Food cooking and eating – stories and ideas from a passionate foodie

Food Gifts

I’m talking about receiving here, not giving.  Giving, we will cover another time!

People have allotments, or growing patches in their gardens. Or a fruit tree. And they are often very generous with their produce!

Our lovely local, The Plaisterers Arms in Winchcombe had some very local plums on the bar last night. A very Lewis Carroll sign pronounced “Eat Me”. So we did. Ash told us they came from next door. They traveled well!

Later, she offered two enormous figs, which were not going to be eaten. We gratefully accepted them. They smelt gorgeous.

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What to do with them?

You can see we fancied a starter sized snack.  I chopped them in half.  Added a roughly folded slice of Parma ham between them.  Hiding beneath the other bits A heritage tomato from Mudwalls.  Lovely colour and flavour. Cubes of cheddar – extra mature, and a sprinkling of Parmesan shavings. A squirt of balsamic glaze, some honey, and then cider vinegar drizzled on, leaves from our two week old living salad and a few basil leaves ripped over.  And a few strawberries left over from a cream tea extravaganza.  Squeeze of lemon, and Robert is most definitely your fathers brother.

Thanks Ash.  And next door for growing them.  Just unctuous. Mmmm.

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Look. We are a wee town, Saxon origins, in the north Gloucestershire Cotswolds. Winchcombe is gorgeous. Don’t tell anyone, as we want to keep it that way! It feels more village in style, but we have a town hall, so we are a town. That’s it. Not number of inhabitants or churches (although you have to have a church too…and we have a few, and all very very welcoming, with really good choirs and supporters).

And we also have a large number of grand places to eat. Including a very new fish and chip shop. Great pubs with positively excited chefs and proprietors.

And a Michelin starred restaurant.  Amazing and so exciting to be able to walk to this grand establishment, for my birthday lunch, mid June.

It is a lovely and intimate place. Tables that have had a lot of dinners enjoyed on them – they have the patina of positive use. Chairs are like you’d expect with that level of comfortable table…and the rest of the experience is just as huggable.

The photos are just a phone. So cannot really do the presentation justice.  And as we have yet to perfect scratch and sniff on the computer screen (come on Apple – Microsoft is leaving you behind!) – you will miss out on the scents and sniffs and pre taste bud enticement that all great chefs seem to understand – and make happen all the time.

 

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Our bouche was amused..

I want to describe just one part of the meal first. Something we hadn’t ordered. One of those Amuse Bouche things that just appear between your first amuse Bouche (squares of Welsh rarebit but with rhubarb below the cheese which was soufflé like).  This was the coffee cup of leek and potato soup. OK, I know. So what? I will tell you what. Gus had added something I thought was alchemy.  Chive oil.  I realise chefs are already saying ” is that it?” Well yes, it was. It must be based on extra virgin olive oil.  But whatever he does to the chives, they don’t die in vain. The liquid is bright emerald translucent and Jewel like.  It maybe 5% of the volume! but adds 50% to the flavour.  That’s what great touchy freely chefs seem to be able to do.  Get foods and flavours to love each other and amplify each other.  We had a reverential silence. And a thank you to chef. Wow. We had only just begun.

Gus does this fun bread thing – two bread cooked in one tin, on white one brown.  All this means is that you get full excitingly quicker.  Because they are impossible to resist.  And as you have to mop up any excess of the soup, well, churlish to refuse the opportunity?  But it comes with butter. And – oil and balsamic? No, nothing so effete !  Beef dripping! Like what your mum or granny said you had to eat in the war…but not at No.5…If no one told you, you wouldn’t guess the flavour.  As I knew. I sort of guessed, but hey, it was so subtle and so lovely….

Have you worked out yet that we haven’t even got to starters? I have already died and gone to heaven, and now the food we ordered is about to arrive?

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Only I dared to have even more courses. Chicken liver terrine.  Just look and weep. Subtle and powerful and zingy in places and still loving the bread…

 

Now just admire the mains.  I had Guinea Fowl.  J had fish.

Doesn’t really do it justice does it…? OK – “Roasted cod, duck eggpasta, sweet and sour red pepper, braised lettuce, Samphire, pesto”  And mine? “Pot roasted guinea fowl breast, Pomme Puree, Grilled Fig, Oyster Mushroom, Rainbow Carrot, Port Reduction”.

It still didn’t do it justice.  Sorry team!

We finished with Caramelised grenadine Poached Pear and the cheese board between us. And ambled home very, very happy.

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The Plaisterers Arms, Winchcombe

 

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The Salmon – cured in Tiger Gin mmmmm!

This is our most local local….so has to be my first blog in Winchcombe! We have eaten out many times here, but we have only fully moved in recently.

 

Chef often pops out towards the end of service. Kamal has worked in other establishments locally, I understand. There is definitely a fusion of east and west feel to me. During the Home Nations rugby championships, I watched the last game with many Irish and English fans (and Liz serving too many beers to count, was biased towards green as you would expect if you know her). The half time snack, hot dogs with caramelised onion and thick cut chips. But when you bit in, there was a spicy feel. In the onions.  That’s just the style.

 

I went for both the specials. There is always a special or two. The salmon was cured in Garden Tiger Gin. It had mixed grain mustard Aioli. And just smelt gorgeous as it arrived.  It looked beautiful, as you can see. J had an amazing cheese soufflé. Light with bite, with a mild curry sauce (fusion again, I think we are seeing!). We only had starters, but we had already sent compliments to the chef….

 

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Slow cooked pulled pork

I couldn’t resist the slow cooked pulled pork roulade. Cooked for 6 hours. With creamy mash, black pudding and red wine jus. It also was served with first pickings of Evesham Asparagus. Newly designated Geographically protected named product…and Kamal allowed the ingredients to sing alone, with no fusion of spice!  Again looked lovely, and was so full of variety of texture and flavour. J had the oven baked fish , lemon sole with crushed violet potatoes garlic, caper and lemon butter sauce, and it was grand too! I finished it off, just for research purposes, of course!

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Baked Fish looking scrummy….

I had a panic text from a family friend last year, on Christmas morning.  Claire was helping her daughter to cook Christmas lunch – and they had not a single recipe book in the house with the advice on how to cook the turkey.  I managed to send them the entire recipe by text!.  If you can text a recipe, then it can’t be so difficult – can it?  Here it is, in its entirety:

“Turkey – 14lb, for serving at 1.45, cooked by 1.15, rested before carving. Start at 8.15 with bird at room temperature.  Loads of butter and strips of bacon on the breast.  First 45 minutes at 220 C or 200 C for fan oven.  Lower to 170 (160 fan).  Foil off / peeled back at 12.30.  Then lots of basting (every15 mins) to 1.15.  Usually takes longer than you think.”

67 words must be a record for a Christmas Turkey recipe! But at least with these timings, you can be confident of the main attraction being OK?

Perhaps you would like a little more detail?  And something to go with it?  Not unreasonable requests, I suppose!  Well, tune in again later today!

(I am re publishing this blog by request – of Claire, the originator of the panic text!)

Can Men Cook?

OK. Three hours of cooking and washing up…just for once, it felt like being in a professional kitchen.  You know, that horrible feeling of lack of control because you are prepping 5 different dishes.  Only one casualty. A plastic egg slice got too close to the flame…so it is in the bin now.  Otherwise, ok!

Here’s the bits:

  1. Get the beef in beer stew fried off and into the slow cooker
  2. Make the cranberry sauce
  3. Make the Chicken Liver – orange infused – Pate
  4. Wash up….
  5. Make the sage and onion stuffing
  6. Make the Chestnut and Apple stuffing

Beef in beer was easy – just fry off an onion, then the beef (coated in flour and paprika) and a mushroom.  Wash out the pan with London Pride beer.  Add a bit of salt and pepper, Lea and Perrins and mushroom ketchup.  It sitting there now, waiting for us later…will put…

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OK – two stage move to the Cotswolds.  Currently, staying in Cheltenham.  And enjoying some fine dining, and some good pub grub.

We discovered The Royal, near the Church in the centre of Charlton Kings on our first night after moving – recommended by The Charlton Kings Hotel (we were B&B there).  Very tired after the packing, we walked down, and quite frankly couldn’t begin to remember what we ate!  Asleep at 9…but resolved to return.  We did, then booked in for a ‘welcome to new home’ family and friends Sunday Lunch.

(see their web site here)

Eight of us.  One smaller person who can eat more than someone 10 times his age!  And 7 adults.

The Royal

We all went for the Roasts – lamb, beef or pork.  With Crackling.  And extra gravy (M has to have extra gravy.  At home, she always goes last, and finishes it after the same sentence “Everyone had gravy?” – followed swiftly by pouring and glugging sounds!).

Let’s get this Sunday lunch stuff straight here.  It is now the biggest service of the week in most places we go to.  It does vary – from sad carvery, with frozen mixed veg, to pretty presentable, but obviously bought in, to the posh end where chef not only loves what goes out of her or his kitchen, but it always looks good when you get to see it.  This is why you pay £5 a head or £20!  The Royal is not exorbitant in pricing, but is absolutely top end in style, food and ingredient quality and in presentation.

What always makes a difference too are the staff.  The kitchen is semi open.  You can see and hear the hard work – but it is quiet.  And the front of house team?  Just love what they do, are attentive and modern interaction (not old fashioned obsequious and over humble).  Leanne led the team on the day in our section.  And they couldn’t have been better with us and with the little guy.

Cant fault the place.  Great for a drink or a full on 32nd anniversary meal (4 days after Sunday Lunch).  Leanne said to someone else on the staff (I overheard…nosey person) “They were here Sunday…”  Nothing more said – but they obviously want you to keep returning.  And they used raspberry coulis to write a 32 on each of our pudding plates!

Great team.  great food.  Lovely atmosphere.  And yes, we will return!

 

Traditional Country Pub in Bucks - Xmas Pub Lunches Marlow

Bills Fab Garden

(web site – click here )

OK – we are moving house.  And one of the many hard things to say goodbye to, from our home in Marlow, was to our local (actually, we pass three pubs to get to it!).  The Crooked Billet in Sheepridge Lane, between Little Marlow and Flackwell Heath.

Our last Saturday evening was one of those special nights at the pub. They serve food 7 days a week at Lunchtime – evenings is for drinking.  But they do have occasional food nights – special occasions, like Queens Jubilee, Valentines Day, Bank Holidays and the like.  And, after a day at Ascot Races, the weary (and some squiffy!) coach riders arrive back for an evening of song entertainment and food.

Anita and Bill Green have run the Billet for 30 years now.  A 400 year old building, (Bill isn’t that old, but there are rumours…), one room pub, with an amazing award winning garden.  Will that sort of landlord longevity ever happen in future?  Will this sort of pub survive?  Will we find an equivalent in Gloucestershire?

I hope the answer is no, yes, yes, but suspect the last will be ‘no’.  It’s just such a special place, from Bills jokes (and he can tell them many times, to a new audience every ten minutes…) to Anita’s super home cooking, solidly pub grub – from Chilli, to excellent Lasagne (this is an in joke), to Ham Egg and Chips to Turkey with Chips and Salad – one of my favourites.  We had the English Curry with papadoms on the night – mild, and gorgeous.

“When are you off – not yet, we hope” said Billy as we left on the Saturday.  “We are still packing boxes, but we leave on Monday”, said myself.  “Too soon – are you coming in tomorrow?”

So we got up very early (5;30) raced through the final packing, and arrived at 2 pm, just after the last Sunday dinners were coming out (great value too – and really excellent beef and yorkshire puds, and all the usual roasties…).

We were totally taken aback.  The regulars had all signed a leaving card, and Bill had a framed photo of the pub for us to take away.

It was quite emotional.  And the memory will be cherished.  And we will be visiting back often!

 

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