Posts Tagged ‘salad’

What I did yesterday

Yesterday, at Ham House, all the cool kids gathered for fun and drink and food so that we could show off the garden produce. The chef for the evening, Susie, basically did everything but I’m going to ride on her coattails and claim some of the amazingness that comes from being associated with it.

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Unfortunately, I was busy faffing around with vegetables and presenting the dishes so I didn’t get photos of everything. I can talk you through it though.

It started with bubbly and the canapes – mini bruschetta topped with onion marmalade and goat’s cheese and also spinach blinis topped with beetroot chutney and sour cream.

Then the guests were taken on a garden tour in the beautiful fading light.

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When they came back and were seated, we started with the kale and spinach soup.

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The bits and peices on the top were fried onions, roast root veg and pitta bread croutons. It was accompanied by homemade rosemary foccaccia bread.

Next up was the gnocchi…

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(I don’t have a photo of it before it went to the table, sorry!)

…accompanied by pretty garden leaf salad.

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The gnocchi was a big hit with the guests.

Next up, the mains were a venison stew with redcurrants and red wine and some garden veg. I don’t have a photo but you must trust me that it was so so tasty! The gravy was amazing. I tried to stop dipping the foccaccia bread into it and eating it but I couldn’t!

Also up were green beans in tarragon butter, roasted root vegetables and apples, a pumpkin and marrow gratin, a beetroot, courgette and mozzarella salad and – the only one I photographed – a caramelized elephant garlic, pumpkin and goat’s cheese tart.

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Loads of people raved about this and wanted some to take home with them.

Next, we gave them a few minutes to rest their stomachs before starting on dessert which was apple dumplings (these took me hours and hours to make!) baked in a caramel sauce. We served it with a fig and cinnamon swirl semifreddo, which was very well received.

After the overwhelming food onslaught, we were all made to come out of the kitchen and be applauded (like on Masterchef), the cafe manager did a little thank you, then a guest also said thank you from the guests and I stood patiently, wondering which of them was going to make the announcement that I was finally going to get my Michelin star….

I can only conclude that they didn’t want to do it in front of everyone else. Maybe it’s a more private affair, getting given your Michelin star. I’m sure they’ll be in touch.

Anyway, we retired back into the kitchen and sent out the little after-dinner nibbles, fresh raspberries and quince jellies.

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Everything that was made yesterday (apart from the obvious stuff like the meat and cheese), came from the kitchen garden and had been picked that day. There really is nothing like working with garden fresh produce.

I think it’s safe to say that a good evening was had by all and it was a lovely thing to be part of. Keep your eyes peeled for the next Supper Club. And if you’re in/near London, totally come to the next one.

Yesterday

I have an announcement to make. Yaya is leaving for greener pastures… He’s off to Australia with his little sister on Sunday (and mother, of course) so yesterday, Danda and I headed over to spend the afternoon and evening with them, which looked like this….

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Most important thing first. Let’s unpack the Lego set and get building.

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Isla grabs the stickers and she’s happy.

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Yaya and I with our serious faces on, trying to figure out the 43-stage instructions for the Batmobile.

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In the meantime, Danda keeps Isla happy by drawing Winnie the Pooh.

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After a good hour or so and a lot of intense concentration, Yaya completes the Batmobile! I didn’t help putting it together. I was more like on-hand Lego-peice-finder and instruction-book-page-turner.

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Yaya playing with the Lego he made.

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Close up of Isla watching a ‘nake’ on TV (snake)

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Out for dinner and Isla is proudly wearing the Supergirl hat that Dad drew for her.

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My warm goats cheese and roast veg salad with chicken. Those little bread thingies round the edge were so good.

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Yaya’s version of a smile.

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Isla mixing her babyccino and icecream together then spooning some of it into her icecream cone, which then drips out of the bottom.

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Room On The Broom with Danda. They were told to lie in bed to listen to the story but there was too much to see in the book so they slowly crept over and were all huddled together listening.

When we had decided it was sleep time, Isla and Yaya and I had a little chat about how I wouldn’t see them again before they go on the¬† ‘big ellaflane’ to ‘Stralia’ so I’ll see them in a little while when I come over for a holiday.

“Are you coming on the ellaflane with us?” Isla asked.

“No. You’re going on the aeroplane first, on Sunday,” I replied. “I’m coming later.”

“On Monday?” Yaya asked.

“I’ve got to go to work on Monday,” I said, doing a sad face. “It will have to be after Monday. Maybe in a few more weeks.”

I know,” said Yaya, his eyes lighting up. “Come on Tuesday! You should come on Tuesday, Lauwa.”

“Ok, Yaya. Tuesday sounds good. I think I’ve got a day off so that will be fine.”

They both puckered up, ready for a kiss goodnight and Yaya assured me that they would telephone me on the computer from ‘Stralia’. After a brief chat with Isla about how she loves ‘nakes’ and that there are loads of massive ‘nakes’ in ‘Stralia’, it was goodnight time.

Diary of my first week in my new job

On Monday, I started a new job as a chef (!) and was very excited. I got given a chef’s jacket and a black apron and I tucked a towel into the apron straps (like a proper chef) and got started.

Day 1 – Go, go, go! There’s croissants to bake, thereafter vegetables to grill, there’s a side of beef to roast. There was so much to remember, so much to do. I got my head down and did what I was told. I knew I was slow. New people always are. But I knew how to work hard and I knew how to be keen. So I did both of those. My back struggled with the crouching and bending and lifting etc and I felt a little like an old woman. But it was good. I was learning.

Day 2 – More croissants, more vegetables, more salad leaves, more confusion. I chopped tomatoes until I thought there must be no more tomatoes left in the entire world.

Day 3 – The obvious tension between one staff member and the manager became difficult to stay out of. I was asked for an opinion on matters in which they opposed each other. I smiled innocently, put my head down and sliced onions.

Day 4 – This was happening. So I wasn’t in a great place. The staff member who spends her time being shouted at by the manager came in and told us there had been a bereavement in her family the day before. The manager let her go home. He made a comment that nothing had been done to get ready for the day. I got a bit crazy and was like, “What do you mean?! I’m working really hard here!” There was chat. The air was cleared. I explained that I wasn’t feeling that great.

Day 5 – Better. Much better. I understood him better. He was sympathetic to what had happened. I was still slow but I was learning and I was able to just get my head down and get on. Then I left work at 3pm. And at 4pm, I got a call offering me an amazing job and can I start on Monday please? I said yes and hung up then called my other new job and quit.

And that was my week in the kitchen. I’ll say more about the new job later, suffice to say, it involves baking in a really old house.

Life since Italy

Since being back from Italy, so not to feel sad, I’ve kept myself busy with the following activities.

1. Lunching on salad to detox from the Italian carb onslaught

2. Buying trees for the patio. I wanted an olive tree and a fig tree so I could pretend I was still in Italy but apparently neither get good fruit in England. We got a plum tree…

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…and one of our neighbours gave us something but we haven’t worked out what it is yet.

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Any ideas anyone?

3. Seeing friends for dinner and getting lovely presents.

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4. Planning to pull down the garden shed and put a vegetable patch there.

5. Feeding my worms my vegetable peelings and sprinkling cinnamon around the compost bin to stop the ants invading (it works!)

6. Volunteering at Ham House again. I was there yesterday and it was my first day by myself baking in the kitchen there and it went really well. People liked my biscuits, no-one vomited and lots of people said “Mmm.” I’m taking that as a good sign.

7. Hanging the washing out in the garden and acting all Disneyfied because it’s sunny (it later poured and the washing is still wet on the line but whatever).

Omygoodness, you HAVE to see this

Readers, prepare yourselves. Prepare yourselves for a post filled with horror and awfulness. For we are going to take journey into the world of….

1970S COOKBOOKS!

I came across this in a box of old cookbooks a friend was giving away and boy, was I glad I picked this one up! It is called Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook. And let me tell you this, it is all colour. It is proud and gregarious in it’s all-colour horror. It would have done better to leave the photographs off, for I shall show you the pictures of what the 1970s considered haute cuisine. Are you ready?!

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Mmm, I just love a mysterious lumpy white mass for my dinner.

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Wowzers. More lumpy white nonsense, this time surrounded by green leafy stuff. Can we have that for dinner today, Mum? Can we?!

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Ah, some white nonsense on top of salmon steaks, again the obligatory green leafy nonsense. This is actually a jellified mayonnaise layer, in case you were wondering.

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And again, jellified mayonnaise, this time on top of chicken. LOVING the decorative anchovies… Kind of.

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Talking of things being jellied, check out this turkey-slices-set-in-jelly type of thing.

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Next up, a small roasted chicken, sitting on a bed of jelly stuff squares. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH US? Why, Britain, why did we do this to ourselves? Mary Berry has a lot to answer for.

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More chicken related nonsense. A cake type thing, made of chicken. Vomit. And the asparagus on the top. That’s quite fresh and lovely, you think, at least that bit’s ok. Well, no, no it isn’t. Because it is FROM A CAN! In fact, I am instructed to use many things from cans.

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This ‘peach tart’ requires 1 can of creamed rice for the filling. Ridiculous. On another recipe I am actually told to get frozen chips! Honestly now, frozen chips. If I have frozen chips at home and I choose to eat them, that is different. But to actually include it as an ingredient for a meal in a cookbook?! Has the world gone crazy?! I think probably the worst sentence I have ever seen written down in a book anywhere is the line, ‘Fry the frozen chips in the lard.’ What. On. Earth.

Fry.

The frozen chips.

In the lard.

Honestly. I’m not making it up. Look.

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This book has a continental section though. We’re aware of the fine cuisine offered in other countries. Let’s get fancy in our kitchens. Ok, check out the next recipe. I’m sure it will be delicious. Mmm, continental food. Italian pasta… French fancies… There’s bound to be something good here.

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Frankfurter salad. I have no words.

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This one’s good. It’s cheesy buttered noodles. The ingredients? Cheese, butter and noodles. Brilliant.

Last up, some lovely desserts. Don’t let me down here. The British have contributed some well-loved cakes to the world of food. Come on. What will it be? A Christmas pudding? An eccles cake? An apple crumble? A rhubarb crumble? Something cakey and warm. A hearty cake to heat one up on a cold winter’s evening.

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That’s right. We’ve gone with a dish of pasta shells in chocolate sauce with lines of cream for ‘decoration.’

And now, the award for the most attractive sounding dish in the history of the world ever, goes to….

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Woop woop! Can I get a round of applause for the LARDY CAKE! Mm mm. Don’t you think? Yes, a peice of lardy cake for me please! Am I allowed seconds? Oo, hold me back, hold me back! I can’t get enough of good lardy cake, me.

Well, after that romp through the annals of British food history, I feel thoroughly disheartened and can only apologise in earnest to the world for our below-par cuisine ramblings. We have failed ourselves as a nation.

I understand if you would like to un-follow me, fellow bloggers.

The bucket of fat

The other day I was in work. It was quite busy. Not rushed-off-your-feet busy. Just I-need-a-cup-of-tea-now busy. We got the food delivery in and, as usual, we started to unpack some stuff into the display fridge, put some stuff away, etc.

There was a huge bucket and when we opened it to look inside, we saw the slightly cloudy water that the poached chicken has been cooked in. Great, put that in the kitchen and I’ll unpack the chicken into tubs, when I get a chance.

Cakes went on stands, cheese went in fridges and salads went in bowls. It was all looking fab and under control. I went to the kitchen and that’s when we got loads of orders. There I was, heating, pouring, chopping, plating, and the bucket of chicken stood on the side, in my way, while I struggled to find time to deal with it. On and on it went, every time my hands went to the bucket to unpack the chicken, an order came in.

It was big and in my way but I didn’t want to move it out of the way, for fear I’d forget to deal with it.

Finally, I got the lid off. Then about four orders came in. I dealt with them and sent them out and then there I was again, alone with the bucket of chicken, finally. I was going to do this! Nothing could stop me.

Now, I don’t know how many of you are frequent poachers of chicken but it’s a fabulous way to cook it. It’s a lot more moist than roasting or frying. But as the chicken takes on the moisture from the water, so it releases some of its fat. So what you end up with is a pan of beautifully cooked chicken, floating in a sea of slightly discoloured water with fatty blobby bits on the surface. Should this water then cool down a little, the fatty blobby bits merge together to form misshapen white islands bobbing about on the top of the water. It’s not pretty, as you can imagine.

So this bucket of chicken had the inevitable floating blobby fat islands on its surface and the water itself was quite cloudy, so that I couldn’t even see the chicken in the bottom. It was a huge bucket, which was wierd because they never usually sent this much chicken. They usually sent a far smaller bucket.

Anyway, I got out two tubs to transfer the chicken into. I wrote the date on them, so we’d know when it came in.

I rolled up my sleeve… And plunged my hand into the fatty watery pit, to seek out the chicken from the depths below.

I swished my hand around. And around. I felt right to the bottom, around the edges. I swirled around in the fat-water. Around and around. And I didn’t happen upon a single peice of chicken. Not one. Puzzled, I kept swishing my hand around.

And then it dawned on me. They’d obviously made a mistake at the other deli, where they cook the food. They’d sent us this instead of chicken. They’d got mixed up, kept the chicken and sent us the bucket of water they cooked it in, clearly meant for throwing away.

So now, here I am, elbow deep in a bucket of fat, for no reason. A chickenless bucket of fat. With my sleeve up around my arm. The floating fat islands gently colliding with my forearm as I plunge around desperately, looking for poached chicken. Poached chicken which is not in this bucket. This massive bucket of fat.

It was not my finest hour.

Another Italian feast

Yesterday, two of my favourite friends came over. One had just handed in two peices of work, which signalled the end of her dissertation. The other is half Italian. I therefore went crazy on the organising front and decided to make a feast of epic proportions, much like the last time someone came for dinner.

This time though, I was equipped with truffle oil…! The night before, I had prepared the delicate carta di musica – music paper – and made the pesto. Where last time I went for a rocket and walnut pesto, this time I was without food processor (it broke when I used it to whizz almonds for cantuccini) so I made the simpler traditional basil and pine nut pesto as it’s easier to bash together in a pestle and mortar. I lightly toasted the pine nuts first and it gave them a really creamy texture.

Then the morning of the big feast, I made walnut brittle, which I then bashed into breadcrumb-size peices and added to a delicate mixture of whipped cream, whipped egg white and whipped yolk and sugar. I froze the whole thing to make semifreddo, which means half-cold in Italian. It basically comes out like an ice cream but is different, somehow.

I also whisked a few eggs with sugar, 00 flour, crushed nuts and I forget what else, to make cantuccini. I fridged the whole thing first, to let it chill and set a little, to make the baking process easier later.

Then I went bread crazy for a bit, making my pizza dough and leaving it to rise and then tackling the grissini. I had just bought them at the shop last time and felt a bit like I’d let myself down. So this time, I made them from scratch. I melted a bit of butter in a pan then added milk. In a bowl, I put 00 flour, dried yeast, salt and a handful of parmesan. I added the butter and milk to this, kneaded it for a while, then left it in a warm place to rise. Although I was supposed to be using strong white flour, I couldn’t find any in my cupboard. So I used 00 flour and wholemeal flour mixed together and hoped it would be fine.

It was fine! Surprisingly. And I even thought it looked a bit more interesting than if I’d used totally white flour. Check them out.

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I love the uneven nature of the sticks, how some are a bit short and stubby and others are quite long and thin and smooth all around. They also got a great reaction from my guests, one of whom said it was their favourite thing out of everything we ate.

After making these, I rolled my pizza dough into twelve balls (used one to make myself a pizza for lunch, just to test it, you understand), put them on a tray covered in a damp towel and fridged until needed.

Finally, after a whole day of prep, I was ready for guests. And here it is in all its glory. The antipasti…

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Prosciutto, figs and mint.

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From the back, you can see truffle butter, pesto (in the glass), grilled aubergines with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil (at the front) carta di musica (to the left) and in the centre, the homemade grissini wrapped in salami milano and pickled chicory. The little purple thing off to the right contains truffle oil and balsamic vinegar.

There was much dipping of grissini into truffle butter and eyes lighting up. The pesto was a firm favourite with my half Italian friend, who kept an eagle eye on it whenever anyone else took a slightly-too-large scoop on their breadstick.

We also had tomato, mozzarella, basil sticks as well but herein lies the problem with mozzarella. The better quality you use, the higher water content it has. Which means that it gets all over you when you’re touching it and all over whatever you’re trying to do with it. So my basil leaves and tomato wedges were covered in mozzarella water, making them unpretty for photographs. But they were there, honest.

Next up was the mains, for which I went traditional Italian…

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With a courgette, rocket and basil salad with a lemony-parmesany dressing…

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My half-Italian friend polished most of this off single-handedly.

For the pizzas, I just rolled them fairly small and topped them with whatever I felt like. Chicken, fennel, white asparagus, romano peppers, truffle oil, proscuitto, courgette, mushrooms, red onion, mozzarella, chilli flakes. And so we ate. And we ate. And we ate some more. The mains and the antipasti were all lingering around in front of us and we just kept nibbling. A mouthful of pizza. A bit of grissini dipped in truffle oil. A tomato, mozzarella stack. It just went on. And on. And on.

We waited maybe five minutes before I discreetly cleared the plates and got bowls out for everyone. Loud declarations of “O, I can’t eat dessert yet, no way!” were made.

“Don’t worry,” I said, calming their fears. “I’m just putting the bowls out. And the semifreddo needs to be out of the freezer to soften up for a bit.”

But, of course, I set up all the stuff on the table and our stomachs forgot about how full they were and we got started.

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Ok, from left to right. Slow-baked figs, then cantuccini. In front of the cantuccini is a little dish of walnut brittle, a jar of honey, then to the right is the walnut semifreddo. The order of things for the semifreddo is as follows – scoop some semifreddo out and put it in your bowl, drizzle with honey, top with walnut brittle. Add into the equation a few figs and try using the light¬† crumbly cantuccini to transport the last few bits of ice cream to your mouth and suddenly, you’re not full anymore. You’re back in the game. You’re ready for action! More semifreddo! More figs! More honey!

We sat, shell shocked and taken aback, viewing our destruction before leaving the scene of the crime to go and watch a program about plane crashes (don’t ask, I wasn’t in charge of the dinker).

And now I have leftovers for at least the next week. Well, I say ‘the next week’…. They’ll last me a day or two….