Archive | London

Recipe | Pumpkin pie

A pumpkin pie is for life…not just thanksgiving.

Defra and the City of London Pollution control team, are currently analysing some mysterious anomalies in their data for the end of November. With readings off the charts and new territories reached on the Decibel scale I hear they are truly puzzled.
Well… I will fess up. It was us!
Thanksgiving celebrations, west London area, a bajillion children and a lot of excited American ex pats celebrating their grand federal holiday. It was my first one and I loved it!

For those of you who have never celebrated thanksgiving think levels of Christmas preparation, planning and excitement just without the carols and presents.

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Thanksgiving is generally thought to have come about from the 102 Pilgrims who set sail on the Mayflower back in 1620. It was a very harsh first winter so most of them stayed on their ship. About half of them died and those that survived were understandably not in great shape. When they finally all came ashore come spring time they were met by local Native Indians who taught and helped them grow, hunt and gather food in order to survive in their new environment .

The pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest in November 1621 and invited some of the local Indians which many consider the first of thanksgiving. Over the years the tradition of giving thanks around harvest time spread to other areas but it wasn’t until 1863, during the civil war, that President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving would take place on the last Thursday each November. For a while the date was moved forward a week, this was done during the great depression in 1939 by Roosevelt to help boost sales but as so many objected in 1941 a bill was signed placing it on the forth Thursday of November where it remains set to this day.

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( above are the welcoming margarita clementine cocktails)

Over time it is not just the date that has changed but the menu as well.

Turkey meat was unlikely to have been part of the earlier Thanksgiving suppers, although they would have been some wild ones living around the Plymouth area where the pilgrims landed. It is likely they eventually got incorporated into the feast, as they were large enough to feed a crowd plus could be spared as they don’t lay lots of eggs (unlike chickens) or produce other useful produce like milk.

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Although I wouldn’t place Turkey at the top of my favourites list I was amused by the idea that every year in the States it has become custom for the president to pardon one.
From thousands of birds around 80 are randomly selected from the National Turkey federation. They are fed a quick fattening diet of grains and soybeans so they can look the part if they go on to be the ‘chosen one’. The 80 turkeys are put into celebrity turkey training camp and exposed to flashing camera lights, loud noises and given exposure to large crowds. Twenty finalists are then chosen to live on and are closely monitored to see which are the best behaved, most good-looking and largest. Eventually two ‘chosen’ ones will be named by The White House and then finally one will go on to be Americas next top turkey and the ‘pardoned’ one.

 

The tradition of giving turkeys to Presidents had been going on for many years but it was only since Reagan that they started being pardoned and not until 1998 in George HW Bush time that the tradition really set in. Once the razzmatazz of being spared is over the turkey will live out the rest of its days either in a petting zoo (in which case I cant help but feel the turkey may have preferred to get the chop rather than deal with being manhandled by hundreds of visitors a day), or on a farm probably in Virginia or even go to Disney land where it becomes the honorary marshal of the Thanksgiving day parade. I kid you not. One should note however as the turkey is encouraged to become in what human terms we call obese it doesn’t live that long anyway.

2016-11-30_0001 The thanksgiving meal I cooked for happened in two sittings. First came the bajillion children and then the adults. My morning was spent weight lifting huge turkeys from lidgates to the house , roasting and peeling mountains of chestnuts and sceptically making the star of this postcard recipe a, Pumpkin Pie.

Before you pumpkin pie fans raise your eyebrows at my scepticism (or you pumpkin pie non converts click away) let me explain. I am of the opinion if a certain dish was that good or that well loved it would appear more than just once a year, the British obsession with turkey at Christmas being my prime example.

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Pumpkin pie has never really been adopted by us Brits and from what I can tell only really gets attention the other side of the pond around thanksgiving. Well this has got to change ! Pumpkin pie it turns out is totally delicious and should be eaten for life (ok when is season) and not just for Thanksgiving .

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When the job was done and as I was saying my good byes we discussed what fun it was and I expressed how much I enjoyed cooking for my first Thanksgiving.
“Great” my clients said …
“Next year we will get you a baseball cap to cook in “! they yelled as I headed out the door
“ but perhaps maybe some ear plugs too ” I muttered as I headed down the street on to my next job …

So for this postcard recipe I give you… Pumpkin Pie.

This week

I love : Pumpkin pie
Every home should have : Alexa
Favourite pumpkin trivia : In 1705 the Connecticut town of Colchester famously postponed its Thanksgiving for a week because there wasn’t enough molasses available to make pumpkin pie.
Turkeys spared : 1 ( by Obama not me)

Pumpkin pie

You may wonder why I use squash when the title suggests I should be using pumpkin, basically squash is much less watery,  tastes better and close enough so allowed in.You may also wonder why there is no photo… basically  it got eaten before it could be papped !

Serves 8
You will need a 28 cm pie dish

For the pastry
250g plain flour plus extra for rolling
1 tbs icing sugar
1 x orange, zest only
50g cream cheese
100g butter, chilled
1 – 2 tbs iced water

1 medium butternut squash
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tbs demerera sugar
200ml maple syrup
4 tbsp brandy 
4 medium eggs, beaten
150ml evaporated milk

To make the pastry ,
In a food processor blitz the flour with the icing sugar and orange zest.
Grate in the butter and add the cream cheese in small spoonful’s. Pulse a few times.
Add the egg yolk and ½ tbs iced water and blitz. Stop as soon as the pastry starts to form into a dough (you may need to add a little more water.
Lightly flour a piece of baking paper and roll out the dough to line  your pie dish. Press well into the edges and reline with the sheet of baking paper.
Pre heat the oven to 200 °C
Leave to rest in the fridge for 30 mins then pour in baking beans and cook for 15mins , then remove the paper and beans and cook for a further 10( it should be lightly golden).
Leave to cool.

Reduce the oven to 175 °C.
Peel, deseed and chunk the squash into 1inch pieces. Toss with the cinnamon, ginger and the sugar.
Roast on a flat tray for 40mins or until soft.
Place in a food processor (scraping in a any spice bits from the tray) and blitz to smooth.
Place a clean thin tea towel or muslin cloth in a colander set over a bowl or pot and scoop in the squash puree. Leave to drain for 1 hour then weigh out 300g. You don’t need the remainder for this dessert so I popped mine into a celeriac and squash gratin but could go into a soup cet.).

Place the weighed puree into a bowl and hand whisk in the syrup, brandy, eggs and evaporated milk, you are just doing this to mix rather than to add volume or air into the mix.
Taste to see if it needs extra spices then pour into the pastry and bake for 40 mins – 1 hour or until set.
Leave to cool then serve in slices with whipped cream and plenty of American cheer.

Next Stop… Pheasant weekend shoot in Perthshire

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Recipe | Prawn, chicken and chorizo paella

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Leaping into spring some exciting developments have happened,

Firstly Philippa Davis, postcard recipes now has a face book page which I would love you all to like and share, I will be posting more photos, videos, cooking tips and recipes. Click here to like face book 

I also have been on the radio chatting to the lovely William Sitwell, editor of Waitrose Food, about life as a private chef. You can listen to the interview by clicking this link Radio Soho 

If you see a crocodile…

‘Row, row, row your boat’ has got to be a top classic when it comes to kids songs, this was made clear to me when my 5 year old niece recently gave me all her variations. Favourite renditions would have to include:

“Row, row, row your boat gently down the river

If you see a polar bear don’t forget to quiver”

Row, row, row your boat gently to the bay

If you see a pirate ship sail the other way “

Row, row, row your boat gently to the shore,

If you see a lion there don’t forget to roar”

These lines were unfortunately swimming round my head as I went to my job cooking for a party of 50 people celebrating the start of a rather serious and successful female London rowing team.

 

I love cooking for parties whether there are 2 or 150 guests expected (just providing I haven’t been told to cater for 2 and 150 show up). I know some find it more stressful then pleasurable catering for numbers so I thought I would use this blog post to give a few tips and tricks for preparing for a party.

Firstly anything you can prepare before the day, do and if you don’t have a fleet of staff at your disposable get some friends or family to help, its more fun.

The Table

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Laying tables, this can be done up to two days before the event if you turn the glasses up side down.

Flower arranging can be done the day before, if you have some where cool to keep them, and moved into situ on the morning, make sure they are either low enough to talk over or will tower high like a canopy above the seated guests. You can use anything from jam jars to Milano glass just try and get some sort of continuity with either colours, shapes or style. When decorating a large table it can take more time and flowers than you think.

 

Linen

Think how formal you want it to be and what sort of occasion you are catering for, if its for a rather fun loving and rowdy crowd you probably don’t want to get out your best white linen and spend the evening worrying that someone’s going to decorate it with their red wine.

Napkins – for large numbers believe me everyone hesitates whether it’s acceptable to use good quality paper instead of cloth. Trust me no one will ever go home tutting that the evening was spoilt not being able to dab their mouths with a Weissfee napkin.

Sort out serving dishes and utensils the day before (carefully dusting down that wedding gift dinner service you only use every seven years).

 

Drinks

Chilling drinks.

Nothing is worse than a warm glass of white wine (ok that’s a bit of an exaggeration but its not nice). Drinks can all be bought in advance and put in the chiller, remember it can take longer then usual when there are lots and the fridges and freezers are fuller than normal with food ect.

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Cocktails – are a thoughtful and fun way to start the party, I like to put seasonal twists on mine so at the moment it’s all about forced rhubarb or blood oranges.

Water – make sure you have lots of jugs or bottles at the ready and that they are refilled, no one will thank you for a hangover due to dehydration. If using jugs it delicious to put slices of lemon, lime or cucumber or sprigs of mint in.

 

Food shopping

In a ‘Stepford Wife’ (or husband as men these days are in the kitchen more than ever) perfect style world you would of course calmly gather all the ingredients from local shops and markets in ones wicker basket. In reality you are probably trying to juggle preparing for the party, taking little Johnny to the dentist and keeping a watch on that piece from 1stdibs that has caught your eye. So if short of time there is no shame in getting the bulk of ingredients in an Ocado delivery.

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The Menu

If you are a fearless and experienced cook its fine, you can choose to put soufflés for 16 on your menu or make 5 different flavoured macaroons for petit fours if not…choose dishes you have made before and that are not too complicated. It’s meant to be a fun occasion for everyone so it doesn’t make sense to choose something that causes tears and tantrums in the run up.

Don’t plan on making too many different dishes, its best to do a few really well then prepare a Caesar like feast.

Make sure one course is completely finished before guests arrived (I usually do the desserts) so there is less pressure and distraction on you as the host during the event.

Buffets (although not a word I love) or platters of food popped in the middle of the table are a brilliant way to feed a group and take my word for it everyone from Dukes to Captains of industry are doing it. This style of serving food has various advantages in that guests can control their own portion size, its saves time and space on plating up food and passing round food or gathering at the feeding trough can help break at the ice at the beginning.

 

Remember if you decide on using a buffet table think about the flow of people – centre isles are great as guests can work their way round and not cause a human traffic jam but if you have to serve from a table in the corner make sure they start at the wall end with the empty plates then work their way into the room finishing with picking up their cutlery and napkin.

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Choosing your menu

Good dishes to prepare for parties are ones that don’t take up too many pots and pans ( you don’t want a pile of washing up as guests arrive) or that can be made ahead and cooked or reheated on the day.

Curries, pies, cobblers, lasagnes and tagines are all good for this as well as paella which is the recipe for this postcard.

 

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This week

Philippa Davis postcard recipes now has a face book page, please click here to like and share face book

Boats rowed to shore: 9

This seasons party cocktail: Rhubarb, gin and prosecco

Paper vs Linen : Paper

Chilled drinks and hosts: 100 %

If you see a crocodile ; run!

Ive been on William Sitwells radio show Biting talk, click hear to listen

Biting talk 

 

Chicken, Chorizo and Prawn paella

Serves 12

The stock

Amazing soups, risottos and paellas start with an amazing stock so it is totally worth investing time and money in it.

If you don’t have a paella pan you can make it in one or two large frying pans and transfer it onto platters for serving.

2 tbs olive oil

2 large handfuls of prawn shells or 300g of prawns with their shell on

1 glass of white wine

½ a glass of dry sherry or brandy

1 free-range chicken carcasses

1 white onion peeled and roughly chopped

1 head of garlic sliced horizonattly in half

bunch of parsley stalks

1 tbs black peppercorns

1tbs fennel seeds

In a large pot fry the prawns shells in the oil until starting to slight;y brown then slosh in the wine and brady or sherry.

Add the there stock ingredients then fill the pot 1 inch from the top with cold water.

Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for about 1 hour ( preferably 2).

Drain the stock through a sieve into another sauce pan and leave to one side.

The Paella.

There are of course many variations including a rabbit and snail one, but no ones ever requested it. My favourite is this chicken, prawn and chorizo.

2 tbs olive oil plus a little extra for the chicken

2 white onions peeled and chopped into approx. 1 cm squares

2 red peppers chopped the same size as the onions

4 cloves of garlic finely chopped

6 bay leaves

300g cooking chorizo chopped into small chunks ( can be the spicy sort if that’s what you like).

10 skinless and boneless chicken breasts cut into 3’s (you can use more or less depending on how hungry the crowd you are feeding are)

840g paella rice

700g peeled raw prawns

2 handfuls of cooked peas

3 tbs finely chopped parsley

3 lemons

1 x large pinch of saffron mixed wih 50ml just boiled water

Bring the prepared stock to a simmer

In your frying / paella pan sear all the chicken pieces in a little of the olive oil till browned on each side then remove from the pan and put to one side (you are not cooking them through at this stage).

Then on a medium heat fry the onions, pepper, chorizo, garlic and bay leaves in the olive oil for about 10 minutes until lightly caramelised, stirring regularly.

Add the rice and stir well so everything is hot .

Carefully pour the stock onto the rice so it comes about 2 cm above the rice, add the chicken and season with salt and pepper.

Let the pan simmer till most of the liquid has been absorbed then test the rice to see if it needs more cooking and liquid.

Once the rice is almost there add the prawns and peas. Cook for another couple of minutes so the prawns cook through and the peas are hot.

Once everything is cooked sprinkle over the saffron water and parsley. Squeeze over the juice from one lemon then cut up the other 2 into wedges and place on top of the rice

Serve with garlicky aioli and a fresh crunchy green salad.

Note – You don’t want the paella too sloppy or dry so you will have to judge for yourself how much stock to add in the final stages of cooking.

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Next stop, Portugal…

 

 

 

 

 

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White truffle and butter Taglierini

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Diamonds are for… dinner.

With various Christmas parties to cook for in West London last week I was racing around town to some of my favourite food shops hunting and gathering the various delicious seasonal offerings currently available.

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In Holland Park, besides the landmark butchers Lidgates and the impressive wine merchant and deli Jeroboams there is an excellent old school fruit and veg shop called Michanicou. Not only is their produce top notch but so to is the service. Outside and inside the shop there are towers of boxes and crates stuffed with beautiful ingredients. The routine is you go in, stand in the middle and spiel out your order, the numerous staff then leap round the shop selecting it for you whilst engaging in shop keeper banter – this time it was mostly at my expense as we all tried to decipher my shopping list.

“5 x orang-utans” they chuckled …”3 x ridiculous lettuces ,1 x spaceship, why yes miss, of course, coming right up”!

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On the spare inch of wall without actual produce I noticed a sign that announced they could source white truffles upon request. “Mmmmmm”, I thought.

Having asked a few questions as to how the season was going (a little late this year) , how much I would need to order one in advance they proudly told me how they sometimes store them overnight in their elevenses biscuit tin.   From various taste tests they informed me that although truffle infused shortbread is delicious, Garibaldis were frankly just weird (good to know).

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White Truffles, known affectionately as diamonds of the kitchen are highly prized. They are generally available between October and December/January.

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As cultivation is generally not successful the wild treasure has to be foraged. Sometimes done with female pigs (the scent apparently similar to the male pigs pheromone) but more often with well-trained dogs as they cause less destruction to the habitat, are less likely to scoff the truffle and of course are easier to pop in the back of the car. The hunters go out in dark and secretive early hours of the morning, often taking elaborate routes so as not to be followed.

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When I got a thumbs up from my client that white truffle should indeed be on the menu I was on the other side of town so decided to pay Tartufaia in Borough Market a visit. I love buying food (and shoes) from the Italians. Unlike the French whom as much as I love and respect can make you feel like you really don’t know anything, the Italians are more than happy to indulge in answering all your questions.

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We opened the jars and sniffed , we chatted and went through what I wanted to do with my truffle, we debated and discussed what I should and shouldn’t add and both nearly had watery eyes of joy as we discussed just how special these fruiting bodies of subterranean tuber fungus are.

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Points of note I learnt were:

Never store in rice as it will dry them out (store lightly wrapped in kitchen paper in the fridge.

They will last up to two weeks from being dug out of the earth – but the sooner eaten the better.

Clean with a slightly dampened (new) toothbrush.

Although most famously the white ones are from Alba in the Piedmont area of Northern Italy they can also be sniffed out in other places like Emilia Romagna, Tuscany , Croatia and Slovenia.

Once we had finished our natter over the truffle (and had I paid) I excitedly headed back to West London to start the preparations for that night’s party. The menu read as follows

Christmas Clementine Mule – clementine juice, lime, vodka and ginger beer

Canapé -Black olive tapenade crostini

Starter – White truffle with Taglierini and butter

Main – Slow cooked ossobuco in milk, sage and garlic with saffron risotto, braised cavalo nero and roasted carrots with garlic confit.

Dessert – Salted Caramel chocolate mousse.

It was a great joy to serve steaming bowls of hot pasta with lashings of white truffle shavings on top and to see the delight of guests as they were bought to the table.

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The next day the house was reset and ready to welcome 20 ladies for lunch and then it was time to pack my bags, don my country coat and head West.

This week;

Clementine: Mince Pie ratio 3:1

Every home should have: a mandolin

I’m loving : London’s Christmas Lights

White Truffle bought: 64g

I’m traveling: by Underground

I am delighted to contribute to the wonderful Yapp Brothers wine merchants a Christmas food and wine matching piece.

 

 

Taglierini with white truffle and butter.

Serves 6

30g white truffle

300g fresh egg taglierini pasta

1 yolk

100g freshly grated Parmesan

100g truffle butter

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This is not so much of a recipe as an instruction.

If serving truffle as a starter you want about 5 g each, make sure you have a truffle slicer or mandolin ( I had to visit 3 cook shops in W11 before I could find somewhere where they hadn’t sold out) to get the perfect thin slices.

Do not use truffle oil to enhance the flavour but you can use truffle butter like I did.

Don’t be tempted to add parsley to the dish. Just don’t.

Prep the truffle by brushing any dirt of with a slightly damp new toothbrush.

Cook the fresh egg pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water then drain (reserving some of the water).

Whisk a splash of hot pasta water with the yolk then add the Paremsan, toss through the butter and pasta.

Pile onto a warm serving bowl or share between warm starter plates then immediately shave over the truffle in very thin slices.

Next postcard from a pheasant shoot weekend in Herefordshire…

 

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Recipe | Roast Cauliflower, sour cherry and almond salad

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Getting the party started…

If you are prone to muttering ‘bah humbug’ at the first sightings of fairy lights / Christmas wrapping paper or mince pies you probably want to skip reading this blog and just enjoy the photos. Though on second thoughts anyone who ever bleats ‘bah humbug’ at the sight of a mince pie probably needs help. My work diary definitely suggests the festive party season is here with parties galore coming up over the next few weeks and I for one cant wait to get the Christmas decorations down from the attic.

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Before that happens however all my focus is on planning menus, working out logistics and where to source the best produce for the rest of this year’s jobs.

My latest one was cooking for a dinner party then a ladies lunch in West London. I have a good knowledge of London food shops and always find it relatively easy whirling around town getting my hand on the desired produce (though occasionally lose mini battles trying to navigate the tube at Earls court). I almost came a cropper when out shopping this time ‘round though when I was on the search for a gammon for the lunch party the next day.

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The first butchers I visited, who is usually very good, quickly turned into a Monty Python sketch.

“Hello, I’d like to get a 3 kilo gammon, you know, to make ham.” Says I and off the nice lady went to open the door to the butchers out the back and shouts out my order.

Then a butcher comes out with a leg of lamb.

“3 kilo lamb for you Miss?”

“er… no I said gammon for Ham”

“ah, Miss here did not say lamb” he shouts at the nice lady.

“Pork”! she shrieks .

He then trots of again and came back with a rolled leg of pork.

Deep breath… anyhow it turns out they didn’t sell gammon.

So next I get out my phone and start googling local butchers, its getting dark and I am keen to get back to base to crack on with further supper prep. The first one that comes up on the list is shutting in five minutes and doesn’t answer the phone so I ring the second that doesn’t look too far away.

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“Oh, hello’ says I “Do you sell gammon, you know for making ham”

“ No madam, we are halal” he politely tells me.

“Ah , I see”.

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I ended up ringing one of the best butchers in town, Lidgates in Holland Park and ordered a 3 kilo gammon to collect super early the next morning.

Lidgates is quite an experience, so much so tourists and meat lovers make pilgrimages to ogle and worship outside its window, or take mini-mortgages out to go inside and actually buy something. I bounced up to the service desk to collect my order and tentatively asked to see inside the already smartly packaged joint just in case we were not on the same page. I explained to the lady that I had had some trouble getting hold of this and just wanted to check.

She totally understood and mentioned how many of their American clients had confusions ordering their Thanks Giving and Christmas hams as for them the terms ham, gammon and bacon are all interchangeable.

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In the UK gammon is the cured back leg of a pig and once cooked it can be called ham. I have had experiences in Scotland of butchers calling ham gammon and in the states butchers calling gammon ham. So I have now ended up whenever ordering these cuts getting into a conversation about what I plan to do with it, probably slightly boring for the poor butcher but at least everyone ends up happy.

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Once the gammon was successfully bought I arrived nice and early at the client’s house to prep for the ladies lunch party for 30. We had created a lovely menu that was perfect for the occasion and it read as follows.

 

Rare roast fillet of beef with thyme and sea salt

Quinoa herb and seed salad with roasted aubergines and romesco sauce.

Baked ham glazed with maple syrup.

Roasted turmeric, cauliflower, sour cherry and almond salad.

Baked side of salmon with watercress mayonnaise

Beetroot, honey glazed carrots, kohlrabi and beluga lentil salad

Desserts

Lemon tart wit crème fraiche

Baked fruit with honey ricotta, lemon and pistachio praline.

Flourless chocolate cake with mascarpone

 

The super chic ladies piled in bang on time and the party quickly got underway. The food went down a treat (especially the ham) and I couldn’t help but feel the festive season had begun.

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This postcard shares the recipe for the roasted cauliflower salad which, as it happens, goes really well with ham!

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This Week:

Every home should have: Faberge China

Festive feelings: warming up.

Ratio of gammons ordered successfully : 1 in 3

I’m listening to : Macklemore and Ryan / Monterverdes Vespers.

Party dress envy levels: High.

Cocktails invented : 1 (Mexican hibiscus flower with lime, sugar, tequila, gin and prosecco).

 

 

Cauliflower, turmeric, sour cherries and toasted almond salad

Serves 6 as a side dish

1 cauliflower

1 dsp turmeric,

1 dsp ground cumin

1 crushed garlic clove ( peel and crush with salt with back of knife)

Olive oil

1 handful sour cherries

1 large handful of toasted almonds, skin on.

Splash of orange or apple juice

1 radicchio

1 small box of coriander sprouts

½ lemon

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Pre heat the oven to 180 ° C.

Soak the sour cherries in the juice.

Floret the cauliflower and place in a bowl.

Season with salt and pepper

Add the turmeric, cumin, garlic and a splash of olive oil.

Toss well.

Roast for 20 – 30 mins flat on a baking sheet till golden and soft.

To serve squeeze the lemon over the radicchio and toss through the cauliflower almonds and sour cherries.

Next stop… its party time over in Dublin.

 

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Recipe | Tips and tricks to perfect lamb chops and Quinoa salads

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School of wok…

Travelling East from the blossoming West Country towards the big smoke for my latest job my mind was speeding along faster than the train (although admittedly that’s not always difficult). The days ahead were really going to challenge me in different ways and my skills and knowledge were to be put to the test…I was excited.

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Was I about to cook for a tyrannical tycoon using only ingredients beginning with the letter Q?…no.  Perhaps create an entirely aquamarine coloured menu for a stroppy model?…nope.  It wasn’t even to whip up lunch for 50 with only ingredients bought at Waterloo station. No, I had been commissioned to teach my client how to cook.

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I have done various classes before including cookery parties for kids where their main objective seems to be how much chocolate they can eat before I object and Christmas cookery demonstrations that inevitably end in festive cocktail making.

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In professional kitchens you are of course continuously learning and teaching and in my experience although knowledge and enthusiasm is essential, clarity is also important. I remember once a very busy lunchtime shift at the café I set up for the Mudchute city park and farm.  I yelled out at my new trainee to grab the box of broad beans from outside and shuck them.

He looked at me startled then seeing my stare scuttled off.  He came back 10 minutes later empty handed.

“Where are my broad beans?!’

“I chucked them… on the compost.”

He didn’t make the grade as a chef but you will be glad to know he did go on to be a rather successful actor.

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Teaching someone at home to cook is a lot more tranquil. My client was starting from scratch confessing never having cooked before.  I felt we had a head start as they were certainly knowledgeable about various foods and I had noticed the house was always stocked with top notch produce.

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The first session was how to cook various types of fish, including fried sea bass, seared scallops, cod En papillote and salmon. (I have lots of tips on cooking fish published in this months issue of The Field Magazine). We then moved onto cuts of meat including some spectacular lamb chops, slow cooked lamb shoulder, butterflied chicken and juicy rump steaks. We did a session on stir fries, soups and sauces and for our ‘grand finale’ we rustled up an entire lunch for a group of her friends.  The menu read as follows :

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 Baked side of salmon, with lemon and fennel

Served with a Salsa verde and a hot black olive and anchovy sauce.

 Tomato and hazelnut pesto with mozzarella and nectarines

 Quinoa salad with roasted courgette, lemon, avocado and herbs.

 Flourless chocolate cake and salted caramel ice cream

 

The lunch was a great success and I was delighted my client, who swears they have never cooked before, knocked out plate after plate of delicious food.

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Job done, mortarboards tossed and (school)bags packed I am now heading on for the next job….

For this postcard recipe I will give you some tips on cooking lamb chops (as we agreed we totally nailed it) and a recipe on how to properly cook quinoa.

 

This week;

Gold stars given :5

Detentions : 0

I raised an eyebrow at: The price of meat from the local butcher.

Range rover to Porsche ratio spotted in W11:   5:1

I have had: My postcard recipe from Provence published in the American journal ‘The Cooks Cook’  and an article on a day in the life of a private chef (this can be found in the Cooks World Section).

The word is : Aquamarine IS the colour to be seen in.

 

For more snippets and photos of my week you can follow me on

Instagram @phollowphilippa

and

Twitter @phollowphilippa

 

Tips and tricks for cooking chops

My first job in London was at the amazing Lidgate butchers.  Amazing for many reasons  – the meat is renowned for quality and I know that any meat aspiring to be sold from their blocks has to endure vigorous scrutiny and have impressive credentials before being allowed even in the front door.  Its also amazing that it’s the kind of shop that passers by stop and peer in just to have a look at the old fashioned splendor from the meat displays to the quaint staff uniforms.    The price unfortunately is also quite amazing.

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 To cook a great lamb chop:

 When to buy lamb?

You can obviously buy it all year round but for those in the UK Spring lamb is great for its tenderness but as the animal hasn’t had much time on lush grass it can lack flavour.  I prefer to wait till summer when they have had time to graze and build up a more interesting taste.

 How to store your lamb.

If vac packed remove from the plastic as this draws out moisture and flavour and wrap instead in parchment.

Before cooking generally with meat you want to bring it to room temperature however if you like your lamb chop pink keep it in the fridge, this way you can cook it long enough to render the fat but the meat will still stay pink.

 Marinades

Marinades really only add a layer of flavour to the outside, start with a good piece of lamb and don’t always feel tempted to swamp it with too many spices and herbs.

 How to cook

Start cooking the chops by placing them on their edge fat side down in a cold frying pan  Turn the heat to low  / medium and slowly let the fat render (cook down) . If you start in a hot pan it is too easy to nicely colour the outside of the fat but still leave it pretty inedible.

Once you have rendered the fat, which can take about 7 minutes turn the heat up drain away the excess then sear both flat sides for about 1 ½ mins each.

If you only decide to take one piece of advice from this list let it be this one…

Once cooked, LET IT REST.  When you cook meat the fibres firm up and the water is pushed out, if you cut it immediately you are likely to lose a lot of this and end up with dry meat. Resting lets the juices redistribute and so keeps it moist and flavourful.

We served our with a cardamom and cumin roasted aubergine and a chilli mint yogurt.

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 Quinoa salad

Many would have you believe it has a delightful nutty taste (which it kind of does especially the darker coloured types) but I definitely think it is one of those ingredients that needs as much help as it can get or it is very boring.

 Despite the way we cook Quinia it is actually a seed and not a grain so great for those of you with wheat allergies wanting to bulk out your dishes.

Unusual for a vegetable it has all 9 amino acids and so is a balanced source of protein (great if you don’t eat meat). It also has a good dose of fibre and iron.

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To cook Quinoa

Rinse before cooking as it is naturally has a bitter coating to protect to from predators (many varieties available have been pre rinsed but it cant hurt to do it twice).

Simmer 1 part Quinoa with 2 parts cold liquid (either water, a light vegetable or chicken stock).

Cook for about 10  – 15 minutes or until just soft then drain.

Leave to stand for 5 minutes then fluff up with a fork.

Once cooked there is a huge choice of what you can add making it a great solution to using up odd bits of herbs, vegetables and fruit you may have lurking in your fridge.

We added

Roasted courgettes, avocado, mint, parsley, coriander, chilli, olive oil, fennel, radish, celery and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

Other favourite additions include; pomegranates, cinnamon, cardamom, apple slices, dried cranberries, toasted nuts and seeds.

 

 Next stop…I’m off to the river Findhorn to cook for a salmon fishing party

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Recipe|Roast beetroot, Umbrian lentil, blood orange and honey ricotta salad

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The Ladies lunch…

I have been cooking for the week in various impressive kitchens in West London for ladies lunches. With not a Cosmopolitan in sight – in reading or drinking format it was not quite what you would expect.

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All the clients had chosen to have a relaxed buffet style with lots of dishes to choose from.   Cold cuts of meat, baked fish and lots of interesting winter salads and yes desserts and bread baskets too.

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Feeling delighted to be back in the big smoke with an enormous choice of amazing food shops, buying the best ingredients was easy, navigating the Circle and District line around Kensington less so. Zooming around to various markets, fishmongers and trusty Waitrose I managed to get exactly what I was looking for (and more as is usually the way).  I am also beginning to discover the glory and usefulness of our Thames river bus service, which I would highly recommend as a mode of serious transport or for a fun jaunt.

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With more FT’ s than G&T’s at the party I was most impressed by the…well I was actually most impressed by the beautiful shoes…but food wise, that for dessert an entire lemon tart got demolished pastry and all.  Sometimes it is sadly left while the filling gets scooped off.

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There was however a noticeable shift in my cooking style veering away from the shoot style hearty lunches and rich dinners and turning towards the fresh new produce now in season, like blood oranges, purple sprouting broccoli, and forced rhubarb. Olive oil was very much replacing butter, yogurt replacing cream and an even greater use of fresh herbs and citrus to keep bold but fresh flavours.

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Platters cleared away and the ladies having scooted off (though I hope not too fast in those heels!) to do various school runs and to get back to work, the parties finished up and then it was time to get on with prep for the next feast…a dinner party for 10 in the city of Westminster.

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 This Week

Shoe envy levels: seriously high

It’s all about Greek Olive oil from Olive Tree London

Every home should have: an Alexander the Great

Mode of transports included boats, trains, planes and busses.

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Next I’m heading off across the channel to the Alps and the ski resort of Tignes.

 

Roast beetroot, Umbrian lentils and honey with ricotta winter salad.

 

Serves 8 as a side salad

4 raw beetroots (I used golden and red ones)

1 tbs olive oil for cooking

 

200g Umbrian lentils

1 garlic clove

a few parsley stalks

½ a chilli cut lengthways

 

200g ricotta

2 tsp honey

 

3 sticks celery

20g parsley

20g dill

20g mint

2 blood oranges

2 avocados

 

To dress the salad

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tbs olive oil

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Pre heat the oven to 180°C.

Scrub the beetroots and boil in water till cooked (depending on size this can take 30  mins- 1 hour

Drain then scrape away the skin. Cut into wedges and drizzle with the cooking oil. Roast on a tray till slightly caramlised (about 30 mins).

 

Meanwhile place the lentils in a pan and cover with water to 1 inch above.

Add the garlic clove, chilli, parsley stalks and bring the boil.

Simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes or until just cooked.

If there is still lots of water left once cooked drian away most of the excess then season with salt and pepper.

 

Mix the ricotta with the honey and season with salt and pepper.

 

When ready to serve remove the skin and pith off the oranges and slice into thin rounds

Chop the celery into 1 cm pieces and the avocado into small chunks.

Finely chop the herbs and add them to the lentils along with the lemon juice, chopped celery and avocado.

Layer the lentils, beetroots, oranges in a bowl and top with scoops of honeyed ricotta.

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Recipe |Fish Pie

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Hark to herald the fish pie

Heading back to London on the train, after a very quick nip to Dorset, I found myself checking my calculations:

18 kilos of fish,

10 kilos of potatoes,

a dairy herd’s entire supply of milk,

2 kilos of cheese

The man in the suit who sat next to me on the train must have thought he was sitting next to some crazy lady with her mutterings of smoked haddock and calculations of how much butter to use to make a million pints of white sauce. That was until he got his lap top and phone out and sounded just as distracted frenziedly working out some project evolving drums of paint, car parks and overtime.  By the time we had reached Waterloo I think we had both managed to come to our final conclusions and scurried off in opposite directions to complete our plans.

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My job was to cook for aChristmas party in West London where guest numbers were estimated between 50 and 120 people.  The Party’s menu read as follows:

 

Canapés

Gougéres

Bresaola and balsamic

Beetroot Hummus

Chili Crab cakes

Smoked salmon blini

Main 

Fish Pie and Winter Salad

Dessert

Tiramisu

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I think Fish pie is a great idea for large parties, besides being super tasty and a crowd pleaser you can prepare it advance, it can be eaten with just a fork so no need for formal seating and keep hot for a while so doesn’t matter if not everyone eats at once.  Making 100 portions of it I have to say was a serious workout with the chopping, stirring of roux and carrying the dishes from here to there. I have to make fish pie for 30 next week but I guess in comparison it will seem as easy as knocking up dinner for two.

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The party was a great success and as the canapés and aperitifs flowed and when the carol singing started the noise levels got pretty impressive.  The only problem was that my cue to get out the fish pies and dress the salad was when the group who were singing got on to “Hark the HeraldAngels Sing” .  Now to be honest I am sure the group were very good at singing but through a crowd of 70 others merrily chatting away suddenly every carol sounded like Hark the HeraldAngels Sing.  On tenterhooks in the kitchen, unable to pass through the crowd, I desperately listened to try to catch a few words of whatever carol they were on.

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I realised that quite a few carols have the words ‘glory’, ‘peace’, ‘king’, ‘Bethlehem’ and I admit I almost made a false start with dressing the salad (I know, shock horror indeed!)  I was saved however when above the noise I recognised an impressive rendition of the final verse of Hark the Herald and so as the words  “Sing Choirs of Angels” were drifting through the house the fish pies piled out of the ovens and huge plates of salads with pomegranates, toasted almonds and roasted squash were assembled.

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This postcard recipe of fish pie (Ihave scaled down the quantaties!) I hope will be of use over the festive period as its good to have a change from eating loads of meat and it’s a great way to feed a crowd.

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This Week:

Mince pies consumed : 1

Mince pies made: 0

I’ve developed a slight anxiety complex when I hear: Hark the HeraldAngels Sing

Seen: 7 swans a swimming (in Hyde Park)

 

Fish Pie

Feeds 12

Mashed potato topping

1 kilo of mashing potatoes(ie Maris Piper)

40g butter

150 ml milk

Fish pie filling

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 heads of fennel

3 white onions

6 sticks celery

4 tablespoons of capers or chopped gherkins

4 tablespoon chopped parsley

450g smoked haddock; skinned, deboned and chopped into bite size pieces

300g salmon, deboned and chopped into bite size pieces

300g white fish like Pollok, deboned and chopped into bite size pieces.

250g raw prawns

White sauce

50g butter

100g plain flour

800ml milk

100g grated cheddar

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Peel the potatoes and put them on to boil. Once soft drain and mash add the 40g butter and 50 ml milk and beat the potato for a minute or two with a fork so smooth and fluffy.

Meanwhile

In the olive oil fry the onion, fennel and celery. Season with salt and pepper.

Make the white sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan, when melted add the flour and whisk. Slowly add the milk whisking continually, it will start very thick, then get very liquid then thicken again.  Season with salt and pepper.

*To the white sauce add the fish, sautéed vegetables , capers and parsley. Mix well then pour into your pie dish.  Top with mashed potato and finally the cheese.

Bake at 180° c  for 40 mins. or until piping hot and golden on top.

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*If making in advance to cook later let the white sauce and vegetables cool before adding the fish as its dangerous to semi cook the fish.  Once fully assembled keep in the fridge till ready to cook.

 

Next stop…Wales.

 

 

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Recipe |Panettone Bread and butter pudding

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The Pudding of Christmas Present…

What better way to stir up the Christmas spirit than to invite the cast from theatre company Dorset Corset’s adaption of ‘A Christmas Carol’ to dinner? The actors filed into the house with merry tunes and a jig in their step. The days rehearsing had gone really well and curtain up was in 8 days.

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(Dorset Corset poster for the show)

With the music director straight on the task of handing out the chilled gin in double quick time the party swung into action. Taking stage centre on the dinner table were apple and pork sausages, buttered mash and savoy cabbage with slow cooked tomato, cinnamon and Parmesan.

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The dish that really stole the show however, which makes it as this postcard’s recipe, was the Panettone bread and butter pudding. Laced with Christmas spice, nuggets of candied peel and oozing with creamy vanilla custard it got rave reviews and is heading straight to the West End (well, I am anyway).

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Dorset Corsets ‘A Christmas Carol’ is being performed in the Shelley theatre in Boscombe near Bournemouth from wednesday 17th December  – 24th December  tickets can be bought on their website

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This week:

Hungry theatrics fed: 10

Actors playing the part of Kermit: 0

After dinner entertainment: the usual singing, dancing, circus acts etc…

Rowdy guests thrown out of house: 1 (a ridgeback).

Mince pies personally consumed: still 0 !

 

Panettone bread and butter pudding

 

Feeds 12

With a sudden final head count the 1 panettone I had bought was not quite enough so I added some brown bread into the mix and it was delicious.   This recipe will definitely be making a repeat performance over Christmas as it was perfect for a hungry crowd.

 

 700g Panettone (or mix of bread)

150 g soft butter

600ml double cream

200ml whole milk

1 stick cinnamon

2 tsp vanilla extract

9 eggs

175g caster sugar

½ nutmeg

2 tbs. Demerara sugar

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Method

Pre heat the oven to 180°C.

Slice the bread into 1 cm thick pieces. Spread each piece with butter, cut on the diagonal then layer in a large baking dish

In a saucepan heat the milk, cream, cinnamon stick and vanilla till it comes just to the boil.

Meanwhile in a large bowl crack the eggs and whisk in the caster sugar.

When the cream mix is hot strain the liquid (discarding the cinnamon stick) into the eggs and whisk.

Pour onto the buttered bread in the dish and leave to soak in for 10 – 15 minutes.

Grate on top the nutmeg sprinkle on the Demerara sugar and bake in the oven for 25 – 30 mins (you want it slightly browned on top and with a little wobble).

It should be wet enough not to need anything but an extra dash of cream to serve never goes a miss.

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Jobs done, bags repacked, next stop West London to whip up a fish pie for 100….

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Recipe | Roast Turbot with dill and lemon yogurt

 

 

Icon   London’s Calling…

 

I had assumed pheasants were not the brightest of creatures but judging by the number of them skulking around the house on my Yorkshire shooting job they knew exactly where the safest place was to hang out.  Sadly for the grouse who tend to lurk on the moors in amongst the heather there was less of a safety net and many of them will now have made their way onto the diners plate in the big smoke.

 

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From Yorkshire I also made my way down to London.  I was truly excited to be back in the city where the streets are paved with food shops, restaurants pop up faster than ground weed and I had a dinner party to cook for near Earls Court.

 

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I was delighted that the client chose fish as a main course for their party. Most people this time of year, myself included, begin to feel the nippy air outside, see the golden leaves begin to fall and dive straight into eating from the hearty bag of mixed game that is so abundant around now.

 

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My client decided on turbot for their main course, the left eyed flat fish, which I think makes as an impressive main course. Here is that evening’s menu.

 

Nibbles

Deep fried mussels with walnut tarator 

Warm chorizo bites cooked in cider and parsley

Beetroot and hummus dip with crisp bread and crudités

Quails eggs with salt and pepper

Bowls of warm salted almonds/ marinated olives

Starter

Salad of seared venison fillet with roast butternut squash, buttered spiced quince, pomegranates and pecorino cheese with balsamic dressing

Main

Roast turbot with lentil and saffron rice pilaf, crispy onions, dill and lemon yogurt and roast beetroots

Dessert

Chocolate mousse with baked cinnamon plums, mascarpone and hokey pokey

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From top left moving clockwise , baked cinnamon plums, melting chocolate,  hokey pokey,  baked plums with the brandy and poached quince , dessert, dessert being plates.

Having previously lived and worked in London for years I had a good idea of where I wanted to buy ingredients.  Borough market has a good selection of butchers for the venison starter and I went to the South Kensington Branch of Moxons fishmongers for the Turbot. http://www.moxonsfreshfish.com 

 

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I had ordered Turbot for 12 so upon my arrival to collect it I was presented with a whole 4.3 kilo fish – pretty big.  For more casual parties I would have kept it whole but for formal dinners it is neater and quicker to serve and thus keep warm if it is  pre portioned. The fish was tranched which  keeps a bit of bone in each portion so cooks beautifully and looks great so I have to admit I got the fishmonger to tackle this beast.

 

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Curious how long it would take a Turbot to grow to 4.4 kilos I asked and found out that it would be between 10 – 12 years.  It had been caught by nets in the Gulf stream between France and Cornwall and landed at Plymouth.  This alarmed me as other unwanted fish are  often caught  in the nets then thrown back dead. The fishmonger said the boat my turbot was on was a day boat so returns everyday with its catch meaning less throw back and not too unethical.  I was obviously relived but it reminded me that we constantly need to question how food is grown and killed and where it comes from.  http://www.fishfight.net

 

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Making a fleshy meaty fish the main course is a great idea at this time of year with all the Christmas parties and events that are coming up, otherwise it can easily feel like an unpleasant feasting marathon.  Serving it with herb yogurt keeps it fresh and interesting and you can introduce some exciting middle eastern flavors into the side dish like a spiced cinnamon pilaf, fragrant saffron and turmeric potatoes or warm herb and preserved lemon chickpea salad.

 

This postcard recipe gives you the recipe for roasting the turbot and the dill and lemon yogurt

 

Serves 4

 

Roast Turbot

Turbot portions, allow 180g/200g per person with the bone in (you can get your fishmonger to tranche it for you).

1 garlic clove finely chopped

1 tsp red chili chopped

3 tsp finely chopped parsley

1 tbs olive oil plus a little extra to grease the roasting dish

4 circular thin slices of lemon

 

1)Lightly grease a roasting dish with olive oil.

2)In a large mixing bowl add the chili, garlic, parsley and olive oil.

3)Individually gently mix the turbot portions in the parsley mix and lay them on the roasting tray – giving them room to roast evenly.

4)Pre heat the oven to 190 c and roast for 10 minutes.

One of the beauties of cooking with fairly chunky fish on the bone is that it will happily sit there for a few minuets keeping its heat, moisture and texture.

 

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Dill and Lemon Yogurt

6 tbs plain yogurt

1 tbs finely chopped dill

juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

1 tbs olive oil

 

Mix all the ingredients together, season with salt and black pepper and leave in the fridge until 1/2 hour before needed to let it come up to room temperature to bring out the flavors.  Spoon on top of the fish to serve.

 

 

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Show someone you love them by giving them the fish cheek  – its delicious.

Next week I am off to Israel to cook for some dinner parties and help kick start a healthy eating regime…

This week’s mode of transport… an East Coast train, an Audi estate and the london underground’s District line.

 

 

 

 

 

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