Monthly Archives: February 2011

A French themed menu and TV update

The menu for supper club on the twelve has a Traditional French country kitchen feel to it;

Relive 1930’s Paris with a Pompier and hor’s d’oeuvre, followed by a seasonal pistou with home-made French bread. Next comes a dark, meaty boeuf bourguignon (with seasonal veg) and we finish with a trio of mousse de chocolat. If you still have room after all this hearty fare you can indulge in our traditional choice of cheeses, chutney and coffee.

We only have a few spaces left so let me know soon if you would like to join us.

More on my Britain’s Best Dish appearance; I believe it will be the first episode of the new series, although I have no date as yet. I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to say but I was successful in my heat getting a unanimous judges decision, which for me is winning enough!! I find out tomorrow if I’m in the regional finals. The full story will follow at some point, but for now all I can say is watch this space!

Leave a comment

Filed under home cooking, secret supper, underground restaurant

A thrifty Sunday lunch of Moroccan inspired lamb and hot chocolate pudding

A typical wet and windy Sunday, at the tail end of January, before the first post-Christmas pay-day and concluding an exceptionally busy week. It was one of those weeks where the kids end up rummaging miserably in the fridge looking for something vaguely interesting to snack on and claiming that there is NOTHING at all to eat

“What will we eat for dinner”? they moaned. I was beginning to wonder the same.

But this is where the skill of being a thrifty cook, with a well stocked larder pays off. In the freezer I often have a supply of meat, mostly lamb or pork which I occasionally buy as half a pig or half a lamb, and which arrives jointed and all ready to be frozen. So for dinner I pulled out a bag of lamb chops, coated them with a few spices and roasted them. This was then paired with the half bag of couscous I found in the cupboard and various ends and odments of peppers, herbs, cucumber and tomato left over in the fridge. The addition of some good olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, seasoning and a dollop of yogurt with mint and lo and behold something fragrant and wonderful was created.

To finish off I made mini hot chocolate puddings from various other leftovers and you’d never have guessed that we had an empty fridge!

For 8 lamb chops:

2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 tablespoons coriander, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 2 cloves garlic crushed. Grind together in a pestle and mortar and then rub all over the lamb chops. Lay them in a roasting tin and roast in a medium over 180-200 degrees / gas mark 4 to 6 for about three-quarters of an hour…but keep an eye on them, they should be nicely brown and crisp.

For the couscous:

Take 300g couscous and place in a shallow heat proof bowl with about 500ml boiling water or vegetable stock. Cover with cling film and leave to stand for 10 minutes or so until the water has been absorbed. Add some chopped mint, peppers, cucumber, spring onions, toasted pine nuts, or whatever else you have in the cupboard that you think would go nicely with the couscous.

Hot chocolate puddings:

90g self-raising flour, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder plus and extra 3 teaspoons (I ended up using hot chocolate as I discovered the kids had finished the cocoa and put the pot back empty!!…why do they do that?), 125g caster sugar, 1 egg beaten, 60ml milk, 60g butter, melted in a small pan, 60g soft brown sugar, icing sugar to dust

Grease 4 ramekins with butter and preheat the oven to 180 degrees / gas mark 4. Sift the flour and 1 tablespoon cocoa into a small bowl and add the sugar. Stir in the combined the egg, milk and butter and mix well. Combine the brown sugar and the extra cocoa powder .

Divide the mixture between the four dishes and sprinkle with the combined sugar/cocoa mixture. Put the four dishes on a baking tray and carefully pour 60ml boiling water over the back of a metal spoon over each pudding. Bake the puddings for 15 to 20 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted halfway in. Dust with icing sugar then serve with cream or ice cream.

Leave a comment

Filed under family budget cooking, home cooking, Organic meat

Valentines Day supper club

OK, so we were two days early but supper club on a school night is a hard one to pull off without ending up with stressed and tired kids the morning after.

Saturday was a great night though; laid back, low-key and avoiding the clichéd saccharin sweetness of the romantic dinner on the day itself. There were no hearts on the tables (although there were plenty of flowers) and instead we joined a tantalising array of intense flavours including a few with an allegedly aphrodisiac quality (unintentional this year, although totally purposeful last!!) a Valentines dinner would not be complete without chocolate and bubbly stuff.


Check out the new cooker...the oven's so big I could roast a small child in there!!...or half an pig at least

This was in fact our first dinner of 2011 and I wondered if we’d get back into the swing of things easily (forced to cancel the last couple of dinners of 2010 due to the snow we realised we hadn’t in fact cooked here since the beginning of November)…I needn’t have worried (although inevitably I do!), setting up ran as smooth as clockwork and was mostly done when Roisin (the teen) joined in to work at 6pm (stressed out by GCSE coursework). By the time our second waitress Molly arrived and diners started knocking on the door we were all ready to go. There have been a few significant changes since the last time we cooked, I’ve mentioned the new ice cream machine but I also have a new oven which has made life so much easier as well as being fully qualified in the food hygiene department!!


Our group of diners  had a choice of a shared table or a table for two, so giving them the opportunity to have some privacy and be intimate or chatty. Those who shared struck up conversation quickly and seemed to gel well, linked I hope by a love of yummy food.

I’d changed the menu slightly since I advertised it, having experimented with the chicken mole we weren’t keen so I settled on an Italian themed chicken and chorizo spezzatino and whilst most of the ingredients were local, or at least grown in the UK, I did also indulge in a few goodies collected from Borough Market during my trip to London last week.

The menu included a glass of Prosecco on arrival, followed by a rich and creamy carrot and leek soup with fresh thyme and home-made spelt (flour from Bacheldre watermill in Montgomery) and caraway seed rolls.


lots of home-made bread

Welsh Spelt flour from Bacheldre watermill in Montgomery, Powys

Carrot and leek soup with thyme



Next came the chicken spezzatino, a hearty flavoursome Italian stew made with really good Spanish chorizo from Brindisa in Borough market.


Chorizo from Brindisa

I used the mild cooking chorizo that imparted a really glorious, rich flavour to the dish adding onions, celery, some finely diced carrots, fresh thyme and garlic sweated until soft, but not browned, for about ten minutes. I then chucked in a glass of red wine followed by three-quarters of a tin of tomatoes and some chicken stock. I allowed it to come to the boil before adding a couple of tins of organic cannellini beans. In the meantime I seasoned and browned the chicken joints, finally adding them to the casserole before covering and sticking it in the oven. Half way through cooking I added a drained can of artichoke hearts and some skinned roasted peppers.



Spezzatino sauce and browning chicken



I also made a vegetarian alternative with semi-dried tomatoes in oil, roasted peppers, vegetable stock and a good handful of pot barley (an adapted idea from the salad club girls) and topped with crumbled feta rather than the chicken. Both were served with a handful of simple spinach salad with a lemony dressing and a mixture of toasted pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and poppy seeds.


Spezzatino and spinach salad

serving sorbet



Next came a blackcurrant and Prosecco sorbet (made to perfection in the new ice cream machine) using frozen black currants picked at Moelyci in the summer…straight from the bush to the freezer bag providing us with a vitamin C injection just when we need it!

It was sharp and zingy and the perfect palate cleanser before heading into the cheese course, a creamy baked Vacherin with chutney and home-made French / wholemeal bread.  Mont’D’Or Vacherin is a rich Swiss cheese produced specifically from the milk of cows grazing the slopes of the Jura mountains. It is strictly controlled production wise and is only available during the winter months. I picked mine up at Le Marche du Quartier in Borough, a specialist of French foods. I baked it studded with a few slivers of garlic and a small glass of white wine poured over to make a kind of fondue. I’d never actually tried it before so wanted to give it a go, although having done so I would say it is an acquired taste, strong in odour as well as heavy and rich. The other half complained when I returned home with them saying that they were the only thing he could smell in the house and the aroma definitely lingered for a day or two! If you want to give Vacherin a try, get in there quickly, the season ends in a month or so.


Le Marche du Quarter where I bought the Mont D'Or Vacherin

Mont D'Or on the counter at le Marche du quartier



Vacherin as served

After such a mammoth feast we finished with coffee and some chocolate ganache truffles, recipe courtesy of the Green and Blacks cookbook I got for Christmas.



Dusting chocolate ganache truffles with cocoa


Since the other half was unwell and away resting at a friends with the little un, Molly (who is generally pretty on the ball and organised) stood in for him. I half expected it to be a tight ship in the kitchen, but judging by the pictures on my camera and the debris left at the end it seems that the teen and the ‘adult’ made their own entertainment. While I drank a glass of wine and chatted to my guests they were apparently bored so this is what the two of them got up to in the kitchen!


and last but not least


creative use of two bottle tops, some rowan jelly and a sink plunger!! Yes very time get back to work!!!!!


As for Valentines day, we had our own little family love in on Monday in true soppy, silly style complete with choclates, flowers and pink fizz

Leave a comment

Filed under home cooking, local produce, secret supper, Sources and suppliers, underground restaurant

A healing bowl of chicken ramen

Sometimes it’s really hard to please a teenager that’s as changeable as the wind direction in Wales and whose food fads keep me in a whirlwind. It’s even harder to please a sick teenager, but one dish that managed to both satisfy and apparently cure was the Wagamama inspired chicken ramen.

 As the poor girl huddled in bed shivering and sniffing I attempted to stimulate her appetite with various ideas mostly failing until I suggested her favourite, a simple chicken ramen (funnily enough the recipe is in a book she just happened to buy me for Christmas!).

The Christmas recipe book collection...anyone would think I liked to cook!

 So while she slumped under the covers snuffling and feeling sorry for herself, I went to whip up a quick soothing supper. Returning a little later with a steaming bowl of chicken, noodles, broth and pak choi she visibly perked up. After the first small bowl she requested a second, at which point she had recovered enough energy to chat to her friend on Facebook!! The conversation went like this

 Teen: “I’m ill in bed, mum’s made me chicken noodle soup”

 Friend: “ooohhhh not fair, I want chicken noodle soup. Hold on I’m gonna ask mum to make me a dippy egg with soldiers”

A bit later

The teen: “did you get your dippy egg?”

Friend: “it was rubbish, the egg was hard and I only got three soldiers AND it was brown bread”.

My teen emerged from her room looking suitably smug about her superior supper of chicken noodle soup.

 For my chicken ramen (to serve four) I used:

4 chicken breasts, vegetable oil (to oil the chicken), 500g ramen noodles (available in most supermarkets these days or failing that specialist Asian shops) 2 litres chicken or vegetable stock either freshly made or really good ready-made, stock cubes are really not good enough for this, 4 pak choi roughly chopped or shredded (which I got from Moelyci.  Amazingly it has continued growing all through the winter even surviving the snow), 24 canned bamboo shoots known as menma in Asian supermarkets, 8 spring onions finely chopped and a handful of bean sprouts. I also added a heaped teaspoon of miso to the stock and the teen added some soy sauce.

 Either grill or use a char grill pan to cook the seasoned chicken breasts brushed with a bit of oil. Once cooked allow to rest then slice on the diagonal and set aside.

 Cook the noodles in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes until tender. Drain and refresh under cold water. Divide between four deep bowls. Heat the stock until boiling and if you want to experiment like we did add the miso. Put the pak choi on top of the noodles followed by bean sprouts, then pour over the boiling stock. Finish with the chicken breast, menma and spring onions.

a big soothing bowl of chicken ramen

Leave a comment

Filed under family budget cooking, home cooking

Exciting news about a TV appearance and a quick menu update for a Valentines dinner on the 12th February

I’m pleased, excited and just a little bit embarressed to report that I have been picked to appear on ITV’s new series of Britain’s Best Dish. They loved my focus on local food and producers and really liked my version of the Scottish trifle ‘Tipsy Laird’ so in a couple of weeks time I will be off to cook for the show!

In the mean time though there are secret suppers to prepare and what better way to ward off the late winter blues whilst wooing your beloved than to share an evening of tastebud teasing delights, hopefully with an exotic kick!

On the 12th I hope to tempt with Kir Royale and smoked salmon blini’s (fast becoming a standard introduction to every celebratory meal)

Then bring comfort with a rich, seasonal flavoursome carrot and leek soup with thyme,

Followed with a tantalisingly rich dark chicken mole (or vegetarian mole) with corn tortillas and winter salsa

then prepare to be seduced with a zingy blackcurrant Champagne sorbet.

and if this does not satiate your palate then we will conclude with a selection of cheese, some rich aromatic coffee and dark, delectable chocolate ganache truffles….


To save a place email

text 07775828768 or send us a message on facebook

Denise x

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized