Meat Free Monday #16 - Red rice salad with grilled asparagus (and garlic mushrooms, grilled aubergine and avocado with walnuts)

Monday, April 19, 2010
What's this - a Meat Free Monday post actually on the day?
This was 8 hours ago. Finally found the camera lead. I have a whole load of Meat Free Monday posts to catch up on - the last few weeks have just been so busy.

I had wanted to try a red rice salad for a while (big rice fan). Between emails and lists I fixed a quick lunch utilsing the last of the asparagus stalks (tips were used for a canape) and an avocado left from a chicken and avocado salad.
Garlic mushrooms too - with garlic butter left from making garlic bread and some grilled aubergines and butternut squash with mint and lemon juice.
I tried out the electric health grill. It's sloped so the oil drips out and is caught. No smoke too.

Red rice salad

Cooked red rice
Sliced black olives
Sliced sundried tomato
Diced raw fennel
Lemon juice (lots)
Olive oil

But you could add what you liked really.

Maybe enough for 2 but I had walked up an appetite in the Malvern hills the day before.

Chef to cook for a dinner party

Sunday, April 18, 2010
I like to have a bit of music on while I work in the kitchen.....
I was at Wellacres 5 times in 10 days over the Easter period - as well as everything else going on. This (the fifth) was for a 70th birthday. Staying in is the new going out, as they say, and it's even better when you have your own string quartet. The kitchen and dining room at Wellacres is a combined room (as large as a house in itself), so not only could the guests watch the quartet play while they ate, but they also their meal cooked in front of them - almost like being in a theatre really.....

Smoked trout trio (with fillet of pink peppercorn home cured trout) and Salad of parma ham, poached pears and glazed goats cheese.

Fillet of beef with wild mushrooms, spinach and fondant potato (all time classic & best seller).

Assiette of desserts - Mini Baileys bread and butter pudding, spoon of creme brulee, raspberry shortbread, rum baba and homemade orange sorbet.

Related posts

Other assiette of desserts we have served
Chef to cook for a birthday evening
Cooking for a stag party

Recipe Requests - Lemon Tart

Saturday, April 17, 2010
People are only too willing to help... you just have to ask them. Well that's what I was always told anyway.
I get so many recipe requests - normally as we're clearing up after a dinner party. This is definitely one of the most popular requests - everyone loves lemon tart, so I had added the recipe over here.

I've already had another recipe request which I hope to get to tomorrow. Anyone else?


Wedding catering in Gloucester - all canape wedding reception

Tuesday, April 13, 2010
"Look - he's compsing the blogpost as we speak" said the father of the bride at one point. What me? I had my eyes down at that moment. With 25 different canapes to serve there comes a time where you need to get out the spade and get dug in.
It seemed like they had ordered not just the canapés but the weather too - beautifully warm and sunny which brought out the best of the house. 
Hotels and wedding venues can often seem like conveyor belts where one wedding party is rushed through so the next can come in, but when you have your wedding reception at your own home as this one was (or holiday house) it seems much more relaxed and personal - what can be better than sharing your house with your friends and family?
This was the second all canapé wedding reception we have done this year - is it a new fashion? It seems to work really well - rather than have a few canapés and then a traditional 3 or 4 course wedding breakfast you just have an extended canapé menu. We had had a few meetings in the months prior to this event, and the bride, groom and the bride's parents all had their favourite canapés. I thought 25 varieties might be slightly too many, but deleting any proved to be so difficult for them as they all had their favourites that in the end we did them all - why not: it's your special day after all.

I had been hoping for lots of photos, alas it got so busy we just kept putting canapés out and then remembered photos afterwards. You can click on the underlined items to link to previous photos/ recipes.
Cold Canapés

Sweet potato scones with smoked chicken and sweetcorn chutney (can be without chicken for vegetarians)

I had picked up this loose leaf Lady Grey tea a while back and finally found a use for it. As well as black tea leaves it contains bergamot oil, cornflowers, orange and lemon. Ideal for drinking, or smoking chicken.

The kitchen is a no smoking zone, so if you're going to smoke can you do it outside please =)

I stood this on a stool after everyone else had left Basepoint for the weekend. One of the bakers was just starting at the bakery opposite though and seemed interested in what I was up to. It just smells the kitchen out so it is better outside. For a starter you want a lightly smoked flavour, but for a canape you only have a small bite so it wants to be stronger. So I hot smoked it i.e. kept the heat going under the tea leaves so the chicken cooked as it smoked.
You can see the finished result below.

Rosemary scones with parma ham and St. Eadburgh's cheese
Mini stilton cheesecakes with red onion and port marmalade

Asparagus on baked new potatoes with smoked trout mousse
King prawns with horseradish cocktail sauce
Smoked salmon blinis
Spoons of king prawn and mango
Hot Canapés

Tikka marinaded chicken with lemon yogurt
Coconut and coriander fishcakes with curry mayonnaise
Homemade mini burgers in carrot and cumin sesame buns

You don't get these in a drive-thru
Beef came from (where else?) Home Farm just a few miles away. Mixed with garlic, coriander (fresh leaf & crushed dried seeds), chilli, mustard, cooked red onion, egg to bind and seasoning. After chilling to set the shape I grilled them before we went, so the smoke from the grill wouldn't waft though their house - not quite what you want as you are entertaining guests. Then I could finish in the oven just before they were served.

Carrot and cumin bun recipe here. I added ras el hanout as well - extra flavour. The photo has the time 04:31 on it. Preparation the day before did go on a while as everything was made from scratch, but as some guests said it showed in the quality of food.

Scallops wrapped in pancetta with pesto mayonniase
Fish and chips in paper cones with tartare sauce

Chips that pass in the night
It only seemed a while since I had been making the larger size fish and chips. I had picked the cones up for a late night snack of fish goujons and chips we were going to serve at another wedding, but cut in half they served the canape size very well.

Dessert Canapés

Glazed lemon tartlets
Mini dark chocolate tarts
Shotglass of home made raspberry sorbet
Spoon of sticky toffee pudding with sticky toffee sauce
Mini creme brulée

Related posts

Other wedding events we have done previously
Other canapes

Meat Free Monday #15 - Onion bhaji and hard boiled eggs in a Delhi-style sauce

Monday night is curry night! Well it was this Monday (now writing a few weeks since we did this) and as it was also Meat Free Monday Adam (curry chef) cooked this up before we went to visit nana in hospital for what was to prove my last time.

Onion Bajhi recipe here, except he used gram flour.

Hard-boiled eggs in a Delhi-style sauce (Madhur Jaffries Ultimate Curry Bible)
4 tbsp oil
140g sliced onion
1 tbsp fresh ginger grated
6 cloves garlic pureed
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper (this really depends on how strong your cayenne is - they vary. We had one last year that could blow your head off).
1 tsp paprika
4 tbsp natural yogurt
2 tomatoes peeled and chopped
350 ml vegetable stock (or chicken on a non-MFM day)
1/4 tsp salt
120 ml whipping cream
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 - 3 fresh hot green birds eye chillis (he must have used 3 - eyes watering). Leave seeds in for extra heat!
4 tbsp fresh coriander
8 hard boiled eggs peeled and halved lengthways (we kept them whole)
+spinach (not in recipe but we had it to use so he added it raw, then let it wilt)
Stir-fry onions till well coloured. Add ginger and garlic & fry another minute. Add all spices - stir for 10 seconds so they release flavour. Add yogurt, a spoonful at a time so it is all absorbed. Stir in tomatoes and cook for 3 - 4 mins till they become soft and pulpy - keep mashing them with the back of a wooden spoon to help this along. Add stock & salt (depending on how salty the stock is) and bring to simmer. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 15 - 20 minutes. Sauce shuld now be thick. Stir in cream, garam masala, chillies and coriander. Taste & ajust seasoning if needed. Lay hard boiled eggs in the sauce in a single layer cut side up and spoon some sauce over.
Chapati (recipe from bag of chapati flour)
280g chapati flour
170 ml tepid water
1 tbsp ghee
1/2 tsp salt
Mix all ingredients to make a thick dough. Knead well till soft and pliable. Set aside for 10 mins. Divide dough into golf ball sized pieces dust with dry flour and roll out until 15 cm diameter. Heat a heavy griddle or frying pan with a little ghee until hot. Place chapatis in pan cooking either side for 1 1/2 minutes until bubbles appear and the chapati has turned brown.


Post wedding buffet near Blockley, Gloucestershire - Beef wellington and salmon poached in wild elderflower

Wednesday, April 07, 2010
This was the 3rd leg of the wedding celebrations explained the bride's father as he made his opening speech while we put the finishing touches to the starters. The wedding had been in California where the couple live and there had been a 2nd leg in Spain, and this was the English leg for guests who hadn't been able to get to the wedding itself. If you're going to do things there's no point doing them by halves.Wellacres makes such a great venue for a more relaxed wedding - we have done so many events there now I know it better than my own house. This comes in useful when you have to make the most of the available space. The kitchen/ dining room is the size of a house in itself, so seating 43 wasn't a problem with some extra hired chairs and tables and we used the central aisle as a buffet table with the waiting staff serving from there. This week was the start of Easter, so it had been so busy with events on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and then this on the Saturday, and then more on Easter Sunday morning. In between I tried to catch up with all the enquiries and other things, so there was little time to photograph food till we had got to the main course.


Served with champagne 12:30 – 1:30 in drawing room & cinema room

Smoked trout roulades

Beef, horseradish and rocket on parmesan shortbread

Baked new potatoes with asparagus and hoummous

Mini stilton cheesecakes with red onion marmalade

King prawns in filo with pesto mayonnaise

Buffet Menu

Served from c. 1:30pm in kitchen/ dining area

Homemade walnut, raisin and rosemary bread rolls


Tartlets of Gorsehill Abbey Farm St. Agnes cheese with caramelised red onion

Marinated melon in mulled wine

Niçoise salad with balsamic dressing


Beef Wellington with peppercorn dressing

"That's quite a pie" said one guest as they gathered around the central aisle.
I tied up the beef fillet in string, sealed and roasted for 10 minutes at 200 oC. This keeps the right shape as it cooks in the pastry. Then allow to cool, place on rolled out puff pastry and top with mixture of chicken liver parfait, blanched spinach and duxelle field mushrooms. The chicken liver parfait really infuses a great flavour - and great meaty smells waft around as you slice it open in front of the guests. Cooked to 52 oC ish. I had started putting these together at 13:00 as the canapes were on the go and I estimated they were due to be served at 14:00 - 14:10. As it turned out the guests took a bit of time getting to the table, then the host made a speech which all added to the time. I was a bit nervous at one point, as the wellington keeps cooking inside the pastry even after you take it out of the oven due to the steam inside the pastry. So I turned down the heat of the oven and took them out a bit early so it would keep cooking ouside the oven. It all worked out well in the end and every single bit went, even the pastry crust ends.

Elderflower poached salmon with cucumber salad

In the summer when elderflowers come out I pick loads, soak them in water with a bit of lemon stops it going black) for 2 days, strain it and then freeze this liquid for use throughout the year. I used it to poach the salmon for this dish, along with some vegetable stock. It went in the oven as soon as I had finished the beef wellington. Once cooked I drained off the poaching liquid and turned this into an elderflower sauce to go with the salmon.

Salad of free-range chicken with tarragon mayonnaise

The (Madgetts Farm free range) chicken was the first thing to go in the oven when we got there. Celariac remoulade underneath.

Sweet potato cakes with wild mushroom stroganof

The sweet potato for these went in the oven along with the chicken as soon as we got there, and I was mixing it up as the host was making his speech as the guests sat down. As I was frying them up, I flipped one over and accidentally my elbow hit one of the guests lightly as they took their starters. Not exactly the conditions you're used to in a normal wedding venue, but that is the point - it's a more relaxed venue, and all the better for it. Some people I think expect a sweary loud chef (certain TV programmes have a lot to answer for) but in reality, as the bride's mother said afterwards, we're cool, calm and collected, and they often forget we're actually there in the corner.

5 children x chicken goujons and homemade chips

All served with:

Mixed salad

French beans and celery

Glazed Chantenay carrots

Mustard and honey dressed new potatoes


Glazed lemon tart with rapsberries

Fruit salad

Pineapple, mango, strawberries, passionfruit and blueberries in rosewater and mint syrup and served in a watermelon

Like the fruit salad they had requested for the meal I had delivered to them on Wednesday I knew I could make this one more interesting too. Instead of putting everything in a fruit salad, reducing it to a few really nice things seems to be far better. It's a while since I had used rosewater, and it tasted so good - rhubarb and rosewater would be such a good combination.

There was also a chocolate cake which they had supplied themselves. While I do so many things, cakes are not something I specialise in.


Coffee, tea and handmade chocolate, pistachio and almond fudge

I had also made english muffins the day before which and we left these with bacon from Home Farm and homemade tomato relish for them to serve themselves later in the evening. We also left any left over food in the fridge so they could graze through the evening or have for lunch the next day.

Related posts:

Meat Free Monday #13 - Marmite XO farfalle poached in miso with shitake and kale - umami fest

Sunday, April 04, 2010
The thing I like about Twitter is you get the news just so much faster than any other medium - at least a day or two faster than the newspaper, and even faster than the radio bulletins.
Before Marmite XO had even gone on sale it was being tweeted by one particular marmite lover as it was being served at the first Underground Midnight Feast - note: pays to be one of the marmarati. The Marmarati? Well they also seem to have converted Donal to the 'dark' side (i.e. the marmite side). So it was time to try it out. I had read the underground midnight feast post while I was letting some pasta dough rest in the fridge. I went back to rolling out the dough thinking of marmite. Marmite. Pasta. Marmite pasta? Now there was an idea. But google marmite pasta and all you come up with is pasta with marmite sauce (a student classic by the sound of it) but what about mixing it in the pasta dough - after all you can do it with everything else - beetroot, nettles, blue curacao, squid ink, spinach, saffron, chocolate to name a few (though not at the same time).

Well last Monday I picked up a jar of XO and had a go.

200g OO flour
2 eggs

1 heaped tsp Marmite XO (I saw you licking that spoon!)

It comes out the colour of gjetost and you get marmite flavour hands as you knead the pasta dough - yum!

Marmite as we all know is rich in umami so what about a umami fest - a real pick-me-up? That is what I ended up with - miso, shitake mushrooms and kale also being rich in umami.

I had been wanting to try farfalle for a while. Unfortunately no sign of the fluted pasta wheel (so many venues, so many kitchens - it gets confusing), so after rolling out the pasta to thin lasagne-like strips I just cut them into rectangles and pinched them in the middle. If you cook them in the miso they soak a bit of the flavour too hopefully, and any marmite flavour they release is kept - best of both worlds. Oh and and its saves time and washing up - not that these things matter ;)

Related posts

Other Meat Free Monday dishes

Fish and chips

Friday, April 02, 2010
".... and some of our guests are American so I thought we could introduce them to english food.... could you do fish and chips?"
Fish and chips? Well it had been a while. 3 years in fact since I filled in a few times at The Bluebell gastro pub in Henley in Arden (near Stratford on Avon) when they were between head chefs.

Cod in Cotswold Way Ale batter

675g self raising flour
1 litre Cotswold Way ale

(Makes enough for c. 20 fillets - maybe you could reduce it to the original recipe for smaller numbers).


I'm a maris piper convert (contrary to what I said last year). Blanched at 140 oC then crisped at 180 oC. As it was a delivery meal they just needed re-heating in the oven. If you crank the oven up high (220 oC +) they crisp up really well if you use maris pipers.

Triple Cooked Chips

Updated Feb 2019
Then triple cooked chips came into our lives.
For a long time I thought why? Kitchen life is hard enough. Then I tried them. Instant convert. They taste better, they crisp up better. People who eat them say "these are the best chips I've ever had!". That's what you want.


  1. Cut Maris Piper potatoes into chip shapes. 
  2. Place in a large saucepan and cover with salted cold water. Bring to the boil. Cook till soft inside but not falling apart. There's an optune softness which you find after a few goes at making triple cooked chips. 
  3. Drain in colander carefully so they don't crush in the colander. Lay out on clean tea towels to steam and dry. The tea towel absorbs water. The chips can stick to kitchen paper at this point which you then have to peel off before frying- no fun.
  4. Heat frying oil to 140 oC. Drop the chips for about 5 minutes till blanched. They should be soft inside with a hard skin on the outside, but blond NOT the finished golden colour. 
  5. Take out of the fryer and drain on kitchen paper. If you want to work in advance you can store them in the fridge at this point, or in the freezer if you want to keep for a longer time. 
  6. When ready to serve heat the fryer oil up to 180 oC and once up to heat drop the chips for about 2 minutes till golden. Drain and season with salt, then try and get them to the table without anyone stealing one. 

Note - if you don't have a deep fat fryer you can also do this in a shallow frying pan if you cook on an electric hob - I wouldn't advise doing so if you are cooking on gas due to fire risk. I did the frying pan version on holiday and they worked a treat!

Mushy peas

Well minted pea puree Heston style.

Tomato ketchup

When you make your own you wonder why you brought it all those years - this just tastes too good. Recipe from Gary Rhodes' New British Classics.

And I whizzed up some tartare sauce too.

Fruit salad

What you need after this gluttony is some fruit. They had asked for fruit salad. I looked for some more interesting ideas for it and suggested this (no idea where I found it from now sorry).

Mandarin segments (was segmenting against the clock - where did the time go?)
Toasted blanched whole almonds
Fresh diced coconut

As I was really pushing it for time I took the coconut and finished it at Wellacres - which the hostess was happy with actually as she picked up the coconut opening tip? What? You want it as well? OK - you wrap it a few times around in clingfilm so it is well sealed. Then you need a solid floor this one was stone or paving slabs outside your kitchen door work really well too. Then throw it hard at the floor (great anger management technique) and it shatters inside, but the milk is kept inside the clingfilm. Open into a sieve over a bowl so you collect the milk (can use this for risotto or coconut and mango lassi), then you can de-shell coconut with a spoon. I also peeled it for this.

I made some coconut crisps for them to sprinkle on top too.

Related posts

Fish and chips on the barbecue