Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Today comfort food was required. It may be nearly summer but my streaming cold requires mash potatoes. I tried out Pod for the first time - they had a good choice on their menu (salads, soups, paninis, pasta and pies) and I opted for steak and kidney pie and mash - a real panacea when I am feeling so grotty!
I will definitely go back again when I'm London Wall way, a refreshing change!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

D-day - 7

Only a week to go before my duck-tacular meal in celebration of D & MC’s birthdays. I have been immersed in duck recipes and making little black duck table confetti (I can’t imagine why that’s not available on the marketplace). I am not sure if my plan for Duck Wellington will work (how like Puss in Boots does that sound?), but it’s been fun doing the research.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Great British Farce!

Oh no - no Gary! It's not that I think that Atul Kochhar is not a talented chef – every time I see him in competition against other chefs he is constantly praised for his subtle spicing but how can he beat such a bastion of fine British fare? I haven’t eaten any of Atul’s cooking as I am not a fan of Indian food but I think if I had to eat Indian food, I like to try Benares. However, given a chance I would always plump for Gary. Gary’s apple dessert looked stunning and apparently tasted sublime but the Great British menu judges who have been so scathing of the odd non British ingredient or French technique just lapped up all the Indian spices – hmmm. Personally a Great British Menu competition without Gary is a travesty; I am booking my next visit to Rhodes24 as soon as possible!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Crazy Beef!

oooh check out that marbling!

Many years ago I had the pleasure of making many various trips to Paris for business. My main contact in Paris (a rather irascible Corsican!) dubbed me ‘Crazy Beef’ his version of Mad Cow – he never really explained why! However, this Crazy Beef label leapt to my mind after a rather extravagant purchase from the fresh meat counter at Harvey Nix. I was tempted by the new line of Kobe beef and after a bizarre conversation with the butcher who when I challenged the air miles involved getting the meat from the US or New Zealand he thought I was referring to length of time in the air that may stress the meat not the fact that I didn’t feel it was very green. I thought that it was possible to get Kobe beef from Wales – well the meat I bought from Harrods was certainly from Wales, but he disputed that! Anyway, despite the provenance of the aforementioned Kobe, I felt that it was worth a flutter. I purchased a stunning looking rump steak and handed over a small king’s ransom. I struggled with how to accompany such a fine piece of rump as I didn’t want to distract from all that delectable meatiness and eventually plumped for mâche (or lamb’s lettuce) from Source.
I unwrapped my precious cargo and after it posed for photos I cooked it a little - it being sacrilege to cook it too much.
The mâche just had an anointment of balsamic to mingle with the meat juices on the plate. It was indeed a very fine piece of meat, über fine if you will! The word that springs to mind is 'meaty'. It is really difficult to describe exactly the taste as it tastes like no other piece of beef ever - crazy beef indeed!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Flash Gordon!

Gordon Ramsay’s new book – Sunday Lunch arrived today – eagerly awaited I may add. On first glance I am excited by the artichoke, asparagus & onion tart (I’ve mentally erased the tomato!), Parma ham, sage & Parmesan puffs, duchesse potatoes, lemon posset, chicken breast with morel velouté, chicken with petit pois à la française, beef wellington (naturally!), venison with red wine & chocolate sauce, pumpkin risotto with Parmesan, ginger chocolate cheesecake and about a two dozen other recipes. I am thinking about the post-birthday party for D & MC, hmmmm I must make plans!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The final breakfast, brunch and afternoon tea

D bought me a beautiful fuchsia Smythson notebook to record the sights and sounds of the fabulous Orient Express and I could often be found sat at the steward’s desk trying to write and draw neatly as the train rattled along, a fabulous experience but not a smooth journey. The final day dawned and Bruno supplied us with breakfast whilst we stopped at Paris. We lingered in Paris for quite a while to take on some new passengers – both people and lobsters. Though some of them were destined for the brunch pot. It's our final meal on board so it’s back to a favourite Lalique panelled restaurant car. We entered to the waiter pouring our remaining red wine from the meal last night and tucked into our final brunch. And what a fine brunch it was, no scrambled egg on toast for us we had: PUFF PASTRY CASE OF VEGETABLE JULIENNE STEAMED WITH STEAMED SALMON for a (light?) starter and then the much anticipated lobster – BROILED LOBSTER WITH FRESH CRESS BUTTER & POTATO & CHIVE WHIRLS. The lobster was sublime with crunchy little potato whirls and I’ve finally found a potato that M likes - unfortunately! And then as if there is room we have rhe tastiest TARTE TATIN ever. A truly fabulous finale to culinary adventure aboard the Orient Express. I am privileged to get a tour of the most unbelievably compact and bijoux kitchen, one of three that have produced the most amazing food on board. The lovely French chef looks abut twelve but he’s been working on board the Orient Express for seven years, so I guess he isn’t!

We leave France and travel back to Folkestone where we board the British Pullman again for the final leg of our journey. We tuck into a elegant little afternoon tea of SANDWICHES, WARM SCONES WITH DEVONSHIRE CLOTTED CREAM & STRAWBERRY JAM & AFTERNOON PASTIES. I am not sure if I’ll ever be able to eat again!

The journey may be over but the trip will last forever!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Last night on the OE

It is our last night surrounded by all this opulence that is the Orient Express. And as it's our last night it is full dressing up and bling mode! We start off in the bar car with Kir Royale and canapés and then it’s into the Lalique dining car for the final evening meal. We start off with FRESH PASTA LAYERED WITH FRESH SALMON AND KING PRAWNS SEARED WITH HAZELNUT OIL & YOUNG LEEKS MELTED WITH VERMOUTH WINE and order a full bottle of red wine as we can always finish the rest off with brunch. Our main is a stunning FILLET OF BEEF ROASTED WITH SAVOURY HERBS AND SAUTEED FRESH DUCK FOIE GRAS WITH BRAISED LETTUCE, DICED CARROTS & POTATO ANNA. The beef was supposed t be served with mango and green pepper chutney but mine came with a much tastier morel sauce. I’ve had the most stunning beef and foie gras on this trip, how can I go back to hot wings? My choice of fine cheeses was CAMEMBERT, BRIE DE MEAUX and a SOFT CHEESE WITH RAISINS. As I wasn’t partial to TIRAMISU WITH CARDAMON CUSTARD but the chef whipped me up an amazing layered chocolate mousse creation.
A massive improvement on Tiramisu.

Farewell to Venice and back on board

We bid farewell to Venice and board our beautiful train again – this time Bruno is looking after us. Strangely enough we are very hungry – even after we’ve seemingly consumed our body weight several times over, we are looking forward to our next meal. And this is lunch in the third dining car, with the wooden marquetry panels. The starter is ASPARAGUS WRAPPED WITH DELICATELY CURED PORK BELLY WITH WHIPPED BITTER ORANGE SAUCE & PARMESAN WAFER. The whipped bitter orange sauce is totally stunning, I intend to recreate it at the first possible opportunity. We have been entrance by the cutest little silver salt cellar at every meal, even though I don’t normally need to add salt, I am compelled by this one. We decide to procure a couple for souvenirs for ourselves (purchase not steal- obviously!) from the on-board boutique after our meal. The main is STONE BASS FILLET COATED WITH TOASTED SESAME SEEDS AND BAKED ON ITS SKIN, FENNEL BULB SIMMERED WITH VEAL GRAVY & STAR ANISE & PARSLEY POTATOES. To astound and confound our wine waiter I opt for a tasty dessert wine to accompany all courses – it actually went very well as it wasn’t too sweet. Obviously it went very well with our HONEY & CANDIED FRUIT ICE CREAM WITH CHERRIES & KIRSCH but it was very acceptable with the asparagus and fish also – and it gave the waiter the chance to raise his eyebrows every time he topped up our glasses! I aim to amuse!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Trip to the Cip!

We board ‘our’ private velvet lined motorboat from the carpeted gangway next to Piazzo San Marco. Our driver is wearing an Armani suit and shades – we feel like film stars! The Cipriani’s Fortuny restaurant is all delicately blown glass and amber-coloured mirrors and very attentive waiters. I ponder the infamous carpaccio as I am such a fan but I know they cover the rosy slices in a mayonnaise style dressing which is not my favourite choice so I decide to pass - D & I could always ‘whip’ up some when I get back home (if we have a few hours to spare!). Instead I have HOMEMADE PASTA WITH GREEN ASPARAGUS TIPS, SCALLOPS & A CLAM SAUCE. There was an awkward moment when it turns up with ‘extra surprise’ tomato but this is deftly dealt with! I’d been hankering after some fresh pasta whilst in Venice and this was a very fine example, a really beautiful sauce! I then tucked into a stunning BEEF FILLET WITH FOIE GRAS AND TRUFFLES accompanied by my potato and some ‘stolen’ GRATIN DAUPHINOIS (M’s distaste of potato can be very handy!). We manage to polish off a bottle of MONTEPULGIANO AVIGNONESI, which goes down awfully well. And with our delicious TUILLE BASKETS FILLED WITH CHOCOLATE ORANGE ICE CREAM we have a couple glasses of TORCOLATO MACULAN – a very honeyed dessert wine from Veneto and then stagger back to our hotel feeling somewhat ‘swayey’ – M’s new word for this unusual sensation!

Ups and downs in Venice!

It’s a beautiful day in Venice and we have a fascinating tour of the Grand Canal, the tapestry workshop and walk up and down many of the bridges! We have lunch of a fine proscuitto and mozzarella pizza and then finally find Harry’s Bar and have the obligatory Bellini (rather moreish!) and consider our options for our evening meal. We opt for the Cipriani.

Monday, May 01, 2006

See Venice and eat!

Well, I don't want to die! There's too much lovely food to be eaten first! Somehow we managed an afternoon tea of cake and Earl Grey before we see our first glimpse of Venice. It’s a vision one could never tire of – the skyline is so evocative, from pictures, films and my memory – it’s so good to be back! Despite our elaborate plans to eat, the excess over the last two days defeats us and after a seemingly endless quest for the ‘holy grail’ we finish the day with pistachio ice cream in Piazza San Marco.

Lunch from Austria to Italy

Seemingly moments after breakfast we are seated in the Chinese dining car with the japanned panels (or would that be Chinesed panels?) Our starter is WHOLE SCALLOPS TOSSED IN SLICED SCALLOPS MARINATED IN ARGAN OIL AND LIME – the contrast of the pan-fried and marinated scallops is sublime! The scallops are sat upon a very finely sliced something possibly filo pastry. We then have VEAL FILLET BRAISED WITH FRESH GINGER, CARAMELIZED POMEGRANATE SEEDS JUS, SAUTÉED TENDER ARTICHOKES AND SUGAR PEAS (AND BUTTERED WILD RICE FOR EVEYONE ELSE) AND ASPARAGUS FOR ME – very succulent! And to finish off we have the lightest FINGER OF GENOESE PASTRY WITH RASPBERRIES, PRALINE CREAM AND ALMOND MILK. It seems that Italy is more occupied that Austria and as we chuff through the Italian countryside our navy and goldness are much admired as we pass through the platforms – a real head turner!

Mayday in Switzerland

It's not an emergency but the 1st of May and we open our eyes to the snow covered mountains in Switzerland. It’s such a lovely surprise! It’s not long before we are in an entirely empty Austria and Cédric is serving us breakfast in our cabin. We crane our necks for signs of life but can’t find any so we tuck into a basket of croissants, brioche, rolls and very tasty iced biscuits. Where do we find the space and where are all the Austrians?