Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Hallows' Eve dinner party

Last night my incredible husband cooked another feast for five guests including us. The only thing we didn't prepare ourselves were the sundried tomatoes. It was marvellous, the menu was:

Amuse bouche - crostinis prepared by moi (mackerel pate, sundried tomatoes and artichoke)


Pumpkin ravioli with witches' sage butter

Main course

Pot roasted pheasant flavoured with orange on a bed of brussel sprouts and bacon served with chesnut duchess potatoes


Pear and blackberry crumble with hazelnut icecream

There were things that went really well. Lovely guests as always. Conversation was a bit worky-work orientated but c'est la vie. The halloween theme worked wonderfully with hubby preparing a family of hollowed out pumpkins for the occasion. The wine was delectable, we have rediscovered Mersault, beautiful. The halloween theme spread to the menu with the pumpkin ravioli which worked very well, a very interesting set of tastes, the sweetness of the pumpkin set off well against the savoury sage butter. The main course was a great recipe from one of our fave recipe books - Off Duty - by chefs; apparently what they cook when they're 'off duty'. The pheasant was good with a delicious jus. We could have got a potato bag to squeeze the duchesses out of, but had to make do with an icing sugar one. The Hazelnut Icecream was declared the star of the evening with husband announcing that this was the best thing he had ever made, and I had to concur. We finished with Betty's coffee and some Yorkshire cheeses from Booths'. A great evening.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Maggie's autumnal pear tort

This is a great recipe if you have a pear tree or happen to have a load of cheap pears. Firstly make the shortcrust pastry : 200g of flour, 100g of lard or butter and 1 beaten egg. You put the flour in the food processor, whizzing the fat into the flour. Gradually add the beaten egg and make sure it isn't too wet! Make it into a dough ball and wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to chill for half an hour. Meanwhile peel 12 pears, and quarter, taking out the seeds. Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan and gently fry the pears for five minutes. Add brown sugar, a little bit of lemon juice and cinnamon. Put in a seven or eight inch sandwich tin (a tin for sponge cakes with plenty of butter (about 2 ounces each tin). Cut the pastry in half, roll out into a circle the size of the tin. Put the pears in the tin with the pastry on top at about 190 degrees C. Will be ready after 15-20 minutes (keep an eye on it).

Mackerel salad

I have discovered a brilliant new salad inspired by Connie and also the Three Crowns in Stoke Newington. It is mackerel, warmed up in the oven for about seven minutes. Served on a bed of salad leaves: ideally watercress, coriander and spinach leaves amongst them. Sprinkled with walnuts, grated apple and beetroot to the side. Garnished with lemon wedges which you then squeeze on the mackerel. Perfect. For more wintry days you can add some carbs, like I did today - a jacket potato with cottage cheese.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sous Le Nez in Leeds: Our New Favourite Restaurant

On my desk there is a globe which I gaze at often to get a sense of perspective if something isn't going right. I also have a photograph of the earth in space which does the same. This restaurant and other good ones in the world give me the same feeling. You are soaking up time on the earth, because when it is this good you want it to last. This amazing restaurant brings happy memories of our lovely Honeymoon, back in time, in the Loire Valley. So we had a lengthy debate invovling Wikipedia about what to have as an aperitif. Husband doesn't like them as much as me, in the end we both had champagne. Apologies to all our friends and relatives with substance abuse issues - there's quite a number - but at this restaurant you can fully understand why this occurs. In a sentence: The wine is divine. We celebrated the completion of my MA in this place and thank God we did. It was so good I could hardly remember it, so we just had to go back three weeks later, where I ordered exactly the same starter (absolutely unheard of) and gave it a second run for reviewing purposes. It was the most delicious scallops dish I have ever had, perfectly cooked with the a gorgeous two sauce combination of mushrooms and leeks. I followed this up with monk fish and tomatoes, again a classic. Husband had crab followed by halibut. The real reason for coming to this restaurant though - let's be honest the service is refreshingly French - is for the liquid accompaniment. Jean Denis the sommelier must be the best in the country, or one of the best. Have I said the wine was divine? The aroma was crushed thyme with lemon and apple. The taste was so interesting, slivers of silvery liquid gold. JD decanted it for us and we made every last drop last. For dessert I had roasted figs with mascapponne ; husband had cheese and biscuits. Heaven. On Earth.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Food for the brain...

A friend recommended a website which helps people manage their mental health through nutrition. Good advice. It's the whole nature - nurture argument, that whatever we are blessed with from our parents, we can build on through looking after ourselves well. I've had a lot of nurturing food just recently and I intend to write all the recipes up on this blog soon: Dad's lentil hot pot, Mum's spag bol, Mary's chicken soup, Doreen's cottage pie, Maggie's butter bean and sausage goulash, Maggie's pear tort, Cookie's three mustard pork strogganoff. My own chicken and stilton strog. Yum. The running is going well too, I've been out six out of seven days last week!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

MA handed in

Life is about good and bad, life and death, sickness and health. We have had a bit of bad news, but also some good news. For those reading this who know me well, do give me a ring on my mobile if you want to find out the bad news. For everyone else, this blog is supposed to be an uplifting account of what I've been up to. Firstly I have handed in the MA. That is definitely good news. We have celebrated with some wonderful meals out in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland: Le Souz de Nez in Leeds (9/10), Bentley's Oyster Bar in Dublin (9/10), The Winding Stair in Dublin (9/10) and Eden in Dublin (9.2/10). We have bought a new car - four wheel drive for hubby's snow driving this winter. Before anyone collapses with shock - it's a green estate audi (again). We can drive to see all our friends and family now, so expect a call soon if you know us. I have been running - four times on the trot this week, a record for me. Very chuffed with that.