Tabbouleh with grilled sweet potato, celariac & pink grapefruit salad

Sunday, November 23, 2014
"I feel sick" said our client as we were unpacking. Oh dear were we going to have to take over front of house as well? "How quick can you get the food ready?"
Turned out her 51 guests were arriving to eat at 12:30, not 2:30 as she had organised and her sick feeling was panic. I think she'd been used to shouty chefs. Who needs it? Much better to see these things as a challenge. "Riiiiight - let's go then!"
By some miracle we got 2 1/4 hours work done in 45 minutes - love bit of pressure! 10 minutes before we had originally been meant to start serving, the guests had finished and were leaving for the Christening ceremony none the wiser to the emergency behind the scenes. Job done.

Due to the rush this healthy living autumnal salad was rather rustic in presentation - but tasted great. Once you've segmented the pink grapefruit you can squeeze the remaining juice from the remaining flesh over the salad along with olive oil as a dressing.

Sole roulades with saffron risotto, mussel broth and french beans wrapped in pancetta served near Cirencester

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
From a 50th birthday we served in the middle of June for a family from the States staying near Cirencester on the Cotswolds leg of their UK trip. They were so overjoyed with everything we served (this was preceded by a soufflé starter and followed by a trio of desserts and this was after their delivery meal we made for them the day before).  
 It's always good to be part of that special moment for people's birthdays!
There's a sole mousse which binds these together with the herbs picked from outside my kitchen window.

Gluten free bagels

"Wow for the first time ever I can eat the same as everyone else!"

Whatever you can make, you can nearly always make it gluten free too - like these bagels as part of a 40th birthday buffet delivery. I used the normal Doves Farm gluten free bread recipe, but of course it is very sticky. Let it rest for 90 mins - 2 hours after you have mixed it. As well as letting the yeast rise, the resting time allows the various flours in the flour mix to fully absorb the liquid and the dough is thicker and firmer and much better to work with.
Now re-mix the dough and shape it into bagel shapes. You do need a fair bit of gluten free flour (yes - make sure it's gluten free you use for dusting - easy mistake to use normal flour, then you have to start all over again!) on your hands & and the table top to make sure it doesn't stick.
Let the bagels rise - this may take 1 - 1 ½ hours depending on the heat in your kitchen. They should double in size. The dough will still be very sticky at this point so here's a golden tip - put the tray of proved bagels into the freezer for about an hour so they go slightly hard on the outside. Now you can boil them like normal bagels and they hold together. Then bake as normal. 
Love your gluten free guests! 


American Independence Day 4th July garden party near Tewkesbury

Your golden wedding? Why not make a weekend of it! Especially when guests fly in from around the world. For this event a lot of their friends came over from the states, and as the Friday night also happened to be the 4th of July they all suggested an Independence day American themed party, and the American contingent came up with the menu choices too.....
This was another event with the Tewkesbury town band playing. Of course we had to start with the USA national anthem!
As always it was busy setting in the marquee and we didn't get quite as many pics as we would have liked - there's always next year.....

Barbecue Style Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Dip
"I didn't know buffalo had wings - I thought they were like cows...." Yes this did really happen #facepalm.

Zucchini Parmesan Crisps with Guacamole and Salsa - brief glimpse above cut from another pic. Went very fast. Makes a great snack too!

Grilled Shrimp with Cilantro Sauce


All American Classic Cheese Burgers & Vegetarian Mushroom and Boston Bean Burgers
With a kettle barbecue after you have barbecued the burgers you can put the cheese on, put them on a tray and close the lid. That way the cheese melts on top without dripping and you still have your barbecue flavour.  Burgers and sausages below from Martins Meats.

Sticky Ribs with Sour Cream and Chive Dip
Barbecue Sage Hot Dogs & Vegetarian Sausages with Corn Relish
Great plates, no? We also had stars & stripes napkins and tablecloth from the USA food store in London.

Pulled Pork with Jerk Sauce
This got all the guys going! Slow cooked in our special marinade in the oven for 10 hours, then finished on the barbecue. Then you can literally pull it to pieces. What's not to love?

all served with;
Buns, Ketchup, Mustard, Pickles, Relish and Mayonnaise
Sweet Potato Fries
Red, White and Blueberry Coleslaw

Black Bean Salad

Honey Mustard Potato Salad


Traditional Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream (complete with stars & stripes!)
Key Lime Cheesecake
Blackberry Pie and Vanilla Ice Cream
The lavender was in full flower in the Upper Court garden so it seemed wrong not to use it. Also added these USA flag wafers for that 4th July touch!


Tea and Coffee with Red, White and Blue Strawberries
(A work in progress these....)

After this it was on to their Saturday lunch buffet and all the other Saturday events - long live summer!


Dear Anton (and everyone at Benson's!)

Yesterday (Thursday), we eventually said 'goodbye' to the last of our guests - 2 Americans and 3 Barbadians so I can breathe.....which is more than your staff managed to do last week-end!

Everyone was truly wonderful and we want to say a great big 'thank you' to all of you.  Gill, as 'front-of-house' manager on both dates did a wonderful job in organising your staff but also was great with our guests (and the audio-visual equipment!).

Although James obviously does not like the 'limelight' he clearly had everything/everyone under control behind the scenes on 4th and 5th and the events were so enjoyed by everyone.  Universal comments about all the food - how delicious; wonder where that recipe came from?; really wonderful!

A lot of our 'local guests' (about 30% of the total group) asked us for your details so I hope you are not busier than ever.  James and Gill must be totally exhausted if all their summer week-ends are timetabled as this last???!!

Thank you so much again and do hope your move to Gloucester goes well next week.

With all kind regards   Marguerite and Brian Harris


One from the summer - Grilled asparagus with raw vegetable salad & orange gremolata

Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Fresh, light & summery (well it was in July)!

Chocolate and lime tart with mojito sorbet from a wedding tasting

Friday, October 10, 2014


Wedding catering in Bishops Cleeve Tithe Barn, near Cheltenham

Ten months in the making and today was finally the day!
Trio of desserts: dark chocolate torte topped with raspberries, shotglass of eton mess and raspberry mojito sorbet 

Bishops Cleeve tythe barn. It was renovated and refitted a few years back and now makes a great space for a wedding. The hall looks new, fresh and bright - a lot of other venues could do with the same treatment!
Tewkesbury town band played the wedding couple in to the wedding reception. We saw them at a few events this year - great sound! 
Found these cocktail skewers for the canapé mini burgers in homemade carrot and cumin buns - perfect for a wedding
Also found a couple of perspex stands for the canapé beer battered fish and chip cones - looks much better when you hand them round!

Main course was chicken, parma ham, cherry tomato and basil pie - sadly no pics of that. With 2 kitchens (one on bottom floor, other on top floor) there was quite a lot going on as it was going out.....
The brides grandfather had been in the milk trade and had a large collection of vintage milk bottles which they used for flowers on the tables. Always nice to add your own touch!

A classic beauty! VW camper vans are all the rage for weddings - as bridal cars (like they used here), camper vans converted as bars, ice cream vans, a photo booth, a coffee bar
 Oh dear - give a camera to a teen to take some pics for the blog and this is what happens.......


Sunday lunch in Snowshill, nr Broadway

Wednesday, October 08, 2014
I fell in love with the village of Snowshill when I was 6 or 7. There's a great circular walk from Broadway up Broadway hill to the iconic tower and over to Snowshill where you just have to stop at the Snowshill Arms. Along the way you leave the real world behind and it feels like you're walking through countryside which hasn't really changed in centuries. Everyone needs that once in a while..... 
The house where we served this Sunday lunch was just up from the Snowshill Arms. The kitchen overlooks the whole valley towards Broadway and beyond - certainly beats working in underground kitchens!

Each time we do this crab salad, popular for Sunday lunch parties I try out a different way of doing it. This was last Sunday's version.
One of the desserts used melon, so I used the scooped out melon skin as a bowl for the berries on the cheesecake.
... and oranges scooped out as a bowl for the berries to go with treacle tart.

Always try to liven things up - it's the little touches which make the difference!

Afternoon tea wedding in Stanton near Broadway

Thursday, June 05, 2014
Four o'clock on the dot was tea time in my great grandmother's house. If you were late woe betide you. The same tradition passed down to the next generation too so there was always tea and cake at four. It was the same at my paternal grandparent's too - work stopped in the garden and workshop for afternoon tea, and if guests happened to be around or it was a larger family gathering savoury things also made an appearance - you can't beat sardines on toast!

Is it that sense of nostalgia for olde england that makes us love afternoon tea so much? Or it could be that it all just tastes so good. It certainly makes for a great wedding breakfast like this one we served last Saturday in Stanton near Broadway. 
Buck's fizz to start anyone?

Afternoon tea sandwiches:
Smoked salmon and watercress
Chicken and apple
Ham with apricot chutney
Cucumber, cream cheese and rocket
Egg and cress - can't beat the classics!
On the savoury side were mini quiche lorraine, butternut squash filo tarts and sausage and sun dried tomato lattice ("Better than Ginsters!" said the waiting staff. Apparently that's good)
Baking coconut macaroons at 11pm
I was addicted to making these as a tween - then shredded coconut was easy to find. Not so easy now - nowhere sells it. Much more succulent that dessicated coconut (dessicated makes them dry). Finally after a hour's trawling I found it at The USA Foodstore - great fast shipping btw thanks.  

Homemade plain & apple and sultana scones with clotted cream and Dove Cottage Hedgerow preserve
White chocolate and blueberry torte
Fruit crème pâtissière tarts
Rose & vanilla cupcakes
Coconut macaroons

White chocolate and blueberry torte - using the dark choc recipe but exchanging dark choc for white
Added to my collection of cake stands a couple of days before from Forgotten Treasures - based in the same village as the wedding was. I love these - rather than the cake stand handles that everyone else uses they have vintage glasses between the layers - much more individual. Each plate has a story behind it. 


2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - W is for White chocolate cheesecake oreo cookie brownie

Saturday, April 26, 2014
Whatever diet you are on it's fine to eat these on Sundays - calories don't count on Sundays!

We actually served this for a weekday business lunch party though - that kept them energised through the afternoon session!

This started off as Henry's Oreo cookie brownie, but I had to go one step further and add white chocolate cheesecake mix in there as well and finished it with white chocolate and toasted coconut on top - if you're going to do something it's worth doing properly!

1. The cookie layer

250g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
170g unsalted butter, melted
150g dark brown soft sugar
150g caster sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
325g chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 170 C / Gas mark 3. Grease baking tray and line with parchment - we used a 24cm square foil tray (no washing up afterwards) 

Sift together the flour, bicarb and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and caster sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. 
Press the cookie dough mix into the tray so you have about a 12 - 15mm layer. You will have some cookie dough left. This is intentional! Roll it into a sausage shape and chill - you can slice into cookies and bake them (15 mins in over) at a later date. Beware though - they are highly addictive!

2. Oreo layer - well that's easy!

 3. Brownie layer 

Should I give away which brownie recipe I use? Probably not - you'll have to use your own!

Put the brownie layer on top of the oreos so it almost goes to the top of the baking tin.

4. Cheesecake layer

An adaptation of the master cheesecake recipe.....

250g      Cream cheese/ quark
50g        Caster sugar
1            Egg
75 ml     Creme fraiche
1 tbsp    Cornflour
1/2 tsp   Vanilla essence

Mix all these ingredients together till combined - quite easy enough to do by hand than wasting time with mixing machine. 

Drop bits of the cheesecake mix into your brownie mix and swirl it round. 

Bake for about 45 minutes - depending on how gooey you like it. Allow to cool before you cut. I topped it with white chocolate and toasted coconut.
You must serve at room temperature - if it's fridge cold you lose the whole effect!
Go on - you're worth it! I'm sure Elvis would approve.......


2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - T is for Tarragon poached chicken

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Tarragon poached chicken on the barbecue host of an event we did at the beginning
of this month had initially wanted a barbecue but then changed her mind to a more dinner party style event inside due to the english weather, but still wanted the tarragon poached chicken that we have done for a few barbecues since we created it 2 years ago, so we served it bistro style inside instead.
I was cooking elsewhere that night so didn't get the final dish, but this is how they were put together...

Free range corn fed chicken supremes batted out flat and filled with chicken mousse and chopped tarragon.Then they're rolled, tied and poached in chicken stock with herbs, spice, lemon

Maybe they looked something like this chicken balmoral dish we did for an irish theme party last year.

"I am surprised in your choice of music" said my dad as we were making these at 11pm on a Friday night. YES! I've waited all my life to hear this! Most people get this reaction from their parents in their teens but I was more into Grieg, Handel, Bach, Byrd, Purcell etc then. These days that hasn't changed but it's joined on the music shelf with French jazz, trashy 90's pop, 50's doo-wop, obscure Scandinavian sounds, a bit of Bjork, the minimalist composers (big fan), a bit of rock (great to get you going in the morning), electro punk, a bit of Brazilian samba and my current obsession with Jewish music.  The list could go on. There is the occasional youtube skrillex session for old times sake for instan. 
As we were making these there was a bit of country music going on - gets you going when you're tired but there's still loads of work to do. There's quality in everything I say - it's a shame so many people have narrow listening habits.....