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Rogan & Co – more Lakes excitement

Rogan & Co, Cartmel, South Lakes

Let’s not beat around the bush.  We just had a fabulous lunch.  It finished at quarter to four.  Sybaritic in the extreme.  And my last blog said I was a bit worried about the whole same old same old in this part of the lakes – and with South East pricing – and now I will take that back.

Let’s start at the end.  We went for a postprandial walk. We went around to the sister restaurant of Rogan & Co – L’Enclume. And today, I see in the news, that The Good Food Guide has named it as restaurant of the year – beating Heston Blomenthal’s Fat Duck into second place!  The chef Simon Rogan is committed to Nature not Science.  This is the top end stuff – 20 course tasting menu and the like.  We saw a delivery in the back of a car.  Went and chatted to the two guys there – and found we were talking to the head of front of house – and the restaurants very own Forager!  (Sorry guys – didn’t write your names down – but you know who you are!)  Just food lovers who were deeply excited by local, excellent ingredients.  They have started their own smallholding (plants only – no animals as yet).  And there was something else special.  They wanted to chat because we were interested in food too.  It was an attitude that everyone could be a potential customer, so why not be nice to everyone?  Many organisations could copy this simple idea.  Anyway, it is a much nicer way to live and be, isn’t it?

Lovely Janie - happy at the end of our meal!

Lovely Janie – happy at the end of our meal!

Foraged food for L'Enclume

Foraged food for L’Enclume

So, Rogan and Co was the place we had our lunch at.  The sister restaurant – not cafe style (Like both Raymond Blanc and Jamie Oliver have done).  It felt more (very high end) table d’hôte, to the L’Enclume’s multi-Michelin starred extravaganza.  Continuing with the backwards theme – we start with the end!

Coffee was silky, strong, not bitter and served with fluffy hot milk – oh, and stunning home made little doughnuts served with apple puree, and a tiny salted caramel chocolate confection.

Puds?  Yes, you had to, even though I know what we had had before. I had a poached pear.  Jane had toffee apple.  Sorry, this undersells both confections.  Just look at the piccies.




And we did have stickies with them – a pudding wine.  We chose one – and were offered another to try (gratis – thank you).  Golden, fragrant beautifully matched to each pud.  Wow.  Jane’s was like gorgeously wet toffee, which just made the apple sing.  And my zesty, lime with lemon driven Chenin Blanc from Thailand (I kid you not) just did the same for my pud.  Look, I know puds are bad, and naughty and and and…but, but, but this was our 29th wedding anniversary – OK?



Mains driven by the meat.  Lakes bred lamb.  Very local pork belly.  Hugely concentrated reductions (Gravy would be madly understating the fragrant sauces – and sauce is still too large a word).  Look, lets just say it went very quiet.  I tried the lamb.  It was a melt in the mouth explosion of powerful flavour that reminded you that that sheep had not lived in vain.  The pork was just as good The sauce, morels, tangy crunchy seasonal veg – were all as good as it.




We started madly with soused herring and duck rillettes.  Again, we had the usual excitement of matching pieces – like meat (or fish) and 7 veg…photos from a phone, but I hope you get a feel for the place.

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Starters and tasters

Starters and tasters

As you would expect – an amuse bouche to start – a fennel crisp, with a stunning goats cheese quenelle.

We started by feeling a bit apprehensive of a new place, which could have been a bit up itself (the main web site was a bit scary, not enticing to me).  But I hope the style of this review has not been backwards in coming forwards.  This is a place that knows about food and service and people – and it seems to love them all.

Holiday in The Lakes

These photos are from the pubs own website – hope they can like the publicity!

This was our best meal so far…

OK – we are in the Lakes for a week.  And we hear it is not a culinary desert.  We’ve visited before – stayed at The Rothay Manor near Ambleside 25 years ago – and it was exceptional then – and still gets great reports.  But we had noticed a lot of sameness about pub menus.  Lots of the reports on advisor sites seemed to say the same. “It was so good we couldn’t finish it – even had to miss breakfast the next day…”.  This worried us a bit.  Not that we have become soft southerners or anything like that, but we had thought that sort of quantity over quality mentality had gone.  No, the 20 ounce gammon Steak with pineapple or fried egg, or both is alive and well here in the North West.  We despaired and ate in a lot…more of that later!

Serendipity was on our side in gorgeously scrummy Hawkshead.  We had visited Town-end – National Trust farm which one family had lived in for 11 generations (near Troutbeck if you want to visit).  And then The Beatrix Potter Gallery…where you can see what a great artist she was.  (And realise that the National Trust and our great National Parks would not be so central to our British way of doing things without her altruistic interventions).

We then had a British panic.  It was 2.35 pm.  Most pubs and full service restaurants stop serving lunch at 2 or 2.30.  Resigned to a sticky bun, we thought – lets just have a drink in here first…

The Queens Head in Hawkshead serves lunch until 3!  We wanted a light snack, so opted for a starter and side of skinny fires to share.  The home-made fish cake was served on a bed of risotto – creamy, fishy and meltingly mouth filling.  It made the fish cake itself seem even fishier.  And it had proper chef’s touches like pea shoots and other shiny morsels, with their own dressing.

Underneath it all, we had a very posh fish and chip lunch.  Do not be fooled – these people know how to cook.  It was the same price as everywhere else, but in a different class to what we have had up to now.  Some places seem to live on a past reputation or just on their views.  The Queens Head crew are there for the food.  They deserve a visit.

Tv – The Chrissy B Show!

Hi all – I’m on live TV tonight.  It’s on Sky 203, 9.30 pm.  Chrissy B is the host, and the format is a bit chat show but in her living room. Main themes are about living life better – and tonight’s concentrates on over-buying.  My part of this is on waste and food…


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As you can see, Chrissy likes cats, which makes her a fine human being! I am going to make a summer salad from left over Sunday dinner bits –  Potatoes and Chicken.  It will be very simple – there are no cooking facilities – but that’s what cooking from scratch is all about?  Keeping things simple and easy?  Master Chef and Michel Roux are fun and aspirational – but not in my kitchen!  There will be loads of tips, plenty of opinions, and hopefully a bit of fun too.

If you get a chance – drop by and have a peek.  9:30, Sky 203.


Cooking from scratch

Stefano Hatfield is the editor of The i (the 20p a day cut down version of the Independent).  (I’m not mean – it’s just a time thing…).  With a name like his, he is, naturally, of mixed parentage – English dad, Italian mum.

I’m very interested in his take on the chattering classes views of the horse meat scandal.  “as the guard slips and they sneer at the poor for buying cheap frozen products”.  His mum (widowed twice and then bringing the kids up as a single parent) would cook in the art of cucina povera – cooking of the poor.

Some grown, some given

Some grown, some given

It isn’t rocket science to make the most of what you have.  Buying less, buying better quality and locally, and using it all with as little waste as possible could easily make your food spend much lower.

You may have to peel stuff, wash it and chop it up – but it is good fun.  Look, we all can and do cheat on occasions (although I do still laugh in the face of a sealed tray of mashed potato for £1.50).  There is a time and place for a ready meal, or something as part of a meal that just makes the whole thing easier – but most things can and should be cooked from scratch.  We don’t teach it enough in schools.  We don’t pick things up from our mums, because they have been convenienced out of the cooking habit too.

I read a review recently bemoaning the fact that most newer cook books don’t have sections on what to do with leftovers.  I beg to differ – mine does!  And has a chapter on The Four Day Chicken.  (Roast, Second roast micro-waved, risotto on day 3, and chicken soup day 4).  Check it on Amazon!  “(Can Men Cook?)”

New joke added below from a fun guy 🙂


The Inn, West End near Guildford Surrey

I had one of those exciting re-meets yesterday.  I met up with an old University chum, who I hadn’t seen since 1987!  Yes, Christmas cards and occasional e-mails.  Nothing else.

We had decided on this pub, being equidistant (and believe it or not you can go to web-sites key in postcodes and it will tel you what is in the middle – and what pubs or restaurants are nearby.

I got there early (overestimating the distance) and Steve arrived on time.  The last time we had said goodbye was at a reunion of the old crew from Newcastle.  What was so good was it was as if the intervening period had not happened.

The Inn @ West End's Kitchen Team

The team at The Inn

We were meeting up to talk about my cookery adventures and Steve’s ambitions and ideas for his own adventure in similar areas.  There was a bit of catch up of course (how can his eldest daughter be 30.  That just isn’t right!).

We ordered from the one page bar menu – extensive enough, and very varied to cater for all appetites.  We chose a quite sumptuous Kedgeree, with an exquisitely just cooked poached egg on top.  The kedgeree was quite risotto in wetness, and the curry-ness was amplified with quite a lot of white pepper – which no-one uses since we all got black pepper grinders!  This is sad, I think because the flavour is deeper and more all-encompassing – and hotter.  It kept us quiet and happy, anyway, and was washed down well with something of a macrobiotic nature for Steve (Luscombes fruit juice from Devon) and some Aspall’s Suffolk cider for me.

What a great catch up – and it will be repeated now we have re-made acquaintance.  And what a splendid place to meet.  The Inn was packed on a January Wednesday lunchtime – which is no mean feat.  The place and the staff patently love food.  This won’t be the last time I visit!  They even got excited when the saw my “Can Men Cook?” business card – which always goes down well with me!

New Year’s Eve

The Rock Inn, Haytor, Devon.  It does sound old fashioned and rather romantic, doesn’t it?  Their advertising by-line is “steadfastly traditional”.  Not a bad summary!  (See more at ) . And you can see Haytor on the way.  What more could you want?

Going out on a feast day is often ruinously expensive and often bad for the palate as well as the pocket.  Not at The Rock.  Mid November they changed their web page saying there were no rooms at the inn (heard that before around Christmas time?) – but they were still taking bookings for tables.  We jumped at it – and I had already decided my order! Seared Scallops on celeriac  puree and crispy pancetta for starter, followed by roasted lamb rump (with roasted root vegetables and rosemary fondant potato, with a red wine sauce). Jane had Balsamic Poached fig with parma ham, followed by pan fried sirloin of beef medallions.  They were served on wilted spinach, roasted tomatoes, peppercorn sauce and hand cut chips.  As you can tell, it was modern British – the holistic approach to the plate, where all the items complement one another.  Well cooked, served with chat and a smile, and not even ruined by the bill!  The main dishes were really quite exciting – and not worryingly big (satisfied but not over full).  The starters, especially the scallops were simply orgasmic !  Steamed marmalade pudding with whisky creme Anglaise  and a chocolate Cointreau Tart completed the proceedings, and quite finished us off.

Hope you had a great evening too.  Happy New Year to you all!

Christmas dinner – the full kit and kaboodle

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

Frozen Berries at Christmas

Frozen Berries at Christmas

I said yesterday, perhaps you would like a little more detail?  Here we go!

I think the essence (and this is true for all our recipes and ideas in my book “Can Men Cook?”) is to keep things simple.  This is even truer on this particular day, which can be a bit stressful if you let it.  As there is likely to be a crowd of revellers interrupting and drinking and waiting, for many of you, this is even more important.

(Some of the foods may not be for you at all – it will be different for each of you.  I have kept to traditional fare – and other meats or vegetarian options may be more in tune with your needs.  This is true for the vegetables too – some will suit, some not.)


Get the kettle on at 7, and take your turkey out of the fridge.  Kettle is for your well-earned cup of tea for getting up early on Christmas Morn.  You should have taken the plastic bag containing the giblets out of the turkey, but check again just in case!  These bits are excellent to boil up for stock to make real gravy.  As you know, I always prefer to do most things from scratch, rather than using too many convenience foods (like gravy browning or stock cubes and the like). It feels easier to control salt, sugar, E numbers, antioxidants, and all the other additives that are in most convenience foods by doing this.  It tastes better too.

I have two favourite stuffing’s – Sage and Onion and Apple and Chestnut.  I will start with the second one.

  • A tin of chestnut puree – or chopped chestnuts
  • 1lb of pork sausage meat
  • 1 large cooking apple (Bramley is best)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Salt and ground white pepper

I think this is easiest to make in a food processor, because it will chop the onion and the apple very finely.  Peel the onion and apple first and chop them a bit to put into your food processor, and whiz for 10 to 20 seconds to chop them very finely.  Add the sausage meat a bit at a time and blend between each addition (say in 5 or 6 portions).  Then add the contents of the chestnut puree tin – whiz until all one consistency, then add the egg (which helps to bind it together) and the salt and pepper.

If you prefer Sage and Onion stuffing – here’s how to do that:

  • Two pieces of white bread
  • 1lb sausage meat
  • 1 dessert-spoon of dried sage
  • 1 peeled onion
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and ground white pepper

Again, a blender helps.

If the following sounds too fiddly or tricky – then cook the stuffing separately… but this is how I do it


The best and safest place to cook the stuffing is the breast end of the bird, not the main body cavity.  This helps it to cook well – stuffing the body slows everything down. Also, stuffing the other end helps keep the breast moist.  You need to ease the skin off the breast itself, and you do this easily by easing the skin away from the breast with your fingers and pushing gently You will find it comes apart easily.  The middle bit of skin between the two breasts is slightly more stringy, and you will need to hook it with your finger to pull this apart.  You can then spoon your chosen stuffing into this cavity. You should seal the end by pushing a couple of cocktail sticks though the skin flaps (but remember to take them out at the end so no-one eats them!)  If there is some left over after stuffing the bird, you can put this in an over proof dish and cook it with foil on top for the last hour before serving.


Turkey can dry out remarkably fast if you don’t use foil.  Chefs do mad things like having the turkey upside down (on its breast side) for the first 2 hours, then heave it over onto its back for the rest of cooking.  Can you imagine wrestling with a roasting hot (literally) monster, weighing as much as a 3 month old baby, without causing huge injury to yourself, the oven and the kitchen floor?

I will stick to foil.

I tend to use the large grill pan from my oven as the roasting dish for a turkey.  Quite honestly, I have nothing else large enough!  Take a good metre long length of the extra wide turkey foil you remembered to buy (? didn’t you?).  Place that lengthways with its middle bit in the centre of the grill tray.  Now take a second piece – the same length, and place that at 90 degrees to the first piece.  Pop the turkey on top of them, and parcel it up.  Crimp the top of the foil like the edge of a Cornish pasty, and don’t force it onto the turkey skin – leave a bit of space for air movement inside the parcel.  Pull the second sheet up and do the same.  You want it to be pretty well sealed.  Now put it in the oven (it will be 8.15 a.m. now) at high temperature (200 C) for the first 45 minutes.  Set your timer for 45 minutes, then turn down to 160 (Fan) or gas mark 3 without opening the door (there is nothing to see yet!)

Now you just need to get one of your many helpers to peel the vegetables for around 11 a.m., so you can get them in the oven for about 11.30.


Here are my favourites and all but two cook blissfully away in the oven, taking good care of themselves.

Potatoes (need to peel and chop into roast potato size, then boil them for 5 minutes, and remove from the pot with a draining spoon (with holes in it)

  • Sweet potato – peeled and chopped into lumps the same size
  • Parsnips – peeled and chopped.  Both of these do not need to be pre boiled – they will cook through just with roasting
  • Carrots – chopped into rounds like coins, and boiled for 15 to 20 minutes, and mashed.
  • Sprouts.  These only start tasting badly sulphurous if you boil them too long.  4 minutes max.  Drain them.  And stir fry them for 30 seconds in a wok as you are about to serve everything else!  You can put lard-ons of bacon with them, or some of the chestnuts left over from the stuffing.  And you will learn to love them again.

You can cook a parsnip with the carrot – because mashed carrot and parsnip is really rather nice (and more tasty than carrot and turnip, I think).

You need to have a large roasting tin ready for the roasting veg – put this in the oven with about 4 tablespoons of oil (I use Olive Oil – but whichever is your favourite).  Some of you will have bought goose fat as a Christmas treat for roasting.  Now is the time to find it!  After about 5 minutes, you will see the fat is hot – so clear the top of your hob, and pull the roaster out after remembering your oven gloves!  Tip the tray so you can put the veg in slowly without splashing, and use the baster to cover them in the oil or fat once they are all in.  You will need to turn them a couple of times in the next hour or so.  And at 12.15, you need to peel back the foil on the turkey, and start basting it.


Baster - so useful!

Baster – so useful!


Sweetcorn or peas are useful and colourful and easy additions, if you have the crowds in– little people who don’t like sprouts yet…


Is it ready?

Right – it’s about 1.00.  You have basted for the third time.  Everything smells beautiful.  Roasting veg are browning nicely.  So is the turkey done? No-one wants a bad food reaction or even food poisoning–   Poke a small knife into the fattest bit of the leg and wait to see what oozes out.  If it is running clear, then it is ready.  If there are specs of blood, then carry on cooking.  The second test is to pull on the leg, and if it comes away easily, you have completed the cooking.


Get help to move the bird to your carving dish.  Ask them to hold onto the foil (it cools quickly, so they can use their hands without getting burnt) while you  lift the turkey off  the foil.  Often it sticks so they should gently pull off the foil if this happens.  A pair of turkey lifters (like mini garden forks) are useful for this.  (Have you got a picture??)


Turkey lifters - use in pairs!

Turkey lifters – use in pairs!

Increase the oven temperature to brown off the roast veg, finish off the other vegetables, You need to delegate the carving, or get help to serve.  You can’t do both!  The stuffing will carve with some of the breast meat or you can spoon it out into a serving dish (which I prefer).

The last 10 to 15 minutes are mad.  Have a drink, if you can, and enjoy the applause!


Have a splendid Christmas one and all.


Phil x

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