Monthly Archives: January 2010

Burns night spaces

I have 4 spaces left for the Monday 25th Burns night supper due to last minute cancellations….Haggis, whisky and plenty of poetry!!

email if you would like to come

Denise x

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Valentines Sunday lunch

This event has now changed because i keep being asked to do a Romantic Sunday lunch rather than an anti-Valentines day lunch for singles….

….so now I have come round…Sunday lunch, where the foods are all supposed to have aphrodisiac properties…should make for a fun Sunday afternoon 🙂

email me if you’d like to come

Denise x

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My luve is like a red, red rose….

Since I will be hosting a Burns night supper next Monday I thought I should do a bit of research on the great poet. Of course, I’d read his poetry but didn’t really know that much about him (apart from the fact that he dedicated a poem to a Haggis, liked whisky and carousing with the lassies!!)

 So after a bit of google searching this is what I discovered. Robbie Burns was born in 1759 in Alloway, Ayrshire. A small village and suburb of Ayr on the Doonpoor village, to William Burness, a poor tenant farmer, and Agnes Broun. He was the eldest of seven children and he spent much of his youth working his father’s farm. His father had plans for him though and despite the families poverty he employed a tutor to teach both Robbie and his younger brother Gilbert. The boys were consequently very well read, another thing Robbie’s father encouraged.

At the age of 15 Robert was still the principal worker on the family farm and around this time he started to write in an attempt to find “some kind of counterpoise for his circumstances.” It was then that he penned his first poem, “My Handsome Nell”, an ode to some of the other pastimes which he enjoyed, namely scotch and women. When Robert’s father died in 1784, he and his brother took over the farm. Robert however was far more ethereal, interested predominantly in the romantic nature of poetry and conducting numerous dalliances with women, rather than hard graft on the farm. The latter resulted in several illegitimate children, including twins to the woman who would become his wife, Jean Armour. He also planned to escape to the safer, sunnier climes of the West Indies.

As he broke with farming he saw his first collection of poems “Poems- Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect – Kilmarnock Edition” based on a broken love affair, published to wide acclaim. It was this and his pride at being a parent which eventually kept him in Scotland. He moved around the country a bit but eventually settled in Edinburgh, where he mixed with other artists and writers who were in awe of the man they called the “Ploughman Poet.” He swiftly gained celebrity status and was lauded by the literati. As his status rose Jean Armour’s father finally allowed her to marry him. Despite his celebrity he did not reap financial rewards so he took a job as an exciseman to supplement his income. As he worked at collecting taxes he continued to write, contributing songs to James Johnston’s “Scot’s Musical Museum” and George Thomson’s “Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs.” More than 400 of Burns’ songs are still in existence. In the latter years of his life Robbie Burns wrote what are considered his greatest poetic masterpieces, such as The Lea Rig, Tam O’Shanter and a Red, Red Rose.

At 37 he died of heart disease which had been exacerbated by the hard manual work he undertook when he was young. He died on the same day his wife Jean gave birth to his last son, Maxwell. On the day he was buried more than 10,000 people came to watch and pay their respects. He would undoubtedly be immensely proud of his popularity now and the fact that Scots everywhere celebrate the anniversary of his birth with a Burns night supper which has become a quintessential part of Scottish life. It is a night where his life and great works are celebrated. Now I’m not a Scot so would probably not get invited to Burns night suppers on a normal day, but I love Burns poetry so it is a great opportunity for me to enjoy such an event in my home!

There is already a buzz of excitement among supper guests who have booked in. Several of my friends got in there quick and have been emailing and popping round to read me their poems all week. I was surprised how many wanted to perform. Entertainment is usually in the form of a Burns song or a rousing rendition of a Burns poem. This is usually followed by an oration on the life and work of Burns and is followed by a toast to his immortal memory. Thence follows the second entertainment and a toast to the lassies, a reply from the lassies and lastly a thank you and rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

I intend to keep to that format as much as possible. At some point it might all go ‘tits up’ but we will, as usual, be the masters of winging it! The food will be less ‘gourmet’ and more about traditional, well-cooked, hearty Scottish fare. It will be organic as much as possible and from local sources and suppliers. The Haggis is an exception (it’s coming from Scotland) and raspberries obviously are not in season, but a Scottish meal wouldn’t be complete without some raspberries thrown in!

The menu for the night will include

Locally Smoked salmon (from the Llandudno smokery ) home-made brown bread and Scotch whisky on arrival

Cullen Skink (an Arbroath Smokie based soup, again Smokies are from the Llandudno Smokery)

Haggis (coming from Glasgow ) with bashit neeps an’ champit tatties (veggie Haggis will also be available)

Leeks in cheese sauce

Typsy Laird

Cheese with bannocks, tea and coffee and more whisky

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ ’twere ten thousand mile!

Remember and sing with us on the 25th

Denise xx

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Joginders comes to Moel Faban

the date for the North Indian feast has now been confirmed as the 20th February…spaces will be limited so get in quick!!

Denise x

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They came, they saw and they said “nah mate”!

the snowy street


You might remember back in September, when supper club was just starting out, that I wrote about my kitchen sink drama. To be precise, the leak under my sink, the damage to my kitchen and the long awaited visit by the insurance assessor (who I was convinced would say that it wasn’t an insurance job).

Four months on the drama continues. Behind the scenes the insurance company confirmed, against expectation, that they would provide me with a brand spanking new kitchen. Hooray!!! The job was passed to the building company and their joiner came out to measure up. I negotiated over the design, which for a small additional fee would give me extra workspace and some space for a new range to be fitted.

It was all proceeding slowly, but surely until December. I asked the builders not to try not to clash with supper club dates since I needed space and water (they said I might be without a sink for a few days). They agreed and said they would be in touch so I waited to hear from them….and then I waited some more. I still hadn’t heard by the time we left for a family pre Christmas visit to London on the 14th December. Oh well, I thought, I would get in touch on our return.

When we finally made it home (we’d been delayed by the snow for a day) and as I listened to my answer-phone messages I realised the joiner had been desperately trying to contact us. I called him up straight away. “Sorry, we were away” I said, “I guessed as much after the sixth message” he said. He only wanted to measure the sink again and then he’d be done and he would be finished. But the kitchen wouldn’t be in before Christmas he said; again they didn’t want to leave us without water over the Christmas. We waited some more.

And then the snow came….

I haven’t been able to get my car near my house since Christmas. Living above the snow line can be great fun, but it also has its down side. We are now into the second week of being totally snowed in, but those who live below the snow line don’t always understand this. I think they believe we are exaggerating, like the builder who decided he was ready to fit the kitchen last Wednesday. He phoned in the morning, the other half spoke him, I could tell the builder was asking when he could come to us

“Have you got a four wheel drive, or even better a tractor?” I heard him say.

The builder was adamant that he wanted to deliver the kitchen so it was ‘on site’ and since ‘his boys’ were doing a job one road down it seemed silly not to get on with it.

“Did you not tell him what it was like” I said. “Well, yes, but he was adamant” said Sean. Oh well, we’ll see what happens then I thought.

A couple of hours later two blokes knocked on the door, “his boys” I presumed. They shook their heads and said “nah mate, we won’t be able to get up here for a few days yet”. We smiled and nodded our heads…I think that’s what we said!

So now seven days on and after another heavy snow fall last night we are snowed in yet again. No new kitchen as yet. But I am now hoping we will defrost by the time our next supper club arrives on the 25th otherwise diners will have to come in ski gear!!…This is one drama which looks as though its going to run into a few more acts before the new kitchen is finally installed.

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“Gypsy tart makes you fart”…recipe

…well according to my friend Kim it does (although I can’t say I recall that particular side effect from school). What I do remember is that it was my favourite school pudding (and many of my contemporaries). I mentioned on Facebook that I’d rediscovered the recipe (thanks to Ellie and Rosie at the salad club) and was suddenly bombarded with requests for me to send it. So this post is therefore dedicated to Holly, Kim, Paula and all the others that loved gypsy tart…

Gypsy tart with red berry coulis and crème fraÎche

14oz tin of evaporated milk,

12oz / 340g dark muscovado sugar

a 10 inch prebaked shortcrust pastry case

Whisk the milk and sugar together for about 10 to 15 minutes until light and fluffy. Ellie and Rosie suggested leaving it to stand for a while, then give it a quick stir again before pouring into the pastry case, which I did although the effect is not different if you just pour it straight in the case. Bake in a preheated oven (gas mark 6/ 200 degrees) for 10 minutes.

The results you might ask? Well, the tart had a light, moussy texture and was very very sweet, just as I remember it. Surprisingly my kids didn’t like it. It didn’t quite compare to the tart I remember from school but as a latter day update the addition of a dollop of crème fraĂŽche and a dribble of home made berry coulis  worked well adding grown up touch and cutting through the tooth rotting sweetness.

My Aunty Rani says that  “The only people who could make ‘Gypsy Tart’ were the dinner ladies at school! The only real test to see if it is authentic is to see if you teeth stick together when you take a bite!!!!!!!!!!!”

I have to say that fresh from the oven it did not stick my teeth together, but after a couple of days it started to remind me of the version served at school. I’m not sure whether its good to discover that our school dinners were probably a day or two old!! If anyone chooses to make this tart do please tell me if it sticks their teeth together….or even as Kim suggested, make you fart.


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The forgotten recipes of Christmas and new year

I promised so many people during the Christmas period that I would stick my recipes on the blog. Most of these promises were broken. I was so busy to-ing and fro-ing, trying to keep up with other work, making Christmas presents, preparing supper clubs and ferrying kids between their social dates, that sitting down and writing recipes on the blog fell by the wayside.

Now i shall make it up to all those people to whom I promised particular recipes, whilst adding a little bit about the origins of each recipe  as I go along.

Forgotten recipe number 1: Christmas pudding-for the very nice man on the Bangor to London train, whose name i didn’t get. I know it’s late, but maybe next year huh?

The littleun and me showing off our puddings

I have been making my Christmas puds this way ever since I moved to Wales, which will be 20 years ago this May. The recipe is slightly adapted from one which I found in an old Sainsburys recipe book.

Sift 175g (6oz) plain flour, 2 teaspoons ground mixed spice, 1 generous teaspoon cinnamon and half a teaspoon grated nutmeg into a large bowl. Mix in 175g (6oz) fresh brown breadcrumbs then rub in 175g (6oz) softened butter.

Stir in 175g (6oz) soft brown sugar, 350g (12oz) sultanas, 250g (8oz) raisins, the same amount of currants and 75g (3oz) mixed peel. Add the grated rind and juice of one orange, 2 beaten eggs and 120ml of brown ale (or stout). Give it a good mix, don’t forget to have a wish and then turn it into a greased 1.75litre (3 pint) pudding basin (or two smaller ones like we did). Cover with a pudding cloth or greaseproof paper and a sheet of foil pleated in the middle and tied on with string. Steam for 6 hours topping up the water as necessary.

Allow to cool and then replace the greaseproof paper and foil with fresh and store in a cool dry place. These can be made up to 4 months in advance and they get better with time. When you are ready to serve them, steam again for about 2 hours, turn out onto a warm dish, douse well with warm brandy and then ignite.

Christmas pud ablaze

Forgotten recipe number two: smoked salmon and sour cream blinis: for the can can girls who became addicted to blinis at our kids Christmas party

A couple of years ago I was given a book which contained cocktail recipes and snacks for cocktail parties. It came from NEXT of all places, but this blini recipe has been an overwhelming hit ever since I first gave it a go.

blinis in progress

Mix a 7g sachet of yeast and a pinch of sugar into 250ml of warm milk and leave to stand for a few minutes. Place 160g plain flour in a bowl (you could replace 60g with buckwheat flour for a slightly different taste) and make a well in the centre. Add 2 egg yolks (save the egg whites til later) and milk mixture and whisk until combined and smooth. Cover the bowl with a teatowel and leave to stand in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Melt 20g of butter and stir into proved mixture, season and then fold in one-third of the egg whites until just mixed. Fold in the remaining egg white gently until just combined.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan. When hot drop in a dessertspoonful of blini mixture to make a rough circle, this gets easier with practise, although I kind of like the free form appearance of each blini. Cook until bubbles begin to form on the surface then turn over. This should only take about 30 seconds each side and they should look light brown in colour. Drain on kitchen paper and leave to cool. The mixture should make about 40 blinis.

When they are cool put a dollop of sour cream on each and a strip of smoked salmon (which I got from Jody at the Llandudno smoakery ) top with a sprig of dill and if liked quarter of a teaspoon of salmon roe.

Forgotten recipe number 3: White chocolate nipples and chocolate truffles this is for everyone that said “oh my god, those truffles are gorgeous”….

This was the first year I attempted to make proper truffles with chocolate on the outside instead of icing sugar, cocoa or chocolate sprinkles (the cheats approach). It was also the first year I made white chocolate truffles. Both were very much trial and error. My first attempts ended up with a fine white coating on the chocolate. I needed advice, so I phoned a friend. She told me that my chocolate needed to be hot and then I had to make then very cold (i.e. put them in the fridge until set properly). Leaving them to cool at room temperature in our old, damp houses just meant that the condensation discoloured them. They still tasted nice though!!

My second attempt was better.

The White chocolate truffle recipe took me back to 1986. The place was Bishopstrow house in Wiltshire, an upmarket hotel where I went to do work experience whilst doing my chef training. Unfortunately I was distracted. It was a long hot summer, I was a wayward teenager and he was a hot young chef called Martin Zalensky. The encounter was brief and i have no idea where he is now, but his recipe has stood the test of time, to remind me of a heady misspent summer.

500g of white chocolate couverture, 175g double cream, 65g glucose, 75g butter.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Bring the cream and glucose to the boil then add to the chocolate. Cool down a bit then beat in the whipped butter. When its cool and set scoop into balls….when I first did this back at Bishopstrow House, the summer was so hot i had to stand in the cold room because the chocolate melted too much.

Cover in melted chocolate couverture….I found this difficult i have to say. White chocolate doesn’t have as much cocoa solids as dark and it either got too hot and went powdery or was not hot enough. I tired mixing in alcohol, butter, you name it but the problem remained. If anyone has any tips I’d love to know!!!

home-made truffles

If there are any recipes I missed out, which I have promised please remind me and I will add them too

Denise xx

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Apologies for being a fuzzy headed knob!!

It has finally sunk in that Burns night is actually on Monday 25th January. Therefore this will be the date for our first Burns night supper, followed by another more low key one on Saturday 30th January.

Sorry to confuse everyone and hope this now makes sense!!

Denise xx

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Happy New Year and looking forward to the future

Next dates for the supper club will be

Burns night supper on Thursday 28th January….poetry, Haggis (vege and non-vege) and lots of whiskey. If you would like to book contact soon as there is already lots of interest…if you’d like to read some poetry let me know

Reprise of Burns night on Saturday 30th same as above

‘Anti’ Valentines day lunch Sunday 14th February….not really ‘anti but for all of you that are single. If you would like to meet new people and enjoy a down to earth family Sunday lunch without having to hold hands over the table come join us!!!

Date still to be confirmed for the Indian banquet (with guest cooks from Joginders supper club in London)…but let me know if you are interested as i’m taking bookings already

More to be announced later

Denise xxx

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