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

Archive for June, 2011

Pot Luck

I do feel slightly sorry for the rest of our family in June.  The few who don’t have birthdays really do name it ‘Flaming June’ – and not in a nice way.

We all gathered for a buffet feast on Sunday.  It is just too much for one person to pull it all together.  Requests are made to provide various items along the buffet way.

  • Cheeses – check
  • Phil’s famous Chicken Liver Pate – check (with French Bread) (recipe on
  • Ham – check
  • Pork Pies from the famous local butcher,  Halls of Hazlemere (Bucks)

For hot, Sister in Law Sue had made two enormous lasagna, and done some jacket potatoes.  (I will do a lasagna recipe next time…)

We had about 8 different salads and snacky bits too – and that is good cheating again, in my view.  There are times at family gatherings were you just want to keep things simple as possible, so you can drink, chat and enjoy as much as you can.  Sharing the pain and time of preparation with each other and with the shops is just the right way to do this.  You can do 30 minute meals this way, even with 14 people in a room.

The birthday folk and non birthday folk enjoyed themselves equally.  The Bottle recycling plant also had a red-letter day.

Store cupboard panics

Yes, we were on holiday, self-catering.  So you never  have al your store cupboard back ups with you, of course.  This creates both panic and the need for imagination in equal measure.

The Ingredients:

  • A nice vacuum pack of Parma Ham – popped in the basket for a starter really from the Co-op
  • A really ripe Avocado
  • Half a used packet of rocket
  • 4 new spuds – but about large egg sized
  • A shallot – old but serviceable (bit like me really…)
  • Tomatoes

OK – it feels like a good start?  I cleaned the spuds, then fully microwaved them in their skins – 8 minutes.  After cooling a little, sliced into roundels to fry them off with the chopped (roughly) shallot – lost about a third of it to decay – but hey, lovely sweet flavoured bits left.  That’s the science bit.  As onions and other veg get older, the starch begins to break down.  If this bit of the plant is to become another plant, which it is desperately trying to do, then that gives it the best start – it is beginning to get the ground ready and itself ready to become the next crop.  So, the starch has become a simpler sugar.  The only problem is you have to fry them slowly, and keep them moving, because they will catch and stick and burn very easily.  Put the spuds in first, then shallots, and I chopped 3 tomatoes, turned the heat fully down, and just plonked them on top to heat through.  I think they keep their flavour more that way.  Also, you can sprinkle a few dried mixed herbs or fresh Basil if you have it (we didn’t…).  I got a bit tarty then – cut the Avocado in half, peeled it, then sliced each half top to bottom, about 6 cuts.  If you place it hole down on the plate, and press in the middle, the slices will fan out nicely.  Drape the parma ham over the avocado.  We put all the rocket on the plate, added a bit of dressing from a bottle with extra lemon juice and olive oil, added the fried spuds etc.  You  know what – I think I would repeat it – very light and summery, and a Pinot Grigio (already opened) added a lot of fun zestiness too.  Try it!

Eating out in Yorkshire

Just had a splendid week self catering in Yorkshire Dales.  Meadow Barn – Leyburn.  Excellent one bedroom, open plan ex cowshed, now like something from Homes and Gardens.  We also had a wood burning stove – which was great fun (and yes, it was cold enough in June to actually use it).

Time for a bad joke.  Two cannibals returning from holiday.  The other cannibals were appalled to see that they had lost an arm and a leg each.  “What happened?”  “We didn’t realise it was self catering…”

Onwards>  We were visiting our artist friends Ken and Lesley Jones, who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and their 70th birthdays last year.  They had an exhibition of their new works and were giving up the commission to help build a well in Africa.  The collection plate at their house was for the charity too.  Cost of a well is quite a lot – but Lesley told us the collection plate made £495, which is exactly the cost of one well.  And the sales means commission will yield another well too.  Fantastic effort.

We went to The Wensleydale Heifer twice with them.  Second time was a bonus – they knew we  were going then added their names to the table booking after they returned home in time on the Friday.  What a wonderful surprise!  Although the restaurant is named after a meat animal, the menu is famous for fish.  We had various:  Baked Sea Bass with sweet chilli, half lobster themidor, Fish Pie (with added lobster), Herb roast Cod, with Paella croquettes.  I was a bit worried about the chilli and fish.  I have had bad experiences with chilli and crab – a favoured chef led revolution a couple of years ago.  It wasn’t succesful I think – the chilli usually killed the subtlety of the fish.  You could only taste chilli.  But baked in sweet chilli – this was another thing completely. We decided the chefs knew their business.  Shared puddings (not enough taste buds left), included a baked Alaska.  How superbly retro!  The meringue was piped onto a tower of homemade ice cream, then (I suspect) it was heated using a blow torch, rather than being put in the oven.  Maybe there is less chance of spillage and explosions that way?  Anyhow, quite exceptional and fun.  I almost expected Crepe Suzette to appear – but they didn’t go that far!

As ever in modern menu the emphasis is on giving you a whole plate sensation, so that all the vegetables enhance and marry well with the main fish.  Lobsters simply had new boiled jersey potatoes, spinach and a couple of added king prawns.  Definitely worth a try for a special occasion.  And they do have an early doors (and lunch) fixed price menu – which is excellent value too.

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