Sunday, 30 October 2011

Le Manoir Au Quat'Saison Review

I have, for many years, wanted to go Le Manoir, but to be totally honest I couldn't afford it or really justify spending a lot of money on a meal. Luckily for me, I went to The Ruby Charity Ball last July and won a £300 voucher to have a meal at Le Manoir and yesterday (Saturday 29th October) I had lunch there. I wanted to go for dinner but the dinner service was completely full, as priority is given to people who stay at the Hotel, as it's a Hotel/Restaurant.

It's actually very hard to write a review for Le Manoir, because for me it was almost perfect, from the food, the wonderful staff, the food, the ambiance, the food, the wine, and if you didn't get the message.....the food!

As you drive up to the hotel, you are greeted by the hotel staff as they open your car door. You are whisked into a lovely grand lounge were you are given the menu to view whilst supping on a drink; mine was a local Oxford gin made out of apples, which I personally didn't like but my partner enjoyed it. Whilst we browsed the menu we were given some canapés, which contained gravdlax (cured salmon), crab tart, vegetable ball with a hint of cumin, a very mild and tasty goats cheese on a thin biscuit, all of which were scrumptious.

There was a set menu, consisting of a 7 course taster menu, it sounded incredible, but I was in the mood for seafood/fish which wasn't on this menu. So we ordered from al a carte menu. We both ordered lobster ravioli in a lemongrass bisque with scallops and young tender stalks of samphire. Everything was cooked to perfection and we couldn't find anything to criticise about it. The ravioli was tender, the lobster meat inside was moist and tender. The lemongrass bisque was delicate and was simply divine. It's also looked like a work of art on a plate, the picture I've taken doesn't do it justice.

For my main course I made a slight mistake by not reading the menu thoroughly enough and ordered turbot, with oyster, scallops, samphire in a berre blanc lemongrass sauce, so I had two dishes with a lemongrass sauce, but they were totally different. Again this was perfectly cooked, with the fish being firm, the scallops moist and succulent and the lemongrass berre blanc was superb and did not overpower the delicate seafood. My partner had lamb with sweetbreadson a bed of quinoa, which just melted in the mouth and the meat reduction had a great depth of flavour.

I followed this with a selection of soft French cheeses, which just melted in the mouth. I always prefer to have plain high baked waterbiscuits because it's the cheese that should sing and not the biscuits. The waiter arranged the cheese in strength of flavour so each piece became stronger and with time they started to melt into a gorgeous googey mess. My partner had apple croustade with an apple sauce with vanilla seeds. The filo pastry was beautifully crisp and the apple was sweet but with the apple sauce being a little tart it helped to counteract the sweetness of the apples on the croustade. To accopmany these courses I had a vintage port and my partner a dessert wine- both were perfect choices.

After the meal we were taken back to the lounge to have coffee and petit fours. After a little while we had a tour of the kitchen and it was spotless. You could eat your dinner off the floor it was that clean, and they hadn't cleaned up after lunch service! It was amazing to watch how the kitchen team all worked together to produce such amazing food. We were fortunate to meet the head chef, who shook our hands and we thanked him and his team for their hard work. After the tour we got to do another little tour of the wine cellar, which again was amazing with a huge array of champagne, wines and spirit . I asked if they could lock me in there for a few hours, but of course it was denied request; damn :-). At one point we were shown a £3,000 bottle of wine and I tried to put in my jacket, but they were to quick, haha. My partner had to touch the bottle just so he could say that he had.

The staff were incredible- attentive without being intrusive, polite and nothing was any trouble, even the tour around the kitchen and cellar was unplanned beforehand and they were more than willing to show us around despite their busy schedule.

I now have two problems. How do I save up so I can go back again and secondly how am I going to enjoy another restaurant again? I guess I'll have to wait until I have a significant big birthday (friends get the hint). I've always wondered how restaurants can charge so much money for food, but when you see all the people, and the work that goes into creating culinary works of art like this you can understand why it costs so much. I can see why it's got two Michelin stars but cannot understand why it doesn't have three. I would highly recommend this amazing restaurant/hotel, but speak to your bank manager first!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Thursday Night Mean Only One Thing - Pork Chop Night

Sometimes when writing a food blog you forget about the everyday food that a majority of people eat most days in the UK. I've listed recipes that I have made for the first time, and recipes that are from around the globe and I haven't written about a typical English evening meal of meat, potatoes with two veg, which was the kind of food I was mainly brought up on as a kid.

Well today is Thursday which means only one dish can be had were we to believe Homer Simpson! Pork chop night and that is exactly what I am having as a tribute to him. Homer loves the way Marge cooks his favourite dinner, which she puts down to throwing a mixture of different herbs on the pork. As we never actually find out what Marge puts on his chops I have added some ' A. Vogel's Herbamare Original,' which is a herbal salt as a tribute to her.

Apple Sauce
2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 tsp sugar
juice of half a lemon

Main Course
2 pork chops
A. Vogel Herbamare Original
potatoes – enough for 2 for mashing (this varies depending on your appetite)
2 different vegetables – we had broccoli and cabbage
Serves 2

Put the chopped apples into a pan and add the sugar and lemon juice and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the apples have broken down to a thick sauce

Preheat the grill to medium, add pepper and the herb salt to both sides of the chops and place in the grill cook for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally and keep an eye that they don't burn.

Chop the potatoes and add to cold water and boil for 15 minutes or until potatoes are cooked. To tell if they are, press in a fork and if the potatoes slide off they are cooked. After 7 minutes put a sieve on top of the potatoes and put the vegetables in the sieve and steam. Once all cooked, mash the potatoes with butter and serve.

NB. I don't always peel the potatoes as it add flavour to the mash (it also has higher dietary fibre, as well as vitamins and minerals) and I don't add salt to the water. If you want salt, add it when eating it. If you don't want to add butter to your mashed potatoes you can add extra virgin olive oil which adds a different dimension to the taste.

It's not always easy to get hold of the Herbamare, so you can either buy it from my online shopping page or click the link below. This can be used as seasoning on any meat and in soups, casseroles and stews.

Herbamare Herb Sea Salt

ps. I am aware that my picture (at the top) only shows 1 vegetable, I forgot to serve the vegetable up, d'oh (as Homer would say)

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Pepper Salad

This is a wonderful colourful and tasty salad, that goes with any kind of dish containing fish, chicken or turkey. This is the salad I had with the Salmon with Lime and Thyme, which added a nice fresh flavour to the salmon.

  • 1 Green Pepper
  • 1 Red Pepper
  • 1 Yellow Pepper
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of chopped mint
  • 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to season
You need to remove the skin from the peppers and the easiest way to do this is to put the peppers under the grill. Heat them until the skin goes black and then place into a plastic bag for a minimum of ten minutes. This will losen the skin and make it easier to peel them

Once peeled chopped the peppers in to chunks and place into a bowl, Squeeze in the juice from the lime, add the oil and chopped pepper and stir together. Add salt and pepper if you feel it requires it

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Salmon with Lime and Thyme

Whenever we go to restaurants and we order red meat such as steak, we are normally asked how we liked it cooked; blue, rare, medium, well done or burnt to a crisp (ha ha). Well I was very fortunate at being in a restaurant in Sydney, Australia and I ordered salmon. The waitress asked me how I liked it cooked and all I could say was ‘what,’ so she repeated her question. I was surprised because I'd never been asked how I would like to have my fish cooked before. After a few moments I said rare, as I wanted to know how it would look and taste. I was not squeamish about eating raw fish as I love sushi and especially sashimi. When the salmon was served I was surprised at how well it tasted, much better than if it was cooked fully. The salmon had a darker colour and the taste was a lot more intense. Since then I've always had my salmon cooked medium or rare. When I order it restaurants in the UK I do tend to get odd looks, but I am the customer after all and I've been known to send it back if it's not cooked how I want it.

It's been a while since I have had salmon so today, for lunch I had salmon with lime and thyme. I served it with mint and mixed pepper salad and vegetable cous cous. The recipes for the salad and cous cous will come shortly.

2 salmon fillets
1 lime
5 sprigs of thyme
2 knobs of butter
salt and pepper to season

Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the salmon on some foil and squeeze half a lime over it.

Place a knob of butter and three sprigs of thyme on each fillet. With the other four sprigs pull the leafs off the stalks and place equaly amounts of leafs onto each fillet.

Fold the foil so it is sealed and place in the preheated oven. Depending on how you like it cooked will obviously depend on how long you cook it in the oven. For rare cook for 5-7 minutes, medium 7-10 minutes and for well done 15 minutes- again this will also depend on your oven.

Once cooked remove the sprigs off the fish and with a fish slice, place the fish on a plate and pour the juices in the tin foil over the fish

Monday, 24 October 2011

Vegetarian Weekly Challenge

I shouldn't really call it a challenge, because I was a vegetarian was over 12 years and people are vegetarians living every day and it's not a challenge to them. The challenge comes from having a healthy vegetarian week, because the two don't always go together, even though people think they do. I can assure you I didn't have a healthy diet, as cheese and frying played a large part of it.

The week was fairly successful but I personally don't think it was a complete success. The food I had in The Diner, on Saturday night, was not healthy. I also had some cheese during the week, but in very small amounts, so fair amount of fat was in my diet, albeit a lot less than if I'd been eating meat.

For breakfast I had chilli beans, click HERE, mushrooms on toast click HERE , and the rest of the time I had my own made breakfast of oats, click HERE

Lunches I had tomato, mozzarella and basil with pasta click HERE also I did a version with chives. I also ate vegetable noodles twice, click HERE and I did another version but used a thai red curry paste, which I didn't blog, I consumed the mushrooms on toast, which I had for breakfast and one day I treated myself to a meal at Wagamamas.

Dinners, we had minstrone alla milanese for two nights click HERE green vegetable risotto click HERE, stuffed red peppers, click HERE As there was some vegetarian chilli left I had it with rice on Friday, oh and again on Sunday. Saturday we went to a restaurant called The Diner and had a really horrible spicy bean burger and was only saved by Tabasco's Chipolte sauce, see previous post.

I really liked the challenge as it really made me think about what I was cooking rather than just going through the motions of cooking. I also have felt a lot better within myself, I seemed to have more energy and get up and go. Or could it just be that I wasn't drinking also, seeing as it was a "healthy" challenge it seemed wrong to drink loads.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Tabasco Chipolte

I have a new food love affair and it's called Tabasco Chipolte! It is not as hot as normal Tabasco but it has a superb intense smoky flavour and will go with most meat and even spicy bean burgers, which I had last night in a restaurant called The Diner. As part of my vegetarian week challenge I ordered a "spicy" bean burger. It had no taste what so ever and it was like munching on a rug that hadn't been hoovered for months, but the sauce really brought it back to life.

I have been after the sauce for a while now and although I could get it on line I wasn't gong to pay £2.90 and then £4 P&P for it (yes I know I'm a cheapskate). So, in my madness I went to Selfridges on Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon. Now if you're not from London there is one thing that most Londoners do not do on a Saturday and that is go to Oxford Street, as it's mobbed. It's like leaving a rugby match with 90000 people all going in the same direction, but worse, because when people shop they are only focused on that and if you get in their way, you will be floored.

So, with this in mind, I fought my way into Selfridge's foodhall, and started my hunt for the Chipolte sauce. Whilst searching for it I found something out, never go into a food shop hungry. Here I was, surrounded by all this gorgeous and exotic food, and my stomach started rumbling. My wallet started shaking and it was all I could do to not buy everything in the hall. I was surrounded by wonderful foods from around the world, like biltong, serano hams, aromatic cheese from France and much more. With my stomach shouting 'feed me' I realised I had to stick to my guns, so I found the chiptolte sauce, grabbed a bottle of Tabasco Habanero, and some smoked paprika and legged it. I just managed to survive the ordeal with my wallet and credit card intact.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Chilli Beans on Toast - Granary Bread Recipe

I can hear you say what is hard about making beans on toast? Well first of all it's chilli beans on toast and I do have to open a tin of beans, a bottle of chilli sauce to add to the beans, so you see there’s a lot to it! Oh, okay it's not that hard but I did make the granary bread. This is only the second time I've made bread by hand and I am getting better, although I do need to sort out the timings when it comes to my oven.
  • 450g (1lb) strong granary flour
  • 225g (8oz) strong plain wholemeal flour
  • 2tsp fine sea salt
  • 25g (1oz) butter, diced
  • 2 tsp fast acting dried yeast
  • 150ml (¼ pint) warm milk, plus extra for glazing
  • 300ml (½ pint) warm water (approx)
Put both flours and salt into a large bowl then add the butter and rub it into the flour Make a well in the centre and add the milk and enough water to make a soft dough. You may need to add some more water to achieve this. If you have put too much water into mixture add some more flour.

Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic. When kneading use the ball of your hand, turning the dough around to ensure all of it is well kneaded. You should knead the bread for a minimum of 10 minutes. You can use a food processor, but be careful as you could over knead the bread. (Read the manufacturer’s instructions for more information).

Shape the dough into a round ball, then place into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave it to rise – It should double in size (this can take up to 2 hours depending on how warm the room is).

Once doubled in size, knock back the dough, take out of the bowl and knead for another 2 minutes, to ensure that you remove all the holes. Place back into the bowl and cover again with the tea towel and leave for about 30 minutes or until it's doubled in size again.
Pre-heat the oven to 230C/450F/gas 8. Place a sheet of non stick baking paper onto a baking tray. Once the dough has doubled in size, place it on the baking paper and with a sharp knife, slash the top of it with a cross shape. Brush with a little milk.

Place the dough in the oven for 10 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 200C/400F/gas 6 and bake for 20-25 minutes (maybe longer depending on your oven). Once the bread has risen, lightly browned and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom, it’s cooked. 

Place on a wire rack to cool.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Stuffed Red Pepper with vegetarian chill and Refried Beans

This is an extensive recipe that has four parts to it. First you need to create the vegetarian chilli, before you can stuff and cook the peppers and you need to have the beans cooked before you can refry them. Then whilst the peppers are in the fridge you need to refry the beans. I have actually never done any of this before and it was another dish that came to me whilst I was out running this morning. As there are so many parts I have spilt the recipe up. This dish serves 4.

Preparing the Beans

300g dried pinto beans (WARNING Beans must be soaked for a minimum of 12 hours before you can use)
1 large onion, peeled but left whole
4 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
1.5ltr of cold water

Place all the ingredients into a large pan, bring to a firece boil for 10 minutes and then turn the heat down to bring it to a boil and cook for a minimum of 90 minutes. Once cooked drain and discard the cloves of garlic and onion. Mash the beans into a thick paste and place to one side.

Making the Chilli

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 chilli with seeds, sliced (if you want less heat do not use seeds)
1 tbsp of cumin powder
1 tsp of corriander powder
75g soya mince
2 tbsp of tomato puree
400g tin tomatoes
400g kidney beans in water
salt and pepper to season
500ml of water

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and chillli and cook until the onions are soft. Stir in the cumin and corriander powder and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Add the soya mince and heat stirring for about 5 minutes. Then add the tomato puree and cook until the puree is almost burnt (about 5 minutes).

Add the tomatoes and the kidney beans, the water from the beans and mix together. You may have to add some tap water as the soya may soak up all the liquid. Add salt and pepper for seasoning (you may not need salt because the kidney bean water may have enough salt already).

Simmer for about 40 minutes, keeping an eye that it doesn't dry out.. You may have to add more water as you go along- I did quite often.

For the Stuffed Peppers

4 Red Peppers, cut length ways (keep the stalks attached)
Pre-made vegetarian chilli (as above)
20g vegetarian cheese

Pre heat the oven to 180C. Clean out the peppers and fill them with the vegetarian chilli. Place them on a baking tray and add some of the grated cheese on top.

Place in the oven for 30 minutes.

For the Refried Beans

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp corriander powder
1 tsp paprika
pre-made mashed pinto beans
salt and pepper to season

Put the olive oil in a pan and heat, add the garlic, cumin, corriander and paprika, and stir until the garlic is almost brown.

Add the refried beans and cook, stirring occasionaly for about 10 minutes.

Place the refried beans on a plate and put the stuff peppers on top.

Tomatoes, Mozzeralla and Basil Pasta

I've haven't made this dish in a very long time, but as it's such a lovely autumn day I wanted to eat something light and fresh. Whilst I was doing a 12km run it came to me in a flash of inspiration. It's an odd dish where you only really cook the pasta, the "sauce" if you can call it that, is added when the pasta is cooked and you just stir it in over the heat.

This serves 2 people as a lunch main course or a evening starter

  • 200g ripe tomatoes, chopped small and roughly
  • 1 packet of half fat mozzeralla, ripped into small pieces
  • large handfull of basil leaves, ripped
  • 2 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Dried pasta for two (I am not adding dried weight as the amount is your choice)
  • (serves 4 as starter or 2 as main)
Put the chopped tomatoes, ripped mozzeralla, basil into a bowl, add the olive oil with salt and pepper and mix together (although I don't like to much salt, you need to be generous as it helps to release the jucies out of the tomatoes) and mix together and leave for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Put the pasta into a pan and cook until al dente. Once the pasta has cooked, drain it, rinse with boiling water to remove any starch. Put the pasta back into the pan and put the mixture back into the pan, over heat, and stir for about two minutes or until the mozzeralla starts to melt. Then serve in bowls and season to your required taste.

It's always good to have a slice of nice bread to mop up the juices once you have finished.

EDIT – I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this dish and wanted it again today (21st October), but I had run out of basil, so I tried it with fresh chives and it was just as flavoursome. I think that other herbs would go just as well and I wonder if other cheese might be just as good. I have a feeling I will be updating this recipe again.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Green Vegetable Risotto

This is only the second evening meal I've made in the vegetarian challenge week, as the Minestrone alla Milanese I made lasted for two days. This is making the challenge a little easier as now I've only got three more dishes to go. I must say that the minestrone doesn't last well, the flavours are fine and actually improve, but the vegetables and pasta were too soft due the amount of time being left in liquid.

Today I am making green vegetable risotto, another healthy dish, because there is not that much parmesan in it. Like all risottos, it's time consuming, due the constant attention it needs and you do need a good stirring arm. It is worth it, because it's very creamy without all the fat. Another great thing about this dish, even though the vegetables are cooked for a long time, they neither lose their colour or crunch. This serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main course.

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated vegetarian parmesan
  • black pepper to season
  • 1 leek sliced
  • 1 courgette sliced
  • 100g broccoli broken into small florets
  • handful of basil leaves
  • 150g risotto rice (arborio is good)
  • 600ml good quality vegetable stock (approx)
  • 100g young spinach leaves
  • handful of rocket leaves chopped
  • handful of watercress chopped

Put the basil, half the oil, pine nuts and parmesan into a blender and whizz to make a pesto and put to one side.

Boil a pot of water and put the courgette, leek and broccoli in for about a minute to blanch and then drain well.

Put the stock on the hob to simmer. Add the other half of the oil into a pan and heat, add in the risotto rice and stir until it is evenly coated in the oil.

Pour in a quarter of the hot stock and add the blanched vegetables stirring continuously until all the liquid has been absorbed. Then add another ladle of the stock, again stirring continuously until it's absorbed. Continue this until all the stock has gone or the rice is cooked (the rice should have a little bit of a bite)- this can take between 20-30 minutes

Towards the end of the cooking add the pesto, spinach, rocket and watercress and stir until the spinach has wilted.

Serve immediately in bowls.

Vegetable Noddles

I am a big fan of asian pot noodles and I often make trips to my local asian supermarket. The only thing that stops me buying more of them is because I don't have enough room in my bag and they are also full of flavourings, MSG etc, so I often make my own. For this reason I've always got the following in storage, dried noodles, nam pla (fish sauce), miso paste (fermented soya) and dried seaweed. The great thing about these products are they last for a very long time, if you have problems getting hold of these products you can click on the links below to purchase them.

The great thing about this recipe is you can use any vegetables, fish or meat that you have in the house and I've never had the same dish with each bowl, but I do normally have a standard list of ingredients. The dish serves one, but it is easy to expand on it

  • 10g of pine nuts
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 chilli, chopped with seeds (if you don't like it too spicy remove the seeds)
  • 1tsp olive oil
  • 20g each of pea, sweet corn (frozen is best)
  • nam pla (fish sauce)
  • 1 heaped tsp of miso paste
  • 300ml of cold water
  • approx 2-3g of dried seaweed
  • 1 pack of noddles
Put the pine nuts into a pan and toast them, once browned remove from pan. Add the shallot, chilli and garlic and gently fry for about a minute, making sure you don't burn the garlic.

Add the sweet corn, peas and stir, after two minutes and then add 5-8 splash of nam pla, (be careful as to much can over power the dish), then add the miso paste and stir it all together for another minute.

Then add the cold water and the dried seaweed (it's very hard to say how much, because it swells in the liquid). Bring to the boil and then add the noddles and cook until soft and then serve.

The recipe above is a very standard list and I said earlier I add other vegetables etc. In fact today's version didn't have any of the listed vegetables, I used mushroom, red pepper, cabbage as were in my fridge and they needed to be used - that is how simple and versatile the dish is.

Squid Brand Fish Sauce 720Ml
Wel-Pac Wakame Dried Seaweed 57g
Hikari Light Miso Paste, Shiro to make Miso Soup (400g)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Vegetarian Weekly Challenge

I was very fortunate to have a friend over from Dubai last week! We had a great time, but there was a lot of merry making and my body has taken a bit of a battering and I'm feeling a bit run down. Also, my partner is on call this week, which means no alcohol, so we have decided that we would have a relaxing week with some healthy food and so we are going vegetarian all week, to help give our bodies a boost.

I was a veggie for over 12 years, but I eventually fell for a roast chicken dinner which is still my favourite meal and being a veggie doesn't mean you are having a healthy diet. So this is going to be a challenge to find tasty healthy vegetarian food.

Today I am making Minestrone Alla Milanese (chunky vegetable and pasta soup), which I have got from Gino's Pasta book, which was a gift from my friend Jeff. It's a very fresh, light yet hearty soup with just a hint of the aromatic herb basil. Just what is needed on a wet, windy cold and miserable night

Monday I am making Minestrone Alla Milanese (chunky vegetable and pasta soup), which I have got from Gino D'Acampo book called Gino's Pasta, which was a gift from my friend Jeff. It's a very fresh, light yet hearty soup with just a hint of the aromatic herb, basil. Just what is needed on a wet, windy cold and miserable nights. I made a mistake of getting permission from the publishers after I had posted my blog and although I was given permission to use Gino's recipe I was excused of "raiding" the book and it was very clear they where not happy. With this in mind I decided not to use Gino's version and did some research on the dish. Like spaghetti bolognese and chilli con carne there are a lot of different versions and below is the standard recipe but have added some weblinks with different versions.
Standard ingredients
  • olive oil
  • onions, chopped
  • carrots, washed and chopped
  • potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • celery, chopped
  • cabbage (white or green)
  • 1 ltr of vegetable stock (you can use chicken stock if not a vegetarian)
  • Courgettes
  • pasta shells
  • handful of basil leaves
  • garlic
  • grated parmesan
Put the oil in a pan and add the onions, carrots potatoes, celery and courgettes and cook for a few minutes.

Pour in the stock and cook for between 10-15 minutes. Add the pasta, (I used conchigliette) and cook until pasta is cooked.

Put the basil and garlic in a pestle and motar and bash until you almost have a paste. Then add to the broth.

Serve in bowls and sprinkle on the cheese

In the links below you will see versions were they use leeks, tomatoes, arboio rice, cannelli beans and other vegetables. I even put a link to the Milan Tourist board saying that there appears to be no "official" version as it changes with the seasons and what vegetables are available at the time

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Excitement in Abundance

How can I not be excited, I've just received the Julia Child's book Master French Cooking, and what is really sad, I've been reading them on the buses and tubes when meeting with friends

Also, on the 29 October I am going to Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons. I have always wanted to go to this restaurant for many years and now with the help of winning a £300 voucher I can finally afford to go. I am a little hesitant because I am concerned that it will not live up to my expectations.....fingers crossed.....

Friday, 14 October 2011

Lutyens Reviews

Veal Terrine
What is it about me? When I go to an upmarket restaurant I get given a horrible table. I recently went to the 2 Michelin star restaurant called The Ledbury and was made to sit by the staff workstation and this was not the first time this has happened. Maybe it's the way I dress, maybe I look like a chav and they want to keep me hidden from the other customers. Yesterday, I went to an upmarket restaurant called Lutyens for lunch, (apparently it's pronounced Lutch Yens but for me it's Lut Yens – have I answered my own chav question.......?) and was sat by the workstation. I asked to move and so they moved us to the next table, which was a foot further away from the workstation. I was in a very irritable mood and so threw my toys out the pram (threw a tantrum) and asked to be moved to somewhere else and the staff were very accommodating and moved us away from the workstation.

Once settled down at the table I upset the staff again, by asking for a Hendricks gin and tonic, but was given a Tanqueray Gin and tonic. I moaned at the staff that they got it wrong but then had to eat my words and apologise to the staff as my friends advised me that I did order - oops. I had to work my charm and I think I brought the staff around that I wasn't a bit stupid.

Violet Artichoke Vinaigrette
My friend, Jeff, ordered Oysters as his stater, they looked really large and thick and he said they were very good. I ordered the veal terrine, which had a nice strong meaty flavour, but the highlight was the fig chutney. My other friend, Lyd, ordered violet artichoke vinaigrette. The artichoke were hearts, but they had left the tough outer leaves on them and I thought this was a real cheek considering the £12 price tag. When paying a high price I expect high standards of food and shouldn't have to spit out the tough leaves. The dish also didn't look very appetising, see picture.

For my main I ordered the grouse, which was perfectly cooked and it's dark flesh had a strong gamey flavour. At £28.50 I shouldn't have been expected to have to pay another £4 for a side dish of French beans, which were, firm, crunchy and buttery. The grouse came with bread sauce which was devine.You could taste just a hint of cloves in the background which complimented the dark strong meat. Jeff ordered the halibut with fennel purée and a lobster sauce. It was moist and firm and the very deep flavoured lobster sauce didn't overpower it. Lyd had the rotisserie of half a chicken, which was also perfectly cooked, crispy skin with moist flesh. The home made sage and onion stuffing and thyme gravy helped to enhance the flavour of the chicken.

Halibut with Fennel Puree and
Lobster Sauce
Jeff and myself finished the meal with a portion of cheese, shared between the two of us and Lyd had the chocolate fondant. Sometimes when you have a cheese board it is lacking in variety but we where given 5. The soft cheese was very aromatic (which almost made Lyd run out of the room as she hates cheese as much as I love it). The goats cheese was very intense. I had a bit of the fondant and it tasted a bit watery, but Lyd said it was well cooked, with a bitter taste and good gooey centre and the choclate truffle ice cream was incredible.

Rotisserie of Chicken
Although the meal was okay, I was not overblown by it, but it could have been because I was in a really irritable mood and was just looking for fault from the very start. With this in mind I will have to try it out again, that is going to be a hardship – NOT.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Spanish Chicken and Chorizo

This is another of my favourite dishes that over the years has become a regular evening meal. You can serve it with rice, bulgar wheat but I prefer cous cous. What I really love about this dish is the wonderful chorizo flavour that seeps into the tomato sauce, with its goregous smoky taste. Chorizo piccante has a great chilli kick, but if you cannot get this type, or you don't like spicy foods, then just get the normal chorizo.

This is another of those dishes that improves the longer you cook it, but it's fine if you just cook for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken thighs.

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
8 chicken thighs, skin removed
1 chroizo picante, peel off skin and cut into cubes
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp paprika
50g black pitted olives, sliced or whole
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to season
(serves 4)

Put chicken in a bowl and mix together with the paprika. Put the olive oil in a pan, heat then add the onion and garlic and gently fry until the onion is soft.

Put the chicken in the pan and stir in with the onions and garlic and cook for a 2-3 minutes, ensuring all the paprika goes into the pan. Add in the chorizo and also cook for about 2-3 minutes.

Add in the tinned tomatoes and tomato puree, olives and bay leaves, stir. Bring to a fast boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve in a bowl with the cous cous.