Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Jack o' Lantern Soup

I made this deliciously warming soup out of the pumpkin flesh left over from making a Jack-o'-Lantern for Halloween.

For 400g of pumpkin flesh use 600ml of chicken stock, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp mixed spice, 1/4 tsp chilli powder and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Sweat the garlic in a little oil over a low heat for a minute or two. Add the pumpkin followed by the spices. After a minute or two more, pour over the stock. Simmer for 10 minutes or so until the pumpkin is cooked. Add the lemon and blend until the soup is smooth and creamy. Spoon on a swirl of cream before serving.

A good tip from a friend of mine (thank you Shifty!), to use up the seeds of the punmkin, is to roast them in the oven with some salt and chilly powder; makes a great snack!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Tasty Little Bunnies

'Tasty little bunnies' I would say to my mother whenever she read me 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit' as a small child and I must admit I always was on Mr McGregor's side!
That mischievous little rabbit, eating all his lovely cabbages!  I hoped Mr McGregor would finally catch the little naughty and give him to Mrs McGregor to make into a lovely pie. I was sure there was a good woman in the background cooking up tasty farmhouse treats for the hard working and slightly misrepresented Mr M...

As we grew up we would have rabbit every so often from the local market and when I was a teenager friends would go out lamping and bring me home their spoils to cook up for them.

Last Sunday I was very excited when my parents came for lunch bringing with them a lovely wild rabbit, freshly prepared by Henry the butcher at Wyatts farm in Oxfordshire.

I have to say there is something slightly alarming about the sight of a skinned whole rabbit but don't let that put you off. Prepared well (rabbits must be gutted and skinned as soon as possible or the meat will have a bitter, slightly off taste) they are really delicious and as soon as you quarter them the cuts look like any other piece of meat. You can ask the butcher to do this for you too if you are a little squeamish...

With this lovely creature I made a delicious stew (thank you Anthea for the recipe) and Potted Rabbit; using an ingenious recipe created by my dad Billo from the leftover stew.
 So here they are:

Delicious Rabbit Stew (alla Mamma)

First chop your rabbit into 5 pieces and place in a mixing bowl ready for marinading.
This is a classic marinade and works very well with beef too:
Add 1 glass of red wine,
1 large clove of garlic, chopped. 
A good grind of black pepper,
5 juniper berries crushed under the knife to release the flavours,
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
1 sprig of thyme

Mix all the ingredients together and allow them to sit and for at least 1 hour, stirring once or twice.
Preheat the oven to 180 C. Heat a little oil in a hot frying pan. Brown the meat well on all sides and transfer to a large casserole dish. Prepare some whole shallots and some celery sticks. Brown in the same pan as the meat for a minute or two before adding them to the meat. Pour some water into the meat pan and scrape up any juices or burnt bits that have stuck to the pan and pour the liquid over the meat.
Also pour over another 2 large glasses of red wine and 1 small cup of fresh black coffee (I don't know quite why but coffee is a genius addition to make a rich and meaty stew). Make sure the meat is mostly covered by the sauce, if not add a little more wine.
Cook in a moderate oven for about 1 1/2 hours stirring occasionally and seasoning to taste about half way through.

I like to serve it with freshly made Bubble & Squeak and some watercress.

Potted Rabbit (Allo Billo)

With the left over stew remove the meat and drain the sauce through a fine sieve into a small sauce pan discarding any lumps or veg. Finely flake the meat off the bones into the sauce (I had about half the rabbit left). Simmer over a low heat until the sauce has reduced by a half. Melt in roughly 1/3 of a packet of butter. I used quite a salty goats butter but normal salted butter is fine. Continue to reduce the sauce until it has almost completely evaporated and the flavours have been absorbed by the butter. Check the seasoning; when food is to be served cold you need to season it slightly more than you think; so make sure the salt balance is right.
Spoon into individual ramekins or a pate dish. Top with a little freshly melted butter to seal the tops.
Refrigerate well and served chilled with crunchy toast and a nice rich jelly.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Petits Fours

Called financier in France and friand in Australia, these lovely little cakes are so tasty and are my new favorite cake to bake. (The french name apparently either derives from the traditional gold bar shaped tin used to bake them in or that they first became popular in the financial district of Paris)

The cake base is made up of almonds, egg whites, melted butter, icing sugar and a tiny bit of flour and it makes them so amazingly light and moist. They can be made any size, but I have made them bite sized portions to add to my list of sweet canapes.  I found the recipe here.

In this batch I have popped just one fresh raspberry in the centre of each before baking but lots of different fruit works very well too. The lovely boys at Federation Coffee make amazing blueberry ones... well worth a visit to Brixton market for a sample!

A Little Name Change

The word caterer conjures up to many images of large faceless kitchens, school dinners and corporations which is quite the opposite of what my cooking and this blog is all about. It is about my life long passion for food and sharing that passion with friends and family. My kitchen is definitely at the heart of it. 

Friday, 15 October 2010

Smoked Paprika & Red Lentil Soup

I was given this recipe by my sister Emily. It about 40 pence per portion and takes about 20 mins to make... Yummy and warming the smoked paprika gives the soup a rich and meaty flavour despite not having any actual meat. Though I am not usually over cautious when it comes to picking foods acording to their relative health benefits this is a lunch I often eat when trying to cut back on fatty calories and has a very low GI..

Slice one small onion and sweat in a little olive oil for a few minutes (You can also use coconut oil; I have been told this oil increases your metabolism.... do we believe? I'm not so sure...). Add one teaspoon of smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 2 cloves of crushed garlic and a sprig or two of thyme (dried is fine). When the onions are soft add one and a half cups of red lentils and 750ml of veg stock (or beef if you are feeling less healthy). Cover with a lid and simmer for 10-15 mins or until the lentils are cooked.

Finish with a good squeeze of lemon juice and some salt to taste. Top with freshly chopped tomatoes and a sprinkle of parsley.

Used as a base this soup recipe makes a really good fish stew: Add an extra half  to a whole cup of lentils and throw in some cubes of chorizo while frying the onions. When the lentils are nearly cooked add some chunks of white fish and a handful of prawns. Simmer for an extra 5 minutes or so until the fish is done.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Tuesday Night Supper

Wandering past my local fishmongers on Atlantic road yesterday it was impossible not to buy something. Run by two lovely south London brothers, Lorne (photographed) and Ian (they have been nicknamed the Mitchell brothers in the past! though the resemblance ends there; they could not be friendlier), it is by far my favorite place in the whole of London to buy fish. Set up by their grandfather in 1932 they took over the family business and have been running it for years.

They have such a huge selection of fish and you can guarantee it will be fresh. I always get my fish from here for any catering I do, including a delicious 9lb salmon for a christening party a few months ago that I was reliably informed had been out swimming in the ocean just the night before!

I did end up getting a little carried away as I always do and couldn't resist getting a handful of prawns for just £1.50 to make a very quick and tasty little starter dish:

Fry the prawns in a little hot oil for a couple of minutes. When they start to crisp up sprinkle over some little splinters of garlic and a teaspoon of butter (I also added a teaspoon of my Thai Red Curry paste for an extra kick, though it tastes just as good without, or add half a teaspoon of smoked paprika instead for a Spanish tapas style dish).
Fry for another minute, remove from the heat and add a good squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of parsley or coriander. Eat with your fingers from a large sharing dish in the centre of the table. When the prawns are this small I like to eat the shells too, though unlike my boyfriend Harry I cant quite bring myself to eat the heads as well..!

For our main course we had Pan fried Coley fillets with a warm cannellini bean & spinach salad.

In my efforts to save a little money mid week I went for Coley fillets. Its texture and flavour is very like that of cod, being part of the same family of fish, but it comes without the conservational guilt of Cod and is highly under used.

The salad was an adaption of a good old Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall creation (recipe here) from his TV show last week. I fried some thin sliced chorizo first and added the rest of the ingredients to it along with some fresh spinach and extra smoked paprika (Coley does need a little boost of flavour). It all worked really well together.

And for pudding.....

Oh dear, my reputation is ruined!

I do love to cook deserts and cakes, (like gooey chocolate fondant or panna cotta with poached pears) but I really failed last night and had a disgustingly delicious 30p fruit cocktail trifle from the supermarket! Oh well, even Raymond Blanc has admitted to really enjoying beans on toast (don't we all?) and I once worked with a top class french chef who mostly ate midget gems.... we all have our little down falls.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Thai Red Curry Paste

This is so worth learning how to make; it tastes great, looks impressive but really couldn't be easier. It also keeps really well in the fridge and can be used from frozen (I like to freeze it in ice cube trays) so prep a large batch and have it ready whenever you need it. Most large supermarkets will stock all the ingredients you will need.

2 large red chilies (seeded if you don't want it too hot..)
2 dried red chilies (optional, if you like it really hot)
1 thumb Thai ginger
1 thumb normal ginger
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp fish sauce
2 sticks lemon grass
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 small bunch of coriander, stalks only, save the leaves to garnish the end dish
juice of 1 lime

Peel the ginger and garlic. Remove the ends and the outer leaves of the lemongrass and chop into chunks.
Put all the ingredients into a small blender and blend well into a smooth paste. Add a teaspoon of vegetable or coconut oil to help with the blending if necessary.

Tiger Prawns with angel hair pasta

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large wok. Add a heaped tablespoon of the Thai red curry paste and cook for a few minutes over a medium heat. Add the prawns and some chopped fresh tomatoes and cook through. If you like a milder, saucier curry you can add a small tin of coconut milk at this point and heat it through.
Season with extra lime and salt if needed. Spoon over cooked flour vermicelli and garnish with good handfuls of roughly chopped coriander leaves.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Wedding Party

This was the first wedding reception I have ever catered for and such a great event to be part of. Held at the beginning of last month it was a really lovely day that went without a hitch and I am very proud of the work we did, especially my sous chef and friend Harriet, my sister Alice and my lovely serving staff and cooks on the day, Elsie and Julia! 
I wont lie and say I didn't feel slightly more pressure, not because the food was more difficult or the numbers more daunting (I have catered larger events with more dishes in the past) or that i was under any pressure by the bride and groom or their families (they were all a dream to cook for) but simply because it was a wedding...: there is a tension in the run up to a wedding that is greater than at any other celebration; everything really must, must, must be absolutely, Really Totaly Perfect!

The menu for 90 people was chosen by the lovely bride Letty and was as follows:


A selection of dips: Tzatziki, Homous & Baba Ganoush with breads and warmed pita breads
Greek Salad
Rice salad with fresh herds and a lemon dressing
Chicken thigh fillets with Saffron and Hazelnuts
Sucuk (spicy Turkish sausage) and Vegan sausages with roasted vegetables and sesame seeds
Homemade Falafel
Tea & coffee with cakes provided by the wedding guests

Food preparation began on the Thursday before and involved a whole lot of rinsing, peeling, chopping and frying...

(Beautiful kitchen provided by the lovely Kylie and Bharat! Thanks)

The day was a real success and the food went down very well. I'm afraid there are not that many photos of the food as I was more involved in getting the food to the tables than documenting everything as it left the kitchen...

(chicken thighs with saffron and hazelnuts, recipe from the Ottolenghi cookbook, so very tasty! He does it with a whole chicken but for the wedding it was better to have smaller portions and chicken thighs were an obvious choice)

It was a lot of work and I enjoyed every minute of it.!

I will be posting up some more of the recipes shortly... Especially the recipe for Sucuk which I had never tried before this event. It is a really delicious, spicy, garlicky, red Turkish sausage and well worth a taste...

Monday, 4 October 2010

Brixton to Brixham

This weekend my boyfriend and I decided to swap the city for the seaside and escaped to the little town of Brixham in Devon.

Brixham is a small town with a working fishing port and fish market. It has a number of shops selling high quality seaside fair such as Devonshire ice cream and fudge, and a few good shops selling meats and cheeses from the surrounding countryside. (It also has a number of charity and junk shops good for weekend rummaging)
On the harbour side can be found a handful of shacks selling cockles, muscles, seafood platters and fresh crab sandwiches:

(mixed seafood platter)

It also hosts a number of pubs selling local ciders and beers and lots of restaurants all with a daily fish specials board to get the mouth watering and your tummy groaning with anticipation.

Though I normally buy fresh fish from Stefan, the local fishmonger, (like pan fried Dabs, my new favorite little fish with soft, sweet flesh, served best with sun dried tomato risotto and basil oil), this weekend we decided to eat out at Number 15 Restaurant on the quay side.
The meal was delicious. To start with we shared a Seared scallops and Bacon Salad. Harry then had a wonderfully creamy Moules marinieres: (please excuse the photos that follow, they were taken with a bad phone camera but I am loath not to put them in...)

I chose one of the 6 fish specials on offer that evening;  Lemon sole, stuffed with fresh crab and asparagus spears with a warm tomato dressing (served with roasted new pots and mixed veg):

With a large glass of crisp white wine the bill came to a staggering £33! The food could not be faulted and the freshness of the ingredients unquestionable. One of the most enjoyable meals I have had in a long time. Thank you No.15.

Grilled Tomatoes on Toast

With salad and blue cheese dressing

This is better than poor mans pizza, so cheeap and tasty. The blue cheese dressing is amazing with its super strong and sweet flavours and compliments the tomatoes perfectly. Great as a warming lunch or light supper.

The Tomatoes:
Serves 2
4 Tomatoes
1 clove of garlic(chopped)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2tsp black pepper
1tsp mixed herbs
1tbsp olive oil
1 Loaf of bread
1 Lettuce

The Dressing:
2oz blue cheese (Danish Blue or creamy Stilton)
1tsp sugar
1 small clove garlic, (chopped)
21tbsp white wine vinegar
4 tbsp veg or sunflower oil.

 Chop the tomatoes in half along the equator. Score the middles with a sharp knife. Put a little of the garlic and herbs in the centre of each and sprinkle over the salt, pepper, and oil.
Cut two thick slices of bread and toast one side.
Place four tomato halves on each slice un-toasted side up.
Cook under a low grill until the toms start to cook or the toast starts to burn!

The Dressing:
Mash the garlic, sugar and blue cheese together in a bowl.
Add the vinegar and oil and mix well until the dressing is smooth and creamy.
Wash and prepare the salad before mixing in the dressing.