Cupcake-orama for a 70th birthday

Friday, March 30, 2012
There was another birthday too - what was it, 30th, 40th? Can't quite remember - the weeks go so fast when you're so busy, one just runs straight into the next.
This was part of a Sunday lunch party we did a few weeks back - the day after we had cooked the suckling pig for the same family.
Raspberry and white chocolate (love the raspberry icing on this one - used this recipe for the cake, but without grown-up supervision. Buttercream icing with raspberry coulis), coffee and walnut (adapted the white chocolate recipe) and black forest (using this recipe).                  

While we plated up the 2 birthday ones, the others we just plated up the garnish which allowed them to choose their favourite flavour. Of course there were a few left for them to have later in the evening too - there's always time for cake!

Related posts

Some other cakes we have served


Turbot and trout fish head soup

Sunday, March 25, 2012
I know I know - you shouldn't make fish stock with oily fish. But that's just in french style cooking. They don't know everything do they?
Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Indonesia - all those places and more they'll cook & eat everything - it's suprising how much we waste! The eyes in particular are a delicacy. Not sure I could eat crab shells though - maybe it's an acquired taste?
So with some trout and turbot heads & tails left after filleting them for a couple of parties (the turbot for a main course dish and the trout to cure for a starter of another party) I made this soup.

Whole baby shallots
Baby button mushrooms
Parsley and coriander stalks
Chilli (only had green so used those)
Rice wine
Light soy sauce
Thai fish sauce
Coriander leaf

Made this back in January - so it was a winter warmer with the root veg, ginger & lime. It had been another typical Monday - phone & email going mad with enquiries, so by the time it came round to doing this the daylight had gone - hence odd light.

After doing quite a few thai meals we had all these thai ingredients in the kitchen - and they work really well with the fish heads. Thai fish makes everything taste good - even lamb (that's another story/ blog post).

Sweat off all veg. Add veg stock, ginger garlic, lemon grass, chilli etc & fish heads. Bring to boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Should never overcook fish stock - taste goes bad. The parsley & coriander stalks give out flavour to the stock, then I removed them for the finished dish. Keep adjusting to taste - you can never have too much thai fish sauce, soy & lime. Think I added some rice wine vinegar too. On top I did a variation on gremolata - instead of the traditional parsley, garlic and lemon zest this was a more thai version - coriander, garlic and lime zest. It gives it a nice fresh taste on top. I also added some deep fried seaweed on top - really going for the healthy soup that day!

Next time might try a coconut milk version......

Gluten free canapé bases - smoked salmon on polenta croutes with courgette carpaccio

Thursday, March 22, 2012
"Wow - There! That has to be it!"
As wow houses go the 134 Hotel in Stroud does it rather well. Talk about standing out on the street! It's one of those places you know you're going to fall in love with before you've even entered the front door. 

 The principle hen of the hen party we were cooking for was on a strict gluten and wheat free regime, so the menu had been designed around this. Polenta makes a great gluten free alternative to pasta (polenta instead of lasagne sheets?) or bread (think polenta pizza base). On this occasion we used it as a canapé base.
You can buy ready made polenta in the supermarket - shaped like bricks. Tastes like them too! So, as the Tewkesbury shops don't sell raw polenta (well health food shop would., but no time to get there) we had to pick some up in Stroud and cook it at the house as soon as we got there.

Polenta, veg stock, salt, butter, parmesan, thyme, garlic - that's all you need. Keep the stock to a minimum and you make a set-able polenta in 7 minutes. Lay out on a tray and flatten it to the right thickness and it just needed about 10 minutes in the fridge to cool before cutting- can't get fresher than that!

Tikka chicken on mini poppadums (poppadums are also gluten free - made with chickpea flour)
Lady Grey smoked chicken on sweet potato scones (had also made a gluten free version of those)
Smoked salmon on polenta croutes with courgette carpaccio

Related posts

Other canapés we have served
Canapé cookery classes

Raspberry Mojito Sorbet Recipe

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Like mojito? Like raspberries? Why not combine them in a sorbet? (I actually had 3 shotglasses in one go - it's addictive stuff!)
Mojito - easily a hen party's favourite cocktail. We made the shotglasses below for a hen party we were serving with Party Angels last Friday at the 134 hotel in Stroud last Friday. 
After the hen party had had all the 14 canapés we took this in to finish it off. See recipe below.

Our venue, the 134 Hotel in Stroud (since changed name) was let out like a holiday house for the weekend - you get free rein with a caretaker on site should you need them. It's a neat concept - a cross between a hotal and a holiday apartment. A house with a bar - that's more like it!

Raspberry Mojito Sorbet Recipe

This seems to be the sorbet that gets everyone who works here saying they'll buy an ice cream maker - you can't buy sorbet like it! I found this recipe originally as a request for a hen party (mojito has to be the most popular hen party cocktail!) but it was so popular that night I started serving it on desserts too - and it always goes down well! 

No idea where the recipe came from now - it's been lost somewhere in the recipe mountain, but it was American, so is all measured in cups which I converted into mls. Originally they sieved the zest and mint out, but I like leaving it in for texture. Also makes it look homemade. 

Watch the amount of rum though - or it has trouble freezing. I've cut down the original amount as we have to transport it in cool boxes to venues and it has to stay frozen long enough. There have been some hairy moments where maybe the venue was a long journey away, or in the rush when we arrived, we forgot to move it from the cool box to the freezer and it's been super soft. In that case you put ice cubes in it, level it thinly on a plate or tray and get it on fast freeze and hope for the best it's frozen by the time you get to dessert. 
Lemon meringue pie with raspberry mojito sorbet
300ml water
300ml Sugar
5 Limes zested & juiced
600ml Raspberry puree (like this one, but it's normally half that price in the cash & carry)
200ml Rum
Mint cut into brunoise

Ways and Means
Melt all the sugar in some of the water - the less water you use to do this, the faster the mix cools down. When melted, take off the heat and add the rest of the water and other ingredients. Once the mix is cool refrigerate. Then churn in the ice cream/ sorbet machine. Mine takes 1 hour to churn due to the rum which slows down the freezing process. It is best to make this the day before you need it and let it freeze overnight. 

Note - due to the alcohol content it's not going to freeze solid in the ice cream/ sorbet maker. You have to let it finish freezing in the freezer. The sorbet maker however, gets the air and ice crystals in there to make it soft. 

Related posts:

Lime and lychee sorbet
Orange sorbet
Baileys ice cream
Creme fraiche ice cream
Pina colada ice cream

Suckling pig ballotine with chestnut stuffing

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Lastly my brother has a small farm of pigs, and would like to provide a suckling pig to be cooked for Saturday night, can we provide this?" said the email. You know me - how could I say no?
This little piggy didn't go to market
This was for a significant birthday for the host's mother and family - all 3 generations at Pedington Manor (quickly becoming my new favourite house) near Stone, Gloucestershire.

After preparing so many duck and chicken ballottines over the years, removing the bones from a suckling pig is no different really - slightly larger, but not enormously so. Big enough that you have to saw through the neck though (tmi?). 
After also deboning the trotters I roasted all the bones to make the accompanying sauce with some stock left for the following day for their Sunday lunch which we also served. 
Then the meat from the legs & shoulders & belly I combined with sausagemeat, chestnuts, sage, onion, mixed spice, five spice and orange zest to stuff it. Then rolled up and scored the skin with a stanley knife to get the crackling going, before tying with string.
Then just singe a few hairs with the blow torch. I rest it on a potato trivet to stop it sticking to the bottom of the roasting tin - and this keeps the pig away from the fat. Also makes the most amazing potatoes in the process.
Wilbur is off to the venue! The resting time makes for much more succulent meat.  
A slice of the resulting suckling pig ballottine. We served it plated as a  main course with dauphinoise potato, red wine braised cabbage and chantenay carrots. 
Platter of seconds. In the end we decided not to serve the head on there as well - might be a bit off putting on the middle of the table, so we left it for them to have later.

So what was the verdict of the family? "Perfect!" said the guest who had supplied the suckling pig. Their mother whose birthday it was was intrigued when she walked through the kitchen, how to de-bone it, as she was wanted to try it too. Maybe I'll have to give lessons.......

Related posts


Lemon and poppy seed cake

Saturday, March 17, 2012
We served this as part of a lunch buffet - the first one of the Cheltenham race week.
 Used this recipe.
Related posts

Other cakes we have made

Scallop, prawn and salmon with vegetable noodles and whisky en papillote

Wednesday 14th March 2012 - the epicality of this day will be long remembered. 25 events in one week - busiest ever Cheltenham March race week and the Wednesday was the epicentre.
The event I cooked for was a repeat booking from the year before at the White House. Although the house normally fits 12 - 14 we managed to squeeze in 25.
Scallops, tiger prawns (raw), salmon and vegetable noodles (carrot, celariac, leek) with tarragon, dill, ginger  & whisky.
Raw parsnip and pear salad bound in vinaigrette on the  side. Oscar  who had been working with me a few days this week had got me on to raw salads - great for an energy boost.
Pass the parcel?
The foil lined parchment btw is from Lakeland - a little tip from this event which seems like years ago......



I think my paella I made earlier today had it going on...... 

I think this has to be my favourite dish of all time. It was an old family classic started off by my nana. She had an authentic spanish recipe from their spanish friend back in the 60's. The paella pan (which I have since inherited) would only come out on very rare, and very special occasions - maybe that adds to the mystique. Each paella was a labour of love. This one I made today was too!

Assiette of desserts with mini heart shaped scones - Wedding catering in Chepstow

Thursday, March 08, 2012
Assiette of dessert with mini heart scones with clotted cream and jam,  lemon meringue pie,  ricotta and raspberry cheesecake, spoon of sticky toffee pudding and homemade Baileys ice cream
Heart shape scones - used in the dessert above. 
Italian meringue on lemon meringue pies gets glazed with blow torch
Looks like this will be one of the last events we will be doing at Wyelands in Chepstow - sadly the owners are taking it back into private ownership next month - they're downsizing to Wyelands, which makes you laugh slightly.

The kitchen there is infront of the dining table, so as the guests were eating the main course they could watch us putting the finishing touches to the dessert. Apparently we made it all look so easy. The secret is in the days of preparation beforehand.

Starter - pearl barley pea and mint risotto with grilled prawns, & mint pesto. No picture of the dessert -  as always so busy getting it out hot & on time forgot photo 

Related posts:

Previous assiette desserts we have served
What does 'assiette' mean? Assiette of desserts 12 July 

Carrot and cumin soup with cheese and bacon ciabatta croutes

"Soup? That's not a meal!" complains the hungry chef at staff lunch time.
Oh yeah? It is when you put it with these cheese and bacon ciabatta croutes.
A bit of creme fraiche & avocado oil from this avocado meal on top - chow down!

Eggs Benedict for a pre-wedding breakfast in Chepstow, Monmouthshire

Tuesday, March 06, 2012
"That kettle doesn't seem to be working"
"I think someone has filled it too full" She pours some water out, switches it on. It works again.
"Wow - you're a genius!"
"...I'm a mother!"

Think of a fantasy breakfast you could have served up before you set off for your wedding. Eggs Benedict has to be right up there doesn't it?!
Home Farm bacon (or ham if you prefer) and poached eggs on toasted english muffins topped off with freshly made hollandaise (see hollandaise recipe here).

I served this on Saturday for a party before they set off to their wedding.

It's a while since I served 24 people on my own. Luckily I had some help from some of the guests when it came to plating up.

"Look at those yolks!"
"Look John - that's how you poach eggs!"

Using the best eggs helps of course:


Elderflower and prosecco jelly.

Friday, March 02, 2012
Apparently I made these 518 days ago - a lifetime ago, but only if you measure in terms of food.......

Amazing the amount of food you can make in the space of a few years - had completely forgotten these - has to go on the assiette of desserts menu!

Just been sifting through the old twitpics while I'm doing a few quotes and turned up so many things I'd forgotten about. It gets so busy so much never makes it to the blog. Anway - used this recipe - something the clients for that party had asked for specifically. I'd kept seeing it on blogs - like this one, so it was good to actually make it (with my own homemade cordial naturally!)

Related posts

Homemade elderflower liqueur