Sweet potato, feta and coriander ravioli

Thursday, January 27, 2011
Kneading pasta dough? What a revelation that was all those years ago. My first pasta attempts at 14 struggled to stay together and were rather rough - and I learned a bit by trial and error. The right flour helps too. Also semolina to dust the table - prevents sticking.

Saffron pasta dough:

350g flour ('OO' or strong white - there's some great chefstalk on the subject here)
4 eggs
Saffron steeped in hot water then chilled out
1 tsp salt


Roast sweet potato
Red onion sauteed in butter & cooled
Feta diced
Coriander (fresh)
Ground coriander seed
Lemon zest

Related post:

Homemade marmite XO farfalle poached in miso

White and dark chocolate marbled cheesecake

Friday, January 21, 2011
Possibly the only thing I managed to snap on New Years eve - should have been wearing rollerskates in the kitchen that day!

On a mission to make as many different cheesecake variations as poss (there's some here as well as a basic recipe) I found this variation (recipe alert) in the summer and thought it would be ideal for NYE.

As it was part of a chocolate trio - with white chocolate and orange mousse in a shotglass and dark chocolate and raspberry tart (like the one below we served back in May 2010) - I made these in cake cases. Don't forget the great tip from Marg's blog http://bit.ly/c1QCI8 - brush the cases with oil to stop the cheesecake sticking to the case.

So so pushed for time, so I took the bases and mix and made them when we got there. It's always good when you turn up at the venue and the guests are at the singing stage already :)
Once the cheesecakes had cooled I stuck them in the fridge - and they just cooled in the nick of time. You can't beat it for freshness.

Kale with pomegranate and toasted cashews

Monday, January 17, 2011
"Whooooosh!" That was the sound of New Year's eve and new years day flying by.

Bit of deja vu - saw NY eve in on the M50 - same place, same time as 2 years before (the year before had been the M40 overlooking the fireworks in High Wycombe on the way back from Highgate, London). Then it was back to the kitchen to clear up the carnage from the 101 cvs we had served and get ready for the last 3 parties of the Christmas season - NY day lunch and 2 dinners in the evening. Oh and an hour's rest.

With all this going on photos were the last priority. I did manage to grab this though (documentary evidence rather than flashy pic) - at lightening speed as we served up New Yrs evening at Hill House. So tasty. It was another thing I had found on Boxing day adapted from this recipe (no yogurt but with grated nutmeg). Pomegranate molasses are now a storecupboard essential (also used with sprouts on Christmas day). At this party we served the kale with seabass and fillet of beef and the other party had it with lamb shank stargazy pie and coq au vin.
Roasting the kale you get lovely crispy bits - that's where the flavour is!


Friday, January 14, 2011

Hearing the voice after some 6 years or so is quite odd - it's kind of seared on the memory.... in all tones & volumes.
Working for him for 6 years was life changing - in terms of motivation, organisation, technical skills, team leading and confidence I guess. Oh and in terms of cooking too.
I think he tried to offer me a job in a roundabout way when he moved from Claridges to the Ritz but I was quite happy where I was at the time - there was one more bit to do.
It led to what I do now - and that's something I really enjoy. As I always say to the people I cook for as they're hanging around the kitchen - it's much better now cooking in these wonderful houses - a different one each week. And I actually get to meet the people I cook for. And how can you compare dashing through the Cotswold vilages, calling in at farms on the way to pick up ingredients to commuting through London in the packed tubes each day?

See full interview here: http://www.thestaffcanteen.com/featured-chef/mr-john-williams-executive-chef-the-ritz-london/

Baked sweet potato and black beans

Thursday, January 13, 2011
So we got Christmas Day through and I spent all night washing up and clearing the kitchen after 3 days of carnage. Then first thing Boxing Day morning it was all systems go on the admin front again - catching up with email, invoices, printing menus and labels, and, oh yes, organising everything for the 260 covers we were serving over the following 5 days (fitted a wedding meeting in too).

I came accross this recipe for sweet potatoes which I really liked and just put it together in a slightly different way.

Sweet potatoes you buy can tend to be rather large. But hunt around and you can find small ones. These were prob 4cm diameter and 12 - 15cm long (120g per person exactly). So without peeling I cut the very ends off and then cut them in 3. Rolled in olive oil and seasoning & sat up on a baking tray with silicon mat and roasted in the aga for about 40 mins till soft.

Leave them to cool slightly (unless you want to burn your fingers) then scoop out the middles with a tea spoon (serrated grapefruit spoon is ideal). Then you can mix with the black beans, onion, chilli, garlic, lime etc. and then re-fill the potatoes. You can either keep them warm in the simmering oven of the aga or just flash them back in the roasting oven for 5 minutes before serving. And any scraps of potato that happen to fall on the floor will be hoovered up by Sally the dog.

Wonderful old oak beamed house to cook in - we served these in Tiddington just outside Stratford on Avon. This was the fourth time we've cooked for them, the first being their wedding 4 years ago. This time (can you tell what the special occasion was?) they had been called back from their Christmas away early because of burst pipes due to the freezing temperatures which may also have had something to do with 1/2 the kitchen lights being out of action (hence bad pic - good excuse no?). What is it with kitchen lights?

Christmas 2010 - Deliveries in Bristol and the Cotswolds, and cooked and served in-house in Tewkesbury & Cheltenham

Wednesday, January 05, 2011
2010 - Busiest ever Christmas & new year ever!
(Brockhampton nr Cheltenham Christmas Day 2010)

So Christmas eve it was down to Bristol, then back towards the Cotswolds delivering Christmas lunches. Then Christmas Day it was 2 Christmas lunches - Gill doing one and me doing the other. The fact that it was also the coldest December since records began and we were deluged with snow was not so amusing - but luckily we have a good sense of adventure.
Florence (right) who greeted us & kept us company in the kitchen was a cutie!

Game terrine (Overbury Estate pheasant and venison). With my Kenwood blown up & at the repair shop and the borrowed one too new for my ancient Kenwood attachments, it was back to the vintage mincer to make the game terrine. Another inheritance from Nana's old kitchen - so probably dates back to the 40's or 50's. This was the mincer that once made the old luncheon meat pie.....
I had made a fig, lemon and lavender chutney (adding figs to old recipe) and there was a little winter vegetable salad to go with it. What a feast!

These grilled prawns were for another delivery. Back in the summer I had tried out the Donal Skehan mohito chicken recipe on the barbecue and had throught it would be great with prawns too. I halved the marinade and used some of it to marinade the prawns and the rest to make a dressing to go with it. I had pre-grilled the prawns to get the grill flavour on the outside and then they just needed to be heated in the oven on the day.
This went with some of the veg salad as above. Nice take on a prawn cocktail!

So a few days before Christmas I finally found out how much I am worth (see left) - I had thought it would be a bit more though :(

After de-boning the Home Farm turkeys (see how to do that here) I spread the skins with butter, orange zest, lemon thyme and ras-el-hanout. That should give it a flavour injection as it cooks!

Gingerbread house on the side table at the house I cooked at on Christmas Day. The clients had left their mugs in the kitchen ;o)

With all the festive food filling their fridge, they had gone into overspill outside. At -12 oC it was far colder than keeping it in the fridge anyway. Of more concern was it icing up!

The cold didn't dissuade all the guests from going out in the garden and firing off fireworks & setting off chinese lanterns. What a lovely way to end Christmas Day!

Christmas Day menu

Related posts:

Christmas 2007
Christmas Day 2008
Christmas Day 2009
Sunday lunch in the Cotswolds
Turkey ballottine
Mince piesGloucestershire Echo article, Christmas 2007

Melting moments fishcakes

Cod and salmon fishcakes with a cube of mozzarella rolled into the middle.

This was part of a delivery meal back on 21st December - the delivery was going to get there whether I had to take it the last couple of miles on a sledge or not. That last single track country road up to the house is rather isolated.

As it turned out getting there was fine. Evening meals for 2 days delivered. But then, on the way back, I had to reverse into a passing place to allow someone coming the other way to pass. As soon as they passed I went to pull out, then found I was stuck - wedged into the snow. Well and truly. Luckily I'm prepared (after an incident in the Welsh hills when I was 19) and carry a spade, blanket and thermos in the van. Also had the walking boots on which helped. Managed to dig the van out, but still no traction - was -12 or something by then. So I laid the blanked under the front wheels and after a few attempts managed to stall it onto the blanket to get some traction. Half an hour later I was back on the road. The delivery route which normally takes just under 2 hours took 4 hours overall - but there you go. Come floods (drove through floods half submerging van & car in 2007), snow, ice, extreme heat (road was melting earlier in summer), we'll be there. We don't give up & we don't close - whatever happens we'll be there.