Sunday, April 30, 2006

All aboard the Orient Express!

We are aboard the Orient Express! It is resplendent in all its exuberant navy and gold loveliness. I am in raptures! In our tiny cabin we don the diamonds for the evening extravaganza! We've be assigned the belle époque dining carriage with the stunning Lalique crystal panels, dark wood and pale blue plump velvet armchairs. We choose a cheeky little half bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and start with PANFRIED TURBOT FILLET WITH POTATOES & WHITE TRUFFLE SCALES, TINY TARTARS OF TURBOT WITH BISON GRASS & WASABI HORSERADISH. The turbot is stunning and such an amazing looking dish - I once created a similar topping to some wild salmon a la Gordon Ramsay - but I didn't use white truffles! Our main is supposed to be lamp with olives accompanied by aubergines and tomato and coriander flavoured cous-cous. Hmmm, I had rather hoped for an olive, tomato, coriander and cous-cous free meal and they very kindly whipped up the most tender fillet of beef with little sautéed cubes of potatoes and spinach. A fine, fine substitute and not a tomato in sight! After a magnificent cheese board assortment (Comté, Brie, cream cheese with raisins and Brie de Meaux was my choice) accompanied by some tasty date bread and despite the fact that there was really little room left; we finished our glorious first meal aboard with ICED PARFAIT ON TOP OF MERIGUE WITH TEA SOAKED RAISINS AND BERRIES. And then just managed to squeeze in a chocolate – but just one!

Jazz on the Pullman

Oh my God - we are here! We're chuffing along on a shiny brown and cream train in a carriage called Perseus quaffing champagne and perusing a tasselled menu. Apparantly this carriage was used to transport Sir Winston Churchill to his own funeral. The carriage is all panelled in wood and has big comfortable arm chairs to sit on. Even the toilet is fabulous - the floor is bedecked in a mosiac depicting Perseus clutching the decapitated head of Medusa.

After some tasty little chessy nibbles, starter was FILLET OF PEPPERED BEEF WITH A BEAN AND WATER CHESTNUT SALAD ACCOMPANIED BY A JEREZ VINEGAR & MUSTARD DRESSING and washed down with a rather nice 'train wine' - like a house wine but faster! Main was ROASTED FILLET OF ALASKAN WHITE KING SALMON, MANGE TOUT & PARSLEY POTATOES - who knew salmon could be so white? After I got over the anaemic appearance, it had a wonderful taste. The first fabulous meal of the trip was finished off with a scrummy DARK CHOCOLATE TEAR DROP FILLED WITH A CHERRY COMPOTE & A WHITE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE. This was so light and delicate! And if we hadn't already had enough already, we then had petit fours. I feel many awe inspiring dishes will grace our palates over the next few days. I hope I haven't brought anything too fitted!

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Oh my God - M and I are all aboard the Orient Express tomorrow! So many decisions to make STILL with regards to the most sparkly thing to go with the most dramatic glamorous outfit. If only I had a tiara! I've opted for diamantes on skirts and tops, feather head thing, beaded dresses and cardigans, sequinned anything you can think of and just more jewellery than you can shake a diamond encrusted stick at. Decisions, decisions, decisions! And then of course there will be more decisions to come - whether to have lobster or foie gras, yet another glass of Champagne or another bite of a gorgeous chocolate creation! I will have to christen the most beautiful Think Pink Smythson notebook (courtesy or D & M (or should I say MC to stop confusion?) and commit all my thoughts to elegant blue paper and not a computer keyboard. Much more OE style! I cannot wait!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Galton is the winner!

Despite the fact that AWT had never heard of him - we had though! - Galton was able to beat him in this week's Great British Menu. Galton was considered a bit French - especially his lobster raviloli with gruyere sauce, but it looked really lovely, and when have I ever turned down a bit of French! I bet it will be more difficult to get a table at Morston Hall now!

Friday Fish Supper

M and I plumped for a seafood chowder tonight - a Bingham one from the last Ocado delivery. It had tasty chucks of salmon and scallops with a creamy sauce and because it was hanging around my fridge I added the Parmesan. We mopped this up with hunks of the fabulous onion bread from Source. A fine fish supper!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Italy here we come!

Collected M from the train today and decided to start our Venetian Rhapsody with some fresh ravioli from Source. We plumped for pancetta, mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes (for M naturally) and butternut squash for me which I finished off with a lovely light cream sauce with lashing of Parmesan shavings. We tackled a little onion bread and a wedge of the ooziest Brie de Meaux to finish. I think I'm going to enjoy this Italian lark!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Norfolk Delight

A new week on Great British Menu and it's AWT vs Galton Blackiston, everyday pub food vs Michelin starred Morston Hall finery. Hmmm! Galton's not too impressed with AWT's establishment or cooking and AWT hadn't even heard of AWT. Whatever happens Moreton Hall has gone onto the list of restaurants to visit. It's joined The Fat Duck, barge holiday through France, The French Laundry, El Bulli, St John's, Galvin's, Bentley's and so many, many more. So many delightful places to eat at, so little time for all that eating! Roll on that lottery win!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Happy Birthday Queenie!

So the Queen was 80 today and there was many a firework set off in celebration. But the best thing that happened is that Richard Corrigan won his heat of Great British Menu - Hoorah! I feel an extreme need for Vension Wellington and also smoked salmon and blinis - mmmmmm! And a visit to Bentley's may well be in order!

A tart tarte!

Finding myself at a loose end at Friday lunchtime and with a handy £15 off voucher outside of Chez Gerald, I thought it would be rude not to avail myself of their fine baguette and steak. And as a final touch of decadence, I went for the extremely tart tarte au citron - mouth puckering fabulous. My only complaint was being surrounded by smokers who clearly don't mind me stealing huge mouthfuls of their smoke, I cannot wait until the smoking ban comes in. I find it deadens my palate, what does it do for theirs?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Another Wellington

Not that I'm rather being overtaken by over 400 cookbooks I thought I should add to the collection the latest missive from Dorling Kindersley - The Great British Menu. Unlike a normal DK tomes, it is very light on pictures but still a good read. Though considering how fabulously over the top some of the competition entries are, I would have thought that a perfect picture of each fantastic creation should be mandatory! And now I have a recipe for Venison Wellington (courtesy of Richard Corrigan); my quest for the perfect Wellington may be complete!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

MC 1 - JBR 0

And another good food thing that happened over Easter was that the rather arrogant John Burton-Race lost out to Michael Caines in the Great British Menu competition. JBR even said after he lost that he was confident, how big-headed is that man? Also, Matthew Fort agrees with me regarding goat cheese, good man!
It’s Richard Corrigan versus Paul Rankin this week. No prizes for which Lyndsay House running chef we’re keeping our fingers crossed for! (see picture!)

Eggs-ellent Easter Sunday

Sunday lunch on Easter Sunday means lamb (or maybe we could have had bunny!) but Mr Knibbs provided a very fine butterflied leg of lamb that M barbequed rather tastily. But not before I'd studded it with several garlic bulbs, rosemary and bits of bacon that I'd wrestled from T. D & I (well mainly D as I was too busy impaling the beast!) whipped up Boulangere potatoes and leeks in little foil parcels with the lamb and as by special request we had cauliflower cheese and carrots. The table was decorated with an abundance of egg shaped paraphernalia and rather bizarrely – pale yellow chicken shaped table confetti! Where do I find these things?

Plough-ing on in Coton!

Our Easter treat was a meal at the recently refurbished Plough at Coton outside Cambridge. There have an interesting deli bar which for certain obsessive cured meat eaters I know is a particularly attractive proposition. We had deep fried mozzarella, Parma ham, artichokes, chorizo, olives and chicken wings to start followed by another injection of meat courtesy of carpaccio and that was all before the main course! D and I had the cauliflower risotto which was stunningly similar to the Jamie Oliver risotto we produced at Christmas, though we didn't bother with the crunchy topping when we made it (we'd probably hoovered up all the bread!). D and I managed to share a bit of the chocolate filled brioche ravioli, fabulous but we were so full up from all that meat! A very lovely evening!

Good Friday fish dish

As is tradition – we opted for a Good Friday fish dish. After due consideration we plumped for Serrano ham wrapped cod fillets with broccoli and Jill Duplex’s ‘Crash Hot Potatoes’ – though ours were rather ‘car-crash hot’ as we followed instructions to apply a potato masher to each potato and instead of elegantly flattened ours were more smashed! It was all damned tasty though!
I had a sudden urge to whip up a hollandaise sauce to go with the fish and broccoli, if it were just me in the kitchen I am sure I wouldn’t have had the urge but cooking with D is always a perfect time to be a little more creative, it’s so nice to have such an accomplished cook to work with and I get inspired. D has the loudest whisk/metal bowl combo ever, but as it was so effective I can’t complain! And the whisk was such a work of art!

Easter egg-travaganza!

Easter was a great friends and food event this year. On my arrival, D was out winning the first prize in the Chinese restaurant's raffle so M was left to entertain (and feed) me! Catering was organised by M&S and very fine it was. We started with deep fried camembert (oven cooked), pleasant albeit a little bland. The leek and gruyere tart to follow was a much better success! I do like a good tart!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

It's supposed to be tomato free!

I have always believed that I can make a very tasty lasagne without resorting to tomatoes.
As in my mind, tomatoes are just entirely unnecessary! Maybe I would agree to a squeeze of tomato paste if forced but never, never those strange flaccid red lumps from a can. And I have been proved right. There were two fine recipes for lasagne in this month's delicious and apart from the obligatory squirt of tomato paste, they were tomato-less! Today I succumbed to a chicken and asparagus lasagne which also wasn't sullied by the evil red stuff. I have been vindicated!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Goat British Menu

Tonight was the first episode of the Great British Menu cook for the Queen's 80th birthday competition. And both Maichael Caines and the rather full of himself John Burton-Race cooked a starter with goats' cheese - why? It is not necessary! If I were the Queen, it would definitely be 'orff with his head!'

Mrs B.

The BBC have been filming a drama about Mrs Beeton next door. It's been terribly exciting with cameras, carts, men with tall top hats and Mrs Beeton I assume wearing some very fine big skirts. It inspired me to glance through my Mrs Beeton Cookbook (the M&S version that Marce kindly bought me for my birthday) and it fell open at Beef Wellington, a sign if ever I've seen one. And she even says how to make individual ones, how many cookbooks did I trawl through for that information? I will have to look out for it when it appears on television in September and see if I can see any of the 'modern features' I've been eliminating.
And not that I need any encouragement, but I will make an individual Beef Wellington in Mrs. B's honour - maybe call it a Beeton Wellington!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Peppered Pork

Brian Turner did an interesting dish of peppered (and very herbed!) pork fillets with apple rissole and Chantenay carrots on Saturday Kitchen today. Though personally I would omit the coriander! He then chased it by winning the viewers' vote with a rather classic chicken livers in a mustard sauce on sage croute.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Mmmm pie!

I intended to eat a nice healthy lunch today after the excesses last night but then I found myself extricably drawn to the Steak, Bacon & Cheese pie and mash at Square Pie. Mmmmm!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Nigel - my hero!

Tonight was the latest Food Book Club at Blue Print Cafe. It was to promote the paperback of Rose Prince's book "New English Kitchen: Changing the Way You Shop, Cook and Eat". Rose and Jeremy Lee whipped up tasty canapes of potted crab on sour dough (with some secret ingredient that Jeremy never got around to telling us about!). The starter was a soft boiled egg and pork crackling salad followed by boiled beef, tongue and carrots, Montgomery Cheddar and a very fine gingerbread wrapped up very nicely with a rhubarb snow and shortbread. And what a fine invention the rhubarb snow was, so light and refreshing! Nigel said that the meal was the sort you should have before your execution and then you could die happy!
But talking of dying happy, the most amazing thing that happened, even better than Jeremy's potted crab was meeting and TALKING to Nigel Slater - I am so not worthy! I know he's shy but I just had to tell him what I thought of his books, his recipes and even his cats (Poppy, Digger & McGrath), basically I gushed! I have finally met my ultimate food hero, in fact hero! I can die happy now. Well at least I can after the OE:- t-24 and counting!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What fork?

If I have a fork - what fork would I choose? The answer is the beautiful three pronged (four prongs are so last season!) work of loveliness from accompanied by their pistol handled knife. I am also rather partial to their steak knives and cheese knives as well. In fact I like knives probably more than forks but 'have knife will travel' sounds like some sort of mugger's manifesto! Don't they look shiny?

A dreamy read...

My Harry's Bar Cook Book is already here - aren't those lovely people at just so efficient? I feel a tribute to all things Venetian meal coming on, maybe Easter. Nigella in her foreword refers to it as a 'dreamy read'. I can see many an inspiration coming out of this simple blue book. I've immediately leapt on a recipe for Gnocchi Alla Parigina which is little golf balls of choux pastry in a bechamal sauce baked in the oven and of course, entirely free of tomato based substances.

Italian delights

We took clients out to Caravaggio for lunch, fortunately clients that we really enjoy spending time with and the food was very good. I had a very tasty starter of fresh pasta ravioli with leek and tallegio followed by a pork feast of pork belly, pork fillet and other tasty porky morsels with a fine mash and broccoli in a cheese fondue (actually a little spoon of cheese sauce). We split the obligatory chocolate and pear (for a change) fondant. All very nice indeed only slightly marred by the cigars being smoked at the next table and when we complained was informed that until the law changes next year they don't want to discourage their regulars from smoking (even cigars) so as nice as the food we won't be going back until the law is changed!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mmmmm risottos

I’ve been thinking a lot about risottos! I am very partial to a fine risotto but there is a limit to how many unctuous mouthfuls you can have before your brain says – “stop, no more creamy grains, I’m bored!” One of my favourite recipes is courtesy of the voluptuous Nigella and each time I’ve made it I’ve wondered at the size of the stomachs of the designated audience. She suggests that 300g of risotto rice would be appropriate for 2 but many other recipes I just happen to have to hand state that 225-250g would be required for 4 people. Hmmm, there seems to be some disparity here. I am planning an experiment with 60g of rice for a single portion or maybe even 50g – wouldn’t Dr. Atkins be proud of me?

Special blend of 11 herbs and spices

Today I was persuaded that we should avail ourselves of that special blend of 11 herbs and spices. Someone I know is having crazy hot wings cravings. Despite my love of the finest food, there are some days when only KFC will do. And at this rate, someone I know may be born with wings - hot wings that is!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Its OE day - 29 and counting

29 days to go and I'm so excited. I have been practising

"senza pomodori per favore"
for my trip to Venice as I feel it will be a useful phrase. I also think

"senza maionese per favore"

will be handy because we plan a trip to Harry's Bar and I want to have Carpaccio (or 'Roar Beef' as someone I know calls it - if only I thought she was being ironic!) in its home restaurant and I've read they cover it in mayonniase. But as it's the traditional recipe maybe I should just grin and bear it. So many exciting foodie delights that await us.
Of course I think we'll also have to avail ourselves of the finest Bellini - well it would be rude not to.
In fact thinking of Harry's Bar has me so inspired I have availed myself of the ever friendly and purchased it
for the collection. Oh the groaning shelves!

And one more...

Tom Norrington-Davies in delicious has a recipe for a asparagus and Parma ham frittata. He also does some fabulous things with Jersey Royals, isn't Spring a wonderful thing?

We went to All Bar One for lunch today - H, L and I had a good gossip and a fine plate of gammon, egg and chips - surely a holy trinity! I'd forgotten how much I like that combination! Here are my 5 sublime combinations today: sausages & mash, fish & chips, steak & kidney, soft boiled eggs & soldiers and hot fat chips sandwiched between white buttered bread. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm!

I can't wait for the first asparagus

The new issue of Olive arrived in the post today - it's all about British food. And we have much to be proud of. I can't wait for this year's asparagus, I can envisage dipping lightly cooked spears into a soft boiled egg or wrapping them tenderly in Parma ham and topping with a few Parmesan shavings. Yum! Or maybe an asparagus and Tallegio tart straight from the oven. Decisions, decisions - but good decisions all the same. And I will make a better effort this year to save all my asparagus shavings and woody ends and turn them into a rich frothy soup - maybe topped with a Parmesan crisp.

The first taste...

So I've decided to start a blog. I intend it to be my random musings of all foodie related subjects be it recipes I have tried (intend to try), new books that I have to rave about, new restaurants that I need to review, food articles I've read and any other tasty morsels that I come across - tuck in!