a small amount per cow, and then the farmers are left with a freezer full of other cuts they can't shift.

Roasted to 49 oC core temperature (there is more on using a temperature probe here). If you want to spruce it up there some great ideas here on
Here it's resting (makes so much difference - but I don't need to tell you that do I?)
Served with rosemary roast potatoes, yorkshire (style) puddings and honey roast root vegetables.

Chocolate roulade and pavlova

It was really nice to be asked to make something different - and this was the best part.
I had to roll back the clock a bit to remember how to make a pavlova - it's been a while. It was something my mum would often make when I was young and we had guests. She would do the mixing and piping of the meringue and I would help with the decorating afterwards - this is the important bit after all. I remembered the secret ingredients too - cornflour and vinegar - this gives you the crispy outside and marshmallow-like centre.
I used 5 egg whites and 250g caster sugar, 1 tsp white wine vinegar, 1 tsp cornflour, 1 tsp vanilla essence. 1 hour at 140 oC. Aga would be nice though (you can dream). The vanilla really adds something. As I had slightly more meringue than I needed (should have gone for 4 white and 200g sugar), I piped some small meringues on the edge - how can you resist?

The chocolate roulade turned out.... well..... lets just say it's a good job there wasn't a pattern on the plate. Soft chocolate heaven.
I used the James Martin recipe. The chocolate ganache filling needed a lot of 'testing' - I think that could make a dessert just in itself.

Related posts

Some other requested dishes we have made previously
Strawberry meringue roulade
1001 Kitchen Tips #41 - Top tips for Yorkshire puddings
How to ballottine a chicken

Catering in Cheltenham for a Mothers Day lunch

Monday, March 22, 2010
The really good thing about what I do now is I get to cook in so many different venues rather than being in the same underground hotel kitchen all day. And I get to meet the guests I cook for too. Especially when I am cooking and serving as I was on this particular day.

Chef sits in the window

This is being filed under the more unusual venues I have cooked in along with the disused wartime air control tower and the car showroom where we had to climb under the cars to get to the small kitchen. I was cooking in Cheltenham for a family group on Mothers Day. Staying in is the new going out, so as their mother lived in a residential home in Cheltenham that is where I cooked for them.
Looks like they had a special visitor in times gone by.

They had warned me there was no oven so I took my own. When I was 15/ 16 I volunteered in the local hospital in what would now be termed the 'care of the elderly ward'. Such a great learning experience in so many ways. Also when I started up my business I was making frozen one portion meals and many of my customers for these would live in sheltered accomodation and I actually had time to stop and chat to them too - it can be terribly isolating at such a great age (and that's just me). So arriving at this home on Mothers Day really felt very familiar.

Off my trolley

Where would a good nursing home be without a trolley? A great help to get all the equipment from the car park up to the first floor residents dining room. We had timed the meal in between the residents lunchtime and tea time. The Baby Belling oven has proved really useful over the years. It's actually my mum's. One night a few years ago at 5pm I got a phonecall "You're cooking tomorrow night at The Guildhouse? I'm the manager and I've just rung you to tell you the aga is out of action - can you bring your own oven?" It was around 15 people and they only have an aga in the kitchen - so I went over to mum's house (120 mile round trip) and picked this up. I also used to use it for a local supper club, and I also use it at Christmas when I need extra oven space. Sometimes for marquee weddings too - it's always good to have around.

Have oven will travel

I'm quite used to cooking in any space - we've cooked in closet sized kitchens to kitchens bigger than a normal house. Once I had got the Baby Belling in I had only a tiny bit of work surface. But that was OK - as the guests had a window table I could use the other one right behind this. And I also used their mother's kitchen in her flat which was right opposite the dining room:

Home sweet home

So I moved between the two using the microwave and sink (for washing up) there and the oven and plating up in the dining room with the rest of the stuff on the trolley in the corridoor out of sight - I'm adaptable. It worked really well in fact. No photos of the food sadly - as I was cooking and serving the lunch myself flitting between the two kitchens it was better to get the food to the table instead. After lunch we got a concert - the two sons are performance guitarists so had brought along their guitars and amps and they played the blues for their mother. Quite amazing - shame I couldn't stay to listen, but I had two other special ladies to cook for about 65 miles away - my mum and nana, two of the best mums in the world, as well as yours.

Edit 25 April 2010

Now I am really glad I made the trek to cook this second mothers day meal. For it was the last supper. The last proper meal my nana ate. The last time she left her house, except a couple of doctors visits and her one last trip to hospital.

1921 - 2010

You see here why I am a chef rather than a photographer. By the time I got there I was pretty exhausted after a 35 day week (that's my excuse). I didn't add this photo at the time, but now I have - as it's the most up to date one we'll have. She passed away yesterday afternoon. Just her and mum at the end - maybe that was the way it was meant to be.

We did 5 parties last night - Hannah did one, Gill did one, I delivered one served by @Party-Angels, then did one at 7:30 and one at 8:30. The 8:30 one was a 60th birthday - nice family event. Doting grandmother was 60 - with baby grandchild only a few weeks old - so tiny, so cute. It brought it home though - there's a magic bond between grandparents and grandchildren - different to parents and children, and all the better for it. It's certainly a role nana relished (grandmother, mother, wife, best friend to everyone), and we all have so many happy memories as a result - she gave so much, and we all grew as a result. Seeing the tiny baby last night was like a reminder - one generation passes, but a new one follows fast upon. You may have gone, but the memories will last a lifetime.



Cooking for a Stag party in Thrupp near Oxford

"I think we need to drink rather a lot tonight......" Oh you have to love stag parties don't you.

Main course - Grilled fillet of beef with oxtail, caramelised shallots and fondant potato
Fillet steak - perfect manfood. One of the party didn't do mushrooms though so they asked me to come up with something slightly different. I'd really wanted to try out an individual version of this dish (fillet of beef with oxtail wrapped in bacon), but some of the party apparently weren't too sure of the oxtail (till they'd eaten it that night anyway), so I served it on the side instead so the uninitiated could try it. They loved it - what a meatfest.

Oxtail was the first thing I blogged here 4 years ago when I was setting up the business and practising a few dishes. I always try and pick up oxtail when I see it at the local farm - you have to be quick around here it sells fast.
The other joy of cooking it is in the oxtail cooking liquor you have the most amazing base for your accompanying sauce. I also diced some of the carrots used in cooking the oxtail and added that to the sacue for the finished dish (I like making the most of ingredients - and they have so muich flavour).

After it had cooked in red wine for a good 6 hours I let it cool slightly before taking it off the bone. Then reboiled the bones for another stock, and the meat was cooked down a bit further (left) to serve with the fillet.

Unfortunately, as I found when I arrived, some guests couldn't make it away at the last minute due to work commitments, so I served their steaks and oxtail as seconds - I think they must have been saving up their appetites all week - all polished off.

This was their assiette of desserts as seen last week.

Related posts

Fondant potatoes
Their assiette of desserts

Assiette of desserts served in Thrupp near Oxford

Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Everyone loves sticky toffee pudding. Don't they?
It's certainly been a hit on the assiette of desserts since I added it to the equation (or equasion if you're in the US) last October. I think the spoon size sticky toffee works better than the normal size - like the equivalent of an espresso shot to a caffe latte.

Each assiette is slightly different. I served this one at this lovely house (1 of the 8 kitchens I cooked in that week) metres from the canal in Thrupp near Oxford. This assiette was:

Strawberry and champagne tart

Mini crème brûlée

Shot glass of mango sorbet - recipe link here

Spoon of sticky toffee pudding

Mini chocolate eclair - as seen here

Unfortunately some of the stags couldn't make it to the stag party so there were some extra mini desserts which I passed round at the end - had they been saving their appetites all week?

Related posts

Sticky toffee pudding
Other assiette desserts we have served
What does 'assiette' mean? Assiette of desserts 12 July 2008


Terrine of ham hock and broad beans with pea puree

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Fresh is best. This takes time to press and set so I made it around 23 hours before serving.
The Sunday night function had rolled straight into the new week - a new Monday - just after midnight. I suddenly remembered the ham hock. You have to strike early out in the Cotswolds for ham hocks. Eventually I took the diced ham hock from Collins in Broadway and poached that for 4 hours in court bouillon.
Most people discard the onions, leek & carrot from the court bouillon once it's cooked. But as they have so much flavour I like to add them in to the terrine (like I do now with the salmon rillette too). There was harricot bean puree too (below), broad beans, parsley and cumberland sauce and the terrine was wrapped in leeks. Once it is up to room temperature it's just so good.

This was served at the same time (for the non-vegetarians) as the roast asparagus with tahini dressing.
It's almost as good as the ham hock and foie gras version - I would do that if anyone wanted to pay a supplement for the foie gras.

Related posts

Chicken and foie gras terrine
Beer baked beans
Smoked salmon and king prawn terrine


Roast asparagus with chickpeas, almonds and tahini dressing

8 very different kitchens in one week - is that a new record?

I served this one at a lovely house near Stroud last Thursday. As the guests had a young girl asleep right next to the dining room they ate in the kitchen instead right behind me. This was the second time I had cooked for them - I remember them going through to the lounge after the meal last year and planning this week away to make sure I could do it - always a good sign!

This is a vegetarian version of the roast asparagus, sauteed tiger prawns and oyster sauce dressing. But now I've tried this version out I'm not sure which I like more. I took the original combination from Heidi's 101 cookbooks, just adapted the presentation. For the dressing I added the lemon juice, but also soy and used red onion instead of garlic. Also some fresh coriander. As the tahini is quite thick the warm water helps to let it down. Roasting asparagus, as I was telling the guests as I served it, is my favourite way of cooking it - boiling it means all the flavour seeps into the water which invariably you throw away. This way all the flavour stays inside. Totally clean plates afterwards, so I think they agreed.......

Related posts

Roast asparagus with sauteed tiger prawns and oyster sauce dressing
1001 Kitchen Tips #48 - Peeling asparagus
Grilled asparagus with parmesan
Grilled asparagus with scallop and prawn fricasse
Asparagus and gruyere tart
Asparagus and hoummous on new potato
Asparagus soup shotglass

Roasted Asparagus on FoodistaRoasted Asparagus

Assiette of desserts

Tuesday, March 09, 2010
I was really looking forward to serving this one.
Each assiette of desserts we serve is slightly different. This one, served near Cirencester last Saturday was:

Mini tarte tatin - apple - as seen here

Mini bread and butter pudding – traditional

Chocolate torte - smaller version of this

Mini chocolate eclairs

Mini blueberry and white chocolate cheesecake - also seen last week

When I received 2 bookings for an all canape wedding reception I thought it was time I extended the canape menu and looked for a few new ideas. Lemon curd bread and butter pudding has always been a favourite - and there's always another use for butter dishes. The tarte tatin works really well in the small version too.

Bad lighting I know. A bit of fiddling with the bulb had made the kitchen light work in the first place, though after the dinner party we cooked by candlelight for 32 during a power cut in January, one dud light seemed like nothing.....

Related posts:

Other assiette of desserts we have served
Our facebook assiette of dessert photo album
An all canape wedding reception

Date and walnut cupcakes

If you can't beat them join them!
".... and what we would like is a weekend package Friday through to Sunday - A meal delivered on the Friday night, Saturday lunch, Saturday dinner for the children and adults cooked in the house, Sunday lunch and then Sunday dinner for the children and adults again cooked in the house"
"and what was the date?"
"Friday 5 Mar to Sunday the.... 7th"
"This weekend?"

Yes. Already a busy weekend there was a last minute party with 4 days to go. Always like a challenge.

This a little something to go with the buffet lunch delivery on the Saturday.

Carpaccio of courgette with pickled mushrooms, rocket, parmesan and beetroot dressing

A vegetarian version of the adults starter last Sunday night near Cirencester.
Courgettes are so versatile. And so nice raw, sprinked with a little maldon salt and lemon oil and left to macerate. Curling them like this and popping the pickled wild mushrooms inside was a last minute idea (they're always the best).

Also nice as courgette noodles with orange zest.

Related posts

Pickled mushrooms

1001 Kitchen Tips #56 - What do you do with fresh pasta if you haven't got a drying rack?

Oh yes - left it at home when I was making pasta there. The pasta drying rack. Fear not though, polenta was at hand.Polenta (or semolina) scattered on the table stops it sticking. Don't try it with flour though - it makes the pasta taste too floury when you cook it.
Blanched and ready to go