Saturday, December 6, 2008

recipes for dan's mother

to say that this menu is a pain would be an understatement. the real problem lies in the delivery process. the last time we had attempted a menu like this was last year and the sad fact is that age must be destroying memory faster than i'd imagined. on thursday we tried a new way with the dauphinoise, big mistake. yesterday we remembered how we had prepared them but it was too quiet to get a good test, so we'll have the big test tonight.

anyway dan was in last night and wanted the parsnip and sprout recipe. as the rugby is yet to start, here they are.

creamed parsnip (courtesy of basil's brasserie, where tony once worked and at which i regularly ate) 

parsnips cooked in salted water, mashed or blitzed.
cream orcreme fraiche (my favourite)
lemon juice if cream
salt and pepper.

mix and season to taste.

sprout pangrattata

sprout, sliced thinly and blanched in boiling, salted water.

pangrattata: you will need olive oil, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, garlic (quite alot) and parsley.

put lots of olive oil in a pan and heat, add the garlic and sweat, you can colour it a little. add the breadcrumbs and toast in the oil. when they are crispy add the lemon zest and parsley. add to the sprouts in the proportions that you like.

sorry to dan's mother if you didn't want this.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

callas-di stefano

driving home last saturday i listened to a 1955 recording of lucia di lammermoor by donizetti. it was conducted by von karajan and starred mariad callas and giuseppe di stefano in the roles of lucia and edgardo. it got me thinking about the role that chance pays in your life. (i'm reading soem pop-physics at the moment about shrodinger's kittens) i never imagined that opera would ever play a part in my life, neither cooking. however many years ago, as a student, i was lucky enough to go to poland whilst it was still a communist country (if only in name). whilst there we were taken to see la traviata at the polis state opera. my most vivid memory is of how clear the voices were, even though we were sat what seemed to be miles away. it was good but i got away. i slipped further from the hook a few years later when i had the mis-fortune to see salome by strauss in vancouver (i was still a student). i've never returned to this opera, not sure i ever will. then a couple of years later and still a student, i was living in bristol. in return for some babysitting i was taken to the opera (wno la boheme) and i found that i was still dangling. it was callas and di stefano who finally landed me. totally skint and unable to go out on a saturday i took to staying in and listening to the world opera series on classic fm. the first opera, lucia di lammermoor. this was opera as it should be, exciting, visceral. the singing appears to be for the consumer rather than for art's sake. there should reall be no contradiction but if one believes the critics, there is. we, the consumers, have crass taste, preferring the high cs and es over the finer points of the score. one tenor who suffered for this was franco corelli, a massive tenor who gave the crowds what they wanted and upset the critics. anyway back to 1955. after listening once, i listened again and again. i would say that most of my opera collection is live from this era. a ballo in maschera (callas and di stefano again) is also a must listen.if it wasn't for small events i would have different memories, maybe in another universe another me is writing about those memories now. i wonder if he is cooking. anyway where i'm going with this is that the reason that we are doing what we are is for the consumer. please let us knowwhat you think, i don't want to start getting it wrong now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

the veg soc review

here are the main feedback points from the veg soc review. i've got to say that in the main i agree. we didn't get the ravioli right at first and i think that is when we were reviewed. by the last week that dish was delish (as leanne would say)

Congratulations on making the shortlist and I have to say the standard was very high. In the main the feedback we received about the food and your restaurant was very good, with only the odd thing letting you down. I’ve tried to pick out the most relevant info for you.

What was judged:

Starters: A – mushroom ravioli with red onion sauce

              B – morrocan meze

Main:    A – chakalaka spinach balls spiced polenta cake + yoghurt

            B – mushroom, squash, sweet potato and cashew nut curry

Dessert;  A – caramel cheesecake

              B – pear and almond tart

On presentation: the main one that let you down was the starter A which was described as plain looking. The rest were all described as having a good array of colour, looking appetizing

Taste: Starter A – slightly bland. Starter B – good flavours, lovely humous. Main A – yoghurt not so good. Dessert A & B – flavours work well.

Texture: starter A – a little sloppy, Starter B – good selection of textures and tastes. Dessert A – very original

Appetite satisfaction – both meals scored highly – good portions although would have been good if the starters were slightly larger

About the restaurant – very clean, comfortable and relaxed atmosphere

About the service, staff – excellent. Very polite and knowledgeable.

let's hope it doesn't go to their heads. better luck next year.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

risotto and other mistakes

i'm back again  and, six hours later, i'm still hurting. i've had a nice long bath which only served to highlight the pain in my nipple areas (sorry for too much info there) but didn't take any pain from my legs. i'm sat here writing this with my legs in full length tubi-grips and every so often i shift my legs into another position. anyway the point of this missive is to say thank you to the family who gave me three great big cheers, two during the race and one when i was hobbling around after. if they do get this, please come by to the restaurant for some food, there's a free bottle of wine in it and a couple of beers.

now onto a recipe. we got asked alot for the  risotto so i'll do that.

you will need

butternut squash, diced and roasted (not too soft) with salt and pepper.

mushrooms, diced and fried until nutty and brown.

one portion of white risotto, prepared as per instruction. we soften onion and celery in a mix of veg and olive oil, then add the rice, fry for a little, then add stock. if you don't want to add it a ladle at a time, add lots but don't leave, you need to stir constantly. when it's nearly done add in your mushrooms and squash and some finely chopped sage and lemon thyme. i like to add lemon juice and parsley as well but that's not the one you've been eating. if truth be known i like adding lemon juice and parsley to everything, so much so that i inadvertently added it to the cheese broth on friday. nobody knew.

Monday, September 22, 2008

bad heads and ballyhoo

this morning i woke with a bad head, ryder cup blues. watched the golf with some mates, shared a bottle of my favourite wine, 1995 dead arm, and smoked a little too much. the wine was certainly worth the wait but the golf was not. the added problem is that i have to run this morning, 5 miles today, and i'm putting it off for as long as i can.

i was asked for a daytime recipe last week, our sweet potato soup, so here it is.

sweat off onion and celery base in veg oil. add in diced sweet potato, cover and sweat, checking it's not sticking, for ten minutes. add lime juice and chilli and stock. we also add some agave nectar but at home i have added honey instead. do not over-stock or over-lime the mix as these can be added later. once the sweet potato in tender, blitz. check seasoning. if you want add some coconut milk to make it thai-style.

i think this will be the soup this menu.

sometimes a bad head is not so bad.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

is there anyone out there?

a question and a song, favoured by elis our italian/albanian friend, by mighty mighty. i was speaking to kate last night about the blog and what a cathartic experience it is writing it; even if there is no-one reading. a glance at the google stats would suggest that that is the case but what the hey.

struck me that there was no recipe in the newsletter so i'll give you one here. this was the bane of the last three weeks for me, plantain empanadas. the filling was a veg chilli and everyone has a recipe for that so i'll not bore you with ours, rather i'll bore you with the  dough.

you will need

plantains, a couple
one sweet potato
flour (we used doves' farm gluten free)

either boil the plantains in their skin or roast. do not let them get too mushy as the final dough will be too sticky to manage. once cooled, process in a food processor and add some cooked sweet potato and blitz again. season with salt and pepper and add any other spices you like, cumin would be good. add enough flour to make a dough that is not sticky. don't add too much or the final product will be gluey, the star here is the plantain.

tear off a piece of cling film, about 18" in length and put a handful of the dough 6" in, then fold the cling film over. using the palm of your hand push the dough out to form a circle, pull the cling film back up then put your filling in the middle. using the cling film pull the dough up and fold the dough over, enclosing the filling. pinch the ends together and crimp with a fork. gently take the empanada off the cling film and either deep fry at 190C or shallow fry in hot oil. they shouldn't take much more than 3 minutes. drain on kitchen roll and serve with salad.

Monday, June 2, 2008


It's been some time since i've had time (and energy) to write some stuff. As a mnemonic i must write here the recipe i'm to supply for Sharon and Andy, the beetroot-merlot sauce for the gnocchi. Just made my coffee and 45 minutes to football, Rimmer's on the telly making wild mushrooms on welsh rarebit, a recipe we shan't be stealing off him, although there may well be a stolen one on the next menu, and now the end of the sentence.

The mexican menu has been absolute torture to prepare. It's funny because you don't get that from looking at the plate. My wife had been saying that over the last few menus we'd started to get our plating right. It's true that the gnocchi, the courgette canneloni, the teff/wat combos looked good on the plate but, with the exception of the true teff pancakes, the prep was not massively difficult. The mexican stuff may not be as pretty but the technical difficulty in putting the stuff together has been unparalleled. We are shattered (Gordon R language removed - Ed).  My frazzledbrain is currently 0 and 4 in sudokus, I have four lying around unfinished, and i need not start any crosswords. As hard as we have worked though, the flavours on this menu do it for me. I've thanked Leticia, our mexican cooking instructor, elsewhere but should do it again. The success of this menu will be hers. The chocolate mole was a revelation to me (i've got some of the chillies here and i'll be making it for myself today) and the soup is delicious. My only regret for you is that she hasn't cooked the desserts because her efforts were far better than ours, which are not too shabby.

On to the recipe. This is my memory of the recipe we stole off Eric Tucker at the Millennium restaurant in San Francisco. You'll need shallots, garlic, dried porcini, beetroot, veg stock, cherries, wine, a little red wine vinegar, sugar/agave nectar, saltand pepper.

pre-prep: for the dish we used roasted fresh beetroot but for the sauce the vacuum packed stuff, widely available, is ok. just take it out of the pack, if you've got a juicer, juice it, if not blend it and strain, reserving the liquid.

soak the mushrooms in hot water, reserving the liquor.

sweat shallots in olive oil for a couple of minutes until soft, add garlic and cook for a few more minutes. add wine and vinegar and reduce, add mushroom stock and reduce, add beet juice and reduce. add some cherries and soaking liquid (these cherries are not glace, but the slightly sweet and sour variety you can buy in jars), simmer and then blend. check for seasoning, you may need a little veg stock to flesh the flavour out.

I've just played football and am now going to settle down for the rugby league this afternoon, happy cooking.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"How much longer on your visionary gnocchi, Stefano?"

as you may be aware, we decided to run the gnocchi dish through from the millenium menu to the italian menu. this decision hasbrought home the difficulty of making gnocchi, especially the eggless variety. the method we use is to bake the potatoes first then scoop out the flesh. this is passed through a mouli and then mixed with flour to make the gnocchi dough. in the traditional recipe one would add whole eggs or yolks either before the flour or after. (the best, and lightest, gnocchi in italy are made by forming the flour potato mix into breadcrumbs then adding enough egg to make a dough). the egg plays its part by enabling the dough balls to set when plunged in the boiling water, giving the usual texture. when using the eggless recipe one must be a little more careful. having formed the gnocchi they must be placed in the fridge or freezer for an hour or so to set the gnocchi up. these can then be poached as usual, then we fry for sevice. the problems occur when the potatoes differ in terms of moisture content. in these circumstances the amount of flour differs and the end-product can suffer. on saturday we had to discard a whole batch due to an inferior texture, yesterday they worked really well.

the recipe i've been asked for is the canneloni, so here it is.

the canneloni are strips of courgette, obtained with a swivel peeler, that have been marinated in lemon juice and olive oil. the filling is a mix of cashew ricotta, toasted pine nuts, chopped parsley and lemon juice and zest and salt and pepper. the cashew ricotta is made by blending 100g of cashews with some garlic, lemon juice, oil and water to make a cream, then blending in some tofu. the recipe is based on the one in veganomicon, by isa moscowitz and terry romero. take a teaspoon of the ricotta mix and roll it into you marinated strips.

the dressing we make is a pea and lemon sauce.

sweat a shallot, add a little stock and some lemon juice, add some peas and blitz with a hand blender. pass through a sieve and serve with cooked peas and broad beans. as martin stephenson once sang/talked

'what does it smell of dave?'

'smells of summer'

update on menu, we'll have salads on the luchtime specials through the summer, as well asour usual menu.

happy eating


Monday, April 28, 2008

Making a splash in Splott

A group of young street artists from the Powerhouse Youth Club in Llanedeyrn have been brightening up our corner of Splott this weekend.

From the NewsWales article of 25 April,
"In partnership with the Canteen on Clifton Street, the youngsters will be spraying their designs on the exterior walls to add a splash of colour and flair to the building on Saturday April 26.

"That's better than just going around and spraying random graffiti tags which people rightly see as vandalism," says youth worker Jon Evans.

The group of a dozen 12 to 17-year-olds have been researching and designing lettering and images suited to the theme restaurant and hope to produce a form of their art which can be shared and appreciated by the rest of the community."

Read the rest of the article by clicking the NewsWales link.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tough Teff

This week has been dominated by our trials with teff. This is a traditional grain used in Ethiopian cooking to make pancakes, called injera, and other breads. It is gluten free and rather sour and spicy in taste. It is also incredibly expensive, a whopping 5.30 a kilo, and so mistakes are costly. I've made a few. Injera are made by mixing the freshly ground teff with water and allowing this mixture to ferment for three days. This results in a separation of the sponge and water, the water is poured off, and some of the sponge is mixed with boiling water, thickened then stirred back into the sponge. More water is added to create a pancake batter, then this mix is allowed to stand for an hour before being finally turned into pancakes. If the teff is not freshly ground then add some yeast at the first stage.

That was long-winded in the writing but twenty-fold so in the making. I failed the first time, no yeast, and succeeded the second. Why the bother? It's our Millennium menu and we had committed to the menu without prior cooking (not so smart - Ed). When we looked at the book, the teff they used was in seed form, and was used to make a porridge. The flour makes an unattractive grey sludge, worthless and expensive. We couldn't get the seed so were stuck with the flour. In order to make the plate as attractive as possible we also made some teff bread. This was met with various degrees of enjoyment from the diners, from disgust all the way to grudging appreciation. It could not be eaten alone, the grain produces a sour, gritty flour, but has to be eaten as part of the wat. It then enhances the whole flavour. By Saturday we had developed a cheats recipe for the injera, using teff, wholemeal bread four, self-raising flour and soda water. It's not authentic but it's much easier.

Here's a recipe from this menu. It's the fig cake and shows how easy vegan cooking can be.

demerara sugar
160g soft brown sugar
200g self-raising flour
50g ground almonds
tsp almond extract
tsp vanilla extract
100 ml veg oil
200 ml soya milk (i'm not  sure about this, could be more or less)

Mix dry (except demerara) and wet ingredients separately, then mix together to form cake batter.
Sprinkle demerara into a 8" springform cake pan lined with baking paper, place halved figs (fresh or dried and re-hydrated) on the sugar and then cover with the batter.

Bake in the oven at 170 Deg C until the cake is set, allow to cool for five minutes then turn out while the caramel is still hot.

Serve with lemon anglaise. I'll give you that recipe again.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Best of menu results

The final results from the best of menu are:

best of starter: bhajias
best of main: arabian lamb
best of dessert: sticky toffee.

It is slightly bizarre that, in an ostensibly veggie and vegan restaurant, that the best selling main was a meat dish. however we should take some heart from the fact that our aim, to welcome everyone, seems to be being taken up. 

We now move forward with our next menus, the Millennium menu, which is next and vegan, will be followed by an Italian menu then a Mexican. These will run for two weeks, meaning that I only get to play golf on the second wednesday. One of the great advantages of the three week menus is that I get to play on the second and third weeks, so perhaps we'll follow with a three week after that, else my handicap will suffer (can it get any worse? - Ed). 

Speaking to the diners this week, whilst the bhajias were most popular, the dish that provoked the most discussion was the ravioli. Several diners had it as a main, the last having come straight from a concert at 9.45, especially for them. To reward such vigilance I will share the recipe.

I don't have quantities. Plain flour, in a food processor with the cutting blade, say 200g, that will probably do two people. 
Add  some oil and with the blade running add water until it forms breadcrumbs. Check it is tacky enough to come together by pressing it in your hands. If it forms a ball it is probably too wet, so add more flour.  
Roll this out using a pasta machine, taking it down to the second thinnest setting, then stretch it a little. 
Alternatively you could use pre-bought fresh pasta, for example wonton wrappers.

The filling is butternut squash roasted with fennel seeds. Mash this with crushed vegan amaretti, recipe is on the Canteen on Clifton Street website.

Cut the pasta into squares and place a teaspoon of the filling on the top-half of your square. Bring the ravioli together aand seal with water or just pinch.
To make the sauce you will need a shallot, some sage leaves, some lemon juice, vegetable stock and butter.

Sweat the shallot in oil until soft, then add the sage leaves, lemon juice and stock. Reduce a little. 
Cut the butter into squares, plop in the stock mix and blend with a stick blender. 
How much lemon etc. you put in is up to you. Personally I like my butternut sweet and my sauce nice and sour. If you are posh you can add and reduce white wine as well. For a vegan sauce blend in some soy marg instead of butter.

Top tip: do not use butter to sweat your shallot, if you do when you blend the rest in later it will split.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lazy Sundays and happy days

Sundays are the days I like to relax, play football, read the papers and generally chill out. It's a time when I don't have to wonder when our insane main cooker will stop the gas coming through, when we'll have to hit it with a hammer, kick it, do anything that starts the slow stream of gas. Once it starts, we know we're ok, the power will come back. One day, though, you won't eat. At least not that quickly, don't say you weren't warned (it's been fixed - Ed). 
This Sunday I've spent looking back over some of the places that made an impression on me in Vancouver 1990-92. I was a phd student at the economics department at UBC and lived on west 14th. Two places made a lasting impression, the Fringe Cafe and Benny's Bagels. The Fringe was the place that got me through my theory comps. After spending the whole day answering the toughest questions our professors could come up with, myself, Henry Thille and Benoit Delage would leave UBC at about 7.00 and head for the Fringe. The question when you walked through the door, there was probably an obligatory line-up (queue) for five minutes or so, was 'do you have the intention of eating?', 'yes' would satisfy BC's arcane licensing laws and you could then drink for as long as you want. Usually we'd find room for a plate of nachos but mainly it was ESB. I've just searched for it on the web and it says the closing time is 1.00 a.m., maybe so but on many occasions we left well into the early hours, to be faced with the same travails the following day (and night).

The second place is Benny's Bagels. When we opened we had on our menu the double cheese melt that I ate here dozens of times. This was a favourite haunt in the even later hours. The night club of choice was the 'Luv Affair', playing the best of eighties music, as well as heavy industrial house (I think it was, whatever it was, it was all beat and bass). Usually we'd leave here in the wee small hours, walk across Granville bridge and then along Broadway. I lived at 3065 w14th and Benny's was on the way back. And it opened all night. Every time we walked we stopped for coffee and bagels and the variety and quality is still staggering, especially when you think we are still stuck with 4 or 5 varieties. Google Map location:

The third place is the Luv Affair, which iIve just checked out and it closed on 1/2/2003. Check out what people said, it really was a great place. The only downside was losing on the pool tables all the bloody time.

The thing that strikes me is that these places were great at the time and what marks them out is their longevity. Both the Fringe and Benny's is still open and the Luv Affair shut after 27 years. It gives us some hope. Let's hope the oven still works.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Not so good biscuits

Well, two days later we tried the vegan/coeliac biscotti. the dental bill could run to thousands. they looked great, tasted great, but were dental wrecking balls. back off the bar and back into the kitchen tomorrow. the amaretti, on the other hand, are playing an integral role in the butternut squash ravioli. they're easy to process as long as you get a good run-up with the rolling pin. if anyone tried the recipe, i hope you ate them within the first couple of days. i suppose next time we'll wait before making grand claims for our products. 

This brings me onto a couple of other things. I was watching 'House' the other night and Foreman was maligning house's diagnostic techniques as being anarchist; by which he meant chaotic, without rules. this drives me nuts. anarchism, to me, is a system of enlightenment where the need for rules is replaced by a shared set of beliefs. anarchy, as portrayed today, is used to describe a system to be feared not to be embraced. the really annoying thing is that it makes you wonder why the writers have used the word in this way. such usage continues to reinforce the mis-conception about anarchy; is this because the writers are confused, is this their belief or are there other motives? this brings us on to the power of language and the way in which language can be used as a tool. is it the case that because house is produced in a capitalist system, that it is used, explicitly or implicitly, to support that system. who knows but it bugs me.

To a small degree we've been mis-represented on the web. on a blog there has been some discussion about our place where it was reported that my wife was a vegetarian whereas i was not. the fact that this information is completely false can be seen from a reading of our web-pages or listening to my radio interview (admittedly something i haven't done). it shows a lack of rigour, an unwillingness to do research, that can reinforce prejudice. if anyone wants to know about what we are trying to do, get in touch. I love to talk. favourite topic of the moment, philosophy of food.

love and light

New beers

We have just introduced two new beers into the restaurant, Fuller's ESB and Fuller's London Pride. Both of these beers fit our requirement for containing no animal products, but unfortunately they are not Welsh produced. So far we have failed to find Welsh vegan beer, but we will continue to look.
ESB was first brewed in 1971, and is a flavoursome and well balanced beer. With an ABV of 5.9% it packs a powerful kick! 
Andrew Jefford, the respected drinks critic, sums up ESB's flavor thus: "An ample, grainy-nutty aroma and a broad, authoritative flavor, with lashings of dry marmalade-like bitters". Renowned beer connoisseur Roger Protz describes "an enormous attack of rich malt, tangy fruit and spicy hops in the mouth, with a profound Goldings peppery note in the long finish and hints of orange, lemon and gooseberry fruit".
London Pride is a smooth and astonishingly complex beer, which has a distinctive malty base complemented by a rich balance of well developed hop flavours from the target, challenger and northdown varieties in the brew. At 4.7% ABV in bottles, London Pride is an ideal session-strength premium ale.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Italian Biscuits

The new menu does not present too many problems for delivery, we've done the dishes once before, however it does require some thought in widening the options available to our customers who are gluten intolerant or vegan. today we made a couple of breakthroughs and i'd like to share them. I've been trawling through American vegan and coeliac cookbooks in a bid to make a decent biscotti and amaretti biscuit.we tried a few recipes, had some success with one for biscotti from 'my sweet vegan' but the resultant biscotti didn't look as nice as they tasted. today we adapted our own recipe for biscotti and had some success. here's the recipe for anyone interested. it suits both vegans and coeliacs.

100g cornflour
100g polenta
120g doves farm gluten free bread flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g golden caster sugar
150ml soy yogurt
50ml veg oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
80-100g chopped almonds

Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, then bring together and form a dough. it should not be too sticky.

Using some more flour split dough into four and roll into sausage shapes. bake at 170C for 20 minutes or so on greaseproof paper, until still slightly soft. remove from the oven and cut each sausage at an angle to make biscuits. place back on the greaseproof and bake for a further five to ten minutes, turning the biscotti once. this will dry them and lightly brown the insides.

The amaretti, whilst not as crispy as those on sale, were redolent of Farley's rusks, bringing back memories of childhood. i must admit to still buying the occasional box in to my twenties. here's the recipe.

Follow the instructions on the orgran egg substitute box to make the equivalent of two stiffly beaten egg whites. this takes some beating so use an electric whisk unless you need the exercise. once beaten add sugar, 100-150g, and ground almonds, 150g, and beat in. then add enough doves farm gluten free bread flour to make a sticky dough. it should not come away from the sides of your bowl. using wet hands takes teaspoon measures and shape into balls, then place on a tray covered in greaseproof. bake at 170C until lightly browned, take out, turn over and dry the bottoms for five minutes. these were tasted by one of our chief tasters, Theresa, who gave them the thumbs up.

Have to go now to watch the man u game. happy baking.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Post Punk Kitchen

Mondays are fun days. Today has been a day of culinary experiments and cooking for the kids. This morning I made my second vegan feta, based on a recipe by Bryanna Clark Grogan. Any vegans out there may want to check her out on the web. I also watched the Mexican show from the Post Punk Kitchen, another must for people who love to cook. Then the mundane task of preparing salagne for my daughters and spag bol for my son. One of my daughters will not touch the spag bol but loves salagne. kids eh. It was whilst making these dishes that I started to think about white sauces. I'd seen loads of recipes on the web for white sauces but none were made the traditional way with a milk substitute. I needed to eat, there was a pumpkin, some curly kale, purple sprouting broccoli, calabrese and mushrooms. The solution, vegan lasagne. I had some rice milk open that I'd used in the not-feta, so made up a roux with veg oil and flour, then made a white sauce with the rice milk. A little sweet so I added some yeast flakes and some tahini paste, seasoned well it tasted delicious. It's not a white sauce in the conventional sense but I thought it would work well with the other ingredients. I roasted the pumpkin, blanched the kale and broccoli duo and sauted the mushrooms. That done I assembled the lasagne with sauce, pasta, filling, sauce, pasta filling, sauce cooked off and I've just eaten a bowl and it was delicious. Oh, I also added nutmeg to the sauce. Maybe we'll do this one day.
For anyone interested the children ate all their food. I'm signing off now because they're bugging me for marshmallows. I can feel another experiment coming on.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Buzzing Kitchen

The new menu has been on for its first three days, and whilst the feedback has been very positive with really good nights it just isn't as interesting to cook as some of the previous menus. One of the things we've learned in the first three months is that the structure of the menu affects your enjoyment (I'm talking about the kitchen) of the delivery process. Some menus are all adrenaline, a rush to get things out in good time, some involve less real time cooking, others more so. The last couple of menus included stir frys and a risotto. There is some prep but there is also a degree of real cooking (at the time of serving). The mains on this menu are more about arrangement than cooking (when we serve). For example, the most important aspect is to make sure that the roulade is put in the oven when the starters are ordered, and get the dumplings in. Other than that it is plate arrangement. The kitchen isn't buzzing as much as we like. It's something for us to consider as the menus develop and progress. Next time we're going to do some Irish dishes for St Patrick's day and then we're going to put ourselves in your hands. We'd like you, the customers, to decide what goes on it. We've already got a menu database and we need you to let us know what you'd like to see come back for the first 'best of' menu. Some early indications are the pumpkin ravioli, bhajias and lebanese parcels. We're going to encourage you to leave this feedback by offering a further prize (more about this in the next newsletter)!

Following on from that it'll be a Gem-inspired Italian menu followed by the first of our Millennium jaunts.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More experiments

I've just gone to the oven at home to check on profiteroles number three; they're looking pretty good. The biggest mistake I made previously was the non-stick mat I used, it was too thick and the choux failed to cook from the bottom as well as the top. Another example of Occam's Razor I suppose. Anyway I changed the recipe, have included some smash and omitted the flax eggs. At present their puffing up and starting to colour.

The next experiments relate to cheese or rather to no,t-cheese. I've been having a crack at vegan ricotta and vegan feta. This is because two recipes I want to do soon are courgette canneloni, where courgettes are marinated in lemon juice, salt and olive oil, then wrapped around ricotta, pine nuts and other nice stuff, and spanakopita. To do this vegan-style we need alternatives. The ricotta is made with silken tofu, cashew nuts, lemon juice, nutritional yeast (I used a little too much) and salt. mine is very tasty but a little too creamy, I like the slightly crumbly texture of ricotta and so may try firm tofu instead.

The feta is made with a similar list of ingredients but also with agar-agar to set it. It's in the fridge at the moment and we'll have to see how it sets up.

Just come back from the oven with a burnt hand, right on the mound of venus, and it really hurts. The profiteroles are just about done and the next change will be the amount of fat. Conventional recipes have too much I think.

I'm stopping now to re-douse my hand in cold water.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Vegan profiteroles

Possibly a gastronomic oxymoron, certainly, according to some web vegans, the holy grail of vegan cookery. It will be an interesting, if frustrating, road to travel. Attempt number one, resounding failure!

This was the recipe;

65g plain flour
40g veg shortening (trex)
150ml water
2t orgran egg replacer
1 1/2 flax eggs
dash of vinegar
2t icing sugar
1t bicarb

Proceeded as normal, stirring flour into water and fat mixture, then added other ingredients. Texture was okay but when added to the oven the mixture lacked structure and went a bit flat. It was a shame really because the taste was great. It could have been cut and filled but would not have looked the part. I'm going to experiment with different flours, raising agents and combinations. I like the flax eggs because they add some body, maybe I'll add less water next time. All comments welcome.

love and light


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Success and failure

Some of you may be aware, I was once (still am?) a lecturer in Economics. On my lazy days I would under-prepare for a class, or series of classes. If it was a series of classes then I would generally get better after the first one or two, and students who turned up thereafter got a better deal. This was a very infrequent practice. Having been involved in the catering game for three months, I can see that parallels exist, although the improvement can be random. This weeks risotto was the case in point. Risotto is a twitchy animal to tame. If you do not cook it enough the rice has too much bite, tastes starchy, and for me, ruins the dish. If you cook it too long it can resemble rice pudding; tastes nice but it's hard to distinguish the grains. Cooked properly, the grains retain some bite but you lose the starchy edge. This weekend I think we got it right twice (Thursday and Saturday) and slightly overcooked it on Friday. I still think it was a good dish, and one well worth the price, but Friday's child this week reaped the least consumer surplus (that's the economics).

love and light,

Monday, February 18, 2008


This little vignette relates to some misfortune with our card machine. Some of you may be aware of the problems we've had, having been to the bank when the little bleeder refuses to work. Well this Valentines's day the paper ran out during a sale. This caused the transaction to be cancelled but the waiting staff did not re-do the sale. Net result one payment down. This is therefore a plea. If you were with us on Thursday last, could you check whether or not you paid? To make it easier the amount was 36 pounds 95p. That amounts to two three course meals and one bottle of house wine. This may not seem like a large amount, but at this stage of the game every little really does help.



Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New wines

We have changed our wine list so that all our wines are suitable for everybody, whether you are vegetarian, vegan or otherwise. We hope you enjoy them as much as Wayne enjoyed choosing them. One of the chores of running a restaurant apparently.

A Triumph

You may think that this cooking lark is easy. I know I wasn't anywhere near prepared for what the job entails; long periods of boredom followed by intense hard work; long periods of frustration when things don't go as well as you think they might. What compensates for these downs are the ups when things do go well. At the moment I'm thinking about desserts. These are things I think we do pretty well. The eight treasure pudding may not have been to every one's taste but it certainly surprised me, pleasantly. We could aim safe, I know that my cheesecakes are as good as you'll find anywhere in Cardiff, but that would be boring and, as I said, there's enough boredom already. The solution, experiments. Now, as any scientist out there will know, experiments can go wrong. Our first attempts at vegan chocolate fudge cakes were not as good as our final attempts. The same was true of the cassoulet, but I'm supposed to be talking about desserts. What has got the juices flowing today are two desserts I've designed for the current menu that are both vegan and coeliac friendly. The first is the sticky toffee pudding, our mainstay dessert and as famous around Cardiff as we are (not very). I believe that I have created a version suitable for coeliacs, it is not the finished article yet but we will be offering a version from tomorrow night. The second dessert is the vegan chocolate torte. Who knows how a mix including soy milk, 74% chocolate, soy marg, agave nectar, silken tofu and others will turn out? All you can do is taste as you go and hope. It is in the fridge and it looks fab. We'll be taking some up to Chris and Ruth at the Hungry Planet for a tasting tomorrow. I'll let you know the results (if they like it).

love and light,


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Butternut ravs

Just a little note to all of you who enjoyed our butternut ravioli on the Christmas menu. Today I cleared the freezer of the ravs we had left after Christmas that I could not bear to see go in the bin. The verdict, still delicious, although you do need the lemon butter sauce to cut through the sweetness. I'm sure they'll be back soon.

Coming sooner still though, and this is simply an aide memoire pour moi, will be ricotta, quark and parsley gnocchi (malfatti?) in some lovely cheese broth. I can't say when because I'll probably forget.

love and light


Sunday, February 10, 2008


It's difficult to know how many people have been to see us since we opened. As I've said to many of you, on our first weekend the total was zero, save for some family and friends who showed up on the Saturday. It really started to go in the right direction in early December, when, one Saturday, we had more paying clients we didn't know, than paying friends that we did. This meant that our first couple of menus did not sell that well. In fact the first menu was sold only to family and friends and we've introduced one or two of the dishes from those menus recently.

On the next menu we'll be doing the same, re-introducing a dish, the falafels (apologies for spelling, I do it differently every time) that we thought were really nice but that only a few people tasted. This is likely to be something that we do from time-to-time, if only because it reduces the first-Thursday pressure.What we would really like to know is, what dishes would you like to see come back? In order to allow for this feedback, you can now click on the
past menus page and tell us what dishes worked for you. In the kitchen we can get a feel, but it's a noisy signal. For example, take the last weekend. On Thursday we sold about twenty portions of the cassoulet but does this mean that those customers want to see it return sometime? I liked it but is that how we should develop every menu? Incidentally on Friday the Buddha's delight was best seller, Saturday it could have been the beef (it wasn't but you get the idea). One of the pitfalls of the frequently changing menu is that it is infrequent to have customers return to order the same thing twice.

It did happen to the webmaster but on that occasion it was a waiting error (we made him pay). So did the cassoulet work, or did the majority of the twenty conclude that they'd never eat it again?