Tag Archives: private chef

Adore Naturals Christmas ebook and other stories

Hello hello!! Yes I’m still here despite going AWOL for a while. Looking at the blog the other day I realised I hadn’t written or posted for a whole month! That’s a long time without writing for me.

There are significant reasons for my sluggishness. Writers block is not something to be forced away, or overcome easily especially when life is already full to the point of bursting.  I guess that’s the point; life has been at the point of bursting and so many other things have taken precedence over the writing (which I love, but it doesn’t pay the bills!!).

So, its cooking, eating, attending food events and training that have kept me busy, while the stormy seas of life raged around me. I know I don’t do things by halves, but this month I’ve experienced more than my fair share of major life changing events. These are the things that have taken over my thoughts and time. Separation from my partner after twenty years has been a traumatic wrench along with, a house move and a new chapter in my life as a chef.

Although for now supper club is on hold, I’ve suddenly found myself back in a restaurant after more than twenty years this time as pastry chef at The Oyster Catcher training academy, a role that also involves cooking for the restaurant,  training and mentoring the cadets.  I’ve also been all over the place with cookery demo’s…Conwy, Portmeirion, Abergavenny which also meant little time spent in my new house.

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One piece of writing I did manage to concentrate on was a commission by Adore Naturals. Their festive guide to a natural, stress free Christmas includes ideas for making home-made gifts, family craft projects, health tips, perfect presents and my vegetarian Christmas dinner menu. The book went ‘live’ a while ago and you can access it here if you are looking for last minute inspiration

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The dessert recipe was recently trialled on the specials menu at The Oyster Catcher and was a bit of a hit!

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Beetroot tatin with goats cheese and balsamic glaze from the Adore Christmas ebook and it can be found here

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A rather melted mincemeat and marzipan parfait…studio lights and all that with orange and cinnamon syrup

For now I’m sad to say that supper club is having a break, although I am still cooking private dinners at different locations and am available for private bookings. Don’t worry though, it’s not a permanent break…just to give me enough time to take a breather while I regroup, review where I’m going with business and work out our next move for 2014. Exciting ideas are flying about…collaborations, new venues and opportunities….all I can say is have a great Christmas and watch this space closely!

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Filed under British food, Christmas, Christmas menu's, Food festival, home cooking, in the press, local produce, recipe books, Recipes

Black pudding regrets and other Green Man food stories…

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Early morning haze over Glanusk

Every August I disappear into the hills of Brecon to cook for the crew and production of the Green Man Festival. It’s a fantastic, frantic, hard-working month filled with highs and lows, time spent catching up with friends and making new ones, parties, hangovers, sleepless nights, topped finally by one big festival in the middle. Every year I intend to catch up with writing over the few days I have a break, but always I fail. Tiredness catches up and my brain just can’t compute.

This was my third consecutive year so I’ve pretty much cracked the routine bit and so with Lizzie my assistant from last year we ran like a well oiled machine! We even had an extra pair of hands to help with washing up! This gave me more time to think about being creative with the cooking. Even though we work to a budget I still like to experiment and try new dishes. Old favourites, big one pot meals and hearty pies make up the staple diet but it doesn’t take much to create well-flavoured, tasty grub and as ever our efforts are greatly appreciated. In fact even as we sat down to dinner at The Bear (our traditional first night on site evening out) talk turned to what was on the menu for my first week of cooking and everyone has their special request….fish pie, cottage pie and a good curry, which along with the Welsh cheese board, honey baked gammon and vast array of cakes, have become standard Green Man fare. I try to vary the menu to keep things fresh. This year I cooked my first crew roast dinner, finally getting over my fear of screwing up the timings for so many people so I braved it.

Spiced pulled pork with crispy crackling followed by warm chocolate torte with ganache was the triumph of the week…and the dinner that saw me peak too soon! The torte, as expected, was so good it broke a few grown men. Ben arrived in the morning claiming he would not be eating cakes and puddings this year..before devouring two lots of chocolate torte the same evening. Another was overheard declaring “holy shit!!” as he took a mouthful….I took that as a compliment).

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Spiced roast pork

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The cake that broke a thousand men…warm chocolate torte with ganache and strawberries

By Monday the numbers had increased and I never quite reached the heady heights of that dinner again.  Embarking on a lemon meringue pie for fifty with home-made pastry, nearly gave me a nervous breakdown as I struggled to get it ready on time and my battles with a temperamental Aga raged over the week…its constant use meant it cooled down rapidly refusing to cook the food. Fair enough if you have all the time in the world, not so good if you have half an hour until dinner and the carrots still haven’t come to the boil. We peered despondently into the pot willing them to be ready in time….they weren’t, and dinner was half an hour late.

Still, we hit a few high’s; poached pears with rum and cinnamon caused our dairy free crew member to come over all unnecessary, potato pancakes at breakfast got everyone a bit excited and of course cake formed the basis of everything…even a bit of sculpting to mark out the stage set-up

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Hi-tec design: main stage and speaker lay out in cake

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“How will I live without potato pancakes” (Tash)

and lots of black and white pudding was consumed…over heard from the kitchen…

“I’m having black pudding regrets”

“From eating it?”

No, from not eating it”

Being part of the Green Man experience is unique. It’s hard to explain to others the family feeling this festival evokes. As a group we spend time with people we might only see once a year, live closely together and share the excitement, the highs and the lows of building a festival. We see the love, care and attention that goes in to every bit of the build and the dramas that go with it. We gear ourselves up for the party, almost to the point of elation and then its over in a flash and we find ourselves on the other side tired, broken and bereft as the family goes its separate ways. Its hard and emotional but worth every second.

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The Green Man team (for the build): Claire, me and Lizzie

And as the tiredness creeps in, it gets harder to stay creative and on the ball. One kitchen, an Aga blasting out its heat twenty-four hours a day as the sun beats down outside, it’s easy to end up a bit hot and bothered, distracted and lacking focus…although to be fair on this occasion I can’t just blame that on the heat in the kitchen ….but that’s another story altogether.

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Something for the weekend?…Lamb Merguez stew for the boys

Sorry to have abandoned you all for a couple of weeks, life has been pretty busy on the cooking and teaching front, which of course is very good, but sadly it leaves less time for writing and blogging. Over the past three weeks I have taught year 10’s doing GCSE home economics how to make pizza from scratch and Danish Pastry; I’ve trained with Dynamo role models and cooked for talented local musicians performing at  Cho Coppock Whittle’s benefit gig (raising money for leukemia research). More on that in a subsequent post.

This week was just as busy as I’d been booked as a private chef by Outreach Rescue to cook for one of their groups for four days, to help out their resident chef Chris. Based in a lovely holiday cottage (Yr Hen Weithdy) in the village of Llanllechid I cooked a three course evening meal for nine fit fireman / search and rescue chaps!…I know, it’s a hard life this catering lark…but someones gotta do it!!

View from one of the windows

Good hearty home cooking was the order of the day as these guys were out on the chilly Menai Straights training from early in the morning. The weather was sunny, but bitingly cold so I opted to make them hot soup, cheesy frittata, spinach and ricotta crepes, which made great starters; followed by big, slow cooked one pot stews and finally hefty man-size portions of cake. Cooking once again on a four ring electric oven (all my ‘Green Man’ demons came back to haunt me!!) where cakes burn in seconds, pots never boil and everything sticks to the bottom, was the only down side.

As the week progressed there were lots of questions…”how did you make that chocolate cake so light”? “What did you do to that meat to make it so tender”?…and comments “I never thought I liked couscous til last night”….”nice baps” and plenty of wind-ups and mickey taking…”yes, it was very average”, “you’re not using a recipe book are you? That’s cheating”!Plus the inevitable…”Britain’s Best Dish…where’s the trifle then?”

I ended up feeling like the wife of nine…especially when one called “Hi darling, I’m home!” as he walked in the door one evening.

Everyone had their favourite dishes, but the undisputed hit of the week was the lamb Merguez stew which I cooked for them on Tuesday. I think it was Si that said “do you give out your recipes?” and I told him I’d just made it up…but here, just for the boys, is the recipe (as I remember it. Sorry if it’s not exactly the same…I didn’t write what I put in and I was too busy to take any pictures!)….

Lamb Merguez stew to feed nine hungry firemen:

2-3 lamb Merguez sausages per person (I got mine at Williams & Sons butchers in Bangor or Johnny 6 as most people know them) cut in half.

2 large red onions diced finely

3 cloves garlic crushed or finely chopped

thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated

2 to 3 medium carrots chopped into batons

couple of potatoes, small egg-plant and a medium courgette cut into chunks

large teaspoon turmeric

large teaspoon cumin

large teaspoon paprika

level dessertspoonful Ras al Hanout

a small teaspoon harissa (depending how hot you like it)

1 small stick cinnamon

1 bay leaf

1 tin chopped tomatoes

olive oil

1 tin cannellini beans

plain flour

1 litre (or so) chicken stock

salt and pepper

fresh coriander

Heat olive oil in a large pan and add onion. Cook gently for 5 minutes until beginning to soften then add carrot, garlic, ginger, potato, eggplant and courgette. Stir in the pan and coat with oil and allow to cook gently for another five to ten minutes without colouring. Add spices and a tablespoon plain flour and stir so everything is well coated and the spices begin to release their aroma. Stir in the tin of tomatoes and stock and bring to a gentle simmer. If it looks too thick add some more water or stock. In a separate frying pan heat a little more oil and add sausages to brown. They only need browning so don’t worry about cooking them all the way through. You may need to do this in two batches. When browned add to the gently simmering stew along with the tin of drained beans and continue to cook slowly for a good half an hour although you can leave this really gently simmering for longer.

If the sauce is too thin you can bubble it a little more vigorously (unless you have an electric cooker like me as it will probably stick to the bottom of the pan!!). Season with salt and pepper to taste and a couple of handfuls of chopped fresh coriander. Serve with a lovely lemony, herby couscous.

I have to finish by saying a big thank you to the nine gorgeous guys that left me speechless with their pressies of flowers, chocolates, wine…oh yes and a book!

Cheeky buggers!!! 😉

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