"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
London, the Algarve and Cheltenham in 2 weeks
Hotel Quinta Jacintina - http://www.mysecretgardenhotel.com/