Assiette of mini desserts and mini cheese courses

Friday, December 23, 2011
Hmm. Shall we go for cheese or dessert? Dessert or cheese? Decisions. Decisions. For this party we did both. On the same plate.

When I found this goats cheese cheesecake with strawberry granita recipe, @michaelnatkin also suggested another of his previous blog posts and I tried the cheese with wine jelly - in this case using Blacksticks Blue and mulled wine jelly (mulled wine is a necessity in December). 

The goats cheesecake I adapted from our normal cheesecake recipe (without the sugar of course), but because of the goats cheese didn't add cornflour - it sets just fine without.


125g Digestive biscuits
50g Unsalted butter


270g        Cream cheese/ ricotta
330g        Goats cheese
2 1/2        Eggs
120 ml      Creme fraiche
Chopped fresh thyme

(follow the cooking instructions on normal cheesecake recipe link above). I made these in muffin cases - so only took around 20 minutes cooking in oven.)

On the other side was shotglass of eton mess, lemon meringue pie and spoon of sticky toffee pudding.  

You can either eat this the french way - the cheese items before the dessert or the other way round. 


Cooking lessons in your home and team building / hen party cookery events

Sunday, December 18, 2011
Looks like the first cookery lesson of 2012 will be on this aga:
It's going to be for the boxer's owner - a birthday present from her husband. We were there last night cooking a birthday meal.

Our whole business is built on things clients have asked for - catered dinner parties in the first place, weekend catering packages, assiette desserts, whole lamb roasts - they've all come from clients' requests. As have cookery lessons, demonstrations and team building events.

Each cookery lesson, demo or cookery / team building event is designed around what the individual clients would like. They have included:

  • How to prepare lobster and crab from live to a finished dish demo for a couple of corporate dinners (this was their starter).

  • Preparing pigeon (still in feather) and pheasant from scratch to their finished and plated up meal - stag party event. A different team of stags also helped prepare and plate up each course in the kitchen.

  • Barbecuing tips - a summer event naturally. Another popular hen party one.

  • Cook your own dinner party - popular one for groups of friends and hen parties

  • Home cooking lessons - I have taught clients with a range of abilities from beginners  who want learn the basics to advanced cooks who want to give their home cooking more of a proffessional look. During making a series of dishes we normally discuss top tips, practical advice and all the answers to the cooking questions they've always wanted to know.
Complete with recipe booklet
Ones coming up in January:

  • The cooking on a aga one (above)

  • A Hell's Kitchen style comp for a hen party - I'm going to be doing a canape demonstration then we're going to be splitting the hens into 2 groups and they're going to be resposible for making their own 5 types of canape for their pre-dinner drinks based on the demo. Then we get to judge the 2 teams at the end. 

  • A corporate team building event where we are going to split the group into 3 and each is going to be responsible for a different course - complete with recipes and guidance. Then each team will be back in the kitchen when it comes to plating up their course. 

Contact us for more details.

Birthday dinner preceding a cookery lesson

This dinner party we cooked for last night was for a birthday - during which I announced to the birthday present of a cooking lesson in the home.

Another outing for the seabass and cauliflower poached in saffron with cauliflower gremolata dish  I created on Tuesday

Honey and lavender marinated butterflied leg of lamb, aga cooked dauphinoise potato, french beans  wrapped in pancetta and roasted carrot ribbons
Then it was time for the fake dessert. Family traditions are great aren't they! Apparently this is their family custom - no birthday can go by without a caterpillar cake!
At this point I also made the birthday present announcement - I'l be coming back in January and we're going to be doing a cookery lesson with your aga!

Then time for the real dessert:
Assiette of desserts - each addition being watched carefully should any crumbs drop. This one was:  lemon meringue roulade, shotglass of tirimisu, raspberry shortbread, mini blueberry cheesecake and spoon of crème brûlée  

Is that someone's alarm going off? Nope - the tweeting sound comes from up there! A kitchen full of wildlife is always fun.


Catering for a 40th birthday party - seabass and cauliflower poached in saffron, Grilled calves liver and bacon, Pineapple tarte tatin

Wednesday, December 14, 2011
The dining room end of the kitchen at Wellacres had been transformed by the time we got there:

We have cooked for this family around the same time every year since 2007 when Wellacres first opened for business. This time it was for 2 meals - last Saturday night, and then this special birthday last night. Great to see them again - among my favourite people to cook for.

As we had cooked for them so many times before it was nice to try something different for them.
Seabass and cauliflower poached in saffron and white wine with  cauliflower gremolata

 Firstly cauliflower was poached in white wine and chicken stock with a healthy amount of saffron just before we left, so the saffron flavour and colour would infuse into the cauliflower. Once we got to the house, I drained that liquid onto seabass fillets (Fillets were largish so 8 did 12). This was poached just before the guests were about to sit down.

Gremolata - fine grated cauliflower, lemon zest, fine grated garlic, chopped parsley. The gremolata sprinkled on top gives you a great fresh flavour.
Grilled calves liver and bacon with creamed potato, grilled organic portobello mushrooms, vine tomatoes and bearnaise sauce

The birthday girl's favourite is calves liver and bacon - so that is what we did! 
The calves liver I started grilling on the grill pan  as they started to eat the starter - last minute is best with calves liver. Where a lot of people go wrong with cooking liver at home is they cook it for ages till it's dry and tough. Much better when it's cooked quick - after grilling I just flashed it through the oven once they had finished the starter. It did create a bit of smoke in the kitchen - but luckily the smoke alarms at that house are very well behaved and we ventilated with the windows. Makes a good bit of 'kitchen theatre' while you're eating though as well as making a better result. 
There's spinach underneath the tomato - healthy living and some chantenay carrots and bearnaise sauce was served on the side - feast!
Pineapple tarte tatin with pina colada ice cream
While the apple or banana tarte tatin are so popular, I also like this pinepple version. So did the guests. When you hear "Wow!" "Oh my God!" and "Yum!" while everyone's eating you know things are going ok. The pina colada ice cream was a hit as well. While I've done malibu and coconut ice cream before, this version was even better. After the hass sour cocktail Ms Marmitelover made at the avocado meal I helped with I discovered a new love of cocktails. Pina colada has to be on the top ten most popular - so why not  turn it into ice cream!

Pina Colada Ice Cream

Combination of my Baileys ice cream recipe and Nigella's pina colada ice cream. The lime juice adds a neccessary zing.

400ml tin coconut milk
500ml double cream
300ml pineapple juice (ish)
200g caster sugar
Juice 3 - 4 limes. Maybe more
Toasted dessicated coconut

Heat a ladle full of the cream with the sugar till sugar melts. No combine with the rest of the ingredients and chill in fridge. Churn in your ice cream machine till it starts freezing - takes a bit longer than other ice creams because of the alcohol content.

Need an ice cream machine? See 2 I like (at opposite ends of the cost scale) here.

Related posts

Thai style seabass with pinapple and cucumber salad
Baileys ice cream
1001 Kitchen Tips #22 - Chargrilling tip - I used for the liver so it didn't stick to the pan

Chicken liver parfait with celariac, parsnip and apple remoulade and cranberry chutney

Sunday, December 11, 2011
So what is the difference between pate and parfait?
Chicken liver parfait with toasted homemade poppy and sesame seed bread
Well someone had to ask didn't they (it was one of the guests actually who was passing through the kitchen as we were clearing up after the dessert).

A - Pate is more course - and with chicken liver pate normally made with the chicken livers being fried first and blended with all the other ingredients once cooked. Parfait tends to be more moussy (this one certainly was) and smoother, and the livers are blended raw and then cooked. Blending it with the eggs adds a lot of air - air makes it lighter.
Also you get a much better colour with this recipe - i.e. blending the livers with the other ingredients first and poaching it in a bain marie. Once it's cooked it stays a nice pinky colour. Pate made with blending the sauteed livers is more grey/ brown.

Cranberry and pear chutney pre-cooking
We made this for a dinner party last week. The host couldn't make up her mind on a starter, and eventually requested this. It had been a while since I'd made chicken liver parait - and with such a busy few years and a few moves my original recipe from the Lygon Arms days (which was originally from Mosimann in his Dorch days). Anyway - I found this recipe and it worked really well. The above version is wrapped in pancetta and cooked in a terrine mould. Cook it to 74 oC on the temp probe to be safe (see link below).

Link to cranberry and pear chutney here. It's a new Christmas fave.

Related posts

Game pate en croute
Smoked salmon pate
Using temperature probe
Some other terrines

1001 Kitchen Tips #67 - Mulled wine tips

Hey look at the time - it's mulled wine o'clock!
Mulled wine - is there anything better to warm you up on a winter's day. Well ok maybe hot chocolate with brandy - but that's another story.

Here's some mulled wine tips I've learned from the expert:

  • Numero uno - don't buy those mulled wine spice packs - waste of money. A small amount of spices which you've most likey already got in your store cupboard and an extportionate price because they're brought for presents. Also the spices in the 'mulled spice packs' are normally quite dull in flavour - just use the whole spices in your cupboard.
  • Sugar - Mulled wine must contain sugar for complete cold weather salvation. I've often tasted some that other people have made - too sour. It should be warming - like sweet tea. Demerara sugar is best  - bit more flavour than white sugar. Alternatively add honey.
  • Secret ingredients? Add a few glasses (or more) of port to your mulled wine. Not only deepens the colour, but also the richness. Gives your mulled wine much more life. 
  • Additions - it's all about the additions! We're talking additions of the spirit variety here. Brandy is a starting point - adds a kick. Or calvados adds a similar kick but appley flavour. Also sloe gin gives it another great dynamic. The one I made above contained Cointreau and Creme de cassis. I tried another version with ginger wine last year - very good. 
  • Never boil mulled wine - apart from boiling of the alcohol you also dull the flavours - and that's what it should be about
  • Tastes even better the day after! If you can manage to leave it alone overnight, cover with cling film and let it infuse. Warm up the next day and it has even more flavour.
  • Don't through the fruit away! If you've simmered apples & oranges in the mulled wine to give it flavour let them infuse in it overnight. The next day they make a great dessert with greek yogurt.

Mulled wine recipe - well this is the one I made yesterday at least. Next time probably different.

Red wine - I used 1 1/2 bottles
Port - I used about 1/4 bottle?
Cointreau - few generous glugs
Creme de cassis - few generous glugs
3 Satsumas chopped - didn't have oranges
1 Lemon chopped
Whole cloves - about 6
Whole cinnamon sticks broken up a bit - 2
Generous grating of nutmeg
4 Whole allspice crushed
4 Peppercorns (go easy!)
4 Bay leaves (preferably fresh)
Demerara sugar - to taste. 

Mulled wine jelly - Add 1 sachet of gelatine (or 6 leaves) per pint.



Butternut squash and parmesan epi bread

Epi bread - something I've been meaning to try for ages. 
I made these rolls for a party we cooked for last night. Was this the 5th or 6th time we'd cooked for them? Such great people to cook for.
To the basic bread recipe I use I added roasted butternut squash, onion, sage and grated parmesan.
There's a quick youtube vid I checked out below just before I snipped them to refresh the memory.

Snipped & left to prove.
Will work on the points a bit next time........ 

What is epi bread? Read more here.

See more bread photos on our facebook bread album.


Tapas delivery for a hen party

Tuesday, December 06, 2011
I <3 accounts!
Grilled tiger prawns piri piri - always popular when we do them. Grilled and them mixed  with piri piri sauce.
Spot the sarcasm. Luckily my dad does most of the accounts - keep it in the family - but while reviewing the invoices this afternoon I found this event from November that I hadn't blogged - that's November 2010 (so far behind).

Stuffed peppers - finish in the oven to crisp the parmesan/ breadcrumb topping
Stuffed tomatoes as well 
Garlic and herb ciabatta croutes - top with sautéed mushrooms (seen below)
Sautéed mushrooms with shallots, garlic and chives. Heat & top the garlic croutes (above)
 Chorizo and corn empanadas - see them being made in this post:
Meatballs in white wine & tomato sauce 
Soda bread (see recipe here) and honey and fennel seed semolina platt (see that one here)
Spanish style lamb cutlets
Baked cannellini beans to go with lamb cutlets above
An old family recipe which I've updated slightly. Maternal grandparents had a spanish friend who lived in the UK in the 60's -  and it was passed down through the ages in his family. It was served only at special occasions - and for special people. This one was made without seafood as there were some members of he group who couldn' t eat it. 
As I used belly pork in the paella I cut off the skin first to make crackling which you can serve with it -  it's everyone's favourite part!

There! Do you think that was enough?

Related posts

Catered tapas event for a hen party
Meze starter for a hen party

Pre and post wedding catering at Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire - hog roast and breakfast

Monday, December 05, 2011
If you want to make a big impression - it doesn't come bigger than Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire - we're just 20 minutes away. 

We cooked for these two events with Party Angels running front of house at Chandos Hall at Sudeley Castle (that's it below) the night before the couple's wedding as guests arrived, and the Sunday morning after the night before with other dinner parties going on elsewhere on the Saturday night.

Friday night mini hog roast

There are times when you don't want to go the whole hog - they do feed up to 150 people after all. Another way we serve it for some people is to cook joints of pork rather than a whole hog - this also greatly reduces the price - never a bad thing the night before a wedding :o) Whole roasts chickens are also popular - so you can mix and match.
 Gloucester Old Spot/ Berkshire breed pork from Home Farm in Bredons Norton
 Crackling from the pork shoulder and leg is taken off after they have been cooking for 7 hours and crisped up - see crispy crackling kitchen tip

7 hour pork leg cooked in cider - so soft it's melt in the mouth: makes the perfect bap!
 Cranberry and pear chutney - just going on to cook - a variation of this recipe, but also with chilli, fresh ginger (giving it a kick), spices etc. 
 Salad of grilled butternut squash, chickpeas, beluga lentils,  pomegranate and shaved fennel
Spinach, St. Agnes cheese, cherry tomato and black olive salad
Roast pepper cous cous

Sunday breakfast

"Uhhhhh! So ready for this!" - guest on Sunday morning. Heavy night? Lol.

Go on - treat your body to a little fruit on a Sunday morning

Toasted homemade bread - sesame & poppy seed and granary

How do you cook breakfast for 50 with one small oven which only fits 3 trays and a small hot cupboard? Bacon steam-roasting (above) over pans of boiling water. There's an answer to everything - just takes a bit of pre-planning. 

  •  Gloucester Old Spot/ Berkshire breed bacon and sausages from Home Farm in Bredons Norton - hey make their own & you can tell - they're the best!
  • Hash browns made from jacket potatoes and caramelised red onions
  • Oakfield organic portobello mushrooms
  • Scrambled Burford  Brown eggs
  • Vine tomatoes
Finished off with danish pastries - it's Sunday after all.......

Pick up your Cotswold Christmas tree and take it home with you - wedding guests' car. 


Chef in Venice #9 - Baked figs with gorgonzola and honey

Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Simple things are often the best!

After a full day walking round various biennale mind = blown. Time to chill out in the garden. This garden (below) happens to be in the beautiful Palazzo Zenobio who were hosting I think 4 country's pavilions. Another quirky contempory opera video from Iceland - great. Out in the garden though we found a pommegranate growing (see it middle right?) - food is never far away........

They were waiting to close the doors behind us in the end - you have to make the most of these things. On the way back we picked up some figs - it would be rude not to after all......

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